Footy-11

TOGETHER (11)

They had their first lessons with Mark, at his studio.  Mark behaved impeccably, but Adam could see the ironic amusement in his eyes as he told him about first position and battements tendus.  Adam was surprised to find at the end of his one hour class that his legs trembled and shook, as if he’d been for a two hour run.  He hadn’t known just how physical ballet was, how superficially simple movements took so much energy.

After the class, they all went for coffee together.

Tom asked, “So how long have you guys known each other?”  Tom was prepared to like Adam’s friends.  Adam was a little jealous to see Tom’s charm offensive directed towards someone else, especially a former lover.

Mark said, “We’ve been friends for what – five years, now, Adam?”  Adam was grateful that Mark was playing it straight.  Adam really did not want Tom to find out that he was gay from someone else.  If – when – it had to happen, Adam wanted to be the one to tell him.  As they left, he saw that Mark’s usually sunny countenance was troubled.

“What is it, Mark?  You OK?”

“Nothing, Ads.  I’m fine.”  When Adam went on looking at him anxiously, Mark gave him a little push, and said, “Go away, Adam Hopkinson!  I’ll see you next week!”

Afterwards, Tom said, as they were driving back to the flat in the BMW, “Mark’s gay, isn’t he?”

Adam felt like saying, ‘you noticed’, but contented himself with “Yes.  I can tell you because he’s out to everyone.  So he won’t mind.”

“He seems a lovely bloke.”

“He is.  I’m very fond of him.  He’s a good friend.  I wish I had more friends like him.”

“Maybe we can ask him and his boyfriend to come on the piss with us.”

Adam balked at the word ‘boyfriend’ – it seemed patronizing – but then he realized that Tom didn’t know what to call Mark’s lover.  “I don’t know whether he has one at the moment,” he said aloud.  “But it’s a good idea.  We can ask him at the next class.  That’s if I’m still able to walk.  I’m so trembly and sore!”

“Ballet always surprises those who take it up for the first time.  It looks so ethereal and light, but it’s hard work.”

The next day Adam’s leg muscles were sore and stiff, and his back ached.  When he mentioned this to Tom at the gym, Tom gave him a series of gentle stretching exercises taught to him by his teacher, and suggested that he massage Adam’s sore legs.  Adam flatly refused, knowing quite well he’d disgrace himself.  “I’ll be fine,” he said firmly.

The female bank executive bought Tom’s house.  As soon as the papers were signed, Tom called Adam to tell him the news.

“Can I shift in tonight?” he asked, eager to dispose of this piece of history, to move on.  He’d seen Adam at the gym that afternoon, and told him that there was a good chance that this would happen, but he was so pleased that he had to speak with him again.

“Yeah, ’course.  If you pick me up from the flat, I can help you load your stuff.  Hang on, though, if you’ve got a lot, maybe you should rent a truck.”

“No, I’m leaving everything, all the furniture, the pictures, all that crap.  I hated it. It was all chosen by Anita.  The buyer actually wanted those bits and pieces, so I added fifty thou to the price and said she could have it all.  I’m bringing my gear, my guitar, my scripts, my CDs and a couple of books.”  One of the things that Tom had liked about Adam’s flat was the books, piled everywhere, or stacked in several bookcases.  It meant that you could sit down anywhere, and pull a book from a pile or out of a bookcase and read something interesting or amusing or moving.  Adam had lots of books.  Tom had noticed that there were a fair number of novels or short story anthologies with gay characters, but he didn’t really think any more about it.  There were so many books, on so many themes.  He didn’t care about that himself, so he didn’t notice it in others.

Tom arrived at the flat at six, with some of his stuff in cardboard boxes.  Adam helped carry them upstairs and piled them in one corner.  Old Foss surveyed all this activity with disdain, and then sniffed all the boxes before climbing on top of the pile and going to sleep.

