by Grasshopper

Chapter 9

Out in the desert, high on a lofty plateau, far from any eyes or ears of man could ever hear, souls cried for release. Lives taken in pain, hearts ripped apart by betrayal. Together in death, waiting for the one person who could free them. The wind carried their whispers; the night held them close. He held her hand as they waited.......waited for Jase.


"Where do we start?"

"At the beginning," Cody sighed. "There's so much I don't know. I need to understand and maybe you telling me the story again will make some clues jump out and bite us." He snuggled closer to Jase and sniffed like a puppy. "You smell good."

Jase laughed, shaking his head. "You're so weird."

"Yeah, but weird good, right?"

"Uh huh. Weird good." He leaned in and bumped his nose against Cody's. "Come closer." Cody obliged, a grin lighting his dark eyes.

Jase moved snug up against Cody's cheek and batted his long honey eyelashes. "Butterfly kisses."

"Mmmm." Cody felt his dick jerk. How could just the flutter of this man's eyelashes shoot right through his body? He eased his leg over Jase's stomach and felt the sweet stickiness when their bodies touched. Raising up, he planted his knees firmly on either side of Jase's slender hips and settled his butt on the older man's tight thighs.

"We need to discuss the murders," Jase sighed.

"We will," Cody smiled, "Just not right this second." From his vantage point, Cody looked down into the amber eyes and saw the laughter and the trust. He wanted it to be everything he needed. "I love you," he sighed, his voice no more than a whisper in the gentle breeze.

Jase watched Cody's eyes; looked deeply, trying to read his thoughts. "Baby," he said gently, "I won't ask more than you can give."

"I can give you my love and my body," Cody said, his hands trembling slightly as they stroked Jase's tanned chest.

Jase wanted Cody. Wanted Cody wrapped in his heart. Wanted to be inside his body; part of his own. He wanted it all. But he saw something, just a flicker of something deep in those melting chocolate eyes. A flash of fear; a snick of pain. Whoever it had been had hurt Cody, hurt him so badly that he couldn't hide it even now.

Gently, Jase pulled Cody down to lie on his chest.

"Jase, I.............."

"Shhhhh, Baby," he smiled as he gently pushed long strands of black hair behind Cody's ear. "This is something to get right. We have time........all the time in the world." He rubbed tiny circles in the small of Cody's back and felt the tenseness of his slight body relax. "When you can tell me, we'll go from there. Meanwhile, if you don't object, I would really like your mouth right here on mine."

Cody's eyes filled with shiny tears. "How did I find you?"

"Luck, I guess," Jase grinned and then twined his fingers in Cody's blue-black hair and pulled his face down gently.

Breakfast eaten, Davy scrubbed, lunchbox in hand pedaled away waving, a grin on his face. "See you at 3:30," he called back just before his voice flew away in the wind.

Cody stood by Jase on the porch watching the small boy ride down the dusty dirt road and look both ways before crossing over to pedal off down the highway.



"I have a confession," Cody said, his eyes down, "And I need to tell you before we can go any further."

Jase's heart gave a quick lurch. Damn! He had known not to care; not to fall so hard, so fast. Was Cody leaving? He steeled his heart and turned his honey eyes to look down into worried brown ones.

"You're gonna be mad cause I trespassed but I did it cause I...........,"

"What?" Jase jerked his head up.

"I.........um.......I.......this was before I liked you at all," Cody blurted out. "I wanted to find out who you were and what was going on here."

Jase rolled his eyes, "You like me now, do you?"

Cody snaked his arms around Jase's waist and hugged him tight, loving the way the top of his head snuck right under Jase's chin. "I like you A LOT."

"Then, I forgive you for doing whatever you did."

"But you don't even know what it is."

"Why don't you tell me then you can stop frowning," Jase smiled, twisting a strand of Cody's hair around his fingers.

"I," Cody mumbled into Jase's chest, "Um, kinda looked at some things in your room." He squeezed his eyes shut and waited.

Jase felt a quick flash of anger but it didn't halfway equal the huge wave of love and laughter he felt as he looked down at Cody's face smushed into his chest. "Did you find out anything that will help us?" he said softly, twirling the strands of hair and pulling Cody close in his arms.

Sighing, Cody apologized again. "I am sorry, Jase. It was wrong but I had to tell you, one: cause it was wrong and two: cause there may be some clues in the information that you didn't even know were there."

