Jeff looked at Jaxon with an unreadable expression. "And do you know where he was going?"
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
TLR Chapter 20
Jenson wiped the sweat from his face. He carefully sat on the steps of the cottage and looked at the pile of wood he had just split as part of his punishment from skipping the classes Sawyer had signed him up for. He could still feel the other part of the punishment across his behind and upper thighs. He leaned back, elbows on the upper step behind his and thought back to two days ago.
After making plans to meet up with Elijah and Zay, Sawyer and Jenson got up from the table then they had both gone back to their cottage that they had reserved while at the resort.
Since they both had a love for camping they had decided to go cheap and stay in one of the Hunter's cottages that sat back a little from the bungalows. The cottages didn’t have indoor plumbing, but they did have a Potbelly stove to cook on. It was dark when they had arrived back at the cottage.
Sawyer had picked up the lantern that was by the door, lit it and had waited for Jenson to walk in the room.
Jenson had decided to take his time as he knew what was coming next. ‘What was he thinking skipping out on the classes they signed up for? Not a smart thing to do,’ he had thought. They both had agreed to take all the classes because it would be good for them in the future.
Jenson remembered stopping when he reached the top step and had looked at Sawyer seeming to plead for this not to happen while they were here at TLR.
“Inside please and get undressed,” Sawyer had said.
“Please Sawyer not here'”!
“Come here!” Sawyer had repeated.
“Please, Sawyer, I'm truly sorry about earlier.”
“Are you truly sorry Jenson?”
“Well, yeah,” the younger man had answered.
“Ok, then can you tell me why you skipped the classes and why you were rude to our new friends?”
“Ahh, well, I thought we didn't need to take the classes because we know all that stuff,” Jenson had answered. “And I was in a mood.”
“I see. We'll just have to fix that then.” Sawyer had said. “Jenson, your flip flops please,” he had added with a tone that brooked no nonsense.
Since Jenson had no other choice, he finally had bent down taking his flip flops off and handed them to Sawyer.
Turning Jenson around Sawyer had bent him in half and gave him a half dozen swats on his white behind then below it hitting his legs.
"Owww, ok I get it, Sawyer, it won't happen again,” Jenson had whined.
“No it won't happen again, Jenson, and I'll make sure of it. There's no reason for you or anybody to be rude,” Sawyer had said as he swatted Jenson's behind a few more times to drive the lesson home.
Jenson had stood back up wiping the tears and snot on his arm and had looked at Sawyer and apologize for his behavior.
“Thank you.” Sawyer had responded. “Alright come here.”
Jenson remembered walking over and snuggling into Sawyer's neck breathing in his cologne, then Sawyer leaned in wiping the leftover tears on his cheek and kissed him.
“Love you my brat.”
Sawyer had walked over to the table where there was paper and pencils and sat down. He wrote, ‘I'll will not be rude and disrespectful to others’. Taking a hold of Jenson's hand they had walked over to the corner together. Spitting out his chewing gum the older man had rolled it into a ball and stuck the paper to the wall in the corner of the cottage with the gum.
“Nose to the wall. Maybe studying these words will help you to remember,” then Sawyer took his brat’s flip flop and snapped it one more time on Jenson’s already rosy behind.
The next night Sawyer and Jenson had a nice time with their new friends and they all got to know a little about each other and where they lived and what hobbies they liked. Jenson’s behind reminding him not to be rude.
They had said their goodbyes hoping they would see them this time next year.
Jenson was jarred from his thoughts when Sawyer cleared his throat. He sighed then picked up the axe and headed back to the wood pile.
Ever since James had moved Jaxon into his house, Mutt had become a frequent visitor when he wasn’t grounded. And in that position, he couldn’t help but notice that things were good with Heath and James. He had accidentally overheard them in the clinic one day and they weren't talking about medicine. He couldn’t tell Jeff about it because then he would have to explain how he had gotten the information and Jeff had a zero tolerance policy about eavesdropping.
Mutt had justified his knowledge by telling himself that he wasn't eavesdropping if people were saying and doing things in plain sight. He had worried that if he tried to leave quietly he would be noticed and be accused of snooping again so he just continued fixing the faucet in the clinic’s restroom.
It wasn't as though he were going to go around telling people. He liked having secrets, and knowing things that other people didn't know. This little nugget of gold was a treasure he wanted to keep to himself for a while. Especially since Jeff didn't approve of gossip any more than he did snooping.
