The Magic in Your Touch Ch. 09


“No way, Brandon. I’m not about to have my underwear on display for all of Reed, Illinois to see.” He made a one-handed grab for them, but Bran caught him and pulled him backwards across his lap.

“I’ve got you now, boy. Wonder if I can think of something really nasty to do to you?” He claimed Nate’s mouth with renewed passion, and probably would have done more had a bright light not landed right across his eyes.

“What in the hell?” He looked up and saw the silhouette of a man against the window, flashlight in hand. He let Nate go back to his own seat, fear and adrenaline racing through his veins. He cursed himself for being stupid enough to come out to this isolated spot without letting anyone know where they were. He rolled down the window and reached under the seat for his pistol, all in one motion.

The man behind the flashlight laughed and said, “If you’re gonna shoot me, Boss, don’t you think you should at least button your pants first?”

Brandon exhaled in a rush of air. “Dammit, Sam, you scared the hell out of me. I thought you were that nut who’s after Nate.”

Sam lowered the flashlight, the moonlight bright enough to reveal the grin he was having trouble hiding. “What would you have done if I had been? You’d have been screwed, no pun intended.”

Brandon heard Nate trying his best not to laugh and failing miserably. He ignored him and turned his irritation on Sam. “What are you doing down here, anyway?”

“I got a report about some kids parking down on Old Pepper Road and came to check it out. You haven’t seen any horny teenagers, have you?”

“Ha-ha. You’ve investigated, so now you can leave.”

Sam shook his head. “I was headed to your place after I finished this call, anyway. On my way over here, dispatch radioed in. The F.B.I. came up with a match on that partial from Doc’s car. He leaned down so he could see Nate through the open window. “Hey, Doc. How’s it hanging, man?”

Nate dissolved into another fit of laughter, but Brandon had switched into cop mode. “Did dispatch give any details?”

“No, but apparently the guy they’ve identified is into some heavy shit because the U.S. Attorney’s Office is sending a man on the next flight from Washington to go over the case with you.”

Brandon felt Nate stiffen beside him and reached for his hand without looking at him. “Thanks, Sam. I’m going to take Nate home, and then I’ll come to the station and see what I can find out.”

Sam nodded and said good-bye, leaving Brandon and Nate to rearrange their clothing and head out. As Bran started the car, Nate said, “Brandon, why would the U.S. Attorney be involved?”

Brandon backed the car out and started back up the gravel road. “The Attorney General’s office could be in on this for any number of reasons, Nate. They have divisions for everything from organized crime to counter terrorism. I’d be afraid to speculate.” He stopped at the end of the road and gave Nate a reassuring kiss. “Let’s make a deal not to worry about it until we have to, alright?”

Nate agreed, but Bran could feel the tension in him. He didn’t blame him for being scared. He had the feeling things had just gone from bad to worse.

* * *

Brandon was sitting at his desk the next day when his secretary, Lorna, stuck her head in the door. “Sheriff, the representative from the Attorney General’s office is here. I’ve already checked his credentials and received confirmation. Should I send him in?”

“Please. And, Lorna? Make sure we aren’t disturbed. Sam’s off today, but if anything major comes in, Dewey can handle it.”

“Sure thing, Sheriff.” She left and returned a few minutes later with a tall man in a three piece suit. Brandon estimated him to be between forty-five and fifty, his black hair peppered with gray. His green eyes were warm when he introduced himself, his crooked smile softening the sharp angles of his face.

“Rex Howard, U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

Brandon shook his hand, noticing Howard’s firm grip. “Brandon Nash. Come on in and have a seat.” Brandon returned to his desk as Howard seated himself. “I understand you have some information for me. Can I get you some coffee before we start?”

“No thanks. I drank a gallon of it on the flight in. My wife has been after me to slack off, but since I quit smoking two years ago, I figure I need at least one vice. I’m afraid my wife doesn’t see it that way. You married, Nash?”

