Being Under

Written by Shell

I've been here a month now. It's weird what starts to seem normal. Meeting Eisen (the Holy Father) in Flagstaff, that was, well, a unique experience. I don't know why, but I was really, truly surprised when he smashed my cell phone, calling it ‘a device for evil, Brother Timothy.' Wonder how Bartlett reacted to that when he got my report. Eisen's crazier than that guy Rausch that did the church fires. Has a lot in common with him, though--too bad he doesn't have Rausch's heart condition.

There are no phones here. No televisions either. Thank whoever that Holy Father Eisen finally decided to accept electricity. Phones, television, radios, computers, all evil, but microwaves are somehow okay. Like I said, it's weird what starts to seem normal.

We brought up my house yesterday. Drove with Brothers Joseph Eisen and Brian Smith up to St. George to pick it up. They drove the big rigs that hauled the two modules, and I drove the truck with the big yellow "wide load" sign and the flashing lights, all the way back, through Hurricane, Colorado City, the speed trap by Hildale, through Kanab, and back to Church Canyon. Felt sorry for the folks behind us--it's hard enough to pass one truck on those roads, much less two oversized ones.

I would have utterly no idea what to do with these two halves of a house, but the folks here are pretty experienced. It's already unloaded at the site near the back of town, and they're working on putting it together like some sort of giant lego house or something. Tomorrow I'll move out of this Winnie and into my new house, and from the inside it will look normal, except for the fact that there won't be a tv or a phone or a stereo. Or a basement. Only building in town with one of those is the church, and I gather it required a fair amount of dynamite. I wonder how the Orioles are doing. I don't even know when opening day is this year.

Playing the role has been easier than I feared. It's kind of a high, sometimes, like being in the Box all day, every day, but it's not as fun without someone else to play off on, someone who's in on the joke, someone who knows I'm just playing bad cop, all the time now. All the time, Timothy B. Rawls, bad cop.

I have two times when I can escape Rawls and let myself remember Tim Bayliss--early morning, and late at night. Every morning, I go for a run. The Holy Father encourages his brethren to stay physically fit. We have to be ready to defend our God-given rights against any and all aggressors, after all.

So I wave to my neighbors, wave to the guards who let me out the back gate, and I run down the gravel road by the creek. Sometimes I run north and west, right into Grand Staircase/Escalante, following the creek bed so I don't get lost. There are no trails, really, because there's not enough ground cover to need them--I just run, run on the sand and the rocks, startling mice and hawks, the occasional coyote, once even a rattler in the sun.

It's amazingly beautiful out here, no question, but I don't think I'm a desert person. Been here a month and I'm already starving for something green. Nothing but red, brown, and grey out here, and the bright blue sky, marred only by the yellow smudge from the Navajo Generating Station. I climb up and notice the snow is almost melted on Navajo Mountain, 40 miles away as the crow flies.

This particular ridge, across Wahweap Creek and hidden from view, is where I stop most days. I take a swallow of water and stretch my legs out, then do a few yoga poses--something no member of Eisen's Holy Brotherhood would be caught dead doing. I take a small notebook out of my hip pack and write down some notes, stuff that's been going on in the town.

I think there was a stoning last night, but I can't be sure--haven't been fully initiated into the church yet. But my neighbor Stephanie Peters wasn't there to wave at me this morning, and I know there's been a rumor going around town that she's been giving the eye to Paul Johnson. They won't kill her for that, I think, I hope--just hurt her, the way they hurt practically every woman in this town at one time or another.

I'm to meet with the elders next week to discuss my upcoming marriages, who's available, who I fancy. I'm not sure how much choice I'll really be given--Eisen will no doubt have someone, some ones, in mind. Since I've been here I've seen men married to women and girls ranging from 7 years old on up to 67.

Stephanie's youngest daughter, Ruth, is being pursued by Joseph Eisen, one of the worst of the Holy Father's 28 sons. She's eight years old. I see her shyly peeping out at me from behind her mother's curtain sometimes. If I get any choice, any choice at all, I'll request her. Anything to save her from Joseph. He's been widowed twice now, I hear, both girls in their early twenties he'd been married to for ten years or so, and his current wives are 21, 17, 15, and 12. The twelve year old is about 6 months pregnant.

I finish up my notes for this month's report. Tomorrow I'll head east, towards Big Water, and drop it off at the post office there, along with my subscription renewal for Guns and Ammo and my cash contribution to the NRA. And one more envelope, addressed to William Boisy, Los Angeles, California.

This will be the first time I've contacted him. I'm pretty sure it's a damned stupid idea, but I'm also pretty sure no one in Big Water is paying any attention to the mail. I've gotten enough letters put in the wrong post office box to prove it--I mean, it's not like there are a lot of them, only 150, and they still can't manage to get it right. So I don't think anyone will notice a letter to William Boisy in Los Angeles.

I promised him I'd let him know I was all right. So I lied and wrote that I was. I won't be all right until this assignment is finished, won't be able to sleep at night until Eisen and the rest are behind bars. Until I know that men like Joseph Eisen aren't marrying 7 or 8 year old girls, that women aren't getting stoned for looking crosswise at someone.

I roll the notes and the letter up tightly and put them in a hidden pocket in my pack. It's time to head back to the Canyon for another day. Tonight I have guard duty. I'll spend it thinking of Bill. Just as I do each evening, whether I'm at home or on guard. Amazing how much he got under my skin in such a short time. Amazing how much I miss him.


I come home from rehearsal tired, wound up. The new songs are starting to work, but it's hard to get into the music. I'm yelling at everyone, more than usual, and Kat finally takes me aside, tells me I need to chill out, why don't I head on home. She hasn't had to do that in years, and I realize for the first time just what a dick I've been lately.

She asks me what's wrong, is everything okay, and for a minute I almost tell her, but of course I can't, so I lie, say I'm trying to quit smoking again and it's making me irritable. She looks at me funny for a minute, and I realize I've smoked at least half a pack this morning during rehearsal.

"Look, Kat, okay, it's not that. It's personal, and I can't really talk about it. Do I want a drink? Yeah, I want a drink. Same as always, no more, no less. I'm not going to go get one. Not going to go score. I just--I've got some things on my mind is all. Some personal stuff."

She gives me a long look. "Billie's okay?"

"Yeah, it's not anything like that. I'd tell you if I could."

"Don't let him haunt you anymore, Billy."

I know she's talking about Joe. "I won't."

I turn to go, but she grabs my arm, gives me a hug.

"Bill, I don't know what's going on, but if you need anything, call me, okay?"

I hug her back and promise I will.

So I get home, and as usual there's a pile of mail waiting, junk and bills, and I leaf through it, putting most of it in a pile to throw in the trash. Then I realize there's an envelope there, no return address, and it's got my name on it--my real name, Mr. William Boisy, handwritten, not typed or printed like the stuff that comes from lawyers, agents, and bill collectors.