Today Heath had asked Jeff if Mutt could stay with Jax. Both the doctor and the resort owner had things to do away from their home and didn’t want Jaxon left alone. With only two days left of his grounding Jeff relented and let Mutt stay with his friend. Mutt and Jaxon were in the swimming pool close to the lodge. The younger man appreciated the company and Mutt kept Jaxon informed about the goings on at the resort and in the meantime they had been engaging in some of the less strenuous activities that Billy had said would be good for Jax’s leg.
"Swimming is always good." Mutt said, playfully splashing at his friend. "This heated pool, and low impact exercise is good therapy. I know that Heath is very proud of how well you’re doing." Mutt smiled. He couldn't help but see the wistful expression on his friend's face "So, uh, Jax...how are James and Heath doing?" Is everything ok?” as he looked surreptitiously around in case anyone was nearby and might hear. He was sure this constituted gossip and didn't want any of the residents to overhear and report to Jeff.
"What do you mean how are they doing?" Jaxon asked, completely confused. "Like what? Are they arguing or something? I haven't noticed anything wrong." He frowned in concentration as he tried to remember any problems between the two older men.
"No, nothing wrong, I was just curious." Mutt said, backtracking. He quickly changed the subject and hesitantly broached the other subject he'd been withholding up till now, hoping to avoid getting Jaxon worked up and upset.
"Hey Jax... I, ah... I looked you up in the white pages, I can't help it, I've always been too curious for my own good."
"The white pages?" The young man asked.
"Yeah, on the internet. And while I was scouting around I found an article about you."
At first Jaxon was silent. Eventually he took a deep breath and quietly asked, "What did it say?"
"Well, uh, let’s get out of the pool and sit and have a drink?" Mutt countered.
"No, I'm fine really.”
"Come on. I think you should be sitting to hear this."
"Fine," Jaxon conceded, realizing that he wasn't going to get any information from his friend until he gave in. Mutt helped Jaxon to the lounge chair then they put their sweats and sneakers on against the chill in the morning air. Mutt tossed a towel over Jaxon's hair and playfully mussed it. Jaxon laughingly and playfully knocked Mutt's hand away and finished drying his own hair. Once he was dry and comfortable, Mutt began to speak.
“The article was from the Elmville Tribune. It said that a 20 year old man was missing and feared drowned. There are search parties out that way, combing the beaches for any sign of you or a canoe that some guy reported missing." Mutt would have said more but Jaxon's eyes began to blur with tears.
"My Mom wasn’t a big part of my life while I was growing up but,” he said thickly, “she's got to be frantic. And leave it to Gene to be worried about nothing other than his precious canoe. I wish there were some way to tell her I'm fine."
"My stepfather. He's a piece of work, I'll tell ya. Mean as all hell." Jaxon said, shivering.
Mutt sat thoughtfully for a few moments, then reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. He took out a worn piece of paper, unfolded it gently and looked at it, reading it as though he hadn't seen it hundreds of times already and hadn't memorized every word. He gave a wry smile at the confused looking Jaxon and handed the paper over carefully.
Jaxon looked at the paper trying to make heads or tails of what was written there.
"What's this about?"
Mutt thought for another few seconds and began to speak quietly. "When I came out to my parents, my father freaked out, He was screaming at me, calling me every horrible name in the book. Slapping and punching me. I'd tried to fight back but he was bigger and stronger than I was, and my fighting back just made things worse. All I could do was curl up and try to keep him from hitting anything important. He'd already gut punched me a couple of times and I was still trying to get my breath back." He admitted.
"He kept yelling ‘Get out! Get out! You're no son of mine.' But when I tried to get to my room to gather up my clothes he followed me and tore them out of my hands. He was screaming ‘I paid for these! These are not yours, they're mine! All of this is mine! Even the clothes on your back.'
Then he tried to rip those off of me. He threatened to call the police on me for theft if I didn't give them to him."
"I dodged past him and ran. I ran for what felt like miles, listening the whole time for police sirens. When I finally felt safe I just sat down and cried. I was sitting by the side of a road on a cold Connecticut night with my shirt torn to shreds and trying to figure out how I was going to survive."
