You may recognize the beginning of this story. It is a take off on Little Red Corvette from last year. I almost named it Little Black Corvette, but that doesn’t have the same flow. Little Red Corvette was absolutely true. At one point I pondered on what had happened and what might have happened. In this story, I’m imagining one possible scenario. I’m just glad it didn’t work out this way.
When I was a kid, my best friend
was Will. Our dads had been best friends growing up, and since we lived about
200 yards apart it was logical we would be thrown together. I was a year older
and we were quite different, but it somehow worked and we were very close
throughout our childhood and adolescence. Will dated Tina during most of high school.
She dumped him when he was sixteen. I then broke the Number One Bro Rule. I
dated her – twice. It was wrong but she was kinda hot and I was kinda 17. If
it’s any consolation, she ditched me on our second date and went home with
Will and I eventually worked
around it and stayed friends. After high school he met a nice girl and they got
engaged. Early in the engagement she was killed in a car accident. Will was
particularly wrecked because his sister had died in an auto accident when we were
young. By this time I was off at college. I found out later he had moved in
with a woman in a nearby town. I was just hoping he would find himself, or at
least a little happiness after all the crap life had handed him.
Will apparently found himself.
On his 21st birthday he came to visit me in the small city not far
away where I had settled. He said his birthday present to himself was to come
out of the closet. Then he said, “I’m gay.” I just looked at him as if waiting
for the other shoe to drop. My expression probably said, “And…?” This wasn’t
exactly a newsflash. I knew he had broken off with his live-in lady friend and
he had spoken a number of times about going to ‘the club’ in my city. ‘The club’
was a gay bar. I guess what he was getting at was that although he was living
as if he was not in the closet, he was now announcing it to the world. It
apparently didn’t go over well. You have to remember this was about 1980.
When I didn’t say anything right
away he sarcastically said, “So, aren’t you going to turn against me like
everyone else has?”
I wasn’t surprised by the
response he was getting. We grew up, and he still lived, in a very rural, very
conservative, very Baptist, very southern community. They are kind of like,
hate the sin, crucify the sinner types. I had long ago shed many of the bigoted
views I was brought up with. I told him, “Will, you’re my friend. I love you.
Nothing would make me turn against you. You’re still you.” He looked like he
needed it so I hugged him. I detected a couple of sniffles. He said, “It’s a
sucky way to find out who your real friends are.”
But Will was one for living out
loud, so he proudly carried on in his community, visiting the club in the city
on a regular basis. He sometimes stopped by to see me on the way in or out of
One particular Saturday
afternoon about a year after coming out he showed up at my door
and said, “Come to the club with me.” My immediate
response was, “Not gonna happen.”
“It’ll be fine. I want you to
see this part of my life. I won’t let anybody touch you.”
“Really not gonna happen.”
We went around for awhile until he said, “For years I
went with you to straight bars. You can do this for me.” I prepared to argue
that this was different, but somehow…it wasn’t.
I grudgingly agreed to go.
He said, “I’ll be with you.
Nobody’s going to rape you.”
“Really not helping.”
Why was I so unwilling to go? Maybe somewhere down in
our lizard brainstem is a primeval fear of ‘other’? At this point in my life I
knew a few gay people. I guess I was hypocritically okay they were gay as long
as I didn’t have to see it or think about it. Not so much removed from the
bigotry I was trying to overcome.
So, I put on my big boy pants and went. We arrived
about 10:30 as it was just starting to fill. As we walked past some tables a
nice-looking gentleman said, “Hey, can I buy you a drink?” He was dressed in a
blazer and button-down shirt. A bit old, 35-40, which was ancient to me at 23.
I politely declined and quickly caught up with Will.
“You should have accepted the drink,” he said.
“Hell no,” I responded. “He would have thought I was
available for negotiations.”
“It’s just a drink.”
“No way. It’s never ‘just a drink’. I’m not selling
what he’s looking for.”
“You’re such a prude,” Will laughed.
We found a bar with some stools available. I had only
sat for a minute when a lumberjack came up beside me. I call him a lumberjack
because he looked like the guy on Brawny paper towels, decked out in tight
jeans and a flannel shirt. He was nice looking and all muscle, with that little
mustache that all gay men seemed to have. He leaned on the bar and smiled at
me. I looked to Will in a panic.
