City Knight 04 - Knights Out (CMS) (MM) (5 page)

“Yeah, well, aren’t we all?”

Marcus smiled, a weary and understanding gesture. “Well, the one little secret they didn’t tell him was that I wasn’t quite dead. So when he took the kids, moved here and started fresh, the last thing he thought he’d see was me.”

Ben leaned over and kissed him, a chaste, gentle meeting of lips. “So now he knows everything? And is he okay with you being gay?
And us being together?” In the back of his mind, he remembered the light, the joy in Marcus’s eyes when he was with his brother and especially those kids. If he had to, he’d bow out gracefully and let Marcus have them. He’d lived through heartbreak before, he could again.

“It really doesn’t matter, but he liked you. And the kids loved you evidently. Turns out my baby brother, um, swings both ways. He hid it in the military and isn’t out at the precinct, but one of the bones of contention with our parents was when he
outed himself to them because he was so pissed at them. I’m surprised they didn’t spill it all then, but I imagine their brains were blown.”

Ben thought his own brain would melt a little at that. He opened his mouth to say something, and his cell rang. He debated, picked it up
, and saw it was Wick. Frowning, he flicked it on and hit speaker. “Hello? Wick?”

“Hey
, baby. Whatcha wearin’?”

Ben opened his mouth to answer, but Marcus beat him to it.
“A smile and my load. What do you want?”

His voice went all low and sultry.
“To be the creamy center in your little cookie sandwich. Whadayasay, Marc? There room for one more in that big ass bed of yours?”

Snickering, Ben grinned at the feral look on Marcus’s face.
“Sure, Wickie-poo. If you can push Ned out of it long enough.”

There was dead silence. “So that’s how it’s
gonna be. Ben, honey, I have some news for you.”

Chapter 6

They stood together beside the cold drawer, waiting for the lab tech to pull it open and show Benjamin the remains. Marcus wouldn’t let him go to the morgue by himself that time of night, and even though Wick stood a few steps behind, just…no.

Marcus nodded, and the drawer slid open on a sigh. It was nothing like was shown on television, and even t
hough Marcus knew it and was prepared, his Benjamin wasn’t. He reached out and caught him just in time. The concrete floors were hard, and it would have hurt, although he knew Benjamin wouldn’t have felt it. The face was bruised and swollen, and the pale shoulders showed burns and cuts. It wasn’t the worst thing Marcus had ever seen—his years on the streets had hardened him to the worst that men could do to each other. But to see it on such a young face never stopped the bile from rising in his throat.

“It’s him,” Benjamin said, his voice wobbling. “It’s Travis.”

Wick’s voice was low and sorrowful from behind them. “Ben, I’m so, so sorry, love. I promised to look out for him for you and he skipped out on my guy watching him before I could get him settled in. If I’d known he was in any danger at all, other than just the street, you know I would have locked him up and not let this happen.”

He watched as Benjamin reached out and laid a gentle hand against the boy’s cheek, wincing as he barely touched him. Then he turned and walked over to Wick and kissed him lightly on the lips. “I know.” Without turning back, he said, “Marcus, I’ll meet you outside. I…just need a minute alone.” He walked slowly to the door and it clicked behind him.

Looking down at the boy, he wondered who did it. And then to leave him laid out in the alleyway, the very one Benjamin worked those short months ago, naked and beaten to death…it made him nauseated. That this could happen to anyone was evil. Vile. But this kid was barely five-six and a hundred pounds. Another throwaway. And all Marcus could see was his young nephew, and niece. His little brother. The faces he just rediscovered and were so tenuously in his life, and they could be snatched away so fucking easily.

He didn’t realize he was gripping the end of the drawer so tightly he’d cut
himself until Wick wrapped his arms around him and pulled him away. Then he was turned and found himself in a hug, and he was gasping for air and holding on for dear life.


It’s okay, Marc. Get it out before you have to go be strong for Ben. He’s gonna need you. And God knows I’m not good at any of this touchy feely bullshit.” Which was a lie, but since he appreciated his old friend so much, he wouldn’t call him on it. Not tonight. Tonight, he’d take comfort without question or complaint and let his first lover believe all the bad things he chose about himself. Another night, he’d pour the tequila and get drunk and then they could rip the bandages off the old lies, but for now, he’d let Wick put him together so he could do the same for the man he loved.

