CHAPTER TWENTY TWO
On January 3rd, Thomas and I returned to work. We arrived in separate cars because we wanted to minimize any gossip of our relationship, and also when Thomas expressed a wish to drive, I opted to drive myself for fear of dying an early death.
I enjoyed seeing Thomas back in his brick-covered cubicle, making his calls, and working on his budget proposals. The castle had its king back.
Rachel called us both in the mid-morning and asked that we go and meet with her in her office. We wrapped up our tasks, locked our desktops, and headed off down the hallway to the offices.
Thomas and I stopped by the break room on the way to the office. I always needed a huge dose of coffee by mid-morning as it seemed to facilitate word formation from the grunts and mumbles of waking up. Thomas didn’t drink coffee, but his tea was sacred. I watched as he circled the tea jar once, anticlockwise, just to hear the grate of the jar on the countertop.
We made our drinks and moved to leave the break room when the door was blocked by Graham coming in to get his morning coffee. He had on a white shirt and black trousers, and a red buckle that read ‘Cocky’ was centered on his belt. “Hey guys, how’s it going?” he asked. “Getting your morning caffeine, hey?”
I nodded and took a large step to the side so I could get to the door before the obligatory conversation. “Yeah, I need a cup, too,” said Graham. I stopped and smiled, hoping he was going to leave it there. “I was up pretty late last night, if you get my drift.”
To my surprise, Thomas slammed his cup down on the countertop by the sink. His eyes trailed, blazing, from Graham’s chin to his eyes. Graham inched backwards, but Thomas stepped towards him. “No, we don’t catch your drift, because you weren’t up late last night.” Thomas then threw his arms around Graham and leaned in towards his ear. “But it’s okay, Graham, because we love you.”
I wanted to laugh, if not for the comical value of Thomas’ words but for the confused look of terror etched on Graham’s face. Thomas stepped back, picked up his tea, and strolled from the break room. I followed him into the hallway. “That was brilliant,” I said. “You just terrified him into silence.”
Thomas sipped his tea. “I just couldn’t take it anymore, Matthew. At his age, it’s time he started being real to himself. And besides, now I’ve forgiven him, I don’t have to worry about writing incriminating e-mails anymore.”
Rachel’s door was ajar and I knocked and peered through the gap. She waved us in and Thomas closed the door behind us. “Have a seat, boys,” she said, and gestured to the two chairs in front of her desk. She was looking sharper than usual. Her hair was neatly pulled into its silver clip, and there were no smears or stains on her navy blue blouse. We took our seats and she leaned forward on her desk onto her elbows. Rachel studied our crew cuts for a brief second before shaking the follow-up questions from her mind. “I have had a very long chat with Sophie,” she began, her voice soft, “and we finally have a game plan. But before we get to that, I do just want to apologize for all that you two went through.”
“Why?” Thomas asked. “You didn’t arrange the kidnapping.”
Rachel held her hand up. “I know, I know. But I do feel a bit responsible, and I want you two to know that I am here for you if you need anything.”
I could sense Thomas wanted to argue the point so I elbowed him and he remained quiet. “Don’t hate me for this,” Rachel continued, “but Sophie and I would like to arrange some counseling for you.”
Thomas drew an incensed breath, but I cut him off. “I’ll take it,” I said. “I think I’m dealing with it better now, but there are some things I don’t want to re-experience.” I nodded and smiled to Rachel. “I’ll take it.”
Rachel turned to Thomas. He glanced at me, stared down at the desk for a thoughtful moment, and then looked up at Rachel’s chin. “No, I’m good thanks, Rachel. If I feel the need in the future, though, I’ll let you know.”
She drew a deep breathe. “Fair enough. Okay, then. Let’s get down to business. Sophie had a call with the sales director, Martin Sanders, at Daeva last night. She didn’t let on what happened to you guys, only that you went to meet Myers in the Alpine Lodge and he never showed. Sanders went on to explain that Myers was missing and the case was currently ongoing. They actually still haven’t found Myers’ body.”
Thomas squinted and cocked his head. “But it was in the room with us,” he said. “Some of Julie’s associates must have carried it out when I was carried out to the car and bundled in with Matthew.”
Rachel’s lips were semi-pursed and her eyes flickered back and forth across her desk. “I’m surprised they got you out without being seen.” She looked to me.