"Well, let's go take a look," Jase tugged on Cody's hand.

The drawer was about the same as Cody had left it; socks, necktie, an old postcard, Davy's report cards, a baby food jar filled with desert sage, some loose change, that manilla envelope filled with Tommy's things, three slim books and that length of sky blue velvet ribbon.

"I only looked in the envelope, Jase, "Cody said, apology lingering in his voice. "I was looking for Tommy."

"That's all I have left of him," Jase murmured as he undid the clasp and let the contents tumble to the bed. He fingered the construction paper valentine with the crooked paper lace trim, smiling sadly and tossed it aside to pick up the three photos and flick through them.

"Did his Indian name really fit him?" Cody asked. "Everything you've told me about him makes me picture him as angry and belligerent."

"Quiet Water? Yeah, it fit him. That old saying that still water runs deep was Tommy. He wasn't shy, he was all inside himself. There were parts of Tommy I never saw, never touched. Even when we........." he squeezed Cody's hand, "Even when we were together, there was part of Tommy I could never share."

"What are the letters?" Cody nudged the yellowed envelopes tied in a twist of blue ribbon.

Jase tapped them with his finger. "One's from me and one's from Charity. The summer we turned 18, Charity and I went with some friends to Baja for a week. We tried to make Tommy go with us but he said if he couldn't pay his way, he wasn't going. It was the first fight we ever had and I was miserable the whole time. My letter is just full of that. I never really read Charity's. I figured it was just her playing peacemaker."

"How did you get hold of them?" Cody asked, turning them over in his hands, curling the ribbon around his finger.

"I found them in Tommy's room along with these pictures," he said sadly. "Not much to show for 21 years, is it?"

Cody's heart broke. "He took the important things with him, Jase. He had your necklace on, remember?" Cody thought for a second and then asked, "May I read them?"

Jase sighed, "Might as well but there's nothing there. We were just kids. It can't have anything to do with what happened."

Cody kept quiet, knowing how this must be hurting Jase, bringing back the memories. He pulled the ribbon open and took up the letter from Jase.

Hiya Tommy
I wish you were here with us. I know what you said but I don't see why you couldn't have just come along. A few hamburgers and a couch wouldn't have been that much for me to handle. It's not much fun without you. Nothing is much fun without you. The Pacific water is cold and the beach sand is really so white it hurts my eyes. I wish you could see it. We'll be home on Friday and I want to hold you as soon as we get there. Wait for me at our place. I'll come as soon as I can.

I love you,

Cody damped down the odd niggling feelings of jealousy and asked, "And did he meet you?"

"Yes," Jase said softly. "We were fine after I got back. He was just too stubborn to ever let me help him."

Cody pulled Charity's letter from the envelope.

Hey Tommy,
Someone is missing you something awful. Jase too...gigglegiggle J He just stares at the ocean with a sad puppy face, you stinker. I'm making sure he gets a hot Baja tan which I'm sure you'll see as soon as he gets home.

I'll bring you a surprise. Haha ! Not a hot Mexican boy, silly. You already have a super hot New Mexican one. But then, you know about hot, my Tommy,

Just look in the mirror J Don't work too hard and I'll see you when I bring your Jase back to you.
Nu' umi unangwa' ta,

"So?" Jase asked. "I told you there was nothing."

Cody frowned. He had this gut feeling. It wasn't so much the words as the feelings under them. "Jase?"


He started slowly, "Did you ever get the feeling that Charity cared for Tommy?"

"Of course she did," Jase answered, running his fingers through his hair. "We were all best friends."

"No, sweetie," Cody wasn't quite sure how to say it. Changing direction, he asked, "Did Charity have a boyfriend?"

"She dated a lot, yeah."

"No, I mean one boy that she loved?"

Jase stopped and looked Cody square in the face. "We teased her a lot but she always came back to me......to Tommy. She said we were the three musketeers. Why?"

"See how you signed your letter?"

"Yeah, 'I love you'. So what?"

"Look how she signed hers."

Jase looked at the nonsense syllables. "I don't know what that says."

Cody put his hands on Jase's face and said softly, "Nu' umi unangwa' ta." He watched Jase's eyes widen.

"Is that what that says?"

" 'Fraid so."

