ATTENTION READERS: The last chapter and this one were originally one. I cut them down due to length. In doing so, I left out of the previous chapter what I consider an informative passage. I have already edited the previous chapter to reflect the updated content. For the convenience of those who have already read the last chapter, I have decided to include the previously excluded passage at the beginning of this chapter. You will note that I’ve included pertinent passages before and after the new material as a frame of reference.
You will clearly see the demarcation lines denoting the start of the new chapter. I regret any inconvenience this may cause any reader. I intend to remove this notice sometime within the upcoming week.
“You will at all times appear to be more confident and macho than Arnold Swartzencocker at his terminator best. I want every man you meet, inwardly at least, believe that you could easily arrest him on his most manly of days. And I want every woman to believe that, given the proper circumstances, she could, just maybe, make you straight. And just as important, I want her to imagine it would be well worth the effort. You’re a handsome, powerfully built, man, of authority. Projecting either of those images won’t be a real challenge to you.”
After a slight pause, he continued, “Your opponent is a semi-retarded piece of shit who performs on command. He has some real professional handlers behind him. I actually envy them. The man is not bright enough to challenge anything they tell him to say or do. He would kiss your, his opponent’s, ass on Main street and give you thirty minutes to draw a crowd if they told him it would win him the election. The guys behind him have no idea who is going to pull the strings if he actually wins. But, they’re certain someone is just waiting to take over the behind the scenes work.
“This is a play. You are an actor. Your opponent is an actor. You are going to be the better actor. For the duration of this campaign, you are not Daniel Lovan, professional law enforcement officer, you are a bit player trying to win the lead in a major motion picture. You’ve got to remember that. You can become Daniel Lovan after this election or at any point, should you decide to concede.”
Gram relaxed noticeably and almost purred, “Just remember, relax and be yourself.” Then, just as cold and didactic as before he added, “On your own fucking time or wait until after the election. Either way, it’s your choice.”
///////////////////////////////////// CHAPTER 43////////////////////////////////
While waiting for Greene to show up, Daniel mulled over the changes his life had taken on since the campaign had begun. He had, by Gram’s arrangement, schedule, and approval, given speeches to clubs and organizations, groups in meeting halls, and in parking lots. He’d done interviews for local newspapers and magazines as well as online vlogs.
Gram had arranged for Daniel to speak on his commitment to honesty and integrity and to introduce his “Total Transparency” program on TV and the internet. The full cost of the internationally recognized and applauded, “always on” body cameras, associated hardware, and software, along with warranty support, upgrades and replacements were to be fully funded by a group “concerned citizens” that choose to remain anonymous. The program was challenged only by a solitary member of the County Council. The man insisted that there was no need for outside funding, especially from an unknown source. The man was voted down and Daniel was publicly applauded by the Council for his direct and aggressive approach to problem-solving and his desire to return trustworthy law enforcement to the citizens of the County. Gram played it up like a ringing endorsement, which Daniel had to admit, it was.
There had been rumors going around that one of the new “internet entertainment channels” was interested in making a movie centered on Daniel as the Sheriff of “Whoville” arresting the “Grinch” and saving Christmas for the children. His fooling Bumpkis into confessing and incriminating the other two was hyped on the local media like some super sleuth detective work worthy of prime-time attention. Chris Pratt was rumored to be interested in helping to develop the project and possibly playing the lead. Daniel was not totally comfortable with this whole “movie rumor” thing. He could only deny any knowledge to the press and simply roll his eyes at Raymond’s flattering comparisons. It did lead to at least one night of memorable role-playing. He was also sure that the rumor accounted for more than a little of the sudden and noticeable spike in the interest in his campaign. Gram hadn’t actually denied anything when Daniel confronted him. The man was nothing if not an absolute wordsmith. Using words like the most precise surgical instruments to avoid responsibility didn’t mean the man had much use for truth as a tool. Daniel trusted the man only in that Gram was motivated by the professional “cred” this election could give him, Uncle Joe’s money which could and did buy him and Ilya who had most likely threatened him.
Daniel was irritated with himself that his dislike for his campaign manager could so easily distract him.
To get his mind onto more pleasant thoughts, he walked to the window and looked up at his lover’s office window and wondered what Raymond was up to?
The knock, when it came, sounded like a death knell. Daniel took a deep breath, pasted on a smile, opened the door, and extended his hand in greeting. Once inside, he closed the door behind them and offered the man something to drink. Greene declined. The Sheriff indicated the two fake leather chairs in front of his desk and said, “Have a seat”. Once they were seated, he could see right away that Greene was tense and ill at ease. Somehow that made Daniel relax a little.
He gave Greene a real smile and advised, “Loosen up, man, this is not an inquisition.” Letting his smile falter just a little, he added, “I think we do need to clear the air a bit before we get started with the interview.”
