|Primary Characters:||Tanner, Boyd|
|Warning:||m/m sex , non-con sex, violence, some strong language|
|Description:||Boyd believes Tanner has a drinking problem, and wants to show his support. The visit turns into a nightmare.|
D I Boyd turned off the ignition and looked up towards his boss’ window. The attractive flat was just below the roof. Boyd could see that the light was on, so it was a fair bet that Ross Tanner would be at home. He might be at home, but the question was, would he be in a mood to entertain a guest? Or rather to be entertained by one. Boyd had planned on showing up unannounced, bringing a pizza, some beers and his loyalty.
Ever since he’d discovered the reason for Tanner’s erratic behaviour, Boyd had been eager to show his support. He didn’t get much gratitude for his troubles, but that only served to make him respect his new boss all the more. A strong leader was what their team needed. The unit needed some success stories, if they wanted to dispel some of the bad publicity they had suffered lately.
But what if Tanner fell off the wagon again? Boyd’s duty as a police officer was clear. The rules clearly stated that he was obligated to report the transgression to a superior. Having informed Tanner of his discovery, Boyd had found to his astonishment, that he didn’t want to turn Tanner in. After the unpromising start to their working relationship, Boyd had begun to respect and admire his boss.
Whatever demons had driven Tanner to seek consolation in the bottle, it was clear that he was still an excellent officer. His earlier work had been flawless, and his intuition seemed to be unmarred by his habit. Losing a man like that was something the unit could ill afford, especially at present.
But would Tanner view the unexpected visit as an attempt to check up on him? If he did, Boyd knew he might as well have saved himself the trouble. No one could be as stubborn as Tanner. Even before coming to work for the man, Boyd had heard stories about his pig-headedness. Until he got to know his boss, such intractability had seemed like a nuisance to Boyd. Now, he wasn’t so sure. Despite Tanner’s lack of social skills, he was a brilliant cop.
By now, Boyd had spent about fifteen minutes sitting in his car, debating with himself the wisdom of attempting to offer his support. Tanner was fully capable of either acting so rudely, there would be no point in staying, or – at least Boyd suspected as much – he might throw his unwelcome guest out.
Still, it was worth a try, and if he didn’t get out of the car now, he might as well not have come at all. The pizza would be cold and the beer lukewarm. It was now or never. Taking a deep breath to steady his resolve, Boyd opened the door and stepped out onto the pavement. Stretching to release the strain on his back from sitting hunched over the steering wheel for so long, he then reached into the other seat and brought the paper bag containing the refreshments. While he walked up to the front door, he wondered if Tanner would object to the non-alcoholic beers.
Boyd pressed the buzzer and waited for Tanner’s reply. When he heard the crackle in the speaker, he straightened up to face the surveillance camera. He could guess at Tanner’s expression right now. But he couldn’t let a little adversity deter him. Such a brilliant career couldn’t be allowed to go to waste.
“Yeah? Oh, it’s you. Any crisis at work?”
Boyd forced himself to ignore the unspoken question: Then what are you doing here?
It seemed Tanner was hoping he’d change his mind and go away, because there was a drawn out pause before the next words were spoken.
“Alright. Come on up.”
At least he was past the first obstacle. He tried not to feel offended by the obvious lack of cordiality in the invitation. Tanner sounded the way Boyd imagined he would after his dentist had announced that he needed to have a root filling. But he had known all along that it wouldn’t be easy, offering his friendship to this stubborn, uncooperative man.
When he got to the top of the stairs, Tanner was holding the door open, staring at him with an odd, vague look in his eyes. Boyd prepared to offer his explanation of the spur-of-the-moment visit. Clearly, Tanner was wondering what had brought his colleague to his place.
“Uh – I was in the neighbourhood and I thought I’d drop by.”
It seemed to Boyd that Tanner was staring rather pointedly at the paper bag he was clutching in his arms as some sort of encouragement. For someone who just happened to be in the neighbourhood, he did seem to come prepared. As that thought occurred to Boyd, he felt his face heat up, just like in school, when he’d been caught out at some prank.
“Actually, I thought maybe you’d be hungry. So I brought this.”
He held up the paper bag for Tanner’s inspection. The look on Tanner’s face was hard to read. Then the stern face was split by a crooked smile. Boyd wasn’t quite sure if Tanner wasn’t enjoying some private joke at his expense. Even if he was, it was a relief not to be thrown out. That would have made him feel even more stupid.
“Yeah, I’m a bit hungry, actually. Sit down. I’ll bring -“
“No need. It’s all in here, if you don’t mind drinking from a plastic cup.”
“I don’t mind. Alright.”
They sat down at the low table in the living room. The leather sofa was a bit worn, but quite comfortable. In the middle there was a depression that made it a bit difficult to stay as far apart as would be comfortable. But apparently, the pizza and the beers appeared to have been the right choice. Tanner happily finished his share of the pizza and half of the beers. He didn’t make any comment on the alcohol content or lack of.
When he’d finished, he went to get a bottle of scotch. As usual, Boyd couldn’t hide a frown of disapproval and pointedly turned down the offer.
