But not really.
Hearsay's release day is fast approaching and I still have so much to do to get it ready! This means I'm going through that phase where I feel equal parts nervous and excited and I just want to puke. Fun times! I'll have a mini-tour. I'll talk about the characters and their story and whatnot. Then I'll sit back and start biting my nails. You know, the usual. But, anyhow.
This here is Chapter One. It'll give you all a glimpse at one of the issues MC Derrick Swain will be facing in this book.
The legal term for testimony in a court proceeding where the witness does not have direct knowledge of the facts asserted and normally considered inadmissible as evidence against the accused... unless the charges were child molestation. In that case, all bets were off, and a third, fourth, or even fifth party allegation alone could land a person’s ass in jail before they became fully aware of what the fuck was going on.
At times it seemed as if serial killers could get more leniency than a person accused of child molestation, and that was without a formal indictment. Once the rumors started, the suspect was presumed to be guilty by mostly everyone, whether there was any physical evidence or not. Derrick remembered seeing this happen in a similar case sensationalized in the news when he was a kid and had taken a closer look once he started practicing as a family law attorney. He never thought it’d happen to a dear friend.
“I can’t believe those fuckers are turning everything I said against me!”
The angry words were followed by retching so violent it made Derrick wince as he stood by the bathroom door.
“Are you okay?”
Stupid question, yes, but Derrick needed to make sure Tyler would be fine. After fifteen minutes of tightly embracing the porcelain god, Derrick was afraid the guy had nothing left to throw up but his guts. Well, maybe his heart, considering the reason why he’d shown up at Derrick’s place at eight o’clock at night unannounced.
Tyler hadn’t said much after his “I’m being falsely accused of sexually molesting a minor” greeting the second he came through the front door, but Derrick was a lawyer. He knew, without having to be told, how deep of a shithole Tyler was in.
“I cooperated with them.” Tyler’s voice sounded like gravel. No surprise there. His throat must be raw and bleeding by now.
“Who exactly do you mean by them? Who did you talk to?” Derrick asked carefully, praying to God his suspicions were wrong, then cursing under his breath when Tyler confirmed his biggest concern.
“People from the Administration for Children’s Services and that investigator the police depart—” Tyler’s words were interrupted by some more retching. When he managed to finish the sentence, his voice sounded muffled, as if it was coming from inside the toilet bowl. Yuck. “The police sent an investigator. I talked to her.”
Falsely accused people often decided to talk to the authorities to try and clear things up, but instead they only managed to talk themselves into a corner. Derrick’s stomach tied in a knot.
“That’s the worst thing you could’ve done. What the hell were you thinking, talking to a police investigator without lawyering up?”
“I have nothing to hide.”
“You should’ve called me the moment you found out there were allegations against you,” Derrick barked. “Have you any idea how much damage—”
“I thought that if I talked to them, they’d see it was all bullshit and leave me alone.”
“Fuck, Tyler.” Derrick took a deep breath and forced himself to not kick the door open and strangle his friend. “You can’t possibly be that stupid.”
“And that motherfucking piece of shit Brandon,” Tyler snarled once the retching had stopped. “How could he do this to me? How could he believe I’m capable of sexually molesting a kid? How could he get ACS involved without talking to me first?”
“Brandon?” he repeated, trying to put a face to the name that had obviously started this mess. “Are you talking about the former rent boy who now volunteers at the safe house?”
“Stripper,” Tyler corrected him after flushing the toilet. “He worked as a stripper before starting college. He wasn’t a volunteer. He did his social work internship at the safe house. But he’s been on the payroll for over a year now.”
“How come I didn’t know that?”
The moment the question came out of his mouth, he shook his head and dismissed it with a hand gesture.
Derrick’s curiosity usually got the best of him, but the answer wasn’t important, nor would it change anything.
“It isn’t like I discuss every aspect of the Coleman Safe House with you, do I?”
“Maybe you should,” Derrick suggested, looking down and smiling at his yellow tabby when he rubbed his head against Derrick’s leg.
“It gets worse,” Tyler mumbled through the closed door. “They asked about you.”
Derrick’s blood froze in his veins. “Come again?”
“Robbie Yates—the kid accusing me—also said he was present when I had sex with a few dudes and—”
“The police think I exposed myself to a minor?” The question came out as a shriek. Derrick didn’t care. He was freaking out a bit. “Are they saying we had a three-way with Robbie Yates?”
“They didn’t say that, but they wanted to know about my sex life.” Tyler’s voice was so low, Derrick could barely make out the words. Or perhaps it was the thunder of his own heart that was stopping him from hearing them. “I haven’t been with that many guys. I— Shit. I didn’t think…”
“You didn’t think it’d be a big deal to share the details with them,” Derrick finished, all of a sudden feeling tired and about ninety years old.