I've gotten quite a few letters like this, hand-addressed, no return, over the years, but they've all been sent to Billy Tallent. Mostly from sick fucks who tell me Joe's still alive, or that they've got his body, or that they think I should die, too--lovely letters. But this one--the handwriting looks familiar, and it's addressed to Mr. William Boisy, not Billy Tallent. And the postmark--the postmark is from Kanab, Utah.

Jesus fuck.

I drop the rest of the mail on the table and head out to the patio, my hands shaking as I rip the envelope open. There's a small sheet of notebook paper inside, wrinkled and folded. It's just a few lines.

Dear Bill,

Every morning I take a run along a (mostly) dry creek bed. There's an old road that leads to it--the road goes behind Big Water out to a gravel pit, I think where they got gravel for the dam back in the 60s. The road's only about a mile from the back of town, the creek a little further.

I come out here every morning for some peace, some time for myself. The sky here is incredible, such a bright blue, like your eyes.

I'm okay. I'll try to write again.


I must sit there for an hour, looking at the sky, reading the letter over and over, unable to move.


Today's my wedding day--well, the first one, anyway. Thank God it's not legal.

At four o'clock this afternoon, after the afternoon service, I'll be marrying Sarah Elliot, age 14. I've only spoken to her once, when I told her she would be marrying me (men don't ask in Church Canyon). She looked scared to death, but with a little bit of defiance in there too. Good. I think I can deal with defiance better than I would with the absolute subservience that's the rule here.

She's Eli's half sister. He mentioned her during his debriefing in Flagstaff, said they were close. Said Sarah likes to sing.

I still don't know how I'm going to handle tonight. I don't know what she'll expect--there's certainly no sex ed taught here, and the women are kept in the dark about everything.

I'm on edge through the whole service, then the ceremony and small reception. Weddings are the only time women are permitted to drink, so I encourage Sarah, keep refilling her glass with the cheap wine. The men around me nod knowingly, sure I'm getting her pliable for later. I'm thinking, maybe if I get her drunk, she won't remember that nothing happened. Or something.

There's no dancing or music at this reception--such things are seen as sinful. So basically all we do is have a nice dinner, nice by Church Canyon standards, which means I play around with the steak on my plate, force myself to eat a few bites of it, and devour my salad and baked potato. Sarah looks hungry, so I give her the rest of my steak, and she smiles a shy thank-you.

I have got to find some way to keep being Timothy Rawls and still not hurt her.

The reception ends around 8, curfew time for women and children, and the whole town escorts the two of us home, laughing and teasing along the way. I pick her up and carry her over the threshold easily--she must weigh all of a ninety pounds.

Once we get inside, I close the door, then put her down by the couch.

"I thought you might like to see the house."

"Yes, please, Mr. Rawls."

"Sarah, you can call me Timothy."

She blushes. "Holy Father called me Mrs. Rawls tonight and at first I wasn't sure who he was talking to."

"Getting married is a big change, something we'll both have to get used to. And Sarah, I know I'm a lot older than you--please let me know if I do or say anything that makes you uncomfortable."

She looks surprised. "Thank you, Timothy," she says awkwardly. Apparently I'm not what she expected.

I show her around the house, and she's excited when she sees my books. I don't have many, and most are here for cover, but there are a few others I thought would pass muster--Crime and Punishment, some Kipling stories, David Copperfield, Shakespeare's plays--nothing by a woman, and nothing modern.

"Do you like to read, Sarah?"

She looks at me before she answers, then decides the truth might be safe. "Yes, sir, I do."

"This is your home now, too--if you want to read any of my books, you may--just be careful not to let anyone see you."

"Really? Thank you, sir!"

"Would you like something to drink?"

I manage to get another glass of wine into her, and she's definitely feeling it. She's looking a little green around the gills. I ask her if she'd like to take a bath or a shower.

"You have a bathtub?" She's happy about this--very happy. Why?

"Yes, of course I do, Sarah, don't you have one at your mom's house?"

"No, just a shower stall. I haven't had a bath since--since before we moved here, when I was 10. I used to love to take baths. Can I really?"

"Anytime you want, Sarah." Amazing that such a simple thing could bring her such joy.

I show her the towels, tell her where she can put her things, let her take her pick of the two spare bedrooms. Eventually, when I have other wives, one of them may move out to the Winnebago, but neither of us mentions that. I tell her to take her time and enjoy her bath, and I close the door.

I put on some pajamas--haven't worn pajamas in years, it feels funny--get under the covers, and read. When I hear the tub start to drain, I turn off the light and lay down, feigning sleep.

I hear the door open a few minutes later.

"Timothy?" she says tentatively. I pretend to sleep. She crawls into bed next to me, carefully not touching me. Within moments, her breathing deepens and slows, and I sigh in relief. She's asleep. I get out of bed as quietly as I can and go to the couch for a few hours' sleep. I return before dawn. She's still asleep, clutching her pillow tightly, looking very young, very innocent.

I write her a note and go for a run, but she's still asleep when I return, so I make us some breakfast. It's another fifteen minutes before she emerges, in a nightgown and swimming in one of my robes.

"Good morning, Sarah--would you like some breakfast?"

"Good morning, sir. Yes, some breakfast would be good."

She devours the eggs, toast, and juice as I watch and eat mine. When we're both finished, she looks at me curiously.

"You were gone when I woke up, sir."

"Yes, I go for a run every morning, early. It helps me clear my head."

"Timothy--sir? Last night--that is--were you pleased with me?"

"Yes, Sarah, very much so."

"Because--well, I fell asleep, and--"

"Sarah." I interrupt her in as firm a voice as I can manage. Please let me handle this right.

"Yes, sir?"

"Believe me, if I am displeased with you, in any way, you will know about it." I'm leaning over the table towards her, using the most menacing attitude I can muster. It works, dismayingly well--she looks terrified.

I lean back in my chair, good cop again, and add, "however, Sarah, if you continue to please me, you will find me a very accommodating husband. And I think you will find that my needs are few. I want the house kept clean, food on the table, laundry done and folded, all without complaint. This is the last meal I will prepare for you. And I want to be left in peace. If you do those things, Sarah, you may read any book or magazine in the house, and at meals you may ask any reasonable questions that you have. Is that clear?"

She nods. "Yes, sir."

"Good. Have you brought all of your things over from your mother's trailer?"

"Yes, sir, I have, except--"

"Except for what, Sarah?"

"It's nothing, sir."


"It's just--it's just a book, sir, and my cat, her name is Georgia."

"You have a cat?"

"Yes, sir, but my mother said you might not like cats, that I wasn't to mention it, and I'm sure she'll be fine, at least I hope she will be, sometimes my mom doesn't feed her too good."

"I'm going to ask you something about the cat, and I'm going to trust you not to lie, Sarah."

"Yes, sir?"

"Is this cat well-behaved? Does she make messes where she shouldn't, claw up the furniture, meow all night?"

"Oh, no, Timothy, she's very good, she's declawed, and I'll keep the litter box so clean, and clean up any hair, and I promise, you won't even know she's here."