With an amused smile, Tanner went ahead and poured himself a generous dose of the scotch. After drinking all that, he gave Boyd one of those grins, as if he was enjoying another little private joke at his guest’s expense.
“You’re sure you won’t have just a little?”
He held out the bottle, as if mocking his guest and colleague. Then he laughed, as if to rob the question of any offense.
Boyd merely shook his head. He wasn’t the one with the drinking problem, but he thought it would be setting a bad example if he openly disapproved of drinking, yet accepted the offer of alcohol.
So Tanner drank some more, wondering as he did so, why Boyd had really come over. And seeing that he had, why didn’t he just go home, now that they’d had dinner? Would the tiresome spy have some unpleasant news to share, or some awkward questions?
Maybe he should just get it out of the way and ask. Then maybe he’d be allowed to spend the rest of the evening in peace, trying to come to terms with his loss, and hoping that he wouldn’t experience any new, unsettling symptoms of his condition.
“Right. So why did you really come here? To check up on me?”
Boyd coughed and felt his face grow hot again. That was a little too close to the truth. But he didn’t mean any offense. He was just looking out for a colleague.
“Listen, Tanner, I’m not your enemy. I can’t stand by and watch you ruin your life.”
“Oh? Who made you my mother?”
This wasn’t going well at all. Maybe he should just pack it in and get going. Obviously, his show of good will wasn’t succeeding.
Boyd got up to leave, but to his surprise, Tanner made a gesture as if he wanted to hold him back.
“Wait. Sorry. I guess you didn’t come here to spy on me. Sit down, have another beer.”
When he noticed that the beers were finished, he got up a little clumsily, apparently with the intention of fetching some replacement for the empty bottles.
The unsteady gait gave Boyd the impression Tanner had already been drinking before his arrival. But from what he could remember, his boss hadn’t smelled of alcohol when he opened the door. Also, though his eyes remained a bit unfocused, his speech hadn’t seemed at all slurred.
What was this? Was he on drugs – or – maybe Boyd had been mistaken about the reason for Tanner’s uncharacteristic behaviour? Was Tanner ill, not drunk? Boyd didn’t know how to pose that question, so he just got up to offer his help.
“Hey, I’ll go. What were you going to get?”
An angry glare from Tanner stopped Boyd in his tracks. Wrong again, apparently. It really was time to go, but for a moment, it really had seemed as if he was getting through to his moody boss. So, though he really wanted to go, before he made even more of a fool of himself, Boyd remained seated on the sofa, wondering if he’d ever learn what was behind Tanner’s odd behavior. He was willing to bet Elvis knew what it was, but Elvis would never tell. The two men went back a long time, and that kind of friendship was hard to break into.
Tanner returned, bringing a bottle of Coke. Great. Now Boyd was feeling like he was the one with a problem. But it seemed no joke had been intended this time. His boss even smiled apologetically.
“Sam’s. If you don’t mind drinking that poison -“
“It’s alright. Anyway, I’m not staying, I just came by to have a bit of a chat. And some beers and pizza.”
“Right. Cheers, mate. I guess I’m not always getting any real food these days.”
Was Tanner actually trying to make amends for his earlier behaviour and trying to make some social concessions?
Now it was Boyd’s turn to feel uneasy. He hadn’t really expected Tanner to appreciate his visit. What he should do now was take advantage of the friendlier atmosphere and try some more persuasion about drying out. For some reason, though, Boyd couldn’t find the words to begin. Something about this visit was making him feel slightly uneasy. He had a feeling that he didn’t know what he was dealing with. And there was something else.
Tanner was staring at him in a slightly unsettling way, as if speculatively. Groaning inwardly, Boyd wondered if he’d left himself open for some pressure from above. What if he were to have the tables turned on him, and Tanner would ask him to spy on his colleagues?
To cover his unease, Boyd drained the glass of Coke. Filthy stuff. He preferred cider any day over that dark crap. But he didn’t feel in a position to complain. Tanner was right. He was the one who had insisted on showing up unannounced. That hardly gave you the right to turn your nose up at anything your host offered you.
Tanner filled another glass with the scotch. Amazing how much he could take before he began to show signs of intoxication. Despite himself, Boyd was impressed. His dad could never drink that much without becoming increasingly incoherent.
Mockingly, Tanner raised his glass as if in a silent toast to his guest. Alright, the man was his boss. He was entitled to his little joke.
Boyd could only nod lamely as if he accepted the toast in the spirit it was intended. And he did. Still, he didn’t really feel as if his visit had been a success.
By now, Tanner did seem a bit more – deliberate in his movements. As if he had to concentrate harder to manage what he shouldn’t have been able to do without even thinking. Setting down the glass on the table. Leaning back to get more comfortable on the sofa. His right leg brushed Boyd’s, but he made no apology. Boyd shifted his weight uneasily, trying to move away, without being too obvious about it.