A slight pause, then, “Mr. Greene, I want you to understand that your sexual orientation is not an issue for me. Anyone working here is safe in their workplace. I won't tolerate any form of harassment from anyone, especially not a fellow employee. You’re here today because I reviewed your resume and decided it was worth talking to you about becoming a Deputy. I need to also let you know that this afternoon I intend to let everyone employed here plus our volunteers know, in a face-to-face meeting, that I’m gay.”
At that Greene’s eyes bugged out and his jaw dropped. Daniel continued, “My coming out has nothing to do with you. It’s a decision that I have been mulling over for a while now. I considered remaining in the closet until sometime after the election but...” He shrugged, then added, “Things change. I just decided I don’t want people who vote for me to have any reason to think they couldn’t trust me. I figure most folks would see it as just plain lying.”
Shifting his tone to be more conciliatory he continued, “My coming out does not, in any way, impact you're being closeted nor is it meant to suggest that you should also come out. That’s much too personal a decision for me to try and influence."
In his most relaxed voice, Daniel offered as a segue, “Now, tell me about Nathaniel Greene. What is it that’s not in your application or resume that you think I should know about you? Other than your sexual orientation.”
It took a few moments before Greene spoke. "Sheriff, first, let me just say that I admire your courage in coming out. I thought a lot about what you might say after our meeting at the club. But, I never expected to hear this. I hope meeting me didn’t make you think that I might’ve outed you. I tried to let you know I was not a threat at all.”
Greene searched the Sheriff's face and saw something that reassured him. He relaxed a little and continued, “I appreciate the fact that my sexual orientation won’t be an issue. I can't say whether or not I’ll come out if I do get hired. Either way, it's definitely nice to know that it's my choice. One more thing I’d like to say, Sheriff. I’m a registered voter. I had decided to vote for you based on what I had heard about you around town and from my coworkers. People respect you. I want you to know that whether you hire me or not you have one of the few black votes in this county as well as my complete and very vocal support. Whether you come out today or not. "
Daniel was taken aback by that last statement. He had received many encouraging comments regarding his candidacy. He still found them difficult to accept without feeling a little uncomfortable. He would really rather have people just vote for him instead of applauding him when he spoke. He just wasn’t used to countless strangers shaking his hand while saying flattering things and promising unwavering support for his candidacy. he was pleased to see the man was a little embarrassed himself for his unqualified, flattering and maybe even flirting endorsement of Daniel.
Then, as if he was mulling something over, Greene looked up thoughtfully. After a moment, he spoke, "As for what you should know, other than what’s on paper, I don't think there's anything very interesting to tell. Well, to build my case for you hiring me, I can tell you that every goal I have ever achieved, has been as a direct result of my own efforts. A lot of people helped me become an Eagle Scout but no one ever accepted less than my best.
“To give you a little more of my personal background, I knew I was gay before I was ten. I told my mother. She told my father and let’s just say it was a major challenge for him. I still think my ‘coming out’ contributed to my parent’s divorce but both of them deny it. The timing has to be more than coincidental. I figure we don’t always give proper value to things that impact our lives. We’re deeply impacted by things that, at the time, we insist are no big deal. I think it’s like a less damaging form of PTSD. Like you catch your love cheating, it makes it hard to trust the next guy, or the one after that.
“Later on, my Dad was amazed that his ‘gay’ son was damn good at high school football. I think his being able to take pride in that helped him adjust to having a gay son. It gave us our first real common ground. Now, he tells me he loves his son, who happens to be gay.” That observation struck a familiar chord with Daniel. “As for my being closeted, I tell those who are important to me. I figure, if I’m not having sex with them and their not looking to have sex with me, it’s none of their business.
Nathaniel met Daniel’s gaze and held it to see if there might be a challenge or any questions. When Daniel nodded, he continued, “I lived with my Mother in Saint Louis where I went to junior college and got an associate’s degree in criminal justice. I went to work for the SLPD fresh out of the academy. After a couple years, I met a man and we eventually moved to Vegas so he could take a job playing guitar in a friend’s band. They had a regular gig playing in a nightclub. I got a job as a drummer in the same band. That’s how we met, playing in the same back in Saint Louie.
Turned out we were not as compatible as I had thought. It took some time before I realized that while I was seeing him as someone I loved, he was seeing me as some kind of “big dicked, black, daddy”. Eventually, our individual expectations diverged to the point to where we broke up. I quit the band and got a job with the Las Vegas PD.”
Daniel interrupted, “You never mentioned working in a band in a Vegas nightclub on your employment history, why not?”
“I didn’t mention it because it was only two months that I actually worked with the band.” With a big grin he added, “Besides, my Daddy always told me, “You should never take credit for your talents or your cock size. It’s how you use them that counts.”
Both men chuckled at that bit of off-color wisdom. Nathaniel continued, “About six months after I went back to police work, my Dad got hurt and he needed help and I needed a change.”
Nathaniel took a deep breath and let it out dramatically. "Sheriff, I know I’m black and you know I’m black. I think it's important to be able to openly discuss racial issues. I think by saying a few things up front, we can save some misunderstandings later on. Granted, here, the predominant minority is Hispanic. But, I feel the sentiments apply across the board for all races as well as the LGBTQ community. I feel like most gay men have an innate understanding of the struggles facing racial minorities. Being a gay, black man I certainly understand discrimination from a couple of different perspectives. Prejudice and bigotry are ugly no matter the excuse.”
