THE BUTCHER'S RAMPAGE THROUGH Denver's gay community had now claimed eleven lives. Chris Valle, Randy Gallegos, Jack Webber, Albert Maez, Rachael Romero, Mario Vigil, Kevin Jones, Mark Carter, Fernando Lopez, Bill Sanders and Guy Sutherland had all fallen victim to him. The media was having a heyday on a national scale as the desperate manhunt yielded nothing. Police were no closer than they were in the beginning. Denver was on needles.
A bewildered Tony De Santos sat gazing out the window as the bus left the city limits of Colorado Springs behind. On this cursed day in Pueblo, he'd watched with a vengeance while his partner's body was lowered into the earth separating them forever. Did a vow of revenge make a man insane? If so, then consider him beyond hope. Tony swore on all he held holy that the memory of Guy dying in his arms would haunt him until he did what had to be done. Fear had lost any consequence. To him it didn't matter. He was dead inside anyway.
Since Guy's murder he'd wandered aimlessly, avoiding going home for fear of what awaited him there. He didn't know if he could handle it. The write-ups in the papers went into detail of all that had taken place. The media was having a frenzy. He avoided them at all costs. Knowing The Butcher was still out there ate at him constantly.
At night was when he missed Guy most. He missed the comfort of their home, the comfort of his arms. He'd stayed in Pueblo with friends these past few days awaiting Guy's funeral. Don and Albert offered comfort but nowhere near what he needed. Nothing could ease his pain, the void in his heart. They avoided the subject altogether not to upset him further. Holding it in was driving him crazy. He needed to let it out.
It infuriated him that Chris Macey, the black man he'd grazed with a bullet, was not the bastard who had killed Guy.
He recalled when Lobato informed him of this. The anger that had gone through him left him with only one thing on his mind. No charges would be filed under the circumstances although the gun was confiscated.
Macey had turned out to be a desperate journalist lurking in the shadows of his and Guy's life looking for a front-page story. As soon as theories of The Butcher being after mixed couples surfaced Macey latched onto them thinking he was on to something. Why he chose them, was only instinct.
Tony watched the sun descend behind the mountains bringing nightfall. Awesome sunsets had lost their mystery and beauty. Nightfall had become his enemy, life a nightmare from which there was no awakening.
He would return to Denver for one reason only. After which whatever was to become of him seemed irrelevant. His sole purpose for living no longer existed, ripped from his life. Sorrow had taken its place. He damned life again and again, blaming himself for not listening to Guy's pleas and not taking heed. The burning sensation in his chest had filled him continuously since Guy's death.
He looked around the bus. Others sat lost in their own worlds engulfed in thought or loneliness. Imprisoned in a world of blackness, he sat at the rear of the lonely mourner's coach. Tears tore at his face making his skin harsh. He wiped them away only to lose himself in the sunset again.
The pale blue horizon had become a luminous display of colour Red, yellow, lavender and multi-pink reached across the heavens merging with the purples of nightfall. Stars blinked on. It meant nothing. Would it ever again?
Voices echoed in his mind. Visions of what once was would not leave him at peace. Cruel reality ripped through his thoughts reminding him they would no longer exist. We, no longer existed. He was alone.
He fought from crying out trying desperately to take hold of his senses. It was useless. Hurt came through. Tears flowed. His insides cramped, aching unbearably.
"You bastard!" he whispered, hitting his fist against his leg. "You bastard! I'll fucking get you!" A warning that had become a promise. A quest.
He struggled to control himself. He remembered the night Guy slipped the band on his finger telling him not even death would separate them as though he'd known. The grim vision of his beloved in the coffin still and lifeless haunted him. The lost touch of Guy's lips as he leaned into the coffin to slip a gold band on his finger left its chill. Visions of their lovemaking were cruel. He needed his man. Guy's scent tormented his mind. It seemed to linger in the air. He pleaded with the heavens to end his misery and hell.
Others who thought they'd heard glanced back periodically. Some were annoyed. Others felt the scorn of hurt in their own hearts perhaps from their own pasts. It was felt in the air that something was wrong at the rear of the bus.
Two seats up sat a sandy-haired man in his late twenties. He related. He had glanced back and recognized Tony from the newspapers. With a compassionate heart he made his way to Tony, whose face lay buried in the crack of the seat against the bus whispering the name of his beloved over and over as if saying it would somehow resurrect him. The stranger's heart was in his hand. Instinctively he knew the inevitable had come, as if he had no other choice. His heart wouldn't let him do otherwise. The back of Tony's T-shirt was damp from perspiration. Nervously he toyed with the ring on his finger.
Hesitantly he sat next to Tony hoping he could ease the pain. There was no response as though Tony hadn't felt his presence. Gently he began to stroke through Tony's hair with comfort as his former partner had so many times done to him. He recalled how soothing it felt.
Startled Tony turned to see who his visitor was. Through blurred vision he saw the young man. He was a familiar face he'd seen somewhere before.
He sat up resting his head back against the seat not quite sure how to handle it. Both were at a loss for words. Minutes went by.
"I'm Bobby," the stranger finally said.
There was a timid insecurity in his voice. He sighed deeply. He hadn't been sure of his approach but was glad he'd broken the ice. He'd not done anything so bold before.
For a moment Tony spaced the hell and torment he was in taking a deep breath and staring out the window again.
"Look, I really don't know what the hell I'm doing here. And Lord knows it's really none of my business. It's like I needed to come back here. Pretty damned weird, huh?" Bobby said.
Unable to respond, much less face him, Tony continued to look out the window. It all seemed too bizarre. He sensed the guy was gay, couldn't imagine otherwise. He'd seen him in Cheesman.
"Look, sorry if I've disturbed you. I'll leave you alone. I just wanted to make sure you were all right," Bobby babbled. "I'll just mind my own business."
Tony felt it when Bobby arose. Bobby felt it best to leave Tony to his privacy. "Wait a second," Tony said, unsure as to why. "Sit back down."
There was another period of unsure silence. Bobby rested back staring ahead. It was dark. A blanket of stars covered the sky.
A mournful moon set the eastern plains aglow casting oddly shaped shadows into the evening.
Tony began his story. At last there was someone to listen to his torment even though a stranger he'd probably never see again. But for these precious moments he could share the burden. He spoke freely.
Bobby stared holes into the seat in front of him and listened. His heart ached for Tony. He'd had a taste of lost love himself and knew of the cold side of life. Revenge was poisoning Tony. It was obvious in his pain, evil taking its toll.
Pausing for a moment Tony looked out, lost in thought again. It felt good to release the hell and blackness within. Whether he saw this person again didn't much matter. He had found a gentle ear to listen, one in a million.
Bobby's eyes blurred when Tony's voice trembled with pain. He glanced at Tony's shaking hands watching the fingers of his right hand slip the gold band on his left hand back and forth. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Time was his only healer. Each moment of torment would seem to last an eternity.