Protecting David-Finding Christopher 11
I could smell coffee and Larry. The coffee smelled dark and rich. Larry smelled familiar, sexy and lickable. I went for him first, burying my face in the side of his chest, his skin was velvety warm and dry. His head was propped against the headboard and he was sipping his coffee. His hand dropped and held my head to his body for a moment and then tugged me upward.
He bent down and whispered, “Look.”
Across from the foot of our bed against the wall are two big overstuffed armchairs separated by a table with a lamp on it. Chris was curled up in one of the chairs, sound asleep.
I whispered to Larry, “Why there?”
“He probably didn’t want to bother us.”
“How long’s he been there?”
He shook his head. “Beats me.”
I started to get up and Larry handed me my boxers and said, “We better get in the habit of putting these back on.”
I slipped them on and went over to Chris. It wasn’t really cold in the room but the temperature in the house is programmed to drop to sixty-eight degrees after eleven o’clock in the evening so he couldn’t be warm enough. I knelt down in front of him and touched his arm. His eyes shot open and for a moment he looked startled and maybe a little trapped.
He looked quickly around and blurted out, “I wasn’t watching! I didn’t see anything!”
I put my hand on his arm. “It’s okay, Chris. It’s okay.”
“Really, I wasn’t looking! I just got scared and I didn’t know where else to go.” He was shaking, maybe a bit from the coolness of the room but also out of fear and it was pretty obvious that someone had accused him of watching in the past and probably punished him.
I decided to see how much he’d be willing to tell me. “Did your sister get mad at you when she thought you were watching?”
He shook his head. “No.” He sighed. “She just laughed. Her boyfriend got mad though. But I wasn’t watching them! I was just little then. And sometimes I used to forget about my mom and dad being dead. Sometimes if I got scared it seemed like they were still there. You know how sometimes when you just wakeup and it’s kinda like you don’t really remember everything. And I used to look for them until I remembered.”
“Did your sister’s boyfriend hurt you?”
The expression on his face had been going from bad to worse and he clearly didn’t want to talk about this. “I dunno. He thought I was bad. Do I gotta talk about this?”
“Nope, at least not right now. I was wondering if you weren’t cold over here?” As soon as I said it I realized that he might well be used to sleeping in odd places.
“I wanted to make sure I was up. So you didn’t leave me.” I realized that he was serious.
I touched the side of his face with the tips of my fingers. “That’s not ever gonna happen, Chris.” Even as I was saying it I knew that it was something that was probably gonna take a long time for him to really believe.
Larry got out of bed and in three strides he was bending over Chris scooping him up. He carried him squealing back to our bed where he dropped him and covered him up with blankets.
He grinned down at the bundled up boy. “Cozy?”
Chris smiled and nodded up at him.
Larry’s voice was soft and his face sincere. “It’s okay to be scared, Chris. But when you’re feeling that way we want you to come and tell us. You’re not bothering us or interupting us…ever. Coming and telling us is exactly what you’re supposed to do. And Alex and I would never hit you for any reason and if anyone else does I will personally grind em into dust.”
Chris seemed to understand because he had stopped smiling but then he grinned again at Larry. “You’ll grind em up into little pieces?”
Larry smiled down at him. “Sawdust! Dogfood! The littlest pieces you can imagine!”
Chris grinned evilly. “You could do that to Mr. Presler! He took my money!”
Larry said, “You had money?”
Chris nodded towards me. “Alex gave me twelve hundred dollars.”
Larry looked at me and laughed. “You gave a ten year old boy twelve hundred bucks?”
I laughed. “I didn’t really know how much it was. I just gave him what I had in my pocket.” I flopped down next to Chris and propped my head up on my hand. “Gimme a break, it was a tough moment.”
I asked Chris, “Presler took that from you?”
He nodded. “He went thru my pants and then when he found that he really went thru my pants. He wanted to know if there was any more but I told him that was all you gave me. That was more money than I ever had.”
“Well don’t worry about Presler. I’ll take care of him. And we probably need to start giving you an allowance.”
Chris was still staring up at Larry who pretty much had him trapped because he was all wrapped up in blankets and Larry was half leaning over him. Then he got a glint in his eyes and said to Larry, “You were kissing Alex when you were asleep.”
I laughed because I knew that Larry did do that from time to time and Larry said, “I was?”
Chris nodded solmenly but the glee was right there under the surface and hard to hide. “You were all smouchy kissy all over his face!” Chris was managing to keep a perfectly staight face but just a little twitch began appearing at the corner of his mouth.
