Chapter 8 - Mandatory Reporting.
I had dithered and wasted time, getting the majority of my freak out over with before I left Daphne's, so I didn’t make it back to the Loft until almost five. Before I’d left, though, my adamant friend forced me to call Carl; she assumed, rightly, that, if left to myself, I’d have talked myself into delaying, and she wasn’t gonna let me wimp out. So I called Debbie to get Carl’s number at the police precinct where he worked - another fun conversation, by the way, where I only barely deflected Deb’s concerns by telling her I had a question about a legal thing ‘for a friend’ - and then left a message for Detective Horvath, asking him to call me back as soon as possible. Once satisfied that things were in motion, Daphne finally let me leave.
Not that I was all that excited to go home. I knew I couldn’t stay silent about our private investigations any longer; if Brian inadvertently found out what I’d been up to, he’d be exceedingly pissed off. Plus, it was his life I was prying into, so he had a right to know what I’d found. The only reason I’d kept quiet about it up till then was to spare him any more trauma. However, there was no way I could avoid pulling him into the loop now. Shit was about to hit the fan big time. It was better that I clue him in, so he’d have as much time to prepare for the fallout as possible, rather than let him be blindsided. Still, I wasn’t exactly excited for the conversation I knew was coming.
I’d only been home for about twenty minutes - spending my time pacing the beautifully polished wood floors while I attempted to organize my thoughts and plan out how I’d approach my partner - when the man of the hour unexpectedly came through the door a full hour before I’d expected him.
Brian was never home this early on a Wednesday night. Never. When I noticed how exhausted he looked, though, I wasn’t surprised that he’d called it a day already. He looked completely beat. My Blank Zombie Brian, as Daph had christened him, seemed to be getting worse. He barely even acknowledged my presence with a sub vocal grunt as he walked past, heading straight for the liquor cart and filling a highball glass almost to the brim with Beam. Not a good sign considering what I had planned.
I was just about to reach for my phone, intending to call off the confrontation with Carl, hoping to put off the big reveal about my meddling until Brian was feeling at least a little better, when the intercom buzzer went off. Brian, who’d taken his drink to the couch, didn’t even look up. I trotted over to the receiver next to the door and pushed the button to connect to whomever was at the building entrance downstairs.
“It’s Horvath,” our visitor announced brusquely, leaving me no choice but to invite him up.
I spent the two minutes it took for Carl to come upstairs staring intently at the back of my partner’s head, chewing at my bottom lip, and wringing my hands, completely at a loss as to how I could possibly soften the blow I knew was coming. Nothing at all came to mind, though. I just hoped that me being here to catch him would be enough this time; I really didn’t want to spend another evening at the hospital with an emotionally traumatized and almost comatose Brian. I suppose it was a good thing I didn’t have too long to get worked up about the possible outcomes I saw spiraling around in my brain before I heard Carl’s knuckles rapping against the metal of the door.
“Hey, Carl,” I greeted the gruff and rumpled detective when I opened the door to him.
“Taylor,” Carl returned my greeting with a curt nod. “The desk handed me your message right as I was walking out the door. I figured I might as well just come by and talk to you in person. Whatever you needed sounded important . . .”
“Uh . . . yeah.” I looked over my shoulder to where Zombie Brian was still sitting on the couch, apparently uninvolved, and sighed. “It is. I’m afraid. You, uh, better come in.”
Carl followed me in but declined my offer of a drink. Instead, he marched directly over to the living room and took up a seat in the chair across the coffee table from my favorite Zombie. I retrieved my bankers’ box full of evidence from where it was waiting on the floor near the bar and unenthusiastically joined the others in the living room area.
Dropping the box off on the coffee table in front of Carl Horvath’s chair, I started in on my explanation. “So, last Saturday, when Brian came to New York to see me, he had a bit of a run in with a motorcycle. Hence the broken wrist . . .”
