tagGay MaleThe Magic in Your Touch Ch. 14

The Magic in Your Touch Ch. 14

bywavyscribe©

Even though Brandon had seen pictures of Wilson, the image he’d built of him in his mind was of a man with almost super-human abilities, able to blend in anywhere at any time. A chameleon capable of wreaking havoc and destruction of mammoth proportions. He’d inflated Wilson, made him into some type of mythological phantom. Now he saw him for exactly what he was: a corpse. Death, the great equalizer.

The Sunshine Motel didn’t exactly live up to its name, but had the room not been crawling with Howard’s men, it wouldn’t have been half bad. The single bed and double dresser looked new, and the floral wallpaper gave the place a homey touch. The carpet was clean, and the sheets probably had been, too, before Wilson decided to die on them. A table beside the bed held a bottle of whiskey and an empty glass.

Brandon stood in the doorway surveying the scene when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned around to see Howard standing behind him.

“Thanks for getting here so fast, Nash. How’s Doc doing?”

“Anxious. I called my brother to stay with him until I get back.”

Howard nodded. “This place has a coffee shop just around the corner. We can talk there while my guys finish up in here.”

Brandon followed Howard into the brightly lit café. An attractive young waitress came and took their order, smiling and laughing as if it was an everyday occurrence to have a customer die in one of the rooms. Not that Brandon could find fault with her. Personally, he felt like doing cartwheels over Wilson’s dead body. The coffee arrived and he took a bracing sip before saying, “What do you know so far?”

Howard drank down half of the scalding liquid in his own cup in one long sip. “Wilson had a telephone call up at the main desk sometime around eleven o’clock. The clerk transferred it to his room, but no one answered. The caller, who identified himself as Wilson’s brother, insisted that the clerk go down there and check on him. The door was unlocked, so he went inside. That’s when he found the body.”

“Any ideas on cause of death?”

“The coroner didn’t find any signs of physical trauma, but you know as well as I do that doesn’t mean anything. I’ve put a rush order on the autopsy, so maybe we’ll know within the next couple of days. We’re running a trace on the phone call, and of course, doing the whole ‘fine-toothed-comb’ routine on the room. So far, we haven’t turned up anything useful, but there’s always hope.” Howard took another swig of coffee. “At least you know Wilson’s no longer a threat to Doc.”

“It sure seems that way, doesn’t it?”

Howard leaned back against the vinyl booth and eyed Brandon with a cop’s perception. “What’s with you, Nash? I should think you’d be damn happy right about now. I know I am, and it’s not even my fiancé that was being threatened.”

Brandon ran his fingers through his hair. “Am I happy that Wilson’s no longer in a position to hurt Nate or anyone else? Hell, yes. But doesn’t it all feel a bit too easy to you?”

“Explain.”

Brandon pushed his cup aside and said, “I’m not sure I can explain it, exactly. It’s more a feeling than anything.” He pulled a hundred dollar bill from his pocket and laid it on the table in front of Howard. “Ben Franklin there says that the autopsy reveals Wilson died of natural causes. Four more just like him if it isn’t said to be some kind of heart failure.”

Howard whistled “Five hundred bucks on heart failure, huh? I might take that bet if you didn’t seem so damn sure of yourself.”

“Right now all I’m sure of is that this whole thing is coming together just a little too neatly for my taste. The evidence against Calder, the connections to Wilson, and now the only witness, the hit man, all nice and dead, almost as if on cue. I’ve been a cop in one form or another for too damn long not to know that cases don’t just come to a pretty little gift-wrapped conclusion.”

Howard said, “Not that I’m disagreeing with you, but you should know that once the autopsy’s done, my office is going to call me and my team back to Washington. With Wilson dead, we’re officially out of it.”

“No offense, Howard, and don’t think I haven’t been grateful for the help, but I believe I can take it from here.” The gleam in Brandon’s eyes was savage, feral. “If Calder isn’t Wilson’s money man, I’ll find the bastard who is. And God help him when I do.”

* * *

Nate was sitting at the table when Brandon came in the next morning. The minute Bran walked through the door, Nate got up and fixed him a plate of eggs, sausage and biscuits. Brandon walked over to the stove and gave him a slow kiss. He pulled back and took his plate over to the table. Nate brought over two fresh cups of coffee and sat down beside him.

“You look like you’ve had a rough night.”

Brandon took in Nate’s bloodshot eyes and uncombed hair. “So do you. Did you sleep at all?”

