Title: Power Exchange
Author: AJ Rose
Publisher/Release Date: Voodoo Lily Press, 9/15/2012
Genre: GLBT erotic romance, BDSM, detective mystery
Length: Approx 270 pages, 117,000 words
From the moment Detective Gavin DeGrassi steps into the world of BDSM to solve the brutal slaying of Dom George Kaiser, his course is not his own. Mesmerized by the context in which the victim lived and the images of the lifestyle seared into his soul, Gavin must find a way to navigate these unknown waters. With his personal life in upheaval due to marital trouble, and his professional life uncertain with the assignment of a new partner, Gavin needs all the help he can get understanding the case.
Enter Ben Haverson, a psychologist and a well known Dom. With Ben's help as a consultant and attention to Gavin's own murky truths, Gavin delves deeper than he ever thought he would into the world of restraints and paddles. Forced to scrutinize his true nature and his innermost desires, Gavin has a choice: keep the fear of submitting at bay or dive in and solve the case with the knowledge he gains. When another victim is discovered, Gavin's choice is made for him, and he's pulled headlong into the deepest, most emotional journey of his life.
Unfortunately for him and Ben, a killer has noticed, has taken stock, and has set his sights on the D/s pair. Can Gavin outwit him, or will his first exchange of power be his last?
Two years ago, St. Louis was listed by the FBI as the most dangerous city in America. Ahead of Washington D.C. and Detroit. Ahead of that one place in New Jersey that "won" it the year before. Not exactly the distinction a cop is proud of. On the other hand, only seven percent of the police agencies in the country are officially accredited by the society awarding such honors, and St. Louis County Police Department is one of these. Still, sometimes the accomplishment is an empty reward to me when I'm on my way to a murder scene. We do the best we can, but sometimes, that accreditation means shit when you walk into someone's house and their dead eyes are staring at you in silent mockery of your prestigious status.
I turned at the sound of my name as I exited my unmarked car on a quiet suburban street lined with trees and filled with the sounds of lawn mowers and kids riding bikes. The late spring sun would make the afternoon hot, but just before noon on a Saturday at the end of May, it was warm and pleasant.
Except for this being a murder scene. I made eye contact with one of the patrolmen guarding the front door, the one who'd called my name. He stood as far from the open door as he could get while still manning it and his face looked pale. I didn't know him well, but I didn't have to in order to recognize the haunted look he wore. "Back room, down the hall and to the left."
"Bedroom?" I asked.
He hesitated. "I'm not sure what kind of room it is."
That gave me pause. Stepping into the protective booties that my brother, Cole, would nail me to the wall for forgetting, I let myself in, following the sounds to the back of a well-appointed ranch-style house in one of the more affluent neighborhoods of Chesterfield. Plush carpeting muffled the sound of feet traipsing about, most of them belonging to the crime scene unit. I could tell by the umpteen-syllable words I heard, the language of the truly geeky. As I passed through the front foyer, I spotted a woman with a cute blond ponytail and red-rimmed eyes talking to a patrol officer in quiet tones. Turning down the hallway toward the hive of activity, I came to the door and paused. Veteran homicide detective or not, I still had to steel myself for it, taking one last deep breath before facing the sight of another body.
Even with that bolstering, I wasn't prepared for the view. The victim, a mid-forties-ish man in fairly good shape, was held in place by rope to a wooden X suspended from the ceiling by chains attached to heavy-duty hooks. His chest was crisscrossed with slashes that slicked his torso with blood. He was naked. It wasn't quite Jesus-like, because the cross wasn't T-shaped, and his feet were tied wide apart, but it was damn close. His hands were fisted and purple against the bindings, and his head was held up by a collar around his neck, affixed to a taut chain anchored to the ceiling, forcing his blank gaze outward. It was like walking by a painting and having the eyes follow you no matter where you went. Making the whole thing more macabre were four squiggly black lines drawn down the man's face, from his eyes to the edge of his jaw, two per cheek spaced closely together. The creep aspect went up by a factor of ten because of those lines alone. I suppressed a shudder, trying to don my professionalism like a cloak. The strobe of the CSI cameras gave the whole thing aSilence of the Lambs effect, particularly the scene when Hannibal Lector escaped custody. I shivered despite the warmth of late spring.
"Holy shit," I muttered, stepping all the way into the room but remaining by the wall as the techs gathered evidence.
"Holy shit is right, Gavin," a familiar voice said. I looked toward my brother, Cole, his usually merry blue eyes dampened by solemnity as he carefully goose-stepped across the room to stand beside me, watching his techs do their jobs with a strange sadness mixed with pride. Cole's the lead CSI, and I rarely got the opportunity to work with him because of the potential for nepotistic back-scratching where evidence is concerned, but sometimes, there just aren't enough people to assign us to separate cases. We go out of our way to keep the chain of custody impeccable. Cops are family everywhere, but ours was literally so.
"Where's Sawyer?" he asked, voice muffled by the face mask he wore. He held one out to me, but I waved it off. I planned to do nothing but observe so as not to taint evidence, and the masks never did anything to alleviate the smell.
"He was across town with his daughter at a softball tournament. Had to wait for his ex. He's on his way." Trent Sawyer was my partner, and despite his take-charge attitude, I knew he'd appreciate anything I could find out while he was running behind. "What have you got for me?"
"Body was discovered this morning by the vic's ex-wife, who stopped by when he didn't show to pick up their kids for a weekend visit. M.E. hasn't been here to view the body, so we don't have a time of death yet, but from what I can tell by looking at him, the injuries were all pre-mortem. Have to wait for autopsy to confirm."
I nodded, taking notes. "Victim ID?"
"George Kaiser, forty-five, worked as an engineer for a car diagnostics manufacturer."
I gestured to the cross, the ropes, and over on the futon in the corner, an array of implements more likely found at Home Depot than the—what kind of room was this, actually? Addams' family guest room? Den of iniquity?—spare room of a professional businessman. Well, he was an engineer. Maybe this was a workshop of sorts. "Was all this brought here, gathered from around the house or what?" It was the question of the hour, because it was clear the tools had been used extensively on the victim.
"You'd have to ask the ex-wife what she knows about it, but my guess is it was already here. There's no ceiling plaster on the floor to indicate the hooks were drilled recently, and there's a latch up there," he tilted his head so my gaze would follow, "that looks like it fits the bottom of the cross, so it can be secured to the ceiling, out of the way. And that dresser over there," he pointed to the opposite wall where a long, squat dresser sat beneath a window covered with heavy drapes and thick blinds, "has more… equipment in it. The cross wouldn't be easily transported in the trunk of a car, but our perp could have had a truck or SUV."
I gave him a strange look, about to ask more when a voice interrupted me.
"Whoa," Trent said, standing in the doorway, dark eyes wide and staring, his black hair windblown, which told me he’d driven with the top down on his convertible. "Someone had quite the party." He gingerly stepped beside me, and I told him what Cole had found. "Kinky," was all he said. I rolled my eyes.
"This is out of even your league in the bedroom," I said. Trent loved to brag about his mattress Olympics, so I knew more than I wanted to about his exploits, which were many, considering his calculated charm. Victoria told me it was his confidence that was magnetic. I figured he was conceited and just hid it until after a tumble in the sheets. Turning back to Cole as he watched one of his techs take measurements of what looked like a cat o' nine tails, I asked, "Is there a knife or something that matches the chest wounds?"
"No knife, but those look like whip marks to me, not slashes with a blade," Cole said. I gave him a questioning look. "What? I worked an animal cruelty case two years ago where the breeder whipped the horses to train them." His disgust was clear. "Poor animals had to be put down from infections and inability to be around humans. Completely broken. But their lacerations were similar." He pointed to the whip the tech was tagging and bagging in a paper bag so as not to smear prints. "I'll test it in the lab, but that could be responsible for the chest lacerations. Or there might be another one in the pile."
I was about to ask what he made of the markings on the face when my attention was diverted. The soothing grumble of the county M.E. carried through the doorway, and all activity in the room stopped to make way for him near the body. Dr. Stanley Jencopale was a presence in any room, but at a crime scene, he was often the voice of reason in a chaotic swarm. He could take the worst injuries and make clinical sense of them, scrub them of their heinousness, and break down the information into manageable chunks, all without dehumanizing the victim. Something this… exotic would automatically fall to him.
"Oh, you poor, poor thing," he mumbled to the victim, donning gloves with an authoritative snap. He checked body temperature and for rigor, pulling the dead man's eyelids wide as his thermometer did its thing. Throughout his assessment, he spoke to the silent room while Trent and I took more notes.
"Male Caucasian, middle-aged, dead approximately seven to nine hours, which puts time of death between," he looked at his watch, "four and six a.m. this morning, indicated by body temperature. Cause of death, on initial assessment, appears to be strangulation. Petechial hemorrhage across the cheeks, as well as deep bruising around neck area. Significant blood loss from multiple lacerations to chest and abdomen. Bruising of extremities and rope marks on the skin indicate the victim was alive when affixed to the cross, and suspended for several hours. Victim's genitals show signs of loss of circulation from clamp device." Oh god, I hadn't noticed the cock ring, and I tried not to look too closely. "Help me get this cross down from the ceiling."
Cole hurried forward with a swarm of CSI techs, two of whom spread a plastic sheet to keep fibers from transferring between the body and the deep carpeting, on which there was blood splatter, already photographed. They collectively lifted the apparatus to take the weight off the chains, including the one attached to the collar, before removing the chains from the ceiling hooks and carefully lowering the body to the plastic tarp. They stepped back, waiting for the doctor to indicate if he needed the ropes loosened. At his nod, Cole untied the feet and placed the rope in a large evidence bag. Flashes strobed as photos were taken of the injuries sustained to the victim's ankles. Dr. Jencopale waved them off.
"I will photograph the injuries during autopsy. You've got the placement of the body documented already, so leave the rest to me." The reprimand was gentle but enough of a hint for the crowd to back off as he continued his examination. A few of them returned to the futon to resume cataloguing the equipment on the cushion.
"DeGrassi, you have an ultraviolet light on you?"
He clearly meant Cole, since I hadn't had a black light or anything like it since my college dorm days when my then-best friend Pete and I would smoke pot to celebrate the end of each semester, enhancing the effect with dramatic wall posters and a black light. Damn, I haven't thought about him in years. I stopped short of wondering what Pete was up to. Inappropriate right now, not to mention I didn't need the reminder in the first place. I refocused on the body as Cole donned a pair of goofy, 3D-looking glasses and shined a light across the victim's skin.
"A little saliva around the mouth, which looks to be the vic's, in a pattern consistent with a gag, but we'll swab it anyway to confirm. I see no signs of semen or other body fluids. Not on the anterior view." He passed the light and glasses to the doctor, who nodded his affirmation.
Cole and Dr. Jencopale untied the victim's hands and head from the cross and rolled him face down. Another sweep of the light brought a collective shake of their heads. Cole grabbed his kit, extracted several swabs and, with the doctor's permission, spot checked specific areas of the body, including the victim's rectum. "We'll see what Trace has to say, but again, posterior examination shows nothing seminal."
"Victim was anally penetrated, and not gently. Microtears around the anus and blood evidence ringing the orifice. An internal check will say more, but it's pretty clear from initial assessment that he was raped." They gently returned him to his back, the plastic sheeting crinkling beneath the weight. Cole and the doctor spoke softly about which evidence needed to be collected from the body right away and what could be done at the lab during post. Jencopale waved two of his assistants into the room after Cole did a single thorough sweep for trace evidence, then backed off as George Kaiser was bagged and carried to the gurney. The CSI crew continued their check of the room, paying particular attention to the cross, now that its burden had been removed. I closed my notepad and motioned to Cole. He pulled the mask down to his neck and stood in front of Trent and me with his hands on his hips.
"What's this fucking world coming to?" he asked, voice soft, disturbed.
Trent shook his head, uncharacteristically quiet, though his gaze was shrewd, and assessed everything in the room.
"You'll get us your initial report this afternoon?" I asked. Cole rolled his eyes.
"Fast as I can. There's a mountain of evidence here. That's both good and bad, since there's bound to be something you can use to nail―" he stopped himself, clearly uncomfortable with the crucifixion reference. "Find this guy." Cole was a sarcastic shit when he wanted to be, poking fun at my shyness or how my wife, Victoria, wears the pants in our relationship, but disrespectful of the dead, he was not.
"Or we'll be buried by more information than we know what to do with. Just get it to me as soon as you can, and we'll figure out what's useful and what's a dead end. Gotta go talk to the vic's ex now."
Trent cringed. "Mind if I stay here, see what they find?"
I nodded. He'd be more valuable in this room than with the victim's relatives. Trent's sense of humor was off-color, the product of more than ten years seeing some of the worst crimes in the most dangerous city in America. He missed very little, but his coping mechanisms weren't always helpful when dealing with witnesses or next of kin. It's one of the reasons I made a good partner for him; he had a knack for sorting through evidence and knowing what was hot or cold, while I got useful information from witnesses and people of interest. I turned back to Cole.
"Keep him in line, wouldja?"
"Not my turn to watch him," Cole deadpanned, situating his face mask again and turning his back on both of us.
"Go see what the missus has to say. Don't leave me hanging." Trent's eyes twinkled.
I groaned at his bad pun. "You're awful. We don't need a lawsuit when the ex-Mrs. Kaiser decides to beat your ass for your sick and twisted commentary. It's a wonder you haven't been shit-canned yet."
"Nah, the boss loves me. Hell, everyone loves me."
I could think of a string of women who didn't love him, but I kept it to myself, leaving the room to find the woman with the pony tail. Another deep breath and I wiped the expression from my face as I stepped toward the front door. Making sure to be plenty loud so as not to startle her, I neared the grief-stricken woman and cleared my throat.
"Ma'am?" She turned her tearful face to me. "I'm Detective Gavin DeGrassi. I'd like to ask you a few questions." She nodded, fidgeting with her nails, twisting the rings on a couple fingers, and looking anywhere but the hallway that led to the back. I supposed she'd just seen the gurney with the remains of the man she'd married wheeled through the door, and her jumpiness was the result. I couldn't blame her.
"If you'd be more comfortable, we can talk in my car with the air on." She nodded and walked out of the house into the sunshine, waiting for me to indicate which of the many vehicles littering the street was mine. I placed a hand on the small of her back to guide her and then dropped it, keeping professional distance. As we settled into the front seat, I reached into the console between the seats and plucked out a small pack of Kleenex, passing them over. She gave me a grateful, if watery, smile. After turning down the dashboard radio, I took out my notepad and got her contact information.
"Kimberly Kaiser," she said in a small voice, rattling off her address and phone number. She didn't live far from the scene. "You're probably wondering why I'm so upset," she said. "George is my ex, after all."
I waited, letting her talk.
"We were only recently divorced, and we have three kids together, a sixteen-year-old girl and two twelve-year-old boys. Twins. Whatever failings were in our marriage, there's nothing I wanted more than for our kids to have a good relationship with both of us. Just because we couldn't be together didn't mean our kids had to choose, you know? George and I remained friends." A fresh tear track appeared on her cheek, and she wiped it away with a well-manicured hand.
"So George took good care of you and the kids?"
The smile on her lips was both wistful and a bit of a sneer. "He insisted on paying a big settlement when we split. I'd been a stay-at-home mom most of our marriage, and he knew it would be difficult for me to get back on my feet, especially in this economy. He didn't want me or the kids struggling. I didn't demand it, if that's what you're asking. I'm not one of those women that needed to punish him for the end of our relationship. George was generous. It was in his nature to take care of people, even if he had a strange way of doing the caring."
Her unusual wording wasn't lost on me, and I wanted to know more, but starting from the beginning would be important for establishing a timeline. I could fill in the blanks and ask what she meant as we talked. The impression I had of her was not one of a jilted ex-wife bent on revenge or life insurance. She clearly still cared for the man, so it was doubtful she had anything more to do with his death than being the unfortunate one to discover him.
"When was the last time you spoke to George?"
"On the phone, yesterday afternoon. I called to verify he was picking the kids up for the weekend this morning, and he confirmed the plans. He wasn't the type to flake on them, so when he didn't show up, I called both his house and cell phone. No answer. It was unusual, so I left the kids at the house and came over to make sure nothing had happened. Thank god they didn't see this."
"What time was this?"
"He was supposed to get the kids at nine this morning. By ten, I started calling. It was about ten-thirty when I got over here."
"Did he mention any plans for the evening? Or were you aware of something he regularly did on Friday nights?"
"Oh, Friday night was club night, where he and his friends would get together every week."
Club night? I'd come back to that. "How did you find the house when you arrived?"
"The front door was closed but unlocked. I didn't think anything of it. His car was in the driveway, and I figured he’d simply had a late night and overslept. I knocked and then stuck my head in, calling for him when he didn't answer. I went in and was on my way to the bedroom when I saw him in the play room. I ran outside and called the police."
"The play room. Can you elaborate on that?"
She considered me for a beat and then took a deep breath. "It's going to come out anyway, and it's not like you haven't already seen. He's a good man, and that's not going to change because of your opinion of him." She stuck her chin out defiantly.
"Mrs. Kaiser, I ask because I need to understand George's life, where he might have crossed paths with his killer, and how his death came about. If I can answer why, I'd like to do that, too."
"Yes, I know, Detective. I'm just… so used to watching out for him, keeping his secrets. It feels like a betrayal to blab it all. But you're going to find who did this, right? If I tell you everything?" Her eyes flashed fiercely, and her protectiveness of her ex-husband's memory jolted me.
"I'll do my best. And my best improves the more information you can give me."
"George was a Dominant. The club he went to on Fridays is a leather club in midtown, Collared. He went there weekly to catch up on the scene, meet others like him, or submissives. There's a whole culture of people there, and they take care of each other."
Suddenly the room―the whips, the ropes, and the heavily covered windows―made sense. "He was a Dominant? Are you sure?" After all, he'd been found restrained and nude. I didn't know much about leather clubs and BDSM, but I did know Dominants weren't usually the ones tied up.
"Oh, I'm positive. George was never on the stinging side of a whip."
"So he could have met someone at this club, brought them home with him?" My pen scratched against my notepad furiously. She gave me the club's address.
"He could have, but usually he would vet a sub before inviting them to his play room. There are some bad seeds in the BDSM world, just like there are in any group of people, but for the most part, it's a tight-knit group."
"How long has he been involved in this lifestyle?" I took care to keep my language and tone neutral, showing no hint of judgment. Truth be told, though, I was fascinated. The things I learned on this job never ceased to surprise me.
"The whole time we were married. I knew about it when we got engaged."
It took a moment to process that. "Is that why you divorced him?"
She leveled me with a stern look, and then gave a perturbed sigh. "Yes and no. I couldn't be everything he needed in a partner. In a way, a lot of the ideals appealed to me. The power plays in the Dom/sub relationship mirror a lot of the ideals of married life, at least how it used to be, where the husband runs the household and provides while the wife takes care of the family and the living space. Archaic and anti-feminist, I know, but I liked the idea of being looked after, of providing him and our kids a happy home. We gave a normal, vanilla marriage a good shot. I never wanted for anything while we were together, either emotionally or financially. But he did." She didn't sound bitter, merely sad, picking at her cuticles. "Most people don't understand it. I tried to understand it, even tried to be the sub to his Dom, but I couldn't. It was a short-lived experiment."
"Did he resent that about you?"
"Forgive me, Detective, but is this important, why we split up? It doesn't have anything to do with how he was killed." Her eyes welled up again on the last word.
"It provides me with information about George's life and the kind of person he was, which can help us focus on who he knew that is capable of this."
"You think he knew his killer?" Her eyes widened, and then narrowed. "You're asking to see if it was me." A bitter laugh escaped her. "No, he didn't resent me. I didn't hold his sexual proclivities against him, and he gave me the same respect. Domination and submission isn't for everyone. It wasn't for me. Eventually, it got the better of us. But we never blamed each other for having opposite tastes in the bedroom."
"Did you know anyone he was with after your divorce?"
I noticed a very slight hesitation. "I met a couple of them. They all seemed nice. It's not like you can look at someone on the sidewalk and know they like to be spanked, Detective. They seemed like normal people to me. But George was careful. I needed him to be, as the father of our children. He never played with anyone when the kids were at his house, and he kept that room locked up tight."
"You ever hear anyone threaten him?"
"No," she vigorously shook her head, ponytail swishing. "That group of people is close. They talk. What they do can be dangerous, regardless of consent. Oddballs are quickly singled out and lose any chance of finding someone to play with. Reputation is everything in that world."
"How do you mean, oddballs?"
"I don't know, Detective. You'd get more information from the people in the community than me. George and I talked about it some, but it was a world separate from our life together. Mostly, he told me of abusive people hiding behind the Dominant label, or submissives working through traumas there instead of in therapy where they belonged. They didn't last long."
"Did George have personal experience with these people?"
She shrugged. "Like I said, he was careful. If they didn't please him or he had reason to question their motivation, they didn't last."
It was then I noticed she had been playing the pronoun game. "They" and "them" instead of "she" and "her."
"Was your ex-husband involved with submissives of the same sex?"
She blushed fiercely, and then nodded. "George was bisexual. As if finding acceptance as a Dom wasn't hard enough for him."
The situation shifted again, making a little more sense. A woman would have a hard time stringing George up to a cross and hanging him from the ceiling. He was a well-built guy, probably around two hundred pounds. I couldn't see the average woman hoisting him onto the cross. At the same time these thoughts were playing in my head, a shot of envy coursed through me that George had someone, anyone, in his life so accepting of his preferences. Pete, the one person I'd ever let in on my dark little secret, had shunned me.
"Is it possible someone outside this culture discovered his lifestyle? Maybe decided to teach him some kind of lesson?"
"I suppose," she said, shoulders slumping, the weight of the morning showing clearly on her face. "But if it was a colleague or someone at work, I can't see them having the grounds to fire him, let alone kill him. He kept this far away from his career. I know some of the people he worked with. They'd ostracize him, find a way to get rid of him so he wouldn't taint their company's reputation." She gave a derisive snort. "He worked for an extremely conservative group of people. But kill him? I can't imagine that."
I got the name of his company and would follow up on that, but with Mrs. Kaiser, I let it drop.
"Can you give me a list of names in the leather circle to speak with, his friends or acquaintances? Maybe some of his past or current subs?"
"Yeah, but I'll have to look in my address book. I don't know his recent ones, since I left that part of his life behind with the divorce."
I frowned. She'd met a few of George's new partners, but didn't discuss it with him after the divorce? The timing didn't add up. "Did you have a long separation, before everything was finalized?"
She bit her lip and shook her head. "No. When I said I couldn't handle it anymore, he made it as quick and painless for me as possible."
"So when were these new relationships of his if you met a few of them but didn't talk about it after your marriage ended?"
Her mouth worked but no sound came out. She fisted her hand and put it to her lips, trying to compose herself. "Our last few years together were in an open marriage, Detective."
Trying to formulate my next question to cover my surprise at her revelation, my thought process was interrupted when she stared at me hard, equally defiant and pleading, willing me to comprehend. "Love was never our issue. I loved him enough to try to allow him what he needed, and he loved me enough to respect my boundaries. But love doesn't always conquer all, does it?"
Her eyes were sad, and it hit me exactly how strong she had to have been to do such a thing for her husband. People would judge from the outside, calling her weak or a doormat, but I saw someone resilient enough to set aside her own insecurities and indoctrinated beliefs to put someone else first. Well and truly first.
"One more question, Mrs. Kaiser. The play room in George's house, that wasn't something that was always there?"
"No, he converted it when he bought the place. I wouldn't allow it with the kids under the same roof when we were still married, and he locks it when he has visitation now. He used to take his subs to a friend's house, who was also a Dom."
"I'll need that friend's name as well."
She nodded, and then gave me a pained look. "How much of this is going to become public? I mean, is this something I need to warn my kids about before they see it on the news?"
I closed my notebook and gave her a sympathetic look. "Every investigation withholds certain details from the press to keep people from making false confessions or to pinpoint suspects who might slip up about something that's not public knowledge. I'll do my best to keep the nature of George's death under wraps, but I can't guarantee something won't become public."
She bit her lip, squeezing her eyes shut as a fresh set of tears escaped, rolling down her cheeks. "All right," she whispered.
"Are you okay to drive home?" I asked.
"Yeah. I'll be fine. I'm a lot tougher than I look."
I gave her a soft smile. "I can tell, Mrs. Kaiser. Please, have that list of names to me as soon as you can. Here's my card, with phone numbers and my email address. If you think of anything else, please let me know. I may need to contact you again with further questions."
She nodded, taking the card. "I was always afraid something like this would happen."
"We'll do everything we can to find those responsible. Thank you for your cooperation."
She popped the passenger door open before turning back to me. "Thank you, Detective, for your sensitivity. George deserves justice as much as anyone. Thank you for not requiring me to remind you."
I tipped my head to her and watched as she walked woodenly to her car in the driveway. Breathing deeply and taking a moment before reemerging into the mid-afternoon heat, my mind whirled. Something about this victim made me protective. I knew sharing the details I'd learned with Trent would open a Pandora's box of derisive jokes. It was how he dealt with things he didn't understand. I knew this about him, but it didn't mean I liked it. For a long time, George's secret had been safe with his wife and community of friends. For a few more moments, it would be safe with me.
But I couldn't solve this one alone, and I doubted even with Trent's help we'd understand everything we needed to about the dynamics surrounding George's lifestyle. I stood in the front yard, a lump of confusion swelling in my chest.
On the one hand, I was saddened by the sickness in our society, that someone could so brutally murder a man. Trent would assume that sickness included George's sexual preferences. I didn't think so. Though she hadn't wanted to elaborate, Mrs. Kaiser had given me the impression it was simply a different way to express oneself and test one's emotional boundaries. On the other hand, I was fascinated by the dynamic and interested in knowing more. It was disconcerting, and I tried to convince myself it was purely professional curiosity but a small, decisive twinge suggested otherwise.
Before spilling George's secret to my partner, I made the uncharacteristic decision to call our Sergeant and request a very specific kind of backup. One thing was certain: if I wanted to keep Trent's macho posturing to a minimum so he didn't offend future witnesses, increasing our chances of learning useful information that would lead to the killer, we'd need a tutor.