Book 1: Billie Joe's Journey
by Rick Beck
Two nights after leaving Hank, Raymond and I were north of Redding, California, a little the worse for wear, and sleeping in the back of a moving van owned by Ingmar Johansen with Kyle, his nephew and helper.
By any measure, we'd had a pretty rough trip to that point, and we ended up sleeping in piles of blankets that were far more comfortable than the ground in the woods where we had slept the night before.
But I didn't sleep well at first. There was a demon chasing me, and each time I closed my eyes I saw him. It took my decision to get undressed and wrap my body around Raymond's before I slept soundly. I'm sure I slept a long time. It was daylight when my eyes opened to see Ingmar standing over me while the front of my body pressed against Raymond's back. I was startled, and immediately assumed I was about to be raped or forced to perform some sex act. I'd never been raped, and I'd never been forced to commit any act, save being forced to go to church on Sundays until I was old enough to say no. While the fear ran through me, Ingmar held out a large glass. It was filled with ice cold orange juice. He smiled when I leaned up to take the glass. I was still half asleep and shaking from the initial fear. I felt bad that Ingmar had treated me very respectfully, and that thinking he could do something mean was my own invention. The juice cooled my parched throat.
While drinking the juice I realized I was naked, and the blanket that covered Raymond and me was askew to reveal we were both not wearing a stitch. I tried to cover us as best I could without appearing to be hiding anything. I thought Ingmar had to have seen me holding Raymond while standing there. His face remained pleasant, however, even cordial. I waited for him to speak, but he said nothing.
"Thanks. That's so good. I was dry as a bone."
Ingmar settled on the pile of blankets beside me. He bounced until it fit his butt.
"You want to tell, Ingmar about your troubles maybe? He's got such a good ear for you."
"What do you mean?"
"Your face has the mark of someone's hand. The ring I can see on your cheek. You've been beaten and you tell Ingmar you fall. Do you think I could be doing harm for you?"
"No. You've been swell, Ingmar. What's the point of talking over old stuff. It's over. I got hit."
"Was he your father hit you?"
"No. A ride we got, Ingmar. A crazy man tried to rape Raymond. He's wearing my sweat pants because his shorts were torn off. All his other clothes were left in his bag in the car when we ran. It was in Oregon. A long way."
"It is hurting you?"
"No! Yeah, it aches some. My jaw's sore."
"You let Ingmar help you now that you are telling me truth?"
"What do you mean?"
"Ingmar has big heart for young children. My own nephew is working for me because his father and he do not like each other and he needs to be making money for the school. Ingmar will be helping you. Maybe keep you off the road for some time. It is dangerous for a young lad today."
"I'm with Raymond, Ingmar. I can't leave him. He was raped. Hurt. I can't leave him now."
"Your friend is also my friend. Raymond is a child as well. You are both welcome for staying with me. As you can see we are more than plentiful with the room. We carry a whole house with us, no?"
I didn't know what to say. Raymond slept on. He never even moved while we talked. I thought that maybe Ingmar was the answer to the terror for a while. He left me to think, and disappeared out in the light through the huge double doors that had been propped open ever since we got there.
I finished my juice and lay back against Raymond. I was still exhausted. Fear does that. It takes everything out of you. We'd spent a night and a day in absolute madness, trying to avoid seeing our attacker a second time.
"You are sitting up for a moment, Billie?"
I woke again hard. The light hurt my face. Ingmar touched it, and I jerked away with a sudden shot of hot and cold running through my jaw as I once more let go of Raymond.
"What are you doing?" I growled, wincing at the pain, as he knelt beside me on the hard wood.
"Ice pack. Probably too late to help much, but worth a try. Should be easing up the pain."
My hand went up to feel the towel and his hand holding it. My hand touched his. His was huge and mine a tiny thing in comparison. Ingmar was six six or more, and way over two hundred pounds. Just being with him made me feel safe from my terror. My hand stayed on his in gratitude. He did not move from his duty, and could see the appreciation in my face. "Raymond is hurting too, maybe?"
