The Hunt Part II: Winter in July
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by Theodore Marquez
Category: Gay Fiction/Mystery/Crime
Description: For Tony De Santos', life has taken a deadly turn at the hands of a Denver serial killer known as The Butcher. Bitter and hate-filled, he sets out on a seemingly inescapable path to avenge his lover. There are those who would try to save him. Detective Lorrayne Lobato has a score herself to settle with The Butcher. And new friend Bobby, a young man in search of love and direction, has a pure affection and willingness to help that asks nothing in return. But in his furious mission to track down The Butcher and minister his own justice, Tony is beyond their reach. Like a winter in July, his heart is frozen to the love and warmth of all who want to help. Mystery and madness build. Who is this Butcher, and why is he on this murderous rampage? Refusing to be denied, Tony tracks him down. But then what? Does vengeance bring a cleansed conscience, or self-destruction as Lobato and Bobby fear? Tony is about to find out.
eBook Publisher: Club Lighthouse Publishing USA LLC/Club Lighthouse Publishing USA, 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: November 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [355 KB]
Reading time: 234-327 min.
THE BUTCHER'S RAMPAGE THROUGH Denver's gay community had now claimed eleven lives. Chris Valle, Randy Gallegos, Jack Webber, Albert Maez, Rachael Romero, Mario Vigil, Kevin Jones, Mark Carter, Fernando Lopez, Bill Sanders and Guy Sutherland had all fallen victim to him. The media was having a heyday on a national scale as the desperate manhunt yielded nothing. Police were no closer than they were in the beginning. Denver was on needles.
A bewildered Tony De Santos sat gazing out the window as the bus left the city limits of Colorado Springs behind. On this cursed day in Pueblo, he'd watched with a vengeance while his partner's body was lowered into the earth separating them forever. Did a vow of revenge make a man insane? If so, then consider him beyond hope. Tony swore on all he held holy that the memory of Guy dying in his arms would haunt him until he did what had to be done. Fear had lost any consequence. To him it didn't matter. He was dead inside anyway.
Since Guy's murder he'd wandered aimlessly, avoiding going home for fear of what awaited him there. He didn't know if he could handle it. The write-ups in the papers went into detail of all that had taken place. The media was having a frenzy. He avoided them at all costs. Knowing The Butcher was still out there ate at him constantly.
At night was when he missed Guy most. He missed the comfort of their home, the comfort of his arms. He'd stayed in Pueblo with friends these past few days awaiting Guy's funeral. Don and Albert offered comfort but nowhere near what he needed. Nothing could ease his pain, the void in his heart. They avoided the subject altogether not to upset him further. Holding it in was driving him crazy. He needed to let it out.
It infuriated him that Chris Macey, the black man he'd grazed with a bullet, was not the bastard who had killed Guy.
He recalled when Lobato informed him of this. The anger that had gone through him left him with only one thing on his mind. No charges would be filed under the circumstances although the gun was confiscated.
Macey had turned out to be a desperate journalist lurking in the shadows of his and Guy's life looking for a front-page story. As soon as theories of The Butcher being after mixed couples surfaced Macey latched onto them thinking he was on to something. Why he chose them, was only instinct.
Tony watched the sun descend behind the mountains bringing nightfall. Awesome sunsets had lost their mystery and beauty. Nightfall had become his enemy, life a nightmare from which there was no awakening.
He would return to Denver for one reason only. After which whatever was to become of him seemed irrelevant. His sole purpose for living no longer existed, ripped from his life. Sorrow had taken its place. He damned life again and again, blaming himself for not listening to Guy's pleas and not taking heed. The burning sensation in his chest had filled him continuously since Guy's death.
He looked around the bus. Others sat lost in their own worlds engulfed in thought or loneliness. Imprisoned in a world of blackness, he sat at the rear of the lonely mourner's coach. Tears tore at his face making his skin harsh. He wiped them away only to lose himself in the sunset again.
The pale blue horizon had become a luminous display of colour Red, yellow, lavender and multi-pink reached across the heavens merging with the purples of nightfall. Stars blinked on. It meant nothing. Would it ever again?
Voices echoed in his mind. Visions of what once was would not leave him at peace. Cruel reality ripped through his thoughts reminding him they would no longer exist. We, no longer existed. He was alone.
He fought from crying out trying desperately to take hold of his senses. It was useless. Hurt came through. Tears flowed. His insides cramped, aching unbearably.
"You bastard!" he whispered, hitting his fist against his leg. "You bastard! I'll fucking get you!" A warning that had become a promise. A quest.
