“What’s your full name?”
“Felix Thompson.” The boy made a point to avoid eye contact.
The detective clicked his pen a few times. “Do you understand the trouble you’re in?”
“I can imagine,” Felix answered, detached.
Detective Chase ceased fiddling with his pen, a flash of annoyance crossing his face. “You’ve been eighteen for a week and you’ve already managed to get yourself into big-boy trouble. The maximum of these charges could put you away until it would actually be legal for you to stumble around parties drunk.”
Felix lolled his head toward Chase, leveling his eyes at him with disinterest. “Look, officer—”
“—detective. We both know you’re not going to lock me up for getting drunk and high, so who is it you’re wanting me to narc on?”
Chase crossed his arms and rocked back in his chair. “That easy, huh?”
“That easy.” Felix turned his hands up with a shrug. “I have no loyalty to any of those guys. It was just a party.”
“A house full of booze, pot, Ecstasy and minors doesn’t sound like ‘just a party’ to me.” Felix said nothing. “Who brought the drugs?”
“The weed or the X?”
Chase hadn’t decided if the kid was a smart-ass or not. He opened his note book and sighed. “Both.”
“The weed was Terrance. The X,” Felix paused, staring off for a second. “That was Mister James.”
Chase looked up. “‘Mister’ James?”
Felix shrugged a single shoulder, discomfort apparent. “He tells people to call him that.” He raked his hand through his black hair.
The detective’s steely eyes narrowed suspiciously. “He the one who invited the minors?”
Felix shrugged. Everyone has a nervous tick. Felix had a nervous shrug.
“He the one who invited you?” Chase noted how quickly Felix’s green-hazel eyes swept back toward him. And how quickly he turned them away. His slight shoulders shrugged again.
There was an unexpected twinge in the detective’s stomach as he mulled over the possibility that the lean boy across from him just might be a prostitute.
“If you need help getting out of prostitutio—”
Felix’s nostrils suddenly flared, his brow furrowing as he snapped; “Fuck you, dude. I’m not a whore.” Chase clicked his pen again. “He let me stay there,” Felix continued. “I didn’t know he was into that.”
“Didn’t stop you from participating.” The detective made notes, not looking up at the young man, who bristled.
“What was I supposed to do? Launch a twink underground railroad?”
Chase snorted. “You could have called the police.”
Felix tipped his head back. “I did.” The detective looked up suddenly. “You got an anonymous phone call, right?”
Chase glanced at the paperwork then eyed Felix with annoyance. “Why didn’t you say something before you were left to dry out in a cell all night?”
The pale boy rubbed his neck and looked away. “I didn’t want anyone to know I snitched. I don’t think Mister James would let stuff like that go.”
Chase stood up with a heavy sigh and headed for the door of the interrogation room.
Felix gulped and sat up straight. “Where are you going?”
The older man eyed him flatly. “You hungry?” Felix only nodded. “Sit tight.”
Chase pulled the door shut behind him and strode over to Officer Shaw, who was milling around the booking station. Chase slapped him roughly on the shoulder with his notepad.
“Hey, man!” Shaw’s wide, dark lips split into a grin. “You got the supplier out of the little shit yet?”
“You gave me the tipster, you dumb-ass.”
Shaw blinked. “That kid is the one who called? Shit. We stuck him in with the others all night. Did they know?”
Chase shook his head. “Seems the kid sat on it all night. He’s scared of the old guy. Made it sound like a child toucher’s summer camp. I’m going to grab him something to eat and go back in there. Now that I know I’m talking to a goddamn witness, not a suspect.”
Shaw winced and put his hands up placatingly. “Hey, man, I just made the arrest. He didn’t say shit to me. You sure you shouldn’t hand it over to Mandy?”
Mandy was the soft-touch they called in to rock children and hold the hands of trafficked women. She was the criminal investigator for sexual crimes and crimes against children. Unfortunately, as was the case now, the two often coincided.
“He’d be insulted. He’s not a kid. She walks in there and starts treating him like a victim and we’ll get nothing. Besides, she was up all night interviewing the actual victims.”
Shaw shook his head, disgust plain on his sable features. “Fucking sick, man. Goddamn pedo-faggots.”
Chase pointed his notepad at him as he backed toward the break room. “Now don’t you go insulting upstanding faggots.” He chuckled as he backed into the door, nearly knocking the coffee out of Mandy’s hand.
“Christ, Dorian!” She screeched.
He pivoted on a heel and managed to keep the door from swinging shut on them both. “Ah. Didn’t see you.”
“You never do.” Mandy muttered as she retreated back into the break room for napkins. No one mentioned how short Mandy was as much as Mandy mentioned how short Mandy was. “You get anything on the drugs yet?”
Dorian Chase peeked outside the door before pulling it closed and turning to the round brunette who was dabbing coffee off her shirt.
“Funny you should ask. The pale kid with the black hair is our caller.”
She paused and looked up, her brown eyes softening. “Oh my god.” She shoved her neat dark hair behind her ear and busied herself with snatching napkins and scooping up her coffee. “Let me get my things and I’ll be in right away.”
