“Hey bud, you want to pick up the parts tonight?”
“Yeah, I’d like to get everything fixed before tomorrow night. I appreciate the lift again”
Friday night and Adam just got home and posed the question to Jason as soon as he entered the door. Time moves fast and things need to get done. Any chance for Adam to get closer to Jason was a welcome opportunity. Any chance to expedite that was never ignored.
Adam was lean, in good shape, and pleasant to look at. His tussled brown hair gave a youthful appearance. A permanent small scar high on his left cheek from a high school baseball game gave a little more edge to his look which could switch one’s assessment of Adam from young man to full fledged adult.
At 25, he had been doing alright for himself. Bright and articulate, Adam’s choices in life brought him to a small community outside Bakersfield, California; near the Sequoia National Forest. A willing choice. Instead of wasting his money in L.A. or San Francisco, surrounded by people he couldn’t stand, he committed himself to his small mail order business. With low overhead, low cost of real estate, profits added up, setting Adam on a great course for financial stability and a better living elsewhere when the time came.
Adam tossed his keys on a small table near the door that rocked slightly from imperfect construction and balance. Moving with purpose to the kitchen, Adam untucked his shirt and grabbed a Heineken from the fridge. Popping the cap with a well-coordinated downward thrust on the edge of the counter, the lid popped off and flew behind the fridge. Adam rolled his eyes in a moment of surrender. But at least the beer was freed from captivity.
Adam glanced down and his eyes caught a crease in the front door panel of the fridge — a result of a raucous Jason unloading his anger on a cell phone call with someone unknown over something unknown by Adam weeks ago. Adam never pressed for answers after watching it all unfold from the outside patio looking into the kitchen window. Instead, Adam found himself trying to observe Jason’s process.
What’s his trigger points? Why the rage? It was rather erotic, Adam thought, watching Jason in motion, pacing the floor, trying to negotiate an understanding remotely, flailing his arms and rubbing his short black hair in a vain effort to brush the invisible trouble away. Hair so short, there’s practically nothing to rub his hands through. Ultimately, it ended with Jason’s Roper boot kicking the front panel of the new fridge. Adam recalled that night well. Jason’s black t-shirt was a size too small and on anyone but him, this wouldn’t work. Instead, the t-shirt strained against Jason’s torso, yelling the answer to the question of Jason’s physique. The sleeves bit down above his biceps, squeezing his muscles out to only exacerbate Adam’s bohemian attraction with his new roommate. Jason’s long waist, outdoor tan, lean physique, and sultry stride were characteristics Adam craved to have. Jason was a man’s man and carried himself naturally in his role.
Reflecting on the dramatic kick to the fridge, Adam recalled when the incident was over how Jason, who never touched Adam before, put his hands on each of Adam’s shoulders and with sincerest apologies, promised to repair the fridge. His word was good. A new door panel had arrived a few days ago, but they both had been too busy to make fixing the fridge a priority. With that single touch, Adam was smitten, and yet still confused about their friendship. Four months into sharing the place together, there was still the subtle nuances of each other’s personalities to be figured out.
As for Jason, he was odd in comparison to most. He rarely made direct eye contact. He would have full conversations staring off in the distance or with eyes fixated on anything but the person next to him; sometimes fidgeting with something while conversing to avert looking into someone’s eyes. The conversations were always detailed and attentive, but oddly, to anyone who didn’t know him, one might feel a little uncomfortable, or snubbed.
“A shame,” Adam thought. “He’s got so much going for him. I’d kill to have his style, his persona, his looks.”
Although living together, the fact that Jason was straight and knowingly living with a gay man left a lot of questions in Adam’s mind. They’ve been great roommates and Adam was careful never to exhibit any behavior that otherwise set a “straight dude” on edge. But, nonetheless, it also presented a constant need to be less then his true self. He worked overtime at trying to downplay his true nature for the sake of keeping his prize around. And yet, it was no secret between them.
He was cool about it, but most straight guys wouldn’t be. “What’s his story?” Adam would often ask himself. “Why’s he even staying here, with me of all people? He’s gotta have a ton of friends he has to explain this to. What’s the reason? Is this just a matter of convenience? Does he have some problem everyone knows about except me?”
And yet, the topic never came up or needed discussion between the two of them.
Back to the moment. Adam moved to Jason’s bedroom door and leaned against the door frame. He was staring at Jason’s backside as Jason was online tapping away at the keys on his laptop. Jason’s room revealed nothing about his personality, and yet, it screamed everything. A small space with nothing defining a personality. Just the essentials. A bed. A nightstand. A desk. A dresser with mirror. No pictures. No posters. No expression of interests, hobbies or passions. Just a worn black leather jacket on the bed next to a Chilton’s repair manual for a 1971 Dodge Challenger.
Without turning around, Jason commented “I’ll be done in just a minute.”
“No problem,” Adam replied as he took another swig.
Adam took advantage of the moment to stare at Jason without him knowing or feeling the piercing review. Jason’s athletic back stirred Adam’s imagination. Jason looked like he just finished boot camp. Muscular and strong. Broad shoulders and narrow waist, Jason exemplified Adam’s physical ideal, which was acknowledged by Adam gently adjusting his crotch.
A few yers older than Adam and standing almost 4” taller, Jason’s presence gave Adam a sense of security to have him near.
“I’m ready to go if you are. They close at 6, I think, so we should jet outta here now if we’re gonna make it.” Jason stood up, grabbed his wallet and keys off his desk and moved to meet Adam at the doorway. As they left the hallway, Adam finished his beer and set the bottle down. Jason shook his head and commented, “You know what, I just really need a new car. This pile is nickel and diming me to death.”
They hopped into Adam’s Cherokee and backed out of the driveway; leaving Jason’s worn and busted 1971 Dodge Challenger behind them. As they drove off, the house melted into the rural landscape. No neighbors close by made for quiet living. The summers were hot and the evening sun meant the nights would get cooler, probably down to 85° if they were lucky.
Highway 178 near Bakersfield offers little excitement to anyone, but for Adam, to have Jason in the car for 20 minutes as they head to the auto parts store was the highlight of his week.