“Just ignore him. He’s harmless.” At 6 foot plus and
200 pounds of muscle at the peak of his power he decidedly didn’t look
harmless. He decidedly looked like a predator and I decidedly was feeling like
prey. He gave me a leer that said I had passed muster and was now on the menu.
I studiously refused to make eye contact until he drifted away in search of
“Man, you have been cruised,” Will laughed. Is that
what it was?
“Yeah? And I thought you were going to protect me from
all this. All you’re doing is enjoying the show.” I was a bit annoyed.
“Hey, you’re doing
fine. Can I help it if the guys think you’re hot? Would you rather they
think you’re ugly?”
“Yes, I mean no, I mean… I
don’t know.” I hate hard questions like that. No one wants to
be considered ugly, but I did not come here to find me a man.
And then I made a
connection. Is that the way women feel at bars when we leer at them? We don’t
call it leering, just ‘checking them out’, but it’s basically the same thing. I
felt so violated while it was happening. Is that what women experience? I
whispered a quiet apology to women everywhere.
I had decided I definitely did not want to go the
bathroom while at the bar. I would just feel too vulnerable and exposed. What
did I expect, an orgy? But a couple of beers settled that. I had to go, no
question. So I told Will I’d be right back, and to come rescue me if I wasn’t.
I pressed through the crowd toward the men’s room on the other side of the bar.
The crowd was fairly thick but there was no excuse for the number of hands I
felt on my butt as I made my way through. When did men get so free with their
hands? There was also a ladies’ room that did not seem to be used. I hadn’t
seen any women. Lesbians are gay. Don’t they go to gay bars, or does it have to
be a dyke bar? Or maybe it was for drag queens. I just don’t know any of the
politics of being gay.
I steeled myself and went in expecting the worst.
What, I don’t know. It was just a fairly ordinary bathroom like in any restaurant
or bar. A difference was there were no urinals, only stalls. And no doors on
the stalls. I decided not to overanalyze the thought process behind this. I
waited in a short line. Most of the patrons seemed to know each other. There
was a group of very young guys, probably with fake id’s, clustered around the
mirror fixing their hair and makeup and being bitchy. If you’ve ever seen a
teen movie with a scene of the mean girls in the school bathroom, this was it.
I took care of my business and quickly exited. I endured another grope session
making my way back to where I started. No stool and no Will. Oh, crap.
Almost immediately a very handsome young man sidled up
“I don’t think I’ve seen you around here before.” Was
that his best line? I looked over at him. He was dressed in jeans, a white
T-shirt, black leather jacket and had his hair combed back like Fonzie in the
old Happy Days tv show.
“That’s because I’ve never been here before,” I
“Oh, just come out of the closet?”
What?! I assume the dim light covered the bright red of
my face at this point. Without sputtering too much I explained I was NOT gay
and was here with a friend. Even as I said it I realized how lame it sounded.
The guy accepted it, but instead of walking away, he stayed and we talked. I
guess I blushed even more when he told me it was too bad I wasn’t gay because
he thought I was very hot. We were far enough from the dance floor to talk
without shouting. His name was John and he was a waiter at a local fancy
restaurant. He told me excitedly that he had also just picked up a job as a
bartender here at the club. He hoped to make enough money so he could have his
own place. He was currently living with an elderly aunt and it was really
cramping his social life. I talked some about my work with handicapped children.
He gave me the standard line that I must be “so special”. I get that a lot.
After a while he moved on in search of prey. I mean,
99.9% of the men were here for one thing only. Then I ashamedly admitted to
myself that when I went out to bars, I was one of that 99.9%. Just looking for
a different landscape. I had actually enjoyed talking to John. I like meeting
people and this is what I enjoy about social situations. Just talking and
getting to know people. It was nice. He was nice.
Will came hustling up.
“Sorry, I had to catch up with someone. I didn’t mean
to desert you. I see you were talking to John. What do you think? He’s like the
hottest guy here. By the way, my friends think you’re cute. They were
disappointed to hear you’re straight.”
“Yay, crown me Miss America,” I said sourly. Then I
realized my mood wasn’t Will’s fault, it was mine. I’m unfairly putting my
straight values on what he enjoys. These are his stomping grounds, where he’s
most at home. We all need a place like that. I’m glad he has it.
“Thanks for showing me around. It was nice.