Chase stepped in the way of her egress, one hand extended. “Hold on. I think I should handle him.”
She stared at him agape. “Are you out of your mind? The poor kid must be terrified.”
“He’s not a kid. He just about ripped my head off when I assumed he was a hooker, he’s not going to take well to your approach.”
“Dorian! You called him a hooker?! What is wrong with you?”
Chase sighed. “I didn’t call him a hooker. I asked if he was a hooker.”
She huffed and stammered, “Well that’s so much better! I’m talking to him.” Mandy bustled passed him as he silently lamented to the ceiling.
He could at least still bring the kid something to eat.
He had been heading back to the interview room with a soda and a vending machine ham and cheese when the door opened. A flustered Mandy stepped out.
“He’s asking for you,” she said, chin thrusting out.
“Me?” For a moment it was all he could do to hide his smugness.
“He said I reminded him of his mom and he couldn’t say bad words in my company.”
Chase let out a sharp bark of laughter. She frowned and pressed the file into his chest.
“Just be careful with him.” Chase only nodded and tried to step forward, but she pressed harder, holding eye contact. “I mean it.”
He took the file and gave her a solemn salute. She stepped around him, seemingly satisfied. Chase took a deep breath and reentered the room.
“I heard you gave our Care Bear a ration of shit.”
There was a sudden shadow of shame that fell over the young man’s face. “Just didn’t seem right talking to someone so . . . ” He trailed off.
“Motherly?” Chase supplied.
“Caring.” Felix looked toward the door. “She’ll go home later and wonder if she did enough. She’ll remember all the faces of those kids.”
Chase was quiet for a moment and then sat down. “Sounds like personal experience.” He slid the food toward Felix, who snatched it with a scowl.
“You don’t know me.”
He eyed the teen for a moment then sighed, rubbing the end of his pen against the short blonde hairs of his temple. He opened the case folder and flipped through papers.
“Here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to ask you some questions and I’d like you to answer them to the best of your ability. I’d also like you to make a statement. This conversation is being recorded from cameras there,” Chase pointed, “and there. You may be asked to testify in the future, so it is paramount that you are truthful and thorough with your answers. Do you understand?”
Felix set down the soda after a long drink. “No.”
Chase blinked. “No?”
“I won’t testify.” His jaw tensed. “I’ll tell you what I know. Who had the drugs. But I didn’t see anything and I won’t testify.”
The detective sucked on his cheek, annoyed. “You do realize you could still be charged if you refuse to cooperate?”
The boy’s pale rosy lips puckered in childish defiance as he crossed his arms. “Charge me. I have no where to go anyway. I might as well have a roof over my head.”
Chase was annoyed that he found the punk’s demeanor endearing. And he was annoyed that he was annoyed. He would either need to bring a charge to the judge when the court house opened in an hour, or he would need to cut the kid lose. He really didn’t want to charge him. He was certain that if he did, any information he got as a result would be unreliable. And he was right, he had little to lose when he was looking at being out on the street. No, if the kid was going to talk, it was going to be on his terms.
Chase sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I tell you what. I’ll get you a place to stay for a couple nights if you’ll think it over”
Felix’s pout deepened. “The shelter won’t let me in anymore because I’m eighteen.”
“I meant a hotel.”
The boy’s face went slack. “Why would you do that for me?”
“It’s not for you,” Chase stated coolly. “It’s for a house full of teenagers drugged up by a nasty old fart who passes them out to his friends like party favors.”
Felix seemed to turn slightly green and his eyes clenched closed. “Alright,” he said softly. “I’ll think about it.”
“Do you have any belongings back there?”
He nodded. “A blue backpack. In the downstairs suite. It’s got . . .” he shook his head. “Everything I have left.”
Chase slapped his palms on the table with finality. “Lets go get you a room, then. I’ll check on the status of the warrant for the house. Soon as I can, I’ll grab your stuff and bring it by to you.” Felix had begun to stand when the detective turned back to him suddenly. “Is there anything in the bag I need to know about before I find it?” His eyes were locked on Felix’s.
The boy gulped. “No, s—” he clenched his jaw shut on the ‘sir’, which Chase noted with amusement. Felix cleared his throat. “No.”
“Lets go, then.”
Chase had only just paid for Felix’s hotel room and gotten back in his car when his phone rang. The warrant for the residence had come through. With the owner—“Mister James”—in custody and the testimony of six teens between thirteen and seventeen, it was no question that it would be granted. Now it was just a matter of digging through a mansion for evidence.
A portly, older beat sergeant tipped his chin to him on the porch. “Decided to do some real work today, Chase?”
Chase waved him off with a grin. “Just here for the circus, Boswell.”
“You won’t be disappointed then.” Boswell tipped his head slightly for Chase to step closer. “They’re taking an axe to a goddamn secret door. Worried there might be more kids in there. Got EMS on standby.”
Chase’s eyes widened. “You’re shitting me. I gotta see this.”