Suddenly, Tanner leaned over, as if he was about to bestow some drunken confidence on his colleague. Boyd braced himself for the awkward moment. He’d been there before. Some friend or colleague felt the need to unburden himself. You had to appear understanding, yet be prepared to feign ignorance of the incident come Monday morning.
But this time was different from all the others, Boyd soon came to realize that. Tanner leaned over him, pressing into him in a disturbing way. This went way beyond any ordinary drunken confidence. Tanner’s hands began to move indiscreetly over Boyd’s thighs and – Now he’d really gone too far. Boyd stopped worrying about the fact that this was his boss. There were some things a man couldn’t be expected to take.
“Hold it. I’m getting out of here now. Let’s pretend this never happened.”
Tanner pushed himself far enough off Boyd so he could fix him with a stare so feral, Boyd unwittingly shrank back.
That look – What was wrong with the man?
“What’s the matter? Scared, you little poof? Wasn’t that what you came for? Don’t back down now. Go on. Do it. That’s all you’re good for anyway, you snooping whining little poof.”
“I’m not – let me go. This was a mistake. You obviously need more help than I can give you.”
“Oh, you’ll give me what you have, or else -“
Leaving the rest of the statement hanging, Tanner lunged at Boyd again. Drunk as he was, he still wielded a brutal strength that for a moment had Boyd beaten into submission.
But he was a police officer. Not a child. He raised his hands in the air, to ward off the flailing arms, that were reaching out to grab him. This wasn’t happening. He had to be at home, asleep, the worst kind of nightmare playing out in his mind.
Tanner slammed into his colleague, pinning him down onto the sofa. He was heavier than he looked, and at this point, completely beyond reasoning with. Boyd wondered what he’d done to set him off. Couldn’t two police officers have a few beers together without it being interpreted as some kind of come-on? He never would have figured Tanner as a – The guy had been married, for crying out loud. Had a kid.
“Suck me, slag.”
What? He had to be hallucinating, because there was no way in the world his boss would ever say something like that. It sounded like something out of a cop series of the simplest kind.
“NO. I’m not – That’s not why I came here. Listen to me, this isn’t you. Whatever you’ve been taking, is it really worth it? Please -“
By now he was babbling , too frightened to use his wits. And Tanner kept pressing him down into the worn leather of the sofa. For a moment he was afraid – But what happened was Tanner took his hand and placed it on his crotch. No. No. No. No. Things like this simply didn’t happen.
Fumbling with his right hand, Tanner managed to unzip his pants and – He held on harder to Boyd’s hand. The dirty little poof would get what he’d come for.
Still struggling to break free of the weight pinning him down, Boyd thrashed about with his arms and legs. His wriggling only seemed to excite Tanner further. An uncanny sound issued from Tanner’s mouth. It wasn’t quite a laugh and it was hard to interpret, mixed as it was with his ragged breath.
“Just do it, or I’ll bash your bloody face in, slag.”
To emphasize his words, Tanner’s hand descended on Boyd’s face, once, twice. He felt something warm and wet splash down his chin, but at that moment he didn’t feel any pain. The fear kept him from feeling anything much.
Suddenly, something changed. Tanner seemed to pause as if to consider what he was doing. The face lost some of the mindless anger.
“I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to hurt you.”
The blows ceased, but the weight didn’t shift more than a little. To Boyd’s horror he could still feel Tanner grinding his hips into him, rubbing against him.
Now Tanner stopped again to look into Boyd’s face, a look of pleading in his eyes.
It was a while before Boyd’s stunned brain managed to take in what had just happened. He was being asked to – This was just as impossible, but on the other hand – How could he refuse that pleading in Tanner’s voice? He’d never done anything like this before.
Except that once behind Clare Wittingham’s father’s gardening shed. But Clare had been a girl and neither had tried to force the other into anything. Just a mutual journey of sexual discovery.
What finally tipped the scales was that he saw tears fill Tanner’s eyes. He couldn’t see too clearly, because his own were clouded too, not with self-pity, but with real pain. If Tanner hadn’t broken his nose, he was very lucky indeed.
Without a word, Boyd closed the distance between his hand and Tanner’s flesh. Looking away, he proceeded to comply with the request. His own breath came raggedly too, from a different reason altogether. By now the pain was beginning to kick in, and he had to bite his lip not to cry out from the pain.
Please, let it not be broken. He didn’t know who he was asking, but eventually the other ordeal came to a close. Snatching his hand back in revulsion, Boyd tried to move out from under Tanner’s heavy, unmoving body. After some shifting about, he was successful. His boss did nothing to hold him back.
Blindly running away from the flat, Boyd had no memory of how he came to find himself outside his car. He was kicking viciously at the wheels, as if they were somehow responsible for the chaos in his mind.
Staring at his own hand as if it didn’t belong to him, Boyd struggled to come to terms with what had just occurred. But his mind worked sluggishly as if he too had been drinking nearly half a bottle of scotch. As he fought down the impulse to rub his hand against the rough surface of the wall behind him until it bled if it would only feel clean again, he recalled his days of working for the Sex Crimes division.
