Cory Wade is Missing

by Rick Beck

Chapter 17

Drive Time

Angus imagined he could feel Cory sitting in the same coffee shop, waiting for the same coin shop to open a week ago. The clerk at the coin shop imagined, after buying the coin from Cory, he'd soon be having a conversation like the one he was having with Angus.

Each was hearing the imagining going on in his own mind. Neither was sure it meant anything, until they talked to each other.

Cory was able to make good his escape from the old geezer, who tracked him to Gary's. He met men who gave him shelter for the night. Once he left the coin shop, he knew which way he would go. For the first time in his life, he was truly on his own. At first scary, by midday, it was becoming an adventure. Somewhere on Highway 101, he was on his way to Oregon. Having no idea where he was going to end up. Oregon sounded fine.

Cory and his latest acquaintance, were coming to a meeting of the minds. Leon had no idea he'd pick up any hitchhikers, when he left Santa Cruz that morning. Boredom and a desire to talk to someone, had Leon pulling onto the shoulder to pick up Cory.

Leon didn't realize that he was too good to be true, when it came to Cory needing a place to lay low. Leon didn't know that Cory would be willing to solve his most immediate problem, if he'd only stop talking long enough to listen.

It was too soon to know if Leon could be dangerous, or if he was just another horny college kid with big ideas and a plan that made perfect sense to him, as he was looking for a way to stem the tide of his sexual desire over the summer.

Cory had to give some thought to the idea of spending the summer in the woods with a sex pervert, even one who looked as good as Leon. He liked the sounds of the location, but what Leon expected from him was speculative at best at the moment. Before agreeing to go with Leon, he wanted to know more about him.

Leon's approach was novel. Coming from some guys, it would have grossed Cory out. Being propositioned shortly after getting into Leon's car, made Cory smile and wonder, who was this guy?

Leon wasted no time. He was more than happy to talk about himself. While there was some shock value in Leon's approach, Cory began to see how the arrangement might work in his favor. The more he looked at Leon, the more beneficial the proposition sounded.

If things didn't work out, he'd just hitchhike out of there. There was something stimulating about Leon. Cory had never been open with anyone about his feelings, because he wasn't sure what his feelings meant. He saw spending the summer at an isolated cabin with Leon, as a way of opening the book on how he felt.

It didn't take long for Cory to wonder what it would be like with Leon. Once the idea was put in Cory's mind, it was hard for Cory to stop thinking about it. It wasn't often he got into a car with a stranger, especially one as cute and strange as Leon.

Cory hadn't had a sexual thought in close to two weeks. He'd thought of Jessie, but mostly as an exercise in humiliation. Jessie would never talk to him again, and Cory could understand why."

Cory saw a lot of boys he wondered about at the all-boys high school, and at sporting events, but those boys were out of reach. He was mostly careful about what he let other boys know about him.

This wasn't the cloistered world of private school. He was out in the world now, and what he let other people know was his business. What he'd never done was talk to anyone about his sexual feelings. Those feelings were still mysterious to Cory. He wanted explore them. While it wasn't part of Leon's offer, it would come naturally, as he became accustomed to Leon. Sooner or later he'd want to know the best ways to stimulate his man. He could think of less attractive situations to be in, while doing it.

Leon was older, more mature, horny, and within easy reach. He was asking Cory to lend him a hand this summer. Leon was obviously an experienced player, who knew what he liked. They'd both been heading in different directions, until Leon stopped for him.

No one was going to walk in on them, and, while he wouldn't give in too soon, or seem too anxious, he was sure the offer gave him more than he could have expected. The cabin was a hideaway, when he needed a place to hide. Leon was an invitation to a sexy summer.

How he wished he'd had a hideaway where he could have taken Jessie. By the time Cory was a senior, he'd known Jessie for years. The school tennis champion pretty much ignored him. Jessie was good at ignoring everyone. One thing was on his mind, winning at tennis, or so his teammates thought, but Jessie was hiding a secret too.

As good a student as Cory was, and he was smart, when Jessie began teaching him how to hit a backhand, Jessie unconsciously, or maybe not unconsciously, let Cory get real close, and what Cory felt made thinking about tennis a real challenge.