After a few minutes drive, Jason spoke up. “What’s that?” he asked, as he pointed to Adam’s keys in the ignition.
With the car window down, Jason took a drag from his cigarette and exhaled out the window. Then holding the cigarette into the wind, watching the cherry glow hot and burn fast, Jason replied matter of factly without looking at Adam, “You have a handcuff key”. Never noticed it before. Is there a story behind that?”
“There’s always a story. And how would you know what a handcuff key is?” Adam replied, trying to spin the moment and learn more about his cohort.
“I’ve been in cuffs before,” Jason said with no sense of shame or concern.
“Willingly or unwillingly?”
Jason took another drag and exhaled.
“Yes,” Jason replied.
As the evening sun began to set, Jason and Adam left the auto parts store and walked over to the Cherokee and loaded everything in the back. Jason’s gaze scanned up and down Main Street as he quickly blurted out “Hey, I’m starving. You wanna eat? I’ll buy.”
The two of them began walking down the sidewalk, looking for a place to gran some food. After a block, something caught Jason’s attention, causing him to suddenly stop dead in his tracks. He continued to stare forward for a moment.
“What is it?” Adam asked.
Jason slowly stepped backwards a few feet, raised his glasses over his head, and turned to look into a shop window. He then took a couple slow steps closer. Adam just stood in silence, watching Jason who was almost hypnotized by something. After a short pause, Jason cocked his head sideways like a curious dog observing something. He then turned to the doorway and entered the Second Chance Thrift Store.
Adam moved to the entrance and leaned against the door frame as Jason made his way inside and down a couple steps into the old building.
From the back of the large space, an aged and female voice called out. “Good evening!” An older woman stepped out from behind a counter holding a box of useless trinkets; obviously items to sort out, label, and price. The space was filled from corner to corner and floor to ceiling. Old books, vintage furniture, lamps, an abundance of jewelry, knick knacks, dishware, and the remains and memories of so many lives before. High in the corner on a bookshelf, an old metal fan chattered away as it tried to move the warm night air and bring relief to the stuffy museum of other people’s memories.
“Can I help you find anything?” she asked as she stepped a little closer. She set her box of trinkets down and brushed her dusty hands on her smock. She then noticed Jason’s stare instantly and almost seemed to know what he would say next.
Without looking back and almost as if in a trance, Jason raised his arm, extended his index finger and pointed to the shop window behind him. “How much for the box?”
“The box?” she asked, already knowing what he’s referring to.
Jason nodded in the affirmative.
The woman moved closer to Jason and looked intently at him. “You hear it, don’t you?” She asked quietly.
Jason nodded again.
She looked past Jason to see a confused Adam in the doorway. “Are you with him?” she asked Adam.
“Yeah,” Adam said, “What’s going on here?”
“Why don’t you come in and close the door behind you.”. She moves over to the shop window and grabs a small wooden box and moves over to the counter. Adam takes her advice, enters the shop, closing the glass door behind him. A gentle bell at the top of the door jam rings as the door closes and the outside sounds disappear into the evening.
She looked at Adam and asked “You don’t hear it, though, do you?”
Playing along and more curious than ever, Adam shook his head with a gentle ‘no’.
“It’s unusual that both people don’t hear it, but it’s not uncommon.”
“Hear what?” Adam asked. “Jason, are you hearing something?”
Jason looked to Adam. His gaze in to Adam’s eyes was purposeful, engaging, and almost as if any barrier keeping them as separate individuals melted away. They became unified, with a trustful understanding. “Not anymore,” Jason said.
“Listen, I don’t know what I really believe bout this,” the woman said, “but I think you need to be aware of something.”
“Oooooh kaaaaaayy”, said Adam in a very dubious tone of disbelief.
“This is the third time this box has come back here. That’s quite odd. Things don’t normally come back multiple times, if at all. Now whether or not you believe what I’m about to tell you is up to you. I can only tell you what I’ve been told by the previous owners.”
Adam gazes at the un-remarkable wooden box. It looks like nothing more than something your grandmother would have to hold recipe cards. Simple design, no lid. Weathered brass tabs with an aged patina and intricate pattern resembling a Celtic crest hold the sides and bottom together. The wood’s dark and worn finish reveals nothing unique; other than very vague markings on the face of it; almost as if there was a phrase or words engraved at one time.
The woman grabbed a bar stool from behind the counter, parked herself on it and began to share her story. For the next 15 minutes, she explained in great detail how the box had four sets of owners, all who returned it back to her. Not for a refund. Just to be rid of it. And, yes, sets of couples. It was always sold to couples, man and woman, two sisters, father daughter, two friends. It always started with someone “hearing” the box speak to them. Maybe it was singing in some way. Nobody really explained it.
“All of them,” the woman said, “claim it was full of lies. I never understood that,” she said. “But all of them said it, so it must mean something. In each case…”, she leaned forward to emphasize her point “something terrible happened to the owner.”
She explained one person was burned badly, another broke several bones in a freak accident, one went blind…
“I can’t remember what happened to the fourth owner.”
Adam perked up and said, “Excuse me? How the fuck could you not remember something like that after the story you’re telling us.”
Jason elbowed Adam for mouthing off in front of the elderly woman. Adam was almost happy he got a rouse out of Jason. To be honest, that kind of language would be more expected from Jason.
“I’m sorry,” Adam said. “Go on.”
“Anyway. I don’t know much about it or where it originally came from. I had a psychic in hear 6 months ago. Pure coincidence. She began acting so bizarre and yelling in some language I couldn’t understand, claiming it was pure evil. It was so bad, I had to call the police.”
Adam replies with a smirk and huff, “Really?”
“You two are together.” she said, trying to lead into a broader statement until she was cut off.
“Wait, no we’re not like a couple or anything,” Adam said.
She leaned back with almost an arrogance of knowledge and pointed her finger at Adam saying “One of you heard it. That’s all it takes. Think of it like a virus. It needs a host. But that’s not enough. A virus needs to spread. Things move from one form to another. This begats that. That begats this. Someone always gets the short end of the stick. It never delivers what you think it promises. Then the virus mutates into something else and it’s not the same. Always. To be safe,” she says as she leans in and looks directly at Adam, “don’t use the box! For fucking anything!”