So this was how those kids or women felt. He’d never truly known what was going on in their heads as he tried to wheedle the evidence out of them, so he could secure a conviction. It was one thing reading about it in his text books, it was quite another to experience the sensation first hand.
He had tried to be gentle and patient as he interviewed the victims, but he had always been so eager to nail the sick bastard who had done it to them, he’d never realized just how traumatic the interview must have been.
It was a long time until he finally was able to make himself get into the car and return home. He didn’t think he would have been able to if a uniformed colleague hadn’t come walking by, eyeing him suspiciously.
“Good evening, sir. Anything wrong?”
Boyd coughed to clear his throat. It wouldn’t do to draw attention to himself like this. If he didn’t think quickly, he was afraid he would lose it and the emotions he could barely keep in check would spill out. Should that happen, he’d be finished as a police officer. Who would work with him again after something like this became public knowledge?
“No, officer. Everything’s fine. Just getting ready to drive back home.”
“Right. Getting a bit late, innit?”
“Certainly is. Good evening.”
The constable nodded and continued on his beat. Almost shaking with relief at his lucky escape, Boyd was amazed that at a time like this, he could recall in vivid detail how it had used to feel to walk the graveyard shift. Patrolling his beat, rain or shine, and being London, it almost invariably was rainy not to mention foggy, at any time, night or day.
He never knew how he managed to get back home, or what he did once he got there. All he knew was that he woke up late the next morning. He’d overslept. With a feeling of horror he realized that he was going to be late for work. That never happened to him. Never. Not since school.
He knew what was being said about him behind his back. A climber. Someone who was fishing for a promotion, despite his seeming disadvantages, in the form of his sex and his race. These days, a member of a minority group stood a better chance at advancement. They would also say that he was a cold fish, a guy they didn’t really want to go out for a drink with.
He winced at the thought of their looks as they would stare at him, walking in too late for the gov’s daily dispensing of orders.
In the bathroom he froze as he looked into the mirror. There was no way he could go in to work today. His face looked like he’d been used as a punching bag by a boxer. Gingerly, he felt his nose. No, not broken, thank goodness, but it was red and swollen, and his lips had split, sending ripples of pain shooting through him if he tried to move them.
But he knew he wasn’t badly injured. This was nothing. He’d had far worse on the job and in the rugby or soccer field at school. What was numbing him wasn’t the pain or the minor injuries, it was the trauma of what had happened last night.
His friendly overture had been misconstrued. Fair enough. It seemed to him that Tanner had a dirty mind, but that didn’t bother him as much it might have before the rest of the evening had unfolded. But did that really give his boss the right to – take advantage of him? Bullying him into submission with his fists.
No. There was a word for what had gone on last night, but Boyd couldn’t use it, even inside his mind. And there was no way he was ever going to tell anyone about it. He’d rather die. All that was left to him was forcing the memory down. One day, he’d manage to forget. At least he hoped so. Last night had never happened.
With that resolution to strengthen him, Boyd hurriedly got ready for work. This couldn’t be allowed to get in the way of his career.
Sneaking into their temporary headquarters, Boyd unconsciously bent over, tried to shrink so he wouldn’t attract more attention than necessary, but his odd posture was in fact having the opposite effect. Two of his colleagues gave him a strange look, as he disappeared into the briefing room. He braced himself for the usual scathing comment from Tanner, but he heard nothing. The room was as quiet as if they were all waiting for him to make some kind of contribution. Tanner didn’t look at him.
Realizing that the condition of his face might require an explanation, Boyd tried to think of one that wouldn’t sound too unlikely. Walked into a door? Slipped in the bathroom? Ridiculous. As if they hadn’t heard all those tired old excuses many times before. Usually from women with abusive spouses, but terrifyingly often from children.
His mind was a blank and he decided to leave the explanations for later. Tanner would have already given his orders, handed out the assignments for the day. Someone would fill him in, he assumed. Maybe the new officer. But it was Elvis who walked over, giving him a concerned look.
“Are you sure you should be at work with a face looking like that? What happened to you?”
“Oh. I -“
Faltering, Boyd gave up the attempt, to stare beseechingly at Elvis. Don’t ask. It seemed the message got through. Coughing delicately, Elvis changed the subject.
“Right. The gov’s sent us to interview some more of those smalltime gangsters.”
“Oh. Right. Coming. You did mean you and me?”
“Yes, if you’re up to it. I could cover this on my own. Tell me to mind my own business if you like, but shouldn’t you go and have that seen to? Looks serious.”
The word came out more sharply than he’d intended. Would any of the others have heard? No, they were all busy at whatever work they had been assigned for the day. Elvis was still looking at him, a sympathetic look in his eyes. No contempt there. Not as there would have been if he’d known.
“I mean, it’s not as bad as it looks. I’ll be alright. Let’s go.”
In the days that followed, Boyd knew that his colleagues were whispering about him, wondering what he’d been up to. But no one could suspect anything. He was still safe. Let them speculate. Tanner hadn’t acknowledged Boyd’s presence even once in the past week. Boyd might as well not have existed at all, as far as his boss was concerned.