As Jessie stood with him, showing him how to hold the racket just so, how to swing, putting them in close proximity. Tennis not being foremost on either of their minds. That was a first for Jessie. His head was no longer in the game. He'd let Cory distract him.

Cory was a walking, tennis playing, distraction. Tennis took a backseat to the feelings that were passed between them. It changed everything, until Cory took Jessie home with him.

He was so anxious to get Jessie home, and in his bed, he put them both in jeopardy. It ended with the lovers going their separate ways, and that's what Cory regretted most of all.

Cory figured the offer would remain open. There was no hurry.

"I know I sound like ever horny guy trolling the highways for some action, but you look like a guy who doesn't mind sharing your skills with willing guys. Did I mention, I'm willing?"

"I got the idea fifty miles back. You want me to keep your knob polished, and for that I get to spend my summer in the woods watching the paint dry," Cory said.

"You're funny," Leon said. "I'm a nudist. That means you have more to look at than my creations."

"If the neighbors don't object, I don't," Cory said.

"No neighbors. The cabin is miles back in the woods. My granddad built the road to the cabin to bring in building materials."

"OK. I have no plan at present. You aren't a bad-looking guy. I've done favors for guys like you before. I don't have any references."

"You are funny. Sounds like you're going to love it," Leon said. "The cabin is on a lake. It's not far from the Pacific. Unfortunately, it's not close to anything else," Leon said. "Polish my knob. I like that. Sounds like good housekeeping. I can see myself introducing you back at the dorm. This is Cory. He polishes my knob. I love that."

"What if you don't like my technique?" Cory asked, half in jest.

"I'll manage," he said.

"Anyone ever tell you, you're a hoot?" Cory asked.

"A hoot? No. I've been called a lot of things. Never that."

"Have you ever tried finishing one thought before you start in on two more?" Cory asked.

"I don't think I do, do I do that?"

Cory laughed.

"You seem harmless. I really had no plan when I got on the road this morning. A cabin in the woods sounds pleasant enough," Cory said.

"Yes, it is pleasant. No one telling you what you need to do and when you need to do it," Leon said. "Besides, you're out here going nowhere, and I'm out here going somewhere, and somewhere is far better than nowhere, you know?"

"Was that a question? Stop talking, Leon. I said, 'OK' a few miles back. I'm gay," Cory said, telling someone for the first time. "I don't pick up with just anyone. You seem doable, in an odd sort of way."

"Oh, I am, anyway you want. I'm an artist, which makes me curious. I'm someone trying to spread my wings to fly in many directions," Leon said.

"Not all at the same time, I hope," Cory said.

The red Toyota eased along the 101, heading for Oregon, and an out of the way cabin in the woods. The deal being sealed, Leon fell silent, while Cory began to relax. He thought the north of California was quite beautiful.

Then Leon got his second wind.

"I should like to paint you," he said out of the blue. "Our models aren't as good looking as you. Truly good looking people aren't as likely to take their clothes off as the less attractive models."

Cory wasn't sure how serious a boy Leon was. So far, he'd sounded anything but serious, but how was he to know? He could be as serious as he liked, as long as he wasn't dangerous.

"The lake is a bit warmer this time of year. Not as warm as it will be in July. We swim nude. The lake is behind the cabin. Everyone swims nude, but grandma, but she died. So I want to paint you nude," Leon said, stopping abruptly. "Does that offend you?"

"We'll be the only two naked guys at the cabin?" Cory asked. "I didn't pack my bathing suit. If your neighbors don't mind, I don't."

"I was going to mention you pack light. Why don't you have a bag or something?"

"I hadn't planned a trip before getting on the road. No time to pack," Cory said.

"Spontaneous vacationing? I love that too. You're an unusual boy," Leon said.

"A lot of that going around," Cory said, looking at Leon.

Leon laughed.

"I guess I could come across as unusual. I like what I like. I do what I want, and my friends can take it or leave it," he said. "We can rough it. But no one goes there, these days. It's too far out of the fast lane. They're too busy to drop off the grid for a few days, these days, and Granddad has been ill. He hasn't been to the cabin on the lake for a couple of years. That makes it perfect for painting, and getting to know someone. Besides, being there is fun."

