The day had started early and promised to be equally as tough as the day before when the murder victim had been Daniel’s virulent political opponent. The man had tried to destroy Daniel both as a professional lawman and as a well-respected member of his community. Now, Daniel had to put on his professional demeanor that would leave no avenue of interest unexplored. It was only moments after hearing the news that Daniel notified Ranger Young. It was a simple matter of having his number at hand and knowing that the man was first and foremost a dedicated law enforcement officer. Ranger Young wasn’t any happier than Daniel had been about being awakened more than an hour before his 6 am alarm. Still, he understood the situation and assured Daniel that he would see that the Rangers took charge of the investigation. Upon arriving at Jones’ apartment Daniel was notified the Texas Rangers had already assumed full responsibility and only requested local policemen to keep gawkers away. That last bit irked some of the local police force. His deputies knew better than to hang around once another force had assumed official duties. Curiosity may have killed the cat but for law enforcement not actually involved in an investigation it meant shit details like perimeter guard or some inglorious step and fetch it role.
Daniel’s campaign manager, Gram Manowski, had done a great job of working with the Rangers in setting up an initial press conference early in the morning. The Rangers lead investigator told the press in no uncertain terms that the Sheriff’s Department had notified them and officially requested their assistance within minutes of being called to the crime scene. Further, the Sheriff’s people had used extreme caution not to contaminate the crime scene. He made it clear that this Sheriff’s department set a high standard for interdepartmental cooperation. “I had the professional privilege of working on the investigation of the previous County Sheriff. Sheriff Lovan and his team were the epitome of cooperation. So far, this case is reflecting that same level of cooperation and support. Frankly, I would expect nothing less.”
When a reporter asked point blank, “Is Sheriff Lovan considered a suspect or a ‘party of interest’?” The lead investigator stated flatly, “Sheriff Lovan, is not considered a person of interest. He has already provided irrefutable evidence as to his whereabouts at the time of the homicide. Keep in mind Jones had already been charged with crimes that made his role as a viable candidate for County Sheriff unlikely. At that point, he was no longer a challenge to Sheriff Lovan. In fact, were I Sheriff Lovan, I would have celebrated last night as a personal and professional victory.” Once those words were uttered Ranger Young tried to get back to the actual investigation. He was not here to vilify Jones nor to praise Lovan. A little chagrined, he continued, “As I said before, the Sheriff’s department and the Sheriff himself have been nothing but cooperative and supportive.” Ranger Young may not have been thrilled to have been appointed lead investigator but he was definitely up to the task.
The rest of the press conference was the usual S.O.S. Every reporter was trying to ask the same question in hopes of getting himself or herself some facetime with the viewing public. Each one was hoping that their question was ‘the one’ that made the official slip-up and share a bit of “need-to-know” details or some really salacious tidbit. All the while, the official spokesman, in this case, Ranger Young, was silently praying, “Dear God, please don’t let me fuck this up.” It had been decided that the nudity, mutilation, and bondage elements, would not be released to the general public.
Raymond chose to stay close to his lover for the time being. He had the team that was seeking financial investment from the Adams’ Family Trust flown in from LA. He had them stay overnight and had Jeremy show them some real Texas hospitality. He had an ulterior motive for being close at hand. He wanted to protect his man and to ensure that Ilya and Tink were totally dedicated to finding the killer. If it was Hershel Crowder, Raymond wanted to be the first to know. He wasn’t sure why but he felt a sense of responsibility for Dennis Crowder. Daniel had talked to the boy’s father before Dennis had been delivered to the Diner. Hershel was choking back tears as he heard about his son being abused at the hands of Sheriff Johnson. He had seen the videos of Sheriff Johnson sexually abusing his Deputy. He was enraged to learn that Deputy Jones had known about it and had done nothing to stop the abuse. Daniel had relayed that the man seemed totally cool with having a gay son. It was the idea that Johnson took advantage of the boy’s youthful innocence and treated him badly physically and Jones let it happen. Daniel opined that much of the anger Hershel Crowder felt was directed toward himself for not being a more active influence on his growing boy. Hershel Crowder said, “I know every boy fools around with other boys. Some stay with it and some don’t. If Denny stays with it that’s okay. What sticks in my craw is that son of a bitch set out to fuck my son. If he was still alive, I’d kill him myself for taking my son’s innocence.”