“A little bit.” He gave Brandon a sheepish grin. “I have trouble sleeping when you aren’t with me.”

Brandon thought back to his long month in the guest room, and to all the nightmares he’d had before Nate came along. “Believe me when I tell you, I know how you feel.” He looked around the kitchen. “Where’s Keith? Come to think of it, I didn’t see his car outside.”

“He got a call from the hospital about an hour ago. One of his MS patients was having an episode, so he had to go. And before you have a fit, Deputy Mason has been on duty all night long. If you look through the kitchen window, you can see his car.”

“I’m not going to pitch a fit, but I didn’t want you to be alone. I know how hard this has been on you.”

Nate reached across the table and took Brandon’s hand. “I’m alright, Bran.” He took a deep breath. “Is Wilson really dead?”

Brandon stood up, bringing Nate with him. He led him into the living room and sat down on the couch, pulling Nate onto his lap. He wrapped both arms around him and said, “He’s dead, baby. I saw the body myself.”

Nate laid his head against Brandon’s shoulder. “Your breakfast is getting cold.”

Brandon rubbed his hands up and down Nate’s back. “I’m not worried about food right now. All I care about is how you’re taking all this.”

Nate drew in another deep breath and let it out again slowly. “I’m not sure, Brandon. I mean, as a doctor, I was taught that all life is sacred. At the same time, I feel like doing flips in the back yard because the bastard who put poor Marjorie Newman in a coma and killed Amy won’t be able to hurt anyone ever again.” He caressed Brandon’s shoulder and fingered the ridge of scar tissue under his shirt. “The stitches may be gone, but you’ll always have a scar from that knife Wilson tossed at you. I wanted him dead for that alone.”

Brandon un-tucked Nate’s shirt so he could massage the small of his back, skin to skin. The contact with Nate’s warm flesh helped drive away the chill of the last few hours. “I had to force myself not to do a gymnastics routine over Wilson’s corpse, so I imagine those feelings are normal. Even if they aren’t, nobody’s gonna fault you for them.”

Nate sighed as Brandon worked the tension out of his muscles. “Any idea as to cause of death?”

“Howard put a rush job on the autopsy. We should know within the next couple of days.”

“What about my dad? What’s going to happen to him?”

Brandon tipped him back over his arm so he could look into his eyes. “I’m not going to lie to you, Nate. There’s enough evidence for a good prosecutor to put him away. Are you going to be okay with that?”

Nate’s face hardened. “Yeah. Before, when it was just me, I had mixed feelings, but with you getting in Wilson’s way and Amy gone. . .” He trailed off as tears filled his eyes.

Brandon brought him against his chest again. “Shh, baby. We don’t have to talk about this right now.”

Nate shook his head. “Actually, we do. Now that my father is in custody and the investigation on what’s left of my office has been concluded, the insurance agent is anxious to settle. He called me yesterday afternoon. Apparently Howard filed his report and my insurance company wants it all over and done with.”

Brandon kissed Nate’s forehead. “Why didn’t you tell me last night?”

Nate leaned back and gave him a grin. “If you’ll remember, I had other plans last night.” His expression grew serious again. “Then Howard called, and you had to leave. This is really the first chance I’ve had to discuss it with you.”

Brandon studied his face. “Something about this is bothering you, I can tell. What is it?”

“Just a weird feeling I got from talking to the agent on the phone. His name is Ralph Tatum. He seems like a nice enough guy.”

“But?”

Nate looped his arms around Brandon’s neck. “Tatum was really nervous on the phone. Kept talking about the importance of settling this right away. He’s coming out to the house this afternoon.”

Brandon raised a brow. “On a Saturday?”

“That’s what I thought, too. He said it was of the ‘utmost importance that we reach an understanding as soon as possible,’ whatever the hell that means. When I bought the policy, I thought the whole thing was pretty cut and dried. I bought the building because Amy and Mike had just purchased a house, and she and I thought it would be easier if it was only in my name. Since my name is on the deed, I bought the insurance. My policy was all inclusive, so what’s there to settle?”

Brandon leaned his head against the couch. “What time is he coming?”

“Three.”

Brandon glanced down at his watch. “It’s just after eight now.”

“Why don’t you go upstairs and get some rest? You’re dead on your feet.”

Brandon hated to admit it, but Nate was right. “Promise you’ll get me up in a few hours so I can meet this Tatum guy with you?”

Nate gave him a soft kiss on the lips and smiled. “I promise. Now get that sexy butt of yours in bed.”

