This entirely original, exclusive free-to-you story features hot-man-love, explicit sex, explicit language, explicit violence, and… explicit fabulousness! If you’re NOT an m/m fan, check it out anyway… you might enjoy it.
Presenting Forsaken by Jamie Craig…
Five years since Detective Xavier Landis walked away from the man who loved him.
Four weeks looking for the stalker nobody but he believed existed.
Three years of his life Detective Jeff Keyes wishes he could get back.
Two cops, both brilliant, both determined, trying to move on from a past neither can forget.
One dead girl.
It was the kind of night Jeff hated. Bleak. Blustery. Abysmal. Clouds covered what illumination the stars might offer, and the bowing trees lining Golden Gate Park did the rest. Their constant whispering attacked his nerves, leaving him as jittery as the rattling leaves. He held firm for Xavier’s sake, however. His, and Robin’s, and the still as-yet-unnamed girl Ruhl had left for them to find.
Nobody else was out on this blistering night. The sounds of the city were a distant music behind the trees, and the grass stretched out around them in an inky blanket, the path ringing it a pale artery. Blood had flown along it just that morning. Did the flowing blood attract Ruhl? He had returned to witness her discovery; he’d left the other girl to be found as well. Xavier thought killing Robin in the park had been unmeditated. So what had driven Ruhl around this particular bend in his behavior?
At his side, Xavier shivered against the wind. They hadn’t spoken about the events in the shower since leaving the hotel. Jeff was almost a little scared of what would happen when they did. He was still determined not to let Xavier just throw him away again, but the last thing he wanted was for Xavier to feel like he was settling. The gay comment had been a little extreme; he’d known Xavier was attracted to women when they’d met. But for as far as Jeff knew, the other man had never had an emotional connection with one, not like the two of them had had.
That was all he needed to hold onto, to know fighting for them was the right thing. If it didn’t work this time, it wouldn’t be because Jeff just let Xavier walk away.
“Where did you find her?”
Jeff scanned the park and settled on a spot thirty yards away. “Over there,” he said, nodding in its direction. An expanse of open ground separated them from the location. “If Ruhl’s around, that’s where he’s lurking. The question is, how do we get from here to there without letting him see us coming?”
It was Xavier’s turn to scan their surroundings. “We don’t. You let him see you every step of the way.”
His attention snapped back to his partner. “Me? I’m not leaving you alone.”
“And you’re his target.”
“Which is why he won’t think you’d bring me into the thick of things.” Pointing toward a bend in the path that pinched the park inward, he added, “There’s tables and plenty of things for cover up there. You cross here, and I’ll go up the side. If Ruhl is around, he’ll be watching you and not me.”
Jeff clenched his jaw. It was a good plan. If Andrea had suggested it, he would have agreed without blinking. The fact that it came from Xavier held him back now.
“I know it might not look it from this case, but I really am a good cop,” Xavier said quietly. “And I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize nailing Robin’s killer.”
Every word he uttered was truth. Nobody had a mind like Xavier, and when it came to weapons, he’d been nearly as good a shot as Jeff at the academy. Just because Jeff was terrified of him getting hurt didn’t mean he was in any place to ignore doing what was best for the case.
“Stick to the shadows,” he ordered, though he recognized how redundant it was to say so. This was Xavier’s plan, after all. “Don’t make a move unless you absolutely need to.”
He thought he saw Xavier roll his eyes before turning away. “Yes, sir,” he muttered. He melted into the darkness, the wind silencing his exodus.
Jeff watched him until there was nothing left to watch. Then he watched for a few seconds more. The wind whipped an empty potato chip bag across his feet, and it scrambled over the grass until it too was gone.
His head swiveled back to stare at the space Robin Potter had filled only hours earlier. She wasn’t there now, but her ghost was, calling him forward, her youthful visage begging him without words to do what he had to.
The weight of his gun against his palm honed his attention as he took the first step. Ruhl had a gun, too. A .22, according to ballistics. There was no indication he’d had any formal training, but Jeff couldn’t assume he was a novice. He had to be prepared for the worst. Pray Ruhl didn’t take a head shot.
As he crept along, he tried to peer through the trees. Ruhl might even be long gone by now. It might not have been him in the first place. This entire plan could be a waste of time while Ruhl skipped out of the city. Just because Jeff had claimed he wouldn’t, that the man’s need to watch would root him long enough to catch, didn’t mean he was right. He’d been wrong before.
He gritted his teeth. He wouldn’t be wrong this time.
Though the urge was tremendous, Jeff didn’t dare look to his left. If Xavier was half as good as they both thought he was, Jeff wouldn’t see him anyway, but the need to reassure himself that Xavier was okay choked off most of his breath. He had to settle for breathing shallowly through his nose. Concentrate.
A new sound joined the whistling wind. Jeff stopped. Listened more closely. It could have been a crackling, like dried leaves being crunched underfoot. What few were in the park, however, had likely been blown away with the gusts. He had to be hearing things. This entire case was starting to fuck with his head.
His ears rang as a gunshot split the night air. Jeff immediately dove to the cold ground.
It had come from in front of him, somewhere in the trees lining the other side of the path. There was no doubt in his mind the shooter had aimed for him; the sound had been too clear. But at least he hadn’t shot at Xavier, too. The plan was working.
“Ruhl! This is pointless! We found the other girl!” Jeff swept his arm along the surface of the grass, ready to shoot at the first slight movement. “Turn yourself in now, and nobody gets hurt!”
He couldn’t see shit. The wind made it impossible to hear anything, too. He crawled forward a few feet on his stomach, stopping when his elbow hit something hard.
His fingers pulled a dangly gold earring out of the grass. His throat tightened. It was the match to the one they’d pulled out of Robin Potter’s skull.