"All right, then, Sarah, you can have your cat. But know that I'll hold you to your promise. Now, what is the book?"

"The Velveteen Rabbit."

"Isn't that a children's book?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, I suppose it couldn't do any harm, then."

"Oh, thank you, Timothy!" She's up and around the table and giving me a hug. I hug her back, gently, then pull away.

"Go on then, go get your cat and your book. I need to take a shower."

We establish a pattern--she takes a long bath each night, and I pretend to be asleep when she crawls into bed. She rivals my mother in the cleaning department--the house is spotless. She's also an excellent cook, and seems to have noticed my dislike for meat, preparing a lot of pasta, beans, and fish.

She happily takes my arm when we walk to church, and I often find her sitting on the couch, away from the window, reading intently. At dinner, we talk about Dickens--she's reading David Copperfield.

I haven't brought up Eli yet. I've been singing in the shower, atrociously, hoping she'll take the cue and realize she can sing, but so far no luck. I want her to know she can trust me, but it's such a delicate thing, because I have to be able to trust her, too, if I'm ever going to have her help getting some kids out of here.

I can see a question in her eyes each morning when I get back from my run, and I'm not surprised one night, three weeks after the wedding, when she asks me a rather pointed question during dinner.

"Timothy, can I ask you something?" At least she's gotten over calling me ‘sir' every five seconds.

"What is it, Sarah?"

"At night, you're always asleep when I come to bed, and you get up before I do. I thought--you know--I thought we needed to--you needed to--aren't we supposed to do something besides sleep?" She's bright red, and I suspect I'm blushing too.

"Sarah--" I pause, start again. "Sarah, our Holy Father feels that it is right for us to be married, and I agree. However, the truth is, I don't feel comfortable having a physical relationship with someone your age, and I don't feel someone your age is ready to become a mother, physically or emotionally."

"You don't?"

"No, Sarah, I don't. Not yet."


I can see that she's shocked, that this idea has never occurred to her before.

"Martha Eisen, she's only twelve, and she just had a baby."

"Martha Eisen is not my wife. You are. I am your husband; I make the decisions in this house. Joseph Eisen makes the decisions in his house, for his wives."

She nods.

"And Sarah--" I reach across, grasp her chin firmly, turn her face to look at me. "What Brother Joseph does in his house is his business, not to be discussed. What you and I do in my house is our business, and I will tell you this just once--it is not to be discussed with anyone, understood?"

"Yes, sir."


I got another letter from Tim today.

Dear Bill,

I'm rereading Shakespeare's plays. Are you Puck, or Ariel? Lately I feel a little like Prospero, on the island, or maybe more like Caliban.

I still look at the sky every day, bright as your eyes.

I've started guard duty some nights. I hope to have a package for you soon.

I'm okay. I miss you.


It's been over three months now. Billie's coming for her summer break in two weeks, and we've been doing some more dates in the meantime. I've been gone for almost three weeks, fuck knows how long this letter's been sitting here.

I still think of him every day, but it's gotten a little easier. That night in Las Vegas is a memory I cherish, but it seems more and more unreal as time goes on. It seems impossible that it could have been as amazing as I remember.

Reading the letter, though, it all comes back as if it were yesterday, the sweetness of his kisses, the trust he gave me, the feel of him in my arms. And I'm a fucking putz, a total waste, sitting out on the patio again, looking at the sky, wondering if I have a copy of the Tempest somewhere.

It sounds like he thinks he might be able to send me a runaway soon. Guard duty--what the fuck is that? I don't like the tone of the letter. The last one--he sounded confident, like he was taking good care of himself. This one, he sounds a little lost.

We've been working on some new songs, and Chelle and Kat both commented the other day on the "new melancholia, the bluesy touch" they've noticed in me. They've asked me a few rather pointed questions about Joe, about the date coming up this fall in Vegas, about when Billie's getting here, but they've seemed satisfied with the answers, or at least satisfied enough not to push.

They like the songs I've been writing, seem to like them a lot. And I'm writing, writing all the fucking time, can't seem to stop, and it's good, because when I'm writing, I'm not as worried, not as scared that any day now I'm going to get a call from Agent Bartlett telling me Tim is dead.

I got a letter from Eli before we left on tour. He very carefully didn't say anything about Tim. He's living out near Denver now, with a foster family, relatives of Bartlett's assistant, Zoe. I sent him tickets to the Denver show coming up next week, the last date on our spring tour, told him to bring his family by backstage after the show.

The letter was all about his new family, new school, the music he was listening to, all the way until the last paragraph. "I still have nightmares sometimes," he wrote, "but it's getting better. I don't know if I ever thanked you for being so kind to me that night after the concert. I'll always remember you. And your music rocks!" He signed it, "love, Eli."

I'm looking forward to seeing him again next week.


Last night I asked Eisen if I could marry Ruth. He looked surprised, and Joseph looked pissed, but he said yes. I think he's pleased I took the initiative. I've been speaking up at the Elders' Meetings, and although I don't have a vote yet, not until I'm confirmed as an Elder, I seem to be gaining their respect.

Tonight I went over to Rebecca Eisen's house to talk to Ruth. Ruth has been staying there for the past couple months, ever since her mother was caught with Paul Johnson and stoned again. This time they didn't stop. I was on guard duty that night, so I didn't find out about it until the next morning.

Paul was one of the men who stoned her to death. He's been pale and quiet ever since, not saying a word in meeting. If he'd refused to stone her, they just would have killed him as well.

Rebecca has the decency to look appalled when I tell her I'm marrying Ruth next week. I wish I could allay her fears, but I can't. I wish I didn't have to do this, but I see the way Joseph's been watching Ruth, following her when she goes out to play, and I'm afraid that if I don't do something now, it'll be too late--it might already be too late. I hope it's not too late.

Thankfully, Ruth doesn't seem scared of me. I don't follow her the way Joseph does, but I gave her a hug and told her I was sorry she had to move away after her mother was killed, and she seems to remember me with a little affection. That might also be because I've sent Sarah over to Rebecca's with cookies a few times--Rebecca's a notoriously bad cook.

I've been talking with Sarah about her brothers and sisters, trying to get her to talk about Eli without bringing him up directly. I'm still singing in the shower, and I think it's starting to work--yesterday I heard her singing under her breath as she folded clothes.

I walk in the house after coming back from Rebecca's. Sarah's got dinner ready, and she brings it to the table with a smile as I sit down. Tonight we have macaroni and cheese that has never seen a box, broccoli, and homemade bread. She's put the crunchy peanut butter on the table next to the butter. Without one word from me, she's managed to figure out what I like to eat, what I need to eat, and tonight's meal is perfect, down to the fresh-squeezed orange juice and apple pie for dessert.

"Sarah, you are an amazingly good cook. Who taught you to do all this?"

"My mom taught me some of it, but my sister-mom, Charlene, taught me how to bake, before--"

Charlene Eisen was Eli's mother.

"Before what, Sarah?" I ask her gently.

"Before--before she died, sir."

"Before she was killed?"

"Yes, sir, before he--before they killed her, sir."