But it’s time I headed home.” He didn’t object. I think he was ready to go on
the prowl also. So I left.
It wasn’t far home. A few blocks from the club I
noticed a car following me closely. I mean it was city driving, but he stayed
right on my bumper. It’s usually annoying, but late at night with the streets
deserted, it’s kinda creepy.
A couple blocks from my last turn, he pulled out of
the lane and came up on my right. As I stopped at the red light, he oozed up to
a stop beside me on the right in a low, sleek and oh so sexy Corvette. And did
I mention it was black? Without the shine, it would be hard to see as it faded
into the black of night like it had some science fiction cloaking device on
board. I couldn’t help but admire it. The windows were tinted so I couldn’t see
the driver. Probably a guy, though. Maybe making up for deficits in other areas
I thought enviously. When the light turned green he jackrabbited away. Hey, if
my car could do that I probably would, too. I just signaled and moved my old
blue Civic into the right lane to make my turn at the next block. As I made my
turn I was peripherally aware of the Corvette making a quick right turn a block
down the street. My house was the next to last on the block on the right. I
blessed my luck that I found curb parking just a few feet from the walkway.
As I was walking toward the steps that led up from the
sidewalk, I saw a black Corvette slowly nose up to the next intersection coming
from the left. Since I’m the next to last house on the block it was pretty
close. How many black Corvettes are running around my neighborhood at nearly 1
am? It had to be the same one. Why had it followed me? My mind raced through
about a dozen scenarios, none ending well. There was about a 1% chance it was a
gorgeous blonde girl who wanted my body. About a 39% chance it was a perverted
serial murderer who also wanted my body, for entirely different reasons. And a
60% chance it was a couple of redneck college students out to roll a queer.
Yeah, my money was on that explanation. Had they followed me from the club?
It’s not something I generally worry about. I guess you could call it straight
He revved the engine as I reached the steps. The deep
throaty sound vibrated in my stomach. He knew I was aware of him. My blood ran
cold and I felt panic coming on. I felt exposed. The car was sitting there like
a black spider emitting an aura of evil. I don’t know why I got so spooked, but
I instinctively knew that this was bad. I pretended not to see the Corvette as
he gunned his engine again and I hustled up the walkway and into the house. I
quickly got in my apartment, locked the door and leaned against it trying to
regulate my breathing. I usually turn on the lights first thing, but a thought
stabbed me, ‘Then he’ll know where I live’. So I stood there in the dark, heart
racing, hyperventilating and sweating bullets. After a few moments I was able
to move so I sidled up to the window and peeped out. Holy Mother of God! The
Corvette was sitting directly in front of the house, idling. I’m sure the
occupant(s?) was watching the house. To see which lights came on? I was frozen
a small eternity, the car moved on. I sank down on the couch and waited for my
breathing and heartbeat to slow down. What was happening here? At the time I
didn’t recognize it as a flashback. I didn’t turn on the lights in case he circled
the block and came back around. I just waited until I was in my bedroom with
the door closed before turning on any lights. Yeah, I was really freaked. I had
heard stories from people who had been tailed before, but you don’t know how
unnerving and downright terrifying it can be until it happens to you.
I slept little that night. Had I dodged a bullet or
was it something totally innocuous?
Will came by the next day to thank me for coming with
him to the club before heading out of town. I opened the door to let him into
my living room.
“You’re looking real chipper this morning,” I croaked rubbing
my bleary eyes.
“Uh, it’s past noon.”
“I hadn’t noticed.”
“Yeah, you look like shit. You didn’t have that much
beer. What happened?”
I told him about the black Corvette. He was silent for
a long moment. I could fairly feel the unease radiating off his body.
“Oh, shit! You saw the Undertaker! Oh, crap. I had
hoped it was just urban legend. I mean I heard about it but no one I know has
seen him. Oh Christ, oh Christ, I’m so sorry. I never would have purposely put
you in danger, you know that?”
“Okay, now I’m really spooked. What’s going on?”
“Over the past couple of years about five young guys
have disappeared. I don’t really know but one from our club. The others are
from other gay clubs locally. Most of them had no family to push the
investigation and the police don’t give a damn. Just another fucking faggot to
them. They talk about our ‘dangerous lifestyle’. They say there’s no evidence
of the missing men being connected and no bodies to indicate foul play. They
assume gays are all transients who drift about and these guys just moved on.
