My Father, My Son
by: Tom Borden

© 2000-2008 by the author


The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent. Comments are appreciated at...


"Well then it's a date!," said Steve. "Next Thursday it is! By the way, I know everyone calls you Murdock, but do you have a nick-name or something?"

Murdock smiled and said, "Well, Murdock's my last name. My first name is Terrance, but I hate it. Barker always called me Terry. So you can call me Terry, too, if you'd like."

"Okay, Terry, we'll see you on Thursday!" said Caleb.


Chapter 71 


As the morning sun blazed into Jake's room, he awoke to find Jumper sitting asleep in the chair. As Jake called quietly, "Jumper?" he awoke and looked bleary eyed at Jake.

"Why are ya over there sleepin'?" Jake asked.

"I didn't have a very good night. I was afraid I would wake you. I had bad dreams."

"What kind of dreams?

Jumper got up and sat on the side of the bed next to Jake. "I kept dreaming I heard my brother, Joe, screaming and crying. And then I looked in his room and saw my dad beating him and slapping him in the face and yelling at him. Every time I went back to sleep, I dreamed that same thing."

Jake put his arm around Jumper's shoulder and said, "I told ya I was gonna find out what happened to him if I could. Now let's git our fuckin' clothes on and git some breakfast."

After breakfast, Jake said he was going over to the house and talk to some people. Jumper said he thought he would go over to the horse barn and see Lady Pokey again. Jake said, "That's a good idea, cowboy. You jist talk to her awhiles and pat her on the neck and on the rump. Yer her master now. Now it's time fer the two of ya to git to know each other better."

When Jake arrived at the house, he found Mark and Corky having breakfast at the kitchen table. Enrique and Noah were just getting up to go outside.

"Hey, you two," said Jake as he sat down opposite Mark and Corky. "I know yer in the spyin' business, and I think I got ya a pretty fuckin' good case to solve."

Mark said, "Well, we're in the private investigator business, if that's what you mean."

"Oh, yeah! That's what I mean," said Jake. "Ya know, little Jumper got a little brother that was bein' abused by their dad jist like Jumper was. But one day, the brother disappeared, and Jumper thinks he was murdered, or somethin. He thinks' his fuckin' old man done it. I told Jumper that maybe we could find out fer sure. Do ya think that's somethin' ya can work on?"

"Tell me a little bit more about these two boys and where they lived," asked Mark. "Also, do you know what the father's name is?"

"Well, Mark, Jumper's real name is Daryl Thomas, and his brother's name is Joe. I think they lived over there in Goodland someplace. The old man's name is Jacob Thomas, and he works for some fuckin' used car place. Do ya think there's anything ya can do?"

Corky said, "Jake, you know if it's a case of a missing person, it should be reported to the local police, and they'll have to do the investigation. At your behest, though, we can also assist by conducting our own investigation."

"Well, I guess so," said Jake, "but Jumper thinks little Joe may have got hisself murdered."

Mark said, "Well, if it turns out Joe was murdered, there would have to be a body. And then a murder charge might be levied against his father if there's enough evidence against him. But until then, it will just be a simple missing persons case."

Jake said, "Do ya think ya can work on this a little for Jumper's sake?"

"We'll look into it and make some inquiries when we get back to San Antonio, Jake."

When Mark and Corky returned to San Antonio, Corky urged Mark to think about the Joe Thomas case. "Mark, it's not good for us to sit around home too much. Why don't we get started looking for the boy right away?"

Mark knew that getting back heavily into work was going to be the best thing for him. Early the next morning, they both drove over to Goodland. Looking in the phone book, they found no listing for Jacob Thomas, and decided to go around to the several used car dealerships in the area. They had no luck until they visited the "Ugly Duckling" lot. They were able to locate the manager, Henry Tatum, and were invited into his office.

Showing his credentials, Mark said, "Mr. Tatum, we're trying to locate a Mr. Jacob Thomas and would like to talk with him."

"Why do you want to talk with him," asked Tatum. "What's he done?"

"Well, we don't know if he's done anything, really," replied Mark. "Do you know his two sons?"

"Nope. Never seen 'em. I know he has a couple of boys, but he never talks about 'em. Why do ya need to know?"

Corky said, "A family member believes that one of the boys is missing, and we've been asked to investigate the claim."

"Really?" said Tatum. "He never mentioned anything like that. But, as I say, he never talks about 'em."

Mark said, "Is Mr. Thomas here? As I said, we'd like to talk with him."

"Nope. He got off duty about ten minutes ago."

"Could you tell us where he lives?"