A few minutes later, Brandon went, thinking about all the things he wanted Nate to do to his butt, sexy or otherwise.

* * *

Ralph Tatum was a jittery little thing. Nate guessed him to be about five-four, five-five, tops. He was paper thin and almost bald with just a touch of bright red peach fuzz on top of his head. Nate surveyed the twitch in his jaw and figured it was probably a permanent affliction.

Nate and Brandon sat on the couch together, while Mr. Tatum took one of the easy chairs. He put his briefcase on the coffee table and cleared his throat. “Dr. Morris, perhaps it would be better if we discussed this in private.”

Nate shook his head. “Brandon is my fiancé, Mr. Tatum. Whatever you have to say to me concerns him, too. Frankly, I’d like to know why you’re giving us the old cloak and dagger routine. The policy I bought from you is ironclad. Why the big production over a straightforward insurance claim?”

Tatum shifted in his chair. “There is no insurance claim, Dr. Morris. Your policy was canceled five weeks ago.”

Nate felt like he’d been slapped. “I beg your pardon?”

“Five weeks ago, you came into our office and canceled your policy. I have the papers right here.”

“Why the hell would I do that?”

Tatum shook his head. “The agent who handled the cancellation said you were adamant about severing all ties with our company.”

Nate stared at him in stunned disbelief. “What do you mean, severing all ties? Chicago Security has handled all my policies since I moved up here. You paid my claim when my apartment and office were trashed, and again when I wrecked my car. Are you trying to say that I came in and cancelled everything, even after all that?”

“Are you saying you didn’t?”

Nate was doing his best not to get angry. “Hell, yes, that’s what I’m saying. And if you’re going to deny my claim, you’d better have proof that I did.”

Tatum opened his briefcase and pulled out a termination-of-service form. He handed it to Nate with shaking fingers.

Nate moved the paper so that Brandon could see it, too. Brandon was the first one to speak. “That’s Nate’s name, but it isn’t his signature.”

Tatum looked like he was about to cry. “Are you certain?”

Nate got up and started pacing the room. After a minute, he turned back to Tatum, trying hard not to yell. “Don’t you think I would remember canceling my own damn insurance policy?” A sudden thought crossed his mind. “Did you say I canceled everything, even my malpractice insurance?”

“Yes.”

Brandon caught on. “So you would have had to issue a refund check, right?”

Tatum nodded and pulled another document out of his briefcase. “Yes. Dr. Morris, or whoever he was, wanted the money right then. The young agent who handled the transaction offered to mail it to him, but he demanded it be given to him immediately. Since I was out of the office, my secretary wrote the check. She assures me that the young man showed the proper ID and had all your policy information. Here’s the photocopy of the cancelled check from the bank.” He handed the paper to Nate. Brandon came over to stand behind him and look over his shoulder.

Nate stared down at the endorsement on the check. It was blurred and hard to read, but Nate was sure he could see a difference. He compared it to the signature on the termination agreement. “I’m no expert, but these signatures don’t match each other any more than they match mine.”

Brandon said, “It’s hard to tell, but the bank that cashed this check should have video surveillance of the transaction, and the check is time stamped. Shouldn’t be too hard to track it down.”

Tatum was still sitting in the chair, looking up at both of them. “If you can prove that the claim was cancelled under false pretenses, of course, our office will pay for all the damages.”

Nate saw the expression on Brandon’s face and felt a chill go down his spine when he said, “We’ll prove it, Tatum. You can count on it.”

* * *

Brandon hung up the phone and came back into the living room where Nate and Tatum were sitting. He took his place by Nate on the couch and said, “I just talked to Clive Rogers, manager of the Carlin Bank and Trust in Chicago, the place where that check was cashed. They send all their security tapes to the main office in Cleveland. He’s calling now to ask them to be shipped back here, but it will take until next week sometime to get them back.”

Tatum stood up and grabbed his briefcase. “Until this matter is settled, there’s nothing my office can do.”

Brandon stood up as well. Nate couldn’t help noticing the way the little man cringed at the tone of Brandon’s voice. “Actually, there is.”

“What’s that?”

“Tomorrow, I want you to have everyone who was in the office that day assemble at the Reed County Sheriff’s Station by twelve o’clock.”

Tatum started to stammer. “But. . .but tomorrow’s Sunday. You can’t expect my people to come in on Sunday.”

Nate could tell by the color rising in Brandon’s face that he was getting angry. “Look, Mr. Tatum. Your office screwed up, so I expect you and your employees to do whatever it takes to rectify this situation. Are we clear?”