But at least two of the guys were said to be last seen getting into a black
Corvette. I thought it was just people making up stuff. The story is that he
follows guys home from the clubs, entices them into his car and then somehow does
away with them. No body has ever been found, so we don’t know what happens but
the guys are never seen again. We call him the Undertaker because he drives a
black car and he disposes of the bodies we figure he’s killing. And as I said,
the police aren’t really interested. They say the black Corvette is just
exaggeration. But you’ve seen it. Oh, shit man. He followed you home. Oh my
god, I’m so, so sorry.”
I was fine with it. For a moment. Then I bolted to the
bathroom and threw up in the toilet. A freaking serial killer was after me last
night? And he knows where I live! Will followed me, rinsed a washcloth and put
it on the back of my neck. I took it and wiped my face. Aw, crap.
“What am I gonna do?” I asked. “I can’t go to the
police. What’ll I tell them? That I saw a spooky car?”
“It’s going to be okay. I doubt he’ll come back. Just
keep your eyes open and don’t go out at night for a few days. That’s all you
can do. That’s been my life. That’s all gayboys’ lives. Always trying to keep
an eye on my back. You also got plenty of housemates to watch you.”
“I’ll be fine,” I mumbled.
I don’t think I slept more than a few minutes any
night that week. I was a wreck at work. People asked about it. I just said some
guys kept me up too late. As the next weekend approached I was nearly
functioning normally. Then I got the call on Saturday.
“Curtis, it’s Will. You gotta help me. It’s the
Undertaker. I think he got John.”
“John? From the club? Oh shit! Are you sure?”
“Not really. He left the bar Friday night and his aunt
said he never came home. He wasn’t with anyone when he left the bar. We know
the Undertaker’s been in this area. It’s all my fault. If I’d told him about
what happened to you he never would have gotten in a stranger’s car.”
“Calm down, Will. It’s not your fault. John’s an
adult. He should know better. And we don’t know that’s what happened.”
“But what if it is?”
“And you said the cops aren’t interested?”
“Even if they were, John hasn’t been missing long
enough. By the time they come in, it may be too late. We got an ace in the
hole, though, but we need your help.”
“If I can help John you know I will.”
“Remember the lumberjack as you called him that you
saw at the bar last week? The one that cruised you?”
“How could I forget,” I deadpanned.
“Well, by day he is Officer Joseph Teem, one of Raleigh’s
“Yep, one of our ‘brave boys in blue’. Anyway, he has
a little group of officers, they call themselves the Gay Strike Force. Totally
unofficial and off the record. They are mostly gay and take a special interest
in fighting gay bashing and other crimes against minorities in general. A good
bit of their investigating is under the radar. As I said, the brass really
don’t give a damn about us. But the brass is willing to look the other way on
some things. You are the only eyewitness we have of the Undertaker. I need you
to talk to Joe.”
“But I didn’t see anything. Just a car. And I was so
freaked I don’t hardly remember anything.”
“Please, Curtis. John’s life may depend on it. Joe
says every little bit of information helps.”
“Well, okay, but like I said, I don’t think I know anything
that will help.”
“Great. Joe says he has time after lunch. We can come
by and he can ask you some questions.”
What did I just agree to, I wondered. I remembered Joe
as very big and very intimidating. I was inviting him to come in and
interrogate me. The word interrogate is intimidating enough. Will he want to
shine a light in my eyes or break out the rubber baton? No, that’s just
foolish. Isn’t it?
By the time Will knocked on my door I had come up with
about ten reasons why John was late getting home, none of which involved the
Undertaker. One look at Will’s face told me those scenarios didn’t matter. He
was truly worried and hurting. I owed him whatever help I could give.
“Curtis, you remember Joe.”
The big man beside Will stuck out his hand. “Officer
Joe Teem, Foxborough PD.”
I shook it. “Pleased to meet you,” I said with what
I’m sure was a lot of uncertainty in my voice. He still looked like the Brawny
paper towel guy, in a uniform. The man was still big and intimidating. And the
dress blue uniform just made him more so – both big and intimidating. I bet
crooks hated to see him coming.
“Sorry if I shook you up a little the other night, Mr.
Bass. Will’s explained how you came to be in the club. I apologize if I made
you feel uncomfortable,” the sincerity in his voice helped put me more at ease.
