Title: A Change of Grace
Chapter: 5 of 41
Excerpt: Moonlight shone in on the face of the sleeping boy, lighting it just enough for Benjamin to see it clearly. Reaching out gently, he touched his cheek, frowning a little. They’d heard him crying, and told themselves to stay out. If he wasn’t strong enough to deal with this, his loneliness and homesickness, his alienation, he wouldn’t be strong enough to deal with anything else. They’d waited for the door to open, for him to come to them, seeking comfort or release. To their mutual relief, it hadn’t.
Taylor tucked an arm behind his head, and tried to get comfortable, gazing into the dim room. The bed wasn’t as primitive as he’d feared, no straw mattress or burlap sacking. It was a normal bed, a little puffier than normal for him, and the cotton sheets, while not the silky texture he was used to, weren’t all that bad. He ran a bare foot over the bottom sheet, almost liking the faintly rough texture. It felt honest, somehow. He could cope. He had pillows, he had lightweight summer blankets, he was comfortable. The dizziness had abated somewhat, he still felt tipsy, but not on the verge of sickness any longer. Thing was… he couldn’t sleep. Just couldn’t sleep. It was too quiet, the constant white noise hum of traffic, air conditioners, exhaust fans, electricity… it wasn’t there. The quiet fairly rang in his head, deafening. The smells were all wrong, and while he would have never thought he’d miss the smell of pollution, this fragrant, cleaner NY was alien to him. He smiled a little, thinking about the conversation he’d had with Benjamin, just an hour or so ago. Ben had sat, squirming and uncomfortable while Kathryn had detailed to Taylor the situation they had for him. Finally, unable to stand it any longer, the man had stood up, grasped Taylor’s arm, and dragged him down the hall, to the chiming of Kathryn’s laughter. He’d deposited him, much to Taylor’s surprise, in a washroom, complete with running water, and told him, with no preamble, to get his clothes off and wash the smell of his own time off himself. Laughing, amazed that they’d had hot water in 1883, Taylor had done it, wondering what in the world he could smell like that was so offensive to the man. He’d found himself enraptured at the texture of the soap, grainy and hard, it didn’t lather, no matter how long he stood with it under the water, turning it over in his hands. It had been reduced to a miniscule lump when he had finally come back to himself, and actually used it to wash with. It smelled strange to him, in a way he couldn’t quite put his finger on, fatty and soapy, nothing he was used to. He was astounded as well, at the grime that came off of him. He hadn’t done anything to get so dirty, and began to suspect, with horror, that it had settled on him out of the air of his own time. Seeing it made him wish for a shower, something to just rinse it all off him, but this would have to do. Finished, he’d slipped into the loose garments Ben had handed him. 1880’s pajamas? He wasn’t sure. Padding back out to them, he’d asked him, curiosity getting the better of politeness, what had smelled so bad. Benjamin’s face had taken on a scowl, and Taylor began to understand the contempt the man had for the technological times. “Chemicals, Taylor. Your time, you, stink of chemicals, of tar and asphalt, sulfur, carbon monoxide, gasses and poisons everywhere, in your air, in your water, in your very bodies. You breath them, eat them, sweat them. Chemicals to cover the chemicals, perfumes and chemicals to cover honest sweat. You stink of the food you eat, and the clothing you wear. Nothing you have is real, it’s all chemical. It’s what’s killing you, all of you, and you don’t even know it…”
Taylor had taken this in, wide eyed, remembering the sludge that had washed off his body, and had had no argument.