Larry was beginning to catch on and I was starting to laugh even harder.
Larry protested. “Wait a minute! You said that you didn’t see anything!”
Chris’s body was going ridgid with devilment but he was still managing not to laugh outright and he was still staring straight faced up at Larry.
“I couldn’t help it! Alex started yellin!”
Larry was onto it now but was supressing a laugh. He sighed dramatically and said, “Okay, give it to me. What did he yell?”
“YUCK!! DOG LIPS!! DOG LIPS!! DOG LIPS!!”
Larry yelled in fake anger, “YOU LITTLE MONSTER! I’LL GIVE YOU DOG LIPS!!” He started tickling Chris mercilessly while Chris was screaming and trying to claw his way away from him. His breath was coming in great gasps.
“NO TICKLING! STOP!!! PLEASE, PLEASE, STOOOOOPPPP!! NO STOP!! I’M GONNA WET THE BED!!!”
Larry tore the covers off of him, threw a screaming Chris over his shoulder and then walked into the bathroom turned on the shower and then carried a writhing yelling Chris into the water pouring down.
Among my many emails that morning was a message that my dads were gonna try to make it to Florida today to spend some time with us and to meet Chris. That was good news. I miss them a lot and I really wanted them to meet Chris. And Larry was finally getting comfortable with them. For one thing, David had started managing Larry’s money after his dad bought out his and his sister’s interest in the family business. It also didn’t hurt that over the last five years David had managed to increase that money by almost thirty percent a year. At least now when Larry and David were together they had something to talk about.
Mark always assumed a closeness with people he liked and eventually even people who were a little standoffish just gave up and went along with him. I was anxious to see how Mark, a guy about the same age as the guys who had preyed on Chris, got along with him.
Connie called me a little before eight just as we finished breakfast and were getting ready to leave for the airport.
“Alex, I talked more to Lyle last night. He feels that a $500,000 contribution would be, to quote him, “appropriate for one of the governor’s more important supporters.”
She laughed. “Could you just puke or what?”
“Pay him, Connie. How does he want to do it?”
“The governor’s cousin has some land to the northeast of El Paso, Texas. I have no clue what it looks like but you can assume it’s crap. The half million will buy ten acres. There’s an account at the Fortis Bank in Luxembourg that he wants it sent to. You know the way that this is set up that he uses it a lot.”
“Email Gerhardt, Connie. Explain the situation; he’ll know how to handle it. I don’t want the money traceable to me but if it’s possible I’d like it traceable to Lyle or even the governor. But in any event, make it clear to Lyle that for that much money we don’t want any do-overs. Anybody tries to go to court to block this he runs interference.”
“Got it, Alex.”
Ten minutes later Larry, Chris and I climbed into the back seat of the Mercedes. Mei, who was going with us, was sitting next to the driver with her cell phone plastered to the side of her head. She was nodding while she listened and finally closed it and dropped it into her pocket. She turned in the seat to face us, caught Chris’s eye and winked at him, then she turned back to me.
“Your fathers will be there in afternoon. And man from bank wants to pick us up at airport. Is okay?”
I nodded yes. The Bank Haussmann has two offices in the U.S., one in New York and the other in Palm Beach. No one ever accused them of not knowing their market. And the thing was that I had two major projects being built in Palm Beach, neither one of which I had ever actually seen and I knew that I was expected to take the tour. It wasn’t like they really needed me to approve anything, Didier and his guys did a great job but I did realize that it was important that I show a sense of satisfaction with what they were doing.
Larry looked at me and grinned. “You said that there are people working at the house? Someone to feed us?”
“I’m pretty sure we won’t starve but yeah, there’s a couple that work there. The Nielsen’s. Nels and Sarah, I think. The place is all furnished and everything. There’s even cars…of some kind. I’ve got the inventory. We can read it on the plane.”
Chris looked up at me. “Do they know you’re bringing me?”
“I’m not sure, Chris. Someone probably told them. Why?”
He looked out the window. “I dunno.” But I knew and dropped my arm casually across his shoulders.
Later as we got closer to the airport Chris’s hands kind of edged out until they were touching mine and Larry’s and then eventually he was actually holding onto them.
At the first sign mentioning the airport Chris looked up at me. “United Airlines?”
I shook my head no.
“I can’t remember any other airlines.”
“It’s not an airline, Chris. It’s our plane.” He seemed to digest that.
“Is it like those little planes that I see flying around?”
“No, it’s pretty big. Not big like a commercial plane but pretty big.”