I guessed he was good at playing ‘Good Cop’.
“Oh, it’s okay. And call me Curtis. I just wasn’t sure
what to expect.”
“Culture shock. Yeah, I understand, Curtis. Anyway,
can we sit and talk about what you know?”
He asked me to tell him what I remembered all the way
through once without stopping. I couldn’t do it. Remembering made my gorge rise
and my heart race several times. He just softly asked me to stop, breathe
deeply and continue when I felt ready. I don’t know if that is what they taught
him in the police academy but it sure beat the bright light and rubber baton.
He was so much gentler than I had imagined he could be. A calming presence.
Then, he asked me to tell it again, but he stopped me
after nearly every sentence for clarification.
“The key is the car. Can’t you tell me anything else
about it?” he asked.
“It was a black ‘Vette. What else can I say?”
“No bumper stickers, scratches or dents? Nothing? How
about the license plate? North Carolina or vanity tag?”
“Nothing. Can’t you just run the make of the car? I’m
pretty sure it was new, like only a couple years old at most. It’s a pretty
high-end car. How many could there be?”
“You’d be surprised. Several thousand. We’ve checked.”
“Yeah, but wouldn’t it be registered locally, like in Raleigh
or at least Wake County?”
“Probably not. A good predator doesn’t take victims in
his own back yard. He probably lives not far, because he needs to be familiar
with the area, but he’s hit Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, all in the Triangle.
He could be anywhere in central North Carolina. Or Virginia for that matter. If
he’s from outside North Carolina we may never catch him. Did you see the
license plate at all?”
“No. He was behind me on the way home from the club.
Then he was idling in front of my house. Again, I couldn’t see anything.”
“You said you saw him come up to the intersection
ahead when you got to your house. Maybe you saw his front plate then?” Officer
Teem was really reaching.
Suddenly something clicked. I had a memory that I had
totally forgotten in the frantic craziness of that night.
“Hold on. It did have a front plate. When it stopped
at the intersection it was directly under a streetlight.” Officer Teem was immediately
at attention. Will sat up, too. “I barely noticed the plate. Yeah, it was a North
Carolina plate. And I remember it started with JPL. I noticed it without
thinking because I used to be a NASA and sy-fy geek. To us JPL is the Jet
Propulsion Laboratory. It’s just one of those things that register in your
brain without you even thinking about it. I didn’t remember until you just said
that about the intersection.”
“That’s wonderful, Curtis,” Officer Teem said. “Any
help with the numbers?”
I closed my eyes and tried to remember. I got nothing.
“I think the first number had curves. It wasn’t a 1 or 7. That’s all I can give
“This is incredible evidence. The number of black
Corvettes with a license plate starting JPL has to be a very small number. I’ll
make sure our guys run this at once.”
Officer Teem excused himself to go out to his cop car.
Will immediately grabbed me in a bear hug.
“I knew you would come up with something, Curtis.
You’re the best.”
What happened next was like something out of a Patterson
thriller. Joe told Will and he shared the details with me later. There turned
out to be three black Corvettes registered in North Carolina with a plate
starting with JPL. The owner of one had been out of the country for several
weeks. Surveillance revealed his car was locked up in a garage, unused.
Of the other two, one had a Durham address. The other
was in Clayton. Joe favored the Clayton one because Durham was part of his hunting
ground, while Clayton was safely removed yet close enough for easy access.
However, since the Durham vehicle had an open parking violation, they used that
as an excuse for a friendly visit from the police. He and Detective George
Rizzo, also on the strike force, took a trip up to Durham to see a Homer
Jensen, 43, occupation not listed. It turned out Jensen was home. He answered
the door after several attempts at knocking by the detective. Jensen was on the
short side at about 5’4” and a little pudgy. His arms showed some muscle
development so Joe figured he must lift weights. He had thin hair across the
top of his slightly too large head. Joe said he immediately got a very weird
vibe from the guy. He said he’d been a policeman long enough to know not to
discount his take on people’s vibes. It seemed to be a special gift he had.