She looks closer at Jason and comments, “You have the gift. Be careful.”
Jason continued to soak it all in with almost an unemotional reaction; or at least none that was visible. Adam was far bolder and not ashamed to speak his mind.
“Well, I don’t understand everything you’re saying. It’s a great camp fire story and I definitely have the creeps, but — it’s a just a box. I don’t buy into any of —“
“How much?” Jason asked.
“Twenty five,” she said.
On the drive home, every mile felt like two. Every thought seemed to spawn a novel. The droning of the engine, the tires against the asphalt seemed like white noise; almost designed to filter out any aura of clarity. Jason clutched the box in his lap, stroking his fingers of the hand carved engravings, trying to understand the lettering.
Jason turned to Adam, “I wonder what these mean?”
Adam glanced down to see strange writing carved elegantly on the face of the box. He didn’t recall seeing that at the store.
Adam replied, “Made in China?”
“I don’t know the language,” Jason said quizzically. “I’m going to have to research it.”
“You do that,” Adam said cynically.
“You know, I think it’s pretty cool, actually,” Jason said with a smile as he looked intensely at Adam.
Shocked at Jason evoking and sharing anything emotional and personal, Adam grinned happily. Truth is, Adam was more aroused by Jason’s engagement than the events that transpired. Adam looked over at Jason to see him locked in a smile with Adam. He didn’t want to look away, but if Adam hadn’t, he would have crashed the car. A couple more glances back at Jason smiling at him and Adam grinned from ear to ear.
When they got home, they offloaded the auto parts into the garage. Jason grabbed the box off the front seat, took it to his bedroom, put it on the nightstand and threw his car keys in it.
“C’mon!” Jason yelled boisterously. “Let’s have a beer!”
Jason and Adam sit on the back patio under an awning draped in Christmas lights. The warm soft colors accent the hot California night. Jason slouched in a lounge chair, sunglasses over his head, his legs outstretched, open wide, posing boldly like a porn star with one arm hanging loosely, the other holding his beer by the bottle neck, twirling it on the cement gently. The quiet mountain foothills filled the night with nothing but silence. The only sound, the gritty grinding of the glass bottle against the sand on the cement as he stared at Adam.
In turn, Adam locked his gaze with Jason. No matter what, he had to know where this moment was going. Adam set his beer down on a table and noticed a pack of Jason’s cigarettes on a table several feet away.
“Bring me one,” Jason said slow and seductively.
“What the fuck!” Adam thought. Oh my God. “This is everything I want!” He took one cigarette and walked slowly over to Jason.
None of this is making sense. Is this a mind fuck again? How many times am I going to fall for this? Who is this guy sharing my house with me? What happened to Jason,” Adam thought. “I don’t know what’s right or wrong here.”
As Adam got closer, he reached out to Jason to hand him a cigarette.
“No. Put it in my mouth,” Jason said.
Slowly, Adam moved closer, between Jason’s legs and placed the cigarette gently between his lips. Jason closed his legs, gripping Adam’s. Adam reached into his pocket for the lighter. His hand shaking from nervousness, Adam brought the lighter close to the cigarette. Without hesitation, Jason brought up his hand, grabbed Adam’s and guided him to position. CLICK, the flame illuminated Jason’s face. Still holding Adam’s hand in place, Jason cocked his head slowly as he took a long draw from the cigarette. His sunglasses slipped with perfect timing, fell over his eyes as he blew the smoke seductively on Adam.
Out front, a car alarm goes off. Adam jumps back and Jason hops to his feet. They both race inside to get to the front yard. It’s not Adam’s car, but next to it, a Dodge Challenger is flashing lights and no doubt annoying every critter around the property with the alarm. Jason runs back inside, grabs his keys from the box and comes back out front. With the digital key fob, he disarmed the vehicle.
Adam looks to Jason, “What the fuck is this?”
“I have no idea. Where’s my car?”
“What do you mean ‘where’s your car?’, you just got the keys and turned off the alarm! When did you get this?”
“I didn’t”, Jason replied emphatically. “I don’t know who this is, whose this is, who’s this – how the fuck do you say it?”
Instead of a Jason’s old worn out 71 Dodge Challenger, a brand new Challenger sat in its place.
“I don’t understand either,” Jason said. “How did I know I had these keys?” He looks at the new keys in his hand.
“Did you steal this?,” Adam asked demandingly.
“No, I swear. You were with me the whole time. Where the fuck is my car? And what’s that damn smell?”
“I think I’m gonna puke,” Adam said. “It’s like you left Taco Bell in there for days.”
So much confusion. Jason had the right keys. But how did he know that? His old Challenger didn’t have an alarm, so how did he know he had new keys with a digital alarm key fob? And what happened to his old car?
Time to get some help.
“Mr.Stone, I’m telling you this checks out. It’s in your name. Registration checks out, tags are good, insurance looks good as far as I can tell. Looks like you registered it about 8 months ago. According to all this, you don’t even have a lien holder. Looks like you paid it off. Did you leave food in there? That smell is incredible.”
“I know. I don’t know what that’s from.”
A young deputy hands Jason back his driver’s license. With the red and blue strobe lights from the Sheriff’s car illuminating the remote property, Adam scopes out the handsome deputy as the lights alternate across his face from red to blue and back again. His high and tight haircut and rugged build reveal a fit and dedicated Sheriff, obviously adept to respond to a situation.
Jason takes his paperwork and goes to the passenger door, opens it, and almost vomits from the smell. He holds his breath, puts the paperwork back in the glove box, and steps back a few feet for fresh air. Sure enough, registration, insurance, and pink slip all confirm this is and has been his car for some time.
“What the hell is going on,” Jason mumbles. He turned back to the officer. “Do you have any record of my car before this?”
“Yeah, 1971… Challenger. You a Dodge fan?”
“I am now.”
“I don’t understand this. I’m so fucking confused.”
The Sheriff shines his flashlight on Jason’s face to see if there’s any indication of drug use.