The house had all the tastelessness of a Florida retiree’s bachelor pad condo. Complete with a big white furry rug in the formal living room that looked like it may leap to life. A crystal chandelier hung low over the entry, its reflection gleaming off of the over sized white tiles. All the fixtures were a shiny gold finish. The wood accents were pristine white. The walls and furniture were shades of yellow. Overall it had the effect of a gaudy attempt at a golden palace. James Hawthorne must have been new money.
He spotted Shaw at the top of the spiral carpeted stairs and took them two by two. “I hear there was a hidden door?” Shaw nodded to him somberly and gestured for him to follow.
They passed a couple other cops taking pictures and ferrying back and forth evidence bags. Chase stepped into the large study and immediately saw the splinters of what used to be a panel of the wall.
A forensics technician stepped out of the hole, shaking his head. “Everything is clean,” he announced. “I’ll need to get some tools in here, but doubt we’ll find anything. Seems like the consensual sort of thing.”
“Consensual?!” Shaw snapped. “You think some faggot drugging kids into slaves is consensual?”
The technician’s angular face betrayed nothing. “I mean to say we will have little evidence because there was little overt force, Officer Shaw. Excuse me.” He stepped past Chase.
Shaw growled as he left; “Look at this shit.”
Chase stepped up to the obliterated doorway and peered in.
The most compelling feature was a large wooden X in the center of the room. Each point was affixed with a large iron ring from which leather cuffs dangled. There was a wall with a padded leather panel and a pair of chains affixed to it. Against the two opposite walls were wooden tables full of a BDSM buffet. The last wall housed a large leather-topped frame with straps for various configurations. Everything was polished, oiled and gleaming.
Chase licked his lips, his mouth suddenly dry.
“Sick shit.” Shaw’s voice next to him pulled his attention away.
“I see you’re not into the kink scene.”
“None of you white folks blink an eye, man.” He started to stomp away, shaking his head wildly. “Crazy-ass crackers.” Chase chuckled as he went. He ventured one last glance at the hidden room before setting off to find Felix’s bag.
He found the downstairs suite and no longer questioned why Felix would accept the near stranger’s hospitality. It was larger than Chase’s first apartment. The bedroom was spacious, housing a bed that a could sleep a horse. The bathroom had a large garden tub and a slate walled shower. He found the worn blue backpack next to the bed.
“Lets see what we’ve got.” He sat down on the bed and pulled the bag open.
It was the first time since high school that he had seen a book bag actually contain books. There were clothes, some basic toiletries. He found Felix’s wallet and driver’s license, taking note of the address listed there. And tucked in a side pocket he found a leather collar.
He just sat for a moment, the collar limp across his palm as he stared at it. It was smooth and black and unremarkable but for a steel ring attached to the front. He couldn’t help picturing how stark the polished black leather would be against Felix’s pale neck. Before he could stop the thought, he remembered the upstairs room and a hot knot of anger tied in his throat. He shoved the collar back in the bag and headed for the door.
Chase lifted the bag up in offering when Felix opened the hotel room door.
“Thanks,” Felix muttered, taking the bag and turning toward the bed.
Chase stepped inside, anger still hot in his belly as pushed the door closed. “You knew about the hidden room.”
The boy tensed, his back to the detective as he lowered his bag onto the hotel bed. “Yea.” was his meek response.
“Did he ever make you go in there?” The detective’s voice was harder than he intended. Colder. Felix only shook his head. “What about the collar?” The pale boy went absolutely still and Chase was deeply annoyed that he couldn’t read his expression. He strode forward, gripped the boy’s shoulder and wheeled him around.
Felix’s face was red with embarrassment, his eyes glistening. Chase readied himself for the wave of pity, but it never came. Instead his pulse quickened and there was a distinct stirring in his belly. He was confused by this reaction until he took in the details. The boy was flush in the cheeks, his pupils dilated, his lips parted and full. He wasn’t embarrassed, he was turned on.
Chase swallowed thickly, willing his mind to get back on task. “Were you involved?” His tone was nearly a growl.
Felix’s eyes shot up to his, the color suddenly draining from his face. “No!” he spat. “It’s mine, OK?! I met him at a stupid leather bar. I didn’t know he was a fucking creep! He said he would . . .” The fire went out of him and he looked away, his cheeks brightening again. “. . . show me things.”
Chase stared in sudden realization, his mouth stuck on unspoken syllables. “You went out looking for a master?”
“Fuck you,” Felix snarled. “It’s none of your damn business.”
Sudden, raw imagery flooded Dorian’s mind uninvited. Felix in the leather collar. Felix flush with need. He shook his head clear of it and took a step back.
“You can’t testify,” Chase muttered.
“No shit,” Felix said weakly, dropping to sit on the bed. “They’ll just think I’m a freak.” He wrapped his arms around himself and closed his eyes. “Or that I’m like him.”
The detective’s shoulders dropped and he sighed. “Cut that out. You’re just, well,” he searched for a better word and gave up. “Kinky.”
Felix stared at him for a few heart beats and then belted out pure, child-like laughter. Chase couldn’t help but join him.
After a moment he grew still again, looking at his feet. “I can’t stay here, can I?” He ventured a glance at the detective who merely tipped his head in question. “You said I could stay here for a couple days if I thought about testifying.”