He could understand that Tanner would be embarrassed about the incident. In so far as he could remember much of it. Surely he’d have been well under the influence of the alcohol and – this new thought hadn’t occurred to Boyd until now – possibly some other drug, or medication.
If that were the case, that might explain Tanner’s uncharacteristic behaviour. Because it had to be, or else Tanner was an expert at covering his tracks. Before being sent to work with him, Boyd had done his homework. How pleased he’d been to work with the great man. He had intended to learn all there was to learn and use that knowledge to promote his own career.
It never crossed his mind that he was holding Tanner’s career in the palm of his hand. Without revealing anything of what had happened between them, he could do his duty and report Tanner’s alcoholism to their superiors. Except for the moment, Boyd was too caught up in the task of getting through each day without losing his footing. That demanded all his energy.
Despite everything, he couldn’t bring himself to resent Tanner. He had admired him for too long from afar. The man’s record was spotless. Except for that tendency of running off on his own whenever he found a lead, Tanner’s powers of deductions were impressive to say the least.
Whatever was going on in Tanner’s mind, Boyd told himself that it had to be something of immense import. So he still went on admiring the man, he still felt concerned for his well-being.
If anyone in the past had suggested to him that something like this might happen to him, he wouldn’t have believed them. But if he’d even considered the possibility he would have imagined he’d be feeling intense, burning consuming anger towards the aggressor. That turned out not to be the case. Not that he allowed his mind to dwell on the incident. Keeping busy with work was what got him through the days. The nights were tougher, but he got through them with the help of a prescription from his doctor.
During the days, he couldn’t help but notice how Tanner appeared to be changing. His behaviour became more erratic, and whenever someone made the mistake of inquiring about his plans, the poor sod had his or her head bitten off. Something definitely wasn’t right.
This would be the time to report the gov’s behaviour to the proper authority. But Boyd again found himself moved by sympathy. Tanner had always been his role model, ever since he’d been promoted out of uniform. The man was something of a legend despite his relatively young age.
Knowing that he was tempting fate, Boyd once again found himself outside Tanner’s place. This time, he didn’t bring any offerings of food and drink. He would just ask if everything was alright, then he’d go back home.
“What is it now?”
The tone of voice sounded grudging. There was no welcome for him here, and in a way that was a relief. But he’d come this far so he might as well see his mission through to the end, futile as it might seem.
He didn’t know what it was that kept him coming back to this place. Possibly it was a wish to face the demon of their last encounter and somehow exorcise it. To prove to himself, if not to Tanner that he wasn’t afraid. He wasn’t a weakling and definitely not a poof come for more of the same treatment as last time. Besides, he wouldn’t be a poof as much as an S&M freak if he’d enjoyed that experience.
“It’s me, gov. Everything alright?”
“Why wouldn’t it be? Come on up, now that you’re here.”
Boyd’s plans hadn’t stretched as far as actually entering Tanner’s flat. Being alone again with his boss did scare him, it was no use denying that. What if the same brutal monster reappeared? This wasn’t a good idea.
“I don’t know. It’s late, I should get back home. Just thought I’d -“
“Check up on me? Be my guest. Why don’t you look through the cupboards and linen closets? You never know what I might be hiding in them. Oh, come on up. I won’t bite. There are a few things I need to go through with you for tomorrow.”
They had uncovered a lead which might or might not result in a breakthrough. What Tanner had said sounded reasonable. But Boyd still hesitated. That other night was too vivid in his mind, despite his best efforts at holding the memories at bay.
Shuffling his feet, Boyd ascended the stairs, trying to think of some excuse not to enter the flat. If the gov really only wanted to give him a few last minute hints about tomorrow’s operation, surely he could do it standing in the doorway? There was no need to go inside, was there?
Upstairs, Boyd found the door still closed. He was filled with relief. If Tanner had changed his mind or even forgotten about what he intended to say – Maybe there had been a phone call, even though Boyd hadn’t heard anything.
“Walk right in. It’s not locked.”
Tanner’s voice came faintly through the closed door. No respite.
Boyd rested his head against the surface of the door for a moment while he collected himself. This was exactly the sort of weakness he couldn’t afford to show. Not to anyone.
The door swung open as if of its own accord. Reluctantly, Boyd stepped inside. Why did he bother? There was no sign of appreciation from his boss, no hint that his concern was welcome. He didn’t need this. When Tanner decided to show himself, he would tell him so, to his face.
“Sit down. I’ll be right with you.”
That proved to be the case. Before Boyd had managed to make up his mind about sitting down on that sofa again, he saw his boss coming through the door from what he assumed to be the bathroom. Tanner’s hair was wet, and he was only wearing a towel wrapped around his waist.
Embarrassed, Boyd turned away. This was getting far too intimate. Even without the last visit still haunting his mind, this would have made him uncomfortable.
The voice was commanding and didn’t leave Boyd any room for refusal. He sunk down on the sofa, trying to stay as close to the side as he could. If Tanner was going to – And it seemed his suspicions were confirmed.
