Terry and the Peachers

XII

By Michael Arram

Terry came to the surface of consciousness. His head throbbed and the light hurt his eyes. Slightly out of focus faces were staring anxiously at him. His memory flooded back, and despite the pain, he twisted round. His arms and legs were free, but he was still naked. Matt was next to him, cradling a released Ramon in his arms. A surge of relief. The boy's eyes were open and he was breathing, although looking bewildered. Terry looked down, Anson's brutal invasion of the boy's lovely body was still lodged in place. He had not been out long.

Andy helped him upright. He held him tenderly. 'Oh Terry, Terry love. You weren't supposed to be here. And Ramon! How in God's name did he get here?'

Terry sat up. 'Where's Anson?'

'He was gone by the time me and Matt got to the door. Out the back and into the Bois, I guessed. But you'd saved Ramon, the plastic was still clenched in your teeth.'

'Boss, he's got the dossier. I couldn't stop him.'

'Terry, you weren't supposed to stop him. He was supposed to get it!'

Terry was stunned. 'What?'

Matt said, 'Later Terry. We've got to look at your head, and poor Ramon.'

Terry gently pushed Matt away and took his place holding up his lover, cradling his warm body tenderly and kissing his shoulders. Matt sat next to Andy and took his hand.

'Babe, I gotta hurt you, I'm sorry. Push down like you're taking a dump, it'll help.'

'OK, Terry,' he whispered, 'I'm ready.'

He squirmed and arched soundlessly as Terry took hold of the plastic scrotum of the dildo, twisted ever so gently and pulled. It slowly gave and slid out. Ramon's blood on it acted as a lubricant. Matt had towels ready, and padded up his anus. Andy had disappeared.

'He'd better stay here, Terry. Let's get him under the covers. Your clothes are there, and you'd better get dressed. Your head doesn't look too bad. Not even a cut, but one hell of a lump.'

Sylvia appeared anxiously in the door some minutes later.

'Mr White, how are they?'

'Not exactly 100% either of them, poor loves.'

Terry looked up. 'Matt, I need to talk. She's one of them She set this all up. She's got Anson's mobile number in her address book. She's the insider.'

'Yes Terry, I know.'

'What?'

'She had to be. Andy and Ed confronted her last week and she admitted it. But she also told us something that put a whole new light on things. Unfortunately she made it a condition that we tell no one else, you included. And we kept our promise.'

Sylvia sat on the bed looking compassionately at Ramon, and feeling for his foot under the bedding.

'I wish I'd not made them promise. Then this wouldn't have happened. The two of you were within moments of death. All because of that damned woman...'

'Mrs Peacher?'asked Terry.

'Who else? One of the most selfish and dangerous cows on the face of the planet.'

'You know her then?'

'I helped liaise with her United Nations office last year.'

'So you worked for her?'

'No I work for Andy's father. That's why I'm here. But my job isn't quite in the PA field. I'm his head of internal corporate security.'

'Oh.' Terry's mouth hung open.

Matt said, 'There's bigger things going on here than the dossier, Terry. That's why we were happy to let it go in the end. You see, we no longer need it.'

'No longer need it...' Terry repeated dazedly.

'It was Sylvia who rang us to say the plan had gone wrong and you were still in the Domaine, instead of with Mme Cirier. Poor Madame didn't tell us you'd put your foot down about your day off in case it got you into trouble with Andy. So as far as I knew you'd gone off with her on her major shopping expedition. Then Andy got your text and I realised you were going to be a hero.'

'I was going to do what I thought my job was, Matt.'

'Sorry, yes you were. I apologise. You're a very special man, Terry. We're very lucky to have you.'

Sylvia cut in, 'Do you want to know the silver lining?'

'There is one?' asked Matt.

'Oh yes. At least there is this. Anson has no longer any reason to think that it was all too easy, and that the dossier was suspiciously unprotected. Hope that makes you feel better, Terry.'

'If only Ramon had not been here.'

'What in God's name is he doing here?' asked Sylvia.

'He followed me. We parted on bad terms in Pasadena. We're in love, but the suspicion over the insider threw cold water over it, and I had to be hard towards him. But he's plucky and resourceful... and now he's hurt bad, and it's my fault. I nearly shot him in the woods when I found him this morning. I'm so, so bad for the kid, but I love him so much.'