Chase waved his hand dismissively. “Don’t worry about it, kid. You got a job?” Felix slumped his shoulders and shook his head. “Family?” No response. “You in to anything stupid? Besides weed and old guys.”
“I don’t smoke,” Felix muttered. “I just didn’t want them to get suspicious.”
“So you are into old guys.”
Felix rolled his earthen-toned eyes toward him. “Are you always this charming?”
Chase snorted. “I can help you get a job. I just need to know that you’ll actually follow through.”
“I won’t,” Felix replied flatly. “Look, dude,” He rolled his shoulders. “I know you’re just trying to help and do your job and all that, but I’m not your problem.”
Chase narrowed his eyes and pointed at Felix. “I’ll be back tomorrow.”
The young man sighed. “Don’t you have a job to do?”
“I’ll mark it off as a wellness check.”
Predictably, James Hawthorne had lawyered up by the next morning. Mandy’s investigation into the child endangerment and assault charges had slowed to a crawl.
“Did you get a formal statement from the caller?” Mandy asked without looking away from her monitor.
Chase swiveled in his chair to face her desk. “Not yet. He won’t testify, but I’m going to try to get a statement at least.”
She sighed and pressed her forehead in her hands. “I have a couple of the kids who were willing to give statements, or were sober enough to be reliable. And one of the perps wants to make a deal.”
She lifted her head, resting her chin in her hands with a sullen expression. “They don’t even talk like kids anymore, Dorian. I don’t know that a judge is going to be very sympathetic to a sixteen year old who talks about prostitution like it’s a game.”
Chase shook his head slowly to himself. “What about the youngest one?”
“Thirteen,” she muttered. “He was unresponsive when EMS got there. He’s not a reliable source.”
Chase cursed under his breath. “I’ll see what I can work out of the caller. The kid is homeless. I’ve got him put up in a hotel for now.”
Mandy arched a thin brow at him. “Does the Sergeant know?”
“Can you lean on him to testify?”
Chase clicked his pen for a moment, remembering the collar with a frown. “No. If you put him on the stand, Hawthorne’s lawyer will start a line of questioning that will ruin your case.”
“Ah,” she leaned back and didn’t ask any further.
Chase glanced at his watch. “Might as well bring him lunch and see if he’s given it some thought. You have one of those employment lists you hand out?”
Mandy was about as involved with her cases as one could get. She always had a compiled list of employers willing to hire people in bad situations.
“How old is he?” She asked.
“Eighteen.” He stood, pulling on his jacket.
She nodded thoughtfully. “I’ll get you one.”
“Thanks. Hopefully I’ll be back with something for you.”
Chase had to knock a few times before he heard movement in the hotel room. When the door finally opened, it was clear that the teen had just rolled out of bed. His somewhat curly hair was a haphazard mass on his head and he squinted into the sunlight.
Felix muttered something indistinct before clearing the doorway and shuffling back into the room.
“You realize it’s noon, right?” Chase stepped in, toeing the door closed behind him.
The pale boy yawned openly. “Sorry, I didn’t exactly sleep much in jail.”
Chase grunted and dropped a fast food bag on the small round table. “Brought you something to eat.”
Felix dragged his feet to the table and flopped down into the roughly upholstered chair, petting his hair down with another yawn. “Thanks.”
Chase did a casual plain-view scan of the room. “Keeping out of trouble?”
The teen paused with a cheeseburger in hand. “It’s been like twenty-four hours. Did you expect to find me shooting up?”
“I don’t know you from Adam, kid. I always come prepared not to be surprised.”
Chase let him eat for a moment before sitting down opposite of him, taking out his notepad. “You remember when this ‘party’ started?”
Felix slowed his chewing for a moment and shrugged. “Six? I don’t know. It wasn’t dark yet.”
Chase began writing. “Do you know how many adults were there?”
The teen narrowed his eyes. “Can’t you just count them in jail?”
The detective gave him a look.
“I don’t know. I told you, I didn’t see much. I stayed in my room most of the night.”
Chase raised a brow. “There was a party going on and you were in your room?”
“That’s what I said.”
“Why?” Chase pressed.
Felix squirmed, putting down the remainder of the cheeseburger. “It got weird. At first it was just the old guys and they were too . . .” He looked away. “Friendly.”
Chase endeavored to keep the concern out of his voice and face. “Did they touch you?”
Felix rolled his eyes. “Look, I’m not a kid, remember? No one made me do anything. It was just getting weird so I stayed in my room most of the time.”
“When did the minors show up?”
Felix frowned in thought. “I’m not sure. It was dark. Nine? I don’t know. Some people had pushed drinks at me by then.”
“You said you were in your room.” Chase clicked his pen.
“And yet people pushed drinks at you?”
“I said I was in my room most of the time. I’m not lying to you.” His brows furrowed in contempt. “Mister James just didn’t like it when I closed the door.” Felix looked away again. “So people just kept wandering over.” He shrugged.
“You weren’t allowed to close your door?” Chase narrowed his eyes. Felix only shrugged again, nervous tick taking over.