He took another deep breath and continued his story. "All I could think of was New York. I'd gone there with my family as a kid to watch the Nutcracker Suite, so it wasn't a complete unknown. I'd heard stories over the years of how runaways made money by prostituting themselves... among other things. I wondered if I might be one of the lucky ones and find a legitimate job so that I wouldn't have to do... that... to survive. I thought of how my life might turn out and just sat there in the cold and cried. That's when I met Uncle John."
"Yeah. He sort of adopted me. Initially he'd blown by in his truck, then scared the shite out of me when he slammed on his brakes and backed up..."
Jaxon laughed. "Shite? What the heck does that mean?"
Mutt grinned. "It means what you think it means. It's the way my friend Adam pronounces it. I think it sounds so much classier than the way Americans say it, don't you?"
Jaxon laughed again and leaned forward a little. "So what happened next?"
“So anyway, the window goes down and this old guy yells, ‘Hey Kid! You look like you could use a hand. Come on in! Tell Uncle John yer troubles. Maybe I can help ya.’ " Mutt said, doing a fair imitation of the man. "I guess he saw the uncertain look on my face and said, ‘Or you don't have to talk at all. My wife always complains that I love to hear myself talk, so you can sit there and get warm and I'll do the talking, all right?’
“He had such an engaging smile that I got in and drove away with my new 'Uncle John', without a backward look.”
"Weren't you scared?" Jaxon asked.
"No. Not once I was in the cab of the truck. I was finally warming up and the shock was wearing off. I'll tell ya," Mutt laughed, "John really did love to hear himself talk because between the gentle rumble of the wheels and the man's voice, I fell asleep."
"I woke up in a hotel room. That's when I was really frightened. I was completely disoriented, I sat up and looked around. I checked my clothes, worrying that the worst had happened, but my clothing was still on and hadn't been disturbed." He huffed a laugh, “Well, at least they weren't in any worse shape than they already were. So anyway, I got up and searched the bathroom. John was nowhere to be found.”
"When I walked back into the main area, I found this note addressed to me." Mutt said, pointing to the piece of paper. Jaxon began to read:
Sorry to cawl you kid, but you never did tell me you're name. Fact of the mattur iz you dint say word one. Ha ha.
I'm sorry I had to leaf you hear but I cudn't figer out how to bring you home and esplain meself to the wife. Shez not a very sosciable persun, which is won of the reazuns I drive a truck cross country and am only home on weekendz, and not even then if I kan avoid it. Ha ha
I paid for you to stay hear four 4 nights, and therez some money four you in the night table draw. I also left you the name and number of a frend of mine. Hiz name iz James. He lives up in Mane and you shud be abel to get anothur one of the truckurz to get you up there. I put the word out about you. Don't worry, I only said you dont say much but your a good kid otherwize. Ha ha
Put you're money under the insoul of your shoe and keep mum about it. Ony keep out about five dollar atta time so you kan eat. Not all drivurz iz az nice az you're ole Unckle John, an thats the truth. Avoid the drivur what callz hizself Revurse. He's a baddun, but the othurz izn't too bad.
If you kan wait around a few daze I'll call a head and talk to this buddy about you. Jamesez buddy I mean, not Revursez. That's even if that old so and so haz any buddyz. Revurse I mean, not James. Jamesez got lots of frenz.
Best a luck, kid. Ole Unckle John'll be lookin out four you.
“I was really worried about running into the wrong guy, so I waited two more days, making friends with the hotel staff and some of the drivers before deciding to head out. My shirt was all torn up so I used a little of the money to buy a tee shirt. The new one was kind of lewd, typical trucker humor, but I thought it was funny, you know?" Mutt continued, blushing just a little.
"Just as I was about to open the door to leave, a man came knocking. A tall, older, seriously attractive, distinguished looking man, who introduced himself as Jeff Markham, sent by his friend James on the recommendation of a trucker named John Jamison, an old buddy of James's.” Mutt explained to Jax.
“Jeff took a look at me and his eyebrows went up into his hairline when he saw the shirt. I nearly laughed but he pinned me with this look that just gave me the goose bumps, but in a good way, and then ordered me to take a shower. When I got out of the shower he was nowhere to be found, and my clothes were gone. All I could think was that it had been a cruel prank by my father and that he'd finally gotten the clothes. But a couple of minutes afterward, Jeff returned with new clothes. Jeans, a shirt, socks, shoes and a warm jacket. After I'd dressed he ordered me to turn around and show off the new clothes.”