“I don’t know what to tell you. If you have any more questions, you can reach me here, but otherwise, I’m telling you everything checks out. This is definitely a first for me. Never had anyone complain about having a new car.” The deputy hands Jason his business card. “You can call that number and they’ll know how to reach me.” The Sheriff walks back to his squad car and leaves the two of them trying to figure out the strange and exciting events.
Under the starlight, the quietness of their seclusion, and warm glow of a single 60-watt lightbulb from the front porch, neither one of them in a rush to talk or explain what happened. Standing behind a still and fixated Jason, Adam looks over at him, contemplating the moment they were having before this happened. Because of the evening’s events, Adam senses Jason has lost the moment.
“Yeh, um, I guess I’m gonna roll the windows down overnight. See if I can air it out.”
After watching Jason pace his efforts between breaths of fresh air and lowering windows, they both step back another couple feet and gaze at the vehicle.
“That smell is really rank. And such a beautiful car,” Adam comments.
Jason ponders for a moment and comments with a smile – “and it’s mine.”
Adam turns to go into the house. He passes through the kitchen to the back patio to recover his beer. As he slowly moves outside, he hears Jason come in the house behind him. With a slight hopefulness to share more time and recapture the earlier moment, his heart is shattered when he hears Jason enter his bedroom and close the door. He’s done for the night. Not an uncommon social pattern.
Adam grabs his beer and heads back inside. Straight to his bedroom. Without turning on a light, Adam flops himself on his bed. He gives a deep sigh and stares at the ceiling in the dark for a moment. They’re so close. Just a wall apart. And yet, so distant. He grabs his cell phone and unlocks it with his fingerprint. He scrolls to his photos and finds a gallery he named as “insurance stats”. Something innocuous that’s wouldn’t attract the curious. But then, the phone is locked, so who could even get into it? But Adam’s paranoia is well founded for someone with something to hide.
He opens the folder and starts sliding through his secret gallery of Jason photos. Shots taken without Jason’s knowledge. Random candid moments. He slides through dozens, most not the best focus, not the most interesting. Shots of Jason working out, getting a tan in the back yard, sleeping, working in the garage, his legs sticking out from under his Dodge when he was working on it, just passing from room to room in the hose. How do you take a secret photo and not get caught? He stumbles on a few that peak his interest. Some he took from Jason’s Facebook page. A few others he took right off Jason’s phone unsuspectingly. Those were the most cherished. “I don’t know why, though,” Adam thought. “Maybe because it’s like I actually have a piece of him. I own him. I took a piece of him that he has no control of. Something nobody else has.”
Adam finds one of Jason. It’s a video. A video of Jason, bare chested, but sporting his leather jacket. He’s working himself up to jack off, seemingly to porn or is he in a chat room with someone? If he is, who’s he chatting to? A guy or girl? The room is dark, and he’s only illuminated by the glow of his laptop, leaving some detail of Jason’s performance to the imagination. Adam watches Jason slowly unbutton his jeans, Adam’s free hand moves to his own crotch. Aroused, Adam is careful to work himself up at the same pace as Jason. This has to be mutual, a shared experience; albeit the closest thing to a true shared experience he can have. Jason raises his leather arm up to his face and inhales the heavy scent of leather.
“Fuck yeah,” Adam softly mumbles.
As Jason’s body moves under his jacket and a glisten of sweat starts to build, Adam gets closer to release. As the moments come nearer, a scowl of sexual frustration comes over Adam and begins to mutter softly, trying to sound tough, “You mother fucker. You WILL take it, you bitch tease. You’re mine you son of a bitch!” Adam pauses the video to reach over to his nightstand and grab a bottle of poppers. He takes a long deep whiff and holds it in as he screws the cap back on.
He resumes the video, exhales and let’s the head rush take over. Together, Jason and Adam are close to climax, slow, passionate, and strong. They shoot together, both releasing their pent up anxiety. Adam drops the phone to his side as he recovers from heavy panting. He contemplates the strangeness of his situation. Jason is bigger, better looking, more powerful. Adam could never control Jason. Adam’s dominance is out of sheer sexual confusion and frustration. There’s been more then one instance of this game with Jason that never went anywhere.
“Fuck,” Adam thought to himself. “I’m tired. I don’t even want to get up. I’d rather just fall asleep but my hand will be glued to my dick if I don’t wipe off.”
The next morning, Adam’s in the kitchen making eggs for breakfast. Simple, cheap, good protein. The pan is chattering with the pops of the butter and eggs frying up. Adam uses the spatula to lift the corner of his eggs to keep them from sticking to the pan. He grabs his glass of tomato juice and adds a little salt and pepper and pounds almost half of it down. He hears Jason come in from outside.
“Leaving the windows down last night didn’t help at all. It almost seems worse. I can’t even drive it like that,” Jason stated as he entered the kitchen.
Adam looks over to see Jason in his nylon track pants and no shirt, scratching his head trying to wake up. Jason moves over towards Adam and reaches over him to grab the coffee beans. Jason’s body leans into Adam’s as he deliberately and slowly grabs the can of coffee beans. It’s slow enough to be erotic by anyone observing, even Adam.
The pan belches out a large splatter of grease onto Adam’s hand and Jason’s stomach. Adam lurches back in pain while Jason remains in place, unfazed by his own burn. The two hold a gaze together.
Jason says softly, “I need something from you.”
Adam stares breathlessly and Jason knows it.
Jason smiles and says “A coffee filter.”
Adam shakes his head. Enough’s enough. Adam reached for a coffee filter and tosses it with frustration at Jason. Jason recognizes his sexual teasing is putting Adam on edge. He turns to pour some coffee beans in the grinder.
Adam moves the frying pan to a cold burner, turns off the stove and turns to Jason. All his pent up tension comes blurting out without forethought or plan.
“We have to get this sorted out. I can’t do this. I have no idea what you’re -” Adam’s words were cut off by Jason turning on the coffee grinder. The loud disruption only enrages Adam further.
Adam reaches around Jason and rips the plug out of the socket.
Jason spins around “What the fuck?”
“Yeah! What the fuck, Jason? No more games. I can’t figure out your story. I don’t know if you’re into me, not into me, playing me, just horny and don’t care, straight or gay, interested – or just getting your nut off fucking with my head cuz it gives you some perverse pleasure.”