"Sounds cool to me," Cory said.

"Cool is a good word for it, and here I was, not think about picking up a hitchhikers, and there you were. You can feel free to move those tubes behind your seat. I keep my paintings in the tubes. You'll have more room if you get them out of your way."

"A lot of tubes. What kind of painting do you do?" Cory asked.

"I'm good with landscapes. The cabin is on a lake. It's quite beautiful. I never got the whole bowl of fruit thing, and I'll never paint portraits. My concept of the human form doesn't pass muster. No matter the model, their genitalia turns out to be oversized, out of proportion. My professors say I'm preoccupied with sex. I'm only preoccupied with sex when I"m not occupied with it, you know?"

Cory laughed.

"Sound like a theme that runs through your life," Cory said.

"I've been asked by professors if I'm there to ogle the nudes. It's what they ask just before they bounce your ass out of there. I tell them, 'No, but I don't mind seeing nudes either.' That confuses them."

"Words, Leon. Words. I get the idea," Cory said.

"Sorry. You asked," Leon said.

"I did," Cory said. "I just don't remember what I asked."

"I'm an open guy," Leon said.

"Not to mention wordy," Cory said.

"I haven't talked to anyone all day," Leon said.

The portfolio slid in right behind the seat as Cory busied himself with rearranging the mess. In a short time, they both had plenty of room. Leon could even see out of the back window. It was amazing how little Leon had and how the backseat contained all of it once Cory folded up the bedding.

"You're good," Leon said, after being silent while Cory straightened the mess out. "You didn't happen to stumble across a bag of Doritos, did you?"

Cory reached over his right shoulder, handing the bag to Leon.

"You are good. Can you open it for me? This is an important test of your abilities. Where did you say you're going?"

Cory grabbed the Doritos bag and ripped the top wide open. He held the bag out for Leon to take a handful.

"I'm just going. I'm out of school, and I'm eighteen, and I just decided to go somewhere, anywhere but home."

"Do you cook?" Leon asked. "It's another reason why I left Susan at home. One of us starving in the woods is better than two of us. You'd be surprised how few restaurants there are in the woods."

"I do a spectacular Italian, but my French sauces aren't anything to brag about," Cory said. "If we're spending the summer in the woods, we definitely need to go grocery shopping before we settle in."

"The closest grocery store is several hours away from the cabin. You have a good idea there. We can stop on the way in. We can't get a lot of things that will spoil. The refrigeration is all natural. In the cave behind the cabin it stays coolest. Things last there the longest."

"No electricity?" Cory asked.

"There's a generator. We use it an hour in the evening, but all the gas has to be carried in, and I don't know how much is left since granddad last filled it up. There are containers at the cabin. By the time it's getting pitch black at night, I'm ready to go to bed and I'm up at first light. Some people sleep after it gets daylight, but not me. I love sitting on the deck listening to the sounds the forest makes as the day breaks and the birds start singing. It's quite relaxing."

"Sounds nice," Cory said. "Get away from the rat race."

"Which brings us to why a good-looking guy like you – and you are well dressed, if a bit wrinkled, and I'm an expert on being wrinkled, which is a good reason to be a nudist by the way – are out here on the highway hitchhiking? You look like a guy who could afford a plane ticket to anywhere. Why here, and why ride your thumb? It's apparent mommy and daddy could send you off on a jet or a cruise to take you anywhere you'd like to be," Leon said like a boy who had gone off on his share of flights and cruises.

"Let's just say I had a need to be on my own for the summer. I couldn't stand the idea of hanging around the house all summer and doing things because my parents want me to. Do you know how much surf is in Santa Fe? I'll tell you, none. I love to surf with my boyfriend. We can get way out beyond the breakers. It's almost heaven."

"Does that ever sound familiar," Leon said. "My parents summer in Aspen. They are upset because I told them I wanted to work. My grandfather offered me the cabin. My parents said if I went to the cabin, I'd be on my own. They weren't putting a nickel into me spending the summer in the woods."

"How much will it cost?" Cory asked.

"Besides food and gas, there is no expense. If I want some action, I go to Eugene. It's a college town. A weekend in Eugene and I'm ready for a few more weeks at the cabin," Leon said.