He struggled to control himself. He remembered the night Guy slipped the band on his finger telling him not even death would separate them as though he'd known. The grim vision of his beloved in the coffin still and lifeless haunted him. The lost touch of Guy's lips as he leaned into the coffin to slip a gold band on his finger left its chill. Visions of their lovemaking were cruel. He needed his man. Guy's scent tormented his mind. It seemed to linger in the air. He pleaded with the heavens to end his misery and hell.
Others who thought they'd heard glanced back periodically. Some were annoyed. Others felt the scorn of hurt in their own hearts perhaps from their own pasts. It was felt in the air that something was wrong at the rear of the bus.
Two seats up sat a sandy-haired man in his late twenties. He related. He had glanced back and recognized Tony from the newspapers. With a compassionate heart he made his way to Tony, whose face lay buried in the crack of the seat against the bus whispering the name of his beloved over and over as if saying it would somehow resurrect him. The stranger's heart was in his hand. Instinctively he knew the inevitable had come, as if he had no other choice. His heart wouldn't let him do otherwise. The back of Tony's T-shirt was damp from perspiration. Nervously he toyed with the ring on his finger.
Hesitantly he sat next to Tony hoping he could ease the pain. There was no response as though Tony hadn't felt his presence. Gently he began to stroke through Tony's hair with comfort as his former partner had so many times done to him. He recalled how soothing it felt.
Startled Tony turned to see who his visitor was. Through blurred vision he saw the young man. He was a familiar face he'd seen somewhere before.
He sat up resting his head back against the seat not quite sure how to handle it. Both were at a loss for words. Minutes went by.
"I'm Bobby," the stranger finally said.
There was a timid insecurity in his voice. He sighed deeply. He hadn't been sure of his approach but was glad he'd broken the ice. He'd not done anything so bold before.
For a moment Tony spaced the hell and torment he was in taking a deep breath and staring out the window again.
"Look, I really don't know what the hell I'm doing here. And Lord knows it's really none of my business. It's like I needed to come back here. Pretty damned weird, huh?" Bobby said.
Unable to respond, much less face him, Tony continued to look out the window. It all seemed too bizarre. He sensed the guy was gay, couldn't imagine otherwise. He'd seen him in Cheesman.
"Look, sorry if I've disturbed you. I'll leave you alone. I just wanted to make sure you were all right," Bobby babbled. "I'll just mind my own business."
Tony felt it when Bobby arose. Bobby felt it best to leave Tony to his privacy.
"Wait a second," Tony said, unsure as to why. "Sit back down."
There was another period of unsure silence. Bobby rested back staring ahead. It was dark. A blanket of stars covered the sky.
A mournful moon set the eastern plains aglow casting oddly shaped shadows into the evening.
Tony began his story. At last there was someone to listen to his torment even though a stranger he'd probably never see again. But for these precious moments he could share the burden. He spoke freely.
Bobby stared holes into the seat in front of him and listened. His heart ached for Tony. He'd had a taste of lost love himself and knew of the cold side of life. Revenge was poisoning Tony. It was obvious in his pain, evil taking its toll.
Pausing for a moment Tony looked out, lost in thought again. It felt good to release the hell and blackness within. Whether he saw this person again didn't much matter. He had found a gentle ear to listen, one in a million.
Bobby's eyes blurred when Tony's voice trembled with pain. He glanced at Tony's shaking hands watching the fingers of his right hand slip the gold band on his left hand back and forth. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Time was his only healer. Each moment of torment would seem to last an eternity.
Bobby's own partner had walked out on him unexpectedly leaving him with emptiness, but nowhere to the degree of Tony's. A pain he could somewhat relate to. Time was the healer, but seemed to take forever. To this day he carried a knot in his gut.
Tears streaked his face. He fought back his own outburst. He damned life for being so cruel, wondered if there were indeed a God, or how God could be so merciless. How a God who supposedly loved his children, could rip one apart so badly. It seemed cruel, almost evil. He wanted to help Tony, though a stranger, realize time would ultimately be his friend and healer. Or was the pity Bobby felt for himself? Had Tony opened an old wound he hadn't dealt with? He wasn't sure. At the moment he wasn't sure of anything. Too many memories out of his own pain flashed before him. Tony's voice seemed like echoes. Were these echoes merely the past reminding him?
"I feel like I'm dying inside. Like there's nothing to live for. Like I wanna be dead. I fucking wanna die!" Tony cried.
Bobby remained silent observing Tony as he trembled with unbearable pain. Pain he could recall the gloom and loneliness -- spiritual death.
Placing a hand on Tony's shoulder, Bobby felt the fear and pain through the moist T-shirt.