Nathaniel took another deep breath and continued. “I was raised to be proud of my race and my African heritage. My parents taught me to respect myself and my heritage. Most Americans are aware of where their ancestors came from and take some pride in that knowledge. I’m no different just because most of my ancestry is obviously African. I was also taught to respect others and to tolerate no less from anyone. I may not physically fight someone who disrespects me or promotes stereotypes in front of me, but I will let it be known that they have offended me.”
Nathaniel paused and glanced at the mini fridge. Then asked, “Sheriff, do you think I could have some water now? My throat is as parched as a new singed pullet.”
Daniel grinned, nodded, and retrieved two bottles of water from his mini fridge. Once he sat back down, Daniel spoke, “To be blunt, Mr. Greene, I noticed you were black the first time I saw you. I think that fact is pretty obvious, except to a blind man. I don’t have any problem with what you’re saying. I’m pretty sure you’ve been called many unflattering epithets while apprehending a suspect. We all have. But, in most walks of life, racial equality is pretty much protected by state and federal laws. At present, this staff is not very diverse. I can’t change that immediately. I’m not about to fire any competent individual just to replace them with a member of any minority. As to the future, I can only say that membership in a minority will not be the deciding factor in who I hire. Just like in your case, I look to the individual’s merit. So why’re you telling me this? How does this tell me something I don’t already know? I guess I’m asking what exactly is your point?”
Nathaniel straightened in his chair, “My point is that there is still a lot of racial prejudice and that open dialogue is the most effective weapon against bigotry of any kind. I have faith in you Sheriff. In the short time I’ve observed and interacted with you, I’ve come to trust you and your judgment. If I’m not hired, I’ll definitely try and figure out what I was lacking. But, I refuse to believe that my skin color will make any difference in your deciding who to hire. I’ve been fighting stereotypes and prejudice all my life. I want you to understand that I am many things. I am, as you pointed out, obviously black. I am also gay. I am a cop. A decent drummer and pianist. I speak Spanish fluently and everybody says I’m addicted to WoW. All these things am I. But, each of these things are just a single facet of the diamond that is Nathaniel Jamal Greene. No single trait I just mentioned defines me. And collectively, at best, they just serve to describe me.”
Nathaniel let go a huge sigh, “I guess I come across wrong. Maybe I need to record myself and listen to it to see if I can do better. You see Sheriff, I had this same discussion with the Police Chief here before he hired me. From the look on his face, I thought he was offended by my ‘impertinence’. It surprised the shit out of me when he actually hired me. I can’t say things have gotten better over time. We don't’ have a lot to say to each other even after almost three years of working together. I’m a hard worker and I consistently get great reviews, we just don’t Gee Haw. I think he still sees me as an equal opportunity lawsuit just waiting to happen. Even so, I have never voiced a single complaint against the most bigoted individuals on the force."
As he spoke, Greene got more serious in tone. "Sheriff Lovan, I'm not happy with where I am. You understand how important it is, in law enforcement, especially, to feel like everybody has your back, especially your superior officers. I feel like, every day, I’m just my first fuck-up away from being fired. And, I’m pretty sure it’ll be the kind of firing that will make other departments think twice before hiring me. If you don’t hire me, I’ll soon find work somewhere else.
“I’m not convinced that the Chief is even consciously aware of how he feels toward me. But, just the same, I don’t trust him. I don't believe he would act overtly without cause to end my career. On the other hand, I don't' think he would lift a finger to support me. It’s like people would think less of him if he was closely associated with or directly supported a black man.”
Nathaniel drew a heavy breath, “Beyond all that, I’ve already worked in three different cities. I tired of moving around, I need to find a home and a good man. I want to build my home and my family here, near my Dad.
“Look, Sheriff, I get along with most everybody else in the department. I’m a team player and I don’t mean like a lot of guys who just say they are. I play on the softball and bowling teams. I volunteer at the youth center and I’m good to my mom. You can check with anyone on the force. Ecept for two guys who I will gladly identify, beforehand.”
Daniel couldn’t ignore the pleading in Nathaniel’s voice or the sincerity in his eyes. After a long silence, “Okay. I can see where I might say something similar if I was black. I think you may be projecting his views and values upon me. That’s no fairer than him mistrusting you even after years of working with you.”
“Sheriff, It’s not like that. You and he are nothing alike. If you worked with him, you would see that right away. I have too much respect for you. I’m a good judge of character. I chose the lesser of two evils when I only applied to the City police department and not to the old Sheriff. I want this job very badly. I know I sometimes talk too much when I get stressed. What I just did, all that personal stuff, that’s because this job is important to me. And I wanted so badly to make a good impression. I figured I would only get one shot. So, I went for it. I may have overdone it. I might have shot my wad too soon. I’ll shut up now and you won’t have to listen to me rattle on. I’m still doing it, aren’t I? Really, I’m usually a pretty confident guy. Oh, shit! I’ll just shut up now.” With that, Nathaniel stood and tossing the empty, crushed water bottle into the trash can, turned to head for the door.