“You want me to fuck you? You want to fuck me?”Jason says, challenging Adam. “You want perverse pleasure, handcuff boy?”
“Why can’t you just answer the question?”, Adam yelled.
“What do you want?”
“What do you think?! You fucking know it.”
“Say it then. If you want something speak up or do something. Own it!”
“I go nuts every time I’m around you. And you know this. I don’t wanna freak you out, but I love everything about you. I love your look, your walk, your voice, your style, your body. And I just don’t think you’re gay. I think you’re just having fun with this and I think you’re just -“
Jason grabs Adam and brings him in tight for a kiss. He pins both of Adam’s arms behind his back. The two stare at each other in a painfully long moment as Jason towers over him. They look intensely into each other’s eyes. Jason leans in slowly, closing the distance for a possible kiss… and then says “never gonna happen.”
A loud and sudden knock on the front door interrupts the moment. Startled, they both leave the moment and Jason releases Adam. For a moment, Adam’s face is full of rage as another moment with Jason is lost.
They both move to the front door and see an older man in a suit with a Sheriff in uniform.
“That’s me,” Jason said.
“I’m Detective Cross with the Pine Mountain Sheriff’s Department. Mind if I ask a few questions?”
“No, Jason nervously replied. Come in.”
Jason opened the door and the suited man and Sheriff enter the living room; quickly surveying and summarizing mental notes of everything they see. Jason grabs a t-shirt draped across the chair and slips it on.
“How well do you know Shane O’Donnel?”
“I don’t know who that is.”
“Who’s this?” The Detective points towards Adam who’s standing nervously.
“Adam. Adam Knight. It’s his place.”
“You still work for McGreggor Clearing?”
Jason responds openly, “Yeah, it’s my company actually.”
“What do you do exactly?”
“Mostly state contract work, state park stuff, – lumber and brush clearing, building fire roads, that sort of thing.”
“Last night, you called the police because you claimed your new car wasn’t your car and someone stole your older car – is that right?”
“I know it sounds weird, but yes. Adam can vouch for the whole scenario.”
“And a Sheriff did come here to investigate, correct?”
“Yes. We were both there.”
“Shane O’Donnel was the Sheriff who came last night. He’s the one who filed the report.”
“That’s right. I remember now,” Jason said.
“And did you ever see him or speak with him after he left here last night?”
“Did you know Sherrif O’Donnel before last night? Have you two ever met, crossed paths, or had any correspondence prior to last nights incident?”
“No. Not at all. Last night was the first and last time I ever met him. What’s this all about? ”
“Sherriff O’Donnel is missing. We haven’t heard from him since he called in from leaving here last night. We found his car a couple miles from here, but he wasn’t in it.”
“Why am I nervous about where this is going?”
“I don’t know, Mr. Stone. Do you have a reason to be nervous?”
The Detective finished his questioning. The barrage of mixed questions were all a test to make sure different subjects, timelines, and stories all came back to the same truth. He was just doing his job and in 15 minutes, it was over and he was on his way. The questions pressed to Jason and Adam clearly painted the picture that Shane O’Donnel’s last contact was with them – and this matter isn’t over. As the Detective drove away, the atmosphere thickened inside the house as Jason and Adam tried to sort through recent events.
Adam’s phone suddenly rang — he looked down to see Pine Mountain Credit Union on the caller ID.
“Hello?…Yes, this is Adam… For how much? When? Wait? To who? Who was is made payable to?”
Adam looks with a furious stare at Jason. Jason is genuinely puzzled. Adam’s conversation goes on for a couple minutes. Only hearing one side of the call, Jason can only guess what the conversation is.
“No, I didn’t authorize that… Well how long before I … ten days? I need that money now. I can’t wait ten days! I need to call you back.”
Adam hangs up and tosses his phone on the table.
“You mother fucker!” Adam yelled. “You fucking tried to steal $5,000 from me? Are you fucking stupid?!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“The bank just told me about a check you tried to deposit. My check! My money! You forged my signature and tried to deposit $5000 out of my account. And now my funds are locked for 10 days while they investigate.” Adam reaches for his phone.
“Wait! What are you doing!?”
“I’m calling the cops back, that’s what I’m doing.”
“No, wait! I swear it wasn’t me. Let’s just talk for minute. Figure this out.”
“Figure what out? You stole a car, stole my money, and now the cops are questioning you about a missing Sheriff? What kind of fucked up shit are you into?”
From Jason’s bedroom, a heavy thud crashes to the floor.
Jason and Adam quickly bolt to the bedroom. As they approach Jason’s door, they slow their pace with caution and Jason puts his arms out to hold back Adam from rushing into an unknot scene . As they round the corner, they see a body on the floor. The shape of a man, fully wrapped in black tape. From head to toe, he is fully mummified. His body thrashes in the last moments of his death throws, struggling to breathe under the tape. His motions and vocalizations clearly indicate this scene is well into the last few moments. Jason quickly jumps down and tries to find a way to peel the tape off the man’s head.
“Get a knife! Get scissors!” Jason yells.
Adam bolts to the kitchen.
On the floor, the man’s muffled screams are near the end. His body twists as he struggles for air, his moans desperate and defeated. Jason struggles to find a loose piece of tape around his mouth. In a moment, he gazes over the encased mummy as it comes to a complete rest. Adam charges in with a box cutter. Jason grabs it from his hand and carefully moves the blade toward the mouth. Jason moves his fingers across the figure’s head, trying his best to find where his lips are. He moves the blade close and the sealed body thrashes one more time; throwing his face into the blade which cuts deep along the right side of the victim’s face. The mummified figure screams in pain as Jason struggles to use the incision to start pulling away the tape.
It’s not enough. It’s not fast enough. They were already too late when it all started. Jason races against time, but it’s over. The man has suffocated. Dead. Jason and Adam realize he’s beyond potential rescue. They pause a moment as the realization of a death, a victim, and a scene that screams murder paints them both into an impossible situation.
After a few agonizing minutes of effort, Jason is able to peel back enough tape to reveal the face. The face of Sheriif O’Donnel.
“My God. What have you done?” Asks Adam.
