“I’m telling you now. If you don’t quit snooping around, shit is going to hit the fan,” Jessica warned Matt.
“Tiffany was serious when she told me to tell you to lay off her brother.” She was trying to get through Matt’s thick head; but as usual, he had made up his mind.
“This is really big! I can feel it! There’s a story here, maybe bigger than the one last year,” Matt informed her excitedly.
“I’m sure there is, but it can also spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E!” she warned him. “We’re talking about Wellston. He’s already pissed royally at you for putting him behind bars. It’s hard to say what he’ll do if you try to throw in prostitution on top of everything else.”
“But it’s not fair what he did to those kids,” exclaimed Matt. “No one’s talking to me yet, but I have a feeling that there’s a lot more to this than meets the eye. He wasn’t whoring out adults, they were just kids.”
Matt was determined to get to the bottom of his investigation. He was sure that Jeremy was involved. If Wellston had used him and other kids in his prostitution ring, he was going to find out, one way or another. He wanted to make sure he stayed behind bars forever.
From what he had learned last year, there may have been over ten high school aged students, male and female. He had been puzzled why there was never a thorough investigation. It seemed that the road dead ended whenever he thought he had a lead.
He had to talk to Jeremy again. The kid seemed to want to talk to someone. Perhaps the guilt was too much for him to handle. Maybe with gentle persuasion, he could get him to talk. How though? That was the problem.
“You’re so damned pig-headed! You know that? You’re going to continue snooping around, aren’t you?” Jessica was mad, but what could she do?
“These people don’t play around. You’re going to get yourself killed. I’m surprised they haven’t done anything to you yet. You know what happened last year,” she reminded him.
Matt had been threatened repeatedly after the police raid. Calls were made to the school threatening his life. He had to have his room changed and get a new phone number because of all the harassing calls.
The campus security had to follow him around for a week when he found a note in his book bag threatening to shoot him. Nothing ever came of it, but he looked over his shoulder for months after that.
“Look, I’ve got a hot story here. I can’t just let it go. I’m being really careful about speaking to anyone. Tiffany and Jeremy are the only ones I’ve spoken to so far,” he said as he tried to allay Jessica’s fears.
“Yeah, but they might not be the right ones to talk to. The rumor around campus is that Tiffany is Wellston’s girlfriend.” It was common knowledge that Tiffany was close to Wellston, and that she visited him quite frequently.
“All right, I’ll be careful.” Matt got up from the table in the student union and stormed away. He loved Jessica, but sometimes she could really get on his nerves; especially when she might be right.
* * * * * * * *
“Listen up, everyone,” Joe hollered out to the people in the newsroom. We have a deadline tomorrow. I want to see your final drafts on my desk before you leave today.”
He walked cautiously over to Matt. “Can you stay after everyone leaves? I need to talk to you about your story.”
The room was abuzz for the next two hours. Everyone worked feverishly. Joe walked around the room giving assistance to those who needed his help.
Matt watched him admiringly. He really had fallen for Joe. He appeared confident as he strolled around the newsroom. He was in complete charge. Everyone respected him and looked to him for guidance.
“Why is he so fucked up in his personal life?” Matt thought. He could control everything in the newsroom, but he couldn’t control his emotions. Matt was the only one who had ever been able to penetrate that secret area of his life, so no one else knew the turmoil hidden deep within the externally confident man.
When the last reporter left the newsroom, Joe approached Matt. “Sit down, Matt. Tell me what you’ve got.” He pointed to a chair sitting beside his editor’s desk.
“Nothing I can say is substantive,” said Matt. “Everything right now is just a hunch. I talked to one of the boys involved, and I’ve got a feeling I’m on to something big.”
“I don’t want you to do anything else on this story,” Joe ordered him.
“Why? I’m just getting started? I need more time,” Matt said in frustration.
Joe pulled a piece of paper out of his desk. It had large letters pasted on it. It looked like they had been cut out of a newspaper.
He handed him the paper. “Here, read this. I found it this morning shoved under the door of the newsroom when I arrived.”
IF YOU DON’T STOP SOMEONE DIES
Matt looked at the note and gasped. He had received similar warnings last year. One had been placed under the door of his dorm room and another under the door of the newsroom. After that, he had received campus security protection for a while.