I spent the next half hour detailing for Carl the events that had transpired over the past several days. I explained about Brian’s conversation with Lindsey and his odd reaction when he’d seen the copy of the flyer she’d texted him. I described what had happened at the hospital and Dr. Kajiwara’s advice to look more closely into my partner’s childhood. I added in the part about how Brian had seemed to relapse again, after he got out of the hospital, following the telephone call with Lindsey and Gus, which led to us coming back to Pittsburgh. I didn’t leave out the part about how Brian was still acting off or why I was still so worried about him and his seemingly inexplicable reaction. All the while, the subject of this tale simply sat there, never making eye contact with anyone, nursing his drink, and saying nothing at all. Carl’s glances, darting back and forth between a silent Brian and myself, indicated that he was just as surprised by the underwhelming response from such a normally dynamic person.
“So, when Brian still wasn’t acting like himself, even after we got back here, I decided to take Dr. Kajiwara’s advice to heart and do some digging on my own into Brian’s childhood.” Even that statement, which should have earned me an angry tongue lashing from my oh-so-private partner, elicited zero response, so I huffed impatiently and continued on. “I decided to go talk to Michael, who was the only person I knew that might have any insight into Brian’s past . . .”
Both Brian and Carl listened as I walked through my private investigations. Brian said practically nothing during the whole explanation, not even looking up from his glass of Beam when I used my phone to show Carl the Kick!It website, the homepage of which featured the same picture of Coach Langley as they’d used on the flyer. When I mentioned that Daphne and I had actually met with Langley, Carl showed more interest than Brian did. It wasn’t until I explained how it was that Daphne and I had ended up at Joan Kinney’s house, that Brian evinced any curiosity about the story I’d been spinning.
“You talked with Saint Joan? I’ll bet that was fun,” Brian scoffed.
“Not me - Daphne. I suspect your mother wouldn’t have told me anything, but you know how charming Daphne can be.” Brian offered up a ghost of a smile and then went back to contemplating the almost empty glass of scotch in his hand. “Which is how we ended up with this,” I segued into the most dangerous portion of my confession by pointing to the large box that had been waiting on the table in front of me this whole time. “Your mother gave this box of childhood soccer memorabilia to Daphne, ostensibly so she could use it to locate your old coach. We took it back to her place and started going through it. I don’t know what we thought we’d find - mostly I was just enjoying looking at pictures of you when you were younger - but then we found this . . .”
I opened the box and pulled out the envelope with the disturbing photos, handing the packet to Carl.
“Pictures of kids playing soccer?” Carl asked, looking at me skeptically as he shuffled through the deck of prints.
“Keep going,” I advised, moving closer to Brian on the couch. “Check out the last few photos in the stack,” I directed, sneaking a worried sideways glance at my partner, who was studiously avoiding looking at the box himself. “And the negatives too . . .”
“Holy shit,” the usually laconic Carl Horvath swore under his breath before looking up at Brian.
Brian was still intently examining his now-empty highball glass.
“Yeah.” I waited a few moments while Carl inspected the damning photos and the associated negatives. Then I turned to address Brian directly. “You understand why I felt like I had to tell Carl about this, right Brian?” I pleaded, getting no response at all from Blank Zombie Brian. “If you were the only one involved, I would have let you make the call on whether or not we reported this to anyone, but . . . If Langley did this to you, he’s probably doing it to others, and that boy we saw yesterday . . . I couldn’t NOT say something and leave that boy at risk. But, it’s still your call. I didn’t want to do anything more without telling you what I’d found and letting you decide how you wanted to handle this.” There was still no response from the icy statue of blankness sitting next to me and it was making me panicky. “Brian? Please, say something. You can scream at me or throw something or . . . Whatever. Just, please, don’t . . .” I didn’t know how to end that plea because I didn’t know what I wanted or expected Brian to do.
While Carl continued to examine the negatives by holding them up to the light, Brian finally roused from his lethargy. Leaning forward, he picked up one of the revealing photos from where it was waiting on the coffee table. I held my breath, waiting while Brian stared at the photo of himself, as a child, sitting on the edge of the bed in the mural-painted room. The whole time, his face remained completely expressionless. It was almost like he didn’t understand what he was looking at or recognize the boy in the photo.