Sarah's been living with me for over two months now. I've caught her looking at me a lot lately, puzzled, thinking. I'm pretty sure she knows there's more going on with me than meets the eye. If I'm going to help her, help Ruth, help the other kids in this horrible town, I think it's time to tell her at least a little of what I'm doing here.

"Sarah, I have to ask you a question, and it's very important that you answer it completely honestly, without worrying about whether you're giving the right answer to please me. Can you do that?"

"I think so, Timothy."

"Okay. Here's the question, Sarah--do you trust me?"

"Do I trust you?"

"Yes, Sarah--do you trust me? Do you trust me not to hurt you? Do you trust me enough to tell me the truth about what happened to your sister-mom?"

"I'm not sure, Timothy. I think I do. I don't think you'd hurt me."

"That's a very fair and honest answer, Sarah, and I appreciate it. Now I have to ask you another question, okay? This one is just as important. Actually, it's the most important question I'll ever ask you. I promise you that I only want you to answer me honestly, and I think you know I've never broken any promises to you."

"No, you haven't."

"Okay. Here's the question. If I tell you about some things, can I trust you? Can I trust you not to tell anyone, not to ask me for more information, not to in any way betray the trust I'd be putting in you? Not to tell anyone, no matter how much you wanted to?"

"Yes. Yes, Timothy, you can trust me. You've been good to me, and I wouldn't do anything you didn't think was okay, I swear to holy Jesus."

I grasp her hands, give them a squeeze. "Thank you, Sarah. Thank you. Now come on over to the couch, because I have to talk to you about your brother, Eli."

I tell her just a little bit, and most of it's a lie, but it's closer to the truth than anything I've said to anyone since the moment I met Eisen in Flagstaff last spring. I tell her I know Eli escaped, I know he's okay, and that I know this because I have a wife, a legal wife, living in St. George, and Eli is living with her. I tell her I picked Heather up hitch-hiking one night, and she told me about what went on here. I tell her that Heather and Eli are both doing well, and that my wife and I are working with Utah Child Protective Services to try to get more kids safely out of this town. I tell her I'll be marrying Ruth so that I can protect her from Joseph.

I can see that she wants to believe me, but she's seen a lot in her fourteen years, and she's scared this is some sort of trap. So she asks me to prove I'm not lying.

I tell her that Eli's favorite band is Jenifur, and I sing what little I can remember of his mother's favorite song. I tell her that Heather and Eli used to listen to Charlene's cds. She stares at me in shock for a minute, then starts to cry. I pull her into a hug, and she holds on tight, crying silently, burying her face in my shoulder.

That night I dream again of Billy holding me in his arms, rocking me, telling me over and over that it was okay, and for a moment, when I first wake up, I can still feel his arms around me and hear his voice.


Billie and I have a great time over her summer holiday. We do the usual--Disneyland, Universal Studios, soccer with the rich and famous. She's grown at least an inch since I saw her last, and we celebrate her 11th birthday at Spago at her request. Wolfgang Puck comes over with her birthday cake, and she's so excited, tells him she watches him on the Food Network.

My little girl is growing up, but she still wants me to sing her to sleep every night. Fortunately she doesn't expect me to sing anything from her second favorite band, the Backstreet Boys. Although for her, fuck, I'd probably sing anything, even the Spice Girls.

The last week before she has to go back to her mom's, we take a trip up to Vancouver. I show her some of the places I used to hang out when I was her age, and we go swimming, and it's wonderful, and then before I know it I'm dropping her off with Mary and Evan, hugging her like I never want to let go.

I get home from the airport late, nearly midnight. I never can sleep on planes, so I'm tired. It's July 31st, and it's been over two months since I heard from Tim, and I'm worried, so the first thing I do is look at the mail that's been neatly piled up by Gail, the woman who looks after my place when I'm gone.

I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding when I see the familiar writing.

Dear Bill,

There's an interesting rock formation between Big Water and Church Wells, just a little west of Church Canyon, on the south side of 89. It's hard to miss during the day, but it's difficult to see at night, unless there's a full moon and you know where to look. I like night-time guard duty during the full moon, always try to sign up for that shift.

The next full moon is August 23rd. Between 9 pm and 3 am, it's pretty spectacular out here--you wouldn't believe the stars, and you can practically see well enough to read. I wish you could see it--I think you might find some surprises out here in the desert, similar to the surprise we found the night we met.

I'm okay. I miss you. Your eyes would be silver in the moonlight, I think.


Jesus fucking christ. He's found a way to do it, a way to get a kid, or maybe kids, out, and it's gonna happen in a few weeks, and he's counting on me to be there.

So that's how I find myself flying first to Phoenix, then taking a prop plane to Flagstaff, then to Page, Arizona. Not much to look at, the town of Page. Has a whole street with nothing but churches on it--kinda creepy. But Tim was right about one thing--it's spectacularly beautiful out here. Now Lake Mead is impressive and incongruous out in the desert by Las Vegas, but it doesn't hold a candle on either front to Lake Powell, the gorgeous monstrosity created by the Glen Canyon Dam. Everything is red and blue.

I've decided to play the tourist, something this area gets a lot of. They even get their fair share of celebrities, who come out here to film action sequences and westerns. So I do my thing in my rented Jeep, take a raft trip down to Marble Canyon, a boat trip up to Rainbow Bridge, hike around down by the Paria River, see the slot canyons, drive all over the place and look stupid and awestruck, which is not difficult.

I even drive down and spend the day at the Grand Canyon, which is beyond imagining. The signs down there say, Grand Canyon--100 miles--You've come too far not to see it. I saw it, and I'm glad I did. Someday, maybe I'll take one of those raft trips that meander down the Colorado, stopping and camping along the Canyon.

Turning into Nature Boy, Billiam?

And what if I am?

I've driven past Church Canyon a dozen times on one trip or another, and I'm very familiar with the rock formation Tim wrote about. It's almost like a mini-arch, except it's not, and it's in the middle of a pretty flat and boring stretch, so it is hard to miss. I stop by it one day and look around. There's some graffiti on it, broken glass around it. I think I can park around behind it at night and not be visible from the road.

Every time I get close to Church Canyon, I want to drive up to the gate and get Tim the fuck out of there. Place looks like a fucking prison--concrete walls around the front, barbed wire on top, and it looks like there's a nasty chain link fence around the back.

I've been in Page for four days when I decide to do something really fucking stupid. Tonight's the full moon--it's my last chance before I have to get myself and a runaway or two out of here. I drive out to Big Water very early, around sunrise, and I find the dirt road Tim wrote me about--at least, I think it's the one. I drive west on the road for awhile, until I can see the fence around Church Canyon a couple miles away. I park the jeep, and I get out, trying like fuck to just look like an ordinary tourist. I walk off to the right, away from the road, away from the town, and finally hear the sound of water that according to my map must be Wahweap Creek.