They went back to the mansion to fetch the rest of Tom’s stuff.  Adam had never been to Tom’s home, and was taken aback by its size.  It was an exquisite Victorian double-story house, with a beautiful glass conservatory, high ceilings, large sash windows, and a white gravel driveway.  The garden was perfect.  Tom explained that gardeners maintained it.  Adam admitted to himself that he would have rather liked to live there, if he could have afforded it.

When the boot was full and the back seat too, Adam raised his eyebrows to Tom and commented, “I thought you didn’t have much stuff?”

“I miscalculated,” said Tom, grinning.

He drove back slowly and carefully to the flat, because every time he cornered or stopped, the heaps on the back seat threatened to slide forward and decapitate them.  It was eight o’clock before they had carried everything upstairs and arranged it in the two rooms of the flat.  Though Adam had lived there for a while, even with the books everywhere, it had never looked comfy and lived in.  Now, with all Tom’s clutter, it looked like home.  The guitar case stood in one corner next to the clarinet and the music stand, the CDs were stacked next to Adam’s, making a sizable collection, though they had many CDs in common.  Tom had a dirty mark on his face that Adam wanted to wipe away.  He didn’t.

“Let’s go out to dinner, Ads.  If we go somewhere round here, we can stagger home, and don’t have to worry about drinking too much and then having to drive.  My treat.”

“Sounds good.”  Adam was starving, and all the carrying to and fro had made it worse.

They decided to eat at the Italian pizza place half a block away.  They ordered pizzas and beers, and leaned back on their chairs with a sigh.

“Well, that’s over,” said Tom, with a mixture of satisfaction and sadness.  “Anita persuaded me to buy the house, and I’ve done well out of it, but it doesn’t have good memories for me.”

“You may feel the same about the flat in a while.  After we’ve had our first blazing row, for example.”

“What would we argue about?  I’m too relaxed and you never disagree with me.”  He took a long swallow of his beer.  “Oh, that’s good!”

“You don’t know that.  Maybe I just keep quiet.”  Adam drank some of his beer too.  Beer went well with pizza for some reason.

“Which could be a good reason to quarrel.  If we’re going to live together, I want you to tell me about the things that piss you off.”

“Oh yeah.  ’Course you do!”

“Adam, I don’t like secrets or hidden things.  I don’t like lies.  I want to know if there’s something wrong, else how can I fix it?”

As Tom spoke, Adam could feel his heart sinking.  If Tom ever found out the truth, he would never forgive him.  It would be bad enough when he learned that he’d been sharing a bed with a homo.  But when he found out that all Adam’s secrets were connected with this, that Adam had fancied him from day one, and that he’d helped him because of that, their friendship would be over.  Depressed, he waved the waitress over to order another beer.

Adam thought that it might feel different when they went to bed now that Tom was living with him, but it was just the same.  As usual, Tom went to sleep facing out, before turning over in his sleep and casually, carelessly, resting his arm on Adam’s flank.  The situation was ridiculous – two guys, one of them gay, sharing a bed, unfussily intimate, yet not lovers.  Adam wondered whether it was like this for couples who had been together for a long time, or whether it was different when you had once been lovers and the flames had died down to softly glowing embers.

Their life together was astonishingly relaxed and comfortable.  Tom was a thoughtful flatmate, did his share of the chores, didn’t mess up the flat, and was alert to Adam’s moods.  They had to schedule their practising for different times, and they played together less often than they used to, but it was not a major change.  Tom was a good cook, and every so often he would make a great meal, and they would eat in, and watch a video and share one, or often two, bottles of wine.  Tom liked being with Adam, he liked his quirky, off-beat view of the world.  Adam knew when to shut up and when to talk.  Best of all, Tom liked sleeping with Adam.  He found the nightly rituals comforting and the closeness warming.  He didn’t even notice that neither of them had a girlfriend.  When he felt the need to, he would wank in the shower, but even then, there was no one who entered his thoughts as he came.

Now that his depression had vanished, he had become much better at his job, and he realized that they hadn’t expected him to be competent in the beginning.  If he tried hard to learn the business, Smith & Henquist might not in fact sack him.  The Barbie doll P.A. had turned out to be an intelligent and sympathetic ally.  He felt sorry that he had misjudged her.