Detective Rizzo glibly worked them into the front room of the house. Jensen
seemed unhappy with this, but apparently didn’t want to arouse suspicion. Too
late for that. While Rizzo talked with Jensen, Joe used his special cop senses
to survey the place from where he stood. First off, Jensen was as squirrelly as
they come. Joe could tell the man was definitely hiding something. As Jensen
was doing his best to escort them back out the door Joe thought he heard a soft
thud and what may have been a moan. He really wasn’t sure if he heard it, or
just wanted to hear something. He decided to go with it.
“Did you hear that?” he asked Detective Rizzo. Rizzo’s
eyes said no but he answered in the affirmative.
“Mind if we take a look around, Mr. Jensen?” Rizzo
asked moving past the man deeper into the house.
“Hey, I mind very much. You can’t come in here without
“I heard someone moaning,” Joe told him, stretching
“That’s probable cause, Mr. Jensen. We have to
investigate,” said Rizzo. As Rizzo reached to open the door to another part of
the house, Jensen lunged at him with a dagger-shaped letter opener he had
grabbed from a desk. He plunged it into Rizzo’s back just under his right
shoulder blade. As Rizzo cried out, Jensen yanked the blade out and turned to
attack Joe. Joe had already pulled out his taser and gave Jensen a good jolt.
As Jensen lay on the floor quivering yet paralyzed, Joe flipped him over on his
stomach and cuffed him. He turned to Rizzo who was struggling to get his jacket
“I just bought this freaking blazer. Dammit!” Joe
ripped Rizzo’s shirt open in the back to get a better look at the wound.
“It’s bleeding pretty badly,” he said. Looking around
he noticed a dish towel.
“God only knows what germs are on this, but I guess
it’s better than bleeding to death,” he told Rizzo as he pressed it against the
“I’m good,” Rizzo groaned, holding on to a table to
maintain an upright stance. “We need to search this house.” He took a step and
crumpled to the floor.
“Aw, shit,” said Joe. He sat Rizzo up and began
unbuckling the man’s belt.
“I always thought you were hot for me Joe, but is now
a good time?” Rizzo managed to chuckle.
“Shut up while I save your life,” Joe groused. Once
the belt was free, he looped it around Rizzo’s chest and used it to hold the
towel in place over the wound. “You should probably lie on your stomach while I
call for backup.” He got very little assistance from Rizzo as he lifted him up
and laid him stomach down on the sofa he had been leaning against.
“This is Officer Joe Teem. I need assistance at 4306
Rosewood. Officer down. I repeat, officer down. Suspect in custody,” he spoke
into his communication unit.
“I’ll be okay, Joe,” Rizzo gasped. “Go take a look around.
Someone may need help.”
“I’m on it.”
Joe drew his weapon, not knowing what to expect. He
pushed open the door Rizzo had tried to open earlier. It revealed an ordinary
dining room, table and chairs, a hutch with china. He slowly prowled around the
rest of the house. It seemed ordinary in every way. A middle-aged bachelor’s
pad. Why was Jensen so dodgy, then? Standing in the kitchen he stopped and
“John!” he shouted. “It’s the police. Are you here?”
He listened again. Then he heard it. A small thump. It seemed to be coming from
the pantry. The pantry was a large walk in affair. He’d glanced in it already.
This time he turned on the light and went all the way into the pantry. At the
back, easily overlooked was a small door. He tried it but it was locked. He
could hear more irregular thumps from the other side. He looked around and saw
a key hanging on a hook beside the door. It slid into the hole easily. Teem
pushed the door open. The room on the other side was dark but the thumping and
moaning increased. He felt along the wall to his right and flipped the light
switch. An uncovered overhead bulb flashed on. He was so unprepared for the
sight that he gasped as soon as it registered. The room was small with some
kind of metal table in the center. A person was strapped down on the table,
apparently nude with a sheet thrown across his lower body. He was gagged and
apparently trying to yell through it. By violently wrenching his body he was
able to make the table jump and cause the thumps. Joe rushed to the table. The
man shied away, a look of pure terror in his eyes.
“Oh my god, John,” Joe murmured. Though the body was covered with bruises and welts, the face was untouched. He immediately recognized John Clark, a man he knew from the club. The man who was reported missing. The man continued to struggle, and only intensified as Joe went to touch him. He was so terrified he didn’t recognize Joe.
“Shh, shh John. It’s me, Joe. You’re going to be
alright. We’ve found you. You’re safe. You’re safe.” Some part of that seemed
to get through and John’s thrashing about ceased. Joe unhooked the buckle that
held the gag in place and pulled the wadded cloth from John’s mouth, tossing it
aside. John began breathing quickly through his mouth. Joe could see that he
was beginning to hyperventilate.