It's a little cool, this early in the morning, and I'm glad I brought my jacket. The sun's coming up to the east, and I find a nice rock, open up my backpack, and take out an Egg McMuffin from the McDonald's in Page. Yeah, that's me, cool as a cucumber, just a tourist enjoying some breakfast in the wilderness. I think if I actually ate anything I'd just puke it right back up.

So I just sit there, feeling like every kind of fool. I have no way of knowing which direction or what time Tim runs every morning, or even if he's still running. But I'm this close, and I'm not leaving without trying to see him.

My heart's racing, my palms are sweating, and I'm about to jump out of my skin, because it occurs to me that Tim might have company when he runs, and it's going to be hard for either one of us to pretend we don't know each other.

Maybe I should just go. I'm supposed to be here to pick up some kids who need help, not to fuck up and put Tim in more danger than he's in already. I put the stupid McMuffin back in my pack. I stand up, half-decided, and then I hear the regular crunch of gravel approaching from the west. A few seconds later, Tim comes around the bend. He doesn't see me at first--he looks like he's thinking pretty hard there, not to mention running damned fast--but then he looks up and stops dead, staring. Then he frowns.

I wave, kind of weakly. He stares some more, looks around, then jogs over to me, then past me, gesturing for me to follow. I run after him, grateful that he's slowed down. I manage to make it through some rocks and then we're crossing the creek--shit the water's cold--and once we get over to the other side, Tim slows to a walk, looks around, then grabs my hand and pulls me around a corner and behind a row of stunted trees.

I'm startled by the sudden shade, and then I feel Tim's arms around me, damp with sweat, and his lips on my forehead, and I reach up to kiss him. He tastes so good, his lips fresh and moist, a little salty, his tongue warm and slick against mine. He doesn't say a word as he breaks the kiss, just grabs my hand and pulls me along again, walking quickly and carefully through the sagebrush until we reach he canyon wall in front of us. He pulls me behind a ridge in the wall I hadn't even noticed, and then he pushes me against the rock and kisses me again, long and hard and hot, hands cupping my face, cock grinding into mine.

We finally break apart to breathe, chests heaving, and I'm running my hands over his hair, so short now, so soft, and his face, no beard, just some stubble.

"Bill--what the fuck are you doing here?" he asks in an urgent whisper.

"You shaved," I murmur, and latch onto his lips again. He growls, then pulls away again, holds me at arms length, glaring at me.

"I missed you, and I was in the neighborhood--" I begin, whispering. I don't know why we're whispering, but I'm going with whatever right now, because I've got six feet four inches of beautiful, sweaty FBI man here, and that's all I need to be good. Better than good. Fucking great.

"Bill, god, it's so good to see you, you have no idea, but you can't be here. Eisen sends men down here all the time on patrol, oh jesus Bill," that's in response to me grabbing his hand and sucking on his fingers, "he thinks the ATF's sending agents down here to spy on him. I'm safe, they know me, but you can't be here. Bill, if they see you, if they see us, they won't hesitate, they'll take us down."

It's hard to concentrate on what he's saying rather than on his fingers in my mouth, the feel of his body against mine, but it finally registers.

"Okay, okay, I hear you. But, Tim, fuck, you send me that letter, and I get my ass down here to help out, and I'm so close, so close to where I know you are, and fuck, Tim, I couldn't help myself."

He takes a big breath then, lets it out in a deep sigh, and wraps his arms around me again, and we just hold each other this time, and it's every bit as amazing as I remember, just being in his arms.

"God, Bill, it's so good to see you," he whispers again.

"Good to see you, Tim. Good to know you're okay." He sighs again.

"Tim? You are okay, aren't you?"

"What? Yeah, yeah, of course, Bill. Of course I'm okay."

I look at him. I wait.

"It's just hard, is all, Bill. Really hard. This place--" he gestures towards the town "--it's, well, I've seen a lot of death, a lot of people you might call evil, but this place is worse, some of these people are worse than I've ever imagined people could be."

"And you have to pretend to be one of them. Jesus, Tim. Okay, I'm not sorry I'm here, because I think you need to hear something, and you need to hear it now. Are you listening?"

I hold his face between my hands, look in his eyes, make sure he's paying attention.

"Tim--what you're doing here--it's got to be tearing you up inside. Your whole life right now is a mindfuck worse than anything Joe Dick could come up with, and take it from me, that's saying a lot. But I'm telling you this--you're a good man, Tim. You're a good man doing an awful fucking job, the worst kind of job, so that these evil motherfuckers will go down. You are saving people's lives. Tomorrow night, you will save lives when you help whoever you're helping to get out of this hellhole. You are a good man doing the best you can in a completely shitty situation."

I stop a minute, see if any of this is sinking in. Looks like it's starting to, a little.

"I know you, Tim. Not sure how or why, but I know you in my bones. I've seen you in action, when you put your life on the line to keep Eli from blowing his brains out. And I'm telling you that Tim Bayliss is kind, intelligent, warm, insightful, and dedicated, not to mention the sexiest thing on the planet. And I want you to remember that, remember who you are. Any time you feel overwhelmed by your evil twin, remember that there are people out there who know the real you, care about the real you. Okay?"

He nods, but I can still see doubt in his eyes.

"I've done things," he says to me, and I put my finger over his mouth.

"Tim, we've all done things. We all do what we have to in order to survive. I've fucked up six ways to Sunday--booze, drugs; I've lied to people, hurt people, you know a little about that, but you still manage to see something worthwhile in me. We're none of us perfect, Tim. You don't expect it of other people, don't expect it of Frank, of me. Don't expect it of yourself, Tim. Let up on yourself a little."

He sighs again, promises me he'll try. I grab onto him again and hold on tight; he nuzzles my hair and holds me just as tightly, stroking my shoulders. We're both hard as nails, but there's some sort of telepathy going on that lets us both know we both need what we're doing right now more than anything else. I know any minute he's going to pull his disappearing act again, but I hope he waits a little longer.

We probably stand like that for at least ten minutes, but it's still all too soon when he pulls back a little, kisses me, tells me he has to go. He insists on doing his cop thing, checking ahead of me to make sure the coast is clear, all the way out to my jeep. He even pulls his gun out of an ankle holster, holds it up in front of him, just like they do on tv.

I try to steal one more kiss as he puts me into the jeep. He tries to glare at me again, but can't quite pull it off. He's still hyperalert, looking and listening for any bad guys to protect me from, but he's put his gun away.

"Take care of yourself, Secret Agent Man, okay?"

He smiles at that, pats my cheek. "Get out of here, Rock Star." He closes my door, then leans through the open window and kisses me quickly. "Thanks, Bill."

I nod, start the jeep, and drive off. I can see him in my rearview mirror for at least five minutes, watching me drive away. I miss him already.


Sarah and I don't say much tonight at dinner. We're both on edge, knowing tonight's the night. I don't start guard duty until 9, and I've been up since 6. Tried to take a nap earlier, but all I could think about was Billy.

What a shock, seeing him sitting there this morning. I was just running, on autopilot, really, thinking through the plans for tonight. I don't know what made me look up when I did, but I almost fell flat on my face.