I held my hands up. “I was unconscious,” I said. “And that’s the first time I’ve used that as an excuse for anything.”
“The body wasn’t there when the police arrived,” Rachel explained. “Anyway, Sophie expressed our deepest sympathies, and said that when they were ready, if they were still interested, we’d like to arrange another meeting. Sanders agreed and will contact us in the future to set a date.”
“If the body wasn’t there when the police arrived,” said Thomas, “we have to go back and talk to the police.”
A weight dropped into my stomach. “No, we don’t,” I shook my head and tried to fend off cotton-mouth with my tongue. “I’m not going back.”
Thomas reached over and put his hand on my knee. “But Matthew, there’d be nothing to worry about. Given what happened to us, no one is going to hold us accountable for anything.”
“You blew up their getaway car, and later chopped Julie in the neck and stole her car.”
“Maybe that car blew up on its own after the crash?” Thomas suggested. “And besides, given the gravity of the case, I don’t think anyone is going to care. And okay, I rendered her unconscious, but if you’ll recall, she assaulted me first, and so it was in self-defence. Once the threat had been neutralized, I even took her to the hospital to be treated.”
A girlish laugh escaped my throat, and my sanity swelled and threatened to float away from my brain again.
“He’s right, Matthew,” Rachel concurred. “You need to talk to the police. But we can reach out to them on the phone first, and go from there.”
I sighed. “Fine.”
She smiled. “Well, I’m glad that’s sorted. Now, let me show this. Sanders pointed us this article.” Rachel used the mouse to pull up an article from The Denver Post. Thomas and I leaned across her desk.
ROGUE BOUNTY HUNTER ARRESTED IN MURDER OF ROBERT MYERS
Special Agents apprehended Melissa Cogdill on Thursday, December 19th, from the Emergency Room at the Aspen Valley Hospital. Hospital staff notified the Aspen Police Department promptly after finding a note on the lap of the semi-conscious Cogdill. Sgt. Petersen was in shock when he received the call. “The hospital staff called us, saying they found a note on somebody dropped of half-conscious in the ER. It was Melissa Cogdill. Well, I couldn’t believe it. We’d been working with the Feds to track down and bring her in. I got on the phone immediately with the FBI, and they dispatched agents to the hospital to apprehend her. I don’t know who it was, but somebody served her up on a silver platter.”
Previously, on Monday, December 16th, Carbondale police had been in pursuit of Cogdill outside of Carbondale, CO. Cogdill had been driving a blue Nissan Maxima on 133. That night in the Alpine Lodge, Aspen, Cogdill and her associates are believed to have murdered Robert Myers, who is still missing. Aspen police notified the Carbondale police after learning of the attack at the hotel. Carbondale police chased them off the road just west of Mount Sopris, north of Redstone.
It is believed that Cogdill was hired to kill Myers after Myers recently came into the possession of a small fortune from his deceased father. Cogdill, an ex-marine and bounty hunter, is wanted in connection to a string of murders from Los Angeles to Denver.
I sat back in my chair. “Bledy hell!”
“I know,” said Thomas. He flexed his muscles. “I took out an ex-marine and bounty hunter.”
Rachel pulled over her empty cup and held it in both hands. “I’m just glad you’re both still alive.”
Thomas grinned and chuckled once again like a demented little demon. He pointed at the article. “See, Matthew,” he said, “I helped them. Served them right up on a platter, look.”
I shared Thomas’ laugh. Seeing some proof that we’d actually helped relieved some of the guilt. “We were involved in an ongoing FBI case,” I realized. “I got to witness you take out a wanted felon!” I laughed again. “That’s epic!”
Rachel pushed back in her chair and stood from her desk. “Don’t get too carried away. This whole thing still really stinks.”
Thomas and I stood, transfixed in each other’s grins. I punched him on the shoulder. “Dude, you’re a badass!”
“Do you think it’s too late to add snow mobiles, Alaskan timber wolves, bazookas, cocaine, and prostitutes?”
Rachel edged around the side of her desk. “What?”
“I don’t think they’re needed,” I replied.
“Is there something you’re not telling me?” asked Rachel.
Thomas and I shook our heads. “No,” we said, together.