“What happened after the minors got there?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t know how old they were. Some of them were taller than me. I wasn’t checking ID or anything.” His head tipped slightly to the right, eyes distant in recall. “There was weed. X. Drinking. I just pretended I was tired, but . . .” he paused, features twisted with disgust. “There was this kid. He looked like he couldn’t be more than twelve. He was out of it and they were . . .” he looked nauseous and swallowed heavily, closing his eyes. “So I called the police.” He looked back at Chase, expression flat.
Chase didn’t know how Mandy did it. Felix wasn’t even a direct victim and the detective’s belly was already a tight knot of disgust and anger. Mandy had to talk to all of those kids. She had to interview the youngest at the hospital. Then she had to talk to the perps and somehow not put them all down like rabid dogs in the interview room.
Chase couldn’t do it. He only breathed for a moment, choosing his questions carefully. “Why did you stay after you called the police?”
“I think people would have noticed if the cops show up five minutes after I crawl out a window.”
“Are you afraid someone will retaliate against you?”
Chase noted how Felix didn’t shrug nervously. “No.”
“Then why stay?”
Felix’s brows tented and he looked down at his hands. “I didn’t know what would happen to them. The younger ones. I thought . . .” he trailed off and shook his head. “I couldn’t even talk to any of them. When the cops came they just put everyone under eighteen to one side and I went with the others.”
Chase winced. “Sorry. That would have been Shaw. Bald black guy.” Felix only nodded at his hands. “He’s not a bad officer, he’s just,” Chase rolled a shoulder. “Overly critical.”
“He asked if I was gay,” Felix muttered.
Chase’s brow darkened. “He what?”
The teen’s nervous tick resurfaced. “I said yes, he put me with the others.”
The detective’s jaw tensed. “If you want to make a complai—”
“No. It doesn’t matter.”
There was a moment of tense silence that Chase filled with the thought of punching Shaw in the face.
“They’re all OK.” Felix looked up at Chase’s comment. “The kids. Mandy is working with them. She’ll contact parents—if they have any—CPS will be involved in the investigation. Whatever their situations were, they’re safe now.”
Felix’s eyes fell shut, his shoulders dropping. He nodded slightly to himself. “Thanks.”
Chase considered the slight teen for a moment. “You’re a good kid.”
He hadn’t been expecting the hard look in Felix’s jade and brown eyes. “Don’t patronize me.”
Chase frowned. “I’m not. I’m serious. If you hadn’t called it would have been just one more nightmare for them. It wouldn’t have stopped there either.”
Felix rolled his eyes. “I don’t need to be patted on the back for doing the right thing. I’m not a candidate for the dark side, leather fetish aside.”
Chase smiled slightly. “No one ever thinks they are. Bad guys rarely know that they’re bad guys. Most of those guys dragged out of that party have wives. Important jobs. They don’t know they’re scumbags.”
“I think this encouragement speech has gone awry,” Felix said.
Chase laughed. “I suppose it did. All I’m saying is you made the right choice when you didn’t have to. No one else ever did for them.”
The teen shrugged and went back to the cheeseburger. “If everyone made the right choices, you’d be out of a job.”
Chase flipped his notebook closed with a sigh. “Guess I’d have to go back to stripping.”
Felix stopped mid-chew. He leaned slightly to look Chase over. “Seriously?”
“No,” the detective replied, suddenly regretting the joke.
Felix made a show of looking him over again. “Because I would totally believe you.”
Being checked out by an eighteen year old was the oddest combination of flattering and just awkward.
“The suit is misleading,” Chase said. “I’m a disaster under this.”
“Uh-huh, I bet.” The slight boy shoved the rest of the cheeseburger in his mouth.
“You willing to make this a written statement?” Chase waved his notebook.
“No,” Felix replied simply.
Chase frowned. “Any particular reason why not?”
Felix brushed his hands off and leaned back. “If you submit my statement to court, they can subpoena me.”
Chase couldn’t quite help a smirk. “While that’s true, it’s unlikely. How’d you know that anyway?”
“I can read,” the teen responded flatly. “Are you going to give me a speech about how it’s my civic duty to drag every personal detail of my life into court so Mister James can serve an extra month in white collar prison?”
Chase slipped the notepad into his pocket. “Nope. I’m going to go pay for another day on this room and go back to work.”
Felix blinked and looked away, ashamed. “Thanks.”
“I’ll be back tomorrow to discuss your options from here. Mandy is putting together some things for me.”
Felix nodded, eyes fixed on the floor as Chase left.
Mandy’s list wasn’t exactly ideal for the situation at hand. Many of the options were geared specifically toward female victims fleeing abuse. Some were designed to provide employment and housing opportunities for people with prior convictions. A good number of them were for people struggling with addictions.
Felix fell in an awkward grey area of not being troubled enough for most programs, while still needing some measure of assistance. The average unskilled labor job isn’t very forgiving about having neither an address nor a phone number. They wouldn’t be willing to work with a homeless teen.
“How about a call center?” Chase asked between bites of a meatball sub.
Felix leaned to look at the list with a frown. “I don’t really have a good phone voice.”