"In Aspen, there are the horses to ride, the trails to hike, and snow to be skied at higher elevations. Not to mention they take the guy who is my piano teacher with them. I'd never get to paint because he'd bugging me about playing every minute I'm awake. Have you ever vacationed with your piano teacher? I don't recommend it if you have anything else you want to do, like look for babes."

"Your parents take your piano teacher on vacation with them?" Cory asked.

"The cook, the maid, and the piano teacher. If you go on vacation, you're supposed to leave your life behind. Put your everyday life on hold and get away from it all. Except for the horses, I wouldn't know we weren't home," Leon said.

"I can see you've had it tough," Cory said, and he laughed thinking about an isolated cabin in the woods.

"If you weren't a boy, you'd make a fine girlfriend. What other talents might you possess?" Leon asked, as he looked at Cory.

"With my parents traveling, I learned to take care of myself. Whatever needs doing around the house, I've done a time or two," Cory said. "The help goes on vacation while my parents are away."

"You cook, you clean, and you surf; that's quite a set of talents. There is no surf on the lake. Sorry, but there aren't any surfboards either. The cabin is built on the highest hill around. It's twenty feet above the surface of the lake. People dive off the back deck. It takes a little nerve the first time, but the water is perfect, once you get used to it being cold. On cool days it's warm, and on warm days it's cool," Leon said. "There are canoes, kayaks, and a fishing boat. Lots of fishing equipment."

"Sounds like plenty to do if you like water sports," Cory said.

"You don't?" Leon asked.

"I do. I love the water. La Jolla borders the Pacific. Boys surf just below my house. It's where I learned to surf. We have our own seals. They're pretty audacious. People feed them. The seals put two and two together. I've heard they bite if you fail to come up with some food. Usually they don't pester you while you're in the water."

"Sounds adorable," Leon said. "The lake only has woods, water, and privacy. I've been known to shed my clothes and not put them back on until we leave. I think I told you that.

"There's a neat diner up here where the truckers stop. I need a break. I've got to piss like a racehorse. This place has homemade breads, jams, jellies, and excellent coffee. You'll love it."

Leon parked the Toyota next to some big rigs. When they got out of the car, Cory looked up, up, up into the top of trees over a hundred feet tall. Each had a trunk so thick, it made the trucks look tiny. He wondered if restaurants in the woods were a thing along 101. This one was a bit older and a bit larger than where he eaten lunch.

They'd been in the car together for a few hours. Cory wasn't all that hungry, but he could eat something. Cory didn't want to ask, 'How much farther to the cabin?' So he didn't. He stretched and looked forward to getting something to drink.

After rolls slathered in butter and jam, the coffee kept coming. Cory thought it was quite good. It wasn't what he'd usually want late in the afternoon, but it hit the spot.

"I would ordinarily pay, but I have so little cash, and my parents told me I wasn't to use my cards, so I can't afford to treat you. I'm sorry," Leon said.

"I'll treat you. I have money," Cory said.

Once more Leon looked Cory over.

"You cook, clean, polish knobs, and you have money? Did my parents send you here to keep an eye on me?"

"You picked me up on the side of the road," Cory said.

"I did, didn't I. It would be just like my parents to plant you out there to look innocent," Leon said. "They treat me like I'm ten."

"Let me out then. I'll get another ride," Cory said. "It's not like no one else drives up Highway 101. I've always wanted to hitch a ride in a sixteen wheeler," Cory pretended.

"I bet you have," Leon said. "They're eighteen wheelers and none of those truck driver's look nearly as nice as I do. You had me convinced until you got to the sixteen wheeler part."

"So the trucks I dream about aren't as large as the ones you dream about,," Cory said.

"Maybe. Why ruin a beautiful friendship before it gets started," Leon said.

"You have a point," Cory said.

Angus had a good night's sleep in his own bed before deciding to go to his office. His secretary was there three days a week. She sent him texts messages to keep him up to date on his appointments. Other than that, she handled the mail and answered the phone.

Angus planned to take care of business, taking time for a nice breakfast, and then go to Wes Matthews office. He needed to brief Wes on the Cory Wade matter, and that was easier on a full stomach. A briefing on his activities in San Francisco would raise more questions than answers, and Wes insisted on knowing everything as soon as possible. He worked Angus in between court appearances.