Somehow the security guy driving the car knew where to go, which I wouldn’t have, and drove around to the other side of the hangar from the way that I had gone in when I had been here last. The hangar doors were closed and the plane sat in front of them. It looked like some god-like pretatory thing being attended to by the people walking around it. It almost seemed like it should be preening metallic feathers. Mike and Karen were standing near the steps leading up into the plane.
Chris was standing up in the back seat, staring out at it and said, “Oh wow!”
As soon as the car stopped and I opened the door he was out of it like a shot. He ran twenty feet towards the plane and then stopped suddenly and ran back to Larry and me. He got between us and even seemed to be shoving us ahead of him.
Finally I looked down at him and said, “What?”
He grinned shyly and said, “You guys go first.”
I introduced Mike and Karen to Larry and Chris. Mike shook Chris’s hand and said, “Once we get in the air why don’t you come up front and I’ll show you around.” Chris looked like he was going to pass out and only managed a nod.
Karen said, “We talked to Connie and Mrs. Colby to get an idea of what you guys like to eat. She put her hand lightly on Chris’s shoulder and said, “They weren’t totally sure if there was anything that you absolutely hate, Chris.”
I had my hand on his other shoulder and could feel the tension in his body at being the center of attention but he managed to say, “Only rhubarb. I hate rhubarb.” His voice was a little boy’s voice and when Larry started talking to Mike and the attention was off of Chris I pulled him back against me dropped my arms casually over his shoulders and gave him an inconspicuous hug.
I was pretty sure that the Chris that was joking with Larry this morning was the real Chris but it also was apparent that a lot of things scared him and I wanted to be there for him when he needed me.
Larry went up into the plane first and then as Chris and I were almost to the top of the stairs he popped back out.
“You bought this? Mr. I Can’t Buy A New Car Cause People’ll Think I’m Rich?” He turned his head and looked towards the passenger area and then turned back to Chris and I. “Don’t even think about givin me any shit about the new Halcro amplifier that I been thinkin about buyin.”
Stereo equipment in our house is lucky if it lasts six months without getting traded in. “Larry! Another amplifier? How can you even tell the difference between them?”
Larry grabbed Chris and started guiding him to a seat but while he was doing that he was saying, “I got this feeling that if I divided what I spent on my new car into what you spent for this the answer would be something like two hundred.”
“This is an investment.”
He laughed. “Yeah, right!”
“No really! My dad is paying me seven grand a flight hour and they quaranteed me twenty hours a week.”
“Alex, it’s okay. Actually it’s better than okay, it’s great.”
Mei sat near the front of the plane and immediately opened a book and Larry put Chris in a forward facing seat, buckled him in and then took the seat next to him. I sat facing Chris who was looking like he had just been buckled into the scariest ride in the amusement park. He was gripping the arms of the chair with white knuckles.
Chris looked tightly from Larry to me. His voice was strained. “I never been in a plane.”
Larry draped his arm over Chris’s shoulders. “Just relax, Buddy, the plane does all the work.”
Jared Michaels, the co-pilot stopped next to us and hunkered down. He had dark hair and looked almost Italian and he also looked very young although I knew that he was twenty-nine.
“Fellas, we’ll be underway in a moment and once we get airborne Karen will see to it that you’ve got plenty to eat and drink.” He looked at Chris, smiled and said, “First time flying?” Chris nodded gravely. “My first time was when I was your age too and I was plenty scared before we took off. You’ll see though, once we’re in the air it’ll be cool. And if you get bored looking out the window, which you probably won’t, we’ve got lots of videos that you can watch. Then, later, and just if you want to, you could come up to the cockpit and Mike and I will show you all kinds of cool stuff.”
Chris said seriously, “You won’t try and scare me?”
Jared smiled and said, “Nope. I don’t believe in grownups trying to scare kids.”
After Jared left I asked Chris, “Did someone try to scare you, Chris?”
He just nodded and looked out the window.
A second later the door was closed and the plane took on the sealed feeling that planes do. And then the slow whine of the engines beginning to turn over.
I looked at Chris and he was attuned to everything but now he was smiling. He smiled at me and said, “We’re really gonna do it! We’re really gonna fly!” Then as the engines got louder he yelled, “I can’t even talk it’s so loud!”
Larry leaned over him and said, “They’ll get even louder, Chris. Right now we’re gonna taxi to the end of the runway and then the engines’ll get even louder till me take off into the sky like a big ole bird.”