Daniel barked, “Nathaniel. Sit Down!” That was almost shouted in a tone and with a directness that Nathaniel would normally have regarded as a challenge and a precursor to a physical confrontation. Nathaniel was shocked. He was even more shocked when he realized that he had, indeed, just sat down.
Daniel nodded once. In a voice that was less commanding but no less demanding of Natan’s attention, Daniel spoke, “I think you really “do” need to just shut up. And maybe, just do some listening for a bit.”
Daniel scanned Nathan’s face for any signs of a negative response to his statement. Nathaniel was just waiting. Satisfied, Daniel resumed, “You just decided for me exactly how I feel about you and your, your, uh, speech. I’m more than capable of listening to and evaluating new information on my own.”
Daniel’s show of anger disappeared like it was never real. In a much more easy-going tone, he continued, “You certainly came across as opinionated on some issues and you certainly seem to be locked into the bad position toward our Chief of Police. I had some black buddies in the Corps but the only time we really talked about race was to confront and bea… re-educate some rednecks. You sharing your viewpoints was interesting. But, when I challenged you, you didn’t get angry. You seem to assess my input and to give it some serious consideration. That lets me know you’re willing to listen, even in a potentially hostile situation. And also, that you're not egocentric like a some of our fellow professionals can be.”
“As to the Chief, your appraisal of him and his likely behavior seemed to be well thought out and clinical and as best I can tell, from what I know about him, it was a fair and accurate assessment. But, even more important, is that through it all you presented yourself and your opinions in a very professional-like manner. I bet you make a great witness at trial.
In an almost confidential tone, “A personal interview is not to see how qualified an individual is. It’s really a chance to see how likely that person is to fit in with the organization, it’s people, and to fulfill the overall mission.”
Daniel stood and offered his hand. “Congratulations, Deputy Greene. Barring any unforeseen issues and assuming you accept the offer, you will soon become the County’s newest Deputy Sheriff.”
A stunned and disbelieving “Deputy Greene” stood and shook Daniel’s hand with a very firm and enthusiastic grip. “Thank you, Sir, uh, Sheriff. You won’t regret this. I’ll work hard to bring credit to you and to the department.” Nathaniel dropped the handshake and stepped back. “There’s just one thing, Sheriff, I, I hate the name, Nate.” I don’t mind Nathan, that’s what most everybody has always called me. I don’t know why, it just irritates the hell out of me. When my friends or family want to get under my skin, they call me “‘Nate’”. It works every time. When I was a kid, it used to make me fighting mad, now, it just annoys me.”
Daniel chuckled at just one more “facet of the diamond that is Nathaniel Greene” was revealed. “Let’s make a deal. You don't piss me off as your boss and I won’t ‘intentionally’ return the favor”
Daniel was accompanying Nathaniel to the door. When suddenly a disembodied voice sounding just like Raymond, said, “Sheriff Lovan, could you please pick up your phone?”. Daniel realized the voice was coming from his computer and not the antiquated intercom still in use in his office.
Nathaniel waited, unsure if he should just leave.
As Daniel reached for his phone, it rang. “Sheriff Lovan.”
“Yes, Lawman I know it’s you. Could you please ask Nathaniel to wait outside your office for just a minute, while we talk?”
“Okay. no problem.” Turning to Nathaniel, Daniel asked, “Nathan, could you wait just outside my office for a minute, while I take this call?”
Nathaniel nonchalantly responded, “No problem Sheriff Lovan.”
Once the door closed, Daniel asked, “Wha… “ Then more hurried he insisted, “Raymond, Is something wrong. I’m confused. Should I be worried?”
“No! Not at all. It’s not about you, or me. It’s Jeremy. He’s been watching your interview along with me and he wants to meet Nathaniel. He’s promised us their first born if we convince Nathan just to have lunch with the three of us.”
“The Three of us? When did we become a threesome for lunch? What’s going on over there, Raymond? And why were you watching what is supposed to be a private interview? Do you have any idea what kind of trouble this could cause if it got out that I let people monitor my office”? Then without pause, “Of course you do, you’re an attorney.”
