They call him a murderer, a monster, an antisocial drug addict that lost it. They say he butchered a woman, beat his employee to death in his bedroom with his own cane. At least, this is what the news people say. They even have cute, catchy little phrases for him sandwiched between montages with photos of Gregory and the beautiful creature he confessed to murdering in his home.

Pisses me off beyond belief.

God, Gregory did not even have the common decency to call his mother when it happened. No. Poor Blythe had to find out when his friend, Dr. Wilson, called to break the news before she had to see it on the six o'clock news. She had broken down into hysterics; Gregory had always been a momma's boy.

Blythe didn't go to the trial; she couldn't bear to see her son – her baby boy – like that. I went. Gregory just rolled over at the trial. He didn't say a damned word. Just sat there in his orange pajamas and let them send him away for life. His boss, that little tart, Dr. Cuddy, tried to be sympathetic after the sentencing and blamed the drugs, saying that he must have snapped. The news liked to put it that way too, saying his addiction got the best of him in the end and drove him to do it.

Now, I'm not a smart man, not like Gregory. I couldn't tell you the customs of Aboriginal tribes. I couldn't tell you who was there for the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I couldn't tell you what's in a fart. I can tell you this; I am not that stupid. They can believe all they want that Gregory went nuts, but I don't.

I know Gregory isn't my son; I've always known. Maybe I've been too hard of him because I knew. You can't hide that forever from a man, especially when his "son" grows up looking like he was adopted, but I know my son. My son is many things. A failure. A disappointment. A rude, smart-mouthed punk. A lazy ass. But my son is not a murderer.

I know men who've snapped. I've never told Blythe, but Johnny Durante did once. Yup, Johnny Durante, the same guy who loses every week at Poker Night because he can't lie worth a damn, the same guy that helped rescue a kitten from the storm drain in front of our house, and the same guy helps me set-up the church manger every year. You wouldn't think it if you saw him, but he did once. Killed a whole lot of unarmed civilians after one of his friends was tortured and killed. You can't blame him for it, though. It was Vietnam; Nam did things to you, still does things to some people.

My son is not capable of killing someone. It takes more guts that Gregory has. Say what you will about him snapping, but he doesn't have it in him to kill someone, let alone a woman. He never has, and he'd never – ever lay a finger on a lady.

But, it's more than that; my son is not physically capable of murder. He's a cripple, for crying out loud. His mother twisted my arm into visiting him once. He hardly looked like he could make it up a flight of stairs without his cane. How in the hell was he supposed to stand without his cane so he could beat her to death with it? Besides that, Dr. Cameron was a young, relatively fit woman. Maybe not an American Gladiator, but even she could have fended off a gimp like Gregory, especially if he wasn't on his cane.

It just doesn't make any sense.

I tried not to let it bother me. After all, he'd signed the confession, told them how he hit her until she went still, how he waited for her to die, everything. I went over the evidence against him again and again. Despite any theory or hunch I might have had, the mountains of evidence spoke volumes against Gregory. The evidence seemed so air tight, no matter what angle I looked at it from. No. There could be no question; my son had killed a woman.

I tried, God I tried, but, the more I tried to push it away, the more it did terrible things to his mother and I. She started sleeping across the hall. I started spending more time at the VA. We moved through the house like ghosts, hardly speaking to one another.

And, then, there was the stroke. Her doctors said it was a natural, unpredictable event that is par for the course for someone our age, but I knew it wasn't natural. It was because of Gregory. When he went to jail, he took a piece of her heart with him, and she has never been quite the same, beautiful, proud, defiant, and strong willed creature I'd married since.

Once her doctors had her stabilized, I got on the next flight to Philadelphia, rented a car out of the airport, and drove right out to that miserable shit-hole of a prison. They told me I couldn't see him. Apparently, Gregory does not behave himself. No surprise there. Gregory has always had a thing against figures of authority. They told me he had lost his visitation privileges. I told them about his mother, told them she had died, and, suddenly, they hopped to, saying they needed to get clearance from the warden.

I waited an hour and forty seven minutes before they brought him out. I know, because I was about to leave, but, when I saw him, all that anger, all that rage I'd been pushing down for months just welled back up again. He'd always been a skinny fellow, a weedy little kid growing up, but, then, he'd looked like one of those ads Sally Struthers is always running for starving people in Africa. He looked sickly and ashen, like a ghost, like Blythe had those last few weeks leading up to the stroke. No, he looked like a POW, bruised, scarred, and shaking in terror no matter how he tried to hide it from me.

He didn't even look at me. When he was a child, I could look down at him, and he had hated it. When Gregory finally grew taller than me, he looked down at me and loved waving that in my face whenever possible, but not in that prison morning room. He just kept looking down at his feet, sometimes, giving a quick glance in my direction like he wanted to make sure I was still there, like a scared little puppy.

I'm retired. I've been retired for almost ten years now, but you never lose that edge, the instinct. The whole thing screamed of…. of wrongness. Felt like walking into an ambush somehow, with Gregory staked out as the bait.

I almost exploded right then and there, but I couldn't. My instincts wouldn't let me, and, even if they would, Blythe wouldn't want me to do that.

I tried, I really did. I tried to needle him into denying it, like it would somehow make things better if he just said he didn't kill her. He just sat there like a zombie no matter what I said, like he was in some kind of a trance, but I kept at it. I wanted him to say it. No, I needed him to say it, so much that I couldn't help myself.

I hadn't meant to, but I told him about Blythe's stroke, told Gregory he'd done it to her. That got his attention, and he finally looked up at me. His eyes were wide. He looked just like a little boy again. I kept hoping he'd finally say it, just say it already, but he didn't. He just snapped his mouth shut just like he used to when he was a kid and he knew that I wasn't going to take any of his excuses for breaking a rule.

That did it. I snapped. I hit him. God help me for it, but I slapped him right across the face. I held my breath, waiting, praying, but, after a minute, he just looked back down. He wasn't going to tell me a thing, not a damned thing. I left him, didn't even tell him that his mother hadn't died from her stroke. I couldn't….

I went home to Blythe, and I never told her about Gregory. How could I? How could I tell her that I knew, honestly knew our son wasn't a killer? How could I hurt her like that when her heart was already broken by all this?

It's for the best that she doesn't get her hopes up, because, unless Gregory starts telling the truth, starts fighting this thing, he's going to just keep rotting in jail until he dies. No, it's better this way. It's best that she doesn't hope the same way I did.




Author's Notes : Yes, I love the Contractverse. And, yes, I know John House is a child-abusing ass, but I like to think that, in every tough, gruff military officer, there's a big, squishy heart.