What a stupid, idiotic, wonderful thing for him to do, risking his fool neck like that. How incredible to touch him, kiss him, smell and taste him. To have him remind me of who I can be when I'm with him. Who I'll be when this is all over. Hopefully with him.

It scares me how much he's come to mean to me. I barely know him--have spent so very little time with him--and he knows so very little of me, of the things I've done. When he said he knew me, knew I was a good man, I wanted to argue with him, tell him he was wrong, he couldn't possibly say that about me if he knew the truth.

But at the same time, I knew that everything he said was true. He does know me in his bones, as I know him in mine. And he knows that his past doesn't matter to me--the drugs, the fights, the nights he spent in jail, none of that matters, because the person he is now is everything he said I was. Kind, intelligent, warm, insightful, dedicated, sexiest thing on the planet. Not perfect. Human.

And tonight he's going to do what he said I was doing--save people's lives, help them get away from here. If anything happens to him, if anyone hurts him, I think somebody better take my gun away from me.

"Timothy? Are you all right?" I look up, meet Sarah's worried expression.

"I'm fine, sweetie--just thinking about tonight, hoping everything goes okay. Where's Ruthie?" Ruth and Sarah share a room, a bed, and Georgia the cat. The three of them sleeping together is a wonderful sight, knowing at least they're here, they're not in danger of being raped. It makes me wish I could marry every girl in this town, just to keep them all from harm.

"She's over at Rebecca's, playing with Beth and Lisa. She's going to have dinner over there tonight."

"That's good. It's better that she--I don't want her to see me right now."

She nods. So much she's seen in 14 years.

"Listen, Sarah--you and Ruthie--I need to talk to you about you and Ruthie, about how you're going to get out."

"We don't need to get out, Timothy, we have you! You won't let anything happen to us."

"Not if I can help it, Sarah, but there's always a chance-- "

"No! I don't want to talk about this, Timothy!"

"Sarah. Listen to me. There's always a chance that the Holy Father will find out I've been helping people like Daniel and Gordon, like you and Ruth. And if he finds that out, if anything happens, I have to know that you and Ruth will be safe. So we have to talk about this, Sarah. We have to talk about it so I know you'll do what I tell you and get yourselves out of here if I can't protect you anymore."

So I tell her Bill's name, have her memorize his address, his cell phone number. I don't know why I don't give her Bartlett's number, but I don't, I give her Billy's. I tell her what he looks like, so she'll recognize him. I tell her where I've hidden some money, where the rock formation is. Tell her if we don't have much warning, I'll try to get her and Ruth out the back, that they'll need to get to Big Water to call Billy, but if we have some time, some warning, we'll try to leave together, have Bill waiting for us.

I tell her all this, much more than I should. If Eisen gets to her, threatens her, it will all be over, for all of us. But I have to tell her, so that there's a chance she and Ruth will be all right, even if I'm not. After I'm sure she understands, sure she knows what to do, I give her a hug and head out to meet Daniel for guard duty.


That night, I drive back to the Canyon. The full moon, as promised, is spectacular. As I get closer, I turn off my headlights. There's plenty enough light to drive, and no traffic. I pull off the road a few minutes before nine, park the jeep around the back, and wait.

After awhile, I dig my acoustic out of the back of the jeep, move over to the passenger side for more room, and start to work on a song. The next time I glance at the clock on the dash, it's after midnight. I decide to get out for a minute, stretch my legs.

Now I've been outside at night before in Western Canada, as far from civilization as I am now. Unfortunately, perhaps, it was only to take a piss by the side of the road. Usually drunk as a skunk. Tonight I'm sober, relatively calm, maybe even a little happy, after seeing Tim this morning. So I lean back against the rock, look up at the sky--and the stars are fucking amazing. Even with that bright moon competing for attention, I can see why they call it the milky way, and I'm wondering why I never bothered to notice stuff like this before. Freak.

I'm still sitting there, watching the stars, listening to the occasional truck or car go by, when I notice someone approaching me from the road. He looks like he's about 18 or 20, tall, well-built, and nervous. I give him a little wave, let him know I see him. I smile at him.

He walks up to me cautiously. I keep sitting--figure I'm less threatening that way.

"Mr. Boisy?"

"Yeah, that's me, kid."

"You're a friend of--"

"I'm a friend of Tim Rawls." I stand up, offer him my hand. He shakes it, still cautious.

"The jeep's around the back. We should get going, get you out of here."

"Wait a minute, Mr. Boisy, there's--there are a couple more of us. I'll let them know it's safe."

"Go ahead. I'll start up the jeep, pick you guys up. I don't want to stick around here any longer than we have to."

"No, that wouldn't be a good idea," he says, and smiles for the first time, in relief I think.

I was expecting one, maybe two. There are five of them-- Daniel, Gordon, Susanna, Elizabeth, and Cassandra. The three girls are sisters, 13, 10, and 6. I'm not sure, but I think Susanna may be in the early stages of pregnancy. Daniel and Gordon are 19 and 20, and when I see how they look at each other, I know why Tim got them out. I don't think any hint of homosexuality would be tolerated by Eisen.

The girls fall asleep right away, but Daniel and Gordon keep me company through the long drive. By the time we reach Flagstaff, it's almost 5 am. We stop for some breakfast--the girls are asleep, and when I wake them they look terrified for a minute. Everyone eats a great deal of very good food at a local diner.

I've been thinking a lot on the way down here. I needed to figure out what and how to tell them about Tim. How to tell them that as soon as the Bureau office opens, I'm taking them to the FBI.

I light a cigarette and drink my coffee as they finish their meal. Daniel's the first one to break the silence.

"Mr. Boisy?"

"Call me Bill, Daniel, okay?"

He nods. "Bill, then. We don't know how to thank you for what you've done. When Tim first approached me, told me he wanted my help getting people out, I didn't know what to think. And then, when I realized he really meant it, when we started making plans, all I thought about was actually leaving, not what happens after."

"And now you're wondering what's next?"

"Yeah." He looks at Gordon. "The two of us, we'll be okay, and we'd be happy to take care of the girls, too, but I don't know how easy that will be, how long it'll take us to find jobs, a place to live, and Susanna needs to go to the doctor--"

"It's okay, Dan. We'll get here there, don't worry. But there are some things I need to tell you first, all of you. What exactly has Tim told you about why he's in Church Canyon?"

"He said he worked for the state of Utah," Gordon says. "For Child Welfare. He said he got involved after Heather ran away, that he helped her and Eli. Are we going to see them?"

Fuck. "I hope you'll be able to talk to Eli soon, guys, but I'm afraid I have some bad news about Heather. Tim--Tim's trying to help her, trying to help her by making sure that the people who killed her are put in jail. Tim is working with the FBI to get the evidence to do that."

"Heather's dead?" Susanna asks, starting to cry.

"Yes, I'm afraid she is. And Tim was afraid that more girls like her were going to be killed as well. That's why he wanted you kids to get out, and why I agreed to help him after I met Eli."