Chase scoffed. “My voice was a mess at eighteen. Your voice is fine. I’ll mark it as a maybe.” He dragged a streak of blue highlighter through the line.
“I doubt anything about you was ever a mess,” Felix said, picking at his sub.
Chase raised an eyebrow at him. “You’re kidding? If I hadn’t burned all photographic evidence of my larval stage, it would give you nightmares.”
Felix rolled his eyes and nibbled a fry. “Whatever, dude.”
“I had this horrible long hair cut because I wanted to look like a surfer without, you know, surfing. But it was so greasy you could have wrung it out. My face was this mess of pimples and patchy facial hair and I got tragically tall before I gained any weight so I was somewhere around five ten and one twenty.” The teen had started laughing half-way through the description. “You got lucky. You don’t even smell like you’re secret lovers with a skunk.”
“That’s because I shower.” There was something about how he said it. The way his head was tipped slightly down, looking at Chase with those pond colored eyes and a bright smile.
The detective looked away with a cough. “So, uh, what’s the deal with your parents?”
Felix went absolutely still, his face losing all trace of expression. The moment was thankfully gone. “What about them?”
“Are they alive? Do they know where you are? Are they drug running, abusive gang members? Hand wringing, fretting Mormons who are desperately looking for you? Adoptive parents who never got the chance to bond?”
Felix shrugged. “Pick a combo. It doesn’t matter.”
“I know if my kid was off gallivanting with leather daddies and ended up in trouble, I’d want to know.”
Felix arched a dark brow at him. “You have kids?”
“No,” Chase answered quickly. “It’s a hypothetical.”
“That’s a pretty big hypothetical if you don’t even have kids. And he wasn’t my ‘leather daddy’. He was just some guy who knew about the scene. He offered me a place to stay and said he’d help me . . .”—another shoulder twitch—“find someone.”
Chase shook his head in disapproval. “You make it sound like you’re trying to fill a position or something.” The teen grinned at his wording. “Goddamnit, you know what I mean.”
“I kind of am,” Felix responded, a playful edge to his voice. “It has to be the right kind of person. Bigger than me. Stronger. Has to know when to take what he wants.” Color had begun to bleed into the teen’s pale cheeks and he avoided eye contact.
Chase cleared his throat for the second time and looked at his watch. “Yea, so, I have to get back to work now.” He slid the sheet across the table. “Look that over. Mark the ones you’re interested in.”
Felix groaned in protest.
“You can’t just live off of my goodwill forever. You teenagers these days,” Chase began his rant.
Detective Dorian Chase sat in his two-door compact in front of the address on Felix’s license. There were perks to having both a good memory and working knowledge of the city.
He told himself he wouldn’t pry into the kid’s family situation. He was an adult, it was none of CID’s business. But what else was he going to do? It had been three days and the kid was absolutely resistant to getting a job. He always had some sort of excuse for why he couldn’t do a particular job. It painted him as a willful, lazy, pampered brat. Chase wasn’t going to put him up in a hotel for ever, so it was time to see if his parents knew his situation.
Chase sighed heavily, adjusted his tie and jacket and stepped out of the car. The house was modest, but neat. It was a single story with a tawny brick face and two off-set roof peaks. The lawn was tidy and short and an oak grew in the side yard, its roots creeping out of the top soil in places.
He strode up the narrow walkway and knocked firmly on the ash door. There was rustling and the door slowly opened to a short, round woman with blonde hair and hazel eyes, but unlike Felix’s green-brown, hers were a green on backdrop of blue. He could see why Mandy reminded Felix of her.
She blinked and opened the door wider. “Yes?”
“I’m Detective Chase with Mesquite PD. I’d like to talk to you about your son Felix, if you have a moment?”
Her hand flew up to her chest and her eyes went flat. “Is he dead?”
Chase was startled by the frank question. He had worried they would assume something had happened to him, but he’d never seen a parent so quickly and dispassionately jump to the “dead” conclusion. “No, no, ma’am.”
The door opened wider and a tall man peered back at Chase. He was well-built for his late forties. His hair was a shock of black on pale skin, his temples greying. Though his eyes were dark, Felix certainly took after his father.
Chase tipped his head slightly. “Mr. Thompson. As I was telling your wife, I’m det—”
“I heard you.” Mr. Thompson cut in abruptly. “What has he done?”
Chase cleared his throat awkwardly. “Nothing, sir. He unfortunately ended up party to an investigation. He’s done nothing wrong and wasn’t arrested. Since he’s not a minor, I was not required to inform you, but due to the circumstances I thought you should know that he doesn’t seem to have a place to stay.”
“He chose his path,” Felix’s mother said ineffectually.
Mr. Thompson squeezed his arm around his wife’s shoulder and looked back at Chase, unreadable. “Felix turned away from God, Detective Chase. We can do no more for him.”
The detective looked between them, debating how to proceed. “Is this about him being gay?” Mrs. Thompson winced at the word, her fingers finding her necklace in a nervous gesture.
Mr. Thompson’s jaw skewed and clenched. “Felix is welcome in our family and our home when he seeks the Lord’s forgiveness.”