As with most days, this one would start with the unexpected.

"Morning, Boss," Judy said. "You look rested. San Francisco must have been better for you this time around."

"Better if you mean I did what I could do by Saturday morning, and I spent my time waiting to fly home yesterday," Angus said. "I slept in my own bed last night. That was nice."

"Doesn't sound like what you expected. By the way, you have a visitor. I put him in your office," Judy said. "He's a nice boy."

With visions of Cory Wade in his head, Angus got a quick grip on reality. He didn't know where Cory Wade was, but he certainly wasn't waiting for him in his office.

"Who?" Angus asked without speculating.

"Justin Parkson came in shortly after I got here. I think he'd been waiting outside for someone to show up. Quite a handsome dish, boss," Judy said. "I wouldn't mind an introduction."

"He's even younger than you are, child. He's around eleven," Angus said. "Did he give you a clue to what he wanted?"

"He questioned me about Cory Wade. I told him I knew nothing, but you were in San Francisco again, trying to pick up his trail. He seemed distressed, and I decided he needed to talk to you."

"Thanks. I hardly think young Jessie can afford my rates. I suppose I need to make time for him. I'll only disappoint him."

"It wouldn't hurt to be nice. I couldn't send him away. He seems so sad to me, Angus," Judy said.

"I don't think he's your type, Judy."

"He looks like my type," Judy said.

Putting on his happy face, Angus went to face Jessie.

The boy sat on a chair he'd pulled in front of the large mahogany desk Angus bought for himself when he opened shop.

"Hello, McCoy, you were in San Francisco again," Jessie said.

"I was. I even picked up Cory's trail for about six blocks."

"What's wrong, McCoy?"

"Nothing is wrong. Why do you ask?"

"You're smiling. I haven't seen you smile before," Jessie said.

"Oh, just happy to see you're doing OK, Jessie."

"Yes, sir. Did you figure out where Cory went?"

"I have good news and bad news. You know I'm not supposed to talk about what I find out to anyone but the attorney who hired me to investigate Cory's disappearance and the woman who hired him, Mrs. Wade? I haven't briefed either one of them yet, so keep anything I tell you hush hush. I know your interest in the case, and because of it I'll break the rules to keep you as informed as I can. I will never give you a location or you can go charging off in, Jessie. I'm a professional, and you'll need to let me do the searching."

"I understand. I just hoped you'd found out something," he said.

"I won't spill the beans, McCoy. Who would I tell about my missing boyfriend? For most of my life I've denied my feelings. That was way easier than this is."

"You're growing up. It's not easy. In my experience things seem worse about the time they start getting better. Hang in there, Jessie."

"No one knows about Cory and me but you," Jessie said. "I've never told anyone about my feelings before. Cory doesn't know what I feel. I don't know what he feels. It's like we didn't have that much to say, but being together seemed to say it all at the time," Jessie said.

"What you told me helped me quite a bit. If you hadn't told me what you did, I might still be spinning my wheels. This will probably end a lot sooner because you trusted me, Jessie," Angus said. "If he calls you, I need to know. He'll call sooner or later, or he'll surface close by. Until then, we wait."

"I don't wait well," Jessie said.

"I got close to Cory. I spoke to people he's stayed with. He's fine and in good health. That's all I'm at liberty to say," Angus said.

"Thank you. It does help to know those things. What I said when you came by my house, about Cory messing up our lives," Jessie said, "I didn't mean that. I'm as responsible for what happened as Cory. I couldn't wait to get to his house. I couldn't wait to get him in bed. It was wrong for me to blame Cory and to say what I did. I'm so angry with him for leaving me."

"That does make two of us. Waiting isn't easy, but it's what we have right now, Jessie," Angus said.

"Thanks for talking to me. I know I'm a silly lovesick kid to you. You know something about me no one else knows. It actually helps that someone knows, McCoy," Jessie said.

"I do what I can, Jess. That's all I can give you today. When there is a break, I'll drive by your house and let you know. If you hear from Cory, please, let me know. For now, we wait. Other than that, it's been nice talking to you," Angus said, walking Jessie out.

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