When the worst of it passed, he laid a kiss against Wick’s neck, ignoring the shudder that made him smile and regain a little of his own bravo, and whispered a quick
thanks
and
love you
, and heard the
yeah, yeah
back, all the while never letting each other go. When he did straighten to leave, Wick stopped him with a hand on his arm. “There was something left on his body. It was a page from a bible, Leviticus 18. The part about not lying with a man like a woman. And a key. Babe, it looks like a regulation handcuff key.”

Marcus could only shake his head.
Sick fucker. Like that gave him an excuse to do that to this boy. “I don’t know what it all means, Wick.”

“Me either, but I have a really bad feeling about it. Go
home, take care of your man. Call me if you need me.”

Just before he got to the door, Marcus turned.
“Any word on Nick? I know it’s not really your job, but anything you might have heard about his disappearance?”

His eyes tired, Wick shook his head.
“Nothing. But something tells me we’ll know something soon. Bad things come in threes, you know?”

“Come to dinner tomorrow, will you? I have some good news to share, and you of all people will probably get a kick out of it.”

“Do I have to dress?” Wick grinned.

“No shoes, no shorts, no service.”

“Damn. I just want to see the look on Bennie-boy’s face when I show up at your door buck nekkid.”

“You show that thing to my Benjamin, you
will
be going back home without it,” Marcus growled, only half kidding.

“Spoilsport.”

“Hey, Wick?” Marcus smiled.

“Yeah?”

“I love you.”

Marcus saw the tips of his ears redden. “Shut the fuck up and go get Honey Bear before I do.”

“Good night. And thanks.”

“Don’t thank me. I failed him.” Wick’s shoulders were slumped.

“No, you didn’t. Even the mighty Wicked Q. Templeton can’t win them all.”

Wick’s jaw dropped. “No. You do not know my middle name.”

Marcus gave him and evil grin. “You aren’t the only one with mad skills.”

“If you tell anyone, I will kill you.”

“Goodnight, Wick.”

Marcus closed the door and made his way to the elevator to take them back up to the ground floor. The morgue was cold and lonely, and his steps echoed through the lonely halls. There, sitting on the small metal bench next to the elevator, was Benjamin. He looked lost, like a part of him was missing. He stared off into nowhere, and only shifted when Marcus sat beside him
and leaned against him. “Let’s go home.”

Benjamin nodded tiredly and rose when Marcus stood and hit the call button. “Marcus?”

“Yes, love?”

“That kid never hurt anyone. I’d lay my life on it. Why?”

Marcus shook his head. “Why? Because he could. Because different is something to hate. Because he’s sick and hateful and evil and goddammit, Benjamin, do you see now why I go so crazy about you being out on the streets? When that could have happened to you? And I think about that asshole that night, trying to pull you into his car and if I hadn’t been there? It could have been
you
on that slab.
You
beaten to death.
You
with nobody to care.
You
…”

“But it wasn’t.” Benjamin grabbed his hand and threaded their
fingers together. “I have you. But poor Travis, he didn’t have anyone. Marcus, if his parent’s won’t take his body, I’m going to bury him myself.”

“I think that’s beautiful, baby.”

“I’d like to think if something had happened to me that night, you might have done the same for me.” Benjamin brought his hand to his mouth and kissed his knuckles.

His throat was clenched shut, and he couldn’t say the words. Instead, Marcus rubbed their hands against Benjamin’s cheek and hoped he knew. That he’
d die for him.

*

Ben wasn’t sure he was up to hosting a huge dinner thing, so he called out for Chinese after calling Frankie to find out what the kids liked. He wasn’t sure how it would work, having Marcus’s brother and his kids meeting Wick. It could be a barrel of monkeys, a boatload of fun, or, he guessed, he could unlock Marcus’s gun safe and shoot the mouthy bastard. What possessed Marcus to invite Wick over he’d never know.

Damned if he and Marcus weren’t going to sit down and talk about
that
relationship. And soon.

He stood at the dining room table, making sure he had everything they might need. Marcus was still in the shower when the buzzer rang. He’d already been downstairs and filled Charlie, the building attendant, in on the night’s activities. Someone else had reserved the rooftop garden or he’d have had the dinner up there. That way, he could have shoved Wick off the edge of the building if he misbehaved in front of the children. But…maybe next time, he thought.