Raymond didn’t interrupt, he just took advantage of the momentary hesitation as Daniel paused to muster his ire. “Daniel, I’m sorry. Really sorry. I only thought to watch your interview after it had already begun. It was too late to ask without interrupting. I really didn’t think you would mind. I was curious about him, knowing he already knew about us. I admit I was wrong to do it without your prior permission. But, you did know I intended to watch later today. Once I realized I could do it, curiosity got the better of me. If I had thought of it before he came into your office, I swear I would have cleared it with you first. I swear, I wasn’t mistrustful of you and I didn’t intend it to be malicious, it was just simple curiosity. I intended to call you as soon as he left to tell you I had watched. But… somewhere along the way Jeremy came in and placed some papers in front of me for my signature. As I was looking them over, he started watching my computer screen and apparently thought, well okay, obviously saw that Nathaniel was good looking and when he heard him say he was gay, I couldn’t get him to leave. It was like he was mesmerized. While I was reading and then signing the paperwork he was busy saving screenshots and emailing them to himself. When Nataniel stood up, I thought Jeremy was about to faint. I’m still not sure he didn’t cum in his pants. If he didn’t cum, he still literally drooled on my desk and had to clean it up. He agreed to wait outside while I talked to you. I’m pretty sure he’s in the men's room right now doing a one-handed-review of Nathan’s pics.”
Daniel couldn’t help but imagine, the smaller, trimmer, blue-eyed, blonde, assaulting the taller, black man with smooth caramel colored skin. It was not an unpleasant imagining.
Daniel released a sigh and let go of his irritation. “Don’t worry, I know I would’ve watched if our roles had been reversed in this situation.” A chuckle, then, “As to your bargain with Jeremy, I thought you were a well informed, skilled, cut-throat negotiator? What happened? Was that really the best deal you could get with Jeremy? Do you know the odds of either of those two actually impregnating the other? I’m sure glad someone talked you into using a surrogate for our child, cause brother, you would have been sorely disappointed and I can’t imagine how many pregnancy test kits you would have gone through just hoping against hope.
“Seriously though, you really want me to ask Nathan to go to lunch?”.
“Yes, Lawman, I really do. If you had seen the sad puppy dog look Jeremy gave me as he all but begged. The boy has no poker face when he gets his hormones stimulated. It would mean a lot to Jeremy and, after all, he did catch us copulating in my office and has never even hinted at my indiscretion.” Neither man commented on the fact that had Jeremy been less than discreet, he would not hold the position he now held. “I feel like I owe him one, not as his boss but on a personal level. So, how about it? Would you mind asking him?”.
“Okay, you can listen in while I ask. I refuse to pressure him in the least. Not even if we’re both indebted to Jeremy. Couldn’t you just buy him a new car or something”?
Raymond chuckled, “Afraid, not Lawman, I’ve already done that. And besides, any car I buy from here on out is a car that ‘we’ will buy, it’s not just me anymore.”
Daniel didn’t comment on the “me vs we” statement. Instead, he simply said, “Okay, if he agrees, we’ll just walk on out and meet you two at your fancy car. Maybe he’ll be impressed with your Tesla and not notice this obvious set up for what it is.”
Raymond was only a little chagrined. He agreed and brought Jeremy back into his office. While across the street, Daniel invited Nathan to come back into his office. “Nathan, I’m sorry to keep you waiting but that was Raymond Cargill Adams, my soon to be husband on the phone,” Daniel noted that again Nathan’s eyes opened wide. Daniel decided that neither Jeremy nor Nathan should take up poker, even as a hobby, ever. He continued, “We got to talking and he asked that I invite you to have lunch with us and his personal assistant, Jeremy. Seems Raymond wants to say thank you for being discreet about our relationship. We plan to just grab a sit down bite to eat at the diner, as soon as you’re ready to head out.” Daniel hoped the subtle pressure wasn’t going to upset Nathan.
“Wow! Congratulations. You two make a really hot and handsome couple. And, well, inviting me to lunch is awfully nice of Mr. Adams, but it’s not necessary. I would never intentionally out anyone, let alone someone I respect.”
“Jere, er, uh, I mean, Raymond would be awfully disappointed if you didn’t come along. Besides, you can think of it as supporting me in my hour of need, considering what I’m going to face this afternoon. Come on, let’s get go and get something to eat. I’m actually pretty hungry.”
Nathan fully understood his new boss was, more or less, directing him to join his group for lunch. With a shrug and a nod, he acquiesced. “Okay.”
With an increase in volume that struck Nathan as odd, Daniel said, “Great then. Let’s head on over and we’ll all go together in Raymond’s fancy electric car. It’s roomier than my pickup or my patrol car.”
If Nathan thought it strange that Mr. Adams, along with a handsome, younger man, was conveniently exiting his office building, just as he and Daniel approached, he didn’t say anything. Introductions were made in the parking lot beside the vehicle and they headed out to the diner.
Daniel was pleased that Nathan seemed perfectly at ease in meeting both men. He didn’t monopolize the conversation nor did he come across as shy. His contributions were pleasant and provided a chuckle or two. Nathan was pleasant dining company. Daniel made a mental note to that effect.
After the meals had arrived and everyone was digging in, Nathan turned to Daniel and said, “Sheriff, I know the meeting this afternoon will shock a lot of your people. I can’t believe anyone would ever guess you were gay unless they had seen you in a gay bar with another man.” At this he grinned broadly and winked at Jeremy. “I can’t imagine you would have any problems but I’d like to sit in with everybody else today, just in case.” His mood had shifted from playful to very serious. “If you don’t mind? I mean, after all, I’m gonna be one of them soon anyway. I just think someone should have your back in case any shit goes down.”