Raymond thought it likely that Crowder had vented all his anger against on Deputy Jones. The mutilation certainly indicated a sexual aspect to the murder. The delay between the mutilation and the death blow implied there might have been some conversation. Perhaps the perpetrator wanted Jones to understand exactly what he did wrong and why he was about to die.
The official investigation had not advanced much beyond the initial forensics. The 48-hour rule of thumb passed without any real hope of an arrest. The time of death had been established as around 3:30 a.m. Video surveillance showed that Jones knew his killer well enough to grant him access at 1:43 am. That same video showed the killer exiting the apartment complex at 3:18 am. The rental car was picked up at the Abilene airport by a female of apparent Hispanic extraction. Her license said she was from Modesto, California. Of course, there was nothing to be found about her or her current whereabouts in California or Texas.
Tink had used face recognition software to determine that the woman was most likely a Hispanic man who had arrived in California two days before the murder and flew into DFW in drag on the evening of the murder. He further connected the killer with a Mexican drug cartel. The mutilation was a trademark of this man’s work. The kicker was that no one was sure that the killer was really a man. He conducted any required pre-mission meetings as a man. His ‘missions’ were almost always carried out in the persona of a woman. Some theorized that the killer actually used female assassins much like a Bizarro version of ‘Charlie's Angels’. Raymond and Daniel both breathed a sigh of relief when they learned that Hershel Crowder had been honest in pleading his innocence. The Rangers were amenable to allowing the two Crowders to relocate to the Adams Ranch in northern California. While the investigation stalled, the accepted theory was that Jones or Georgia had hatched the smear campaign most likely without the Cartel’s input or approval. It was agreed that had the cartel instigated the smear campaign it would have had a much better chance of succeeding or at least tilting the election in favor of their candidate. The end result was that their plans for a safe route for drugs and human trafficking had been destroyed due to some unforgivable ineptitude on Jones’ part. Jones paid the ultimate price. His campaign staff and legal representation quietly melded into the background without so much as a parting statement.
Daniel was not sure that the Cartel had given up on ‘buying’ a County Sheriff as well as the Mayor of that same County Seat. Ilya assured him that the word was that the Cartel was concentrating their machinations further south now that their candidates were both out of the running. It seems that Georgia Mathis had some serious text and email conversations with Jones and a third party who remains unidentified. It was more than coincidental that the sum of $10,000 was a topic discussed among the three. It was further clarified that the ‘third party’ was providing that amount and more to both candidates. The interesting aspect was that the ‘third party’ used very advanced security to hide his point of origin and identity. The Interim Mayor and Mr. Jones’ communications were not encrypted and were only password protected. In fact, it was the cut and paste of various emails that revealed the existence of a third party. This led to embarrassing criminal charges of bank fraud and money laundering and conspiracy. The Madam Mayor announced her withdrawing from political activities in order to fight these ‘spurious, ridiculous, and damning charges’. She vowed to clear her name and again charge into the political fray in order to personally provide the solid, conservative, christian, leadership her community needed and deserved.
Joe and Daniel were both less than enthusiastic when everyone around them insisted they keep up their campaigns as though they still faced a serious opponent. When Joe pointed out to Mellie that he could only lose to a write-in and there was no one who even came close to being a viable opponent.
Mellie said, “Joe, you know as well as I do if you don’t win in a big way the Republicans will argue that you’re not the people's choice but a man who won by default. They’re already beating the weeds for someone to promote as a write-in. We can’t take the chance that another election could give them a viable candidate. You have to win enough votes to show everyone that you would have most likely won against Georgia. Daniel has to do the same. It doesn’t have to be a landslide but it has to be significant. I’m no political expert but you can ask anyone on either campaign staff and you’ll hear the same thing. If you and Daniel don’t win by a significant margin the Republicans will sue for a new election. That would give them the chance to choose another candidate that might not succumb to bribes and engage in underhanded activities in order to win.”
Gram Manowski and Sarah Brannon chimed in to convince Joe that he couldn’t let up on his rigorous campaign schedule. Sarah confided that she had found Daniel opportunities to address groups that would have only invited Jones before his arrest, now they were at least open to hearing from the lone candidate for Sheriff, even if he is gay. The fact that he is now running unopposed loaned some validity to hearing what the man has to say.
Ilya reassured the family that there was no danger from any cartel activity. His team had been on high alert since the first hint of ‘large cash’ donations to Jones’ campaign had been detected. Now, he would again hear leave requests and address other, more mundane issues.