“Nothing! I didn’t do this. I don’t understand what’s happening! What the fuck is going on? You were here! You saw! ”
“I don’t know what I saw. What the fuck are you into? We gotta call somebody,” said Adam.
“Wait. Please! Please! Let’s just think this through. Give me a minute.” Jason stands up and moves to Adam, He places a hand on each of Adams shoulders, “I’m, I’m – trying to process this. Please.”
Jason slowly shuffles to the kitchen, rubbing his hands through his hair. Adam stares intently at the glossy black beauty on the floor. He kneels down beside him and glides his hand slowly over his tight shiny form.
“Damn, Fucking beautiful, Shane.” Adam says softly as he stares at the young Sheriff’s expressionless face. Adam stands up to move to the kitchen, but realizes he has a semi hard on. He pushes it back down trying to control himself. He re-centers his thoughts and situation, takes a deep breath and moves to the kitchen to find Jason sitting at the table.
So confused, so scared. Who do you call? How do you explain it? Is Jason a thief and killer? Adam’s suspicions are on high alert. So is his imagination as the emotional intensity it ratcheted up considerably. Fear, power, control, arrousal… As they sit there collecting their thoughts, Adam sees the wooden box on the table.
“Why’s this here?” He asks.
“I was trying to research the lettering on the front of it. There’s more visible than I remembered. Maybe it’s just cuz it’s daylight now. I, I – don’t know…” Jason is almost dismissive of the topic. After all, there’s a dead body in HIS bedroom.
“Man, we need to do something,” Jason explains.
Adam dumps the contents of the box on the table. He starts putting the puzzle together. Keys, receipt, wallet, Sheriff’s business card, put back together after a tear with black electrical tape.
Jason hangs his head low and rubs his hands through his hair. “My God, what am I going to do! I am so fucked.”
For what felt like an eternity, Adam stared at the box’s contents and then spoke up.
“Relax,” Adam said. “Answer me this question and think hard about it. What were you thinking about right before you put your wallet in here?”
“I dunno. Yeah money, okay? I was thinking about money, but it wasn’t about stealing from you!”
“I believe you.”
“Payroll. The State’s slow on paying my contract, so I’m behind on payroll for my crew.”
Adam carefully tries not to expose emotion. He’s running it all through his mind, but there’s a growing confidence in him that seems to suggest he knows what’s happening and he has it all worked out. He wants the edge over Jason, so he plays it slow and smooth.
“As fucked as this sounds,”Adam said, “I want to finish breakfast. Shane’s not going anywhere and I gotta eat.”
Jason looks up at Adam, dumbfounded. But yet, Jason’s in no hurry to tell his story that no-one would believe anyway.
“That’s not right. This is totally fucked, but yeah, sure, I guess.”
“What if I told you all of this could go away. I can make all of this go away for you.”
“What do you mean? What do you know?”
Breakfast came first. It was a struggle for Jason, but taking Adam’s lead helped defer his own thoughts. Then Adam convinced Jason to run up to the ridge to his worksite and take care of some equipment checks he needed to do anyway. He had loaders and tractors back from completed maintenance. It was a way to get Jason’s mind off the situation and give Adam some time to process for himself. There were thunderstorms predicted for late afternoon, so the sooner it got done the better.
After breakfast, Jason stood in the front door, ready to leave, but his emotions were charged and conflicted. “I don’t know about this. We should take care of this now and call the cops. It’s only get worse the longer we wait.”
Adam looked at Jason and comforted him and assured him that what they’re going through will all be over soon and nobody will know anything. Adam’s words relieved Jason somewhat as he mustered the courage to leave.
“I gotta take your Cherokee,” Jason said. There’s no way I can drive that Challenger.
“That’s no problem,” Adam said as he tossed him the keys.
The afternoon came and went. The early evening started to get dark a little earlier as a gentle rain began to fall. Adam, sitting in the backyard under the awning with a beer in his hand, sits straight as he hear’s Jason pull up in the Cherokee. Adam’s mood is one of high confidence as Jason comes out to the backyard.
“Where is he?” Jason asked. “He’s not in the room. What did you do with him?”
“He’s over there,” Adam said, pointing to the edge of the yard. His mummified body laying there, his head turned sideways as if to be looking at them both. Though not too far away, the distinct sound of raindrops hitting the plastic formed body stand out among all others. “I wanted to look at him.”
“What the fuck are you doing? Why did you do that? This is going to be so much worse!”
“Well, you’re right about that,” Adam said calmly with a sadistic smile as he stood up. “Here, have a beer.” “He’s beautiful to look at, huh?, Adam said as he gazed at Shane’s body”
Adam reaches down and pulls a beer out of an ice bucket. He pops the cap off and hands it to Jason.
“You’re gonna wanna hear this so you might want to sit down. Want a cigarette? I want a cigarette.”
Adam stands up, lights a cigarette and steps a few feet out into the light rain with Jason behind him.
Defiantly, Jason replies “No, I don’t want to sit down. I don’t need a cigarette.”
“Well, I want you to sit down,” Adam said and turned around to face Jason.
Adam jumped up and down in full excitement like a little boy. “Oh my God, it worked! It really worked! This is fucking incredible!”
As Adam looked on, Jason was duct taped to a heavy cedar lawn chair. His arms and legs restrained. His chest wrapped tight to the heavy wooden chair. Jason wrestled against the multiple layers of thick black tape, but he can’t defeat it. His movements restrained.
“What the fuck is this? ADAAAAMMM!”
“I actually had a productive day. Let me fill you in on what I learned.”
Adam walked over to Jason slowly, enjoying watching his big dog struggle. He sat down on Jason’s leg and blew a puff of cigarette smoke into Jason’s face. “Remember what you said, ‘speak up or do something. You gotta own it!” Adam stands up and pulls another lawn chair close to Jason and proceeds to tell him a story…
“Ultimately, it’s the box. It’s all about the box. I figured it out this afternoon.” Adam takes a swig of beer and another drag from the cigarette. “You threw your car keys in there with your Taco Bell receipt. What happened next? The vomit-mobile. You see, you mixed the two. You threw your wallet in there while thinking about money, then you probably remembered my story a couple weeks ago about my five grand order I was so excited about. Poof! Stolen check. Then you probably were thinking about our young handsome friend over there. You tore his business card, but you patched it with black electrical tape. Poof! A strapping young lad wrapped in tape!”