“I . . .” He shook his head, brow furrowed with confusion. “I don’t . . . I don’t remember . . .”
“This is the teacher from the shower episode though?” Carl asked, holding up another picture from the box which more clearly showed Wade Langley.
“Yeah. I guess. He’s a lot younger in that picture but . . . It looks like the same guy.”
“That’s enough for me to at least open up a file on the matter,” Carl concluded, all businesslike and decisive, as he gathered up and put the pictures back in their specific envelopes. “I’ll have my team look into this Langley guy and see what we see.” He stood up and hefted the box of evidence to his hip. “You did the right thing, calling me in, Taylor. Guys like this don’t just do it one time and stop. Anyone who’d have sex with a fourteen year old boy can’t really be trusted around any children. And, judging by these photos you found, I suspect he’s capable of a lot worse. I’ll let you know what I find out.”
Carl was out of there before either Brian or I could say anything further and I was left, sitting in silence, with the Zombie Edition of Brian Kinney.
“Hey, Carl. Got some news for us?” I asked as soon as I saw who was on the other end of the call I’d just received.
“Possibly . . .” The detective’s tone of voice gave away more than his words. I could tell that he was withholding something important. “I need both you and Kinney to come into the station. We’d like to get a formal statement about the photos you found and Brian’s history with this teacher/coach guy.”
“It sounds like you’ve found something more on Langley?”
“We have . . . But I don’t want to discuss it over the phone,” Carl replied circumspectly.
“I get the impression, whatever it is, it’s bad.” There was only dead air on the other end of the line so I huffed a sigh and asked the next most important question, “when do you need us there?”
“Yesterday would be good,” Detective Horvath ordered before explaining a little more. “Things are in the works here but we won’t be able to move forward without your statements. Can you and Brian get over here this afternoon?”
“Hang on, let me check Brian’s schedule.” I pulled up the Kinnetik calendar on my phone - Cynthia had long ago given me access so that she wouldn’t have to constantly field calls from me asking when Brian would be available - and confirmed that there wasn’t anything much on the agenda that Friday. “Yeah, I think that’s doable. I’ll call Brian and let him know what’s up. We should be able to get to your office in, say, an hour or so?”
“Great. I’ll leave word at the desk that I’m expecting you,” Horvath said and hung up without even a goodbye.
“Yeah, great . . .” I groaned and wondered how the fuck I was going to get Brian to give Carl a statement about something he couldn’t even talk to me about.
Okay, so, when I was complaining about Brian being a virtual zombie before Carl’s visit to the loft, I was obviously exaggerating a bit. But, after my big reveal, complete with incriminating photos, he really HAD gone into full zombie mode. I don’t think he’d said more than a dozen words to me in the past two days. He just walked around like he was in a daze. I was actually surprised that he hadn’t walked into traffic again, or had a car accident, or something worse, as out of it as he was. And whenever I’d tried to confront him about it - tried to get him to talk so he could at least release some of the pressure that I could see building up inside his closed off walls - he would simply walk away from me. It was some scary shit, and infuriating as hell, too.
Worse than the blankness Brian was exuding during the day, though, was the way this heaping huge pile of emotional shit was hammering away at him every night in his dreams. I had lost count of the number of times I’d been awakened over the past couple of nights as Brian struggled through absolutely horrific nightmares. I’d no sooner shut my eyes than I’d be startled awake as my bedmate thrashed around, struggling against unseen forces, whimpering in his sleep. If I tried to touch him, it got substantially more freaky; Brian would fling himself away from me and flail until he almost fell out of bed. I was completely at a loss as to how to handle these night terrors. Mostly, I just waited patiently, calling out his name in the calmest voice I could manage, until he woke up enough to realize where he was. Then we’d go back to sleep, only for it to happen all over again. Needless to say, we both woke up even less rested than when we’d gone to bed. I was a total wreck and I didn’t know how Brian was supposed to have functioned at work. I guess it was no wonder that he was sleepwalking through his days.