Lumière rubbed himself against his leg again. Most likely he’d sensed Derrick’s distress and wanted to cheer him up, but when Derrick failed to pick him up, he meowed loudly and disappeared behind the bedroom door.
“I’m sorry… For what it’s worth, we never had sex at the safe house, you and I. They can’t possibly charge you with anything.”
“Oh, they can,” Derrick scoffed. “And there’s a damn good chance they will.”
“But you haven’t done anything and neither have I!”
“I know that, but this is child molestation we’re talking about. It’s serious shit.”
“You’re a lawyer. You can get good legal representation and put an end to this mess.”
“I know that,” Derrick said again, “but I can’t afford the scandal. Neither of us can.”
“I don’t think they’re going after you,” Tyler mumbled.
“I hope they aren’t, but they may question me. I’m not looking forward to that.”
Even if the investigators decided they didn’t give a shit about Derrick or any other casual or temporary lovers, they’d want to build a strong case against Tyler. He was a big fish. A gay man running a safe house for runaway gay teens mostly on sponsorships and government grants and charity money was gold for the media. Derrick couldn’t take any risks. He wanted both of their names cleared of all suspicion of wrongdoing as soon as possible.
“So one of the kids went to Brandon and accused you of sexually molesting him, and Brandon went straight to the authorities without warning you first. Is that correct?” Derrick used the tone of voice he reserved for his clients: practical, efficient, and direct. He knew from experience it relaxed them a little and made them feel more understood.
“Correct. And to think I went on two dates with that fucking prick.” Tyler yanked the bathroom door open. He looked like shit. “I need to borrow a toothbrush.”
“There’s a new one in the medicine cabinet,” Derrick said absently. “Isn’t Brandon like, twenty-three?”
“Almost twenty-seven,” Tyler corrected through a mouthful of toothpaste. He never stopped brushing his teeth, but he sought Derrick’s eyes on the mirror above the sink. “I had sex with him.”
“About a week before Robbie talked to him, but that didn’t stop him from believing the little scumbag who’s falsely accusing me.”
“He’s an employee of the Coleman Safe House. He’s legally bound to report incidents of alleged child abuse.”
“He didn’t witness anything!” Tyler threw the toothbrush in the sink, rinsed his mouth quickly, and faced Derrick. “That’s why I decided to talk to them. I’ve done nothing wrong, and this is fucking crazy. I’ve dedicated my entire life to helping gay kids in need. They just have to take a look at my record to see that—”
“Nothing you’ll say or do at this point will convince the authorities that the abuse didn’t occur,” Derrick interrupted him. “You know how it is, Tyler. Some kids are really having a hard time at home and are in desperate need of help. But, how many times have you taken the word of a minor over that of their parents or guardians, only to find out the kid was lying through their teeth?”
Tyler stared at Derrick for what felt like hours. He opened his mouth in an attempt to talk and then closed it again when he realized he couldn’t refute those words. Derrick watched him break out in a sweat. The veins in his forehead and neck looked ready to pop. His normally rosy skin lost all trace of color. And just when Derrick was about to take a step closer, Tyler turned around and buried his face in the toilet again.
Derrick rubbed his face and started pacing back and forth in the short hallway of his fifth floor walk-up apartment. “Jesus… fucking unreal,” he muttered under his breath, his mind working overtime, searching for a way to help his friend out of this mess.
It wouldn’t be easy. He knew his opinion was tainted by personal experience, but he didn’t trust the Administration for Children’s Services to conduct a fair investigation to begin with. Tyler’s mistake of talking to them and the cops without having any legal representation made things a thousand times worse. They’d most likely have to deal with several accusations of behavior consistent with that of a child molester by the time the authorities were done twisting things. The general population would want to lynch Tyler before it was all said and done, and only God knew what would happen to Derrick’s job.
“I’m fucked, aren’t I?” Tyler asked from the bathroom door. His voice was trembling, and his eyes were bloodshot. He looked like his strength had abandoned him, but he managed not to cry. Somehow he was holding onto his dignity, and Derrick admired him for that.
He wasn’t as strong, though. “Crap.” Tears ran down Derrick’s cheek, and two steps later he was in front of his friend, hugging him tightly.
“What the hell am I going to do, Derrick?” Tyler sobbed on his neck, ultimately losing his battle against his own tears. “How are we going to get out of this?”
“Shhh…” Derrick caressed his friend’s auburn hair and gently rocked him in his arms.
“Will you represent me?”
“You need a criminal defense attorney, sweetheart,” he explained softly. “Preferably one with experience in child molestation cases.”
“I can’t afford a high-priced lawyer and they’re usually the best.”
“Let me worry about that.”
“Trust me. I have a plan.” He pulled back and dried off Tyler’s tears with his fingers. “Come to the kitchen. I’ll make us some coffee while you give me the details. I’m going to need every single one of them in order to get us out of this mess.”