The traffic on Friday nights was always the worst of the week. Steve Miller, drove his Mercedes to Bel Air and managed to avoid the worst of it. He thought about Mark and his having to hit the snarls of the downtown core to go to his modeling shoot and shook his head. He had no idea how Mark did it. It was like having two full time jobs.
Steve parked in his side of the two car garage and climbed out, checking his phone. He got a text from Adam Lewis, one of he and Mark’s closest friends. It read, ‘Dinner tonight before our weekend together. Or?’
After he disarmed the house alarm, Steve entered the kitchen, toeing off his shoes at the door. He called Adam and put the phone to his ear as he walked to the bedroom to change for his run.
“Hi, babe,” Adam said.
“Hey, lover. I don’t know what time we can do dinner tonight. Mark is at a photo shoot for Rolls and I have no idea what time he’ll get back.”
“Jack said the traffic is a mess. Some kind of hostage situation.”
“Oh, fer cryin’ out loud.” Steve shook his head as he loosened his neck tie. “What now? I swear people have gone insane.” He put the phone on speaker and set it on his bed as he undressed. “Did Jack manage to get home okay?”
“Yes. He’s here working out in the home gym. So, should we just come by your place tomorrow morning? Forget dinner?”
“Let me call Mark. I think he said the shoot should only take an hour or so. I’m getting ready for a run anyway.”
“How can you run in this heat? Why don’t you wake up and get it done in the morning? Or buy a treadmill like we have?”
“Stop whining. You’re as bad as Mark. Goodbye, Mr Lewis. I’ll call you back.” Steve reached for the phone and disconnected it. He didn’t mind running in the heat. He changed into his shorts and sat on the bed, putting on his socks. Once he had, he picked up the phone and called his husband. As it rang, Steve assumed Mark was probably getting ready for the shoot and it would go to his voicemail, but Mark picked it up.
“Oh,” Steve said, “Hi. I figured I’d leave a message…Are you okay?” Steve did nothing but worry about his lover. The man had so much emotional baggage Mark was always on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
“No…What is it, Steven?”
“What’s wrong?” Steve ran his hand over his hair.
“I can’t get to the bleedin’ studio!”
“Why? Oh. Are you stuck in traffic? Adam said there’s some kind of hostage situation.”
“Mark, calm down. Where are you?”
“I don’t know. I’ve pulled off the street. I’m about to go out of my head.”
Steve stared at his feet and had no idea what to do. “You want me to watch the news and see where this crap is? Help you avoid it?”
“I don’t know.”
Steve sat up. “Are you crying?” He listened quietly and heard his man struggling to keep it together. He knew Mark well enough to know when he was becoming an emotional mess. “Baby, talk to me.”
“I can’t take it.” Mark sobbed and then held back with an audible gulp.
“Why do you take on so much? Baby, two modeling contracts? Working full time at Parsons and Company…you don’t even have to work. Your family is so—”
Steve’s heart broke. The man came from so much money, billions, and yet his mother seemed to withhold it all, and Steve knew why. But when he thought about it he wanted to scream.
Before Mark had become his lover, his boyfriend, and then his husband, Mark was engaged to a woman, Sharon Tice. Steve had stolen Mark from the altar, literally. And Mark had been hesitant to ‘come out’, to risk ‘losing everything’. It didn’t take rocket science to figure out what ‘everything’ was. It was his inheritance, his legacy. Both his and Alex’s.
The mega corporation, Richfield International was not going to do either Mark or his son any good. And that thought made Steve furious.
“Quit Parsons and Company,” Steve said, “We’ll do just fine with your modeling and my income.”
“Don’t. I can’t have this discussion now. I can’t.”
The urge Steve had to try and get to Mark was strong. “Mark…just take a deep breath and drive slowly with the rest of the traffic. You’ll get there.”
“Yes. I know.”
Steve heard him sniffle and imagined Mark’s tears. “Adam asked if we could eat dinner with him and Jack tonight. I’ll tell him no, and for him and Jack to come in the morning.”
“You go, Steven. Go spend time with our boys.”
“Not without you. I was going for a run now anyway.”
“In this bloody heat? Are you mad?”
“Hey, pretty boy, if you were home you’d be going with me.” When he heard Mark chuckle Steve was relieved. “Consider yourself lucky you got that gig or you’d be my sex slave after getting heat stroke.”