"Nope. Never asked. But I think I know where ya could likely find him now. When he leaves here, he usually stops off at the Corn Huskers Tavern. It's just down this road at the edge of town. I hope there's nothin' wrong. As I say, he don't say much."

After thanking the manager, Mark and Corky drove to the Corn Huskers Tavern. When they entered the smoke-filled room, they were hit by a strong odor of stale beer. On the juke box was a typical "you-done-me-wrong" country song being sung by a sultry voiced female. Several tables were occupied by sleepy looking cowboy types with hats.

Going to the bar, Mark asked the bartender, "We're looking for a guy whose name is Jacob Thomas. Do you know if he's here?"

The bartender said with a jerk of his head toward the end of the bar, "Jacob Thomas? Yeah. He's the guy with the ugly ass puss sitting alone down there at the other end."

Jacob Thomas was a large ape of a man. He had huge arms and shoulders and wore his dusty blond hair in a short pony tail. He had a short-cropped beard, which was a mixture of gray and orangish red. His scowling face was almost perfectly round, and he was indeed ugly.

Corky whispered to Mark, "Man, he IS ugly, and he looks meaner than a rattlesnake in heat."

Approaching Jacob, Mark extended his hand and said, "Mr. Thomas, my name is Mark McLeod, and I'm wondering if we could talk to you for a few minutes. Could we just sit over here at this table?"

"What d'ya wanna talk to me about? Whatever it is, you can say it right here."

Using a ploy that he and Corky had talked about earlier, Mark said, "Your son, Joe, has not been attending school for some time now, and we're interested in knowing why."

"Who the fuck are you?" asked Jacob. "It ain't none of yer business."

Mark brought out his credentials and, showing them to Jacob, said, "We've been asked to investigate truancy among the students, and Joe has not been heard from for some time. You know that the law requires that children attend school at least until they're sixteen."

Jacob picked up his bottle of beer and drained it. Then he said, "He's gone to live with his Aunt up in the panhandle. They move around a lot and I don't keep no track of him."

"Why not?" asked Corky. "He's your son."

Jacob got up off his bar stool and said, "I don't like talkin' to you. What happens in my family ain't no business of yer's! You go back and tell yer school people that my kid's doin' fine and to keep their fuckin' snotty noses outta my business." Jacob, who towered over both Mark and Corky, threw some change down on the bar and walked out.

Corky said, "Well, that didn't get us very far."

Mark walked back to where the bartender was working and asked, "Sir, do you know if Mr. Thomas lives around here?"

"Yeah. He just lives down the road a piece."

"Do you have his address?"

"No, but you just go down the road about a half mile, he lives in that green house on the right. You can't miss it. Hey, is Jacob in some sort of trouble?"

Mark waved his hand and said, "No, no. No trouble."

As they walked out, Corky said to Mark, "While you were talking, I looked out the window and saw Thomas driving down the other way toward the car dealership."

Mark said, "Good. That'll give us a good opportunity to take a look at where he lives. We just want to see if we might be able to see anything suspicious."

As they drove up to the green house, which sat alone, surrounded by fields of weeds in which lay a number of old tires and pieces of discarded machinery, they sat in the car and stared at the place. Very soon, a man, shirtless with clothes slung over his arm, came out of the house and got into his car, a late model Mercedes. A woman with dyed red hair stood in the doorway in a housecoat that she held closed with one hand. Mark and Corky could tell that she was looking at them. She had a scowl on her face. As her guest drove away, the woman walked over to Mark's car.

"Is there somethin' I can do fer ya?" said the woman with a cigarette hanging unappealingly from her lips. "I don't like strangers comin' on our property. So if you'll kindly git movin', I'd 'ppreciate it."

"Ma'am, we're just here to make our usual assessment for the County on your property for tax purposes," said Mark, using another of his ploys. "We just need to look around. It's just routine, and it won't take us long. As we look around, can I ask you a couple of questions?"

"All right," said the woman, "but make it snappy. I ain't got all day."

"Mrs. Thomas, do you have a full basement under the house?"

"Hell, we ain't got no basement at all. You can see the place is just propped up on short brick pillars."

"Is there anything under the house? Do you store anything under there?"

"Hell, I don't know. I don't know what's under there."

"I see you're a gardener, Mrs. Thomas," said Mark, looking over at a large plot of vegetables.

"Yeah. Just tomatoes and pole beans."

"They look nice," said Corky. "Are you the one who cultivates and fertilizes it?"

"No. That garden is my husband's. He don't let nobody near it."

"Well, ma'am, if you don't mind, we'll just go ahead and look around for ourselves," said Mark. "Thanks."

