|Primary Characters:||Nigel, Leo, Nikki, Jordan, Woody, Cal|
|Warning:||non-consenting m/m sex, sex with minor, incest|
|Description:||Jordan Cavanaugh comes to visit. Soon after Cal Hoyt shows up, then Woody. It’s a recipe for disaster.|
Nigel was on his way to work. Sandra had left about twenty minutes earlier. He had his hand on the door handle, when the phone rang. After a glance at the wall clock, he decided he had time, after all. Ever since his father had been sent to prison he’d been concerned about him. His mother’s health was another constant cause for concern. If the phone call referred to one of them, he couldn’t afford to miss it.
That voice took him miles away to another continent. Jordan. It had been almost a year since he’d last seen or heard from her.
There was a hint of a question in his voice. Part of him recalled how much trouble she always was, especially to Woody but basically to anyone around her, but all in all, hearing from her was a pleasant reminder of a time in his life which he’d quite enjoyed.
“I’ll be in London tonight, so if you’d like to show me around -”
“Of course. Where are you staying?”
She told him the name of the hotel and Nigel made a note of it.
“It was great hearing from you, but I’m going to be late for work so -”
“Of course. I just thought I’d get in touch. Since I’ll be in the neighborhood, so to speak.”
“Great. See you – tomorrow?”
“Yep, if you’re free.”
“I’ll find the time. Oh, did you know I’m engaged?”
“No, I didn’t. Congratulations, Nige. But then you won’t want to -”
“Of course I would. Sandra and I would love to show you around.”
He knew he wasn’t being exactly honest there. On several occasions Sandra had displayed signs of jealousy towards Jordan and the two women hadn’t even met, but he was sure it would be alright. He’d love to introduce Jordan to Harry and Jess and Leo and Nikki.
After work, Nigel hurried home to tell Sandra about the visitor. He had a feeling he was going to end up in trouble somehow, but he didn’t feel as if he could put Jordan off either.
He was right. After he’d explained, Sandra looked at him, deceptlively mildly.
“Jordan? That slutty person from your photo?”
“Sandra, please. There’s no other woman in the world for me. I’d be wanting to see Dr Macy or Bug or Sidney too.”
Then, recalling that he’d told Sandra about his other exploits in Boston, he hastily tried to clarify.
“That doesn’t mean that -”
“Relax. I know that. Fine. At what time tomorrow?”
“Her plane lands at nine so she said around lunchtime would be nice. If you’re sure?”
“Positive. I’m not leaving you alone with her. If that’s alright with you?”
Nigel smiled, feeling relieved. It would be alright. Even if Sandra wouldn’t exactly like Jordan, they would be able to at least speak civilly to each other.
Again, Sandra had to ask her partner to fill in for her. Nigel had already asked Harry to cover for him and had Leo’s permission.
At least the unexpected visit gave them the opportunity to enjoy a late morning in bed.
About an hour later they were on their way to the hotel. Sandra was driving the battered old van her animal protection group normally used for trapping feral cats.
“So your – friend – is visiting England. Is that business or pleasure?”
It suddenly occurred to Nigel that he didn’t know. He hadn’t thought to ask. If Jordan was up to something, he’d better not get involved this time. No matter how thrilling it was to help the police in their investigations. And Pereira and Craig were nice blokes, no question about it. Sympathetic to their cause and so on. But still –
“I don’t know, love. Didn’t think to ask. She just said she’d be here today and what hotel she’d be staying at.”
“Hm. I’ll bet she’s up to no good.”
“You’re probably right, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be involved. It’s entirely her business. Besides, the last I heard, she and Woody were an item.”
“That cop you told me about?”
“That’s the one.”
“The one you scared out his mind, pretending you were hitting on him?”
“Uh – yes. I know. Too easy. Not worthy of me. It was just irresistible.”
“I’ll bet he was wetting his pants.”
“More or less.”
“Well, then. Perhaps we’ll see this Woody fellow too.”
“I hope so. He’s a nice bloke. Just like Sydney.”
“Hm. Well, I suppose we’ll see.”
They arrived at the hotel. Sandra had even been able to find parking space no more than fifteen minutes’ walk from there.
Nigel asked for Jordan at the reception desk and was told to wait. Ms Cavanaugh would be down shortly.
She was too. Not five minutes later, she walked out of the elevator, looking just as fiery as ever. Nigel was taken back to his years on Boston. It was a nice city, but there was nothing like home either.
“Nigel. Hi. And this must be Sandra? Great to meet you.”
Jordan shook hands with Nigel, then Sandra, and even Sandra had to admit that Jordan didn’t look as if she had any immediate plans on seducing Nigel. At least not at the moment.
“Have you had lunch? I thought -”
“We were hoping you’d like to lunch with us.”
Jordan studied her former co-worker and his fiancee. He looked well and his fiancee looked tough. Oddly enough, they looked well suited for each other. It was obvious that Sandra didn’t like her, but personally, Jordan had formed a positive opinion of her.
“Well, that would be great.”
“So you’re a veterinarian, Sandra?”
“Yes. I always loved animals.”
“I see. Well, I like them too. Absolutely.”
Jordan didn’t even raise her eyebrows when she heard what sort of restaurant they were heading for.
Sandra had half expected their guest to baulk at eating vegetarian, but apparently, she should have been able to guess. After all, everyone knew that American women never ate or slept. No wonder they were always so skinny.
They spent a pleasant afternoon together, but around four, Sandra excused herself and took the van. There was a spay- and neuter drive again at her clinic. Nigel assured her he’d get back on his own.
“I’ll just show Jordan around a bit.”
Sandra fixed them with an intense stare, then smiled.
“Have a nice time. And I’ll see you later, babe.”
Nigel blushed a little, but he didn’t mind at all, this possessive side of Sandra’s. In fact, he almost wished Bug could have seen them together.