Adam hadn’t been into ‘Il Giardino’ since Tom had moved in.  But Tom had to catch the red-eye special to Sydney to see some clients and do a shoot on Bondi beach, so Adam for the first time in weeks was alone.  He went across to the café and ordered breakfast.

“So,” said ‘Violet’, in a confiding tone which contrasted so strongly with his normal loud ‘let everyone also share in this’ voice that Adam should have been suspicious, “who’s the hunk you’ve set up house with?”

Adam should have told Vi the truth, that Tom was his friend not his lover, but he wanted to bask in Tom’s reflected glory.  He wanted Violet to think that he had hooked the most eligible man in Melbourne.  He gave Vi a smutty smile and said, as if he was proud of the achievement, “Nice, isn’t he?”

“Is it Tom Siedentrop?”

“Yeah.”

“Tom Siedentrop is gay?”

“No, Violet, I promise you:  Tom Siedentrop is one hundred per cent straight.”

Violet looked disbelieving.  Adam didn’t want to disabuse him.  It was more fun this way.  And he hadn’t actually told any lies.

His day at work was quite normal, until the afternoon.  When Adam got back from the gym, there was a surprise waiting.

His boss, Harry, stepped out his office as Adam came into the area where all the analysts and salesmen had their desks.  “I’ve been looking for you.  Could you just come upstairs with me, please.”

Adam raised his eyebrows.  Harry wasn’t usually so polite.

When they reached the interview room on the ninth floor, he guessed at once what was happening.  He listened to the corporate platitudes and lies dully, without feeling.  He’d already taken copies of all his files, and the disks were safely stowed at home.  He would start calling his clients on Monday.  Sehnburgs could only sue him if he took clients in the first three months after he left, and if he was going to get a licence from ASIC, it would take that long anyway.  He wasn’t supposed to have taken the files, but everybody did.  One simply never admitted to it.

When Harry started talking about redundancy pay, Adam started to pay attention.

“In view of your senior position, there will be no severance pay.”

“In view of my senior position?”

“Yes.  The legislation making redundancies compulsory only covers those earning less than $70,000 a year.”  Harry’s face was so smug and self-righteous that Adam wanted to hit it.  There was nothing he could do.  He had lost his job, with no severance pay.  It would take him three months at least to get a new job.  He had savings, but they had been for other things – a car, maybe, a holiday, a deposit on a house.  Without another word, ignoring Harry’s continuing poorly concealed triumph, he got up to go back to his desk.

Two security guards in black were waiting for him outside the door of the interview room.  “You can come in on Saturday to clear your desk,” one of them said.  “Please give us your security card, and follow us.”  They escorted him out of the building.

Dazed with shock, feeling as if he was utterly worthless and useless, he walked home.  He didn’t feel like taking the tram.  It took him an hour to get home.  When he got there, he saw vans from the ABC, and Channels Seven, Nine and Ten, with cables draped across the parking lot, and two press reporters with photographers.  A reporter rushed up to him, his hair so smooth it must have been sprayed with plastic.  Camera bulbs popped in Adam’s face.

“Mr. Hopkinson, do you have any comments?”

Adam looked at him for a minute or so, and then at the others, waiting expectantly.

“I didn’t know that I was that famous.  But yeah, it was incredibly unfair.  And my boss is a large, halitotic suckhole.”

If the reporter had been capable of any other expression except wide-eyed sincerity, he might have looked completely confused.

“Do you have any other comment?”

“Well, obviously I’ll have to get a new job.  But I’m good at what I do.  I’ll survive.  Excuse me, I want to go into my flat.”

“When will Tom be coming home?”

This was too much.  Adam was in no mood for small talk.  “What the fuck has it got to do with you?” he snarled.  He turned towards the camera and gave it the finger.  “Now get the fuck out of my way, and leave me to come to terms with the rest of my life.”  Bulkier now after the weeks of concentrated working out, he shouldered the reporter out of the way and ran up the stairs.  There was another crew outside his front door.