After Mark and Corky had looked over the back yard, they came around to the front. Jacob was just getting out of his pickup truck. "McLeod," said Jacob. "May I ask what yer doin' here? Does this have something to do with my son moving away. I don't see what ya think yer snoopin' around here has to do with that."

Jacob's wife, still clutching her housecoat closed said, "Jacob, these people are here lookin' over the place fer taxes."

"Oh, I see," said Jacob, with anger now spreading over his ugly face. Reaching into the back of his pickup truck, he took out a hunting rifle and waved it threateningly at the two investigators. "Tax men, eh? Git back in the house, Mona. Me and them got to figure somethin' out."

As Mona scampered back into the house, Jacob advanced slowly toward Mark and Corky. "Tax men, huh? What's yer game, anyhow? Ya seem to change jobs pretty fast."

"No, we're not tax men, Jacob," said Mark. "Your wife misunderstood. We just want to know what happened to your son, Joe."

"I told ya," shouted Jacob, waving the rifle again. "He ain't here, and that's all you bastards need to know."

Well, where is he?" asked Corky.

I told ya that, too. He's away from here. Yer just gonna have to look fer 'im yerselfs. Now git outta here. I want you two off this property. If I ever see you snoopin' around here again, I'll shoot yer fuckin' balls off!"

Mark and Corky got back into their car and drove off. Corky said, "I'm not sure I want to see him again. Maybe we ought to turn this over to the police to handle."

"That's where I'm going right now," said Mark. "We'll tell them all we know about this case, including Jumper's fears that his father may have killed Joe. I'm also going to tell them that we are going to work with them in the investigation."

Corky said, "Well, maybe the man is right. Maybe Joe was sent off to live with his aunt like he said."

"I don't believe that for a minute, Corky," said Mark. "I'm not accusing him of anything yet, but that son-of-a-bitch just has 'murderer' written all over his ugly face. I've seen plenty of murderers with no conscience in my career. And this fucker fits the mold!"

Steve and Caleb had set about planning the dinner for Terry Murdock. They wanted to invite several others to round out the party. Terry's sexuality had become obvious, and they believed that Michael, Karl, Jeff and Paul would be suitable guests, as well as being a suitable age. They also thought about inviting Adriano and his father, Mario. They could all drive down together from Austin.

Steve needed to know the exact number he would be serving and asked Caleb to give him the definite guest list.

"Okay, Steve," said Caleb. "This is the final list. Michael and Karl won't be able to make it because they'll be in San Antonio looking over some heifers. Paul will be on a four-day field trip with his students beginning that day. So that leaves only Jeff and Adriano. Adriano said that his father has a new roommate and they will be tied up. Adriano sounded very vague about Mario's new partner. He acted as though he didn't want to talk about it."

Steve said, "So that leaves five of us. I always like to see an even number of people at a dinner party. But we'll do fine with five. Our guest of honor is Terry Murdock, and I don't want too many people to distract attraction from him."

The meat at the supermarkets in Goliad was not of the quality Steve was hoping to find, and there was only one meat market in town. But it, too, was not of the highest quality. Steve had heard Karl and Tony once talking about a meat market in San Antonio that they believed was the best. On the day before the party, Steve drove up to take a look.

A large man with an English accent standing behind the counter greeted Steve and asked if he could help him. Steve said, "Hello. I'm here on the recommendation of Karl Oldenburg. He told me you'd have what I'm looking for."

"Ah, Karl!" said the man. "How is the old chap? You know, he and I come originally from the same region . . . Chelmsford, north of London. Is he still down there on the Walker Ranch?"

"Yes, he's still there, and he's doing just fine."

"Karl used to come up a lot with the cook down there. They wanted only the best and, of course, that's all I have here. What can I do for you?"

"Well, I'm having a dinner party and I'm looking for a nice rack of lamb," said Steve.

"Oh, yes," said the man. "If you'll excuse me, I'll go in the back and find you the very best I have. There's nothing too good for a friend of Karl Oldenburg!"

A few minutes later, he emerged with a beautiful piece of meat on a sheet of pink wrapping paper. Holding it up, he said, "Now this rack is a rib section taken from the foresaddle of the lamb. It's perfect, don't you think?"

Steve looked at it admiringly and said, "I couldn't ask for anything more perfect. We'll be serving five. This looks about right."

"Oh, yes," said the man. "Depending upon how much you serve to each guest, you could probably make it go for seven."

"As the precious lamb was being wrapped, Steve said, "I can't thank you enough, sir. I'll give Karl your regards."

"Please do! And tell him we miss him. There aren't many English blokes around this part of Texas, especially not many like him!"