Sighing, now, missing what had honestly appalled him an hour ago, he turned his eyes out the window. Too high up now, to see anything but the moon. His window at the Trump, far higher than this, had looked out into the faces of other buildings. NY of the 1990’s soared. Here… only the moon. And crickets! Crickets in the city…
Knowing sleep was useless, he shoved the sheet back, and moved to the window, settling on the window sill. They were so wide, it was almost a seat. Smiling a little, he leaned against the frame, gazing down onto the street. It was so narrow, so… small. He would have to go out there tomorrow, and find him. Find Joshua. Sighing, he thought back again. Joshua… 16 years old. In Kathryn’s words, as bright and beautiful as any human soul could hope to be. Out there wrecking his life, listening to no one, ignoring his values, his morals, his dreams. Throwing away his talents, and his gifts, stealing, drinking, cheating, lying… ignoring his loves in favor of ill conceived notions of importance. The knot he was tying in his own life, threatening to choke off the light in countless other lives, the lives of the people who loved him, and who would love him. The lives of people who’s own threads would be altered because of the choke in his own. And somehow it was up to him, Taylor, out of his league and out of his time, to find the boy, and guide him away from it. Bring him back to his dreams, and back into sanity. Slip him out of the badly fitting glove he’d shoved himself into, and back into his own niche. “God… I don’t know how I’m going to do that… I can’t even take care of myself…”
Overwhelmed now, and miserably exhausted, he climbed back into the bed, unconsciously straining to hear something… anything… familiar. But no… there was nothing. No bickering family. No baby crying, no mom laughing. No people sounds at all. No traffic. No air conditioner. No television… TELEVISION! He sat up suddenly, eyes wide, suddenly realizing what had been missing from the halls as he’d made his way to this apartment door. The comforting, accepted, normal sounds of television sets, stereos, radios, from behind apartment doors. “God…” The thought filled him with nearly as much panic as had the lack of the Trump, and he bolted from the bed again, flying to the window. There… gone. Power lines. There were no power lines. There were no cables. There were no antenna’s… “Oh God…” He stumbled away from the window, the realization somehow undoing him more than anything else that night could have. Tear blinded, he found the bed when he fell into it, and curled himself around the pillow, sobbing now from other than confusion. This was not the loss of television, or traffic, or family. This was naked grief, the loss of an entire world.
Moonlight shone in on the face of the sleeping boy, lighting it just enough for Benjamin to see it clearly. Reaching out gently, he touched his cheek, frowning a little. They’d heard him crying, and told themselves to stay out. If he wasn’t strong enough to deal with this, his loneliness and homesickness, his alienation, he wouldn’t be strong enough to deal with anything else. They’d waited for the door to open, for him to come to them, seeking comfort or release. To their mutual relief, it hadn’t. He’d fallen asleep. That was good. Now, the man’s frown deepened, as his finger trailed from the boy’s face, to the pillow. Wet, he’d cried a lot. Well… if he could provide his own release that was no bad thing. His hand moved to the boy’s face again, and forehead. Cool, sweating lightly in this hot summer night, but not fevered. His fingers found the pulse in the boy’s throat. Strong, steady, even. Good. His breathing had evened out as well, slow and deep, with none of the gasping that had characterized his arrival here. He was acclimating. Well, his adaptability had been one of the reasons they’d chosen him. If he could fall asleep, and sleep so deeply, the man’s touch disturbing him not at all, after all of this… he certainly had the ability to mold himself to the situation. He lifted the boy’s hand, gently, moving it around a little. Completely relaxed, there was no lingering tension to mar his rest. Good. His brow creased a little as he caught a faintly sour odor. What was that? Had he been sick? If he had, he’d taken care of himself completely, with no help from them… but no. He didn’t think he had been. He was catching the lingering taint of the poisoned age the boy lived in. He’d be breathing it out the entire time he was here, most likely. It would fade from him just in time for him to go back into it. Sighing, finding himself liking this sleeping boy, he wished he could keep him here, erase that other age from his mind as if it had never been. Oh he could, he had the ability, but no… it wasn’t the way things were meant to be. Smiling a little, he pulled the tangled sheet from under the boy, and settled it over him properly, brushed an errant strand of hair from the sleeping face, and tiptoed out of the room. Kathryn’s worried face met him in the hall, and he smiled reassuringly. “He’s fine. Sleeping. Everything’s good. He’s right, he’s the right one.” Kathryn’s face sagged in almost comical relief. She’d been a great deal more concerned than she’d let on. This was not often done, pulling people from one age to another, and still more rarely with children. “Well then… we have some work to do before he wakes up, Benjamin.” Nodding agreement, Ben hastily turned off the gas jets, and the two of them left the apartment, moving quietly into the breaking dawn of the city.