"More scared. His . . . ah, rear is, ah . . . injured some. It didn't look too awful bad. He had me see if he was tore up or not."
"This man did something to Raymond's hiney?"
"He fuuu . . . . Ah, he put his . . . ah . . . penis inside him."
"I wish to know this man. Ingmar would take his arms and legs off with his hands for you."
"I'd enjoy that, Ingmar, and I'm not the violent type. Raymond said he was going to kill us."
"You stay with Ingmar awhile. No one will bother you. That is my promise to my boys. I take care my boys. Anyone touch you, they answer to Ingmar. My heart is big and I am strong enough to do as I say to you. I promise!"
I held his hand and gulped a couple of quick sobs from the relief of knowing I wouldn't run into our tormentor again. I was sure being with Ingmar was the smartest place to be. He pulled me into his chest, this gentle giant. Still holding the ice in place and with his hand on my bare ass, he hugged me.
"You are to be safe now. You sleep and I'll bring sweet rolls and milk later. Raymond can help on the loading and unloading and you can help on the papers I do not have much understanding with. We will be all right, my boys and Ingmar, together."
Ingmar replaced me next to Raymond, and Kyle stood tall over his shoulder looking on. You could tell they were related. Kyle may have been only about twenty, but he was well over six foot and had very curly blond hair identical to Ingmar's. He was thin, like a boy, but tall like a man. His face was without expression. It was the first time I had looked at him, and the light strained my eyes. He turned and followed Ingmar out. He looked back over his shoulder once, searching out my eyes. I was left holding a towel full of melting ice against my face. He was left wondering about something he didn't say.
My head was swimming around the inside of the truck. The sun passed over top of the door to relieve my eyes and headache. I lay back down holding the ice in place. It took maybe fifteen minutes for Kyle to come back with a white paper bag. He stood five feet away and said nothing, but I thought the bag contained what would be welcome sweet rolls for my growling stomach. I reached out my hand and he moved toward me holding out the bag.
"You guys okay?"
"Yeah! Thanks. These will hit the spot."
"Ingmar says you were raped."
"Not me. I was belted. Raymond was raped."
"It's wrong for anyone to do such a thing. I'm sorry for your trouble. Ingmar says you are staying with us. I'm Kyle."
He reached his less imposing hand for mine.
"You are safe here. You are welcome here."
"I'm Billie Joe. I'm afraid Raymond's pretty much out of it. He was pretty shook up. It's the first real rest we've gotten in two days"
"Ingmar will bring the doctor."
"Doctor Dan is here. Ingmar is getting him for you. He's a trucker now, but did doctor."
"We don't need a doctor. We'll get over it. Being safe is the nicest thing for us."
"We won't allow anyone to touch you. Ingmar says I should not let you go off without me if he isn't going to be with you. He doesn't want this man coming back for you."
"It was eight hours up the road. Hundreds of miles"
"Ingmar says 'careful causes safety'. He's a pretty hard fellow to go against when he makes up his mind. I'm afraid you are in his care for a time."
"I'm all for it, Kyle. I feel better just knowing I don't have to get back out there."
A little later, I watched an older man in a long black coat carrying a black bag climb into the rear of the truck. Ingmar was close behind. He immediately dropped his bag at my bare feet and grabbed my face turning it from side to side with a strong, rough hand.
"Hmmm!" he said. "Smile. Show me your teeth. Stick your tongue out. All the way. Further. Okay. Move your jaw from side to side. Chew. Harder. Chew for god sake! Eat a sweet roll."
"You're fine. You can eat a sweet roll. Looks like a bad bruise. It might be cracked, but you don't seem to have much loose in your range of motion. Stand up and turn around."
I held the blanket up in front of me. He yanked it away and grabbed my ass cheeks.
"No! Doctor, the other one was raped," Ingmar said.
I turned around with Kyle and Ingmar looking at my body. The doctor grabbed my smooth balls.
"Cough. Again. Harder. You are okay. Did he hit you any place beside your face."
"He slapped me first. He punched me in the same place."