“Look, Joe,” he said. “We saw these last year. Nothing ever came of them.”
“I don’t give a damn!” Joe became agitated. “Give up this crazy idea, now! If you don’t, I’m going to Dr. Olsen. I should never have suggested it in the first place.”
“Come on, Joe. Just a couple more days,” Matt begged. “These boys need help. No one helped them last year when they should have. For all we know, they could still be in danger.”
Joe stood up and looked angrily at Matt. “Goddamn it, Matt! Give it up! I’m telling you now. The story stops here, now!” He pounded his fist on the desk.
Matt said nothing. He looked deeply inside Joe’s dark brown eyes. What surprised him was that he didn’t see anger in Joe’s eyes, he saw concern. Joe didn’t want to see him get hurt.
He knew he couldn’t say anything more. He had already made up his mind that he was going to find out if the boys were in danger and needed someone’s help. If he stayed around, he knew Joe would make him promise to give up the investigation.
So he grabbed his notes and started hurriedly putting them in his book bag. On his way out the door he told Joe, “I’ll talk to you in a couple of days.” Joe stood and watched him leave, fearful for Matt’s safety.
* * * * * * * *
Matt was waiting outside the doors of James Madison High School when the 3:30 bell rang. He knew it was the final bell and that students would soon be streaming out of the building.
He waited patiently watching the hoards of excited high school students exit. They were laughing and horse playing around. He could almost tell the students by their grade level. The freshmen usually left playfully, yelling and screaming, occasionally trying to trip someone or steal a book.
The seniors left quietly with an air of authority. It had been a few years since he had been in high school. He wondered if a casual observer noticed his change over the years.
After a while, he saw the cute, wavy brown-haired boy emerge through the doors and walk gracefully down the stairs heading off in the direction of his apartment. Matt followed him closely until they were a safe distance from the school and out of range of anyone who might be watching.
“Hey, Jeremy,” Matt said, walking up beside him.
Jeremy didn’t even turn when he heard the voice. He had figured that Matt, being the news hound that he was, would not give up with one encounter.
“I told you the other day, I’ve got nothing to say to you.”
“Look. I’m just trying to help you.” Matt said pleadingly.
“What’s in it for you? Another big story. Big headlines and the media interviewing you. Then what? You leave me out on a line, dangling.” Jeremy looked at him sadly.
“Look, I know Wellston used you. He sold you into prostitution and let others sexually abuse you.” Matt was taking a chance. He knew his suspicions had to be right. He was hoping he could bluff the young boy into taking the bait.
“You don’t know the half of it.” Jeremy turned and began to sadly walk away.
Matt replied pleadingly, “Then tell me about it, I can try to help.”
“I can’t. There are people in this town that would kill both of us right now if they saw us talking. We’re already probably being watched. My sister saw us the other day,” he warned.
“I know. I’ve already received a threat,” Matt informed him.
“Listen, I gotta go,” Jeremy responded tearfully. “Please leave me alone.” He began to briskly walk away.
Matt hollered out to him, “You still got my phone number?”
“Call me if you need me.” Matt watched as Jeremy continued walking down the sidewalk.
* * * * * * * * *
Joe decided to go to Matt’s room to try and talk him out of pursuing the story. In the years he had been working on stories, none had felt as dangerous as the one Matt was pursuing.
Even last year when Matt was being threatened, it didn’t feel as ominous as this story was. There was a dark cloud hanging over everything right now, and he knew that he had to get to Matt and stop his investigation before something went wrong. He felt guilty for even mentioning the story to him.
As he walked across the campus to Matt’s room, he felt as if someone was watching him. Someone was lurking about; he could feel it.
The sun was beginning to set, and the sky was getting darker. He could hear rumbles of thunder in the background as a storm approached. All this added to his fear, a foreboding that something was wrong.
As he neared Matt’s dorm, someone stepped out of the shadows of a nearby building and approached. Joe felt a sense of terror surge through his body as he looked at the approaching figure. The man was huge! He looked like he had just come out of the ring of a WWF match. He was 6’1 and looked like he easily weighed 350 pounds. The thing Joe noticed immediately was that the man appeared to have no neck. His head sat heavily upon his shoulders. The man’s appearance was grotesque.