"Maybe she meant it like "Luv ya". "

"Jase, that's Hopi for 'I love you', not 'luv ya'. There's a big difference."

Jase stood and walked over to the window looking silently out over the peaceful desert day. Finally, he spoke, "That would explain Davy halfway but Tommy wasn't in love with her. I would have known that. I would have."

"I didn't say he was."

"Then how the hell did they make Davy?"

Cody sighed. Damn, another mystery to add to the list.

"We may be all wrong about this," Jase said stubbornly. "We can't base anything on one Indian word."

"No, but I want you to look at something. Just look and tell me what you see." He picked up the third photograph; the one of the three of them at graduation and held it out to Jase.

Jase took it as if it was gonna bite him. He didn't want to see anything that would shatter memories. But he knew he had to find the truth.

"What do you see?"

He saw himself, happy, ready to take on the world. He saw Charity, her beautiful blonde hair blowing in the breeze, held by a slip of ribbon being squished by two young men, but looking at her face now, knowing what he knew, he saw hurt in her eyes. And then he looked at Tommy.


Tommy was looking, not at the camera, not at Jase, but at Charity. He wasn't smiling. It was more a look of confusion and pain.

"What the fuck?" he breathed. "How did I miss that?"

"You weren't looking," Cody soothed.

"Was he in love with her too? Look at his face."

"This picture was taken at graduation, right?"


"When did Tommy disappear?"

"The next day. Oh, Cody. I never saw him again. He just disappeared from my life as if he'd never been there. No note, no nothing."

"Jase, this is important. Try to think back. How did Charity react to Tommy disappearing?"

Jase stood still, pulling his mind back ten years to Charity's face when he first said that he couldn't find Tommy. He ran the images through his mind and said softly, "She knew before I told her."

"Tell me."

"I called Tommy's number but he didn't answer, so I drove out to the ranch. The foreman told me that he was pissed cause Tommy never rode out that morning. I started to worry and went to find Charity. She was in her dorm room, finishing packing, but............"

"What, Jase?" Cody moved over to the window, slid his arms around Jase's waist and pressed his cheek against his back.

"When I got there...............she knew, Cody.........Damn......I was so concerned that I missed it but she already knew. She'd been crying. I asked her why and she said......," he furrowed his brows, trying desperately to remember, "She said she had the cramps and felt really sick. I should have paid attention to her. I was worried about Tommy. Damn, Cody. It was right there. I didn't see it. Tommy died. Charity died. I missed it." His shoulders shuddered and he choked on old tears.

"Hon, you didn't know. It won't help to think like that. You wanted to find Tommy."

"And all the time, she knew that he was gone. I can see it now. She didn't have cramps. She was pregnant and she knew what happened to Tommy." His hands clenched into fists and Cody felt his body tense.

"Jase, don't do this. Calm down. Charity didn't hurt Tommy. She must have had her reasons for not saying anything."

"What? What reason could she possibly have had for letting Tommy get shot in the head to rot in the desert for all these years? How could she look at me all those years after he disappeared, knowing how I was dying inside? I didn't even know her." He finally gave up the pretense of being strong and let the angry tears flood down his face. "She loved Davy. I know she did. I thought she loved me. How could she keep these fucking secrets?"

Cody took the wrinkled photo out of Jase's clenched hand, smoothed it gently and laid it with the other two. Faded pictures of people long gone. Only Jase was left to figure out the puzzle. He slipped the letters, the photos and the valentine back into the manilla envelope and tucked it back in the drawer. Lifting out the three small books, he realized that they were diaries, the kind that little girls kept and locked with tiny keys.

"Those were Charity's diaries from when she was little," Jase sighed, trying to get his emotions back under control. "I glanced thru them after she died but I don't think what she had to say when she was 8 will help with any of this."

"Prolly not," Cody agreed, and shuffled thru the small pages idlely with his thumb. The first book was red with little hearts and was filled with little girl silliness.....who loved who and who hated who. He smiled as he read her entries:

I saw Johnny Taggert peeking down Shelley's dress today in the lunchroom JJJJ He is soooooooooooooo gross. My boobies are bigger than hers."

The second book was yellow edged in white and Charity had painted little white and blue flowers all over the cover. It was another jumble of little girl thoughts and dreams:

"I want a pinto. Daddy says if I help with all the chores maybe he'll help me buy the colt that Mr. Freeman is gonna take to auction next month. I want a horse reeeeeally muchly."
"I'm gonna marry Jase McBride. We'll have 7 children and 5 horses and he'll love me till we die."

