Demi quickly went to her pet to calm him while Whit went to the door with Glen close behind. Before they could open it, they heard strange noises, a sound like someone falling on the steps. Then a voice rang out calling, “Glen. I’m sorry.”
Whit flung open the door and stepped back in shock. Rudy had lurched to his feet, his face all beaten, holding his ribcage. “Glen. I’m really sorry. I tried.” Then he toppled into Whit’s arms and they both went down.
Demi couldn’t ignore Nito to go to the man, leaving it up to Glen to deal with the shocking situation. First he got Whit loose by pulling Rudy away and then they both lifted the injured man to put him on the couch.
Glen’s ashen face appeared ready to burst into tears. His concern that strong. “Jesus, Rudy. This is all my fault.”
Whit didn’t pull his punches. “What the fuck is going on, Glen? You drinking again?”
“No! God, no.”
Demi hated to interrupt, but she had to tell her truth. “Glen, I smelled beer on you a few times now. It’s been making me crazy.”
Glen stood between them and looked from one to the other. “I drink the non-alcoholic beer, sure, but I don’t go near the real shit. I told you I wouldn’t.”
Demi left Nito and stood to go nearer to Glen. “You did say that. And I should have asked before letting it fester. My bad, bro. I’m sorry.”
“Me too, Glen. I guess seeing Rudy in this kind of condition more than once over the last few weeks, and knowing you spend so much time together, I just assumed you might be tempted.”
“No way. Besides, it’s not the drink that’s affecting Rudy this way, it’s the Meth. He’s been hitting it hard lately. And it’s my fault. I pushed him.”
“Excuse me?” Demi didn’t understand. She looked over at Whit and he shook his head, his answer to the unspoken question. “So… he’s hooked is what you’re saying?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think it’s gotten that bad yet. He started using last week only because of my refusal to hide anymore. I’m gay. He’s gay. Big deal, right?” Glen’s voice broke. “We should be allowed to be who we are like I can be with you. But until his dad knows the truth, we can’t live openly. And I’ve-I’ve had it with the sneaking around bullshit. Spent too much of my life hiding myself from the world.” A sob broke loose, and Glen’s hands went to his face. “Now look what’s happened.”
Demi rushed to him and wrapped her arms around the man crumbling in front of them. Ignoring the growl erupting from Nito, her words were powerful. “You are perfect, wonderful, exactly the way you are. How many men in your position can test for their GED and get it the first time? You’re smart and good looking and—”
“And… you’re gonna have his head so swollen, we’ll have to widen the doorframes.” Whit walked to the couple and put his arms around them both. “Let’s see what we can do to help.”
Whit left them to go to Rudy who lay passed out, his arms flung over his head with one leg having slid to the floor. He examined the wounds more closely. “Bring me a bowl of hot water and clean cloths, Demi please. And Glen, you get the first aid kit. Let’s get this guy fixed up.”
Whit had seen plenty of beating victims and had been the victim himself more times than he’d want to admit. But Rudy appeared to have been brutalized by someone who meant to break him apart. When he got Glen to help him remove Rudy’s bloody shirt, they saw the kind of bruises that were from being kicked… more than a few times.
He’d been clutching at his ribs, and Whit had no doubt that he might have cracked or broken ones he’d have to live with for the next few weeks. God, he hated to see such violence.
Demi came close and wrung out the cloth she’d used to clean the mess from Rudy’s hair. “He’s got more than one wound here. It looks like from some kind of a sharp object.”
Whit leaned over and looked for himself, as did Glen. “Maybe a broken bottle.”
Glen couldn’t escape from the blame but hated himself for his realization. He’d driven Rudy to do this, to confront his father, to stand up and be true to himself. What the Christ was wrong with him? Old Fred could never accept that his own blood could be so different.
Though Rudy had been the one son who’d stayed with him after all the other people in his life had left, his favorite, his baby, the one person he relied on. Then to find out he never really knew him at all. What could that do to a man? They should have known… seen it coming.
Glen’s place had been with Rudy. He could have stopped the beating. It was his fault.
“Sweet Jesus, how could a father do such a thing? It’s… it’s ungodly.” Demi looked at both Glen and Whit and saw them catching each other’s eyes. “What? What am I missing?”
Whit wasn’t sure how much she knew of Rudy’s past. “Could be he has a dislike of queers.”
Then it hit her like a sledge hammer. Of course a father could. Just because she’d moved away from all that shit going down in the city, didn’t mean she could escape it for good.
Tragedies like this happened all the time and all over the world.