“I don’t fucking understand you. Adam, listen. Get a knife and get me out of this”, Jason said with low and deep anger.
“See, the problem with the box,” Adam said, “is you have to understand it and make sure it understands you. You just can’t throw half-baked ideas in there. You have to be specific. You have to be clear or accidents happen. It’s like mixing DNA or chromosomes and creating mutants. It gets… confused and things get jumbled. Hey, look at this!”
Adam stands up and moves behind Jason and returns with the wooden box. He shows it Jason, turning it around, showing all sides.
“It’s like – brand new!,” Adam said joyously. “I think it’s like a happy pet that found a new owner that understands it. See this?”
Adam turns the box towards Jason so he he can see the front of it which, in it’s new appearance has beautifully hand carved lettering, clearly visible.
“It’s Latin. It means careful what you wish for. Can’t say it didn’t worn us. Should have listened to the old lady at the thrift store. It occurred to me I have might have had something to with our boy, Shane over there. That’ll make more sense once you get to know what I’m into.”
Adam took another drag and started pacing back in forth in front of Jason as he continued his story. “I spent the afternoon with this, so I know a thing or two about this now. I made a few mistakes, but I fixed ‘em. I get it now. If it makes you feel any better, your sexy man over there isn’t a problem for either one of us, now. He doesn’t exist anymore. Noone’s looking for him. He has no name. No history. No identification. No fingerprints. No record. It’s literally like he never existed… And that’s because I fixed it.”
“What do you mean, you fixed it? Jason asked.
“Me and the box fixed it. I made some calls, did some digging just to be sure, and now, no one has ever heard of him. No one is looking for him.”
Adam stepped out from under the awning to get a gentle wash of rain on him, then stepped back towards Jason.
“After some trial and error, I really understand how to communicate with the box now. While you were gone and I was trying to figure it out, I had a few little accidents, even a small fire, but it’s all managed now. I totally get it. I don’t even have to put anything in the box anymore. I can just wish it, and it happens. Look at you! You’re proof of that. You gotta keep the box close, though. That’s one of the tricks. I learned that the hard way.” Adam steps behind Jason and brings his head down, cheeks to cheek and whispers… “Isn’t is better when you’re close?” Adam stands back up and moves around in front of Jason. “Me and the box? We’re like this!” Adam holds up two crossed fingers.
“Then what the fuck is all this about?” Jason demanded as he looked down at his duct taped arms and feet. Adam, this ends right now,” Jason said calmly. “Let me out of this.”
“No can do, compadre. Remember Harris? Your buddy from up north? Hockey player, right? Woof! He stopped by unannounced to visit a couple weeks ago while you working the firelines. This is him, right?”
Adam pulls out his cell phone, locates a video and begins playing it for Jason. The video is in Adams garage, as the video comes into focus, it’s obviously Harris, Jason’s friend. His face is bloody and there’s a rope around Harris’s neck. The shaky video begins to reveal the scene. Harris is standing on a milk crate, hands tied behind his back with a noose around his neck, tied to an overhead beam. It’s obvious Adam is filming as his voice is clearly heard saying, “C’mon Harris. Do it again. Make it last a little longer this time.” A foot kicks the milk crate away and Harris drops, kicking and choking in mid-air, trying to find a voice, a footing, a rescue that doesn’t come. Harris’s body turns awkwardly, struggling against the fate to come. With legs flailing and zero ability to save himself, the recording reveals Adam’s secret – the thrill of killing. As Jason watches, the video reveals Adam slowly panning up and down capturing Harriss’ last moments. Adam is heard saying “Fuck yeah, Harris. You’re a bad ass!”
Adam turns off the phone.
“What the fuck did you do, Adam?”
“Do you remember this guy?,” Adam says as he swipes to find another video. “Here, hold on a sec.” Adam swipes through his gallery searching for a video. He finds one and turns it around for Jason to see.
“Remember James, your new hire for the crew? Remember when he didn’t show up to work?”
This time, Adam filmed a young man laying face down on the floor, hogtied, his hands and feet bound together. A clear plastic bag over the young mans head is filled with sweat and steam from his heavy breathing, his face indiscernible. He wiggles and throws his body in vain to loosen the bag around his head.
“I just love this,” Adam said.
“Adam – “ Jason said calmly, trying to get some control of the situation.
“Shh – Shh Just keep watching…” Adam moves behind Jason leans down with his arms outstretched in front of Jason’s face, holding the phone. “This is the best part… It’s so authentic. And it goes on for so long. This one gave me a rush.”
James, the young man on the floor begs and pleads for air, but Adam denies it to him, instead filming the suffering and last dying moments of someone he doesn’t even know.
“You’re fucking crazy,” Jason exclaims as he struggles to work loose the bonds.
“I like it. It’s a beautiful thing to me. Watching the struggle. Being in control. Owning someone. What did you say earlier? ‘Perverse pleasure, handcuff boy.’ How did you know? So here we are. The two of us …”
Adam turns off the phone and stands up behind Jason.
“So here’s what I have planned,” Adam says. He closes his eyes and tilts his head back slowly, concentrating; almost invoking something.
The next moment, Adam is laying over a black mummified Jason in the rain at the yard’s edge. Jason is wrapped from foot to shoulder laying face down. Unable to move in any real form, Jason turns his head from left to right, struggling to figure out what’s happening. The rain is pouring heavier now and they’re under a canopy of rain. Things are changing minute by minute. Adam had set his wish in motion. With Jason completely vulnerable, Adam unbuttons his pants, lowers them, and slowly finds his way into Jason from the back. Jason turns his head to see Shane’s face a couple feet away.
“If you’ve never experienced this before, I can’t tell you it’s going to be fun for you,” Adam said.
Slowly, Adam starts working his prowess into Jason who begins screaming uncontrollably. Adam reaches over and grabs a roll of duct tape. A few strips over Jason’s mouth and the sounds are muted.
Adam lays down on top of Jason and whispers in his ear – “That was something I wanted to do myself.”
