Cory Wade is Missing

by Rick Beck

Chapter 12

Walk Off

Angus never felt so defeated before. His knowledge about runners said you only got one best shot at catching one. If you blew it, your job became far more difficult.

Angus knew he blew it. Other than what he did, he didn't know what else he could have done. He followed the leads, hoping for the best. His best hadn't bee good enough.

Cory, believing Angus was his father's man, didn't budge. Angus didn't realized how close he was to Cory. He didn't see him, but he could feel him with every fiber in his body. It was Cory who went out the back door, while Angus stood at the front door.

Turning from the fence, to go back to do a proper interview with Gary Ford, Angus took stock of cases he never solved. He didn't count them. A case was open, until he closed it. He'd been hired to find Cory Wade. He had found him, thanks to Terry, but he couldn't catch him.

The Cory Wade case had become complicated. More complicated than a case should be. Angus prided himself on what he'd learned over the years as a Chicago detective, but he couldn't help but think he was missing something. There was a piece to this puzzle that was missing.

Terry had hit that revelation on the nose as well. The only two people who knew what made Cory run, were Cory and his father. His father wasn't going to give it up, and he'd have to catch Cory to find out what that puzzle piece was.

When he reached the fence at the front of the yard, preparing to get back on the other side, he was rescued. "Here," Gary Ford said, standing at the corner of that section of fence. "This might be easier on you."

Easier than m e or the fence? Angus thought.

He was grateful for the break. The man who aided Cory's escape, wanted to save him the trouble of scaling the fence a second time. The first trip over had him limping.

"You want to tell me what this is all about?" Gary Ford asked, as he walked Angus back to the front of the house.

Angus made no moves that made him look dangerous to Gary, and he hadn't brandished a weapon of any kind. Being the curious type, Gary wanted to know.

"I will gladly tell you, but first, tell me what I already know. Was it Cory Wade who went out the back door while we were standing at the front door?"

"It was Cory. What do you want with him? He's a good kid. He'd been on edge all week. Now, I know why."

"Cory left home. There is bad blood between him and his father. It boiled over. His mother hired me to find Cory, and to let him know he can come home. She has left Cory's father. I merely need to let him know that. He needs to come home to finish school."

Mr. Ford's mouth fell open.

"I wouldn't guess that in a million years," he said. "I had the feeling he was in trouble, but he hadn't confided in me yet. I would have helped, no matter what it was."

Gary was genuinely shocked and saddened by what Angus told him.

"I'm sorry. He was here. He left when he heard what we said at the front door. He was expecting you. After this long, he hoped he was safe here, but I think he knew he'd need to run soon. He's quite a charming and intelligent young man. I wanted to help him."

"Did he tell you who he expected to come after him?"

"No, he didn't say much about himself. He came here early this week. We were getting acquainted. He remained guarded, and then, he ran. That's all I can tell you."

"It's about what I figured," Angus said.

"We'd communicated for about six months. Then, he sent me a text. He'd be here over the weekend. I was shocked. He didn't say he graduated. He called Sunday."

"That's about how I had it figured," Angus said. "He's not out of school. There are two term papers and several final exams between him and graduation. It's one reason why his mother hired me to find him. His life will be altered forever if he doesn't finish school in a manner that's required to gain entry into a decent college."

"You make me feel like a fool, and now I feel like a villain. He didn't mention any of what you told me. I didn't feel comfortable asking him too many questions. Cory would have told me if he wanted me to know. As a gay man, I don't question other gay men. I don't know what they've seen. what they'd been through. What they want you to know, they'll tell you. Push, and you'll push them away."

"His father is reputed not to be a nice man. Going after his own son is a bit further along than not being nice," Angus said.

"I'll say," Gary said. "I'm sorry. There's nothing I can do about spilled milk, and you aren't going to like what I'll tell you next."

"I like bad news straight up. Shoot, and that's a figurative expression."

"During the week he had me show him the ways in and out of the city. He had me walk him everywhere in the Castro. He asked what every single establishment was. I was very efficient. I took him from one end of San Francisco to the other. There are limited entrances and exits because it's an island, but he knows everything I know about the city, and I've been here 30 years," Mr. Ford said. "He wanted to see it all. He wanted to walk the streets of San Francisco. For most gay men, it's a fantasy, until they see it up close. This is a place gay men can go to feel free."