Making his way to the door, he was happy to see it was Frankie and the kids. He was even more surprised when little Marcus shouted
Uncle Ben
and grabbed him by leg, and Amanda gave him a shy smile and reached up to be held. “Looks like you have a fan club there, Benjamin.” Frankie stuck his hand out, and Ben shifted Amanda onto his left hip and stepped back, a little stiff legged with Marcus clinging to his left leg, and shook hands.

“It’s good to see you guys again. But I better warn you about something. Marcus is a little—“

“Marcus is a little what, love?” Ben turned and had to take in a steadying breath. Marcus stood there, hair still damp and finger combed in an APD tee shirt and jeans and barefooted. He had to stop and think of ugly things so his cock would calm down, and then he looked up into Frankie’s matching grin, and had to close his eyes.

“Yeah, Benjamin, my brother is a little what?

He heard the growl and sighed. “Jealous. He thinks he’s the only one who can call me Benjamin, so unless you want him growly like a bear, please call me Ben.”

“Benjamin it is then.”

“Does that go for me too, honey?” Oh, yeah. Perfect timing. Of course Wick would pick that moment to arrive.

“Wick,” Marcus snapped. “Don’t start with me.”

At the silence, Ben opened his eyes to see Wick staring back and forth between Marcus and Frankie. This was gonna be fun. “Oh, Wick. Meet Frankie Prater. Marcus’s brother. And this is Marcus and Amanda. Feel free to shut your mouth before bugs fly in.”

“Yeah,” little Marcus piped in, looking up at Wick. “You look silly standing there with your mouth open. Are you a special kid like my friend Danny? We aren’t allowed to say retarded, because it hurts his feelings and isn’t nice, and I like him. Are you special too?”

Wick’s jaw snapped shut and he stared hard at Ben. “Not. One. Word. You either, Marcus, or so help me God, you will never get cell service or an internet signal again. And no, little man,” he said to Marcus, “I’m not special. Although I could be. Hello there, big guy. So what the hell’s in the water where you and Marcus are from? Cause if I had a brother like that—“

“And this is why we don’t let him out of the house without a keeper. Wick. Kids present. Gun safe in the other room and I know the combination.
Now, Marcus, big man, how about you take your brother and this…special guy in and grab a beer. I’ll watch out for the delivery boy.”

They made their way in, and Ben took the kids into the kitchen to grab some juice. He’d already bought
sippy cups at Frankie’s suggestion, and juice, and he had them set up and ready just as the door buzzed again. This time, he had one kid grabbing at each leg as he answered the door and led the guy inside. After checking the order and paying, he peeled the kids off and let the man back out, then called for everyone to come to the dining room.

After saying grace, at little Marcus’s insistence and Ben’s amusement (Marcus
had demanded Wick sit by him and showed him how to hold his hands just right and bow his head, while Ben took out his camera and snapped a quick picture and texted it to Jeremiah), the crowd dug in. The three other men had started talking shop—it seemed Ben was doomed to be around law enforcement for the rest of his days—and Ben tuned in and out.

Until he heard something that rang a bell, and not a good one.

“Can you say that again, Frankie? You found what?” Ben tried to keep the strain out of his voice, but Marcus looked concerned.

Glancing at the kids, who were talking to each other and nibbling at eggrolls and lo
mein, Frankie shrugged and turned to Ben. “Sure. Like I was saying, we found a burned out 68 VW van, one of those Scooby Doo-mobiles, you know? John Doe was handcuffed to the steering wheel, no ID, nothing to identify the van. Plates were missing, and we’re trying to run the VIN, but parts of it are missing. The strange thing about it was—“

“There was a light strip down the passenger side in the back over a bed
frame, and a metal lock box with some cash, a picture in a metal frame, and a locket.” Ben felt himself beginning to get sick, and he dropped his fork and wiped his mouth with his napkin.

Frankie looked at him strangely. “The money and picture were burned; the lock box wasn’t fireproof. But yeah, the locket was there.”

“Babe?” Ben felt Marcus’s strong grip on his hand.

Fighting the nausea that threatened to make him lose his dinner, and not wanting to scare the kids, he took a long drink of his beer before turning back to Frankie. “My friend Nick has been missing for a couple of months now. I’ve been looking for him, but nobody really filed a missing persons report, I guess. That’s his van.”

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