“Mr. Hopkinson, what does Tom Siedentrop think of the news?”

“He doesn’t know it.  I haven’t spoken to him yet.  Now, I want to go into my home, and I want you to effing well get out of the way.”  Adam was very, very angry, by now.  He hadn’t been able to thump Harry, which would have satisfied him, but he was in just the mood to deck the journalist, and it was obvious.

“The public has a right to know, Mr. Hopkinson,” said the reporter retreating out of range of Adam’s clenched fist.

“What?  That I’ve lost my job?  You guys are fucktards, you know that?  Now if you don’t fucking get out the fucking way, I’m going to throw you knob-jockeys and that fucking camera off the cock-sucking balcony.”  The journo retreated far enough for Adam to put the key in the lock and unlock the door and slip inside.  Old Foss was sitting stiff with rage and indignation in the middle of the floor.

“I know how you feel,” Adam said to her, as he bent to stroke her.

Someone started knocking at the door.  Adam went and got the short length of hosepipe he kept for watering the pots on his private balcony, and fastened it to the laundry sink tap which had a screw end for attaching to the washing machine.  Turning the tap on full, he strode across to the door, opened the door abruptly, and pressed the nozzle trigger, vigorously squirting both reporters, both cameramen and both their cameras.  The water pressure was satisfyingly high.  The plastic hairdo reporter’s hair collapsed like into a singularly hideous shapeless mop, and the cameramen started cursing about the risk of electric shock with the cables.

“If you effing well come back just once more,” growled Adam through his teeth, “I will call the police.  Now piss off and go and bully someone your own size.”  He slammed and locked the door, turned off the tap, and started to clean up the mess.

Although Adam had a television set, it wasn’t connected to an aerial, just the DVD player.  So he only knew what had really happened when his sister phoned him.

–oo–

Tom was in the Qantas Club lounge in Sydney idly watching the TV, which was set where twenty chubby businessmen could watch.  It was the sports program, and he wondered if there was anything about Archbishops.  He had never been one for television, and because Adam never watched it he didn’t either.

The reporter came on screen.  “We bring you the latest development in the Tom Siedentrop story.”  Tom sat up straighter, and started paying attention.  “Our reporter was attacked by Adam Hopkinson, who shares a flat with Tom, when he tried to…   ”  The tone of the announcer implied that there were sharing much more than the flat.  The camera panned to the door of Adam’s flat, and then a close-up of Adam swearing at the cameraman, with all the swearwords bleeped out, and then Adam laughing as he sprayed the camera which abruptly went black.  Adam was clearly very upset.  Tom grinned.  “Tom Siedentrop is out of town, but is expected back tonight.  In the meantime, sensational allegations that he is gay and living with his lover Adam Hopkinson have been made in The Sun.”  The camera panned to a queeny guy standing outside the café opposite the flats.  He was saying, “    ….Adam told me himself.  We go way back.  He’s living with Tom.  He said that Tom was sensational in bed.”

Tom was speechless with rage.  Adam had deceived him from the beginning.  As he thought about their time together, he put together all the clues.  Adam was gay.  Adam had shot his mouth off to this guy.  The media had got hold of it.  Of course it was a sensational story – Tom Siedentrop, an icon of Melbourne footy, Brownlow medallist, winning-goal kicker in two grand finals, was rooting a bloke.

His face burning with shame and anger, Tom got up and went to sit at one of the picture windows where he stared out at the planes taxiing to the gates as if it was the most interesting thing in the world.  He could hear the conversations stopping and restarting as he walked past.

The feeling that came after the rage was grief.  He didn’t want to think too hard about why, at first.  But as he sat there, waiting for his flight to be called, he thought back on the most wonderful two months of his life, of fun and affection and closeness, of a genuine friendship such as he had never had before, and his anger was no longer about what others thought about him, but about what he’d lost.  He was angry with Adam.  Adam should have told him.  And how could he have talked about something so private with someone else, some guy who couldn’t wait to rush to the press with the story?  Tom put his hand over his eyes, and waited, his stomach and his mind churning, rage and sorrow fighting in him for dominance.