"Great! That doesn't help me at all. I've still got the weekend to use up before I fly back south. I don't know what I'm going to do."

"It's only a ten minute drive to the Castro from here. Once Cory steps onto the main street and sticks out his thumb, well, a boy who looks like that will stand there for maybe two minutes tops. Since you're so close, he'll likely lay low tonight. I'd offer to drive you around, but once he's in the Castro, there are hundreds of places where he can go to get off the street. It's San Francisco, and everyone is hunting for someone on Friday night," he said. "It's easy to get lost in the crowd. I'll show you if you like."

"Do you know a Phil Hartnet?" Angus asked as an afterthought.

"No, I don't believe so. Do you want to come in. I've got dinner for two and the second plate is now up for grabs. I can nuke it and you'll never know it cooled off."

Angus declined dinner. He'd lost his appetite. Cory was out there somewhere, and time was running out.

Angus was sure he'd triggered what he feared most. He'd succeeded in driving Cory deeper underground. If he didn't head Cory off, and do it fast, there was no telling where he might end up.

Angus needed to make a move. He needed to do something.

If Cory was scared before, he was petrified now. His worst fear had been confirmed. Someone was after him.

He needed a new plan to shake them off his trail. He needed to disappear from San Francisco without a trace.

Angus McCoy was one of the good guys. He did his best to step on as few toes as necessary. Over the years, he learned, being the good cop, got you farther down the road you were on, than being the bad cop.

Gary Ford, like Johnny Lee, was a good guy. Cory had chosen well, when he picked men he took help from. He stayed at Johnny Lee's for three days, and he was long gone, before Angus arrived. He'd spent a few more days at Gary Ford's, but as soon as Angus knocked on the door, Cory took off. There would be no easy route to the next stop Cory made.

Angus set the GPS for the address in San Jose. It was far enough away, Cory might think he'd be safe there for a day or two. Angus had two days to kill, and while logic told him, Cory was on his own now. He knew how Angus had found him. He'd been alert to that possibility all along.

Angus couldn't come up with another idea. He could go to the Castro, and hang out there, trying to spot Cory in the crowd of weekend revelers, but a sixty-year-old straight cop, would stand out like a soar thumb.

With two days to kill, he stopped for Twinkies and a thermos full of coffee, before heading to Juan Sanchez's home in San Jose. With the help of the GPS, Angus knew the way to San Jose. He sat a block down the street from the Sanchez house, parking among a half dozen other cars parked on the street.

He dozed and drank coffee, until dawn.

Angus took a break Saturday afternoon when all was quiet. He found a small grocery store and came away with two hot dogs all the way, 10 packages of Twinkies, and two Large bags of Doritos.

He didn't buy antacid, but he should have. He took his life in his own hands, polishing off the last two Twinkies and the rest of the second bag of Doritos for breakfast. It was typical of every stakeout he'd ever been on.

How he'd lived this long was a mystery. He was sure his blood was the consistency of the filling inside a Twinkie.

Cory didn't make an appearance by late Sunday morning, and Angus parked the rental car directly in front of the Sanchez house. He had a bit over three hours to get to the airport to fly home.

A Hispanic man answered the door. Angus came straight to the point.

"I'm Angus McCoy. I'm a private detective," Angus said, opening his wallet. "I'm looking for this boy."

Angus handed Mr. Sanchez Cory's picture.

"Juan, it's for you," the young man sang. "It's the policia, dude. You better have your papers in order."

Juan came to the door laughing. He was tall with with thick arms visible in a sleeveless shirt. He looked Angus over before looking at the picture. He shook his head. He was maybe in his mid-twenties.

"You a cop?" He asked in plain clear English. "I don't know him."

Juan's voice was deep and resonant.

Ready to close the door, he hesitated, turning back to Angus.

"Let me see that again," he said with a question in his voice.

Angus handed the man the picture. Juan's arm bulged as he held it close to his face. His name is Cory. I've been emailing him for some time. The pictures I've seen are casual, taken on his phone. Nothing this formal, but yeah, that's Cory," he said. "Handsome dude."

