Sunday morning an event took place that immediately shook up all the planning I'd made the night before. It was seven o'clock when I heard an assertive knock on my bedroom door. I called out asking whoever it was to wait, looked for pants before opening the door and seeing Officer O'Neil and Officer Amdur. The lady and middle-eastern policemen I met on my first day here. They were pert-mouthed as I looked between them.
"Phillip Cleckley, you've been spending a lot of time with Stanley Milton this past week right?"
"Yes, for the article."
"When's the last time you saw him?" the lady pressed.
"Yesterday evening, it was around six o'clock." I watched them exchange glances. "What's happened?"
"Do you have any idea where he is now?"
"No, I wouldn't have a clue."
They exchanged another look and Officer Amdur sighed "We recovered the stolen vehicle we've been looking for under the old bridge, other side of town. It has Stanley and Adam's fingerprints inside it."
"Also camera footage was handed over that showed Stanley was out Friday night with a group of people including Adam." Officer O'Neil continued "We got a court order to check the Milton residence but Stanley is nowhere to be found. He's not been seen in town or at any of his regular haunts."
"All this happened last night?" I was flabbergasted.
"Yes. If Stanley does the same thing he normally does, he should be found any moment now in town. As this is a murder case we're especially anxious to bring him in. I want you to let us know if Stanley makes any contact." As she said this her partner handed me a contact card.
"Alright, I will. And if there's anything more you need help with just let me know."
They nodded, the blue-uniformed officers made their way back down the stairs, boots clunking. Hands on belts decorated with batons, cuffs and safety-strapped firearms. I closed the door and faced away, wide-eyed. Seemed like Mr Tourvel would get his epic murder storyline after all. When I was ready I left to shower and get dressed. I made my way downstairs and found George, the surprise in his eyes meant he'd also spoken to the police that morning. In the back of my head I found it strange that Stanley knew to hide. He must be aware enough to know that he couldn't talk his way out of a murder charge, it'd be unlikely his parents could bail him out either.
If everything had been suppressed so far this would be the breaking point, leading to a flood of scandals. We might not be the only newspaper that tries to cover this. The Miltons' reputation will be in tatters. Lying to the police and covering up murder, covering for all the crime caused by their manipulative and psychopathic son. His deviancy compounded until he committed this ultimate offense.
My plan had been to meet with Claire, now I didn't know what to do. After George left to track down Stanley's college friends, like the spritely Tobi I'd played basketball with, I went to use the restroom before deciding what to do. It was there, washing my hands in the sink when I noticed a hooded man standing in the corner through the mirror. Green eyes flashed up and he smiled.
"Stanley!" I whipped around and gripped the basin behind me. "Jesus fucking Christ. You scared me..."
"I'm sorry, baby." He stepped over to me, his face was mostly hidden in the pale-grey drawstring hood of the jumper he wore. Black sweatpants and white joggers, dressed so he wouldn't be recognized. His hands lightly took mine and I walked as far back as I could "I missed you..."
His breath was on my face. If someone walked in now he'd be found. Part of me wanted someone to walk in now, so I could get away and this wouldn't become my problem.
"Stanley, the police are looking for you!" I hissed and stepped aside.
"I know, but you got to hear me out."
"There's nothing to hear out! You lied on your alibi!"
"True, but I never lied to you. I didn't kill Adam. I'm not the type and youknowthat. Baby please..." he brushed my hair back, leaned in and his lips brushed mine. A soft kiss. I spun away to another corner of the bathroom, beside the urinals.
"I'm sorry, Stanley. But it really,reallylooks like you killed Adam. I'll admit I don't know why you did it, but that scares me even more. If you didn't kill him who did?"
"I don't know! And I know damn well it looks like I killed him, even though I didn't, that's why I've got to hide for now. That's why my parents are helping me, cause the police would love to throw me in prison for this when they couldn't get me for anything else. I'm scared, Phillip. You're the only one I can trust!"
"What do you want me to do?"
"Run away with me." At his request I balked. "I can't be in contact with my family just yet. The house is being watched and their phones are tapped. But they can help us get out of the country, my Dad has a business partner, we can board his jet and go. To Berlin, to anywhere we want."
"Just up and leave my life? That's crazy."
"Maybe it is." He cornered me again, taking my hands in his. "But the truth is I might as well be in prison if I can't be with you. I was kidding myself when I said I'd be fine without you, loving you from afar. I'm burning when we're apart, and when we're together I'm so happy I don't care about anything. If I can't have you, well I'd just be so angry and empty that I'd go back to doing crimes, worse crimes. What's the point of living in this country if it can't be with you? There's no point, none at all."