The flight to Melbourne left on time, and Tom sank into his window seat in business class, and closed his eyes.  He had no intention of speaking to anyone.  He curtly refused food, and at Melbourne, headed straight for the car park, ignoring the whispered comments and one or two catcalls.  It was eight o’clock.  The sun was still above the horizon, and the air was warm and scented with dust and flowers, but he put up the hood.  At the block of flats, there was just one TV van.  He parked the car, and picked up his briefcase, and squaring his shoulders, started for the stairways.  A reporter pushed himself in front of Tom, and asked him things, waving the mike in his face.  Tom grimly ignored him, ploughing steadily on.  Only five more paces.  Only two.  Now the first flight.  Now the second.  Then the third.  Now the long passage of the balcony.  Then Adam’s door.  The reporter was still buzzing in his face like a mosquito.  Tom shoved him to one side, unlocked the door and went in, slamming it closed behind him.

Adam was sitting on the sofa, staring at the wall.

“How could you?” asked Tom, all the pent up anger of the last three hours pouring out of him.  “You lied to me.  You should have told me.  We could have worked something out.  You know I hate secrets.  And to tell that guy.  Ads,” using without thought the pet name for him, “why?”

“Does it matter?”  Since Fiona’s call, Adam had been staring at the wall, or the ceiling, waiting for the sky to fall.

“Of course it fucking matters!  You didn’t care for me at all.  You were kind to me because you fancied me.  You lied to me, Adam.”

“I never lied to you, Thomas.  I just didn’t tell you the truth.”

“It’s the same thing.  I thought we were friends.”

“So did I.”  He stared at the wall, then turned to look directly at Tom.  “Did I ever make a pass at you, Tom?  Did I ever do anything I shouldn’t have?  Did I ever fucking touch you?”  Adam was shouting now, and the tears were pouring down his cheeks.  “Do you think it’s easy loving someone so much, as I love you, and knowing that it will never, never, work?  If you’d been an arsehole or up yourself, I would have ended it long ago.  But you’re just so damn fine, Tom.  You’ve become my best friend.  Dammit Tom, why weren’t you a selfish worthless cunt?”

All at once, it struck Tom that Adam was hurting.  He’d thought only of his own loss, not realizing that Adam was suffering too, that he might be suffering much more.  Instinctively, he reached out and tried to take Adam in his arms.

“Don’t!” yelled Adam, and evading him he ran for the door.  It took only a moment before he was through.  Tom heard his footsteps passing along the passageway, and then the quick clatter as Adam leapt down the stairs.  Irresolute, he wondered whether to follow him, but decided not to.  Adam would come back.  They would talk it out then.

Adam ran until he was out of breath.  When he stopped, he was next to a tram stop.  A tram was just approaching.  He bought a two hour ticket, and sat in a window seat peering through the glass and its reflections of the inside of the tram, the tears trickling down his cheeks.  He made no attempt to wipe them away.  Some time later, the tram stopped at a familiar crossroads.  Flinders St – he could take a train away from Melbourne here.  He had nothing to stay for – no job, no one to love, zilch.  Tom could look after Old Foss.  He’d gotten fond of her.  One of the finest things about Tom was his kindness – to animals, old ladies, small boys.  Galvanized by his plan, he ran down the space between the seats to the door.  He went through the blood-and-custard Victorian excess of Flinders Station entrance.  There was a train leaving in five minutes for Sale.  From Sale there would be a bus.  He had his wallet, his credit cards, his mobile phone.  He bought a ticket at the ticket office, and found out that there was a bus in the morning from Sale going to Merimbula.

On the train he sat hunched up, avoiding the eyes of the other passengers.  He doubted that any would recognize him from one TV appearance.  Most likely they would wonder why his face was familiar, then forget about it.  The journey seemed to take hours.  Exhausted by weeping and the events of the day, he dozed fitfully, his head and neck uncomfortably bent.  Sale station was deserted.  He looked for a timetable  in the station.  The bus was only at midday.  He walked into town, and found a motel.  They assumed he’d come in a car, and he gave the BMW’s registration number.  He paid in advance to forestall any questions, and gave them a deposit for telephone calls.  There was no food available, and his head was pounding from low blood sugar and tension.  He begged some painkillers from the receptionist, and went to his room.