Sweat beaded on Tony's forehead. His eyes were swollen and red from countless tears he'd shed. His body was numb. He felt nothing, not even Bobby's hand on his shoulder.
It was weird when he felt himself being pulled toward Bobby's strong body. Resisting, he turned to face him not knowing what to think.
"It's okay," Bobby said. His voice was gentle. "Relax. You need it."
Through the black turmoil, Tony sensed true compassion in Bobby's voice. He surrendered, questioning why all the while. It felt strange being held against his body, even stranger when Bobby's hand stroked through his hair as though caressing him as Guy had so often done. He felt warmth, comfort, for that moment like he wasn't alone in the hell pit life had suddenly tossed him into. Unaware he lost himself in the calmness of Bobby's arms.
Eventually he drifted to sleep. The humming motor served as the bus's concerto. It was soothing. The gentle strokes of Bobby's hand brought visions and memories of the comfort in Guy's arms. They were so real, so wonderful.
He drifted deeply into the peaceful world beyond, a world so desperately needed and lately denied. Tranquillity filled his heart. The pain and emptiness seemed to have vanished. In this world in which he had escaped he was safe in Guy's arms. His heart was on fire.
An hour later the jolting bus brought him back into the grimness of reality as it rode into the city limits of Denver. Tony felt someone's arm around him, heard the rhythm of a pounding heart against his ear. He snuggled closer to the warmth and comfort. In his mind it was Guy. His death had only been a nightmare and now he was once again safe in his arms. They were on their way to his hometown as they had planned, out of the nightmare haunting Denver.
He wrapped his arms around Bobby's body lost in the wonderful illusion it was really Guy. Guy was in his arms. The scent of Guy's cologne filled his senses bringing a smile to his face. He wanted to stay forever in his arms. Eternity.
Too soon did the bus bounce again jolting him in the seat. Wearily he opened his eyes still lost in the illusion of Guy's arms. He raised his head with a startled expression. For a moment he'd forgotten, then it all came back, the hell, the hurt, the emptiness.
Pulling away he sat upright in the seat groggy and dazed from the surprise to which he'd awakened. He now remembered who Bobby was and what he'd done for him. Then it came, the realization Guy was really gone forever. Instantly his chest began to burn with intensity more incredible than before. He felt life had made a mockery of him, had set him up for the final time.
"Sorry, man, I didn't mean to doze off," he said.
He couldn't forget the comfort he'd felt in his arms. He'd been so sure it was Guy. He hurt deep.
"It's cool. I understand. I've read about your partner in the paper. I'd seen you guys a few times. You probably don't remember me, huh? I live on the hill. I've kept up with the killings myself. In fact Gallegos was my best friend, Jason's partner. I'm sure everybody remembers him," Bobby said. There was a pause. "I'm on my way home from Colorado Springs. I spent the night there with some friends. You probably don't remember me boarding. Anyway I noticed you."
Tony listened trying to grasp all Bobby said. All he heard were echoes. It felt good to have someone next to him. He glanced to his side, avoided looking Bobby in the eyes. He was handsome in a white tank top, extremely well built with deep blue eyes, blond hair and a chest reminding him of Guy. Perhaps this was why he felt so comforted in his arms and now so tormented.
The bus pulled into the Denver depot a half hour later. It was Saturday night in the city, when they all climbed out of the woodwork. Somewhere out there in the jungle was the bastard his soul ached for. He reached for his backpack and felt a hand take him by the arm.
"Can I walk you home? Or hey, listen. You're welcome to spend the night at my apartment. I live alone," Bobby said, stopping with a strange look on his face after he realized how he must have sounded. "No tricks. I just thought you might like some company, someone to talk to. It's not good to be alone at times like this. Besides, I'm not dangerous, really."
"Thanks, but no thanks," Tony said. "I've got things to do. Catch you later. Listen, thanks for the shoulder and nap. You've helped a lot, probably in ways you'll never know." He turned to walk away.
"Wait!" Bobby said. "Here's my address and telephone number. I don't have a cell phone would you believe? Please call if you need a place to stay or just someone to talk to. I can imagine how you must feel. Sooner or later you might need someone. Don't hesitate, at any hour. Please."
Tony found it difficult looking Bobby in the eye. He thanked him for the offer and quietly walked away.
Stepping out of the bus he sighed deeply and headed for home. He dreaded this so, but it had to be done. He didn't want to go back. What had to be done could only be done by him. Life was to be filled with pain, anger and torment, most of all revenge.
He walked out of the depot bound for Broadway where he would catch a bus for home or what was left of it. The night was cool, the sky clear and the streets as expected for a Saturday night. He thought of calling Lobato as she had requested, but she of all people must not know of his return. Tonight things had to get done. He had things to do, places to go and someone to find.