“‘There!’ He'd said, ‘Now you don't look like the junkyard mutt. You clean up good kid’.”
"So that's why you're called Mutt? I like that." Jaxon said quietly, a soft smile on his face.
Mutt winked, "That's the real story and it’s between you and I, ok?"
"I can promise you that. Go on."
"Jeff brought me to TLR and introduced me to James. I love James like an uncle." He admitted with a shy smile. "He insisted that I go to college. He was going to pay for the whole thing but I didn't let him. I told him I'd work and put myself through college. He took me on part time and paid me what I'm positive was more than anyone else would have paid for inexperienced, uneducated help."
"Did he make you take specific classes?" Jaxon asked.
"No. I was always good at math so I took classes that played to my strengths, and got my degree in engineering."
"How did you end up as head of maintenance and landscaping if you have a degree in engineering? Why would you want to work mowing lawns when you could be doing so much more?" Jax inquired.
“James has asked me the same thing. He's also asked me many times if I would like to run classes at the resort, or even take classes and do something else entirely rather than maintenance and landscaping, but I had always said no thank you. Stuck in an office, I would be out of the loop, hidden away behind walls and only knowing what I was told. As a 'lowly' maintenance man I can be out and about, seeing and hearing everything there is to see and hear."
He leaned in toward Jaxon with a grin and lowered his voice. "Keep a secret?" At Jaxon's nod he continued.
"Because I'm only 5' 6", and 'just' a maintenance man, people tend to talk over me. They don't realize, or ignore the fact, that I'm even there. I find it amazing how many people think that I'm too stupid to understand what they're saying, and I like it that way, though I'd never admit it out loud. I know something about everyone at the resort, and I like that too. Though I never plan to do anything with the knowledge, it's nice to have.”
"Now here I am, thirty years old, married to the sexiest man I've ever met, gainfully employed and a proud part of Teardrop Lake Resort." Mutt said with a pleased grin. He knew that both James and Heath were more than just fond of Jaxon but he felt it was too early to tell Jaxon what he'd heard.
"The point of my telling you this is to let you know that I empathize with what you have to go through... had to go through with your stepfather. But now you have James and Heath in your corner. Not just them, but myself, Jeff and everyone else here. We take care of our own."
Mutt's words warmed Jaxon and he visibly relaxed. He felt safer than he had in months. "I like that." He replied quietly. "But what do I do about letting my mom know I’m ok in the meantime?"
"Don't worry, Jax, we'll figure something out.” the older man replied.
"Do you think I could call her?" Jax asked.
"Do you have caller ID at your house?" Mutt asked quietly.
"Yes." The other man replied.
"Then a call from here or my phone wouldn't be a good idea, since the names would show. How about your cell phone?" Mutt asked.
"Ruined when I ended up in the water." Jaxon said sadly. "How about a letter?"
"We couldn't mail it from here; the post mark would reveal our zip code and that would make it easier for anyone to find you." The older man shared.
Jaxon and Mutt were silent for a while, thinking of alternatives, until Mutt clicked his fingers, a pleased expression on his face. "I have it. I'll get a pen, paper and a plain envelope. You can dictate the letter to me so I can write it for you and then I'll drive to Stonemill and mail it from there. This way even if Gene wants to track you down, he'll be going in entirely the wrong direction. What do you say?"
Jaxon smiled. "It sounds like a great idea! That's at least three hour drive from here, though. Won't Jeff notice you missing for six hours?"
"Nah, today is Saturday and my day off and I can go wherever I want to. Jeff and I can go a whole day without ever once running across each other." He reassured Jaxon, completely forgetting, in his zeal to help his friend, about the fact that he was still technically grounded. "Let me go get the stuff and we can get started on your letter." Mutt said excitedly. "Then I'll head out first thing after lunch to mail it out and with luck I'll be back before anyone knows I'm gone! I'll be right back. Oh, wait!" He exclaimed, taking his phone out of his pocket. "Smile!"
Jaxon laughed and hammed it up for the camera, not sure why his friend had wanted a picture, but not caring. Jaxon sat back in the chair with a smile, relieved that he would at least be able to put his mother's fears to rest. He felt guilty for putting her through this but he hoped that the letter would put her at ease. He settled back to wait for Mutt.