Daniel glanced at his lover and saw a smirk that clearly said, “See, I’m not the only one who’s worried.”
Daniel, not wanting to give anything away involving the Adams family, simply said, “I think that’s a good Idea, Nathan. In fact, I was going to suggest that very thing. They’re already two other candidates that will be at the meeting. I don’t expect any issues. I’ve said it before.” Taking a moment to meet Raymond gaze, “These are experienced professionals. They’re not prone to overreacting. But, It’s good to know you’ll be ready if any trouble does pop up.”
Daniel paid for lunch in spite of everyone offering to cover the tab. As it was, each left a hefty tip. Miss Julie greeted them as they were leaving. She gushed, “My word, I can’t recall when I’ve had two more handsome couples, in this place at the same time, and I all but missed it. Then with pursed lips and a squint at Raymond, she added, “Raymond Cargill Adams, I’m surprised you haven’t said anything about Arkansas lately.” Then to Daniel, “And Sheriff Lovan, it’s not the snake you can see that bites you. It’s the one in the grass you don’t see that will bite you.”
Then turning to the two younger men, she added, “You boys look so good together, you compliment each other so well.” Then wistfully she added, “If you two actually could produce a first born for Raymond, what an amazingly lovely child that would be.” Then to Nathan, she said, “We’re featuring Jeremy’s favorite for dinner tomorrow night, fried chicken.” That was quickly followed by a wagging finger in Nathan’s face, “Don’t you even go there. It’s one of your favorites too, and you know it.” Then more gently she added, “Why don’t you bring him by around about six-thirty, for an early dinner before y’all catch that new movie at the Majestic.” With that, she slipped away as suddenly as she appeared while they had to shuffle around a small group trying to enter.
Once they were belted in, Raymond glanced around at Nathan, “Well, how about it sport? You ask him yet? It’s a real short ride back to the office, you can’t waste time if you’re interested. Speak up or lose out. You haven’t been shy since you watched Daniel take a piss. Don’t get all shrinking violet, shy and retiring now. It’s not good policy to hesitate if you see something you want. He who hesitates is lost, you know.”
Nathan just stared, open-mouthed. Jeremy gasped. Daniel smiled inwardly at his lover’s obvious attempt at matchmaking. Deciding to dig in alongside his man, he groaned loudly and dramatically and confronted his mate. “Good lord. What are you doing? Raymond? Shrinking violet? Really? And “He who…. That’s some anachronistic, pathetically poor piece of advice that was utterly worthless even when it was first uttered. Hell, it’s not like they were about to miss a plane in Colonial times. And… Sport? Your mastery of the cliche is eclipsed only by your flagrantly patronizing attitude. Did you really go to college in the modern era to learn to spout this, this, dribbling dick, piece of life coaching advice? Or, did you really just happen to find a Doctorate of Jurisprudence degree in a Pez dispenser? Really, Raymond, I love you truly, madly, deeply, I do, but sometimes you amaze me. You can be so brilliant and sometimes, sometimes your impromptu expressions sound like pure poetry. But, right now you sound like, like some desperate carnival barker hawking an ugly, old, overweight stripper. Honestly…” Daniel hesitated a moment to check on the backseat occupants. Once he did he instantly abandoned his meaningless and absolutely insincere diatribe. He squeezed Raymond’s hand and after glancing the rear-view mirror Raymond smiled at his lover and returned the squeeze. The two in the back seat were leaning in and talking softly to each other, so as not to interfere with their bosses. Jeremy confidently advised his companion, “It’s all sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Nathan recognized the quote from Shakespeare and mused to himself, ‘So maybe this guy is more than a pretty face and a hot body. It could be fun getting to know him.’
Back in the parking lot, as each said their goodbyes and Nathan and Jeremy made plans to get together, Raymond suddenly felt a really heavy weight was bearing down on him and it was hard to get an easy breath. Raymond didn’t want to let Daniel leave him. But, he did. As he made his way to his office, he understood it wasn’t really the meeting itself that worried Raymond. It was the inevitable future that was to follow this meeting. It was like a door was literally closing on the life they had been building and opening up on one of more worry, more tension, more stress and more fear. Raymond really would like to keep that door closed. But, he knew that if Daniel didn’t follow the honest, upright “cowboy way”, he would forever judge himself to be less of a man. And no matter the cost, Raymond couldn’t ask Daniel to commit to a life that might be safer, but would definitely take away his integrity, his dignity and slowly destroy his sense of self-worth. Raymond understood he didn’t have a choice, he would do his best to support his man, his lover, his partner, his husband in any way he could to the absolute limits of his abilities. His mind conjured up and presented an image of Grace Kelly in “High Noon”. Raymond burst out in raucous laughter. Good thing he was, by this time, alone again in his office.
Later, through Tink’s little program, even as he watched and listened to Daniel talk about and encourage discussion on proper and cautious vehicle and residence approach procedures, it struck him as really odd how incongruous their teasing and light-hearted conversations had been this morning, compared to the ominously somber act about to unfold on this same day.