The waitress comes by then with my change, and she looks at me like I'm an abusive parent when she sees Susanna crying. I give her some patented Billy Tallent charm and she lightens up a little. After she leaves, I start talking again.

"We're going to have to get going soon, kids, so I can take you to the folks who are working with Tim. They're going to take care of you, but they're also going to want to talk to you about Tim and about what happens in Church Canyon. I promise that they won't hurt you--they'll take care of you."

"What about you, Bill? Aren't you going to help us anymore?" These are the first words Cassandra's spoken since I picked them up. I smile at her.

"I hope I'll get the chance to help you some more, Cassandra. I have a little girl about your age, and I would love it if all of you could come and meet her when she visits me in California. But the most important thing is that you're safe, and you'll be safer right now with Agent Bartlett than you would be with me."

"What about Timothy? Will he be safe?" Gordon asked the question, but they're all looking at me, waiting for the answer, and I don't think I can lie to them.

"I hope so, Gordon, I hope so. The truth is, the longer he stays in that town, the more danger he's in. That's why you need to tell Agent Bartlett everything you can about what happens in Church Canyon. The sooner they get enough evidence against Eisen, the sooner Tim will be safe."

I stop, suddenly realizing I'm exhausted. Exhausted, and worried about Tim. I don't know whether the Bureau has anyone there before 6 am, but I don't care anymore. I gather the kids together and take them over there, pausing as I get out of the car, remembering Tim in the parking lot.

I debated just dropping the kids off nearby and giving them directions, but I believed too much of the speech I just gave them for that. It's possible that something I know might help finish this investigation sooner. It's probably important that I tell them about the patrols Tim spoke of, and Eisen's fear of the ATF.

So I sit through hours of questions, what seem like hours of Bartlett yelling at me for getting involved. I tell them I'll let them know when Tim writes me again. I tell them I saw him, just 24 hours ago now, and that he was doing his job, but that it's hard for him there. I tell them Tim is my friend, that I will do anything I can to help him. I don't tell him any more than that, but I suspect he knows, and in a weird way he seems grateful. I realize that he's just as much in Tim's corner as I am, and after that it's a little easier to take his frustration with me for messing up his investigation.

He lets me go at last, I think because he realizes I'm about to fall asleep on the conference table. I get a chance to hug the girls goodbye, give Zoe a hug too, shake Gordon and Daniel's hands. I give them all my number, tell them to get in touch when they get settled. Bartlett's arranged for a hotel room, return of my rental car, and a ride to the airport in the morning, so there's nothing left to do but crash. I sleep, then head back to LA via Phoenix.


I'm called before Meeting to be interrogated about the escape. I think I manage to successfully divert their attention onto Daniel and his friend, Gordon. I admit to the elders that I've had some questions about the way he's been acting, hint that he and Gordon spent a little too much time together, that sort of thing. I'm chastised for not bringing this to their attention, and I promise not to let it happen again.

I hope it's enough to get me by a while longer. Meeting Daniel was a stroke of luck, since we were often scheduled for guard duty together; I couldn't have gotten so many out together without help from another guard. From now on it will be much more difficult.

I wish I could have taken Daniel up on his offer to stay behind and help with more escapes, but I know I'm not the only one who's noticed the attraction between him and Gordon, and I couldn't risk it. For them both to be safe, they both had to leave. Now, for all of us to be safe, I'll need to lie low. No more letters to Billy, lots more spouting of the party line.

It's a little easier, now. I know that I've sent five people to safety, along with a lot of evidence. Not enough evidence, not yet, to convict Eisen of murder, but enough evidence of child abuse and rape to convict not only Eisen, but a few of the elders as well. That's enough to keep me going. That, and the memory of Bill's words out by the creek.

Each night now, as Ruth and Sarah sleep, I remind myself of what he said. I remind myself that there are people out there who care about Tim Bayliss, and that Bill Boisy is one of them.

I also remember his eyes, his talented hands, the taste of his lips, the sounds he made when he came that night in Las Vegas. The few minutes of pleasure and release I give myself, thinking of him, only ease the ache I feel for a short time.

I've been here six months now, six months that seem far longer than the six years I spent partnered with Frank in Homicide. I hope I won't still be here in another six months. I doubt I'd be able to keep this up that long, no matter how hard I try.

For now, I'm here, and that's what I should be concentrating on. I tell myself what I imagine Frank saying--"Quit whining, Bayliss, just do your damned job!" And that's enough, for now, to let me sleep.

A month later, Eisen tells me I'm to marry again, this time to one of his daughters, Jessica. She is 17, an old maid by Church Canyon standards, and has a reputation as a trouble-maker. She's the one that reported Stephanie to the elders the second time, the time that ended her life.

I am expected to see it as an honor to be offered one of Eisen's daughters, so I tell him it is, but I'm scrambling to figure out some way out of this. Not only is Jessica a trouble-maker, she's also out to gain her father's favor in any way she can.

I think he's decided she'll make a good spy. I've shown no signs of getting Sarah pregnant, after all, and I suspect she and Ruth are just too relaxed, too happy, for people not to notice. And then there's the fact that I was guarding with Daniel the night he escaped. No, Eisen's definitely not convinced by the bad cop routine anymore. He suspects something, and he's sending in Jessica to find out what my secret is. And Jessica being Jessica, I don't think it will take her long to find a way to pull me down, hoping it will bring her up closer to dear old Dad.

I've managed, somehow, to put off the wedding until next month. Once Jessica's in my house, I don't know how long I'll have. I've got to start making plans to get Sarah and Ruth, and maybe some others, out of here.


I've been keeping in touch with the kids. Billie came out for Thanksgiving break, and I invited all six of them over for the weekend. It was good to see her, especially after getting back from Vegas, which was just as hard as I thought it would be, but for totally different reasons. It was the end of September, not October, and I was thinking of Tim, not Joe.

I told Billie the kids were foster kids I'd heard about, who I wanted to help out. She didn't question that, even when she saw how old Gordon and Dan are. She didn't have any problems with the way they were together, either, which I suppose means there are at least some things that are good about hanging out in Hollywood with her dad. Mary and I managed to keep any information about my relationship with Joe away from her, but I've sometimes worried that Mary's homophobia would affect her. Glad to see it hasn't.

All four girls have gone to bed now. The boys are sitting out on the patio with me, enjoying the breeze. The kids from Church Canyon were a little confused by having Thanksgiving dinner a month early, but they seemed to enjoy it nonetheless.

I think Gordon and Dan are holding hands under the table, where Eli can't see, and all of a sudden I can't get Tim out of my mind. It's October, and I haven't heard from him since I drove away on that dirt road and watched him in my mirror. Bartlett's called me a couple times to ask if I've gotten any letters. He won't say much, just that Tim's been sending in his reports, but I can tell he's worried.

The boys are worried, too. I think they've been waiting for the right time to ask me, and sure enough, now that we're alone out here with our testosterone, Eli speaks up.

"Billy, we were wondering--have you heard from Tim? Agent Bartlett won't tell us anything."