Adam props himself a bit more to work himself harder and deeper, his back arched, Jason moaning and struggling with little motion and ability to move. The rain heavier now, becoming a distraction to what must happen. Slowly, Jason manages to get a couple fingertips through the tape at his side, but it’s not enough to effect change. The pain, the anger, the lack of control sends Jason over the edge. Heavy breathing, more rhythmic, getting faster, Adam thrusts himself into Jason who continually resists through muzzled outbursts of resistance and pain. Adam reaches his moment of ecstasy, slows his pace to allow it to come naturally…
“Oh, here it comes… I’ve wanted this for so long!,”Adam says
In the final moments, Jason knows he has to be strong and simply take what’s about to come. And so, the deed is done. Adam releases months of pent of angst and desire in a few seconds of ejaculation. He collapses onto Jason’s back and caresses the black vinyl body. After catching his breath, he pulls out and sits up, the rain cascading over both of them.
“Here,” Adam said. “ I want to look into your eyes for the next part.” He turns Jason over and they lock eyes. Adam grabs his cell phone and starts recording his next video. “This one will be one of my favorites.”
Adam reaches beside himself and pulls out a large knife. He waves it front of the camera and in front of Jason who now realizes, this is the end of all things. Jason arcs his body upward to throw Adam off, but it’s not enough. The wrap is too tight and too immobilizing.. His fingers continue to pick at the broken seams but again, not enough, and not fast enough to help. Jason struggles to see clearly as the rain hits his face and eyes.
Under the tape, Jason’s muffled words can be clearly understood as “no” as he pleads louder and more desperately for Adam to put down the knife. Jason throws his head left and right in resistance and to shake off the rain, desperately wanting to at least see it coming. Inches from his head, Jason’s eyes catch a glimpse of something. The box. The box that’s ruined souls forever. Slowly, Adam raises the knife in one hand, filming it all with the other. It’s about to happen. This is the moment. The finality sets in and all Jason can do is stare at Adam – wide eyed, waiting to succumb to Adam’s will. Jason starts mumbling something. Repeating it gently, over, and over again with conviction.
Adam sits up straight for a position of strength. “I wish I could make this last longer, but it has to end here. I told you I want your body and now it’s mine.”
Adam plunges the knife downward as Jason screams in horror. Rain, blood, and death have come. Adam looks into Jason’s eyes quizzically. Something’s not right. There’s blood everywhere, but it’s not Jason’s. Adam’s stomach is bleeding from a massive knife wound. The knife went into Jason, didn’t it? It did not. The wound somehow transferred onto Adam. From his wet and blood soaked hand, Adam drops the knife. From the other hand, his cell phone falls to the ground, continuing it’s recording of stormy skies above and Adam’s out of focus body half out of frame.
“Wh- what happened?” Adam gasped. “I don’t understand…” The fatal wound toppled Adam into a lifeless form as he collapses next to Jason who’s screaming from sheer shock and surprise. With Adam’s weight off of him, Jason spends the next 40 minutes working at the tape that bound him. He managed to work his hands free, then he was able to bend his knees and strain the tape until it split open. With every twist and turn of his body, he slowly regained mobility and then freedom.
As he stripped the tape away, he was able to get to his feet. Naked and washed in the rain, he slowly peeled the last piece of tape away from his mouth. He looked down at Adam’s corpse.
“Be careful what you wish for. Remember. Keep the box close. Thanks for the advice.”
Slowly, with peace and full humility of his possible fate, Jason walks over to a table under the awning, lights a cigarette.
He sits down in the cedar chair that bound him before, gazes outward to Adam and Shane, contemplating everything that transpired, taking a moment to be grateful, taking a moment to rest.
But then – this whole scene has to be fixed. How to undo everything? How to erase any trace? After all, who could believe any of this?
Then Jason see’s it. The solution to the problem. Glistening in the rain, almost shining as if new. The box…
12 days later, a golden sunset hints that Autumn looms in the air. The air is crisper and cooler.
A bell rings above the door at the Second Chance Thrift Store as evening shadows begin to fall. With a slow and somber stride, Jason enters. With a little more scruff from the past few days and tired eyes, he makes his way down to the showroom with the box in hand. From the back of the store, the old woman looks up to greet a new customer, but realizes it’s Jason. She walks slowly over to him, recognizing that he, too, suffered from the box.
She approaches with motherly concern.
“It stopped listening to me a week ago. I tried to put everything back the way it was before, but it didn’t always work.” Jason said gently as he held the box with angst.
“I don’t see your friend with you,” she said.
“Dead?” She asked
“Yes. After everything he did to me, I brought him back again and again, I tortured him for all the things he did to me and my friends. I discovered there were so many others. The things I did. I made him pay over and over. But then – I stopped.”
The woman took a deep breath. “That’s good of you. And brave.” she said reassuringly as she placed her hand on top of his for comfort.
“No. It wasn’t. I enjoyed it.”, he said shamefully. Jason took a long pause of reflection. “You can’t destroy it. I tried.”
“I know. And now you’re done with it?”
“Just one more thing to do,” he said. Jason stood up straighter, ready to let go and move on. He smiled and handed her the box, happy to be done with it. He turned, and exited the store. As he stepped outside into the twilight sun, the door closed behind him. The bell jingling atop the door one last time for him. His burden lifted, Jason pauses in the doorway, taking a deep and soulful sigh.
Jason observed the world around him as he ambled forward down the sidewalk. People are walking, having conversations, going to dinner, carrying shopping bags. Traffic is moving from destination to destination. The world seems normal.
He puts his hands in his pockets to keep warm as he makes his way round the corner and down a quiet alley – to his brand new Dodge Challenger. He opens the trunk and grabs his leather jacket. He slips it on and zips the lower portion to keep warm. He looks back down into the trunk… where Adam is squirming in vain, mummified in black tape. His eyes and nose the only thing exposed. Adam’s muffled and panicked moans are silenced by Jason “Shhh! Just one more thing to do.” Adam’s eyes are filled with terror as the trunk closes over him.
Down the quiet streets, the taillights of Jason’s car disappear into the distance as it heads into the thick foothills of the Sequoia National Forest.