"You might want to sit in front of your friend so we don't scare shit out of him when we wake him up," the doctor said, yanking the blanket off Raymond.
Kyle held a smaller blanket up in front of me and smiled as he helped me wrap it around me. His hands were warm and his face radiant with a smile. I sat down in front of Raymond as he lifted his head in reaction to the commotion around us.
"What's the fucking problem?"
"Doctor? I don't need a fucking doctor. I need some sleep. Go away!"
The doctor spread Raymond's ass cheeks without ceremony.
"Bend your knees. Further. You boys can't do anything. Further."
"I can't afford no doctor. Get the fuck off me."
"I work cheap. Ingmar's buying me breakfast. Don't worry, I was excommunicated years ago. I work cheap. Nobody trusts me but truckers that are in misery. They don't sue and they're always grateful."
The doctor worked as he talked. He blotted two gauze pads of blood, and threw them each on the floor. Raymond held both of my hands as the doctor probed with his finger inside him.
"Jesus. I've felt dick's smaller than that."
Kyle laughed and tried to catch it before anyone heard him. He held his fingers on his mouth.
"Am I ever going to shit again, doc?"
"Likely. I doubt you'll want to for a week or so. I can get away without stitches. I'll give you some meds that make your shit soft and runny. That'll save you from feeling like you are passing a truck each time you go. Might save you from constipation. I'll look at it tomorrow. It looks like it is starting to heal, but it might need a couple of stitches. You've been torn before. You been raped before, son?"
"Get Kyle to punch you around a little. Break your nose, knock out a few teeth. Might discourage guys from falling in love with your ass hole." He chuckled. "Just kidding. Just kidding. I'm not allowed to prescribe any more, but with a face like that, you might consider a sex change. Might save you a lot of grief! And don't get locked up, whatever you do. They'll love you to death in the joint."
"You been inside?"
"A spell. Seen lots of assholes a lot worse than yours."
"It hurts like shit," Raymond said, with everyone looking at his asshole.
"I'll give you some ointment. It'll take the pain out. Don't be eating no bean burritos for a few days, either. You'll live to regret it you do."
"Roll over son."
Raymond sat on the blankets while the doctor checked all the equipment.
"Left testicle swollen. Right one might be. He knee you there?"
"I don't know. I was too busy trying to get his dick out of my ass."
"We'll check you tomorrow. If they stay sore, you might need to have some x-rays."
"Right. You got that in your truck or something?"
"No. I haven't found a way to do that yet. I'd like to get me one of those MRI machines. Those are hot! Anyway, you look not too much the worse for wear. I'll give you things that will help, and in a few days you should be okay. I'm awful hungry, Ingmar. Lucky I could finish this job before you fed me. I feel like a double order of something coming on."
"If you can't prescribe, where's the medicine come from?"
"I'm not allowed to prescribe, son. When someone is in need, there's always a way. The Lord provides for those in need. Yes he does, son."
"Maybe he provides for you. He ain't never done a damn thing for me."
"Son, how can you be so blind. He's provided you with me, and Ingmar. I should check those eyes. You might need glasses."
The doctor had his arm around Ingmar's shoulder as they hopped down off the back of the truck. They talked a mile a minute. Kyle stood facing us, and didn't move.
"He take root or something," Raymond said, looking up at him.
"He's our body guard when Ingmar's not around."
"We work for Ingmar. I hired us on while you had your beauty sleep. He's afraid this guy might be out there looking for us. He says no one will bother us if we are with him. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. I'm afraid I've sold your ass into slavery. You get to load trucks. I get to hold the clipboard and supervise you. You do know about that brains and brawn shit?" "You shit! I don't lift nothing heavier than my coffee cup."
"That's okay," Kyle said. "He's mostly worried about the little guy. He said he would take you because Billie Joe said you were together."
"You said that did you?"
"No. What I said is, I don't do labor, and he better take you to do the heavy work."
"You got something else in that bag I can wear. Those sweats are driving me nuts. I don't have anything to hold 'em up."
"I got shorts, but they'll never fit over your hips."
"I gave up shorts you might recall. I want to cover myself up some."