Cody swallowed hard. 'Sorry, Charity. That didn't come true', he thought to himself as he shut the little yellow book and placed it with the first one.

The last little book was blue with a young boy and girl holding hands on the cover. Cody wasn't sure he was up to any more of Charity's youthful dreams but he pushed the latch to open the front cover. It was locked. He tried to use his fingernail to turn the tiny lock but couldn't. "Jase?"

"Just break it," Jase mumbled, his mind racing with betrayal and lies and how to deal with what he was learning.

Cody pulled the plastic strap that held the book shut and it gave under his tug. The book began like the other two and he sighed. As he tossed it onto the bed in frustration, a slither of ribbon fell from the last pages.

"Jase, I may be nuts, but there are way too many pieces of blue ribbon floating around in Charity's life. Everywhere I look, there's a piece of ribbon this shade of blue."

"Her eyes were that color," Jase muttered.

Cody picked the little book up and opened it to the back, to the page the ribbon had fallen from. "Jase...........," he gasped, scooting across the bedspread to nudge up against the older man's side. "This part is different. Look!!"

There were a few entries at the back of the childhood diary, the handwriting mature, the thoughts adult, but there was still a total feel of the little girl with the golden curls who had scribbled her dreams in the first two books.

Hi, My old friend JJJ I haven't written in you for a lotta years. I don't want to blog this on my computer cause Jase is always tinkering, but I just have to say it somewhere. Sometimes, I just feel like I'm gonna explode with all the feelings. You already know, don't you, diary. I watch them together and it hurts so much. Part of me wants to try but most of me knows it wouldn't do any good. Should I tell him? Can you help me like you used to?

Cody read it and passed the book to Jase. He watched those amber eyes cloud over. "She loved him, Cody. How long?"

"I don't know, sweetie, What we need to know is if he loved her back, enough to..........to, you know."

"Fuck her?" Jase growled. "The boy I loved with all my heart fucked my best friend and they acted like nothing had happened."

Cody cringed. "Slow down, Jase. Take deep breaths and remember Tommy. Remember Charity. It would never have been like that." Cody hadn't known either of them but he was sure in his heart that those two innocent faces in those pictures must have had a reason, would never have hurt Jase like this.

I saw him again. He keeps watching me...giggle. I like how it makes me feel to have an older man looking at me. He's really cute, for an older guy, with that moustache. Jase is taking me to the Chi Omega barbeque today. He hates being around all the girls. I found a long piece of pretty blue ribbon tied to my study carrel in the library. I'll wear it in my hair. Maybe it's from my 'secret admirer'. I know it's not from my love L Loving someone you can't have is the pits. I have to do better. I have to get out there and find someone of my own. I just can't love him anymore. They belong together and, as much as I dream and wish, I can't have him.

"Now I'm totally confused," Cody questioned. "Here she's talking about an older guy. This has gotta be Tommy down here at the end but who's the other one? And there's the dang ribbon again. It doesn't sound like she and Tommy were.....together."

There were only three more entries. They read the first together and as they read, Jase's hand squeezed the blood from Cody's fingers.

I'm going to tell him. I can't do this any longer. I'll tell him. He'll laugh and tell me not to be silly. We'll hug and, at least, I'll know that he knows. I told him that Jase wants to meet him out in the desert. I know that's where they always go. He'll go if he thinks its Jase.

It was like watching a horror movie where the sweet girl starts up the stairs in the dark house with the flashlight and you know the boogeyman is hovering at the top. "God, Charity, don't," Cody sighed. "Whatever happened next changed your life forever."

Oh God!!!!!!!! I've broken every promise I ever made. I've killed any love Jase will ever have for me. I've betrayed him. My sweet Tommy held me while I told him, held me while I cried. I tried to stop myself but I wanted to feel it, just once. Feel what he gives Jase........feel loved. I begged. I pleaded. I didn't let him breathe. How can I look Jase in the eyes and know what I did? I took what I wanted.........selfish, horrible. He didn't want it. He gave in to my tears."

Cody was afraid to look at Jase's eyes. He knew he'd see the pain and he didn't know if he could stand it, knowing he couldn't fix it. It was pain that went back 10 years and was destroying every memory he held precious.



"It's gonna be okay," he said, shakily.

"Read the last one, Cody." Jase mumbled, "Read it and then say that again."

Cody took the book from Jase's fingers and read the last entry, written in purple ink.

Tommy won't look at me. I can't look at Jase. It hurts so bad how Jase doesn't even notice. He trusts us both. I know Tommy is dying inside and I know he'll tell Jase and I'll have thrown away everyone I've ever loved. He asked me to have coffee again. I'm gonna go. I know he's lots older but what have I got to lose? I'll put the ribbon in my hair and see if he notices. We graduate in a couple of weeks and all our dreams can come true if Tommy doesn't tell and I find someone who wants me. Jase will never know. Wish me luck, diary......this is the last page and maybe I'll be lucky and no one will get hurt. Everything is my fault. Gotta run.........

""Tommy disappeared three weeks later. He never told me. Someone shot him in the head, killed him because he............., because he WHAT?" Jase ranted, pacing now.

"Could it all be a huge coincidence?" Cody sighed, not believing that for a minute.

"There are no coincidences, just patterns. Who was this older guy? She never mentioned him to me. All this was going on around me and I sat there with my head up my ass, not seeing a damn thing. God !!"

"You couldn't have known. People have secrets........you can see that even Tommy did....Charity did. How could he have told you what he did? It would have destroyed what you had."

Jase leaned his forehead against the cool glass of the windowpane. "Everything I believed was a lie."

"No, baby," Cody answered. "Tommy loved you. Charity loved you. People do weird stuff sometimes. She got in over her head and she knew she was wrong."

"So, Davy IS Tommy's son?"

"Yeah, I gotta think so."

"But, Cody, all those years, why couldn't she tell me? Davy looks like Tommy. I wouldn't have made her leave. I loved her like she was my sister. She knew that. I understand not telling me when it happened, but later, when Davy was 3, 4 years old and I asked over and over. Why not tell me?"

"Shhh, sweetie. I don't know. It's over now. Can you see that? In her own words, Charity told you what happened. It's all here in the book. We'll never know why she couldn't tell you and we'll never know how Tommy died. Can you live with that?"

"I don't know, Cody. I honestly don't know. I can't help believing that Tommy's and Charity's murders are connected. There has to be a connection. There has to be."

Cody sat in the middle of the big bed, his legs Yoga-folded, watching the man he had grown to love struggle with impossible questions.

"Tommy was shot in Albuquerque in May, 1994 and buried in the desert west of the campus. Charity was killed on the highway at Wild Horse Ravine in the summer of 2000. She was killed with an Indian ceremonial knife. Are they related?" Cody knew in his heart that they were. He just didn't know if Jase could survive the finding out.

Davy sat in his desk, tapping a little rhythm with his fingers. 'One little, two little, three little Indians'....four little, five little, six little Indians,....seven little, eight little, nine little Indians...Ten little Indian boys!!' He could remember his mommy humming that over and over as she did the dishes or drove along the road. He would start to sing it with her but she'd make him stop. She told him it wasn't a good song. It had just gotten stuck in her head. He frowned, knowing it was stuck in his head too.

"Boys and girls," Mrs. Bailey said, rapping on the blackboard with her marker. "Don't forget to get your permission slips back to me by tomorrow. The field trip to the Aztec ruins is Friday and you can't go without your note."

Davy perked up. "Yeah!!" he thought, grinning over at Ty. "Field Trip!!" They'd have a great time climbing on the old ruins and throwing geekos at the girls.

Anything to escape this desk and math for a day.

"Raise your hand if you need a school lunch," the teacher said.

Always before, Davy'd had to raise his hand but now he had Cody. He smiled, thinking about how happy Cody made his daddy.......and him. Cody would make him a great lunch, full of all the stuff he liked. He started planning what he wanted as the teacher wrote the homework assignments on the board.

Stooping down, he picked up the slip of paper the little girl had dropped by the bike rack. She had been talking to his son, laughing and giggling the way all the little whores do when they want you. He glanced at the permission slip for a field trip to The Aztec Ruins Monument, watched his son ride away on his bike, tapped the paper on his cheek and smiled. Humming softly, he walked toward the old truck, climbed in and drove slowly down the highway, keeping Davy in sight. 'One little, two little, three little..........'
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