“Hmm,” she muttered and walked ahead of us out of her office. “Crew cuts, FBI, murders, bounty hunters. I should’ve sent Moira and Philip.”
And that’s the story about this guy I know. Over the next few weeks, we both spoke to the Aspen police and the FBI over the phone and let them know what happened to us. They were currently building their case against Julie, or rather Melissa Cogdill, and wanted us to fly out and sign sworn statements testifying that Myers was in the room when we had entered. Myers had since been found in the back of a car at a scrapyard in Farmington, New Mexico.
Sophie met with us at work and said that she was more than happy to fly us back out to Aspen to meet with the police, although she arranged for us to meet with a lawyer when we arrived, just in case there were any complications.
Thomas and I both boarded the train to Gatwick on the day of the flight. I wanted us to travel together, just the two of us, and I knew that traveling with his parents would have depressed Thomas. I was trying to make an effort to keep a certain level of ‘chaos’ in our lives, just so things didn’t become too routine.
Living with Thomas, with the exception of a few arguments here and there, was actually a lot of fun. We very soon had the garden cleaned up, and made plans for a spring garden with a rockery. Thomas still played his videogames, sometimes for hours at a time, but I was more than happy to read or watch him play. I also joined his Kung Fu club and attended on Tuesday evenings. Thomas was one of the most gifted club members, and I noticed that he still didn’t look the other members in the eyes. I asked him about this.
“Thomas, why don’t you look the other members in the eyes?”
“It’s Kung Fu, Matthew. You don’t have to. If you know where the arm is, you know where the head is.”
We boarded the plane to Newark, New Jersey, with little difficulty, and I was pleased to see that Thomas had not packed any nunchuks in his hand luggage. By way of tradition, we had purchased a bottle of Jack Daniels in the sparkly liquor store for the journey across the Atlantic.
This time Thomas took the seat by the window, and I fell into the middle next to him. We kicked our carryon luggage under the seat in front and clipped the seat belts across our waists.
“I still can’t believe we’re doing this,” I said. “When we came back the last time, I’d have never have agreed to it.”
Thomas pulled the strap tight on his seat belt. “This time it’ll be different,” he said. “And if we are attacked again, I’ve been learning some new moves.” He threw his both of his hands forward in one blur.
“I still don’t know how you move your hands that fast.”
“Stay relaxed and contract at the last minute. It takes some practice.”
I frowned and lamented my novice status in the martial arts. “Yeah, yeah. Water into ice, and all that shit.”
“Hey, check this out!” Thomas pulled his keychain out from the inside of his jacket pocket. It had a pen-sized metal rod looped in among the keys. I took it from him to get a closer look.
“What is it?” I asked, and checked to see if there was a nib anywhere for writing.
Thomas flashed his teeth in an all-knowing grin. “It’s a kubotan,” he said. “For self-defense.”
“Of course it bledy is,” I moaned. I went to hand it back, but something else on the keychain caught my eye. “Hang on a minute,” I said, grabbing and holding up the small metallic item. “You still have this?”
Thomas had attached the number ‘2’ he had taken from the Alpine Lodge hotel room to the key chain. “Well it only made sense to keep it. I could probably do some damage with that, too. Haha, too, get it?” I shook my head and pulled out the flight magazine from the pocket in the back of the chair in front, and began to flick through. “I had my last counseling session last week.”
Thomas turned his head to me. “How’d that go?”
“It’s good. I was a little cynical when they first started. But my body no longer wishes to shut-down when I remember being stuck in the boot of the car.”
“I’m proud of you for going, Matthew. It takes a lot of courage to admit you need help.” He squeezed my thigh. “I’ve never been very good at it.”
“Well, we’ve got each other, now,” I said. “Hopefully, we can keep each other out of trouble.”
Thomas rested his head on my shoulder. “It’s working so far.”
I stopped reading and tucked the magazine back into the pocket. I didn’t want to discuss our relationship, and fortunately a flash of inspiration snapped me out of it. “Shaved Farmer, that’s what I’d call my beer.”
Thomas grimaced. “That’s worse than Matthew’s Beer. It sounds like the hair from the farmer was used in the brewing process.”
“The Demon’s Nunchuks.”
“That’s more of a pub.”
Thomas laughed. “I’ll take it.”
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