“Engaged. My fiancé’s already nagging me about my eating habits, though, so I know how you feel.”

“Sounds like you do. I imagine you’re ready for me to stop the small talk and tell you the reason I’m here.” He picked up his briefcase and indicated the desk. “May I?” When Brandon nodded, he put the case on the desk and opened it, taking out a think file. He put the case back on the floor and handed the file to Bran. “The F.B.I. took the partial you gave them and entered it into their database. It took some doing, but they finally came up with a name. He pointed to the mug-shot at the top of the file. “Meet your perp, Nolan Wilson.”

Brandon looked at the picture, searching for any recognizable features. All he saw was a man of abut forty with auburn hair and bloodshot hazel eyes. Nothing, from his hawk-like nose to his pointed chin, struck any cords of familiarity for Bran.

“Doesn’t look familiar. What can you tell me about him?” “Nolan Wilson, alias Ned White, is a real hit-man’s hit-man. He’s quick, thorough, and discreet. He has an arrest record as long as my forearm, but no convictions. He’s been linked with some of the biggest crime families in the business, but he’s a freelancer, going with whoever pays the best and never pledging allegiance to any one family.”

Brandon nodded. “I understand that the Attorney General is cracking down on organized crime, but if Wilson has no real family affiliation, why the interest?”

“The thing about Wilson that sets him apart from most hit-men is the fact that he doesn’t specialize. Wilson prides himself on his versatility. He’s been suspected in four arsons, three bombings, and at least fourteen murders. It’s rumored that if a client requests a service beyond Wilson’s expertise, he’ll study and learn until he has the skill to perform the job requested. That’s where our office comes in.”

“Six months ago, Ross Donavan, owner of the Norwegian Woods restaurant chain, found out that one of his distributors was supplying meat that hadn’t been graded by the FDA. Donavan canceled his contract and found another supplier. Unfortunately, the supplier he stopped doing business with was connected to the Nikoli crime family. Within one week of canceling the contract, the first restaurant burned down. By the time our office became involved five weeks later, Donavan had lost four restaurants. An anonymous tip points to Wilson as the perp. If we can corner him and make a conviction stick, we might be able to convince him to roll on the Nikoli family.” He leaned back in his chair. “We want this guy bad, Nash. He’s a heavy-hitter with almost limitless resources. Before we go any further, though, I want to know why a small town sheriff is after a key player like Wilson.”

“Fair enough. I worked with the feds long enough to know how the system works. I don’t care who prosecutes this guy as long as you get to him before I do. I’m telling you now, Howard, if I get to him first, there may not be enough of him left to prosecute.”

Howard didn’t seem shocked by the declaration. “Sounds like this is personal.”

“You have no idea. To answer your question, though, I suspect Wilson is behind a series of so-called gay-bashings. I say so-called because I believe he’s really after one man and is using the ‘bashings’ as a cover. So far, two local business owned by gay and lesbian couples have been torched. The first one was clean, but a woman got caught in the middle of the last one. She’s still in a coma, by the way, so any information she might have isn’t gonna be forthcoming anytime soon. As I said before, I think the arsons are just a cover. I believe his real target is a man named Nathan Morris, a doctor here in town. Three weeks ago, he was coming out of his office when this guy grabbed him and knocked him over the head. Nate was smart enough to trigger the alarm, but not before the guy called him a faggot and threatened him again. That same night, both his office and his home were ransacked, words like ‘queer’ and ‘fag’ painted on the walls and animal blood dumped all over his clothes. I have reason to believe Wilson was going to kill him, then went into a rage when he couldn’t find him. The first burning happened a few days later, and a note was sent to this office, making it appear to be a hate crime. A little too damn convenient if you ask me. Two weeks after the assault, the son-of-a-bitch cut the break lines on Nate’s car. I almost lost—” He cleared his throat. “He almost bled to death. The day after he came home from the hospital, the second fire happened. No note this time, but the guy planted evidence making it look like Nate’s brother was the perp. He’s been cleared, so that leaves us where we are now. Wilson’s print was lifted from the undercarriage of Nate’s car, but no other physical evidence has been found. So far, that’s our only lead.”