On an impulse, before leaving San Antonio, Steve stopped in at Josky's Department Store to look at their tableware. The worn looking hard plastic dishes that Caleb used would never do. Before he left the store, he had purchased eight complete place settings of plain white porcelain with a thin silver line around the edges of the plates, as well as a large set of wine glasses of various sizes. The silver wear that Caleb had from his marriage was really quite nice and would do well on the table.

On the day of the party, Steve set the table in the dining room and placed in the middle a small bouquet of mixed wildflowers he had found growing on the ground surrounding the parking lot. Steve looked at it and, although it was not the most beautiful bouquet he had ever seen, it would do. At least it was colorful.

Jeff and Adriano were the first to arrive, having driven down together from Austin. The four of them sat and chatted for a short while until Terry arrived. Everyone was introduced. As Steve disappeared into the kitchen, both Jeff and Adriano sat down, neither of them able to take their eyes off of Terry. While the others were in sport shirts and slacks, Terry would never think of arriving at any function dressed in anything but a coat and tie. It was his training in the "service" of the nobility in England. He wore light gray trousers with a dark blue blazer. A white handkerchief, artfully folded by hand, peeked out of his breast pocket. His necktie was a lighter blue with a small conservative gold design.

Steve returned to the living room with a bottle of wine and, after asking each of the guests to take a glass from the coffee table, poured a small amount in each glass.

"Mmmmm," purred Terry. "This is lovely. California petite sirah, perhaps. Or perhaps a Shiraz from Australia?"

"You were right the second time, Terry. It's Rosemont Estate 1998 Show Reserve. A very good Shiraz, I think. The grapes for it are grown in the McLaren Vale region of Australia. Longhorne Creek. Personally, I've grown very fond of several of the Shiraz wines from Australia. As you can tell, they're very much like petite sirah, but they have a bit of a chocolate note to them, don't you agree?"

"Oh, definitely." Responded Terry, taking another sip. "Delicious!"

Caleb, Jeff, and Adriano listened to this light repartee between Steve and Terry, but did not add their own impressions, having thought better of it since not one of them had the least knowledge of, or even the taste for good wines. It was clear from the very beginning that politeness and manners would be the order of the evening. Terry's air of courtliness left no doubt that this would not be like a typical evening around the table out on the ranch.

The meal, as well as the evening, however, promised to be an interesting one. Jeff and Adriano could hardly keep their eyes off Terry's fine figure and extraordinarily handsome face. And they were enchanted with his very refined British accent, so soft and expressive. They found it hard to believe that Terry was in his fifties. Terry explained his background again briefly for the benefit of Jeff and Adriano.

After decanting more wine for each of the guests, Steve once again returned to the kitchen. As he left, Adriano excused himself and followed Steve.

"Your guest, Steve!" said Adriano. "He bowls me over! You mean to tell me he's just a waiter at the Goliad Inn?"

"That's right," said Steve with a smile. "He's a beauty, isn't he?"

"Damn! I can't keep my eyes off of him!" said Adriano. "And I love to hear him speak. I keep wanting to ask him to come and lie on me so we can talk!"

"Don't be crude, Adriano. Here. Help me carry these out to the table."

As appetizers, Steve had prepared baked stuffed Oysters Rockefeller, a simple salad course of blue cheese and endive, served with a balsamic walnut vinaigrette. As the guests came into the dining room, Terry clapped his hands together with delight at the sight of the table.

"What a beautiful table you set, Steve!" exclaimed Terry. "And I haven't enjoyed Oysters Rockefeller since I left Chicago!"

As everyone took their seats, Steve went around and poured the wine in fresh glasses. Terry raised his glass. Sniffing it, he said, "Now don't tell me. Let me guess. This is also a Shiraz."

"Right you are, my friend," said Steve.

"It's not the same, of course, as the Rosemont," said Terry thoughtfully, taking a small sip. "Ah! I would put money on it being Penfolds Proprietor's Grand Reserve! Right?"

"Right again!" said Steve as he took his seat.

Terry was seated between Jeff and Adriano, with Caleb and Steve sitting across. Adriano turned to Terry and asked, "Where did you learn so much about wine?"

Terry put his hand on Adriano's and said, "Experience, my boy! Experience! I was the sommelier on the estate I served on in England, and I was also the sommelier for the Palmer House in Chicago."

"You were the somm . . . what?"

"The sommelier, Adriano. In other words, I was the wine steward. I had to know about wines. And I must say that I haven't met anyone in many years who is as knowledgeable about wines as you, Steve. And in addition, you show that you have impeccable taste in wine."

Steve said, "I love wine, and I took a great interest in it back home in New England. And now I find myself in the business!"