Raymond wanted to go back to Miss Julie and force her to explain “the snake in the grass” but he knew it was pointless. He was pretty sure half the stuff she said didn’t make sense, even to her. Besides, “a snake in the grass” is not apt to strike at anyone in a room full of law enforcement personnel.
To distract himself he decided to call the clinic in Arkansas. He silenced his monitoring of Daniel’s office and turned away from the screen to place the call. He knew it was probably still too early. It was on his calendar to call them next week and even that was pushing the limits of detectability. He had managed to sublimate most of his anxiety regarding the results of the pregnancy test. The thought hadn’t left his mind for long, even today with Daniel about to give his life-changing speech. “Life changing”, “Change of life” speech. When he realized he had just made a connection between Daniel’s coming out and some middle-aged woman leaving her childbearing years behind, he couldn’t help but grin, knowing he would find a way to tease Daniel about “going through the change”. Maybe he should write down a few one-liners that were sure to torment his lawman.
He could have called his surrogate. From all he had learned about her and from her, she was a good person. She had his number and he had hers. It was just that he didn’t want to encourage any kind of relationship that might prove uncomfortable in the coming years. He had no problem telling his child just how Ramond came to be a father. When the kid wanted to know, he/she would ask. He felt that being honest with the child would always be the best way. In Raymond’s mind, a parent’s main responsibilities were to love, protect, provide and prepare the child to become an adult. That included inspiring their sense of imagination and wonder but it did not include building up any kind of false reality. Especially one in which it would appear that Raymond had lied straight-faced to the one who should have been able to believe him without question and beyond all others. He realized he was years ahead of what his child might need. Honesty, was not a requisite need for a just-conceived baby.
His revery was interrupted by someone answering his call. The lady was courteous and connected him immediately to his caseworker nurse. It took only a moment for her to answer and another for her to pull up his file. “Mr. Cargill, er, I mean Mr. Adams, I have a flag to call you. It’s quite a coincidence that you should call the very day we get some news to pass on to you. Congratulations! Mr. Cargill, you’re going to be a Daddy. The baby’s due date…” Raymond blanked out. There was no phone, no sight, no sound, there was nothing but this a huge blank. Then this tiny, little spark started growing. This, this minuscule thing inside his mind began to swell and expand exponentially. “IT” was changing everything into a new and wonderful, frightening, concept that he could no longer hold inside. Without restraint, it burst forth in a loud an exultant cry, “A BABY! WE'RE HAVING A BABY!” He forgot about the call. He forgot about the meeting. All he could do was move to the door and down the stairs with one thing on his mind. It wasn’t that he was oblivious to the world around him. It was like a part of him took it all in; his office door, the hallway, the stairs, out the door, and into the street. He was aware of everything. But, another part of his brain was telling him to just, “Move!”
He vaguely remembered some muttered, “Excuse me.” and “Sorry about that” to people on the street. In his mind a sense of euphoria overlay everything. He could have major surgery right now and not need an anesthetic. He could win a Nobel Prize and not feel any better. Beneath the euphoria was a whirlwind of thoughts about “BABY”. Central to all that was an urgent drive to tell Daniel. In retrospect, he was pretty sure he checked for traffic in the street. He wasn’t desperate just determined. It was like everything was normal and yet it wasn’t. Everything seemed to be in brighter colors and sharper detail. His thoughts kept jumbling up like looking at a colorful load of clothes going round in the dryer. “Baby.” A smile, then, ‘Gotta tell Daniel about the Baby.” He couldn’t think beyond that one single thought. “Gotta tell Daniel about the Baby.” Across the street and into the Sheriff’s office and through the metal detector. He didn’t notice the blue-haired volunteer greet him nor did he pay attention to the beep of the metal detector alarm. Oh, he heard it alright, it just didn’t seem to be important. It just wasn’t on his list of priorities. In fact, he only had one priority, “Gotta tell Daniel about the Baby.”
Daniel had asked a senior citizen dispatch fill-in lady to monitor the front entrance metal detector with signs at all other entrances directing everyone to the main entrance.
The alarm went off and even with Marlene calling, “Mr. Adams, you come back here right now! You hear me? I mean it! You get back here!”
Raymond just headed for Daniel. Marlene had recognized the man as Danny’s new and “very close” friend. She had watched Danny ever since he came to work here. She and his mother had been “sometimes” best friends over the course of many years and remained fairly close to this day. So it was only natural that Danny’s mother had asked Marlene to keep an eye on her son. Marlene was only too happy to watch that big strapping lad that filled out that uniform snugly and demonstrably. She saw real quick that Danny wasn’t likely to go resting his boots neath the bed of no cow…”girl” anytime soon.