Jordan studied Nigel thoughtfully, then her face lit up.
“Would you like to show me your place of work?”
“The morgue? I thought you’d want to see the sights.”
“All in good time. I understand you work at the university?”
“Yep. I love the place. If you’re lucky, my friends will still be there.”
“Why don’t we get going then? I’ll get round to the sightseeing later.”
“So, are you going to tell me what you’re doing here?”
“Oh. I’m just here for a conference. Garret was going to go, but something came up at home and since it was my turn, I got to go.”
“I know Bug wouldn’t want to come, and even if he did, he wouldn’t want to see me, but that’s ok.”
Jordan didn’t comment. Privately, she knew there had been some kind of rivalry between Bug and Nigel and she didn’t think it was all because of Lilly. As if Nigel had read her mind, he went to ask about their other co-worker.
“What about Lilly and Garret? I hope they’re doing alright.”
“Yes, they’re fine. Actually, I think Lilly’s more attracted to Matt Seely.”
“Matt Seely? Oh, right. I don’t think it matters though. Garret and Bug won’t let her be with anyone else and she’s too intent on not hurting their feelings.”
“You could be right. I guess I haven’t been paying attention.”
For the rest of the journey, Jordan kept more or less quiet. Nigel could see that something was on her mind and he was about to ask her about Woody, when their stop was called and they got off.
Just as Nigel had been hoping, they ran into Nikki, who was studying some samples in the microscope, then Leo, and finally Harry.
“This is Jordan Cavanaugh, from Boston. Jordan, this is Nikki Alexander and my boss, Professor Leo Dalton.”
Leo studied Jordan closely and Nigel could tell she’d once again made an impression. Nikki tore herself away from her tissue samples and said hello, but was soon bent over the microscope again.
“Pleased to meet you, ms Cavanaugh.”
“Jordan. Pleased to meet you, Professor.”
“Call me Leo. Please.”
Nigel glanced around hopefully.
“Is Harry coming?”
“Yes, he’s just finishing up a postmortem. He’ll be here soon.”
Leo began to ask Jordan questions about her work and when he found out the reason for her visit, about the conference. It turned out he had friends who were due to speak there.
Five minutes later, Harry walked in.
“Jordan, this is my friend, Dr Harry Cunningham. Harry, this is Jordan Cavanaugh from Boston.”
“Hello. I’ve heard so much about you.”
Leo showed Jordan around the morgue and parts of the university, while Nigel remained in their office, talking to Harry.
When Jordan returned, she thanked Leo for the tour, shook Harry’s hand, then announced she had to leave. Nigel got up to follow her. He’d decided to take Jordan back to the hotel, before dropping by the clinic to surprise Sandra.
Again, Jordan sat quietly, as if pondering something. At the hotel, it looked as if she was considering something, then appeared to come to a decision.
“Do you have time to come inside for a drink? Or just sit and chat for a while?”
“Yes, of course.”
They went into the bar and sat down at a table close to the wall. At this hour, there were no other guests in there, but the bar was open.
Jordan ordered a Scotch, but Nigel settled for mineral water. For a while, they sipped their drinks in silence.
It was Nigel who spoke first.
“So, how is Woody? Are you and he still -”
“What? Oh, well, you know how it is. Off and on. Mostly off. Listen, Nigel – I – heard about your father and -”
Nigel’s face fell. It had never occurred to him that news of his father’s actions had reached his friends in Boston. Jordan was no fool. He was pretty sure she’d be able to put two and two together. This was something he really didn’t want to discuss.
“Right. In fact, this has been an opportunity for us to get to know each other again. We’re closer now than – well, quite frankly, than we’ve ever been. I even think he and mum are getting closer again, but of course they wouldn’t tell me about that.”
“Yes, I mean, no. Of course not. Nigel – I – I just wanted to say that I’m sorry. I should have been paying more attention, and asked you how you were and -”
“It’s alright. I wouldn’t have wanted to discuss anything – about the past anyway.”
“No, it’s not alright. I know I didn’t always treat you very -”
“Jordan, it’s alright. Never mind. I really don’t want to talk about it.”
She subjected him to an unnerving stare, then appeared to relent, shrugged and smiled.
“Got it. So, what sort of sights do you recommend? I’m not sure I’ll have time to visit Ireland this time, but it would have been cool. After all, that’s where the Cavanaughs are from originally.”
“That’s a shame. I’m sure you’ll like it there. Not that I’ve ever been there myself. And – well, I don’t think it’s me you should ask about the sights. Try Harry or Leo. Or Nikki. They’ll be much better at it than me.”
“Right. Well, thanks for showing me around a bit. I’ll let you get on. Or your fiancee will come barging in here to defend you physically.”
Nigel laughed lightly, relieved that she’d taken the hint and dropped the painful subject.
“Actually, I was going to drop in on the clinic, to surprise her. But we were hoping you’d like to come to dinner at our place on Sunday. I’ll invite Harry and his fiancee Jess and if you like, Leo and Nikki.”
“That sounds nice. What does Jess do?”
“She’s a student. Long story. She dropped out when her first fiance was killed, then returned to uni some years later. Literature. History. That sort of thing.”
“Ah. Nice with a little variety. Otherwise we’d be talking shop all night. Right. Go on. I’ll see you later. Oh, I almost forgot. Sydney sent you a little something.”
She dug around in her pockets and eventually found a little plastic toy, looking like some kind of futuristic warrior. She hadn’t asked Sydney what the significance was, but judging by Nigel’s reaction it was some private joke between them. At least it was good to see Nigel smile. Somehow, she’d known he wouldn’t want to discuss his past with her, but she’d felt she had to try. His reaction had confirmed her suspicions. Poor Nigel. She’d had no idea his cheerful, lighthearted manner would hide this sort of secret.