Joe turned and began to hurriedly away. He could hear the man’s footsteps quickly approaching. For someone so large, he could move fast.
Suddenly, he felt the man’s hand slap down harshly on his shoulder and roughly spin him around. He was looking directly into the face of this grotesque being. His eyes were threatening. He had a huge scar running down the side of his face. He had a military style haircut and a small mustache. To complete his horrible appearance, he had a tattoo of a cobra on what should have been his neck. On him it appeared to be mashed down, like a clown in a Jack in the Box.
“Don’t hurt me! I don’t have any money!” Joe was shaking violently. He knew the man could break his neck with just a twist of his huge, stubby hands.
“Shut up, Pretty Boy,” he warned. “I’m not going to hurt you if you cooperate.”
The huge man was Cobra, a close associate of Wellston. Tiffany had informed Wellston that Matt was snooping around again. He had ordered Cobra to take care of it.
“I’ve been here for over an hour waiting for your boyfriend to show up,” Cobra informed him angrily.
He grabbed Joe and twisted his arm behind his back. He could feel his shoulder begin to give way and thought he was going to rip his arm from its socket.
“You tell Blondie if he doesn’t quit snooping around, he’s going to be a dead man,” Cobra spat as he continued to twist Joe’s arm even more.
“Okay! I will! Please don’t hurt me!” Joe screamed in pain. It was useless to even try and defend himself. Joe worked out regularly and was in tremendous shape, but he was no match for this mammoth.
Cobra threw Joe to the ground like he was a rag doll. Joe balled himself up, waiting for another assault. It wasn’t long until he felt Cobra land a solid punch to his side, knocking the wind out of him.
“Remember what I said, Pretty Boy. If he doesn’t stop.” He pointed his finger at Joe and imitated shooting a gun. “Bang, Bang.” He walked over and gave Joe another punch to his other side. Joe let out a loud scream, wincing in pain as he felt the man’s heavy fist sink into his side.
Through tears, Joe watched Cobra lumber across the street and head to a black limousine. Before getting in the car, he looked back over at Joe and raised his hand.
“Bang. Bang. Tell him Cobra‘s watching him,” he shouted. Then he turned, climbed into the back of the limo as it peeled off, leaving Joe writhing in pain on the sidewalk.
* * * * * * * *
“Listen, Punk!” Tiffany yelled at Jeremy. “I’ve told Wellston about your little liaison with Matt.”
“What? You didn’t!” Jeremy screamed. “Nothing’s going on, I swear to you.”
Jeremy was getting excited. For a year he thought everything had finally gone away. He was beginning to get his life back together. He was back in school, and making decent grades. He had even thought of joining the swim team again.
Two years ago he had lead an average teen boy’s life. He went to school and did what was expected. He dated a few girls, but had realized that a girl could never meet his needs.
He had not given in to his homosexual urges; that is, until Wellston had forced himself upon him. After that first day, it became a regular ritual. He would meet Wellston in the storeroom whenever he wanted sex.
It didn’t taken Wellston long to take his virginity. About a week after their first encounter, he met Jeremy in their usual rendezvous spot. Instead of pleasuring him orally, Wellston violently threw him against a work table, yanked down his pants and penetrated his virgin ass.
Jeremy could still feel the searing pain every time he remembered that event. There was no love or intimacy, just raw, violent sex. His swollen ass bled for days after the harsh intrusion. It wasn’t long after that when Wellston began to insist that he meet with ‘clients.’ Over the next year he made tens of thousands of dollars. He had a bank account with over $30,000. It was to be his college fund, his way out of the life he so despised.
“He called Cobra,” Tiffany informed him. “Cobra’s going to take care of things.”
“Dammit, Tiff! Why couldn’t you just leave things alone? Nothing was going to happen. Matt wasn’t going to get anything from me or anyone else,” he insisted.
“I don’t care. I told you, Matt was trouble. Cobra will take care of it.” She began to laugh, and appeared rather content with herself.
“This shit’s going to come back on you!” Jeremy warned. He got up from the kitchen table and stormed up to his room.