Ramon stirred and they looked at his pale, strained face. He murmured, 'You think this is bad... you should see what they did to Esteban.' Terry gazed at the faintly smiling face of his damaged lover, and couldn't help smiling back.

'What?' asked Matt.

'Private joke, Matt.' Terry replied, and sat down next to Ramon, stroking and kissing his hair.

Andy returned. 'He's here,' he said. He was followed in by a doctor, who shooed them out.

They sat down in the entrance hall. The doctor came down twenty minutes later, and asked who the boy's sexual partner was. Terry admitted it, and was lectured in passionate French about the proper use of sex toys, that he was lucky the boy was of legal age and willing to overlook it. He was to abstain from anal sex for a month; the anal wall was torn, though not too badly. Ramon was to stay in bed for two days and take these antibiotics. Terry looked very guilty and contrite, as well he might.

Matt put his arm round Terry' shoulder as the doctor left. 'You poor guy. Can't do anything right. But we love you.' Andy also hugged him, and kissed his cheek affectionately. 'Kid, you've earned a raise and a promotion. As of now you're my head of security and chief of staff. It'd be more impressive if you actually had anyone working for you, but still, one day you might.'

'And I get a day off a week as well as Sunday.'

'Whatever you say Terry, you've earned it.'

'And Ramon?'

'Ramon's going back to Pasadena as soon as possible and straight into a boarding school, like it or not. He's got a life to lead, and a lot of promise which isn't going to be wasted. Mrs Fuentas has begun to make the arrangements, and she's graciously consented to take up the permanent post of my domestic chief, at, I may say, an exorbitant salary. But you can have Ramon back at the holidays, I'll fly him out wherever we are. That suit you?'

'Cheers, boss. Couldn't ask for better.'

They helped Ramon back to Terry's room, and Terry and they went naked under the covers together, fitfully talking and sleeping for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

'Does it hurt so bad, babe?'

'The doctor put his fingers up me – wasn't anywhere near as nice as when you do it, he had surgical gloves on. Then he put a big tampon up my ass. Makes me feel like I badly need a shit, but I daren't crap ever again.' said Ramon plaintively. He made Terry tell the whole story of his relations with Anson, and was impressed. 'It's like a film, my handsome hero. You're so very brave.'

'And so very stupid, too. I'm not cut out for the life of action. We nearly died this afternoon because of me.'

'I didn't mind.'

'What?'

'If I had died alongside you, I wouldn't have minded. I was saying the act of contrition with you, and then I prayed that our sins would be forgiven and that we would be accepted by the angels because if we had sinned, we had sinned for love. I was ready to go, and after the blackness came down, I was sure that you took my hand when I went into the light.'

'You saw a light?'

'It was just like they say. I seemed to leave my body, and I was in a bright place, like a garden but not a garden, and you were with me, or something that looked like you, but even more beautiful. And I was so happy and so peaceful, but then you smiled at me with such a look of love and pulled me back, and I woke up and Matt was holding me. Didn't you feel something like it?

'Wow... er, no, no I didn't, or if I did, I don't remember.'

At nine, Terry jerked out of a very deep sleep. His head still ached, but his young body had recovered, and he wanted to be up and out. He kissed Ramon tenderly, looking at his sleeping, smiling face for a long time, kissed him again, and got into his uniform. He went up to the communications centre, and found Sylvia busy at her usual station despite the late hour. She looked up at him with appraisal and, he thought, a certain respect. He'd been recognised as an equal.

'Mr Peacher says we're to work together,' she announced.

'Nice of Andy,' he replied.

'No, not Andy, Mr Richard Peacher. He thoroughly approves of you, after what he's been told, and he has agreed your appointment as his son's security chief and chief of staff. He thinks that it's best that Andy has a staff close to his own age, providing they're trustworthy and competent.'

'Wow. I wasn't sure whether Andy was serious.'

'He was serious alright, he rang his father this afternoon. You're on my salary scale, although at the bottom of it, which I'm sure you'll agree is only fair.'

'What scale is that?'

Sylvia pushed a faxed contract across. 'Jesus wept.'

'Sign there.' Terry signed, his heart pounding. He was now earning nearly twice what his father did, and that was just the bottom of the scale. Time to buy a car, he thought.

'OK then Sylvia. Tell me about yourself.'