Ralph Tatum looked like he was ready to faint. “Yes, we’re clear.” He was clutching his briefcase to his chest like a shield. “If you’ll excuse me, I should really be going.”

Nate got up and said, “I’ll walk you out.” When Brandon started to follow, Nate put his hand against his chest. “You stay here and cool down.”

When Nathan got done with Tatum, he came back to find Brandon still fuming. He sat down beside him and took his hand. “Want to tell me why you nearly took Tatum’s head off?”

Brandon ran his free hand through his hair in a gesture of frustration. “Because the little runt didn’t want to co-operate, that’s why. Hell, Nate, his office let some guy come in and cash in all your policies, and he acts like it’s no big deal. Well it is, damn it.”

“I know, but getting mad about it isn’t going to change anything. Why do you want them all at the office tomorrow, anyway?”

“I’m going to show them Wilson’s picture and see if he was the one who posed as you. It’s all we’ve got to go on right now, anyway.”

Nate leaned back against the cushions and closed his eyes. “What about the different signatures on the cancellation agreement and the check?”

“I’ll have a handwriting expert look at it, but the signature on the check has been blurred so badly, it’s gonna be hard to tell.”

Nate sighed. “He really messed up by not killing me in the bombing, didn’t he?”

“What do you mean?”

Nate turned his head so that he was staring Brandon in the face. “Wilson and whoever was paying him cashed in my policies a week before the bombing. If I had died in the explosion, no one would ever have known I didn’t cancel the insurance myself. I guess they figured they could use the money to have a big ole’ ‘Nate’s dead’ celebration.”

Brandon reached over and smoothed back Nate’s hair. “It’s almost over, Nate. At least one of the key players is dead, and Howard is pretty sure we’ve got the other one in custody.”

“My father.”

“Yep. He’s sitting in a Georgia jail without bond waiting to be extradited to Illinois.”

Nate closed his eyes again. “And what if he isn’t guilty, Bran? What then?”

Brandon pulled him into his arms and said, “Then we’ll find the guy who’s responsible, babe. You trust me, don’t you?”

Nate nodded. “Right now, angel, you’re the only one I do.”

* * *

Nate sat in Brandon’s office while he questioned the employees of the Chicago Security Insurance Company in the interrogation room. After about an hour, Brandon came back in, grinning from ear to ear.

“Both the guy who handled the cancellation and the secretary who wrote the check positively identified Wilson from his picture. You should have seen the look on Tatum’s face. He’s ready to settle the claim whenever you are, by the way. I think he’s afraid you’re going to sue his ass.”

Nate shook his head. “It was never about the money, Bran. You know that.”

Brandon nodded. “I know.” He turned his head to the side and studied Nate for a minute. “You look awful cute sitting behind my desk, curled up in my chair like that. Ever thought of going into law enforcement? I’d love to show you how to use a pair of handcuffs.”

Nate laughed. “You and your bondage fantasies.” He got up and motioned for Brandon to have a seat. When he did, Nate sat down on his lap, one of their favorite positions for talking. “I would like to talk to you about my employment situation, though.”

Brandon wrapped both arms around him. “Go ahead.”

“I don’t think I want to open up another practice.” He gave Brandon a good looking over and said, “How would you feel about me trying to get a staff job at Chicago General?” Brandon started to speak, but Nate cut him off. “Before you answer, you should know that my hours will be erratic, and I’ll be on call a lot more. It won’t be as bad as it was when I was a resident, but I won’t have anything near regular hours.”

Brandon said, “You know I want whatever will make you happy. I assume you’ll be working with premature babies again?”

“Yeah. Keith just happened to mention that Chicago General has an opening for a pediatrician in the NICU.”

Brandon grinned. “I’ll just bet he did.” Brandon reached up and cupped Nate’s chin with one hand. “Irregular hours don’t bother me. God knows you’ve put up with enough of them out of me lately. Whatever you want to do, I’m behind you one-hundred percent.”

“I think I’m ready to go back into hospital medicine again. When I came up here from Atlanta, I wanted a break, and the idea of working with Amy was a dream come true. Private practice won’t be the same without her.”

“What about the patients you have now?”

Nate said, “One of the doctors who’s been handling my calls since. . .well, you know. Anyway, Dr. Brandt is his name. He has a wife and two small children and wants to move them out of Chicago. He mentioned last week that he’d like to start a practice in Reed. I think he’ll do well here.”

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