His head was still pounding in the morning.  The motel served a sort of breakfast, and Adam chose muesli and coffee.  He wandered round the town until midday, then went to the station where the V-line bus was departed from.  Just after midday, he heard the growl of its engine as the driver geared down.  He couldn’t get a window seat, this time, but closed his eyes and pretended to be asleep.  At Eden, the bus stopped to let a woman and her daughter off.  Adam took this chance to ask the bus driver if he would make a special stop for him, explaining that he lived on a farm, and it would save him a lot of time.  The driver muttered a little.  “We’re not supposed to, you know.”  Adam gave him twenty dollars.

He watched out for the sign in the late afternoon light.

He gazed at the bus as it drove away.  It took another hour to walk to the cottage.  The key was in the usual place.  Adam let himself in, then backed up against the door and gave himself over to grief.

****

When Adam hadn’t come back by ten o’clock, Tom started to worry.  He called Adam’s mobile, but it had been turned off.  He didn’t want to leave a message.  He looked for the list of numbers Adam kept next to the phone.  Fiona’s number was there.  He phoned her.

“Fiona, it’s Tom.  You know, Adam’s friend.”

“I hadn’t forgotten,” replied Fiona very dryly.

Tom’s mouth went dry.  “Is he there?  Can I talk to him, please?”

“He’s not here, Tom.”  Her voice was kind, but Tom could tell that she was her brother’s protectress.  He might not have believed she was telling the truth if she hadn’t immediately asked, worry sharpening her voice, when Adam had left the flat.

“We had a quarrel, at about eight,” said Tom, ashamed.  “He ran out of the flat.  I haven’t seen him since.”

“Didn’t you go after him?”  Her tone was incredulous.

“No, I…   I thought he would come back.”

There was a long silence.  At last, Tom said, “I’m worried about him, Fee.  I…  ” he paused before broaching the fear that was now in both their minds, “I don’t want him to do anything stupid.”

Fiona was angry.  “Why should you care?  He gave you everything, he loved you with all his heart.  Why couldn’t you see it, and stop it earlier?  Before it got so bad?”

“I don’t know much about….  Jeez, Fee, I was so stupid.”  The pain in his voice threw cold water on the fire of her anger.

“I’ll ring you if I hear anything,” she said quietly, and put the phone down.

He lay in the double bed, unable to sleep, watching the shadows of passing cars move across the ceiling in the orange glare cast by the sodium street lamps.  He had the whole night to think about their relationship, to connect the dots and make a recognizable picture.

It was obvious now, that Adam loved him, that Adam was gay.  What was equally obvious was that Adam was also Tom’s friend.  And he was Adam’s.  Anger had long gone from him, to be replaced by a terrible sense of loss, that a friendship so deep should end, and worse, that it should have ended with a senseless quarrel, with Adam out in the night somewhere, perhaps even now dead.

At seven o’clock the next morning, he phoned Fiona again.  She had heard nothing and Adam wasn’t there.  She was brisk, but her manner concealed a concern as great as his.  At eight o’clock he phoned Sehnburgs.  He didn’t think Adam had gone into work, but he was beginning to get desperate

“This is Tom Siedentrop.  May I speak to Adam Hopkinson, please?”

There was a whispered consultation.  Then a different voice came onto the phone.  It was fruity and very English.  Public school.  Tom felt his hackles rise.

“Who is this?”  Tom asked sharply.

“Harry FitzHoward.  And to whom am I speaking?”

“This is Tom Siedentrop.”

“Ah,” said Harry, knowingly.  “I’m afraid Mr. Hopkinson no longer works for us.  But you should know that, surely?”