"No, he doesn't tell me much, either. Just that he's gotten Tim's scheduled reports, that's all. And no, I haven't heard from him, but there have been times before when I haven't heard from him for a couple months."

"But you're worried about him too, aren't you?" asks Dan. "I mean, I know you guys are close--" he pauses, unsure.

"Yeah, we're close. And I am worried. I've been worried ever since he left for that fucking place."

"What he did for us--I know he had a plan to blame the whole escape on me, say he suspected something about me and Gordon, but I also know he took a hell of a risk sending me with the others. I tried to get him to let me stay, so I could help him, help take the heat off, but he wouldn't consider it. He insisted that people suspected how Gordon and I felt about each other, and that we had to leave right away."

"That sounds like Tim. He wouldn't want to put anyone else in danger."

"Bill--he told me something that night, before we left. He told me that I could trust you with my life. He told me he'd seen you that morning, so he knew you'd be there. And he told me he understood, about me and Gordon. He didn't say any more than that, but I could tell what he meant. I'd never seen him like that. He was--he was tense about that night, confident at the same time, but he was also happy. When he told me he'd seen you, jeez, Bill, he smiled a real smile, you know? I'd never seen that smile before. So I just thought I should tell you that, that I could tell how much you mean to him."

"That's--thank you for telling me that, Danny. Tim--he means a lot to me, too, and I really miss him, so thank you for telling me."

I have to look away from them as I'm saying this, because I'm remembering that smile, and I want so badly to see it again that I'm afraid I'm about to make a fucking fool of myself in front of these boys. Freak. I take a big breath, let it out. The boys stand up, one by one, and give me a hug, tell me they're off to bed. Hugs from teenage boys--we're all freaks.

Everyone leaves the next day. I spend half the day taking kids to LAX. I come home, call Bartlett. No news since the last time I called him, which was three days ago. I've been doing pretty well on the whole nicotine habit, especially when Billie's around, but tonight I go through a pack and a half in about two hours.


Things are getting bad here, getting worse every day. I'm marrying Jessica in three days. Last night--last night Joseph Eisen raped Sarah. I came home from Meeting--I remember that I was relieved he wasn't there that night, so I didn't have to look at him--and Ruth was crying in the bedroom, saying Sarah was in the bathroom and she wouldn't come out.

I talked to her through the door for almost an hour before she'd come out, and then she just hugged Ruthie, wouldn't let her go, and cried. I thought she'd be safe, married to me, but I was wrong. I've got to get her out of here, her and Ruthie both. She was bleeding. She wouldn't tell me much, but she said he'd been surprised by how much she bled. He's pretty stupid, but I think he'll probably be able to figure out why.

The next full moon is in 8 days. I sent a letter to Bill today, and I hope he'll get it in time. I sent the bureau report last week, need to notify them of what's going on now, but lately Joseph and certain other of his relatives have been in the post office when I'm there, watching me. I don't feel safe trying to mail anything else for a few days, at least. I slipped the note to Bill in with the electric bill, hoping no one noticed. If I could have gotten to the pay phone, I would have called, but they were watching me too closely.

He fucking followed her home from Rebecca's. Ruth was with her, but stopped to say hi to a friend. He took her into his house and he held her down and he raped her. She has bruises on her wrists just like Adena's.


It's a couple weeks after everyone left, and I head in to rehearsal, manage to lose myself in the music for a while, smoking continuously like back in the old days. I even have to do the bandaid routine afterwards. It takes forever to get home, and when I get there I can't decide if I'm more or less scared by the fact that there's a letter waiting from Tim. Reading the letter solves that little conundrum--definitely more scared.


Next full moon.


That's all there is. Fuck. FUCK. It's post-marked six days ago. When the fuck is the next full moon? I think maybe Chelle and Kat might know--they're kind of into pagan stuff. Jesus, fuck, my hands are shaking so badly I have to dial the number twice. Please be home please be home.


"Kat, listen, it's me. I need to know something, and I thought you guys might clue me in."

"What's wrong, Billy?"

"This is gonna sound weird, Kat, but I need to know when the next full moon is. It's really, really important."

"You at home, Billy?" There's a definite tone of suspicion in her voice.

"Yes, Kat, and I know I sound fucking crazy, but I swear to you, a friend is in trouble, and I know it doesn't make any sense, but I can't help him until I know when the fucking moon is going to be full!"

"Hold on a minute, Billy, I need to look at my calendar. Are you sure you're okay?"

"Yes, Kat, I'm okay, I'm just worried sick about this friend of mine."

"You fucking better not be lying to me, Billy. Oh, here it is--okay, the next full moon is this Wednesday."

"Wednesday? Like in two fucking days? Fuck! Listen, Kat, I'm gonna have to go out of town for a few days--don't know for sure when I'm gonna be back--"

"Because you have to help this friend on the full moon?"

"Well, yeah. Kat, this is something--I wish I could tell you more, and I will when I can, but there's some serious fucking shit going on, and I can't tell you any more than that. Look, you want me to stop by for a urine test, blood test, smell my breath, I'll do it, but then I have to leave for Phoenix."

"You have to go to Phoenix because there's going to be a full moon. Okay, Billy, I don't claim to understand any of this, but for some fucking reason I believe you. You've been acting weird for months, but I know you haven't been using. Go, and be careful, and help your friend. And Billy, call us, okay? Let us know you're all right?"

"I will, Kat, soon as I can. And thank you."

"You're welcome. Go, before I change my mind."

Two hours later I'm on the plane to Phoenix. Three days after that I'm on a helicopter on my way back to Phoenix, accompanied by medics. The medics don't pay me much mind, though--they're too fucking busy trying to save Tim's life.


Notes: Page, Big Water, Kanab, Church Wells, and Colorado City are all real places, much the way I described them. There are several direct entry (lay) midwives in Big Water, but most of them are very dedicated and have indeed studied obstetrics textbooks. The former mayor of Big Water did indeed have 8 or 9 wives and was the leader of a group of radical libertarian polygamists. When I left the area in 1997, he had been diagnosed with kidney cancer. I don't know if he's still alive. The polygamists in Big Water left me alone once they found out I planned on midwifery school--they knew I didn't agree with their lifestyle, but they were perfectly pleasant to me.

I've tried to keep physical descriptions of the Kaibab Plateau (in this and other stories) as accurate as memory and my atlas will allow. The Glen Canyon Dam is an ecological monstrosity, but Lake Powell is incredibly beautiful. The sky is amazing, but you can see a distinct yellow smudge from the Navajo Generating Station.

I would drive the 20 minutes from Page to Big Water each night after working the 3-11 shift. When the moon was full, I occasionally turned my headlights off to confirm that I could, indeed, see perfectly well without them.

Church Canyon is completely fictional. But people up there really are pretty insular, despite the outward friendliness to the roughly 3 million visitors that come through Page every year, and there is a lot of paranoia about government interference.

And anyone who's been within a couple hundred miles of the Grand Canyon really should make the trip to see it.