Walker and Diana sat, stone faced, as Lieutenant Montgomery explained the FBI’s involvement in “the case”.
“The case”. Diana felt her head nearing explosion. It was her son. Not “the case”. She picked threads from the sofa cushions, wrapping them tightly around her fingers, as she listened to the officer speak.
“It’s been 3 days now, we’ve had no leads, and no answers, only more questions. Because of who your son is, we felt it time to get someone with more resources than us. Does this meet with your approval?” He looked down at his shoes, as he waited for their response, catching a glimpse of the argyle socks his son had given him for Christmas. These people were living every parents’ nightmare… a missing child. And they were fully aware, as was he, that the longer Taylor was missing, the more grim the outlook was. Getting no answer from them he looked up again, hating what he had to tell them next. “We’re going to start dragging the river in the morning. The FBI wants this done, simply to rule out…” he stopped, unable to say the words in front of them. Both of them had teared up, simultaneously, as soon as he said the word “river”.
“Do you have any questions? I’ll continue to be involved, as a liason between the FBI and you, if you don’t mind, of course. They are going to have many many questions, for all of us.”
Walker sighed, knuckled his eyes, and stood, offering his hand to the officer. “Thank you Mike. We appreciate all you’ve done, and all you’ve put up with. The crowd outside, our constant questions, the boys nagging you, you’ve helped us…” His voice breaking, he reached out, and touched Mike’s shoulder, bereft. Mike shook his head violently. “No, I’ve done nothing. We still have your boy to find. Please, Walker, I want you to know this. We have not given up any hope at all. We have every hope that this will work out. This may be crass, but Taylor is too valuable, in a monetary way, to be killed outright. We strongly feel that he’s been kidnapped, and we’re waiting to hear from someone, *anyone*. ” Walker nodded. They’d discussed Taylor’s commodity status before. The biggest question they’d had was, why hadn’t they heard from anyone? No calls… no demands for money… nothing.
“The FBI will be here in the morning, to set up their phone taps, and recorders. Better, and more powerful equipment than we, as a police dept, have access to. There will be an agent here 24/7. And I’ll be here, too. Mrs. Hanson, please, I’m sorry I upset you so much, I wanted you to be aware of what we’re doing.” Diana, unable to speak, unable to answer, waved him off, and he looked to Walker, uneasy.
“She understands, really, she does. I had better explain this to the boys now. At least the little ones are home, safe in Tulsa, with family. I can’t imagine how I’d explain this…” His voice faded as he paced his way into the next room. Mike Montgomery set his eyes on Diana for a moment, and, feeling suddenly terribly intrusive, turned and left wordlessly. He leaned against the elevator wall, on his way down, senses on overdrive. Where was this kid?! He had bodyguards, all kinds of security, went for a walk in the park and vanished. It made no sense. Of course, the agents he’d spoken to from the bureau, they had ideas about it all, but he wasn’t going to mention those ideas to the family. Not yet. It was taxing them enough as it was. He felt bad for them, but at least they had support, there was that. He knew this happened each day, to other, less capable people, with less resources. Sighing, he stepped off the elevator, feeling less than hopeful about the whole thing. “This just sucks… and the morning will bring worse.”
Diana, taking a deep breath, and methodically wiping her face, stood up. “Ok, I’ve had enough crying. It hurts, it’s useless, and I refuse to be a crying ninny.” Walker looked at his wife, amazed that she hadn’t cracked yet. He’d bitten all his nails to the quick, and was actually contemplating asking someone for a cigarette, just to have something to do with his hands. He could understand now why someone would turn to nicotine. “I’ll go talk to the boys…” He broke off when she shook her head. “No, I want to do that.” He took a step toward her, reaching for her hand. “Do you really think you…” “Walker!” She shot him a look that sent him back a step. “I’m getting real close to the edge right about now. Back off, ok? No more comforting, no more gentle explanations, no more, just NO MORE!”