Terry had a tendency to wave his fork about enthusiastically as he spoke. "We at the Inn purchased a lot of wine from the Goliad Wine and Cheese Shop through the years, but the selection was sometimes seriously wanting. Now that you are the proprietor, Steve, I shall make it a point to take a fresh look at your stock."

It was obvious that Terry was enjoying the appetizers immensely. He also tipped his glass up taking the last drop and, with a flourish, set it down and stared at it. It was a clear signal that he wished to have his glass refilled.

After every morsel had been enthusiastically devoured by all, Steve stood up and whispered to Jeff, asking him if he would help clear the table and help with the main course. When the table had been cleared, Jeff stood in the kitchen watching Steve serve up the plates.

"Steve, I am really impressed by your guest," said Jeff. "I've eaten at the Goliad Inn a number of times, but I don't remember seeing him."

"Well, Jeff," said Steve, "a good waiter always remains as inconspicuous as possible. He probably waited on your table, and you just never really noticed him."

Jeff said, "I would say that Adriano is about to go out of his mind. He has hardly taken his eyes off of Terry. I find it hard to keep my own eyes off of him. But I hate to stare. I wonder if anything is going on beneath the table between the two of them. And I'll be willing to bet Adriano's underwear is soaking wet at this point."

"Well, we'll just have to see if anything develops," said Steve.

Jeff looked down at the plates being filled. "Steve, you have really gone all the way with dinner. I haven't enjoyed a meal like this in a long time. And I've never been a wine drinker, but I am really enjoying the wine you're serving tonight. I've tasted some of the home-made wine that Jake makes from time to time, and I can't begin to describe how awful it is."

"Jeff, the dinner isn't over yet. This is the main course coming up. I know you're not an experienced waiter, but would you take these plates out and serve them. Just take one at a time, and remember to serve Terry first, then Adriano, then Caleb, and then yourself. I'll bring out my own plate. And one more thing, serve each person from the left."

The main course was rack of lamb with garlic smashed red bliss potatoes and grilled asparagus as side dishes. After the meal was served, Steve filled a second wine glass at each place with 1997 Maglieri Shark Block Shiraz. When Steve took his seat, Murdock leaned back in his chair and again clasped his hands together as he surveyed the elaborate spread before him.

Terry marveled, "How beautiful that looks, Steve . . . almost too beautiful to eat!" Leaning forward, he gingerly cut into the lamb as though he were cutting into a delicate flower. "This is superb!" Terry exclaimed as he reached for his glass. "Mmmmmm. And I know this wine well! One of my favorites! I'm sure you know, Steve, that Cellarmasters Wines won the prestigious 1999 Visy Board Great Australian Shiraz Challenge!"

Steve smiled and said, "Yes, I'm very much aware of that, and it's one of my favorites, also."

The main course was soon finished, and it was time for desert. It would be Créme Brulee. As Jeff helped clear the table, Steve prepared the small bowls of Créme Brulee by lightly torching each one, giving it a light sugar crust. It was served with yet another wine . . . a Canadian Ice Wine.

When he was finished, Terry leaned back in his chair once again and said, "Everything was positively superb. There seems to be no end to your talents, Steve. This has been a remarkable dinner. Everything was perfect!"

"Coming from you, Terry," said Steve, "that is a high compliment, indeed, and I thank you. Caleb and I wanted nothing but the best for you, and I'm so glad you liked it. Now, if you gentlemen would like to retire to the living room, we'll have a chance to enjoy a little libation there.

After everyone was settled, Steve brought out glasses and a bottle of Courvoisier Millennium Cognac.

"Ah, Cognac!" said Terry. "How perfect!"

Terry was seated on the sofa, and Adriano sat beside him. Taking hold of Terry's hand, Adriano looked at the elaborate silver ring on his finger. Adriano said, "I've been admiring your ring, Terry. Was it a family piece?"

Terry put his other hand on Adriano's and held it there. "No, it was a gift from Barker just before we started on our ill-fated trip to see the country."

Caleb said, "Terry, tell us if you care to. Tell us about Barker. What was he like?"

"Oh, my!" sighed Terry. "What isn't there to tell? He of course was the love of my life. Barker was not an educated man in the formal sense. But he read constantly. All the classic treatises like Voltaire, Carlyle, Thomas More, Machiavelli, and the rest. He particularly loved the novels of Galsworthy, Wells, and Wilder. I think his favorites were Joseph Conrad and Melville. We would discuss these books by the hour."

Jeff asked, "How did the two of you actually . . . you know . . . get together?"