“Every cop in San Francisco is looking for you, Ruhl!” Jeff curled his hand around the earring and pushed himself up to his knees. Maybe he was just shouting into the wind. It was entirely possible Ruhl had run off after taking the first shot. “You should have disappeared while you still had the chance!”
That was when he saw it. A tree whose trunk was too thick for its proportions. The odd bulge along its length could only be a man pressed to its bark.
Xavier dropped to the ground at the first shot, his heart jumping to his throat. He didn’t think the bullet had been meant for him, but the thought of somebody firing at Jeff sent a shot of adrenalin to his heart. He had never shot anybody in the line of duty before, and given his specialty, he had never thought to prepare for that eventuality. But he thought he could do it now.
No, he didn’t think. He knew he could shoot another man, if that other man was Clancy Ruhl. He wouldn’t think twice about it.
A more prudent part of his mind reminded him it would be better to take him in alive. The cold case and missing persons detectives would probably appreciate his thoughtfulness. He didn’t have any doubt Clancy Ruhl was the sort of madman who had more than one confession to make.
Xavier just wished he had confirmation Jeff was okay. His wish was almost immediately granted by the sound of Jeff’s voice. He couldn’t quite make out the words, but he was certain they were not cries for help or of pain. Unfortunately Clancy didn’t respond, so it was difficult to get an idea of his location. If the wind wasn’t mangling the sound too much, he thought he was further north than Jeff.
He flicked the safety off his gun.
Jeff said something else. “…Still had the chance!”
Something fluttered in the corner of his eye. It might have been just a branch in the wind. Or it might have been faint light reflecting off the muzzle of a gun. Xavier bent close to the ground, and moved quickly and silently towards the possible gun. The shadow shifted, setting itself apart from the oily darkness on the ground. It wasn’t Jeff.
He leveled his gun and took a deep breath. At only ten feet away with no obstructions between him and his target, Xavier knew he had to act. There wouldn’t be a better time.
“Lower the weapon to the ground and put your hands behind your head.”
Over the din of the rustling leaves, he thought he heard a muttered curse. Otherwise, the shadow didn’t move.
“You heard him, Ruhl!” Jeff’s voice. Loud enough this time for the words to be clear. “Don’t be stupid!”
“What does it matter?” Another man. It had to be Ruhl. “Robin’s dead. Are you happy now, Detective Landis? You killed her!”
Xavier gritted his teeth. Maybe he did carry guilt over what happened to Robin, but he was not going to redeem himself by arguing with the man who pulled the trigger.
“Put the gun down, Ruhl. We’ll discuss this at the station.”
“There’s nothing to discuss. We wouldn’t even be here if you’d just kept your dick in your pants.”
Xavier took a careful step forward, his finger dry and sure on the trigger. He was not going to let Ruhl draw him into his delusions. “Ruhl, put on the gun on the ground. I’m placing you under arrest.”
For a moment, the wind stilled. He heard the steady beat of his heart, a light tapping of something hard against something harder. He still had no idea where Jeff was, but the shadow against the tree separated, congealed into something solid as it stepped onto the path.
The dark outline of a man, stringy and straight, etched against the foliage. His arms hung at his sides, but there was no mistaking the gun still in his hand.
“You heard him.” Jeff’s voice was closer, and though Xavier couldn’t risk glancing away from Ruhl, his shape almost immediately took form at the edge of Xavier’s vision. “And you really don’t want to piss him off. He’s an excellent shot.”
The closer Jeff moved to the armed man, the tenser Xavier became. Despite his earlier certainty, he did not want this night to devolve into a gunfight. “Ruhl? What’ll it take to get you to put the gun down?”
“Gee,” the man sneered. “Maybe if you said please.”
“That wasn’t a request,” Jeff snapped. “Put the fucking gun down.”
“This is your last warning, Ruhl. Put the gun down now, or I will shoot you.”
Ruhl looked back and forth between them. Xavier wished it wasn’t so dark. He needed to see the man’s face, to know what it was in his eyes that made it possible to slip through Xavier’s fingers.
“All right.” Resignation lowered Ruhl’s voice. “I’m doing it. Don’t shoot.”
His shoulders hunched as he began to crouch. Xavier watched him every inch of the way. But when the gun swung out to the side, he saw it the second after the roar of the revolver.
The second shot was so close to the first, it didn’t even sound like an echo. Xavier’s finger compressed on the trigger twice more, the bullets connecting with Clancy Ruhl’s prone body. For a moment, all Xavier could hear was the shrill ringing in his ears from the gun’s loud report.
Both the bodies on the ground were silent.
He ran to Jeff on numb legs, silently sending prayers to a God he hadn’t talked to in over a decade. Please, let him be okay. Please. Please.
Xavier crouched beside him. “Jeff? Jeff, answer me.”
He didn’t utter a word. All Xavier heard was the whistle of the wind as it picked back up again.
Reaching out, he touched Jeff’s arm and almost immediately recoiled. Warm, sticky blood coated his fingers.
Stay tune next week for the conclusion. Ooooh…
Jamie Craig is the penname used for the collaborative efforts of Pepper Espinoza and Vivien Dean. Both successful authors on their own, they began working together in early 2006. Pepper lives with her husband and cats in Utah, where she attends graduate school, and Vivien resides in northern California with her husband and two children.
This an original story given generously to us by Jamie Craig. DO NOT post any part of this story on your site without attribution to Jamie Craig or a holla-back at her site. That’s not cool. Always give credit where credit is due, yo.
Note: Hey, other writer-types, do you want to contribute to The Serial? If so, holla at yo gurl and I’ll hook you up, yo.
Till, then… Love, peace, and snarkage, my babies. Peace!
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