On Broadway he waited for the next city bus to arrive, then sat back fighting to maintain himself. The bus was nearly deserted; at least that was in his favour Some checked him out. Others looked out the windows at the action for which this fine Boulevard was noted. Neon lights, nightclubs, hitchhikers, hustlers, you name it. Sights only a Saturday night could offer.
Making its way down Broadway the bus stopped periodically to board or let off passengers. He was halfway there. His heart had already begun to pound as though it were preparing him for what was yet to be. His palms started sweating again. Had they ever stopped? The burning sensation in his chest returned with much more intensity.
They rode past 14th Avenue, 13th, 12th and 11th then, 10th and finally 8th. It seemed like each pebble of the city had its own memory. Closer and closer to 7th Avenue, and harder and harder his heart pounded. He felt sick, like he wanted to vomit once the bus neared 7th Avenue. Memories flashed when he reached over signalling the driver, and then standing at the exit doors. Only too soon did they open. Too soon had he reached his destination.
Watching as the bus drove away and fading into the distance Tony crossed the street and headed east on 7th for what used to be home. 7th Avenue was as it had been recently, deserted. Those few on this barren avenue were no doubt on their way to one of the clubs. Things hadn't changed. Capitol Hill was still in terror. The dark cloud over the city shaded the air with uneasiness.
He eased his walking pace feeling his heart pound hard against his chest. The lump in his belly found its way up into his throat once again choking him as he walked. The warmth of tears streaked his face. His vision blurred out of focus as it had many times these past days. He went pale approaching the corner of Logan; his legs went weak nearly giving out.
Fighting to control his shattered emotions he continued up Logan. His steps became hesitant, his pace slower. Weary feet took him to the building.
He gazed up at their apartment now dark, lifeless and abandoned. Ruins of what used to be. Ruins of a murdered dream remained, like a graveyard for dreams that were never born. Dreams left behind to die. Dying memories screamed out for life, echoing through the hollow ruins of yesterday. It was quiet, so dreadfully quiet. The hissing silence seemed to echo everywhere.
Painfully he proceeded to the building. His heart ached. His eyes burned. His heart trembled when he neared the front door entrance. His insides growled and twisted when he inserted the key and turned the doorknob. The sound of the dead bolt bounced off the walls inside. Carefully he pushed standing back watching as the door swung open.
Inside a little light bulb continued its best to flood the hallway with its soft glow yet cast only haziness in the gloom. The door creaked open bringing more knots to his stomach. The streetlight behind him cast his shadow against the staircase leading up to their apartment, their world. He took his first step into the hallway. The floor creaked unlike it ever had before, sending sound bouncing through that made it almost unbearable to enter. He took a second step, then a third, until he was inside.
He reached back shutting the door behind him closing himself away from the world to be alone with his pain. He gazed to the top of the staircase to the door that led into their home. Beyond the door awaited the most painful confrontation of his life.
He proceeded up the stairway with each step his insides knotting tighter and tighter. Halfway he had to stop and wipe his eyes dry. His breathing grew heavy. He choked with each breath he took in for the worst was yet to come. Painfully he continued.
At the top he stood before the one door in life he wished he never had to open again. It was a door taking him through the ruins of his own shattered dreams, through dreams that were never born yet destroyed.With trembling fingers he turned the key.
"Dear Jesus," he whispered, gently pushing the door open.
The light cast his shadow into the living room. His legs nearly gave out when the scent of their togetherness swept into the hallway filling his head. He could hear his heart pounding. The veins on his temples throbbed. He feared they would explode. Tiny beads of sweat rolled down his forehead into his eyes. All the while he damned the heavens. He'd gone to hell and hadn't even died. Or had he?
He reached around to the light switch trying to rest his trembling finger against it. He wished there were another alternative to this nightmare. There was none. What had to be done was up to him. His blood ran cold when he pushed against it. A pale, yellow haze filled the room. For a moment he stood blinded while his eyes adjusted to the glow. Then he scanned about the graveyard of memories.
In the kitchen dishes were left in the sink from their last meal at home. The rest of his meds were on the counter. He shoved them into his backpack swallowing what he needed. His chest burned when he gazed about the living room at the scattered clothing left behind while they'd packed for their trip that never came. Guy's blue jeans were tossed in a corner along with a jockstrap that surely still carried his scent. Details Guy had left behind seemed to all jump out at him at once. They had been there all along only unnoticed until this bitter moment.
His eyes focused on his laptop for a second. He placed it into his backpack with several CDs containing material for his book.