'It's not relevant, Terry. But what I will tell you is that I've been working for the Peacher corporation since I was enticed away from the FBI three years ago. I've worked directly under Mr Peacher. My appointment and my office was kept under wraps, and I've moved around the corporation in a variety of assumed roles collecting information. My job is to monitor internal corruption, a priority in the States since the Enron scandal, but all the corruption I've found seemed to lead to one place, very close to Mr Peacher.'

'The Stepmom, as Andy and Matt call her?'

'I wasn't sure until last summer, but money was leaking away in some very odd ways. Last December I caught up with a certain Charles Fettiman, with the help of some former colleagues of mine. We took him apart in Rochester after he was fingered as a major supplier by a reforming addict. He had a lot to tell us about Mrs Peacher's connections with another addict, an unsavoury piece of work called...'

'... Jim Rosso, right?'

Sylvia was impressed, 'I see that you've been briefed. Rosso proved abject under interrogation when the FBI picked him up as a mule in Miami. He was happy to inform on anyone he could, and had a lot to tell the agents about his aunt's moves against her stepson, which was all passed on to me. So I passed it on as duty bound to my boss. Not a comfortable interview, as you can imagine.'

'How did he take it?'

'Strangely, he seemed resigned. As if he knew something else that I didn't, but if so, he never said what it was. Then we agreed I must be moved as a priority to protect his son in Pasadena, and it seems it was none too soon. But we had no idea in January that Paul Oscott had got there before us the previous year, and that there had been a showdown between Mr White and Mrs Peacher in Salonica that May. In fact I found out about the dossier from quite another direction. At enormous expense I have had Mrs Peacher very professionally bugged and followed since Christmas. So I found about the contacts between her and Anson as soon as they began, and I discovered what it was she and Anson were looking for and how it had been compiled.

Her employment of Anson was a very dangerous move for her, but then, she lives dangerously. I often wonder about these types who act as though morality does not apply to them. The recklessness of it all seems more important than the result, good or ill. They don't care if they're caught, it's the thrill of the ride first. So very odd and so very sociopathic.

Anson was initially supposed to locate and abstract the dossier and any copies that had been made. I helped of course. We have common acquaintances in Presidio Security and I fed information through them... they are in fact working for the Peachers, although Anson thinks they're working with him. As you know, since you were there at the beginning, he cleverly started with Paul Oscott, and he was right to do so too. But he unexpectedly failed. He bumped into a very brave and resourceful young man... stop simpering, Terry, what you did was pretty incredible for an amateur. But things got out of hand when you got to Pasadena and were recognised in Andy's ménage. Then you became a dangerous rival and a direct threat to Mrs Peacher. She signed your death warrant.'

'She what?'

'She wants you killed... no, really, she does. I have the tapes of conversations with Anson. The dossier was the first objective, then it was the key people who knew about it. The death mark is on you and Paul Oscott, and maybe even Matthew White too. That's when I suggested to Andrew that you needed some basic training to protect yourself, and he drafted in Edward Roedenbeck. It was the best we could do. And now you've seen how quick-thinking and inventive Anson can be. If he'd pulled off what he attempted this afternoon she would have succeeded in three of her objectives in one go. She would have got the dossier, rid herself of you, and Andrew would have been finished for good.'

'What about Paul? Who's looking out for him?'

'He's a problem. He won't take it seriously despite everything Matt has said to him. I think that you'll have to be detached to take care of that problem and pretty soon. There is a contract out on him, he's defenceless and he will be killed. He may take it more seriously from you than from anyone else.'

'Jeez. What a cow.'

'Mr Peacher will be here Sunday, and the lady herself, completely oblivious and probably feeling a sense of triumph that the only copy of the dossier is either destroyed or in safe hands. She has her own circle of agents and informers within the Peacher empire, I've spent two years identifying them and isolating them. They feed her sense of overconfidence; she thinks that the dossier is all there is. Silly woman.'

'It'll be an interesting meeting on Sunday.'

'And you need to be prepared for it. Terry, you need a team, at least for a while... and one of them needs to be a security professional. I've got a list of dependable young Peacher people here, with their files. Mr Richard Peacher is making a budget available for you. Can you go away and make your choices and do it in a couple of hours? You have their current numbers if you want to talk to them first. Don't forget that you need to protect Andy and Matt, and you need to be sure that if you're not here they're in good hands. I can't stay much longer. I have to get back to the States and start work on the end game, but that's not your concern. Your only concern is Andrew Peacher and Paul Oscott. I leave next Wednesday, and I'll take Ramon safely home with me. I suggest that you get ready to move to England the same time.'