Jordan didn’t expect to hear from her colleagues back home, but she had been hoping Woody might want to get in touch, if only by email or text message. As soon as she’d checked into the hotel, she’d asked if there were any messages for her, but there had been nothing.
On her way back to her room, she asked the woman behind the reception desk again. Still nothing. Jet lag was making her sleepy, so she decided to go to bed early. She slept deeply and woke up feeling more or less herself again.
The conference would be beginning at nine, so she was up bright and early. There were still no messages. She put the thought of Woody and home out of her mind. Even if she was planning on having a good time, she might as well be professional and focus on the conference.
Their schedule was full and even though lunch was served at around midday, and throughout the day, coffee and sandwiches, it was still close to nine in the evening when she was finally able to get back to the hotel. She briefly considered going out to find a pub, but somehow, being out like this on her own wasn’t as fun as she’d expected it to be.
Maybe she was just tired after the long day and the flight. Or she was just getting old.
She passed the reception desk without even bothering to check for messages, but before she’d entered the elevator, the young man called her name.
“Miss Cavanaugh? I have a message for you.”
She glanced at the printout. Cal? What on earth could Woody’s brother want with her? Normally, Jordan wasn’t prone to worrying. She’d found that if you just met life head on with your fists up, nothing much could scare you anymore. Still, the mention of Woody’s last name caused a flutter to build at the pit of her stomach.
The message didn’t say what Cal wanted, so Jordan continued up to her room. There she took a shower and changed into something more comfortable. After a glance at her cell phone, she decided to go to bed right away. She’d never been much into watching tv and though Sydney had filled her iPod with songs he swore she’d love, she wasn’t in the mood for music either.
Stretching out on the bed felt great. She was only going to close her eyes for a second, before getting under the covers properly.
The sound of the phone on her bedside table woke her. She grabbed the receiver.
“Jordan? Hi. I’m on my way to your hotel.”
“Cal? Say again?”
“I’m here. In the UK, sitting in a cab on my way to your hotel. I was able to get a room without a reservation.”
“Ok. Great. How are you?”
“Fine. Never better.”
She couldn’t resist asking about Woody, even though she knew she ought to know better.
“Have you heard from Woody?”
“No. I thought you two -”
“Right. Ok, I’ll see you later. I was about to go to bed, but -”
“Oh, no problemo. Can we meet tomorrow some time?”
“Well, I’m here for a conference and we don’t get off until maybe nine or so in the evening.”
“That’s ok. I’ll amuse myself. Can we meet in the evening? I mean, if you’re not too tired.”
“Sure. We can meet here, at the hotel.”
“Ok. That guy who worked for the ME. Neal or -”
“That’s the one. He works here, right? Lilly told me he’d moved here.”
“Cool. I might go and see him. Do you know where he works?”
Jordan was wondering what Cal was up to, but couldn’t see any reason not to tell him where Nigel worked. As far as she knew, there was no quarrel between those two.
“He works at the university.”
She proceeded to tell Cal how to find it, and – not without a twinge of doubt – Nigel’s home number.
“Thanks. See you later.”
Jordan was still tired, but her mind kept dwelling on Cal’s reasons for going all the way to England. Was it her he was hoping to meet or Nigel? Or was there some other reason, she couldn’t even begin to guess at?
Eventually she fell asleep, still wondering.
Nigel had worked practically all night, after a big pileup on the motorway, so Leo had given him a day off. They’d finally finished the autopsies of the victims and fortunately, there weren’t that many others lined up in the morgue.
An emergency had called Sandra out of bed shortly after five. After she’d left, Nigel went back to sleep and woke up around ten. He got up, fed the cats and had some breakfast himself. Today, he was planning on taking it easy. Maybe he’d email Sydney and if Harry was up to it, go out and have a pint or two with him.
He was completely unprepared for the surprise visitor, who showed up outside his door only minutes after he’d put away the last of the cereals and the soy milk.
The doorbell rang and mildly surprised, Nigel ambled over to the door, half-expecting it to be Harry. He was hoping it wouldn’t be anything to do with his parents, at least not if it was an emgergency. But the person standing outside, was only vaguely familiar. It took a few seconds for Nigel to recall who he was and under what circumstances they’d last met.
“Cal Hoyt, right? Woody’s brother?”
“Yeah, that’s me. And you’re Nigel?”
“That’s me. Why don’t you step inside?”
Nigel stared at his visitor, a puzzled look on his face.
“Right. So – what can I do for you?”
“Can we talk?”
This only served to mystify Nigel even more. He pointed to the comfortable sofa in their living room. The cat hair and the shredding on the sides, where the cats had sharpened their claws had long since become part of the scenery. Nigel never even noticed anymore.
“Well – this was a surprise.”
“Yeah, I guess it must be. Listen – I heard about your dad and – your uncle.”
The fact that his personal secret had reached the ears of Jordan and presumably everyone else at the ME’s office in Boston was one thing, but Nigel really hadn’t expected the news to get all the way to Wisconsin. But why was he surprised? Wisconsin had to have newspapers, television, internet and every other modern convenience or inconvenience, depending on your perspective.
He sighed and tried to think of something to say.
Cal seemed to sense his reaction and was quiet for a while, whether to give Nigel time to recover or to consider his next words.
“I’m sorry. I’m sure this is the last thing you want to talk about, but I have a reason for bringing this up. Ok, I’ll understand if you don’t want to tell me, but – did your uncle – you know – abuse you?”
Nigel felt his mouth go dry. He could hardly believe his ears. Woody’s brother was asking him – But he might as well say something. Nigel took a deep breath and tried to distance himself from his memories.
“I don’t suppose there’s any point in denying it. So – now I have to ask you something. Why did you want to know?”