There was a moment of baffled disbelief on Chase’s face. “You understand I’m telling you that your son is currently homeless?” They didn’t reply. “So, because he’s gay, you don’t care if he dies on the street?” Mrs. Thompson closed her eyes and turned toward her husband. The vat of anger in Chase boiled over. “What if I told you I’m gay?”
There was a flash of pure contempt across the man’s face as he slammed the door. For a moment, the detective cut an imposing, still figure against the pale brick work, his jaw and fists clenched. The tension eased out of him over a few seconds and he turned abruptly on his heel and back to his car.
He knew that look. He could dismiss using religion as an excuse. Could understand being old fashioned. But that look. It was the face of the Ku Klux Klan. The face of Muslim extremists. The face of neonazi fascism. It was the face that carried a baseball bat in one hand and hatred in the other. Chase didn’t doubt that Mr. Thompson had used both on his son.
Felix had nowhere to go.
Chase was at his desk making phone calls well past shift change. Night shift milled around him as if he were a fixture. He had compiled a modest list of employers and programs willing to take on Felix in his particular situation. It was a bitter irony that he would have more options if he were a drug addict or had managed to contract HIV.
“Still here?” Mandy slid one hip up on his desk, coffee cradled between her hands. There were fewer days that Mandy went home on time than ones she didn’t.
“Yea.” He rubbed his hands over his stubbled face. “You know any resources specifically for gay runaways?”
Mandy tipped her head at him in consideration. “Minor?” Chase shook his head in defeat. “Mm.” she hummed, sipping her coffee. “Is this that kid who called on the Hawthorne case?” He nodded and she sighed. “I told you to be careful with him, Dorian.”
He gestured at her, palms up. “I am! I’m trying.”
Her expression softened, her head tipped in a motherly fashion. “I don’t think you understand what I meant. You have a history of getting too invested in street kids’ lives. It nearly got you killed.”
He rolled his eyes, and began to form a protest, but she kept talking.
“And that’s just the young and vulnerable ones that set off your crusade bells. This one is young, vulnerable and not exactly difficult to look at.”
He scowled, a spike of adrenaline setting his pulse wild. Mandy was the only coworker who knew he was gay. “What are you insinuating?”
She leaned away. “Nothing.” She swirled her coffee, her expression solid again. “If I were insinuating anything, it wouldn’t matter. He’s an adult and no longer directly involved in a case.” She sipped her coffee again. “I’ll see what I can find.” Mandy slid off of his desk and walked away.
He watched her go, tension easing. The most annoying part was she was right. He was getting too close to this. He kept bringing the kid food, paying for his hotel room, talking for hours at a time. The tone of the conversations had edged way too close to flirting way too many times.
No one would deny that Felix was attractive. His large, muddy-pond eyes were framed with thick black eye lashes. The paleness of his skin offset by full pink lips. He was lean and tone, just enough adolescence in his frame to give him a softness. And God he was vulnerable. And the way he kept looking at the detective was far from indifferent.
Chase clicked his pen incessantly, a stress twitch setting into his left eye as he stared into space. He needed to let Mandy handle this. He needed distance. He dropped the pen on his desk with a sigh and stood, dragging his jacket with him.
Time to cut the cord.
Felix opened the door with a bright smile that lodged a stone in Dorian’s sternum. The happy puppy look was wreaking havoc on his guilt. He had hoped to make it a short conversation at the door, but Felix had already stepped away. Reluctantly he eased the door closed.
“Here.” He held out a business card between his middle and fore fingers. Felix tipped his head curiously and took it. “Mandy Smith. You met her before. She’s going to see what she can do to get you off the street.” He also handed him the slip of paper he had compiled earlier. “That’s all I’ve got.” He gestured, palms up.
“Thanks,” Felix muttered, staring at the card blandly.
“I’ll put you up here for one more night so you can make some calls.”
Realization set into Felix’s features in the form of a lost orphan expression. Chase tore his eyes away and went for the door.
“Hey . . .”
Chase made an effort to look bored as he turned back to the teen.
“Thanks. For everything, you know?”
“Good luck, kid.”
Felix took a step forward. “Wait.” Chase sighed, not hiding his annoyance. “It’s just . . . um . . .” He fiddled with the business card nervously. “I was serious. I mean about Mist—” He shook his head to himself for a second. “James. I just, you know . . . don’t want to end up with another creeper. I don’t think she’ll be able to tell me the good clubs.” He waved the card with a lop sided, nervous smile. Chase only stared at him. “Do you . . . I don’t know . . . know anyone?” His eyes were wide, dilated and fixed on Chase. The older man turned away.
“Christ, kid. I need to get away from you.” He made the distance to the door, but Felix’s voice spoke softly to his back.
Dorian closed his eyes. “You keep looking at me like that and asking me questions like that and you’re getting to get way too much of my attention.” His hand gripped the door handle.
“What if I want your attention?” The question was soft and sincere.
Something broke in the detective. He felt it go. Every sensible caution, every logical complaint was suddenly absent. What replaced it was primal and overpowering.