I let out an anxious moan "...Stanley..."
"Spend the night with me. We'll talk it over and you can figure out what your decision is, what's the best thing to do. If you don't want me after tonight... well, I'll do whatever you say."
"Fuck, Stanley. You can't spend the night here!"
"I know." He turned his head as if to think. "Go upstairs and pack some things, call a taxi for us and ask it to be here at quarter-to. I'll leave here and go with you. We'll head to another hotel, you can go in and pay for a room for two. Then I'll come up with you and we can talk."
"Fuck... okay." Before I could get around him he held me in his arms, teddy-bear eyes staring into mine.
"I love you." He kissed me full on the lips. Then he let me go.
After leaving the bathroom and heading back up the stairs my feet felt like dead-weights.I have to call the police. I have to betray Stanley and call the police.He'll be waiting in that little bathroom downstairs and instead of coming out for a taxi the police will burst in and arrest him. If me and him were to be seen together on the surveillance of some shitty hotel after the police have already spoken to me... I'll be condemned for harbouring a fugitive. My lips tingled with the pressure he'd left behind, the taste of him in my mouth. His sweet face when he promised he loved me.
Once inside my room I started packing. Ever since Kelly showed me that photo of Adam's corpse I'd not been worried by some misplaced sense of integrity, or compassion for his family. George was the one who valued justice not me. This whole time I'd been scared of somehow sharing in the culpability. I was scared to go to prison, lose my job, get kicked out of my place. I was scared of the Miltons' and possibly getting killed. I'm not sure I have integrity like other people do, seeing as I don't have a sense of self I'm essentially shameless. But laws for the most part cover ethics, and I would be in a lot of trouble if I didn't go against my desire to submit to and please Stanley. If I were to go along with the demands of a man who's claimed me as his.
I called the taxi.
Gathered some of my things into a plastic bag.One night will be fine, one night won't get me in trouble. If Stanley can talk his way out of things surely I could come up with something.It's only one night. I headed out to the yellow taxi once it pulled up and sat waiting by the curb. I hopped in, outside a hooded figure in grey left the hotel and got into the seat beside me. He turned to give me a winning smile.
"Where to gentlemen?" our moustached driver asked.
"Hawksbury roadside hotel, my good man." Stanley decided.
Then we were off and I noticed Stanley keeping his face away from the window. The designated hotel was twenty minutes away from town. A cheap, two-storey building for motorists. Rough yellow granite, metal railings and single-room doors. There was a neon billboard sign that flashed, spelling out the name in cursive and a palm tree. When we pulled up into the lot Stanley gave me a grimace "my funds are frozen. You'll have to pay for cab fair and the room. Sorry."
I gave a grim nod and paid the man on card. He busied with the handheld device before letting us go.
"An uber would've been cheaper." I murmured as we walked over.
"I'm going to hang back here." Stanley pointed to a secluded smoking area. "After you get a room come out and tell me the number. Then I'll follow you in after five minutes."
I went inside without him. My mouth was dry as I walked up to a wooden counter, the girl was bright and happy. A calendar hung on the wall, a Hawaiian bobblehead dancer moved from side-to-side between us. She typed into a clunky computer before handing me a key from the wrack. Number seven. I went back out and told Stanley, then took the outdoor stairs with my plastic bag of clothes and toiletries. Passed doors and spiky pot-plants before twisting the key into room seven, flicking on the lights to see a tiny kitchenette, beyond it was a double bed and a door that led to a shower and toilet. I dropped the key on the little table, dropped my bag by the bed. Sat and stared at the little TV.
Soon Stanley walked in, shut the door behind him and locked it.
"I can't stay with you for more than one day. After tonight you'll have to do whatever it is you're going to do without me." I told him.
He made his way over and sat down next to me. Reached out to cup my face again.
"I wish there was some way I could show you what you look like through my eyes." He murmured.
A deep stare. Despite the fear I felt an illicit excitement at hiding out in this random hotel. A perverse thrill. It made me not pull away when he leaned in to kiss me, or reach under my shirt to feel my bare skin. Both of us lying back, him grinding against me, getting between my legs. Showing me how much he loved and wanted me. Our tongues moulded against each other as we grappled at our edges. Then his hands were back at my belt once again.
"You're ridiculous, Stanley." I breathed. "You really just want to fuck at a time like this?"
"I always want to fuck you. You do it for me."