“You bad boy.”
“I love you, Mark.” Steve felt his throat tighten. Without Mark, he’d be lost.
“You too. All right. I shall try again.”
“Call me if you get frustrated. I’m here.”
“Yes. I know. Ta, love.”
Steve waited for Mark to hang up first and called Adam, wishing Mark’s mother Leslie didn’t become as nasty a homophobe as her late husband, Milt.
Billy had no idea if the occupants of the apartment were dead or alive. The containment had been set up immediately after the initial threat was discovered, but…what if they were now yelling into an empty apartment? It wouldn’t be the first time.
“I’m going in for a closer look, Bruce.” Billy began crouch crawling around the patrol car.
“Sharpe.” Bruce grabbed his uniform sleeve. “No way. The guy has high powered assault weapons.”
“It’s been four hours. Not a peep.”
“The camera confirmed he has them in the bedroom. They are in there.”
“Then they’re dead. I have to go in.”
“We don’t know they’re dead. No shots were fired.”
“You think a gun is the only way this guy has to kill them? What if he slit their throats! He said he was going to torture them!” Billy shook out of the grip and scrambled to a tree trunk, closer to the apartment. He heard his police radio communication. His commander was asking him what he was doing.
Billy depressed the microphone. “Recon.”
He heard a verbal command behind him, not over radio, and then rustling. The SWAT team, his old unit, hustled in to back him up or offer cover fire if necessary. Billy waited. They used hand signals as they drew closer to the opened front window.
Billy sprinted across the weedy apartment property, keeping low, his gun drawn, his finger indexed and off the trigger. He looked up as a helicopter spotlighted him and his men. He snarled and got on the radio. “Command, tell the news assholes to stop lighting!”
Billy leaned against the grimy wall, staring at the high-beam in the sky. Slowly the message was received but if the suspect had access to media? Billy and his team had just been made.
His heart began pounding in his chest as he rose up to look into the open window. It was the kitchen, empty of occupants, now dark from the advance of night. Billy moved closer and could see a slight gleam from underneath a door from down the hall. There was a light on in the bedroom where he imagined the suspect and hostages were held. Then, he heard a child crying.
Billy flinched and imagined what this poor child was enduring. He signaled for them to back off and he met with the team and their new lieutenant. “We’re going in,” Billy said, “Enough. I can hear the kid crying.”
“I’ll see if I can get the okay from the commander, Sharpe, but you know his attitude.”
“Yeah,” Billy growled, showing his teeth, “But I ain’t waiting anymore. There’s a baby in there. Negotiation failed.”
“I’ll advise them.” The lieutenant backed up and used his radio to communicate with the command center.
One of his old co-workers crouched beside him. “Good to see ya back, L-T. Fucking miss you, you pecker.”
“Miss you assholes too. Fucking IAG.” Billy sneered.
“Come back. This new L-T is a wuss. If you were with us- we’d be inside that fucker’s asshole the first five minutes he took hostages.”
“Can’t play like that anymore.” Billy shook his head, his hand growing sweaty on his pistol grip. “Learned one thing in IAG- fucking department pays out…a lot.”
“Fucking civies. Let them walk a mile in our boots.”
Another officer from his old unit scooted closer. “Easy entry. Open window. What the fuck’s the delay? I say we storm the place.”
“Goddamn fucker has assault weapons.” Billy stared at the gap in the window.
“He’s gotta sleep sometime.”
“We fuck up, it’s a massacre, and a kid dies. Not to mention, my guess is he’s got fifty caliber rounds. These vests won’t do squat against that.” Billy wiped his sweaty palm on his uniform pants.
The second lieutenant crawled back. “IC says negative. No entry until we have cause.”
“Cause!” Billy hissed, trying to keep his voice low. “That douchebag may be torturing a four year old girl!”
Billy met eyes with the other men of his old unit and exchanged knowing glances with them. They’d get in. If Billy were still the SWAT lieutenant, he’d already have made entry. What was the point of four hours on a bullhorn and using a phone that was never picked off of the filthy linoleum floor?
When the other lieutenant’s attention was drawn elsewhere, one of Billy’s old SWAT unit men nudged him, handing him his Benelli M4. “Go get ‘em, Sharpe.”
Billy holstered his pistol and took the rifle.