"I've got some pants might work. You'll have to tie the waist up, but they might be okay."
Kyle went to get Raymond a pair of pants, and Raymond sat there naked and waiting.
"Shit. Horny as hell. I kept waking up last night with you up against me. I knew I couldn't do anything. You were driving me nuts. Then that doctor starts playing with me. I had to really work on not getting hard in his hand. Figured it wouldn't be the polite thing to do."
"Never knew you to be very polite."
"Hanging around with you too long, I guess. I'm sorry about last night."
"Sorry for what?"
"I heard you when you fell asleep."
"Fighting that guy again."
Raymond held his knees and looked out into the harsh light and back to the floor. He tried to fight back the tears, but they ran anyway. I didn't know what to do.
"I wanted to hold you, but I was afraid," he said. "I'm awful scared, Billie Joe."
"Afraid of what."
"Just afraid, Billie Joe. The night. The bogeyman. Afraid. Afraid."
"It's okay. I'm not used to being held."
"How's about holding me for a few minutes before lanky comes back. I need a good hold here."
I looked at Raymond studying the shadows on the floor. He didn't seem like the same guy I met in Hank's truck. Even his expression and the way he carried himself had changed. Holding him with my naked stomach against his naked back made him shiver for a few minutes. He grabbed my arms and held them hard and close to his chest. I could only feel him crying. I tried to just be part of the warmth. It did seem to fight back my own demons. I don't know if it did anything for Raymond's.
We were lost in our hug when Kyle returned.
"These might work. They are too small for me now," he said plodding through the blankets.
"Don't you knock. Guard the outside awhile," Raymond said, sitting up as I still lay behind him.
"Sorry. Just thought you wanted . . . Sure, I'll sit outside."
"Kyle, 'thanks' is what he meant. You'll have to forgive him. His mother dropped him on his head."
"Fuck you, Billie Joe."
"Are you two really brothers."
"Shit! I'm tall, beautifully built, with red hair, and hung like a pony. He's short, skinny, and has that grungy dark hair and a face only a mother could love. What do you think?"
"I just asked. I'll wait outside for you," Kyle said, as he moved out through the blankets.
"You think a lot of me."
"Just a joke, Billie Joe. You know I think a lot of you. You saved my life. I'm just sorry I can't show you how much I like you right now. I want to do that more than anything, but I can't."
"What's to show?"
"That look on your face the other night. You know you're pretty good, but being with someone that likes it is nice. I mean the way you went at it, I knew you liked it. You're really good at what you do."
"You're only the second one I did anything to."
"This Carl. You do that to him?"
"Why do you ask questions like that. It's none of your business, and I didn't mean to do it to you. It was only because of the way you show yourself off all the time."
"You told me you were attracted to me."
"I don't even know what that means, Raymond. There's something about you I like. There's a lot about you that I hate."
"Like your being an asshole to everyone. You make people really dislike you. I want to stay with Ingmar. He'll protect us, but if you're going to fuck it up, then take a hike, will you?"
"I'm sorry. I don't like getting too close to people. It usually ends up bad for me. You can't trust them. They tell you they'll do something, or that they're going to help you, and as soon as they get what they want, it's 'later' for you."
"Ingmar's not like that. He cares about people."
"Right, Billie Joe. He cares about us and what he can get out of us, and then it's 'later'. He's no different. Him and his phony truck driver doctor that probably lost his license selling drugs. Let's don't talk about it. I want to lie down. I'm tired. You can lie with me if you want. I know you didn't sleep much either."
I woke up with one of the doors shut at the back of the truck making it almost dark. It startled me at first, but I could see Kyle leaning against it talking to someone I couldn't see. A third guy sat at the corner of the open door against another pile of blankets. I put on my shoes and pants and covered Raymond up again. It seemed cooler and there were clouds where the sun had been shinning earlier. I lounged on the blankets and tried to figure out what I wanted to do.
"Come up you two. You're sleeping too much to be good. You will do some work, and Ingmar and Kyle and Raymond and Billie Joe will go to lunch. First we are folding the blankets."