Raw, burning need tore through Chase and clawed out of his chest in a low growl. He turned, grabbed fistfuls of Felix’s shirt, pressed him to the wall and claimed his mouth with his own.
There was no resistance. Only Felix’s hot, lean body melting into Dorian’s grasp. He needed to consume the boy. Own him. His blunt fingers tangled in thick black hair, pulling the boy’s head back as he stole his breath.
He broke from the kiss, hoping to regain some control. Instead he was greeted with the sight of Felix’s half-lidded eyes, flushed cheeks and red lips, parted and panting. Throbbing, desperate heat shot straight to his loins. He tightened a fist in Felix’s shirt and tugged down.
“On your knees,” he rasped.
There was not a moment’s hesitation. Within seconds, Dorian’s palms were pressed against the wall, his fly open, Felix’s torrid breath uneven and wanton against his crotch.
“Suck it.” Dorian breathed, nearly a whisper. The obscenity of the command rippled another wave of desire through him and Felix moved to comply immediately.
It was too few minutes of hot lips and tongue, plunging into the wet well of Felix’s welcoming mouth. It was too much, too fast. He was spilling over too soon, but every moment was bliss.
His legs were shaky when the stars finally cleared from his vision. As the haze of desire lifted, reason and regret took its place. He tucked himself back in his pants and zipped up.
“I need to go,” he muttered, backing away.
Felix fumbled to his feet. Before he could form a coherent sentence, Dorian closed the distance to the door and swiftly strode down the hall.
What was he thinking? He chastised himself all the way down the stairwell. He was fifteen years older. He could technically have kids his age. But he’s not a minor. Chase shook the thought away. He was in a position of authority. He clearly took advantage. But he clearly wanted him to. He was practically begging. He was a kid! He didn’t know what he wanted.
Dorian wrestled internally the whole drive home. Were he honest with himself, the thought of a young, submissive thing like Felix handing himself over on a platter would be like Christmas and his birthday all in one. It was his age and the ethics of their relationship that was the problem. Not to mention the fact that Felix’s reasons could be directly because of said ethics.
Dorian parked in the driveway of his duplex. His head leaned back and eyes closed. He needed to shake this. It was on Mandy now. He needed to forget it ever happened. Forget Felix. Forget his tight lips. His hot tongue. His—
There was a sharp rapping on the passenger side window. Chase’s elderly neighbor waved affectionately.
She flapped her wrist at him when he got out. “Falling asleep in the driveway now?! You work too hard!”
He smiled awkwardly, making sure she could clearly see his face. “Sorry, Mrs. Fairfax. Long day.” She waved him off and turned back to her side of the duplex, shuffling back to her door. He didn’t bother saying goodnight. She wouldn’t hear him anyway. He sighed and went to his own door.
Once inside, he flipped on the living room light and the gleam shone off of the one hundred gallon fish tank in the center of the room. Its blue glow reached for all the shadows the ceiling light couldn’t reach. Dorian didn’t watch TV. He didn’t even own one. He watched fish. And he had over a dozen.
He peeled off his jacket and his shoulder holster and inspected the tank. “You eat anyone today, Gonzo?” The large blue gourami angled his golden eye in Dorian’s direction and slowly eased behind the decorative driftwood stump.
A pair of cichlids peeked out of a tipped ceramic planter. “Bonnie and Clyde, how do you do?” Clyde flitted across the tank, gravel and freshwater moss quaking behind him.
The redtail sharks were the first to dart up to the surface when he dumped in a scoop of mixed fish food. The spotted pictus bade his time in the gravel, watching bits of detritus descend from the frenzy.
He watched the fish for some time before checking the pump and gauges. It would be time to cycle the water soon. Satisfied with the tank, he started unbuttoning his shirt and heading for the laundry room in the basement.
There wasn’t much use for the basement except for the washer, dryer and a weight set. The bulk of the space was taken up by a huge chain link dog kennel, the aluminum posts set into the concrete. The original owner had bred hunting dogs. In the worst weather, they were brought in to the climate controlled basement. Chase had found bedding hay in odd places for months.
Now Belinda Fairfax owned the building. She rented out the left half and lived in the right. She had originally settled on the duplex arrangement so her ne’er-do-well son would always have a place to land. He married rich and she hadn’t heard from him in years.
Dorian pulled his badge from his belt and was unzipping his pants when the image of Felix on his knees in front of him wormed back into his mind. He grumbled and stripped all of his clothes into the washer before heading back upstairs to the shower.
The cold water did nothing for the heat pooling in his loins.
“That kid will be the death of me,” he muttered to himself, his fingers descending to the length of his erection. He worked his thumb in lazy circles around the head. His eyes closed in concentration. He didn’t even bother with the mental pretense of thinking about anything other than Felix.
Was he a virgin? Surely not. Not with a mouth like that. Virgins don’t carry around leather collars looking for a master. Remembering the collar set Chase’s hand on a rhythm. Felix was untouchable. Too young. Too naïve. But in the safety of his imagination, the pale submissive boy was stripped bare. On his knees. Face on the floor. Moaning as Dorian rode him hard.