It was the first week in February that Raymond and Daniel were hosting Jeff and Paul for dinner. Maria was being babysat by Joe and Mellie. Even though the election was just a few weeks away and the wedding was only mere days away, the death of Jones was the topic du jour or rather the stalled investigation into Jones murder. Daniel let them all know that the Rangers had yet to positively identify the perpetrator. No one commented on that remark even though they all knew that Tink and Ilya had positively identified the culprit as one Deigo Cardoso Da Silva. Da Silva was a contract assassin working most often in Europe and North America. Ilya had pointed out that the cartels usually had enough local muscle in Central and South America and certainly in Mexico to handle any hits. The locals lacked the finesse and sophistication to travel abroad and maintain a level of discretion. Assigning locals to a hit in North America would be like using a concrete mixer when a Waring blender would better serve.
When submitting his report Ilya advised the family to let this one pass. First off, it was arguably a convenient solution to a potentially explosive situation. While murder is seldom justified in this case it was a fortuitous happenstance. If they turned over what they had to the authorities they would be challenging a powerful enemy. Cartels were known for their bloody retribution at the slightest insult and ratting out their assassin would be considered a direct enemy action. As it was, Tink’s continued surveillance had revealed the drug and human traffickers had decided to cut their losses. To them, getting rid of Jones was merely tying up loose ends. Georgia was lucky she hadn’t been more directly evolved.
Daniel was especially peeved at the idea of passing these problems onto someone else rather than attacking them head on. Ilya pointed out that the American government had exacerbated the drug problem for decades while at the same time publicly touting ‘the war on drugs’. The federal government could not be relied upon to protect them if the cartel should decide to seek revenge. Ultimately, nothing short of annihilation could stop a determined enemy.
Raymond pointed out that if Jones had not been taken out there was no guarantee that he would have been prosecuted. Just like Jeff and Paul had said in the beginning, ‘the actual truth and verifiable facts would not be crucial elements’. With the death of Jones, the public had a criminal that was arrested, tried, convicted, sentenced, and executed in a most fitting fashion. The mutilation had been leaked to the locals even though the news had yet to latch onto the rumor. Just like some sixty-minute crime drama, this case had a most satisfactory conclusion. The public was of a mind that Jones got just what he deserved. No one was fearful of losing their job if this particular crime remained unsolved. It was agreed that the Rangers were to be left to their own investigative devices. If they identified the assassin and sought extradition, good on them. If not, Da Silva could remain the beneficent kingpin in his little fishing village just outside Puerto Vallarta. Daniel questioned the notion that an assassin could be, ‘beneficent’ to anyone. Ilya explained that the man had built a clinic and brought in better education and set up scholarships for qualified youth. He compared it to what the Adams family was doing here, only on a smaller scale. Da Silva was not trying to control his village but was trying to improve conditions for the people. Daniel argued that the man was a cold-blooded killer. No one pointed out Daniel’s own combat endeavors and it was with a bit of chagrin that he voiced the comparison on his own. Both men had killed for reasons that they each likely felt benefited a greater good. Daniel admitted he would ruminate or ‘chew his cud’ over this new information but his own gut instinct was still to see the assassin brought to trial and let a jury consider any mitigating circumstances. Daniel's killings had all involved self-preservation or saving someone else's life. He felt justified.
After dinner, their conversation left political and professional topics behind. The wedding was a little over a week away and Jeff and Paul were looking forward to attending, as was Maria. They reported that Maria had been informed that there was no need to keep the wedding a secret any longer. Whereupon, she breathed a dramatic sigh of relief, wiped her forehead with the back of her hand, and muttered, “Thank goodness.” Then in a stronger voice, she told her Daddies, “Miss Julie must be right, grown-ups can’t keep secrets and us kids will learn everything if we just listen. Me and D J are gonna be listenin’ real hard in Hawaya.” That led to a discussion featuring everybody’s favorite Princess. Jeff proudly told about her role in making bullying a losing proposition at her school.
As the details of the wedding began to be explored, Paul made a snarky comment on Daniel becoming ‘Mrs. Raymond Adams’ and that this was just a fancy ‘shotgun’ wedding. The proof will be the baby that will arrive in less than 40 weeks. Daniel just smiled slightly when Paul asked, “Have you been yelling ‘Mama’ down any rain barrels to hear how it’s gonna sound?”.