“Slow, John. Breathe slowly.” He caressed John’s face
to calm him. Once John’s breath seemed less ragged he quickly released all the
other buckles of the straps holding him on the table.
“Can you sit up? Here, let me help you.” He put his
arm under John’s shoulders and heaved him up into a sitting position. He pulled
the man’s legs toward him so they could dangle off the side to provide a more
comfortable position. He kept his arm around John’s shoulders to give him
support. John held on to the edge of the sheet, clutching it against his chest
as if cold.
“You’re here? You’re really here. Oh, thank god. I’ve
been so afraid. Oh god, oh god. Thank you, Joe.” He started crying, so Joe
moved in front of him and took him into an embrace. John released the sheet and
grabbed Joe like a lifeline and began sobbing into his shoulder. By the time he
could release John, they heard sirens in the distance. John looked around the
room and focused on an upright freezer in the corner.
“What?” asked Joe following his gaze. “What’s in the
“Don’t open it. You don’t want to know.” That was
definitely not the thing to say to a policeman. Joe walked over to the freezer.
He pulled the door open and a cloud of freezing mist rolled out. As the mist
dissipated he got a better look at what was in the freezer.
“Oh my god!” he cried as he saw over a dozen heads of
men, each neatly bagged, staring at him. He suddenly recognized one as Brian, a
guy he’d once picked up at the club. He raced over to the sink in the corner
and threw up. Immediately there was the noise of people around them as the room
quickly filled with police officers. Joe straightened and staggered back to the
living room and collapsed in an overstuffed chair. Rizzo had already been taken
out to an ambulance. Try as he may he couldn’t stop the tears. All he wanted to
do was rip Jensen into little pieces. And then curl up into a ball and die.
No one knows why Jensen did it. He refuses to tell
where the bodies ended up. The DA is not too concerned. They’ve identified all nineteen
of the victims and Jensen will be locked up for life. Case closed. John says
Jensen made comments about “filthy faggots” but also sexually abused him as
well as the torture. One of the shrinks said something about “repression” and
“homo-erotic denial”. I think he’s just a garden variety nutcase.
“There’s still part of this I don’t understand,” Will began.
“There’s a lot I don’t
understand. Like how does anyone get this crazy and nobody notices?”
“Well, there is that.
But I’m talking about another aspect. Look. A girl will not get in a car with a
stranger at night, no matter what the circumstances, unless she’s a hooker. A
straight guy probably wouldn’t either. He’d figure any guy offering him a ride
must be gay and straight men seem to be terrified that someone may think they’re
gay. Y’all are wound up so tight.”
“But gay guys obviously
would. I’m embarrassed to say that if I had been in your situation, I probably
would have sat down on that stone wall and waited to see what he wanted. I
guess that’s what he was counting on. Guys that didn’t get any hoping they
still might have a chance to get off. But he was a toad. Who would get in a car
with someone who looked like him?”
“Maybe he offered them
money,” I said.
“I may sound shallow,
but it would take a whole lotta money for me to get naked with someone as butt
ugly as our Mr. Jensen.”
“Well, ask Joe. I’m
sure that was one of the questions they asked John.”
“I guess I will, because it really has been bothering me. As successful as he was he must have had some powerful bait.”
Over time, the terror, and it was terror, I had experienced faded. I still think Corvettes are the sexiest car around, but no matter how long I live, the sight of a black Corvette will send a little frisson of fear up my spine.
On the whole I think I learned some pretty valuable
lessons from this. First, and most obvious, don’t get in a car with a stranger.
Duh. Second, I felt totally violated by Joe when he checked me out at the bar.
I felt like a piece of meat being evaluated. Never mind that I apparently
passed inspection, no one should be made to feel that way. I told him it was
okay, but it’s not. I’m sure I’ve put any number of women in that position in
my time and am resolved to do better. Third, I think I may have experienced in
a small way the fear all gay people live with every day. That any moment
violence may overtake you for no reason. That society has determined that it is
open season on you, go out at your own risk. That is no way for people to have
to live. I need to do better there, also.
And my fourth lesson?
All good boys should be home by eleven on Saturday night.