Still rubbing his hair with another towel, Tanner sat down beside him. Now there wasn’t anything Boyd could do but turn and face his boss again.
“Right. Look at that folder on the table. I got this after most of you had left. Read it. Or at least skim through it. It can’t leave this room.”
Filled with relief, Boyd grabbed the folder and scanned the pages within. Interesting. New information had come to light about one of the people involved in the case. Someone against which they previously hadn’t had any suspicions.
Boyd would be very much surprised if this didn’t lead to the much needed breakthrough. But he knew far too well that it was a bad idea to jump to conclusions. Never take anything for granted in this line of work. Your pre-conceived ideas could lead you astray.
When he had finished reading the material, he put down the folder on the table, getting up to leave as soon as the folder left his hand.
“Hold on, what’s the rush? Do you want a drink? I have some beers. Or some more of Sam’s sweet stuff. Take your pick.”
“No, thanks. I really need to get going. This was interesting. Just what we need, or what do you think?”
“I think you should sit down again.”
A hint of a threat had crept into Tanner’s voice.
Boyd felt a shiver go down his spine. Not again. It just couldn’t be happening again. He got up to go anyway, whatever his boss would make of his behaviour.
“I said. Sit down. Now. Didn’t you learn your lesson the last time, bloody poof?”
“Now, look here. This can’t go on. You obviously need help. Have you told your doctor about these violent outbursts?”
The determination in his voice was already wavering. He knew far too well the violence Tanner was capable of. Coming here had been a mistake, just as he’d known it would be. Cursing his own cowardice, Boyd turned to walk towards the front door. He never got that far.
Again he felt Tanner slam into him, pushing him down onto the floor this time. A searing pain shot through his hip and he lost his wind. Visions of what this madman would do to him flew through his mind. He felt hands move on down his body, settling on the waistband of his pants. No. No. No.
Desperately shifting about, Boyd managed to get on his back. That didn’t help much. Now he could feel the menacing hardness pressing into his thigh only inches from his own crotch. How could this be happening to him?
“Why else did you come back? This is what you wanted, isn’t it? And you’re going to get it.”
This time, Tanner followed up with a few hard punches to Boyd’s abdomen. The pain was making his eyes water, but he still couldn’t stop himself from fighting back. Now that he knew what was the inevitable conclusion to this madness, he would fight until he blacked out. Except that he didn’t have any room to move about. Tanner’s body pinned him down effectively. A stinging blow to his face was followed by another and another.
“Had enough, slag?”
Boyd was in no condition to reply. One of his teeth felt loose and – He kept fading in and out. His head was ringing and by now he was far too scared to continue his useless struggle.
“I said, had enough?”
Even before the words had left his mouth, he knew that his submission only served to lower Tanner’s respect of him. What was wrong with him? He’d faced down armed psychos in the line of work. Once he’d talked a suspect into letting his child hostage go unharmed.
But that was the workday Boyd, not this shivering wreck. He had let his compassion and his hero worship of this man fool him into leaving himself open for this kind of abuse. Maybe Tanner was right. Maybe he did deserve being treated like this.
“Well? What are you waiting for? Suck me.”
“What did you say?”
“No. Please, no.”
“Fine with me.”
Tanner once again began to fumble with Boyd’s pants.
An incoherent wail escaped Boyd’s lips, but it was quickly silenced by another ringing blow, to the side of the head. Perhaps he passed out, or the pain simply stunned him into silence. Whatever the reason, he was beyond protesting. Come what may, there was nothing he could do to prevent it. Why had he been stupid enough to return to this place?
He must have been out for a moment, and when he came to, he was still lying on the floor, Tanner’s weight holding him down. It was a while before he realized that what he had feared hadn’t happened. At least not yet. Tanner was still lying on top of him, still rubbing himself against him, but nothing worse seemed to be happening.
He might be going blind, and his world was changing around him too quickly, but he hadn’t lost it. This proved that he was still on top of everything. No pathetic invalid. No weakling. Look at that pansy underneath him. There was nothing this little slut wouldn’t do for him, just to avoid another blow.
Filled with contempt, Tanner wondered what he would do next. For the moment, all concerns about his everyday life had vanished. There might be no rules for him, not tonight, but there were still some things he wasn’t comfortable doing. Let Boyd worry a little longer before letting him know he was safe. Though it was tempting, Tanner didn’t think he would make Boyd suck him. He also couldn’t imagine slamming into his prey like an animal.
“Alright. You were so good the last time, I can’t believe you’re still waiting. Want some more of this?”
Tanner shoved his fist in Boyd’s face. Boyd was too far gone into shock to attempt a reply. But Tanner wouldn’t leave him alone.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, please. No more. You’ll break something.”
“That’s an idea. Maybe I should do that?”
Boyd silently awaited whatever choice Tanner would come to. He knew that there would be nothing he could do to defend himself. A broken nose, a broken jaw – Some of his ribs were already broken, but the smaller bones in his face – No, not that. Please not that.
“Just get on with it, yeah?”