"Well, we often read to each other. One night, Barker was reading to me from "The Days of Our Years" by Pierre Van Paassen, and when he came to a particularly touching passage, we both broke into tears, at the very same time. When he looked up at me with the dearest, sweetest look in his tear-filled eyes, I instinctively got up and went to him and took him in my arms. We cried together. We suddenly knew how much we loved each other. Neither of us had any doubt of it. We didn't speak of it. We just knew."

Still clutching Terry's hand, Adriano said, "He must have been an extraordinary person."

Terry squeezed back on Adriano's hand. "He was more than extraordinary. I suppose he could be called a 'man for all seasons' in a way. I considered myself to be the luckiest man on earth. To have found myself in 'service' with this man was as though it had been divined by God. Our sexual relationship really didn't begin until some time later. The Lord and Lady were raising their young nephew after both his parents were killed in a automobile accident. But the boy had contracted leukemia and died when he was only ten. Barker had been particularly attentive to the boy, giving him riding lessons and teaching him to enjoy reading. The Cunninghams were coming upon hard times and they were unable to afford a governess. When the boy died, Barker became despondent and was almost inconsolable. One night when I was visiting him in his room, reading to him something or other, I could tell he was not listening. With tears in his eyes, he told me that being all alone in that attic room of his had become intolerable. He had a recurring dream that the boy had died in his arms and there was nothing he could do to save him. He looked at me and pleaded with me to stay with him that night. He couldn't take another night alone."

Jeff looked at Terry as he talked, and couldn't hold back his own tears. He kept his eyes on the floor so it wouldn't be noticed.

Terry continued. "I did stay with him that night. We slept in each other's arms, and we kissed and we cried. We told each other of the love we had for each other and I did what I could to comfort him over the loss of the boy. We slept together many times after that, either in his room or in mine. In time, our passion for each other's bodies became so intense that we engaged in every form of sexual love we could think of."

Caleb asked, "What was Barker like, Terry? I mean what did he look like?"

Terry smiled and looked over at Adriano, still holding his hand. "Adriano here reminds me a little of him. He was slender with dark, velvety skin. He was English, but he could have been taken for an Italian. He had dark eyes, almost black, with long black eyelashes that made his eyes look passionate and mysterious."

Holding Adriano's hand up close to his face, Terry looked at them long and carefully and then said, "He had slender hands like this with long beautiful fingers."

Terry suddenly let go of Adriano's hand and said he needed to use the bathroom. After he departed, the others sat silently with each showing their own emotion in his face. After a long while, Caleb said, "He's been in there a long time. I hope there's nothing wrong."

After awhile, Steve said, "Maybe we should check on him."

Caleb said, "Adriano, I think he's taken a liking to you. Why don't you go in and see how he is?"

Adriano walked down the hall and knocked lightly on the bathroom door. "Terry? Is anything wrong?" Adriano said softly.

When there was no answer, Adriano opened the door a little and saw Terry standing with his hands on the lavatory, leaning over and crying softly. Adriano walked up behind him and put his hands on Terry's waist. Adriano said quietly. "Oh, I'm sorry. We shouldn't have asked you to tell us about it. We're so sorry. I can tell how much you loved Barker and I know how hard it must be."

Without looking around, Terry said, "No, Adriano, I'm sorry. I'm just a silly, sentimental old guy. I wanted to tell you about him. I don't mind crying when I think about him. I cry often when I'm alone in bed, asking God why he had to be taken from me. My tears are for him, and I'm not ashamed of them."

"Of course not," said Adriano.

As Terry turned and put down the toilet lid and sat on it, he said, "Adriano, sit down there on the edge of the tub and talk with me for a minute, won't you?"

"Of course," said Adriano as he sat down.

Wiping his eyes with a piece of toilet paper, Terry reached over and took one of Adriano's hands in his and said, "Adriano, as I said, I'm never ashamed to shed tears over Barker, but I'm afraid I've ruined a perfectly delightful dinner party. Everyone has been so dear. Steve worked so hard to make it nice."

Adriano stood up and said, "Stand up, will you, and let me hug you." As they stood wrapped in each other's arms, Adriano said, "You've ruined nothing. I think we've all fallen in love with you. We're glad you so openly shared with us the love you had for Barker. It isn't as though we haven't had our own loves and disappointments. We understand. We've all cried through our own heartbreaks. You're one of us. We feel honored that you shared yours with us."

They looked into each other's eyes as their lips gently touched in a warm kiss. Adriano said, "Yes, I feel honored to know you. And I know I'll go home tonight wanting to see you again. I know I could never give you what Barker gave you, but I don't think I've made any secret tonight of the fact that I would like to be close to you."