Mutt returned nearly ten minutes later with all the things they'd need to write the letter, and Jaxon began his dictation. Three pages later, Jaxon was done. Mutt inserted another piece of paper, sealed the envelope and put it in his pocket. "I'll drive to Stonemill and send this out first thing after lunch."
Jaxon bit his lower lip and tentatively asked, “Mutt, do you think you can do it now? It's still early enough that you can make it there and back in plenty of time. I just don't want my mother to worry any more or any longer than she already has." He explained. "I mean, if it's too much to do now I'll understand, it's just that..." He trailed off.
"Don't worry; I’ll be there and back before dinner." Mutt smiled. He made sure that Jaxon was warm and dry in his house, made him comfortable on his recliner with a bottle of water and a snack, called Heath to let him know that he'd taken good care of Jaxon, where he was and what he was doing. "But I have some errands to run and can't stay with him."
"That's quite all right, Mutt. Thank you." Heath replied. "I know he'll be safe until I can get there. In the meantime I'll call James and let him know. Jax is well enough now that he can be left alone for a little while. Just tell him that I said to stay in the house until I can get there." He ordered.
"Yes sir!" Mutt replied. With a jaunty salute to the phone he hung up, gave his friend the message, left Jaxon and headed back to the bungalow he shared with Jeff. He put on a clean shirt and grabbed his leathers and helmet. Ignoring the nagging feeling in his stomach he hopped on his Harley Softail, and began the long trip to Stonemill.
Checking the time and seeing it was just shortly after ten he made a quick decision as he reached the highway then turned left instead of right and headed toward Elmville. It would take just as long to go to Elmville as it would to go to Stonemill, so he decided to deliver the letter in person. He rationalized his actions by telling himself that a visit by a live person would be more comforting to the distraught woman, than a simple letter, which would take a day or more to be delivered.
He drove the three hours to Elmville, programmed the address into his GPS and arrived shortly afterward at a comfortable looking home on a shady street. He checked quickly for any large cars or trucks... Jaxon had explained to him that his stepfather was a tall, overweight man and never drove anything smaller than a Cadillac or his SUV. Mutt was relieved when he saw only a mid-sized car in the driveway, Jaxon’s mother's car.
Mutt drove another couple of blocks and parked his Softail in a market parking lot. It was nondescript enough that no one would really notice an extra bike in the lot. He took off his helmet and tried to brush his wild hair down a little, and looked in the rear view mirror. More or less content with what he saw, he made his way back toward the house and rang the doorbell.
A tired, worried looking woman answered the door. "Yes?"
"Yes. Who are you, please?"
"My name is, M... um, Mark Addy,” he said, giving the first name he could think of. "I've come about... I have, ah, a letter for you from, uh..."
"Jaxon?!" She cried softly, an expression of hope replacing the worry lines. "A letter from Jaxon? Where is he? Is he all right? Please tell me!"
Mutt tried to give the letter over to the woman but her hands were shaking so badly that she dropped it. He bent down and picked it up, tucked it under his arm and reached out to hold the woman's hands. They were ice cold. "Ma'am, Jaxon is alive and well. Is it all right if I come inside? I think you should sit down." He said in a quiet, comforting voice.
"Yes, please! Please come in Mr... ?"
"Addy. Mark Addy. Please just call me Mu... Mark." He smiled.
"Please sit down, Mark. Can I get you something to drink?"
Mutt could see that the woman was still shaking and decided he didn't want to end up wearing whatever she brought out, plus he had no idea when Gene would return and couldn't think of a delicate way to ask, so he politely declined. "I don't have much time, ma'am. I just wanted to deliver this." He repeated, once again giving the letter over to Jaxon's mother. This time she was able to take it without dropping it, though her hands still shook.
He gently took the envelope out of her hands, slit it open with his finger and handed it back to her. She gave him a grateful look and took the papers out, unfolding them as quickly as she could. She nearly dropped the picture that Mutt had taken, which was stamped with the time and date, showing Jaxon smiling happily.
She read the letter once, tears coursing down her cheeks. Then again, shaking her head but a little more calm. When she finished reading it for a third time she took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She smiled at Mutt. "Thank you. Thank you! I didn't want to believe he was gone. I just wouldn't believe it. He's too good a swimmer! I knew he was all right!"
"Yes ma'am, he's fine now, and he's been thinking of you. A lot. He just wanted to let you know he's all right. But I'm afraid I have to leave now,” he said, glancing at his watch, worried that he'd stayed too long as it was. The longer he stayed, the more something seemed wrong, and his gut wrenched with worry. Taking his leave politely, he began to walk back toward the parking lot.