"Wake up, Raymond. You are going to be working now," Ingmar said.
"What? What the fuck. I'm sleeping here. Leave me alone."
"You are getting up. You are to be working for your supper, Raymond."
"Fuck that," Raymond said, pulling the blanket up to cover his head.
"Up we go real easy," Ingmar said, as he snatched Raymond up to his feet without hardly bending.
"We are having some pants for him, Kyle?"
"Yeah! I brought these for him. He didn't seem too happy about them."
"He's being very happy. Lean on Ingmar, Raymond."
Kyle threw the pants to Ingmar and he grabbed Raymond's right leg and lifted it while placing the pants under his foot. Raymond started to fall backwards and Ingmar grabbed him with one gigantic hand.
"You're to be leaning on Ingmar and you won't be falling."
"Leave me alone."
"Yes, of course. The other leg. Lift. Okay," Ingmar said, and pulled the pants up over Raymond's hips.
"Kyle, be cutting off three feet of our rope. We'll fix Raymond right up. We'll have to feed him good so he can be keeping up your pants, Kyle."
"Shit! Got into Kyle's pants and didn't even have to work at it," Raymond said, to me and leered.
Kyle didn't seem as happy. He looked sour at Raymond. He was having the same feelings I had when I first met him. Raymond affected people that way.
"Only joking, Kyle. I don't go for the big dumb type."
Ingmar let go of Raymond and he fell flat on his back in the blankets.
"We don't be discourteous to one another. We are to be working together. We are to be happy working together. Are you understanding what Ingmar is saying, Raymond?"
"Good," Ingmar said, and reached for Raymond's arm, yanking him back out of the blankets. "Now you are to be folding the blankets. We will be needing them tomorrow. We are going to Bishop to pack a house that goes to Fresno. Not a good money maker, but work. Let me show you how to be folding, and you two will start in the back and place the blankets like this up against the wall."
Ingmar folded the blanket in thirds, and then in thirds again before piling them against the wall. He handed Raymond a blanket. He watched him as he showed him how. Raymond made a mess but did basically what Ingmar showed him. Ingmar smiled and did it again. Raymond made another mess. Ingmar repeated the process until Raymond could finally fold them so they didn't look like someone was sleeping in them. Ingmar turned to me and started to fold the blanket for me. I folded it precisely as I'd seen him do it. He smiled and patted the top of my head.
"You see why Ingmar is asking you to work for him. You learn fast. You are good boy, Billie Joe."
Kyle and Ingmar headed for the door.
"Wait a fucking minute. Let's fold some blankets back here. I ain't nobody's slave."
"No, Raymond. You be folding blankets. Kyle and Ingmar do men's work. When you do men's work, you no fold the blankets any more. Fold. We'll go to eat in an hour."
"Thanks-a Beellee Joe. You-a good boy," Raymond said in a thick Italian accent.
"I'll give them a hand Uncle Jo. I don't mind."
Kyle came back and stood beside me and started folding blankets like a house on fire. He folded three for every one I folded and five for each of Raymond's. In ten minutes we were putting a dent into the many piles spread across the floor. Kyle stayed to himself, but he kept watching my folding style . He smiled if I happened to catch his eye. It came to me that he wasn't nineteen or twenty as I'd first thought. He was almost as big as Carl, but very thin and he had a shy look in his blue eyes.
"You do good work. Ingmar's right. You pick things right up."
"Less talking and a little more work," Raymond complained.
Our piles were neatly stacked against the wall three feet high and we had three stacks. Raymond had one stack and it was falling over and the blankets weren't folded well enough for a three foot stack to stand up on its own. Kyle kept looking back over his shoulder. He dropped his blanket and headed at Raymond. Raymond was busily making another mess as Kyle took his foot and kicked the pile about ten feet into the other blankets strewn around the floor.
"What the fuck's your problem, you big dumb Swede? You're going to fold them now."
Kyle grabbed Raymond by the neck pressing his back to the wall.