Backing away slowly, Walker found himself ironically relieved. Diana had been sweet, patient and nice for three days now. In the midst of round the clock police, and coping with worried sons, sons with insomnia, sons with migraines, small children who didn’t WANT to go home to stay with Aunt Jean, she had maintained an almost eerie calm. After sending the little ones back home, she’d had no babies to cuddle with and sleep close to. She’d faced hordes of girls in tank tops and black armbands, offering them hope and comfort, assuring them that they were confident that Taylor was fine, and would return soon, instead of the other way around. A few of the older fans, mothers of fans, had offered to pray for them, that had touched them all immensely. The rest of the fans out front, well, the word “selfish” now had a new face. And of course, the horrible longing for Taylor. Still, through it all she hadn’t blown her cool. “Di…” he started, clamping his mouth shut as Diana’s voice overpowered his. “SHUT UP WALKER. JUST SHUT UP. I need to talk to my sons. Go to bed. Go for a walk. Go take up smoking. Just LEAVE ME ALONE FOR A WHILE.”
Diana headed to the kitchenette, her face set, not seeing the incongruity between her words, and her chosen location.
For just a moment, insanity reared its ugly head, and he came within an inch of calling after her “That’s the kitchen Di, the boy’s aren’t in there.” Thinking better of it in the nick of time, he bit it back, lips firmly glued, and did an about-face, leaving the room at double time. When Di blew, it was best to be away from ground zero. He flinched, hearing the sound of swearing and breaking glass behind him. Wondering for a moment where he could go, he quickly came to the conclusion that it didn’t particularly matter, so long as it was AWAY. ” I am NOT going back there, no way. I’m not dumb, nope, not me…” He took himself down to the patio, seriously considering stopping for cigarettes along the way.
Diana took a breath, and set the cup she was holding down. The wreckage around her was fairly extreme, and she could just see the bill. “I need to find a better way of dealing with this, yes I do.” She stood for a moment taking stock. Was she okay? Yes she was. Was she together enough to talk to her boys? Yes, she thought so. Sighing once more, at the broken china all around her, making a mental note to call housekeeping, she headed for the boys bedrooms.
Entering Zac’s room, she found him sitting on the floor, staring into space. He looked at her blankly, as she sank beside him, and enfolded him in her arms. “You heard, baby?” she whispered to him softly. “Yeah mom, was that you smashing stuff and cussing?!” Diana snorted, smiling slightly. “That’s not what I meant, sweetie. Did you hear the rest, before that?”
Zac, stiffening slightly, nodded once. “Why, mom? Why do they have to do that? He’s NOT dead, he can’t be…” He leaned into his mom again, craving her warmth, her love, her explanations, her reassurance. Her arms around him tightened, and her hand stroked his hair. “Zac, they have to. It’s procedure. You heard Lt Montgomery say that it’s just to rule it out. They’re bringing in the big guns now. This is a good thing. They wouldn’t be calling in more people if they didn’t think they could find him.” “They really think he’s gonna come back, mom? Do YOU think he’s gonna come back?” She sighed, rocking him gently, not sure how to answer. “Zac, I think I’d know, I’d know in my gut, if he was gone. And I don’t think he is. I think he’ll be found. And again, if they’d all lost hope, they would just leave.” He fell silent then, leaning back against her, thoughts dark. “Zac..?” Her voice was gentle. “Do you have any other questions? Anything at all? Do you want me to stay here with you?” She held him close, needing HIS warmth, and HIS love as much as he needed hers. She needed ALL her sons.
Knowing he couldn’t share his suspicions with his mom, he hugged her close. “I don’t know. I got a lot to think about. Besides if we keep talking about it you could go all ballistic again and start smashing stuff…” He grinned and pointed toward the door. “Want me to go down front with you? We could take on some of those girls…” He stopped, seeing the LOOK cross her face. “Kidding, just kidding, mom…” She smiled slightly, idly wondering if she could pick up the TV, and if it would make it through one of the safety windows. “Well you know, this is kinda taxing my legendary patience… don’t you laugh, you brat. Let’s hope housekeeping has a good supply of coffee cups…”
Zac snorted, and smiled slightly, knowing his Mom would take out her anger on helpless crockery. “I’m ok, Mom, I just need to think. You don’t have to stay with me, it’s okay if you want to go beat up on dinner plates, ok?”