He reached into my pants and I was very much hard, I let him. He started kissing my neck and nipping while stroking me off. I couldn't help making noises. He got my jeans and briefs down, then his wet mouth was around my dick. Moving his head as I sighed and jolted at the resulting waves of pleasure. He did that to me for a while and it was bliss. Then I got Stanley to climb up and lie back so I could return the favour. Only I found it pertinent to fetch a condom from my wallet due to all the rumours about his sexual cleanliness. He didn't comment as I rolled the rubber over his erection. I kissed the skin of his navel, the light hair trail. Reached up to feel his bare chest before swallowing his dick and moving for him. Stanley's hand came to rest on the back of my head as I worked to take him deeper.
What followed that exchange was the shedding of clothes until we were both naked. Then we could touch each other freely and enjoy. We made out more, grinded and then jerked each other off to orgasm. Afterwards I lied in his arms contentedly and went back to thinking about our ridiculous situation.
"When you said we were the same..." I started speaking after what must have been fifteen minutes lying together, listening to gentle breathing and the sound of our heartbeats. "You did say that. Did you mean..."
"Like soulmates, probably."
"I see." I said nothing and let him play with my hair.
Wouldn't it be something if we could be in love? If I could feel for Stanley something like what he's been constantly spouting to me. A need, a transcendent illusion, an investment of my emotional wellbeing. Would that heal me, make me feel like a real person for the first time in my life?
I would need to get food. It wasn't safe for Stanley to be seen out and about. I would need to get money out from an ATM and give it to him. Considering our night of excessive drinking, trips to galleries and driving me around all week I did owe him. I'd give him some money to be on his way after we parted. It'd be horrible if they found me helping him. Awful to imagine the complete disgust on George's and everyone's faces as they discovered I hooked up with potential killer Stanley Milton. Everyone would judge me a sicko. But I'm not, I do feel a commonality with this man.
There was a petrol station down the road so I set off for a walk. I bought more condoms and a heap of snack food that'd end up as shiny wrappers littering the bedspread. I texted George to let him know I wouldn't be back at the hotel that night, I was staying with an old friend who by happy surprise lived in the area, but I would see him Monday morning for our drive back to Eastland. He'd probably find it strange but let it go. As I went to buy the food I looked at the little TV in the upper corner, it showed a recording of everyone coming inside. It made me nervous.
That evening we ordered food for delivery, take-out Chinese. Switched the TV on and started flicking through cable, cuddling and enjoying this gentle reprieve of time. I went downstairs to get more money out. I paid a teenage boy when he knocked to deliver our bag of food, Stanley stayed out of sight. We ate sweet and sour chicken and satay noodles, wooden chopsticks and slurping as we watched an old episode ofLaw and Order. We left the white boxes on the little table. It'd been a full day of lazy intimacy and sexual relations.
We had sex again in the shower after dinner. There were tiny packeted soaps and tiny squeeze-bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Stanley convinced me to use it as lube. Gay men tend to be resourceful when shelf lubricant isn't available. I gripped the top of the glass stall and faced away, wincing as Stanley pushed himself in and started fucking me. Wrapping an arm under mine and clasping my chest, pulling me close to him. Panting in my ear. It hurt after a while and he agreed to switch roles. I lubed him with what was available, widening with my fingers before pushing my dick into him. We stood facing each other under the hot spray, I fucked him against the tiled wall. We kissed and Stanley groaned as he made himself cum. My thrusts sped up until I came inside him.
The water ran down my back as I breathed, Stanley chuckled as he kissed my ear and neck. Our bodies sudsy in the steamy room. We dried up afterwards and lay back down in front of the TV. Stanley looked very handsome as he scrubbed his wet hair with the white towel.
Drugs and alcohol exacerbate but certainly aren't the cause of his antisocial behaviours. If he did kill Adam was it really on a whim? Something didn't seem right about that. I don't reckon I could imagine Stanley smiling and calm 'now just stop struggling Phillip, this will be over soon' as he tried to strangle me in bed tonight out of nowhere and for no good reason. Perhaps he did have different masks for different people, a reason why he blended into every crowd, but that crass photo of Adam seemed too vicious to come from him.
"You know I spoke to your exes on the phone." I confessed, he started shaking his head. "I had to. To find out if you're just bullshitting me."
"I keep telling you I've never felt anything like this before. If this is a flame everything else was just sparks."
"Well that is very romantic."
"It's the truth." He sounded sure of himself.Liar...?
Disagreeing would only prompt him to get more insistent and sully our night together.
"Well... I hope they find you innocent, for your sake."
"Let's not talk about this."
So we spoke of other things, Stanley spoke very well on casual topics. We slept comfortable and warm in each other's arms that night. The last night we had together. When I was half-asleep in the dark I heard him murmuring.
"I'm gonna fight for us..."
"Don't..." I squirmed, then pulled him closer to me.