"Cory is missing, Juan. It's a family affair. I'm a private cop, hired by his mother to find him. Your name is on Cory's computer. You've been communicating with him," Angus varified. "I have reason to believe Cory is in this region."

"He's not here if that's the next question? I haven't heard from him in a couple of weeks. He emails every week or two. He's new. He's working at coming out. I assume you know this. I can't think of a friendlier place to explore coming out. It's why I came here. It's why the fool who answered the door came here. It's a friendly place."

"I'd like to get him home. He needs to finish school. I've tracked him to this region. If he should get in contact with you, will you call me so I can talk to him?"

"No, I won't. I'll ask him to call you. I'll explain your visit. That will have to do," he said.

"That would help. He had a falling out with his father. His mother hhas left his father and wants Cory home to finish school. It's more information than you need, but if Cory knows this, he may come home on his own," Angus said.

"As I said, I'll advise him of your visit, should he show up here."

Angus handed the man his card.

"Thank you for your time. Should Cory show up, giving the card and tell him I can, and will, get him home to his mother if he calls."

Juan Sanchez looked at the card as he shut the door.

It was a simple plan. It was one more place to check out. There were seven other names on the list he didn't check, but Cory knew he'd been tracked to Gary Ford's by using his computer contacts. Angus knew the boy was smart enough not to make the same mistake twice.

Angus drove toward the airport.

Cory waited until the lights went out in the house in the yard where he hid. He moved carefully around the side of the house and walked out to the street. He looked both ways and didn't see any cars coming, but he decided to cut across two backyards, walking down to the end of the next block. He made a right turn and walked to the highway Gary took to take him to the Castro.

Cory turned up the collar of his tan jacket and pulled down his San Diego Padre's hat. He stepped into the street and, walking backward, stuck out his thumb. One car moved past at a modest speed. A minute later an SUV pulled over. Cory checked both ways before he got into the vehicle. Traffic was light heading into town. He was sure it was after midnight.

There were two children's car-seats in the vehicle. The man looked to be about thirty. Fifteen minutes into the ride, Cory saw a familiar street. Gary turned there the day he took him into the Castro the first time.

"Can you let me out anywhere along here. The next corner would be fine. Thanks for the ride," Cory said.

"Be careful of the big bad wolf, son. He bites," the man said as he pulled to the curb.

The driver was a clean cut man. He wasn't hard to look at either. He looked fresh scrubbed for a night out.

Cory waved at the man with the two baby seats in his car. He felt an odd kinship with him, even if they hadn't talked on the way to Cory's destination.

He watched the SUV drive away.

Cory began to climb the blocks he'd walked with Gary.

How is it in a city built on hills, he always seemed to be climbing, and hardly felt as if he was descending at all.

The street he recognized became more crowded as Cory walked. With his hat pulled low, and at the pace he was walking, he got hardly a glance. First he needed to locate the coin shop. He knew approximately where it was.

He turned off the more crowded thoroughfare to turn where he remembered turning just before he spotted the coin shop. This would be his first stop the next morning.

The coin shop was right where he expected it to be. Once he had cash in his pocket, he'd stop for breakfast on his way out of town. The next leg of his journey would start at the coin shop. Where it would end was anyone's guess. Cory was in the wind, but he didn't know which way the wind was blowing yet.

California was huge, and he planned to get lost in her vast expanse. The best thing about not knowing where he was going, he couldn't be followed. The unknown aspect to what he was about to do scared him.

As Cory's plan developed in his mind, he lost track of where he was walking. He lost track of the people, the nightlife, the dozens of gay places he passed. When he was on these streets with Gary, he felt exuberant. Everyone on the street was just like him. He was no longer the only gay person he knew.

"Sorry, mate," a smallish man said, as he charged out of a club ahead of his two friends. "Strike that. No, I'm not sorry. Hello, tall, dark, and handsome."

Cory leaned to pick up his cap, and when he stood, he found himself in the middle of three twenty-something men.

"Gram, he's a blond. It would be tall, light, and handsome. All you Americans are tall buggers."

"Who can tell, Harold. Oh, dear, whatever happened to your hair? What an unfortunate accident. Did you prematurely go bald, or is this some kind of odd American thing?" Gram wanted to know.