Diana smiled half heartedly and stood up. “I need to talk to Ike first. Try to sleep, hon. I love you.” Kissing his cheek, she left. Zac closed his eyes. “Ike. She needs to talk to Ike. HE needs to talk to her. HE needs to talk. HE needs to confess.” The thought cycled through his head endlessly. “Why won’t he confess?”
Isaac sat quietly, close to his Mom, her arms around him. “I’m ok, Mom, really. I heard what Mike said. I understand it all. It’s good the FBI is coming in. I know. And I’m glad you’re hucking cups. You need to do that now and then. Makes it safer for us.” His smile was faint, but there. His mother, looking at him searchingly, sighed. “Now you’re going to be stoic, right? Ike, it’s ok to cry, really, it is. YOU need to let loose too.”
“Mom, honestly, I’m fine. I’m tired, I’m worried, I’ve had the headache from hell for 3 days, but I’m alright.” Diana, knowing she’d not get him to talk further, hugged him close. This oldest boy of hers, where had he come from? He locked everything inside, would not show how he felt in front of anyone. He sure wasn’t anything like the rest of them, a tribe of venters if ever there had existed any. “I’ll be here, when you need me, ok?” “Mom, go throw soup bowls, ok? I’ll be fine.”
He held his breath, waiting for the door to close, knowing he’d been sharp with her, hating himself for it. He shuddered slightly, suddenly having trouble catching his breath. As he heard the slight snick, the door shutting, he gasped, unexpected tears suddenly falling. Sobbing helplessly, completely unprepared for this, missing Taylor more than he could ever say, he laid in the dark, on his bed, and cried. Cried for Taylor, cried for himself, cried for the loss of all he held dear, cried for the loss of his world. “Oh God, Tay, you have to be alright, you HAVE to be… I miss you…”
Pacing, Zac felt his head ready to explode. Lack of sleep, lack of coherent thought, lack of answers, headache brought on by hunger, unable to eat, unable to think, building. All combined for imminent detonation. He had to do something, anything, to end this pain. It was more than he could take. If Taylor was alive, he’d be back. He wasn’t stupid, he knew kidnappers didn’t wait THREE DAYS to send a ransom note. Kidnappers wanted money, not his brother’s wonderful company. No, there was no kidnapper anywhere around this. No, he knew what had happened to Taylor. He knew.
Sure that Ike was sleeping peacefully, completely unaware that his brother hadn’t slept in days, anger and fear peaked at a completely unmanageable level, he stomped, unthinking, into his Isaac’s room. He never registered his brother’s face, or the tears in his eyes, He never even saw him. He landed on him with the force of a cannon ball, fists flying, pummeling any part of his brother he could reach.
Isaac, half asleep and completely confused, struggled to sit up, desperately trying to block the rain of blows. “WHAT THE HELL…” Eyes swollen and sore from crying, he caught a glimpse of blond… “ZAC!! STOP IT!” Grabbing at whatever he could, he found himself with a double handful of hair, and his brother’s neck. “FINE… RIP *MY* HAIR OUT, BRAID IT, AND STRANGLE *ME* NEXT. YOU KILLED TAY, YOU KNOW YOU DID. WHY ARE YOU WASTING EVERYONE’S TIME WITH ALL THIS FBI STUFF? CONFESS, DAMMIT, IKE. STOP PUTTING US THROUGH THIS!!!” Zac gasped for breath, still swinging, still trying to connect, unmindful of the blood flowing from his lacerated scalp, needing only to make him say it. “JUST SAY IT IKE! JUST SAY IT! YOU DID IT! YOU DID IT YOU KILLED HIM!” He froze then, gasping pain as his brother’s hands gripped tighter, pulling him in.
Isaac stared at his red faced little brother. Unable to move, unable to breathe… “You think I killed Tay?” His voice was a choked whisper “Oh my God… Zac, why? How… how could you think that?” Tears started down his face again.