Tony's cell phone rang startling him. He and Guy had chosen different tones. He picked out Guy's and Guy picked out his. It made him furious that now of all times they came back on. He didn't bother answering it. He could care less who was on the other end. He merely left both cell phones on the sofa where they had set them in aggravation. Besides where he was going and what he had to do, he did not need it. The last thing he wanted was for anyone to be able to trace where he was.
He began tossing things into a pile in the centre of the room. Clothes, books, everything he could find that he and Guy had accumulated together for their home. He wept while he tossed their most precious belongings into a pile of tormented dreams and skeletons of the past.
He reached for Guy's jeans and jockstrap, beneath them was the wrapping to the box his ring had been in. He reached for it and held it close to his heart, then buried his face in his hands. He tossed it into the pile with all the rest.
Minutes later the pile was complete. He extended his search into the bathroom, bedrooms and kitchen. In the bathroom he grabbed their matching towels off the racks and whatever else he could see, including the shower curtain he so loved to observe Guy behind. Another pile started.
When that was done he went into the spare bedroom doing the same, returning to the kitchen where he did another. Last but not least their room. Paralysed he stood in the doorway knowing what would be there once he crossed in.
Reluctantly he made his way coming to a stop in the doorway and staring at their bed. It was just as they had left it. Tousled sheets from the last time they'd made love screamed out painful memories. Guy's underwear still lay at the foot of the bed. The burnt candle that had serenaded their last physical and spiritual togetherness seemed to whisper memories. Clothes scattered about and hanging out of drawers were left from the last night they'd spent packing and preparing for their trip out of hell.
He tore the sheets away from the bed and began his pile of mourning memories again. Frantically, he tossed things to the centre of the room. The pile grew bigger and bigger until there was nothing left to throw. All he and Guy had built went into the piles except for what he had in his backpack. He connected them all, each leading to a room in the apartment and joined at the one in the living room.
That finished he ran back into the kitchen, knelt at the sink and pulled out a gallon can of flammable substance. He nearly tripped in his rush to get back into the living room.
He poured the liquid onto the piles in every room covering as much as possible. Then onto the beds, dressers, carpet, drapes, sofa and chairs, until the can was finally empty. He paused a few seconds in front of the grandfather clock a few seconds, then hurried into the kitchen turning on all the burners of the stove along with the oven.
He fought his way to their bedroom where the small burnt candle set on the nightstand next to the bed. He took it hurrying back into the living room and placed it in the centre of the pile where it was heaviest with fuel, clumsily lighting its tiny wick.
For a moment he stood hypnotized as the dancing flame began its final performance for the cursed couple. Crying out he gazed upon what was left of the life in which he was so enveloped at one time. His heart broke, shattering like the finest of crystals. Tears ran down his face seeming impossible to control. He cursed the heavens above, the wretched hells below. In agony he cried out. An agony only he would know. His face was red.
Death mocked, laughing at his pain. The voice of evil shouted out in celebration, its demons cavorting jubilee. Death's chill swept through him again and again having no remorse. Love had its echo above the mockery. It was its memory tearing at him most, as though Guy's soul had reached out and touched his. In his mind he knew Guy was dead. It was his heart that could not be convinced.
"You bastard! You bastard!" he cursed, staggering his way to the front door bumping into walls.
He felt faint when he stepped out of the apartment into the hallway. His head spun, making him stumble and almost fell down the stairway in his rush to get out. Finally he stormed out of the front door onto the sidewalk. It was done.
Leaning against the building, his tormented insides released themselves over and over onto the sidewalk. After a moment to regroup he headed north on Logan, freaking out like on a bad acid trip that wouldn't end. Faster and faster he walked until he was finally at a full run. His feet and legs burned, cramping up on him. Still he ran on damning life for the hell it had tossed him into so unmercifully.
Fifteen minutes later he reached the Capitol Building grounds where he rested against a tree. His chest throbbed. Sweat ran down his face and neck. His T-shirt was wet. His throat was dry. He vomited some more. He lay face up on the grass looking at the stars. His body found peace. It was done. What remained was his final task. The task he now lived for.
A half hour went by. Sirens screamed. Revolving red and blue lights filled the night. Fire trucks and squad cars tore down Grant Street southbound. Instinctively he knew their destination. In the distance the sirens faded and came to a halt when they approached the scene.
What few spectators were to be found looked about stricken with fear. In this city on edge sirens could have meant only one thing. But the fearful were wrong.
"Let this be a message that I am coming for you, you son of a bitch," Tony said to the skyline as he looked over at the fiery red lighting up the night.