'OK Sylvia, and thanks. If it's any comfort to you, I never saw you as the informer.'

'But I was.'

'You know what I mean.'

'I do... and thanks. You're a very special person, Terry. I like working with you.'

Terry and Ramon were up early on Sunday. Ramon said his ass stung bad, especially after he had to take the inevitable first defecation. Terry, sitting next to him, was appalled by the blood-filled bowl. Terry then cleaned him out tenderly and applied the medication. They explored the option of oral sex enthusiastically.

Ramon refused to stay in bed, and so was conscripted by Terry into the team for the weekend, he had after all belonged to Andy's Pasadena household. Mme Cirier was surprised as to where he had come from, but there were so many other Peacher staff arriving that she couldn't worry too much about it. Ramon looked really good in one of Terry's suits and a Peacher tie. They were very much of a size and both were long-legged. Ramon helped Terry and Mme Cirier assign rooms, post labels on doors, and make seating plans. He carried towels and toiletries and would have helped Terry and M. Cirier unload the big catering lorry that had arrived Saturday night, but Terry had sternly ordered him to stay with Sylvia and run errands for Andy and Matt, if needed.

Terry exerted himself for the second time against Madame and commandeered the stable block for his new staff. Mme Cirier had gone to Andy to complain, but he told her that Terry had been appointed chef de protocole et de la sûreté, and that the order had come direct from Santa Barbara. She muttered, but Terry was a favourite, and in the end she had hugged him and said she was trop réjouissant à sa promotion bien méritée, and let him have his way.

Terry's two selected confidential aides would arrive Monday from England. He thought that it would be best if they were British, as the plan was that Andy would be principally in the UK for the next couple of years. He was a bit nervous as to how they would take to being ordered about by a teenager, but then remembered that he would be twenty in one month's time; it seemed to make a difference, although he wasn't sure why. Also he wasn't going to mention his age, and was sure Andy wouldn't. He looked at his face in the mirror of his simple room. The thick blond curls and pointed and elfin face looked a bit boyish, it was true, but the eyes had new dark patches under them, and looked as though they had seen a thing or two. No, he could carry it off he believed. Matt told him to remember that entire battalions of men had been led out of the trenches by men his age in the Great War.

Terry drove Andy to Poitiers to meet the big transatlantic corporate jet when it landed. Terry parked out on the tarmac and sat talking with Andy in the car for a good hour before it arrived.

'It may be an obvious question, boss, but what's your father like?'

'You can't read him easily, Terry. I never saw much of him after I was nine and he and my mother broke up. When I was little he just seemed this big gloomy mass, never happy, always squabbling with my mother, who it has to be said, was happy to squabble back. Then that was it for years at a time. I saw him once when I was 12 when he was in Britain, once again when I was 14 in the USA just after he had left UCLA and set up on his own, and then again when I was 17, before I started university, when he already had the Santa Barbara house and he was mega-rich. He rose so fast, it was incredible. He hasn't got small talk, and he can be very forbidding. It was Matt who finally pointed out the obvious, or what should have been obvious: that he loved me dearly, but was simply unable to say it. When once I accepted that, and realised how deep that love went - after he accepted me though I was gay... which was a big thing for him – then he became a lot easier. He was incredibly loyal to me, and I love him for that. But he is so brilliant as a scientist and a businessman, you don't want to even think about how brilliant.'

'Does he know I exist then?'

'He sets a lot of store by his staff, and knows a surprising amount about key officers. He's decided you're a key officer, the core of my future staff in fact. Be complimented. It's because he rates loyalty and courage well above everything else. We agree on that, my dad and me.'

The plane arrived a little late, and immigration officials boarded by special arrangement to carry out checks on board. Terry stood by the door of the car, waiting as they did their work and the plane disgorged. First to emerge were the kids and their nanny. Peter stood at the top of the steps, scanned the ground, caught his eye and grinned. He ran down the steps and leapt up to hug Terry round the neck; he hugged back hard quite unembarrassed despite the look on the nanny's face. Peter was in casuals, and he looked really good, handsome, and unusually unselfconscious for a teenager. The twins were hard at Peter's heels and jumped all over Andy in the back of the car, telling him about the flight. It was their first time in the big jet.

'How's it going, Pete?' Terry said, as they stood side by side watching the parade.