And breathlessly, Boyd complied. Anything to avoid more pain. He hadn’t known he was such a coward. In school and later, he’d always felt a certain detachment, facing pain, possible injury, even death. Now he’d have done anything to stop the blows from raining on his face. Disgusted with himself, Boyd did his best to please his tormentor.
Afterwards he didn’t even remember making his way back home. If anyone noticed the state he was in, he had no idea. But somehow he must have managed to get back on his own. His body was aching but far worse was the sense of defeat.
He might not be a poofter as Tanner liked to pretend to think he was, but that didn’t make much difference. Being a weakling was even worse. And surely none of his other colleagues would have put themselves in such a situation?
What an idiot he was. This time he didn’t hesitate to call in sick. Just for once. If he hadn’t made a vow to himself over his father’s dead body never to make the same mistake the old man had, he would have sought comfort in the bottle, just like Tanner did. Or did he?
At this point, Boyd wasn’t sure about anything. What he wanted most of all was more sleep, but that wasn’t so easy. It hurt to breathe, and he felt strangely lightheaded. He hoped that was just the shock and that no serious harm was done, because again, there was no question of seeing his doctor.
Stubbornly, he decided to go in to work again the following day. If he took care, he thought he could avoid attracting attention.
This time too, he was paired up with Elvis, which in a way made things easier. Elvis could be very tactful when he wanted to, and he seemed to sense that Boyd didn’t want to talk. That was fine, but even the simplest tasks seemed too difficult right now.
Boyd could see that Elvis was looking at him from time to time, as if debating with himself if he should ask what was wrong. Fortunately, he must have decided that whatever it was, it was Boyd’s own business. And anyway, even if he’d been prepared to confide in anyone, it would hardly be Tanner’s old buddy.
Who else was there?
D C Holt was a good cop and an attractive woman. Under different circumstances, Boyd might have asked her to go out with him. But how could he, looking like he did? Feeling like he did? He was afraid there would be talk about him, behind his back, but he didn’t feel strong enough to deal with the situation.
So he cowered in his flat, dreading the mornings when he had to go to work. Every day, he was afraid someone would have said something, or that Tanner would ask him into his office.
None of that happened and the case continued on to its end. The night after they’d taken in old man King, Boyd hurried back to his place, relieved that the case was finally over, and at least until the next, he’d be spared having to work with Tanner.
On the other hand, the conversation he’d overheard between Elvis and Tanner did indicate that there was something far more complicated going on than drinking problem. Whatever it was had no cure. So what was it? A brain tumor?
And after King’s outburst, he knew that whatever condition Tanner was suffering from, had led to at least partial blindness. At this point, Boyd was too tired to really pay much attention. All he wanted was to sleep, and let his aching body and soul heal.
He had only managed to get as far as the living room, when the doorbell rang. Boyd turned and glanced uneasily behind him. This was totally new. He’d never in his life dreaded receiving visitors, even uninvited ones. Now he was as jumpy as an informer.
Warily, he walked back to the door and after a moment’s hesitation, he opened it a crack, telling himself not to be silly. This could be important, and after all, he still had a job to do.
When he saw who was standing outside his door, Boyd couldn’t stop himself from shrinking back in fear.
Seeing the reaction his presence caused, Tanner felt a stab of pain. How could he have done what he had to a man who had only come to show his sympathy?
After pondering his actions in solitude for a few days, he had come to the conclusion that what he’d done was unforgivable.
Unbelievable. In the time they’d been working together, Tanner had never once let on he even knew Boyd’s first name. And now this pleading voice – But Boyd had been taken in before. He’d learned to regret his trusting nature. All he could think about was how he might be able to distract Tanner enough to manage to shut the door in his face. What had happened before couldn’t be allowed to happen again. Boyd knew he couldn’t take any more of the same.
“Please – I swear I won’t lay a hand on you. I just want to talk.”
Silence greeted this request. Boyd was trying to process the intensity of Tanner’s vehemence, but somehow his brain wasn’t functioning too well. He felt empty, stupid, worthless. But Tanner didn’t make a move to force his way inside. He just stood there, looking every bit as miserable as Boyd felt. Could this be a new and changed Tanner he was facing? He’d been played for a fool before and lived to regret it.
Still, he wasn’t feeling strong enough to object to anything, so he stepped aside and let his boss inside the house. Somehow, the knowledge of Tanner’s blindness made him feel less threatened. And anyway, he was so numb inside, nothing really mattered anymore.
Tanner still didn’t attack him, or act in any way threatening. He just walked a few paces inside the flat, then stopped to look at his host.
“Jack, I – God, how do I say this – I’m so terribly sorry about the way I acted. You won’t be able to forgive me, I know, but at least hear me out. The pressure I’ve been living under for the past months – Alright, that’s no excuse. But I never meant to hurt you. I don’t know what got into me. Anyway, we won’t be working together again, so – You won’t have to put up with me any longer. Tomorrow – Never mind. Just wait and see.”
Suddenly, Boyd regained the power of speech and movement. He cleared his throat to say something, anything. As long as he took back the initiative.