"Ingmar's right. You are a useless shit! You don't want to work, and if I tell Ingmar you didn't work, you won't eat on his dime. He'll help you. He'll protect you. He'll give you work. But he don't tolerate deadbeats. You better get your ass in gear before I kick it in gear. You getting the picture here?"
I grabbed Kyle's arm as Raymond looked terrified, pressed back up against the wall.
"He doesn't mean anything, Kyle. He's just had it awful hard. People have shit all over him all his life. He doesn't know what nice people are like. Let him go. He's my friend, Kyle. Let him go, now. Please."
"You better learn you'll get a hell of a lot more with being nice than by being an asshole. I'm not a dumb Swede. I'm an American. I graduated high school at sixteen. I start Stanford in the fall. Uncle Ingmar has let me work for him so I could afford it. Who's the dumb one now, Raymond?"
"Let him go, Kyle. I know how to do the blankets. You go ahead. We'll finish up."
"I didn't mean to upset you, Billie Joe. I don't like people saying bad things about me and Ingmar. We're good people. We're honest. I don't like someone saying otherwise. I don't like him. He's trouble."
Kyle let Raymond go, and I could see him shaking as he looked at the floor, ignoring Raymond as he backed away from us and left the truck.
"Go ahead and lie down, Raymond. I'll do the work."
"Shit on you, too. I'll do my share."
"Not like that. If you aren't going to do it right, let me do it. Just lie down. I'll do it. I want to keep this job. You do what you want. That's the last time I stand up for you. You stand on your own from now on."
Raymond started grabbing blankets and folding them just as Ingmar had instructed. Each one was neat and stacked perfectly on top of the last. I went back across the truck and started on my pile again. It was less than an hour when Ingmar came back. The truck shook when he jumped onto the rear.
"Good job, Billie Joe, and Raymond. Well I'll be damned! Ingmar is pleased with you. We'll be going to the dinner now. We'll all have a good meal. We can finish these after."
"I'm not hungry. I want to lie down," Raymond said.
"He's still not feeling good," I apologized, and bit my tongue for doing it.
"He's needing to eat. Food will be making him better. I have medication from the doctor to help."
Raymond sat on the pile we slept in. Ingmar stepped forward and pulled him up into his arms like a rag doll.
"Raymond is in need of good food, but better yet he is needing good people. We are eating together Raymond. We are working together, we are eating together. We are being a family together. We can't eat unless you eat. Kyle has said you were doing a good job for me. Kyle knows. We go to eat now."
"Do we take a shit together, too," Raymond said, as Ingmar walked toward the door with Raymond pushed along in front of him.
"We are usually shitting at different times, but if you like to be shitting together, by god Ingmar will try to make you happy Raymond. If that's all it takes to put a smile on your face, by god we're going to be okay with you, Raymond."
I couldn't help but laugh as Ingmar made Raymond do exactly what he wanted him to do. Raymond couldn't complain or scowl enough to put Ingmar off. We were one big happy family.
At dinner the table was loaded with food, and we all ate to our heart's content.
"Could I have the sugar, Kyle. Please?" Raymond asked politely, looking at Kyle's face. Kyle slid the sugar across the table without handing it to him.
"Thank you, Kyle. Look, I'm sorry for acting like a jerk. It's a bad habit. I did do a good job after you left. Like Ingmar showed me. I did it right. I'm sorry."
"You boys are having troubles? Kyle, you said they were doing good job."
"Billie Joe, was doing fine. I was doing my usual. If I fuck up enough, well, people usually just leave me alone, but I can see that's not going to happen with you. I might as well do it right. You're too big to fight with. I don't want to get my ass kicked again. It's still tender. I'm happy to have the job. Thank you for this meal. It's really good."
"We are to be working together. Everyone must do his share. Ingmar has no time to force you to do what it is your job to do. Many people would be happy for the job. Tomorrow you help Kyle move furniture. Billie Joe gets to handle the blankets. With this you can not play the games. You are wanting the job, by god you got the job. We are now working together."
"Together," Raymond said.
Kyle glared and did not smile, and seemed to be still holding onto his anger. His long, baleful look in Raymond's direction was thoughtful.
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