Howard said, “I’d say you’re right about the gay-bashing angle being a screen. Wilson himself is a known bisexual with a heavy preference towards men. It’s unlikely he’d suddenly jump on the anti-gay bandwagon. The thing about this that confuses me, though, is why Wilson would target a small-town doctor. Wilson is strictly for hire. He has a slew of personal enemies, as I’m sure you can imagine, but hasn’t lifted a finger against any of them. The only time he kills, it’s business. And a guy like Wilson doesn’t come cheap.” He put his fingers to his chin. “You say the last burning was three days ago?”

“Yeah. We’re hoping the victim will come out of it and give us something to go on, but even if she makes a full recovery, it’s doubtful she’ll remember anything.” Howard sat in silence, but Brandon could almost see his mind working. “The thing about Wilson is, he doesn’t leave a job until it’s completely finished. Take the Ross Donavan case, for example. He targeted the four most popular restaurants in the Norwegian Woods chain, nearly crippling Donavan’s whole empire. We believe that was the objective all along. If he is behind these attacks, and his purpose is to kill Dr. Morris, he won’t stop until he either gets caught, or finishes the good doctor off.”

Brandon’s whole body went into attack mode. “That ain’t gonna happen, Howard. The bastard will have to go through me first, and I guarantee you, he doesn’t want to do that.”

Howard nodded. “I believe you, Nash. I know if someone was threatening my wife, I’d be ready to kick ass and take names.”

“How’d you know?”

Howard smiled. “That Dr. Morris is your fiancé? It wasn’t hard to figure out. I may have a fancy title, but at heart, I’m just a cop. Maybe it was the way you said his name, or the way you tensed when you talked about the attempts on his life. Whatever, it’s plain to see you’re in love with the guy and willing to do whatever it takes to protect him.”

“Do you have a problem with that?”

“To your being willing to do whatever it takes to protect him? Nah. I’d prefer to bring the little bastard in alive so we can nail the Nikoli’s, but if you have to take him out to save your boy, I’m all for it. The world won’t mourn Nolan Wilson, believe me.”

Brandon shook his head and smiled. “I meant, do you have a problem with me and Nate?”

“I’m the first to admit that a good looking guy with a big dick does nothing for me, but I have no problem with homosexuals. My oldest son is gay. The guy he’s dating has sixteen piercings between his eyebrow and his bellybutton. I shudder to think what he might have below the belt. If I have any negative feelings at all, it’s that my son can’t find a nice young doctor to settle down with instead of that pincushion he calls a boyfriend.” “I’m definitely blessed to have, Nate. Now I’ve got to catch Wilson and whoever is bankrolling him so we can settle down to a normal life together, whatever normal is.”

“I think that’s where I can help you. Like I said, Wilson never leaves a job until he’s finished. I’d like to bring some of my men down here, undercover. When Wilson makes his next move, we’ll be ready.” He stood up and fished a card from his pocket. “I’m staying at a hotel in Chicago. It will take me two days, tops, to set this thing up. You can reach me anytime on my cell phone. I’ll contact you as soon as arrangements are made, unless I hear from you first. Don’t worry, I’ll make it clear that this is your case. There’ll be no pulling rank on this one. A man has a right to defend what’s his.” He extended his hand.

Brandon shook with Howard and said, “I’ll await your call. And I appreciate all your help.”

Howard nodded and left. Brandon studied Wilson’s file until his neck cricked and his eyes crossed, but he couldn’t see a connection to Nate. When he couldn’t take it anymore, he packed up his stuff and headed home.

When Bran was single, he didn’t particularly care what time he got home. With only Sasha waiting for him, his grandparents’ cavernous old house just reminded him of how alone he was. Now, he couldn’t wait to leave work each day. As much as he enjoyed his job, nothing compared to the prospect of seeing Nate.