Zac ripped his hair free from his motionless sibling, spitting at Isaac. “All you could talk about was how Tay’d be better off dead than the way he was. You TOLD him that! Then he was GONE. *GONE*! He went to the park. You went to the park. Only YOU came back Ike! Only YOU! YOU WERE SO UNBELIEVABLY FURIOUS. YOU DID IT, YOU KNOW YOU DID!! YOU DIDN’T WANT THE POLICE SEARCHING THE PARK. YOU WANTED THEM TO LEAVE THE PARK. YOU’RE JUST AFRAID THAT THEY’LL FIND OUT YOU DID IT. WHERE DID YOU PUT HIS BODY?” Winding up for another round, Zac found himself suddenly held helpless, by hands gripping tight enough to bruise.
“That’s enough! Stop. Think, if you’re capable of it. YOU ARE SUCH A MORON, ZAC! Why in God’s name would I kill Tay?! THINK ABOUT IT!!!” Ike’s grip grew tighter on Zac, as his anger started to grow. “I LOVE him! This is killing me, can’t you see that?!?! I thought you were my brother! I thought you loved me! You are just too stupid for words, Zac. How could you EVER think that I… I should smack you into next week. You stupid little…” Violence, over Taylor, had started again.
Moments later the door slammed open, countless hands futiley trying to tug them apart. Screaming voices and pulling hands, neither Isaac nor Zac had any perception of them, each too caught up in his own anger, his own pain… until the icy shock of the water hit them, and Isaac pulled back, choking on an inhaled throatfull. “God what’re you doing, cut it out!!!” He struck out, his hand suddenly firmly grasped, his father’s voice now the only sound. “THAT’S ENOUGH! Both of you! What the HELL is going on in here?” Behind his father, Isaac could hear the monotonous, toneless sound of his brother’s sobs, and sank his head into his hands. “I don’t know Dad…” His body trembled with reaction, and he shoved himself out of reach. “I don’t know…”
An hour and a half later, Diana and Walker left the room, exhausted beyond words. That they had managed to calm them down was a miracle in both of their minds. That had been bad, the boys never fought like that. And the things they’d been thinking! Zac’s imagination certainly had been working overtime, but when they’d really looked at it, who could blame him? Taylor’s actions of late had been so bad, and Isaac wasn’t the only one to harbor thoughts of choking him to death with his own rattail. And he was worse with Isaac. Much worse. Still, it was hard to believe Ike could have said anything like that. Wished him dead? No wonder poor Zac had gotten the wrong idea. But no, while they were sure Isaac hadn’t harmed Taylor in any way, they did wonder if that remark was responsible for his being gone. Maybe he really HAD gone home with someone, a fan, a friend they weren’t aquatinted with. It certainly shed a new light on things. And presented the added challenge of convincing Zac that Ike was not a killer. Still, they were pretty sure they’d accomplished it. By the time they had finished talking, both boys were in tears, and if Zac had gotten any closer to Ike, he would have been wearing his clothes. As it was, Ike likely couldn’t breathe without Zac knowing how deep the breath went. They’d waited until the boys had both drifted off, together, and crept from the room. Looking back, she saw her sleeping sons, knowing that they were safe, and whole, and *together* again. Two parts were back, yet a third was still gone…
Opening his eyes, Isaac looked at his sleeping brother. “God, that was awful. No wonder the poor kid looked at me funny every time I moved quick. Not that I was moving all that fast, but still… damn, I can’t even form a simple thought.” Thinking over the past several days, he could actually understand how Zac came to his chilling conclusion. All his anger, his awful words to Taylor, his violence, that was all so unlike him, no wonder Zac thought he had snapped like a stale cracker. But, he knew this thought had to be voiced, if even just to himself… Taylor’s actions, his words, his attitude, his *smirk*, his whole *every thing*, had pushed him to that anger, that point of totally losing his famous cool. “Man, Tay, we need to have a long talk when you get back. You have alot to answer for…” He drifted off again, this time exhaustion keeping him under for a few hours, awakening only once, crying from some dream, of what he didn’t know.
Wishing he could turn his pillow over, it was too wet to be comfortable, knowing he couldn’t without waking Zac, he lay listening to the silence, marred only by Zac’s heavy breathing.
Holding Zac closer yet, he closed his eyes, knowing that one brother was safe, and whole. “I miss you Tay…”