'Not as bad as all that, Terry, thanks to e-mail and jerking off. Mom has kept off my back, so running away did some good. Dad... well who knows what goes on there? Can I sit next to you?'

'Sure, Pete. I'd like nothing better.'

'How's Ramon?'

'He's here, staying with me at the château. It's like Pasadena in France... although the pool's indoors and the food's different. Mme Cirier does a good impersonation of Mrs Fuentas.'

'I loved that week with you guys. I've never felt so happy in all my life. Andy says he wants me back soon as ever he can.'

'We'd all like it if you could come, Pete. You made the house come alive.'

Peter smiled and laughed. He went across to the car, ordered the twins to stop bugging Andy, and leaned in to hug and kiss his smiling big brother. The twins looked astonished. Ed nudged Harry and hissed, 'Did you see what Petey did?'

'You nuisances are in the back with Andy, and don't bounce around and distract Terry when he's driving.'

'We wanted to be in the front.'

'Well you can't, there's two of you anyway, so that was as stupid an idea as you've ever had, which is saying a lot.'

Mr and Mrs Peacher emerged. Andy ran up to shake his father's hand and greet the Stepmom, which he did now with a practised hypocrisy. Terry straightened; he thought he caught a glitter out of Richard Peacher's eye as his gaze swept him. He knew he had just been assessed by that formidable mind. Other cars appeared and Terry led off the motorcade to Courçon, his car full of chattering and squabbling kids, with Andy as a pretty ineffective referee he thought. But he was interested in what Peter had to say about his subdued love affair with his Jordan. They couldn't meet outside school, but were finding ways to hide away in corners of their private college, he said. Pete leaned over and whispered that they'd managed to chalk up one fantastic naked blowjob hiding out in the empty showers. Then he sniggered, and said it was more fun this way.

'You're incorrigible, Pete.'

'Nope, I'm hormonal and fourteen.'

'You been to Courçon, Pete?'

'We only bought it three years ago. It was a bargain 'cos it was a bit of a ruin. Dad got it for a conference centre... he said. Fact is, he writes it off against tax 'cos it's for educational purposes. Wrote off a half a million bucks last year against long-term maintenance. Cool, huh?'

Terry began to see the difference between the Peacher boys. Peter was considerably more clued in at fourteen in some ways than Andy was at twenty three. But, as he reflected, that by no means stopped Peter being a good kid, and it was clear enough that his affair with Jordan - temporary though it doubtless was - was deepening his affections and his need for love. It was good that he had finally homed in on Andy, for his brother had a lot of love to give.

Terry pulled up at the house front, where Mme Cirier, her husband, the temporary maids and Ramon made a creditable line up. The twins were out of the car as soon as it stopped, racing up the steps to hug Matt, who was smiling and waiting at the door, while Andy went after them. Peter stayed back.

'Why you packing a gun, Terry?'

Terry didn't deny it, 'Observant of you. Do you want the flip answer or the serious one?'

'What do you think?'

'We've had a bit of trouble here, Pete. There's been threats against us, and I'm the one with the job of looking after Andy's security now.'

'No offence, Terry, but you don't look the security type.'

'What, no neck, chest like a barrel, shades and a two-day growth of beard?'

'You've met our guys in Santa Barbara then.'

'It'll be OK now the full security team is here.'

'They never let me out of their sight now anyway, after I ran away with Jordan... I haven't been able to crack the new system they've installed, but I'll get there in the end.'

'Don't doubt it in the least, Pete. But don't wander too far from the house here, all the same.'

'What? Kidnappers?'

'Nope, wild boars in the woods with razor sharp tusks that'll disembowel you with one slash.'

'Cool, if gross. Let's see your gun... hey, a 1996 Walther! Smith and Wesson produce it under licence in the States, it's cheaper there.' Peter got out and gave a small wave, then strode up into the house, politely shaking Matt's hand, and following Andy in. Terry moved the car into the stable yard, then jogged back through the house, to help with the unloading with new American faces in black Peacher blazers and ties. He stood with Mme Cirier and directed baggage and stores to the correct locations. This took the rest of the afternoon, and then the evening passed by in quartering and feeding the household. He just got distant longing glimpses of Ramon. He was still finishing off when Sylvia came up behind him, and murmured that Mr Andrew and Mr Richard Peacher wanted to see him as soon as possible in the communication centre. Terry straightened, and he followed her upstairs.

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