When she heard about him moving out to rent a place from Mr. Adams and right after the man just bought the place! Two handsome bachelors living in separate houses on the same spread only a few feet apart? Well, the icing on the cake for Marlene was when she saw them together at the diner having lunch.Twice! Both times, leaning in and talking low so as no one else could hear. Not that Marlene was eavesdropping. That would have been impossible even if they spoke up cause both times she was eating with Nellie Sue Vanderbach. Nellie Sue is fun company and knows everything that’s going with everybody around these parts. But, land sakes, that gal is nigh on deaf as a fence post and she talks loud enough to raise the dead. Marlene couldn’t hear any part of the boys’ conversations in spite of constantly shushing Nellie Sue. In the end, it didn’t really matter. One glance at that field and Marlene could see the beans were sprouting.
Marlene was not one for gossip, but other girls liked to talk and she had all the time in the world to listen. She’d heard them two was an everyday thing at the diner. Regular as Aunt Flo. So says one of the waitresses, cousin’s, sisters-in-law. And who would know better? That was as good as sworn testimony in Marlene’s book.
The old Sheriff had, as her nephew sometimes said, never tripped the trigger on anybody’s gaydar. But, she would bet her Vegas vacation stash of cash that those two got their drawers mixed up and she wasn’t talking about the kind kept in no chifferobe either.
When Raymond ignored her commands, she got on her handheld and squawked to every Deputy in Daniels office so it came across loud and clear.
In his office, Daniel felt the meeting was going very well, except for the periodic episodes of nausea he had to fight every time he thought about his upcoming speech. His agenda seemed to be well received and most everybody had something to say about something. The only non-participants were Ilya’s two men and soon-to-be Deputy Greene. Daniel had felt bad about not introducing Greene. But, he couldn’t very well introduce Greene and ignore Ilya’s men. He just let the staff draw their own conclusions and hoped Greene wasn’t offended.
The old Sheriff was not praised in his passing. And while no one rushed to kiss Daniel’s ring or his ass, they seem to be unanimously relieved that Johnson was gone. It was made perfectly clear, they were just damn glad the current Sheriff was anybody but Johnson.
Daniel glanced at the screen with dread, his final agenda item was a blank line. Daniel drew a deep breath… and swallowed a bit of bile.
Suddenly the silence was broken by the just slightly nonuniform squawk of a dozen radios. “One of you boys wanna tell the Sheriff that his friend, Mr. Adams, just busted through here like a weaning calf chasing his ma. And he’s headin’ his way. He’s hell bent for leather to get to his friend. I don’t think bullets would slow him down. Sides, he's not mad just in a hurry... Y’all getting all this?”.
Daniel felt a surge of adrenalin. Something was wrong with Raymond. Even as he rushed to the door, the two guards pretending to be newly hired Deputies were instantly on either side of him, with guns drawn. Daniel was unaware but Nathan was at his back, his gun also drawn. It should be noted that the other Deputies were alert and weapons ready, but not drawn. Knowing Marlene as they did. No one expected anything other than someone looking for the Sheriff with some extremely urgent news. Only Nathan and the two bodyguards had any reason to anticipate any trouble or a possible threat today.
When Daniel opened his office door, he was immediately swept up into his lover’s arms and soundly kissed. The only thought, other than the usual stimulation this endeavor brought about, was that Raymond was alright! In fact, he was more than alright. He was perfect! And he tasted damned good!
The kiss ended and Raymond saw the questioning look on lover’s face. In answer, Raymond almost shouted, “It’s a BABY! Daniel! It’s a BABY! We’re going to have a Baby!”
If Raymond had expected Daniel to share his joy and enthusiasm he was not disappointed. Daniel simply shifted his position and took control of the embrace and raised the house limits on the stakes that Raymond’s kiss brought to the table. If you have ever wrapped profound love inside exultant joy and tied that package up with a scorching hot kiss, then you can relate to the situation that existed within that moment in the County Sheriff’s office. In front of a number of people showing a wide range of reactions. Politically, they might be Democrat, Republican, Independent or indifferent but not one of them could say that that kiss wasn’t a show stopper. The lone female deputy tried to get to her phone to record the moment for posterity and to remind her of how her dream man would sweep her off her feet with a kiss just like that one. Maybe her husband would take the hint. Unfortunately, her phone was in her too-tight pocket and turned off.
Alas, there is in every kiss a moment in which either of two actions must immediately follow. Either the pair forgets all else and follows their most basic instincts to bond and breed and they copulate right on the spot, or else, they fight to reclaim some level of decorum. The latter, much to both men’s regret, had to be the only unscandalous option.
While their hearts were still pounding, Raymond turned to view the Deputies and staff and saw a variety of reactions. Some shocked, a couple were starry-eyed and three were definitely less than receptive. One of the three had a grimace so severe Raymond wasn’t sure if the man was about to puke or about cum in his pants.
Swallowing hard Raymond asked, in a loud, distinct and firm voice, “Daniel, I’m sorry. I missed part of the meeting. Did I miss you’re coming out”?
Daniel with a broad smile that told everyone of his love for this man, answered, “No, lover, you didn’t miss a thing. You got here just in time. And with the best possible news. We came out together. Just now.”