"You from Australia?" Cory asked.

"I've found the one enlightened person among the rabble. Bless you my child. I can return home and say that all Yanks aren't brutish," Gram said.

"You are from Australia," Cory became certain of it.

"You've found me out, love. Melbourne. This hunk of burning love is Harold. He's from New Zealand, and believe it or don't, Max here, is from Borneo. Max is tall, dark, and handsome if you don't look too close, and how do we address you, cutie pie?"

"I'm Cory. It's a buzz cut," Cory said, relaxing a little as people walked around their huddle. "It's a disguise."

"It certainly is," Gram said. "I hardly recognized you at first. Well Cory, won't you join our merry band? We'll all go and get drunk."

"Ingram, you are three sheets to the wind already," Max said.

"We were going for coffee the last time I heard," Harold said.

"So I am, and so we are. Would you like to join us, fair Cory?"

They seemed harmless. They seemed exotic and strangely wonderful. Cory gave them his biggest smile before putting his hat back on.

"Strangers in the night," Gram sang. "Exchanging glances. Strangers in the night, what were the chances. Who knew old Frank would capture the essence of our first meeting? Come away with us and drown your sorrows in coffee. We'll dazzle you with stories of life down under."

Cory laughed. They were funny, especially Gram.

"Sure. Why not?" he said, having the night to kill.

"Indeed; why not? I've been traveling with these two rascals for the better part of May, and believe me when I say, we need an infusion of new blood to liven the conversation.

"There's a diner over on Van Ness. We passed it when we went to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. It's only a few blocks, and their coffee was decent," Max said.

"How come you two sound like you're from Australia, and he sounds like he's from Oxford?" Cory asked.

"If you intend to drink coffee with us, my young friend, you will never refer to me as being from Australia again. I'm from New Zealand," Harold said. "We come from a noble stock of explorers, and Gram is the result of the British Empire sending it's convicts to Australia."

"Noble explorers indeed," Gram said. "Your forefathers never saw a country they wouldn't invade and pillage. My ancestors might steal your wallet, even your watch, but we let you keep your country, if you had one."

"Will you two cut it out. The Empire enlightened the world. We took ignorant savages and turned them into gentlemen," Max said like a gentlemen.

"Yeah, and you spread your prejudices around the globe," Gram said. "How long did it take for the civilized world to stop persecuting homosexuals. Thank you, Britain. Now you only torment the Irish."

"He won't hold that against you, Harold," Gram said. "Max, indeed got his education in Britain. His father was a diplomat, and the thing about it is, he talks a good game, but there's nothing diplomatic about Max. He's from Borneo, but he's become a snobbish Brit."

"Yeah, Gram," Max said. "I have become civilized. I even took the bone out of my nose, but you'll always be from the Outback."

Cory laughed.

These guys were funnier than the Three Stooges.

The coin shop looked ordinary enough. It was conveniently situated on a street adjacent to the Castro. The best thing about the coin shop, there was a coffee shop across the street. He sat in the window waiting for the coin shop to open.

He went with Gram, Harold, and Max to drink coffee until two, early that morning. They'd invited him back to their hotel room to sleep, and it was the kind of offer Cory wasn't expecting. It allowed him to get a few hours sleep.

They'd said their goodbyes before he went to sleep. The leader of the pack, Ingram, invited Cory to visit Australia, when he had the time and desire. Cory was delighted to receive the invitation, even if he didn't think he'd take Gram up on his offer.

The three men he literally ran into, as they exited a bar, proved to be entertaining company. He felt comfortable going back to their room with them. By the time Cory went to sleep, he felt surprisingly good.

When he left Gary's, he had hit bottom. The worst thing that could happen had happened. Cory was on his own with nowhere to go. As he sat in the window, across from the coin shop, things seemed better. He was no longer afraid. Meeting the three men the night before reassured him, and he had a fresh outlook on his prospects.

Now, he was about to do something his father warned him not to do. Not without informing him and allowing him to buy back the Krugerrands he'd been given on each birthday, since he was eight-years-old.