“Why don’t you sit down?”
The simple question echoed in his mind, as a chilling reminder of the times Tanner had forced him to sit down, when all he wanted was to make his escape. But somehow the balance of power had changed. Boyd felt more in control. He didn’t trust Tanner, but he felt more himself than he had in the weeks since his ill-advised visit to his boss.
For a moment, it didn’t seem as if Tanner had heard him. But after a while, it was as if Boyd’s words sank in. Tanner did sit down, on the edge of the sofa, still staring beseechingly at his host.
For some reason, this made Boyd intensely angry. How dare Tanner come here asking for forgiveness? What he’d done was unforgivable. On the other hand, how could Boyd add to the man’s already insurmountable troubles by pointing that out? And after all he’d suffered at this man’s hands, Boyd was still filled with admiration for the way his boss had risen above his handicap and led the investigation to a successful conclusion, brilliantly, as usual, if a bit excentrically.
Now it seemed Tanner had gathered up enough courage to continue.
“Jack – After today, there will be changes. I hope you’ll be able to at least – No. How could you forgive me? I can’t forgive myself. Just try to understand, I’m not – The normal me isn’t that beast you met. What I’m trying to say is, I’m sorry I said those things I did to you, and I’m sorry I did what I did. Sorry isn’t good enough, I know. But I just want you to know, I never thought you were a – poof. It just made it easier for me to do – what I did. Alright, even if you had been, that doesn’t excuse what I did. I’m not – either.”
“Alright. I understand.”
Boyd couldn’t believe he was saying this. He couldn’t quite make himself accept the apology, but here he was listening to Tanner, acting as if somehow what he’d done was excusable after all. And maybe it was. Boyd couldn’t imagine what it would be like, facing the total blackness Tanner’s handicap would mean. Blind. That was a nightmare for anyone, and even more for a police officer.
Restlessy pacing around his living room, waiting for Tanner to leave, Boyd suddenly noticed tears in his guest’s eyes. What? Not again. Would he once more be faced with the pathetic pleading of a man desperate for some physical contact?
Not this time. Whatever happened, he’d never do that again. Boyd even tried to tell himself that this time, no amount of physical violence would make him cave in and comply. He knew well enough that wasn’t the case, but he still tried to boost his confidence.
Helplessly, he inched closer to Tanner, intending to offer some kind of consolation, verbally if not physically, but it seemed Tanner had had enough of this emotional rollercoaster. He got up to leave.
Suddenly, Boyd wanted to hold him back. He couldn’t let Tanner go, not while still feeling like this. As if Tanner had shown the same courtesy to Boyd when he was running away from the violence he’d encountered at the hands of a man he only had admiration for.
He was speaking to his boss’ back. Tanner was making his escape, apparently having said all he could bring himself to say. In a way, it was enough. All Boyd had ever wanted was some recognition, and after what had happened, some kind of excuse, or apology. It didn’t make him feel any better, but he had a feeling that it would. Some day.
The following day, Boyd was surprised to find that he didn’t dread the press conference as much as he’d feared he would. This was closure of a kind. After today, things would be different, like Tanner had hinted at. At the very least, Boyd intended to ask for a transfer. Anyplace would be better than this unit.
On his way in, he ran into D C Holt who flashed him a brilliant smile. Was she laughing at some hidden joke at his expense? No, she seemed genuinely pleased to see him, or at least any member of their team. They’d caught their bent cop, and brought in the bad guy. Things didn’t get much better than this in their game. If only Boyd had been able to relax and enjoy the moment. And go out for a few beers with the guys, one of which was D C Holt.
As he sat in silence, listening to Tanner’s replies to the questions from the reporters, and later, his speech of resignation, Boyd found that he still admired his boss more than anyone. Even in adversity, the man could rise above his personal problems and give his team credit, and – This was more of an apology than Boyd had ever expected – he was appointing Boyd as his successor.
It took a while for the words to sink in, and by then, Tanner had got to his feet, squeezed Boyd’s shoulder reassuringly and left. As all eyes were now on the heir-apparent, Boyd was unable to follow his first impulse and run after Tanner, but he noticed that Elvis did. Maybe that was for the best. The old mates could sort things out on their own. Boyd had a feeling he wouldn’t meet Tanner again.
After dealing with the media attention, Boyd slumped down in his chair, and as his gaze swept across to his colleagues, he noticed that again, D C Holt was smiling at him. Apparently she was truly pleased at his promotion. Though Boyd had a hard time focusing, he had a feeling that he and Holt would be working more closely together in the future.
Maybe he should make her his right-hand man – woman? Or he could place most of his trust on her and Elvis. In his opinion Finch wasn’t as fine an officer as those two. And though Elvis was far from brilliant, at least he was totally dependable, and that counted for something. There was no reason why he shouldn’t use his influence to secure another promotion, this time for Holt.
Yes, the future felt a little more promising again. Boyd was determined to push the painful memories to the back of his mind. One day, he’d be free of them, he was sure of it. At least he hoped so. Now he really would ask Holt out for drink.