“Because – my dad -”
It was obvious that it was just as difficult for Cal to get those words out as it had been for Nigel to confirm Cal’s guess.
That changed things a little. It wasn’t that Nigel felt automatically connected with every man who had ever been sexually abused as a child, but he did know Cal and he’d worked with his brother on several cases in the past.
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, well. I’m sure Woody’s told you all about my – drug habit. By the way, I’m clean now. Spent close to a year in rehab. And in therapy. Not that it helps much.”
“I know. I mean, I never had therapy myself, but – well, I can guess that nothing really helps.”
“He was a hero. You know. That’s what everyone thought. If I’d told anyone – they wouldn’t have believed me.”
Cal’s face looked ashen and it seemed to Nigel that the mention of his brother’s name had made things worse.
Licking his lips, Cal was at last able to produce a reply.
“Woody – we – kind of did it too.”
At first Nigel didn’t think he’d heard correctly. Did what exactly? Had the two brothers –
“I can see that you find that hard to believe.”
“Not at all. Just to make sure I got that, did you say that you and your brother -”
The pain in Cal’s voice was so tangible, Nigel felt his eyes mist over. There was no question about it. Cal was telling the truth, and this admission must have cost him even more than the first one.
“Did he – abuse you too?”
“No, it was my fault. I -”
Cal’s voice faltered and for a while, no one said anything. Nigel felt his throat constrict. If he’d had any choice, he would much rather not have listened to this confession, but he knew he couldn’t put Cal off. Not when the bloke was in so much pain.
Eventually, Cal was able to collect himself and go on. It seemed to Nigel as if telling the whole story was important to Cal and he forced himself to go on listening, even if his own heart beat uncomfortably fast and he found it hard to breathe.
“You see – when my dad – whenever he came to – he would tell me I was such a good boy. And Woody was always good to me so – I thought – I didn’t know -”
Again, Cal’s voice broke off and Nigel blinked furiously to clear his sight. If Woody had accepted what his little brother had to offer and still had the nerve to disown him because of the drug dependency – then Nigel didn’t want to be Woody’s friend anymore. Cal’s story had to be the worst Nigel had ever heard. Nigel swallowed hard, as he thought about the little boy who had only had two people in the world and both had let him down.
“You should tell Woody about what your father did to you.”
“I can’t. How can I disillusion him about dad? That’s all he has left of him. The memories. Being proud of him. If he knew – he’d lose that.”
“Are you and Woody -”
Cal’s tormented gaze fixed on Nigel, as if trying to determine what he was asking. Nigel made an effort and tried again.
“Are you two on talking terms again?”
“No. You must remember the last time I was in Boston. He’s had it with me. And I can’t blame him for that. I guess being a drug addict is the best way to push your loved ones away.”
“That’s exactly what I meant. After what you’d been through, he just abandons you. That’s not right.”
“But he didn’t know and I don’t want him to know.”
Nigel had to accept that. After all, this was Cal’s decision to make, not his. But the unfairness of it all rankled.
“Right. Cal, I’m really sorry about all this.”
“Thanks. When I heard about your uncle, I just knew I had to come. I’ve never met anyone else who -”
Nigel nodded sadly. He could relate to that. Of course, he’d never met anyone who had been in his situation before, but at least he had Sandra. She was one in a million. That reminded him.
“Cal, I don’t know how long you plan on staying here, but if you’re still here – I’d like you to come to my wedding.”
Cal blinked in confusion and stared at Nigel, as if he couldn’t quite understand what his host was saying. He looked embarrassed.
“Wedding? You mean you call it wedding like -”
Puzzled, Nigel tried to make sense of what Cal was asking.
“Of course. Wedding as in ‘me groom, she bride’. Look.”
He pointed to a framed photograph he kept prominently displayed on the mantlepiece. It depicted Sandra and himself, locked in an embrace that made it look as if they were playwrestling, rather than hugging. Sandra was grinning widely and Nigel thought she was the most beautiful sight he’d ever seen.
Suddenly, it dawned on Nigel what Cal meant. He thought – A look of dismay spread across Nigel’s normally so amiable face. That kind of reaction really was getting old.
“What’s the matter with you Americans? Why do you always assume I’m gay? I’ll tell you one thing – until I got to the US, apart from my unmourned uncle, no men ever came on to me. Not until I got over there.”
“Oh, sorry. It’s just – I don’t know. Thanks. I’d love to come. I think I’m going to stick around, at least for a while. There’s nothing keeping me at home.”
“Alright. If you wait a little while longer, Sandra will be back.”
“Ok. I’d love to meet her. Oh, I guess you know that Jordan’s here.”
“Yes, Sandra and I have invited her over for dinner. On Sunday. Why don’t you come as well? We’ve invited two of our closest friends – Harry, who’s a colleague of mine and Jess, his fiancee, who’s an old friend of Sandra’s, and my boss and another colleague, Nikki Alexander.”
“Sure. I’d love to come.”
The sound of the doorbell ringing interrupted them. Nigel went to answer it, vaguely puzzled. Sandra had a key. But if it was Harry, he could introduce him to Cal right away.
To Nigel’s amazement, it was Jordan. He’d had the impression she was going to be really late. At least that was what she’d said when she’d called to ask when dinner would be on Sunday.
“Hi. I – I’m playing hookie. Cal called me last night and I’m dying of curiosity about why he’s here. Did he show up here?”
“Yes, he’s here. Why don’t you come in? Sandra will be here any second now.”
Jordan said hello to Cal and sat down facing him.
“Hi, Jordan. Guess what? Nigel invited me to his wedding. Is that cool or what?”
“Oh, you guys have set a date?”
“If I thought you’d still be here we’d invite you too. Maybe you could come back?”
“I’ll try, but don’t bet on it. Garret let me go this once, I don’t think I’ll be as lucky for another couple of years.”
The sound of the key in the front door made them all stare in that direction. Sandra was back at last. She glanced at the crowd gathered in her living room.
Cal got up and shook Sandra’s hand. He couldn’t help glancing over his shoulder at Nigel, who he still found rather – unmasculine – and definitely tall and gawky. It was amazing that this hot girl had picked Nigel and was going to marry him, but hey, that was life for you. Full of surprises.
“I’m Cal Hoyt. I don’t know if Nigel has mentioned me, or my brother, Woody.”
“Yes, of course. Woody. And I think Nigel mentioned a brother too. So that’s you. Nice to meet you.”
“Oh, nice to meet you too. Congratulations. I heard you guys were getting married.”
“Thanks. Hello, Jordan.”
Sandra raised her eyebrows to Nigel, who missed the silent message entirely. He was still shaken by what Cal had told him. Now he recalled Cal’s reaction from earlier and before he’d had time to think it over, he blurted out what was on his mind.
“Actually, my love, Cal found it hard to believe that I’m straight.”
“I said I was sorry. It’s just that in Wisconsin -”
Jordan smiled crookedly at Cal’s discomfort.
“You could have asked me. I knew that.”
“That Nigel is straight?”
Sandra fixed Jordan with an icy stare. If she’d expected it to make Jordan squirm, she was disappointed. Her grin only widened.
“Oh, I recognize that look.”
As if stung, Nigel flew to his feet and stared beseechingly at Sandra.
“Sandra, you have to understand that I was lonely and confused and -”
Sandra managed to get a grip on herself and was able to produce a laugh, if rather a hollow one.
Jordan made eye contact with her.
“You had absolutely nothing to worry about. It would never have happened anyway. Nige is great, but he’s not really my type.”
Sandra was seething and she wasn’t sure if Jordan was insulting Nigel, making fun of her or what she was doing. But either way, she was the hostess here and she had to remember to act politely, even if she wasn’t too happy about a guest like Jordan.
Ignoring Sandra’s reaction, Jordan went on.
“Besides, I knew that Woody thought so. Sydney was in a closet – no pun intended – and listened to you scaring Woody half out of his mind, that time. When you pretended to hit on him.”
Glancing worriedly in Sandra’s direction, Nigel hastily tried to set the record straight, again no pun intended.
“I didn’t hit on him, I just -”
“Made it seem as if you might be going to.”
“Well, yes. But if Sydney – the sly devil – was in there the whole time, he must have heard me say that it was too easy.”
“Of course it was. Woody’s about the most uptight guy I know, with the exception of Garret.”
Having a good idea of the reason for Woody’s reaction, Nigel found that his laughter stuck in his throat and he hurriedly changed the subject.
The dinner invitation was renewed and not much later, Jordan and Cal left to return to the hotel, leaving Nigel to try to mollify Sandra. She, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as upset as he had thought, but she kept that to herself until Nigel had crawled a bit. A girl had a right to amuse herself somehow, right?
It was the last day of Jordan’s conference. Though she’d played hookie a few times, all in all, she’d been a good pathologist and listened to the long, erudite lectures and participated in the workshops and discussion groups without trying to bend the rules, feeling rather like she used to in school.
The only indulgence she’d allowed herself was sleeping in on one occasion, when she’d been out at a pub, with Cal until two thirty in the morning. Getting up at six after that would have been a little gruelling, but since she’d restricted herself to a few Scotchs, and not doubles either, she argued, it would have been fine anyway.
While she was in the shower, she heard the phone ringing, but by the time she’d finished, it had stopped. She glanced unworriedly at her cell phone. She’d only be about half an hour late for the first lecture. More importantly, she knew she wouldn’t be the only one.
Just as she had her hand on the doorknob, the phone rang again. She returned to the side of the bed and picked up, expecting it to be Cal. That reminded her. Even though she’d done her best to charm him, he’d never said a word about his reason for his visit to England. Not that it was any of her business. But even if she was one of the ‘fighting’ Cavanaughs, didn’t mean she wasn’t curious as well.
“Make it snappy. I’m on my way out.”
The voice on the other end of the line was even more familiar than Cal’s.
“Ok. I just wanted to let you know that I was able to get a few days off. It’s the last day of your conference, right?”
Woody? Well, this was quite the reunion. If Garret and Lilly or Bug and Sidney or even – say – her dad were to show up, it would be quite like home.
“Woody. That’s right. I thought I’d spend the weekend here and get back on Monday.”
“That’s what I was hoping for. Garret told me what hotel you’d be in and I was able to get a room. So, I’ll see you tonight?”
“Excellent. I’d better go. If Garret mails and asks about me, they’d better be able to tell him I was a good girl.”
“Good? You? That’ll be the day.”
“Same to you, buddy.”
“Wasn’t it you who said bad was a lot more fun?”
“Who? Me? And I was sober? Listen, I really need to go, but it will be great seeing you.”
On her way to the conference center, Jordan was deep in thought. Woody. Cal. That could only mean trouble. Maybe it was a good thing Bug hadn’t showed up, although whatever his feelings for Lilly, Nigel’s fiancee wouldn’t be anything to do with him.
She shook her head defiantly, telling herself not to look for trouble before anything was actually going on, but since most of her life had been spent looking for trouble, it was a little hard to take her own advice.
In the end, she told herself to wait and see. She’d deal with the trouble, if and when it happened. Not sooner.
Just like Cal, but for a completely different reason, Woody decided to look up Nigel. After all, the odd Englishman had helped him with a number of cases over the years. Garret had provided him with Nigel’s cell phone number, so after Woody had settled in at the hotel, had lunch and taken a look around the city, he called Nigel. Jordan wouldn’t be free until closer to nine anyway. It was only about four in the afternoon.
Nigel was in the locker room, changing after an autopsy. He sat down on a bench and glanced curiously at the display. The number wasn’t familiar.
“Nigel. Woody here. Actually, I’m here. In London. If you’re not busy, maybe we could go out and have a beer or something.”
“Sure. Well. I guess you know that Jordan’s here?”
He purposely avoided mentioning Cal, before he knew why Woody was here and what sort of mood he was in.
“Yes, I just got off the phone with her. She’s going to the conference center.”
“Right. Well, why don’t you come here? Most of my colleagues are gone already. We had a busy night last night.”
“I see. Is it ok if I come over?”
“Absolutely. I’m just typing in the last postmortem reports. If you don’t mind waiting a while -”
Nigel gave Woody instructions about how to get to the university, and specifically the morgue. While he waited for his American guest to show up, Nigel finished one of the reports and started on another one, but he didn’t forget to alert the receptionist that a friend of his was coming.
By the time Woody walked in, Nigel had done two thirds of the paperwork and estimated he’d be done in about twenty minutes. It was still only a quarter to five so they’d have plenty of time.
Woody watched Nigel typing in silence. After a while, Nigel rose to his full height, yawned and stretched.
“There. That should do it. Leo will be pleased with me.”
“My boss. Professor Dalton.”
“Well, would you like to see the sights – I mean the morgue and the labs – or do you want to go right away?”
“Since I’m just your average cop, most of that would be over my head anyway.”
“Right. Have you kept up with the blog?”
“Are you kidding? Of course I have. Even if I didn’t want to, Sydney would remind me.”
“So – anything you’re missing? Any interesting case you know of that you think might interest our visitors?”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Well. I never thought I’d see you again. I hope you’ll enjoy your stay.”
“I’m sure I will.”
“So – there’s this pub I go to. They serve food too, if you’re hungry.”
“I think I’ll have dinner with Jordan later on, but a snack would be great.”
“I’ll just go and get my jacket.”
“I’ll wait for you at reception.”
In the locker room, Nigel took the opportunity to ring Sandra and let her know he’d be a bit late. Since she was working late this week too, it was just a formality. She always wanted to know where Nigel was, and vice versa.
Though Nigel hadn’t exactly missed anyone from Boston and he’d been busy enough just coming to terms with his new life, it was rather nice to see an old friend. Somehow, he would probably much rather see Woody than Bug, he concluded. Their friendship had gone sour a long time ago, and only partially because of Lilly. Nigel had never been seriously attracted to her, but he would have liked to be able to consider her a friend. Bug had never accepted even that.
He spared a thought for Lilly, always so warm and friendly and supportive, but because of the three men in her life, constantly forced to navigate a minefield of jealousy. Nigel didn’t think Matt Seely would stand a chance, but the other two, strong-willed and uncompromising, would be constantly locked in a tug-of-war over Lilly and she’d be forced to turn them both down, rather than risk hurting someone’s feelings.
But that wasn’t his business anymore, so he put the internal affairs of the Boston ME’s office out of his mind. He had a guest to entertain.
Woody seemed to like the pub. He enjoyed the beer, tried his hand at throwing darts and in general sampled the typical English pub ambiance. Nigel was never one to drink much. His thin frame made it hard for him to ingest large quantities of alcohol without getting too drunk, too fast. After the first couple of pints, he restricted himself to mineral water.
His guest, on the other hand, seemed to have decided to let down his hair a bit. He kept asking for refills, until Nigel was wondering if he should say something. It was getting close to nine and he knew Jordan would be waiting for Woody, back at the hotel.
In the end, he decided it was time to go.
“Listen, it’s getting late. Won’t Jordan be waiting for you? And I’d better get going too. We don’t get any Saturdays off here, most of the time.”
“What? Oh. Yeah. Jordan.”
With some effort Woody got up and after some rifling around in his wallet, he found a couple of banknotes and dropped them on the counter. Nigel made a quick calculation and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t more than what would cover the drinks plus an American-sized tip. No need for him to interfere there.
They went outside, where dark had fallen. Despite the fact that this was close to the main tourist attractions, this back street was rather murky. New customers kept entering and the pavement was filled with people coming or going or simply standing around waiting, or possibly up to something else.
Nigel directed Woody to an even smaller alley that was a shortcut to the nearest Underground station.
Keeping an eye out for potential muggers, Nigel began to make his way back to the more lit up streets further north.
About halfway there, Woody stopped so abruptly Nigel almost ran into him. Assuming his guest needed to relieve himself, Nigel stepped aside and walked a few paces ahead. He fished out his mobile phone and estimated that Woody would make it back to the hotel in time for a late dinner.
Suddenly, he felt two hands grab him and he whirled around, expecting a mugger or drug addict, but it was just Woody.
“Ready to move on?”
To Nigel’s amazement, he now felt Woody, strong despite the level of intoxication, push him up against the wall and before Nigel could make a move to stop him, Woody closed the distance between their faces and kissed him.
Taking a deep breath, Nigel managed to avoid violently shoving his old friend aside. This had to be a combination of jetlag and too many beers on an empty stomach. If it wasn’t a desperate way of getting back at him for that joke, back in Boston. In that case, maybe he deserved it.
“Easy now. Let’s go. Jordan will be waiting for you.”
Woody didn’t reply and to Nigel’s astonishment, the same thing repeated itself. This time, he was ready for it. He grabbed Woody’s hands and shoved them off. Enough was enough.
Before he had time to say anything, Woody was back, more insistent than before. This time, Nigel was beginning to lose his temper.
“That does it. What are you doing?”
“You know what I’m doing. Don’t play hard to get.”
“Excuse me? Just leave me alone. I’m tired of being treated this way. It’s not funny anymore. I played a trick on you, back in Boston, fine. You’ve paid me back. End of story. Now let’s get you back to the hotel. I think you’ve had more than enough to drink.”
“I know what this is. You and Cal – I should have known.”
Nigel started. He hadn’t known Woody was aware that his brother was in London.
“That bloody little pervert and you – Of course. He got to you, didn’t he? And you were only too happy to have him, weren’t you? I’ll bet you loved his technique. Didn’t you?”
“Now, you listen to me. You and your brother have a lot to discuss. Talk to him about this. It’s nothing to do with me. Besides, listen carefully, because I’m really tired of having to do this – I’m not gay. Alright? I’m not gay and I’m not your slave and don’t blame Cal for your troubled childhood.”
“Me? He’s the one who seduced me.”
“Don’t you know that it’s very common for an abused child to be confused about their sexual orientation?”
“What? What do you mean – abused? It was all his fault, the little freak. He came on to me and later he started using drugs. That’s the only trouble we had.”
“I’m asking you.”
The anger was making Woody stone cold sober. He had no trouble enunciating the words.
By now, Nigel’s temper was up too, though normally he was hardly ever provoked into losing it.
“Ask yourself why your brother had all these issues. You’re a cop. You have to have some experience of abused kids.”
“Are you saying it’s my fault?”
Woody’s mind raced ahead and suddenly he thought he saw what Nigel was hinting about. He began to pound the Englishman with his fists. After the first shock had abated and his sense of self-preservation kicked in, Nigel drew on his navy training and defended himself. Woody glared at him, and came at him again. Again, Nigel defended himself and after a while, Woody backed off a little, but his temper was still up.
“You’re referring to my dad, aren’t you? How dare you? You – Bug was right about you. So, you find Cal more attractive than me?”
“Don’t be absurd. Besides, look who’s talking. You have a nerve, blaming your little brother, when you didn’t do anything to stop him. Go back to the hotel. Jordan will be waiting for you. I feel sorry for her, if you intend to hit on others on the side. Now I’m going home to my fiancee and future wife.”
Without waiting for a reply, Nigel began to walk towards the Underground station. It wasn’t that far. Woody should be able to make it on his own.
Nigel didn’t look back, but if he had, he would have seen Woody standing there, deep in thought.
The following morning, Woody showed up at the morgue, sober and shaken. He was in a much more conciliatory mood by now and Nigel, who had had time to digest last night’s incident, had begun to regard Woody’s behaviour as symptoms of the same childhood trauma.
“Nigel, I’m sorry. Can we talk?”
“I have an autopsy in half an hour, but I suppose we could talk for a little while. Just a moment. Nikki?”
“Yes, is there a problem?”
“No. No problem. I just need to talk to my friend here for a moment. Tell Leo I’ll be scrubbed and ready in time.”
She glanced inquiringly at Woody and Nigel felt compelled to introduce him.
“Nikki – this is an old friend from Boston. Woody Hoyt. Woody, this is my friend and colleague, Nikki Alexander.”
“Hoyt? Any relation to -”
Woody made a face, then forced himself to reply.
“Yes. We’re brothers. Excuse me. It was nice to meet you, but -”
“Of course. See you later.”
“Uh – yes.”
Reluctantly, Nigel took Woody out into the small enclosed garden, which was more or less a private spot. Just for the pathologists, but it was secluded and that would give them the privacy they needed.
“I’m sorry about last night. I don’t know what got into me. You know I’m not normally into -”
Nigel thought he saw where that was leading, and he wasn’t particularly flattered. He wasn’t Woody’s type, but clearly Woody was looking for something on the side and found him a suitable target. After all, a guy like Woody would assume that gay men would be up for anything. Maybe they were. Nigel didn’t have that many gay friends, as it happened, no matter what Woody thought.
“Alright. No problem. You were drunk and jet lagged. We won’t talk about it again.”
“I just need to know. What did Cal tell you?”
“Ask him. I shouldn’t have said anything, but I was upset. You and pretty much every American I know plus Bug are always assuming you know what I’m like. Just for the record, as you say, I’m not gay. My fiancee, Sandra St Martin and I, are getting married. If you like, I’ll introduce you to her.”
“I apologize for all that. Of course I believe you. I don’t know what I was thinking last night. I’m really sorry. But Cal -”
“Talk to him.”
“Ok. I will. Uh – you won’t tell Jordan about -”
Nigel’s mouth began to twitch a little. Oh. So now Woody was thinking of Jordan.
“No. Your secret’s safe with me. I have to go now.”
“Of course. I’ll be in touch.”
After Woody had vanished into the building again, Nigel checked the time and decided he still had about ten minutes left until he’d need to get started. He punched in Cal’s number and waited.
“Nigel here. Listen, Cal. Last night – Woody and I had a – little disagreement. One thing led to another and – I’m sorry. I was provoked. He – your name came up and he – blamed you for – Anyway, I said a little too much, because I get so tired of having you Americans mistaking me for a po – gay man.”
“Oh. Well, I guess he’d find out sooner or later. He was really pissed off at finding me here and went on and on about what the – f- what I was doing here. Never mind. And I’m sorry about the misunderstanding.”
“No problem. I’m just curious. What is it? My accent? If that’s it, you’ll find that most of us talk this way.”
“Yeah, I’ve noticed. Right. Thanks for the warning.”
“He’ll be wanting to talk to you about it. In fact, I think he’s probably on his way to you right now.”
“Shit. Well, there’s nothing to be done about that. He’d have found out sooner or later, I guess. See you later.”
With a worried look on his face, Nigel terminated the call. Though he knew he didn’t have time to linger, he couldn’t get the whole thing out of his mind. He was hoping Cal wouldn’t end up in trouble because of him.
Just as Nigel had feared, Woody came to Cal’s room, banged on the door and demanded to be let inside Once he had been, he immediately began to fire off questions. Cal did his best to remain calm, but though he knew Woody had good reason for his anger, he was getting tired of protecting his brother. Sure, he’d been a drug addict and given his brother hell. No matter what Nigel thought, it had been his fault that he and Woody had – but Woody had no idea of what he’d been through. Maybe it was time he found out.
So he listened to his brother’s tirade in silence. When the angry shouting began to abate, Cal took a deep breath and forced himself to reply.
“Are you done? Yes, it’s true. Dad – it started when I was twelve. Don’t ask me why he didn’t do it to you, because I don’t know. Maybe he thought I was – I don’t know. Anyway, every time he came to my room, he went on about what a good boy I was. Wait. Let me finish.”
Cal had seen how Woody opened his mouth to start another round of accusations. This time, he would have his say.
“I – believed him. Doing – that – was being good to someone. And you -”
Cal had to swallow, then cough to clear his throat. He blinked and tried again.
“You were always so good to me. I thought – I wanted to be good to you too. That’s why -”
“Are you done?”
“Yes. I know how wrong it was, now, but I didn’t then. I’m sorry.”
“You’re lying. Why should I believe you? All I know is you’ve been lying and stealing and manipulating me for years. Give me one good reason why I should believe you. Dad wasn’t like that. He’d never do that to his own kid. You’re sick.”
“I know I’ve lied to you too many times, Woody. I’m sorry. It wasn’t me, it was the drugs. I never wanted to lie to you. You have no idea what it’s like.”
“That’s right. I don’t know and I don’t want to know. Just keep your sick lies to yourself. I told you last time – it’s over. We’re through. I’ve cleaned up your messes too many times. This time, you’re on your own.”
Cal’s agonized gaze followed Woody outside, as he slammed the door shut behind him. When it became clear that his brother wasn’t coming back. Cal sat down on his bed. He’d known this would happen, but he’d had it with the secret that had been suffocating him for so long. Woody could do what he wanted. He’d told the truth and that was it.
It was no consolation, at least not at the moment, but he thought it would be easier to live with the memories now that Woody knew. And now he was strong enough to manage on his own. There was no reason why he shouldn’t make his home here in England, even if it was totally different from home. In a way, it was better that way. Not so much to remind him of the past. He thought he might learn to like it here.
When Woody left Cal’s room he only had one thought in his mind. He wanted to find Jordan and tell her everything. Someone had to listen to him and tell him of course it was all a lie. Of course his brother had screwed up again. Jordan would sympathize.
He found her in her room, trying to make up her mind which dress to wear. Slightly surprised at her uncharacteristic behaviour, Woody hung back and didn’t blurt out what was on his mind right away.
Jordan glanced over her shoulder. Woody looked upset. When he was like this, it would be impossible to have a real conversation. Trying to get him to calm down, she began to talk.
“Great. You’re just in time to help me decide. The red one or the blue one?”
“I could pick that short black one, but I think one of these two will be better in this case.”
Woody had a hard time focusing on Jordan’s wardrobe.
“Uh – you look great in both and in the black one too.”
“Thanks, that was really helpful. I’ve been invited to dinner at Nigel’s and Sandra’s place. You haven’t met Sandra, have you?”
“What? No. Jordan – Cal told me something, something so outrageous, so – sickening – you have to listen to me. It has to be a lie because -”
“Calm down. Tell me all about it.”
Jordan pointed to her bed and after a moment, during which it looked as if Woody hadn’t heard her at all, he sat down. She sat down some distance from him.
“He said – that bloody little pervert told me that dad had – The sick bastard – he said that dad had -”
Jordan raised her eyebrows. Judging by Woody’s tone, abuse had to mean –
“Yes. I should have known, the sick little bastard would try something again. He’s always been trouble.”
“Hey. He’s your brother.”
“Not anymore he isn’t. Why would he make up something like that if he didn’t want to hurt me, intentionally?”
“Woody – you’ve never considered that it might be true?”
The memory of how Cal had slid into bed beside him, his touch and – crossed his mind. Woody shook his head to dispel it.
Jordan studied him shrewdly and came to the conclusion that Woody had to have some reason to consider the suggestion, and his violent reaction to it only confirmed her suspicion that something had happened to Cal. His drug abuse, if nothing else, hinted at that.
“Tell me about it.”
“Woody. Let me try to judge if it’s true or not. I am a doctor, even if my patients are unusually quiet.”
Woody grumbled a bit, but in the end he gave in, just as she’d expected him to. Sombrely, Jordan listened to his tragic story.
So that was it. Well, it made a sort of twisted sense.
“I’m sorry. It seems as if he might be telling the truth. Come on. Do you really think Cal is the kind of guy who would want to tell anyone about something like that, if it wasn’t true?”
“You don’t know him like I do.”
“Obviously not. But you have to admit that what you two did -”
“It wasn’t my fault. He’s the one who -”
“Woody. Don’t make this any worse than it already is. He’s your brother. He clearly wants to make friends with you.”
Woody got up, glared at her and stormed out. In the doorway he turned back and faced her again.
“You – I should have known you’d side with him. Fine. Have it your own way. It was never going to work anyway. You’re completely impossible.”
Jordan got up too, and with a deceptively mild expression on her face, she approached him. Woody felt his cheeks heat up. She looked so hot like that, in her underwear.
“Now you listen to me. You’re breaking up with me? Fine. Like you say, it was never going to work. You’re like a – German Shepherd. Obedient. Always by the book. Me, I’m more like a terrier. When I get my teeth into something, I never let go, even if the boss says otherwise. Besides, I don’t want to have a relationship with you, when you can treat your brother so callously. After what he’s been through.”
“Fine. I guess there’s nothing more to say then.”
“No, I guess not.”
The sound of Woody slamming the door shut behind him felt very final. Jordan sighed and sat down on the bed again. Well, that was that. Maybe it was for the best.