"Keep them in the hiding place. Don't tell anyone about them. If you decide to cash one in, see me first, and I'll buy the coins back," his father told him. "We'll keep the knowledge that we possess these coins to ourselves, OK?"

It was a few days before Cory's birthday. Coming in from school, he saw his father's car. He'd come in from New Jersey, and Cory rushed in to greet him.

Two men were seated near his father at the dining room table, when he charged in, he came up short, when he saw the three of them. His father looked up, and he smiled, which was unusual. His father didn't smile very often. Any time Cory interrupted him, when his 'boys' were in the house, he received a harsh rebuke.

There were two bottles of Johnny Walker on the table. The bottles had blue label instead of the usual red his father drank. One bottle was nearly empty. Each of them had a glass with various amounts of liquor in front of them. It may explain why his father gave him no reproach.

"It's your birthday in a few days," his father said.

"Yes, sir," Cory answered, ready to be told to get lost.

"I have a present for you," his father said.

Cory watched his father take a single coin from the stacks of golden coins on the table between the three men. He turned to remove a leather pouch from the cabinet behind him. He dropped the coin in the pouch. He held it out for Cory to take.

"Happy birthday," his father said.

The other two said, 'Happy birthday, kid.'

They were all laughing.

Cory had seen both of the men before. They were the most frequent visitors to the Wade house.

He smiled, saying, "Thank you, father.'

His father indicated for him to come over to take the present. He put one big arm around Cory's waist. His father rarely showed affection toward him, and it made Cory uneasy. He was still expecting to get cuffed for barging in.

That's when his father gave him the conditions under which he was being given this gift.

"You follow my instructions, Cory, and on each birthday, from now on, you'll get another gold coin. They are worth a lot of money, son. Remember what I told you."

"Yes, sir," Cory said.

"Now you go on, while we finish our business," his father said.

"Yes, sir," he said, and he left the dining room.

Cory had never been allowed anywhere near the men his father was with. The shoulder holsters and guns told him these were guys he didn't want to be around. The other thing Cory remembered about that day, several wooden crates, with the tops off of all three. The tops lay beside the crates, they were marked: Lufthansia in big blue lettering.

There was one other thing that stood out from that day. On the sideboard, next to the cabinet where his father got the leather pouch for the coin, was a third shoulder holster. He'd never seen his father carry a gun, and he wouldn't never forget the day he first saw it.

His father called him into his office on every birthday after that. He'd put a gold coin in the middle of his desk.

He'd say, "Put this with the others. You remember what I told you?"

"Yes, sir," Cory would say.

While Cory valued the secret he and his father shared, more than the gold coin he was given each year, he'd grown up by the time he got the eleventh coin. He still wouldn't violate their secret. It's one of the few things they shared. There were eleven coins in the pouch. Cory's mother had moved the pouch to her safe deposit box the year he turned fifteen. She decide that was too much money to have in the house. She didn't tell Cory's father.

Cory didn't tell him either. He didn't dare let him know the coins weren't still in the secret hiding place. Since the coins had always been there when he checked, he stopped checking after a while. He didn't know the coins had been removed from the house.

Cory wondered how long it would take him to check to see if the coins were still there. He'd certainly think to check, now that he'd told his son to leave.

It had been destiny that made Dolores move the coins out of the house. It was destiny she wrote Cory's name on the safe deposit box on his eighteenth birthday. It was destiny that he had the coins to make certain he'd survive whatever was ahead of him.

The secret he shared with his father was no longer more valuable than the Krugerrands.

Early that morning, Cory got up, folded the blanket, and placed it with the pillow on a chair. He'd gone into the bathroom, unfastened his designer jeans and removed the pouch. He took a single coin out, wrapped it in tissue, put it in his pocket, returning the pouch to its hiding place.

Now, Cory waited for the coin shop to open. He anticipated no trouble cashing in the coin. It was gold and worth well over a thousand bucks. He hated parting with one. He didn't like the idea of violating his father's conditions, but his father left him no choice.

Cory was determined to survive his expulsion from his house. If his father was throwing him out, he was taking what was his with him. He hoped he wouldn't need to cash in any coins, but the old geezer had come within a few feet of catching him.

That wouldn't happen again.

Cory had a plan in place, and no one would be able to follow him, once he left San Francisco.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead