But that’s not what he finds when he looks outside.
This chapter has a section with explicit content.
I arrived at work Tuesday morning and Jared stopped by my office.
“I have a favor to ask, Rick.”
“Sure. What’s the favor?”
“My wife went to Fresno to visit her sister, who was in a bad traffic accident. Joyce is going to be there for the rest of the week. I have to go to the Solano County Superior Court in Fairfield this afternoon for a hearing to remove a foster family that’s been abusing a boy they’ve been fostering. They got a shyster lawyer, and he’s fighting to allow them to retain their license to foster the boy. The boy had been threatened, and he finally told me about it. So I immediately removed him from their custody and now I have to go to court and have their fostering license permanently rescinded. All of this leads up to the favor I need. Can you pick Brian up after wrestling practice today and drop him off at my house?”
“Sure. I’ll be picking up Adam, so taking Brian to your house is fine. Or, how about I take him home with Adam and me and feed him dinner?”
“You don’t mind?”
“Not at all. I’m sure Adam and Brian will be eager to tell me all about the practice session they have this afternoon and all about the meet versus Campo tomorrow.”
“You don’t mind feeding him? He probably eats twice as much as you do.”
“I put the ingredients for beef stew into the slow cooker this morning before I left home. There was almost five pounds of stew meat, so it’s going to make a lot of beef stew. Also, I have an apple pie and vanilla ice cream for dessert. There shouldn’t be any problem feeding both Brian and Adam. And there should be a little left for me, too.” I grinned, knowing how much the boys ate at each meal.
“Okay, I appreciate it. I’ll text Brian right now, so he knows.”
“Enjoy your session in court.”
Jared laughed. “I hope that’s how it will turn out!”
I checked my voicemail messages. Most were updates about pending fostering licenses. There wasn’t anything that needed to be taken care of immediately.
I checked my email. There were messages, but none that were important.
It was time to find out about the search for June Rios. I checked my cellphone for our contact at the Paradise police department for the June Rios case. Her name was Sergeant Ashley Allisonn. I dialed their main number.
“Butte County Sheriff Department. How may I direct your call?”
“Is Sergeant Allisonn in?”
“Yes. May I tell her who’s calling?”
“Rick Decker with Child Protective Services. I’m calling about the status of the search for June Rios.”
“I’ll connect you.”
There was a pause, then a click, and my call was connected.
“This is Sergeant Ashley Allisonn.”
“I’m Rick Decker, the manager of the California Child Protective Services office in Pleasant Hill. I’m working on the June Rios case here. My local police contact is with Lieutenant Brian Jackson of the Walnut Creek police department. Our involvement is for Adam Rios, June Rios’ son.”
“Okay. What can I do for you, Mr. Decker?”
“I understand that a search for June Rios in the area where her car was found was supposed to start yesterday. I would like to know if there were any results.”
“We obtained some of June Rios’ clothing from Barbara Loaming, who lives in Chico. She’s the sister of June Rios’ boyfriend, Ted Loaming. We received two search dogs Monday afternoon, and they will be available through Wednesday, and that can be extended through the weekend if necessary. Using June Rios’ closing for her scent, we started tracking the movements of June Rios from her car this morning. There were footprints from the driver’s side of the car going downhill to a rocky area where the footprints disappeared. The trackers’ search dogs found her scent on a trail about one hundred feet below where her car was found.
“The trail runs above the West Fork of the Feather River. The search had to be called off so the trackers could return before dark. What they found was that June Rios followed the trail to the east for an unknown length of time, then apparently she turned and went in the opposite direction. That’s when we had to call off the search.
“The search resumed today about a half-hour ago.”
“I’m not familiar with using search dogs. If she went one way and doubled back and went the other, why did the dogs follow the trail to the east instead of stopping and doubling back from where she turned back to the west?”
“The search dogs head in the direction where the scent is most persistent. Since she went east for quite a while, that’s where the scent was the strongest, then they turned around from where she stopped and went west to where we started the search. Going west, the trail became less rocky and for the tracking dogs going that direction her scent was more persistent. We hope we’ll find where she went either today or tomorrow.”
“Okay, I understand now. Thanks for that information.”
“I’ll add you to the distribution list for the reports with the results of the search that I will issue.”
“Excellent. Thank you, Sergeant Allisonn.”
I gave her my email address and both the office phone number and my cellphone number, and we ended the call.
At around quarter to five, Adam texted me saying the wrestling practice had finished, and he and Brian were ready to be picked up. I left the Pleasant Hill office and pulled up in front of Lincoln High about ten minutes later. Adam was with a group of other kids, including several girls, and they were all talking and laughing. Adam looked like a very happy kid. A tall boy was standing next to him; I assumed that was Jared Wong’s son, Brian. I got out of the car and called out, “Hey, Adam! Brian!” They turned and saw me, said goodbye to their friends, and walked in my direction.
“Hi, Rick,” Adam said, then he introduced Brian. “This is Brian Wong. He told me that you offered to pick him up, and we’ll all have dinner at home tonight.”
“That’s correct. Hi, Brian. This is the first time we’ve met, but we talked on the phone, and I’ve heard a lot about you from your dad.”
Brian put his hands over his eyes and said, “Oh, no! Oh, no! From my dad? My life is ruined! I’ll never live it down!” Then he laughed.
“Oh, my god!” I said, staring at Adam. “Another one just like you, making jokes all the time?”
“Yup,” he replied.
Now both boys were laughing.
“Okay! Get in the car, and let’s head home. Dinner awaits.”
During the drive, I had some questions for Adam and Brian. “When I pulled up to the pick-up area, I saw several girls with you guys. Are they groupies?”
“No, they’re on the girl’s wrestling team,” Adam said.
“I didn’t know that there were girl’s wrestling teams at the high school level.”
“Not all schools have girl’s wrestling, but Lincoln and some of the other high schools in our district have girl’s teams,” Brian said. “It depends if there are enough interested girls at a school to form a team.”
“Do you have your practice sessions with them, or are they separate?”
“Separate. Most guys on our team would be way too distracted to accomplish anything. Same for most of the girls on their team. Neither Brian nor I would be distracted.” Adam and Brian laughed.
“So, how was your practice today?” I asked.
“Good,” Brian said. “I think we’re going to be ready for Campo tomorrow.”
“What do you do when you’re in a practice session?”
“They have different parts. One is we’re learning moves and pins and practicing them, and how to get out of pins, strategy, and tactics, stuff like that. The other part is like a meet because we do some wrestling against each other. Each match is tightly controlled, and each try is much shorter than in a real match.”
“I agree,” Adam said. “Campo will be our second real meet of the year and it is our first league meet. That means it’s the first one that counts. What we had last week — I’m not sure what it was called, but in football they’d call it a scrimmage — was with Red Bluff and Chico.”
“You’re scrimmage sounds like it was a practice with three teams,” I suggested.
“That’s sort of what it was like, and about half of it wasn’t scored, so those matches aren’t part of our won-loss records,” Adam said.
“How did you two do?”
“Brian and I won all of our scored matches,” Adam said.
“What’s your weight class, Brian?”
“I weighed in at 133 pounds before our practice session, and I’m always in the 138 pound weight class.”
“I’m still in the 120 pound weight class,” Adam reminded me.
“What are the weight classes?” I asked.
“These are all in pounds,” Brian said. “Adam’s are 106, 113, and 120. Mine are 126, 132, and 138. The other weight classes are all heavier, and they are 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220, and 285.”
“When were your meets?”
“Our first meet was against four other schools at College Park High. None of them are in our league,” Brian replied. “The other teams were College Park, Lone Tree, Oakley, and Galt. Adam and I won all of our matches in that meet, too,” Brian said.
“That sounds pretty impressive. How do you think you’ll do on Wednesday?”
“No idea,” Adam said. “This is our first league meet of the year. We don’t have results for any of the other teams in our league yet. We’ll find out how good they are tomorrow.”
“Campo usually has good wrestlers,” Brian said.
“What about how they did last year?” I asked. “Shouldn’t that give you an idea about how good they might be this year?”
“Coach never says anything about the other teams,” Brian replied. “He said he doesn’t want us to fixate on past performances of other teams because that doesn’t count. However, I know about Campo High because my cousin goes there. He’s always harassing me about how much better all their teams are compared to Lincoln.”
“We’ll whup ‘em mañana!” Adam said in a fake cowboy accent. That made Brian and me laugh.
The dinner was a big hit. Both boys loved the beef stew. Brian ate all the veggies in his servings, as did Adam. I was pleased to see that. A lot of kids shy away from vegetables. That didn’t include either Adam or Brian.
I’d put the frozen apple pie in the oven when we sat down to dinner, and it was ready to take out by the time we put the dishes in the dishwasher.
“The apple pie, which you two probably could tell is in the oven because it smells so good, will be ready to eat later. There’s vanilla ice cream to go with it or on top of it.”
“Sounds great!” Brian said.
“Yeah,” Adam said. “Umm… Brian and I were talking after practice. Is it okay if Brian stays over tonight? That way, you can drop both of us off at school in the morning. My bed is more than big enough for both of us, so we can share it.”
I looked at Brian. “How about your dad? Will it be okay with him?”
“Uh-huh. I texted him, and he said it was okay with him if it was okay with you, Mr. Decker.”
“Alright, but I have a condition that you have to agree with before I say it’s okay.”
“What’s the condition?” Adam asked. He looked like he might be worried about what I wanted.
“Brian…,” and after a short pause, I pointed at him, “has to stop calling me Mr. Decker. Please call me Rick, which is what Adam calls me. Just follow his lead.”
“Okay. But if I’m ever with you and my dad, you’d better explain to him that it was your idea and you insisted on it. He’s old fashioned about things like that.”
“I’ll do that. I sure don’t want to create a problem for you.”
“Is it okay if we do our homework on the dining room table?” Adam asked.
“Sure. Adam, will you need the laptop?”
“No, thanks. Other than solving a set of geometry problems, everything else I have is some reading from some of my textbooks.”
“How about you, Brian?” I asked.
“I’m good. I have everything I need. I won’t be using my laptop except to save some assignments to the school’s Blackboard system.”
“Do you need WiFi?” I asked him.
“No, thanks. My laptop has a cellular data connection and an unlimited data plan, like a cellphone. I’ll upload my homework using that.”
The boys got started. I went into the kitchen and checked the apple pie. It was still hot, much too hot to eat right then, so I put it on the counter.
I went into my home office and checked my email. There wasn’t anything important. I scanned the Netflix movie listings to see if there was anything to watch. There wasn’t anything I was interested in seeing this evening, so I returned to the living room and the story I had been reading.
Adam and Brian were both finished with their homework after about thirty-five minutes. They both said they were ready for dessert.
“Come on into the kitchen and sit down at the table.”
I’d taken the ice cream out of the freezer, planning to let it sit out a few minutes so it could be scooped more easily.
“How big a slice would you like?” I asked Brian.
“Maybe a sixth of the pie? That’s what mom usually serves us at home.”
“That’s not going to give you a weight gain for your matches tomorrow?” I asked.
“Nope. I was weighed at our practice today, and I’m good. A piece of pie and a scoop of ice cream won’t push me over.”
“What would you like to drink with your pie?”
“Since we’ll have ice cream on the pie, I won’t need anything to drink.”
“Half the pie?” He held back his laughter, but it was obvious, and he couldn’t keep from grinning.
“Okay, one-twelfth of the pie for Adam.” I didn’t laugh. I leaned in his direction and said, “It doesn’t pay to be greedy.”
“Sorry, I was just kidding.”
That’s when I laughed. “I know. I decided to pull your leg. Now, how big a slice would you like?”
“The same as Brian’s, please.”
“What would you like to drink with your pie?”
“I’d like some milk, and I’ll get it myself.”
I looked at Adam. “That isn’t going to give you a weigh-in problem for your matches tomorrow?”
“No. I’m only one pound over the next lower weight class. I need to put on a little weight.”
“Did you have an accurate scale at home?” I asked him.
“Yeah…. Oh! I forgot about it, so I don’t have it. It was in the bathroom I used. I guess I missed it. As I remember, Mrs. Billingsley packed my stuff that was in the bathroom. She put it in a plastic bag. So, if it’s still there, the scale should be there on the floor next to the sink.”
“Tell you what, right after we finish, let’s go get that scale.”
“Okay. Can Brian come with us? That way, he can see what the house where I was living with my mom looks like now.”
“Sure. It won’t take very long.”
I got out three plates and cut half the pie into three slices, and put each slice on a plate. I got the ice cream and put it on the table with a scoop.
“You can scoop your ice cream. Do either of you want a bowl for it, or will you be putting it on your pie?”
“On my pie,” Adam said.
“Same for me,” Brian added.
We sat down and ate the warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream. It was a hit with both boys — and me, too.
After cleaning up the kitchen, we left for Adam’s house. I made sure I had the key, and we both knew the alarm code. I decided that it would be a good idea to call Mrs. Billingsley before leaving. She was happy to hear from me and that Adam and I would pick up something at the house. She said she’d watch for us.
When we got there, Mrs. Billingsley came out to say hello. Adam and Brian went into her house to chat.
I went looking for Adam’s scale. It was where Adam said it should be. It was one of those scales that, besides weight, measured body mass index, body fat, visceral fat, resting metabolism, and skeletal muscle percentage. I was impressed. I looked in the drawers below the sink and found the instructions and some pages for recording results. I took those along with the scale, set the alarm, locked up, and exited. I put what I’d taken in the storage locker in the back of my SUV and joined Adam and Brian, who were busy telling Mrs. Billingsley about their wrestling successes. We continued to chat for a while before I thought about something I wanted to ask her.
“Have you seen anyone around Adam’s house?”
“Just the gardener. I assumed you wanted to continue having the lawn mowed and the flowers looking nice.”
“Yes, I think that’s a good idea.”
“That reminds me,” she said, “I have mail for you, Adam, and the gardener put a bill in the mailbox.” She got up and returned with a small stack of envelopes. “Here you are. I assumed you wouldn’t want things that were just advertising, so I put those in my recycling bin.”
“Thanks,” Adam said. He looked through the stack. “Rick, I suppose there are some things that we could stop, like the cable and telephone.”
“That’s a good suggestion. There’s no reason to continue to pay for services that you’re not using,” I said. “I’ll take care of that if it’s okay with you.”
Adam nodded. “It is.”
“Okay, let’s head home so you can check your homework and get to bed to make sure you’ll be ready for your classes and your meet tomorrow.”
In Adam’s bedroom Adam and Brian wore clean T’s and boxer briefs to bed. Adam was very nervous. He wanted to do things with Brian, but Brian was older and larger and probably wouldn’t want to do anything with a freshman.
They lay in the bed, side by side. Adam’s arms were tight alongside his body, his hands palm-down on the bottom sheet. He felt the top sheet and blanket moving on his right, where Brian was lying. Then he felt Brian’s left hand reach over, and it was placed on top of Adam’s right hand. Brian started to lightly stroke Adam’s hand.
“Is this okay, Adam?” Brian whispered.
Adam took a deep breath then let it out. He whispered his reply, “Yes. Please don’t stop.”
Then Adam felt Brian’s left leg move, his foot rubbing Adam’s right leg from the knee down.
“How about this?” Brian whispered.
Adam’s whispered reply was throaty sounding. “Oh, my god, don’t stop! It’s wonderful. I’ve never done anything like this before!”
Brian stopped stroking Adam’s hand. He scooted to his left and moved his hand to the inside of Adam’s right thigh, and began lightly stroking there. He was sliding his hand up to Adam’s crotch, then back down, repeatedly. He didn’t bother asking if it was okay, and Adam said nothing. He just made sure he kept breathing so he wouldn’t pass out from the feelings he was having.
After about fifteen or twenty seconds, Adam whispered, “I’m sure Rick and your dad would prefer that we don’t have sex.They think we’re too young. They know that we’ll do it anyway and I think that’s a great idea. The ‘do it anyway’ part. So, if we do anything, we need to be quiet while we’re doing it.” Adam grinned, but Brian couldn’t see the grin.
Brian turned on his left side, facing Adam, and using his right arm, he pulled Adam close and rolled him onto his right side, so they were facing each other — so close that their bodies were pressed together.
Adam let out a deep breath and put his left arm around Brian’s waist and pulled, increasing how tightly they were squeezed together from their shoulders to their knees.
Adam giggled. “You have a stiffy!” he said, forgetting that he should have whispered.
That made Brian burst out laughing, and he put his hand over his mouth, trying to muzzle his merriment. Then he whispered, “So do you! You’ve had it since I started rubbing your thigh.”
Adam whispered his reply, “I think we should do something about these stiffies, don’t you?” He reached for and grabbed Brian’s crotch, causing Brian to let out a loud, “Oof!” Brian did the same to Adam, causing him to let out a soft, “Oh! That feels so good!”
I was reading a book — a real paperback book — about high school wrestling. I’d heard laughter and muffled conversation from down the hall and decided to let them know I’d heard them.
“Hey!” I shouted from the living room. “It’s time to get to sleep in there! You have school and your meet tomorrow.”
I grinned. I knew that they would be awake and entertaining each other for a while longer. That was fine with me, as long as they were asleep by ten o’clock. I’d check on them when I went to bed by opening Adam’s bedroom door to make sure they were sleeping, and if not, I’d announce that it was ten, and I was heading for bed, and they had to get to sleep. It turned out they were asleep, and both were snoring softly when I checked, so no announcement was necessary.
Adam’s clock radio woke the boys at the usual time for getting ready for school. I heard them taking showers, and they both arrived in the kitchen, ready for breakfast. Because of their meet today, I fixed scrambled eggs and bacon so they’d have plenty of protein to start their day.
They kept glancing at each other and I wondered what was going on. Whatever it was, if Adam wanted to let me know, then he’d let me know.
I sat down with my toasted bagel and peanut butter.
“What do you have on your class schedules today?” I asked.
“It’s Wednesday, so we have collaboration period at 7:30, but that’s optional, so we’ll skip it today and go to the library to work on our homework that’s due tomorrow and Friday,” Adam said. “Then there’s fourth period, and I have Geometry. Then in academy period, we’re starting robotics today — that’s the elective I told you about. Fifth period I have Digital Arts, then lunch, and sixth period I have Living Earth.”
Brian listed his classes. He wasn’t taking any elective classes during academy period.
“They are all ninety minutes long except academy period, which is an hour,” Brian said.
“And collaboration period is an hour, too. We slept through it today,” Adam added.
We continued eating breakfast. Neither boy was talkative, which for Adam was very different. He usually had a lot to talk about while we were eating breakfast.
Adam looked at me. “Uh… Rick?”
“Brian and I have something to tell you.”
“Okay. What is it?”
He turned and looked at Brian. “We decided that we’re going to be boyfriends,” Adam said.
“It was a mutual decision,” Brian added.
“So, that’s what you were talking about before you went to sleep?”
“Yeah,” Adam replied. “Mostly that,” he added, then put his hand over his mouth to hide his giggles.
I smiled at them. “Congratulations!”
At first they both looked surprised, then they looked delighted.
“It’s okay with you?” Adam asked.
“Yes, it’s okay with me. Brian, you’ll have to tell your parents. Unless you want me to tell your father this morning.”
“Would you tell him?” Brian asked. “That way, it won’t come as a shock when I tell them tonight.”
“You’re certain that you want me to tell him? It means I’m outing you and Adam.”
“Yes, that’s okay. This way, he’ll have all day to let it sink in.”
“What about your mom? She’s out of town, isn’t she?”
“Yes. That’s why I want you to tell him, so he knows before he comes to the wrestling meet tonight.”
“Okay, I’ll let him know when I see him at work this morning.”
Brian smiled. “Thank you!”
“I have a question about your announcement. Declaring that you’re boyfriends seems like a decision that the two of you would make after knowing each other for a longer time than it’s been. I thought that you two didn’t know each other until we arranged for Adam to sit at the wrestler’s table at lunch.”
I waited for their response.
Brian answered. “I met Adam during the summer when he came to the wrestling pre-season meeting. I liked him right away. He was, and is, really good looking.” He looked at Adam and grinned, and Adam blushed. “Anyway, once school started, we saw each other at every wrestling practice, which means every Wednesday and Friday, and during PE, which means every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. So we saw each other every day of the week. Coach Green asked me to help Adam with his wrestling moves and strategy. Adding it up, we’ve known each other since the beginning of August. That’s when the wrestling pre-season meeting was held. That’s over three months ago.”
“I agree with Brian,” Adam added. “We’ve known each other then became friends back in August.”
“Okay,” I said. “I didn’t know any of this, but it certainly clarifies that your decision to become boyfriends wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision.
“I just thought about something. Shouldn’t you two be eating a special wrestling diet before practice and before a meet? Something that has more protein or good carbs, something appropriate for you?”
“Protein and carbs are good. As long as the carbs come from veggies and fruit, not from sugar. Ice cream is okay, though.”
“Ice cream? Really?”
“Yes. It’s the milk and cream that are used to make ice cream that is good for us. Vanilla is best because it has less sugar than chocolate, strawberry or other flavors. So the pie with ice cream we had last night was okay.”
“What about the apple pie?”
“Well, isn’t that’s mostly fruit?” Adam asked.
I got up and retrieved the box from the recycle bin in the kitchen, read the sugar content, and put it back in the bin. “The suggested serving size is one-tenth of the pie, and that has 28 grams of sugar. That’s 280 grams for the whole pie. Divide that by six because you each ate one-sixth of the pie, so it’s a little over 45 grams of sugar per slice. That’s a lot of sugar. Not to mention the sugar that was in the ice cream.” I got the ice cream out of the freezer and looked at the nutrition listing then put it back. “There are 16 grams of sugar in a half-cup serving, which is about how much each of you had. So, 45 plus 16 equals a little over 60 grams of sugar.”
“Whoa!” Adam said. “We should have done this calculation before eating our dessert.”
“I guess!” Brian said in agreement.
“You realize if you’d eaten a tenth of the pie each, you would have had 28 grams sugar plus 16 grams from the ice cream, and that would have been 44 grams. Your servings had about 16 grams additional sugar. The best solution would have been to eat one-twelfth of the pie and skip the ice cream. That would have been about 23 grams, 37 grams less sugar than what each of you ate.”
“Spoilsport!” Adam said, then he and Brian laughed.
“It’s okay to splurge once in a while,” Brian said.
“But you splurged the night before a meet. Was that a good idea?”
“Probably not,” Adam said.
“What do you eat for lunch on a day when you have a practice or meet?”
“There’s a training diet that everyone on the team is supposed to have. We get a special lunch card, and we don’t have to pay for it. It’s high protein and good carbs. I don’t know what we’re getting tomorrow. Probably a salad with grilled chicken breast.”
“You said ‘supposed to have’ — does that mean some of the guys on the wrestling team don’t eat the special diet?”
“If it’s something someone doesn’t like, then they’ll pick something from the regular lunch choices. But then their lunch isn’t paid by the school, and they have to pay for it themselves and they might get more carbs. If they eat the training diet they don’t have to pay anything for it.”
“I’m surprised that the school pays for team members’ lunches.”
“It’s paid for by the booster club. That’s made up of alumni and friends of Lincoln High who can afford to donate to their favorite sports,” Brian said.
“Ah, now, I understand. By the way, I was planning on lamb chops for dinner tonight. Is that okay with you two?”
“Sure! I love lamb chops,” Adam said. “My mom never fixed them. She said they made the house smell like cooked meat. Of course, that’s what they are.” He raised his eyebrows and shrugged his shoulders.
“I like lamb chops, too,” Brian said, “but I thought I’d be eating at home tonight.”
“Brian, I’m going to invite your dad and you to have dinner with us tonight. I think that there are some things we’ll want to talk about now that you two are boyfriends.”
“Not the talk! Please, not the talk!” Brian said. He couldn’t stifle his laughter, though.
“Maybe it should include the talk since you seem so eager,” I said, and I chuckled.
They both laughed, but they had worried expressions.
“Adam, text me to let me know when you’re ready to leave after your teem meeting is over, okay?”
“Right. It’ll be around five-thirty, I think.”
They finished eating breakfast, and the boys collected what they needed for school. We got into my SUV, and I drove them to Lincoln High.
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