He wasn’t surprised to see several cars parked along the driveway. His mother was still coming every day, despite Nate’s insistence that he was able to stay by himself. His entire family had fallen in love with Nathan Morris, and Bran could certainly understand why. He saw his mother’s car, and Megan’s, but he also saw a Saturn Coupe he didn’t recognize. He pulled behind Keith’s mini-van and parked. He got out of the SUV and was greeted at the door by an agitated Sasha. It was unusual for Nate to let her out by herself, even though she had several acres to run. She was going around in circles and whining, unusual for such a happy-go-lucky dog. Brandon stooped down to scratch her ears.

“What’s the matter, girl? It’s cold out here. Why did Nate let you out by yourself?” The sound of raised voices coming from inside gave him his answer.

On full alert, he opened the door to the mudroom and slipped in unobserved, the commotion in the kitchen masking the sound of the door opening. He typed in the alarm code and peeked around the corner, just out of sight.

Nate was leaning against the counter, his face flushed and his eyes glittering. Gale stood on one side of him, Megan on the other. Keith was in front of him, almost like a shield. Amy was seated in a chair in the middle of the kitchen floor, begging Mike to calm down. Mike was standing in front of Keith, his finger in Keith’s face.

“Who the hell do you think you are? I have a right to talk to Nate about anything I want to. Just because your brother is screwing him doesn’t mean you can cut him off from his friends.”

Gale and Megan gasped, and Amy moaned. “Mike, please don’t say things like that. Keith never said we couldn’t talk to Nate.”

Keith nodded. “That’s right, I didn’t. What I said was, I am not going to allow you to come into my brother’s house hurling accusations about him and upsetting Nathan, my mother, and my sister. I also said, if you say one more word against Brandon, I’m going to kick your sorry ass across this kitchen and into the backyard.”

Mike looked at Nate. “Are you going to let him threaten me like that?”

“Nope.” Nate put his arm on Keith’s shoulder. “You can’t kick his ass, Keith.” Keith looked stunned and angry, until Nate clarified. “Because if he says anything else about the man I love, that privilege is mine. I kicked your ass once, Michael. Don’t think because I’m a little run down I can’t do it again.”

“Damn it, Nate. Do your really think I would drag my sick wife out in the middle of October unless I thought this was a matter of life and death. You want Brandon Nash, then I say take him. Fuck him raw on a daily basis for all I care. But before you go and do something stupid like marry the guy, think long and hard about what’s happened to you since you met him.”

“I don’t have to think about all that’s happened. I live with it everyday. Brandon has done nothing but try to protect me since the day we met. He’s turned his whole life upside down to keep me safe.”

Mike tried to shoulder Keith out of the way, but Keith didn’t budge. “Has he really, Nate, or is that just what he wants you to think?” Nate started to say something, but Mike said, “No, dammit, listen to me. We’ve been friends for too long for you not to let me have my say. Go back to the night you were hit on the head, Nate. Who answered the nine-one-one call?” When Nate remained silent, he said, “It wasn’t even his turn to take evening calls. I checked.”

Gale stepped up beside Keith. “If you’re implying that Brandon had something to do with the attack on Nathan, then I should remind you that my son didn’t even know Nate at the time.”

“So he says. But he freely admits that he knew of him. His old high-school friend works for the answering service that takes after-hours calls, and his cousin is the billing clerk for Nate and Amy’s practice. I’m sure they told him all about the handsome gay doctor. The rich gay doctor.”

Megan’s face was as red as her hair. “Nate was with Brandon when his apartment and office were trashed. How do you explain that?”

“Nash deals with lowlifes on a daily basis, little girl. You can’t work in law enforcement without knowing how to hire some scumbag to do just about any dirty job you want done. Occupational hazard, I guess.”

“What you’re saying doesn’t make any sense, Mike. Why would Brandon want to hurt me?”

“I can give you four million reasons why. He’s after your trust fund, Nate.”


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