Terry looked at Adriano with a smile and said, "You're a dear man, Adriano. Perhaps we can see each other again." Kissing Adriano one more time on the lips, Terry said, "I think we'd better re-join the others now. I've been gone long enough."

As they walked back into the living room, Adriano thought to himself, "Here I am wanting the most wonderful, erudite man I've ever known, while my own father is shacked up with a red-neck, long-haired, tattooed biker! What's happening here?"

Everyone stood up when Terry came back into the room. Steve went up to him and put his arm around his shoulder and said, "I hope you're okay, my friend. Go ahead and sit down and let me fill up your glass with some more Cognac."

"That would be lovely," said Terry, as he patted the sofa cushion beside him as a signal for Adriano to sit by him. "I'm sorry for the long bathroom visit. I guess I just needed a few minutes by myself."

Everyone could tell from the redness of Terry's eyes what had happened. "That's okay, Murdock," said Caleb. "We all have our moments. God knows I've had mine!"

Soon the conversation centered on Jeff's and Adriano's experiences and activities at the University in Austin. Also, Terry asked Steve to tell about what brought him down to Texas and about how he was re-building the Goliad Wine and Cheese Shop business. It was now close to midnight, and everyone was finishing up the evening with some very strong coffee. Jeff and Adriano had planned to drive back to Austin that night, but because of the lateness of the hour, they decided to drive out to the ranch and stay there for the night.

After saying their goodnights to Caleb and Steve, Terry and Adriano stood out in front while Jeff went to fetch the car. Adriano took Terry's hands and said, "I had a wonderful evening getting to know you. You're like no one I have ever met. Please. Could I call you, and perhaps we could get together again? I'm not as stupid as I must have seemed tonight."

Terry took the initiative this time and took Adriano in his arms. As they kissed lightly, he said, "You didn't seem stupid, Adriano. And I'm sure you're not. And yes, I would really like to have you call me sometime. I'd like to get together with you again. You can just call the Goliad Inn. I have a room there."

As Jeff and Adriano drove off towards the ranch, Jeff said, "I could see how interested you were in Terry. I hope you two can get together sometime. He's such a fine man. You couldn't do better than to have him as a good friend."

Adriano leaned way back in his seat and sighed, "Jeff, I'm in love. I'm so goddamned in love I don't know what to do. I've never in my life met anyone like him."

"I assume you found him all right when you went after him in the bathroom."

"Oh yeah. He was all right. He was fine. He just got a little emotional while he was telling us about Barker. I found him in there crying. God, Jeff! How I want that man!"

Several days later, a small package arrived for Caleb and Steve. Caleb told Steve to open it. It was from Terry Murdock . . . a beautifully bound book entitled, "Famous Recipes from the Stately Homes of England." With it was a short letter, which read: "My deepest and humblest thanks to both of you for a perfectly marvelous dinner and a delightful evening. Thank you also for introducing me to your other two guests. I surely should have known your friends would be as intelligent and dear as the both of you. I hope that you will soon be my guests for dinner at the Inn. It will be a great pleasure to see you again.

"Sincerely, your humble servant, Terry Murdock"

For several days following the dinner party, Adriano thought about little else but Terry Murdock. Such a perfectly gorgeous man! He had never before been so completely overwhelmed by the beauty and personality of a man. He lay in his bed each night running his hands over his body, fantasizing that they were Terry's hands. He felt hopelessly in love. He would stroke his penis, imagining it was Terry's mouth slowly bringing him to orgasm. He would have imaginary conversations with Terry, telling him how much he loved him. His orgasms, he thought, were the best he ever had, imagining that he was sending his sperm into Terry's body. Then tasting his own sperm, he imagined it to be Terry's.

One evening, his father, Mario, asked Frack if he would go with him to visit Adriano. He was determined to have Adriano accept Frack. He knew that if his son would make an effort to get to know Frack, he would like him.

That evening, as Adriano lay in his bed with his naked body stretched out, he once again imagined that Terry was lying there with him. As he stroked, he suddenly thought he smelled a strange smell. He thought it smelled like smoke. He got up and checked the stove in the kitchen. When he found that nothing was burning, he went back to his bed. Then he could see that the room was beginning to get smoky. But he had no idea where it was coming from. He went to the door and opened it. The hallway was dense with smoke and, and as he slammed the door closed, he began to cough and choke. He ran back to the bedroom and climbed quickly into his briefs. After getting a wet washcloth from the bathroom, he held it over his nose and mouth as he went back to the door and opened it. The smoke was acrid and dense and he could see a faint red glow down at the end of the hall where the stairway was. He tried to make his way through the smoke, but was unable to go far before the heat of the flames turned him back.