As we started to taxi Karen knelt down next to me and discreetly pressed a folded up air-sickness bag into my hand. She whispered, “I doubt that he’ll need this but just in case.”
Then she said, “Alex, the service that we’re giving you today is exactly what we did for Westell, so if you’d like anything changed just let me know. Typically we offered a choice of three entrees and we will today too. We buy them frozen from the Ritz-Carlton and they’re normally great. What I’m thinking is that when we start flying customers for Kerry, Froedert and Blair you’ll want a pretty high level of service.”
I nodded. “Keep it all just like you did it, Karen. I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
Soon we were making the turn at the end of the runway and Mike was bringing the engines up to full screaming power. Chris was hanging on for dear life and seemed to have stopped breathing as we rocketed down the runway and then as we lifted off he seemed to sag and then began laughing.
Larry and I must have been holding our breath along with him because as soon as he started to laugh we did too.
Chris was glued to the window until about when we were passing over Louisiana and Karen brought us lunch. Then betweens bites of chicken he grilled us.
“So I’m gonna live with you guys forever?”
Larry looked at him and grinned. “Forever and ever.”
“No matter what?”
“No matter what.”
He was staring down at the table top as he traced a pattern with his finger. He said softly, “And my room is gonna be my room always?
“You know, I gotta go to school. It’s the law, they make ya do it.”
I said, “Chris, education is really important to us. We want you to be really good at school. To work hard and get good grades.”
“I do get good grades! I’m pretty smart.”
“You liked school?”
“It was the best place.” Then quietly, “They were nice.” I figured that it was probably the only safe place in his life.
Larry said, “Next week we can check it out and see what we need to do to get you enrolled for the fall.”
“Will I go to my school?”
“I’m sure you won’t, Chris but we’ll figure it out. There’s gotta be a school that’s nearer to us.”
I opened my laptop and connected to the internet to download my email. Chris was watching me and he slowly reached out slowly and touched the edge of the computer with the tip of his finger. Then he grinned at me, tilted his head and mouthed the word, “Computer.”
I smiled back at him. “Ever use a computer, Chris?”
He said tentatively, “Sometimes a little at school.” Then while running the tip of his finger over the edge of it. “If I was careful, could I look at it?”
I unbuckled my seatbelt and said to him. “C’mon around the table.”
He climbed over Larry like he was trying to escape a fire and then he carefully moved in next to me.
“We can check my email. You know how to use a mouse?”
He nodded and his hand snuck under mine and onto the mouse. With my other hand I pointed at an icon. “Click on this.”
“See these from this outfit? Click in this little box next to all of them from this guy.” Viagra was the least of my worries. Chris put an X next to twelve messages for Viagra, cheap stocks and women looking for customers.
“Okay, now that we’ve told the computer which messages, we gotta tell it what to do with em. Click on this Spam button.” In a blink all twelve disappeared.
“Okay, see this one from Stanner? He’s my lawyer. The subject says “Land,” so let’s check that out. Double click on it.” Larry’s head came up at the mention of Stanner and land.
He said, “Did we get it?”
The messsage flashed up. I read it quickly and said, “He wants a thousand more an acre.”
Larry exhaled and growled at the same time. “That….” He glanced at Chris. “I guess we’ve got no choice.”
I said to Chris, “That’s the land next to ours. Remember we showed it to you, the day you rode the horse?” I couldn’t see his face but he was nodding yes. “We’re trying to buy it. Click up here on the reply button.”
He brought up the reply page and I told Stanner to do it. I was really tired of fucking with this. Once we got Thornton’s property we were gonna dynamite his driveway which was the only other way to the top of the plateau other than our own driveway.
Chris leaned back and twisted his head around to look up at me. “Can we go on the internet?”
I whispered to him, “If you go to the Dell site I’ll buy you a laptop of your own. I mean you’re gonna need one for school anyway.”
Larry leaned across the table and grinned. “Yeah but ya gotta cut the lawn once a week. All eighty acres.”
Chris laughed and said, “Can I tie the lawnmower behind the horse?” Then he looked back up at me and asked, “Will you really buy me one?”
“Sure, it’s not like you don’t need one. We’ll have it FedEx’d in and you’ll have it when we get back.”
Larry had gone back to his work but smiled and said, “And no porn, Christopher, just wholesome ten year old boy web sites.”
“I don’t look at porn! I just wanna play games.” He looked up at me and said earnestly, “Honest, I don’t look at dirty stuff!”
I laughed and dropped my arm over his shoulder. “He’s kidding, Chris.”
So we spent the last hour of the flight surfing and buying a computer.