“You poncy second-rate tool-polisher,” growled out Tom in quiet fury, understanding at once what had happened, “if he kills himself, I will find you wherever you run to, you nancy English cunt, and I will fuckin’ kill you.”  His anger made him lose his eastern suburbs accent.  As he was slamming the phone down, he heard a gasp and a feminine giggle.  Whoever had answered the phone first had gone on listening to the conversation.  It gave him some consolation that the story would be all over Sehnburgs within the hour.  Adam had told him just how unpopular Harry was.  Tom realized that Adam had been made redundant and instead of getting sympathy and a shoulder to cry on, he’d been shouted at by his closest friend.  He no doubt thought that he’d lost that close friend forever.  And Tom understood that if Adam’s feelings were just half the strength of his own, he must now be desperately unhappy.

He walked up and down the two small rooms of the flat, up and down, as if walking would solve his problems for him, and while he did it, he thought, and more and more dots were connected, and the picture he saw became clearer and less palatable with each passage.

The police came round an hour later, wanting to arrest him.

“Are you Tom Siedentrop?”  Of course, they knew perfectly well he was.  Tom assented, his face bleak, convinced that they’d come to tell him they’d found Adam’s body.

“Sir, did you threaten Mr. Harry FitzHoward earlier this morning?”  There was no way the police would accord him the title ‘The Honorable’.

“I thought you’d come to tell me you’d found Adam’s body.”  Tom let his breath out in relief, his face showing his momentary joy.  The officers, a man and a woman, looked at each other and back to him, their expressions suddenly alert.  Tom squared his shoulders.  “Yes, officer,” he said, “I did.  I’m sorry.  I lost my temper.  I’m worried sick about my friend Adam, who was made redundant yesterday.  He left the flat yesterday and hasn’t been back.  He’s contacted no one.  I’m afraid…   I didn’t mean it, about killing Harry.  But he has made Adam’s life a misery for months, and yesterday he sacked him.  And when I came home, we argued, and…  ”  To his dismay, he began to cry, turning his face away from the police officers in shame.  There was a muttered exclamation from the man, and then the policewoman took his arm, and gave him her handkerchief.

Tom grasped that his behavior only confirmed the story.  No one would believe that he and Adam weren’t lovers.  He realized suddenly that he didn’t mind.  Adam was the one genuine thing in his life.  And Adam loved him.  And – he wasn’t sure exactly how or why – he loved Adam.  As a friend.  As a brother?  As a lover?  These were questions for the future, if there was one.  The only certainty in all this dark confusion was that he loved Adam.  And that Adam was lost, and unhappy.

“Do you want to put in a missing persons report?”  The policewoman asked him gently.  Tom shook his head numbly.  “I don’t want any more trouble,” he said.

There was a brief muttered conference between the two.

“You do understand that we will have to give you a caution, don’t you?”

Tom nodded.  Then he giggled suddenly, the tension becoming too much.  “I’m sorry,” he gasped, “but it’s actually funny.  I was incredibly rude, and the receptionist heard, and they all hate him, so it’ll be all over Sehnburgs by now.”

“He could press charges, you know.”  The cops had obviously heard the story.  Sehnburgs probably taped all incoming calls. The cops were trying not to smile.

“If Adam’s dead,” said Tom, his good humor gone as quickly as it had come, “they won’t.  Imagine the publicity.  And if he’s not, it won’t matter, not really.  Just getting him back home, safe and sound, will be worth anything.”  He put his head in his hands, and said, more to himself than them, “I’ve been so stupid.”

Eventually they went away.

Tom thought and thought, the thoughts scurrying round his head.  He tried Adam’s phone again.  This time, the network operator computer announced that the phone was out of range.  The notion struck him – Adam hadn’t gone to his sister or his mother.  He’d gone like a wounded animal to somewhere private to die.  And Tom was pretty certain he knew where that place was.  Feeling at last that he could do something concrete, he put on his leather jacket and his dark glasses, checked his wallet and mobile, and went down to the car.

Chapter 1             Chapter 10         Chapter 12

© Nikolaos Thiwerspoon 2015; all rights reserved.

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