I didn’t think this new development, or having to go to the police station to talk about Langley some more, was going to help matters, but it didn’t look like we had a choice.
Reluctantly, I hit the icon on my phone that would speed dial Kinnetik and waited until the line was answered.
“Good afternoon. You’ve reached Kinnetik Advertising. How may I help you today?” answered a genteel voice.
“Ted? Is that you? Since when were you demoted to Receptionist?” I chuckled, happy for the tiny moment of reprieve and an excuse to laugh.
“Since about 1:00 today,” he replied with a responding chuckle of his own. “Unfortunately, almost the entire office got taken out by food poisoning due to the Carnitas special at the staff’s favorite food truck. Luckily, Reliable Ted opted for his usual, the chicken enchiladas, so I was spared the Carnitas Carnage. But that means I’m the only one left to hold down the fort.”
“Shit . . .”
“Yep. And lots of it, I’m afraid,” Ted joked, earning himself more laughter.
“Damn. Please don’t tell me it got Brian too. I kinda need to borrow him this afternoon.”
“You’re in luck there,” Ted reassured. “Brian, that lucky overworked dog, hadn’t gotten around to eating the tacos that Cynthia brought him for lunch, so the Boss Man ended up being one of the few survivors.”
“That’s good, because I’m on my way to come get him,” I advised while gathering up my wallet and keys from the kitchen counter. “Can you keep an eye on him for me and not let him leave. Or eat any more tacos. We’ve got an appointment to get to and I can’t have him puking his guts out or stuck on the porcelain throne for at least the next three or four hours.”
“You got it,” Ted agreed. “His schedule is clear the rest of the day, so you should be fine.”
“Thanks, Ted. Oh, and, please don’t say anything to Brian until I get there. He doesn’t know I’m coming and . . . I’ll explain it to him on the way.”
“A surprise, eh? Hope it’s a good one. Brian seems like he could use a good surprising,” Ted launched another joke, his tone adding a lascivious implication to the words, but I was too nervous by that point to laugh again. “He hasn’t seemed like himself lately, you know.”
“I know . . .” I sighed and wished I was just on my way to see my partner for some afternoon surprising at his office, instead of the less pleasant surprise I'd be dragging him off to receive at the police station. “See you soon, Ted.”
When I arrived at the office, a mere twelve minutes later, Ted waved me back without interrupting the phone call he was in the middle of. I walked through the strangely empty office, which should have been bustling on a Friday afternoon, and let myself into Brian’s office without knocking, assuming Ted would have warned me if the boss had been otherwise engaged. It probably wouldn’t have mattered if I had knocked though because I found Brian just sitting at his desk, staring at his computer screen, lost to the world. He didn’t look up when I approached or even when I came around the side of the desk to try and get a glimpse of what he was so engrossed with on the computer. Somehow, though, I wasn’t surprised to see that the screen he’d been staring at was completely blank; the computer must have gone into sleep mode long since. Not a good sign.
Space Cadet Brian only finally reacted when I snapped my fingers right in front of his face.
“Wha . . .” Brian seemed to wake from whatever reverie he’d been trapped in. “Justin? What are you doing here? Is there a problem?”
I decided to go with the ‘yank the bandage off’ approach and just blurted out, “Carl called. He needs to talk to us down at his office.”
"Fuck,” Brian replied, unoriginally. “That sounds ominous.”
I shrugged because I didn’t disagree but didn’t want to add to his unease by agreeing either. “He said something about taking our statements. I think they’re maybe going to go after Langley after all.”
As soon as I said the words, I could see Brian shutting down again. Just the mere mention of his former coach’s name was now enough to send my man into full Zombie mode. I worried that whatever Carl was about to disclose to us was going to send him off the deep end. Or, was that the even deeper end? Who knew at this point? I could tell that Brian was hurting but, since he refused to talk to me about it, it was hard to gauge exactly how deep the hurt went. All I could do was be there for him and hope I was strong enough to get us both through whatever was coming.
Even so, there was no way I could have anticipated what happened next.