That's when he heard the footsteps behind him. Heavy. And approaching fast. He tried to increase his speed but it was too late. A large beefy hand grabbed his arm in a steel grip and hauled him around, forcing him to face his assailant.
Gene Thomas. An angry Gene Thomas. A big, angry Gene Thomas who towered over Mutt like a skyscraper.
”You must be the fag who’s screwing my stepson! What the hell were you doing in my house? I heard most of the conversation so I know you know where that little son-of-a-bitch is! Tell me!"
“No, I’m not…I’m just his friend and from the looks of this family he could use more friends!” Mutt winced as a large hand slapped him across the face. He could feel his lip swelling and when he automatically licked the area, he could taste blood.
Mutt tried to wrest his arm free but the man had a grip like a vise and he couldn't help but to wince as he felt the fingers digging into his arm through the sleeve of his leather jacket.
"Don't you dare talk back to me or put my family down." Gene thundered. "Anything Jaxon told you is a lie. Now, you pervert! Tell me who are you, and where Jaxon is. He owes me for that canoe."
"I'm Mu... Mark. I... ow! Leggo!"
"I'm not letting go until you tell me what you were doing in my house, you little shit!" Gene said, taking Mutt's other arm and digging those fingers in just as hard and giving the younger man a vicious shake.
"Tell me where he is! If you don't tell me where he is I'll beat the crap out of you, and believe me kiddo I can do it. You know why?" The large man demanded with a feral grin as he pulled Mutt up closer to his face. "Because you know where the little pansy canoe thief is. Because you're hiding him even though the authorities are looking for him. You're aiding and abetting a wanted man, and that makes you a criminal, so unless you want a lot of questions asked that you don't want to answer, you're not going to go to the police." His grin became fiercer. Mutt could smell the heavy tobacco and alcohol smells on the man's breath, and his stomach churned.
"I, on the other hand, can beat the crap out of you and then drag you to the police. I'll just tell them you put up a fight. Come on, little boy, put up a fight," The man taunted, lifting the smaller man off the ground and shaking him again like a bulldog with a kitten.
Gene never saw it coming.
Mutt remembered some of the self-defense techniques that Jeff had taught him and promptly delivered a swift, hard blow to the man's genitals with his knee. When Gene dropped him, Mutt side kicked him and caught the man in the knee with one of his boot heels. When the big man went down, curled in the fetal position, Mutt ran, shaken and scared and desperate to get away from the horrid excuse for a human. Not knowing if anyone else was watching him, Mutt ran down the first street he came to then slowed to a jog and finally stopped behind a small group of birch trees. After several minutes and without seeing Gene or any suspicious beings, Mutt carefully walked back to his ride. With shaking hands, Mutt got his keys out, straddled his bike, and slowly entered the street so he didn’t draw any attention. Suddenly home seemed a million miles away, and Mutt couldn't get there fast enough. Mutt made it out of town before he started to shake. As soon as he could get off the highway he did.
When his shaking began to get worse and he felt as though he were going to be sick, Mutt took deep breaths and managed to calm down. Which allowed him to remember Duke saying that he was going to go visit his brother, Dean, who didn’t live far from where he was currently pulled off the highway.
The scared young man pulled out his phone, noticing absently that he'd had it turned off. He turned it on and punched in Duke's number, holding his breath until he heard Duke’s hello. "Duke? Hi, it's Mutt."
"Mutt my boy! Are you all right? You sound a little shaky." Duke observed.
"Yeah, I'm ok... I, ah... I'm in Elmville."
"Elmville?! You’re quite a ways from the resort. What are you doin’ out here?" He asked and then exchanged a look with his brother Dean who was looking at him curiously. Duke covered the mouthpiece and said, “It’s the young maintenance man from TLR.” His brother knew Mutt from his many visits to the resort to meet up with Duke.
"Yeah, it is. I needed to run an errand and I... ah, need some help? I, um, I'm having a little bike trouble and I was wondering if you can come out and give me a hand?" Mutt asked, shakily, feeling sick to his stomach.
Duke huffed a laugh. "Yeah kid, I can give you one hand." He joked.
"Oh damn, I forgot." Mutt replied, sounding more shaken.