When Mario and Frack arrived at Adriano's apartment house, they immediately saw flames through the window of one of the apartments. Mario screamed, "My God! Adriano!"

Frack said, "Is that your son's apartment?"

Mario yelled, "No! His is the one next door to that one!"

Frack pulled out his cell phone and yelled, "Here, Mario, dial 911! And tell them to hurry!"

Frack ran toward the building. Smoke was now beginning to flow out of the front door. Several residents were running out, choking and coughing, but Adriano wasn't with them. Wrapping his bandana over his face, Frack dashed into the smoked filled lobby and, finding the stairway, he inched his way up. At the top of the stairs, he was confronted with a virtual wall of fire. Running back down, he broke into one of the first floor apartments. He grabbed a large towel and drenched it with water. He also poured water over his body so his clothing was wet. With the towel wrapped around his head, he made another attempt to get to the top of the stairs.

Shouting through the flames, he called out, "Adriano! Adriano! Can you hear me?" There was no answer. All he could hear was the roar of the flames. Making sure the wet towel covered his head, except for his eyes, Frack ran through the wall of flames and down the hall filled with choking smoke. When he reached Adriano's door, he shouldered it open. The smoke was dense in the apartment, but not quite as thick as in the hallway. He found Adriano lying face down on the floor.

Frack called, "Adriano! Adriano! Can you hear me?" There was still no answer. Adriano had lost consciousness. Picking Adriano up, he made his way down the hall again toward the stairway. The wet towel on his head began to slip away, and Frack could not prevent it from falling onto his shoulders. With Adriano in his arms, he pressed Adriano's face tightly against his chest and stumbled through the flames and onto the stairway.

Frack was now breathing in so much smoke that he felt his chest was about to explode, and he could see that one of his pants legs was burning. With his eyes burning and blinded by smoke, Frack fell on the stairs, rolling most of the way to the bottom. He lost his grip on Adriano, but he held on to his shoulders. Dragging Adriano to the front door, Frack fell unconscious in the doorway with Adriano's body beneath him.

The firemen had just arrived and rushed up to pull Frack and Adriano to safety. The fire rescue van and its crew had also just arrived, and both unconscious men were immediately put inside where they were put on oxygen. Mario was, by this time, hysterical with fear for Adriano and Frack. He was allowed to enter the van and sit next to them. Both remained unconscious. Adriano, dressed only in his briefs, was covered with soot and ash, and Frack had burns on his face, arms, and legs.

The fire rescue van was soon on its way to the hospital, where Adriano and Frack were immediately attended to in the emergency room. Attendants stripped Frack down and began treating his mostly second degree burns. Another attendant took the vital signs of both men. They had both inhaled huge amounts of smoke, and it was feared that the lack of oxygen may have caused brain or lung damage. Mario told them that it had only been a matter of minutes that they had been in the building and hoped that the smoke had not damaged them.

It was not until dawn the next morning when Adriano regained consciousness and saw his father standing over him. He looked at Mario through swollen and bloodshot eyes. When he saw his father, he held his arms up and, with tears in his eyes, he sobbed, "Dad. Oh, Dad."

Mario hugged his son tighter than he had ever hugged anyone. After a while, he said, "You've been through a terrible experience, son. I'm so thankful you're still alive."

"What happened, Dad? I don't remember anything." Adriano said.

"There was a fire at your apartment."

"I don't remember anything, Dad. How did I get out?"

"Luckily, Frack and I were coming to visit you, and we got there just after the fire started. Frack went in and carried you out."

"Where is he, Dad?" Adriano asked.

Tears began to fill Mario's eyes. "Frack is here with you in the emergency room. He's in pretty bad shape. Like you, he ingested a lot of smoke and he's quite badly burned."

Adriano put his hand over his mouth and said softly, "Oh, my God."

"He risked his own life for you, son. You wouldn't be here now with me if he hadn't gone in and carried you out."

Adriano could only repeat over and over, "Oh, my God. Oh, my God."

As Mario hugged his son close to him, he whispered, "He's a good person, Adriano. He has a heart filled with more love and warmth than any other person I have never known. He's a good person."

"I know, Dad. I know," sobbed Adriano.

Mario and his son held on to each other for a long time, saying nothing. Soon, Mario released his son and said, "You need to sleep, son, and get your strength back.

"Can I see him?" Adriano said as he looked searchingly into his father's eyes.

"Yes, in time you can. Right now, he's still unconscious and they're doing all they can for him.

With fear in his eyes, Adriano looked up at his dad and asked, "Will he live, Dad? Will he be all right?"

"Yes, they've assured me he's going to be all right."

To be continued...


Posted: 10/10/08