Daniel’s good-natured response may have been a result of the relief he felt that the pedophilia scare had been resolved or it could be the anticipation of his upcoming nuptials. The man had reasons to be well pleased and tolerant. He chuckled a bit and said, “Well, I remember Uncle Joe told us both we would change our surnames. I just hope you understand that because my name is changing before yours, I’ll always have seniority. So you can start thinking of me as your older, stronger, wiser, and better looking, big sister… Little girl.” It was a sign of the conviviality the group shared that all four broke into laughter.
After the laughter died down, Daniel looked contemplative for a few moments, then said, “You guys are going to Hawaii for our wedding, have you two considered making it a real family affair and go in with us for a double wedding”?
Jeff looked questioningly at Paul, “What do you think? I know we decided to make a statement at the Carnival by getting married in front of all attendees on Sunday evening as everything winds down but I would like to share our day with my brother, one of my best friends, and our families. We could repeat the ceremony at the Carnival and still make a statement. What do you think”?
Paul grinned at his lover, “Well, joining Raymond and Daniel has the added advantage of making it impossible to forget our anniversary.”
Raymond spoke up, “We could all do the deed just as planned and then we could do the same thing at the Gay Us Carnival in Texas.”
Daniel grinned broadly, “Now that I’m out, there’s no good reason not to publicly celebrate our wedding. If I win the election, I would be happy to stand up with the man I love in my full uniform as County Sheriff.”
Jeff caught Daniel’s enthusiasm, “Hell we could invite gay couples from all across Texas to join in the ceremony.”
Paul, joined right in, “We could invite Doc Steelman and Bradley and their families to the Carnival. We promised we’d invite them to visit. It would be the perfect time and if they haven’t tied the knot by then they might even join in the wedding. We could certainly give them the option.”
Jeff snorted, “Admit it, you just want another chance to see Doc’s horse cock.”
Paul blushed as Jeff described Doc’s endowment to Daniel and Raymond. Both decided it would be worth the effort to view such a ‘natural wonder’. The comparison of ‘the biggest cock I’ve ever seen’ revealed that indeed Doc may be a blue ribbon candidate. Daniel offered the notion that it could be established who had the biggest cock by using a tactic from boot camp. Wherein, men were lined up and anyone taller simply tapped anyone shorter than himself on the shoulder and moved ahead of him. By ordering a series of ‘facing’ movements, i.e. ‘right face, left face’, followed with the ‘tapping’ procedure, the Drill Instructor could arrange any group so the tallest was in the front and to everyone else's right. Daniel finished by stating, “If your cock is bigger than the man in front of you tap him on the shoulder and move ahead of him.”
It may have been only a few seconds but a noticeable amount of time elapsed as each man envisioned fully aroused men shuffling ranks to show who ranked the most or the biggest or the longest…
Jeff shook his head to clear his thoughts. “There will be no cock contests at the Carnival. There can be no nudity or any sexually suggestive content. I want this to be an annual celebration highlighting gay contributions to society. There is to be no section that is age or gender restrictive. The conservatives only need a small excuse to close us down. I’m willing to bet that they will have a Republican judge on hot-standby all weekend long just waiting for the least excuse to close us down.”
The other three nodded solemnly. Raymond suggested, “Since the whole idea is to highlight contributions gays have made to our society and to show everyone that gays are normal, how about we extend the wedding ceremony to include any couples gay or straight? If we limit it to ‘gays only’ we are in effect saying that being gay is not ‘normal’. I’m sure most straight couples will not join in but by including them, we are reinforcing the notion that being gay is the same as being straight, only different.”
That idea was met with great enthusiasm. Jeff would make sure all advertising was modified to feature a Sunday evening Wedding ceremony that was open to all who cared to participate, whether to officially seal their marriage or to renew their vows. Fireworks were set for ten pm on both Saturday and Sunday nights. Jeff said they could have the fireworks on Sunday start as soon as the officiate stated, “You may kiss your Mate”.
Daniel insisted they include a free reception specifically for all who participated or attended the wedding. Paul said it should look just like a regular reception with dinner and dancing sans alcohol. They could line up a Master of Ceremonies and a live band for dancing. Those who were actually married on that day should have a celebration to remember. They could provide small wedding cakes that identified each couple and their wedding date. After all, what wedding would be complete without a wedding cake?
All too soon, the evening came to a close. Each man felt a warmth toward the other three that had been strengthened over the course of this intimate time together. It was resolved that a weekly dinner on Thursday night at alternating houses would become ‘de rigueur’. Each man, without saying as much, felt he had somehow established a ‘family’ within the extended family. Each man felt as though the bonds that had been strengthened tonight would prove unbreakable in the years ahead.