"Don't worry, Mutt. Hang on a sec, kay?" Duke asked, covering the mouth piece again.
"S... sure, Duke."
"Deano, we're gonna have to head back to shore. I need you to help me get Mutt. He doesn't sound good and he's havin’ bike problems."
"What's he doin' all the way out here?" Dean wondered.
"I dunno. Let's go get him and we'll get the whole story then. We're gonna have to take your truck and the ramps."
"Sure thing, Duke." Dean said as he turned the row boat back toward shore. "The fish weren't biting anyway, and we ran out of beer a couple of hours ago,” he laughed knowing that neither of them would drink much more than a beer apiece because of their mom being a drunk.
Duke uncovered the mouthpiece, “OK kid, where are you? Me an' Dean are on the way."
Mutt looked around for a street sign. "I'm on the corner of Chestnut and Maple Street, at the Shop N Save plaza."
"We'll be right there, kiddo, just hang tight. We'll bring the truck and the ramps and put your bike in the back. OK?"
Mutt took a deep breath and let it go in a relieved sigh. "Sure, I’ll be right here."
He locked up his bike and went into the store for some crackers and a ginger ale to settle his stomach.
Unfortunately for Mutt, Jeff did notice when his husband was nowhere to be found. He began to ask around the resort. No one knew where he'd gone and he wasn't answering his cell phone, making Jeff worry more.
"Last I saw of him he was hanging out with Jaxon in the pool." Adam answered when Jeff asked him. "But that was earlier this morning. Around eight, I think?" He frowned in concentration, trying to remember. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure that was the time. I had to go fix a broken sprinkler head so I didn't stop to say hello or anything."
"Thanks Adam, that helps." Jeff replied, smiling and patting the younger man on the shoulder before taking his leave and heading for James's house.
He knocked politely and waited for Jaxon's invitation. He smiled when he saw the young man looking so much happier and healthier than he had only three weeks ago.
"Hi Jeff!" Jaxon called cheerfully from his recliner.
Jeff was pleased to see that Jaxon was obeying Heath's orders and staying off his leg as much as possible.
"I'm just looking for Mutt,” He explained. “Adam said that he saw the two of you at the pool earlier. I wondered if you knew where he went."
"Well, the last time I saw him he said he was going to your bungalow and then he was going to run out on an errand." Jaxon said evasively. He remembered what Mutt said, but something about Jeff's demeanor made Jaxon nervous for his friend.
Jeff looked at Jaxon with an unreadable expression. "And do you know where he was going?"
"He had to mail a letter."
Jeff frowned, “That shouldn't have taken him very long. The post office is just down the road from here."
"Well,” Jaxon admitted somewhat reluctantly, “he didn't use this post office."
Jeff shook his head, not understanding. "Do you know why?"
"He was mailing a letter for me. To my mother. Mutt said the post mark would bring my stepfather straight to us so he... went to Stonemill to mail the letter." Jaxon finally admitted.
"What time did he leave? Do you know?"
"Ummm, the last time I saw him it was a little after ten in the morning."
Jeff looked at his watch. Mutt had always let him know where he was going to be. He'd never gone off of resort grounds before without telling Jeff where he'd be, it was one of their rules. And technically his husband was still grounded. Mutt's impulsive nature was one of the things the two of them had been working on for years.
"All right then, Jax, thank you. If you hear from him would you let me know?"
"Sure thing, Jeff." Jaxon replied.
Jeff wasn't sure but he could swear that Jaxon looked relieved. As soon as Jeff had gone, Jaxon picked up the phone and called Mutt.
His cell rang while he was finishing up the last of the crackers. Carefully Mutt said,
“Hello.”, seeing that the caller was from TLR and worried that it might be Jeff.
Hearing Jaxon’s voice he breathed a sigh of relief. “Hey, Mutt, are you ok?” Jaxon asked. “Jeff was just here asking about you. Are you on your way home? Did you get the letter mailed?”
“Yeah, I’m ok,” Mutt answered. “And yes, I'm on my way back home. I, ah, decided to just take the letter to your mom and met Gene. You weren't wrong about him.”
“What happened? He didn’t hurt you did he?” Jaxon demanded.
“Look, Jax, I’ll tell you all about it when I get home, but I got to go now,” he said when he saw a truck coming into the parking lot with Duke and his brother. He disconnected the call once Jax had said ok.