Chapter 9

The car ride home from the chapel was mostly quiet, but somehow Doug had convinced Tom to come over to his house instead of having him take him back to his own. Penhall really didn't want Hanson to be alone tonight, and he figured Hanson probably didn't want to be alone that much either, especially considering how easily he had convinced Tom to come home with him. He thought he'd have to practically force him to spend the night at Doug's apartment, but it was really pretty much as simple as Doug suggesting it and Tom agreeing.

As they entered Doug's apartment, Tom stood in the doorway looking quite awkward. He wasn't sure why Tom would feel hesitant to enter the apartment. He'd been to Penhall's place many times before and always seemed perfectly willing to make himself at home. Perhaps he wouldn't have felt comfortable no matter where he was tonight.

"Well, come on in," Penhall offered, "I'll find you some dry clothing." Right now Tom was still just wearing Doug's jeans and a police jacket someone had given him back at the school.

"Could I take a shower?" Tom asked. His cheeks were a little pink and he looked down at the floor as though he was ashamed or embarrassed, "I'll try to go fast," he added.

Doug nodded, "sure, but Tom," he said before his partner could head off toward the shower, "I really want to believe you, about what you said did and didn't happen back at the school, but I just want to stress this, just one time. If there is any evidence on you, that taking a shower would destroy, I'd urge you to say so now," he paused, trying to think of what he could say to get Tom to understand where he was coming from, "Just try to look at this from a viewpoint other than your own. I know it's hard, but just try to take yourself out of the picture. If whatever happened to you had happened to a high school student you were trying to help, what would you tell him to do?"

"I'd tell him to take a shower," Tom frowned, looking up at his partner with raised eyebrows as though he thought Penhall was being an irrational idiot.

"This is the last time I'll say it..." Doug sighed, "and it might not need to be said. You know showering destroys certain physical evidence if it's there. And I don't want to keep bothering you about this, but I just want to make sure you don't do anything you'll regret later. So if there's any sort of evidence like that on you-"

Tom shook his head, "there isn't."

Penhall nodded, hoping his partner was telling the whole truth. There was only so much he could do. Asking him the same thing over and over would only succeed in making the younger man upset, so he decided to just go with whatever his partner said for now, "There should be a towel on the rack. I'll find you some clothing and set it out on the bed," he offered.

"Thanks," Tom smiled and left the room.

...

Hanson sighed as he closed the bathroom door behind him. He leaned his back up against the closed door and closed his eyes. While he felt very relieved to finally be out of that school and someplace he felt safe, he wasn't really sure what he should do next. Doug kept looking at him like he knew Tom was hiding something, and kept asking him the same questions over and over again. Hanson knew his friend was just trying to help him. He just didn't know if he was ready to accept that help.

He shrugged out of the jacket a police officer had thrown on him while they were still at the school. It was too big and he had no idea whose it was. Was he supposed to return it? Maybe he'd just give it to Fuller later and ask him to try to find its owner.

With his hands on the sides of the sink, Hanson leaned toward the mirror and just stared at himself. He looked awful. His eyes looked tired and sad and he was frowning. He didn't like that he looked so hurt, but he didn't really know if he could force himself to smile right now.

Looking himself over more, he found that he was covered in bruises. That was no surprise, but it still made his shoulders slump. He hadn't really looked at himself in a mirror since all this had happened. He hadn't seen himself as everyone else had. No wonder everyone was so worried about him. If he had seen Doug looking like this, Tom would have insisted he go to the hospital too, and would likely annoy the man with questions just as much as Penhall was doing to him.

Finally, Tom shrugged out of Penhall's jeans. He wanted to throw them away. Anything he was wearing was now disgusting and dirty. Burning the jeans and the police jacket would probably be for the best, but they weren't his to destroy, so he threw them in a small pile in the corner, away from the rest of his partner's laundry. He supposed they could wash the clothes later, or put them in a paper bag and throw them under a bed somewhere to be lost forever.

Next, he turned on the shower and stepped inside. For a moment, hearing the water falling brought back bad memories, but he quickly pushed them out of his mind. He refused to be scared of showering for the rest of his life. Besides, this shower was different in so many ways from the other one. The water was warm and soothing. He was alone and in a safe place where no one could see him and no one could hurt him. And this time he was making himself cleaner instead of dirtier.

Tom looked around in the shower. On the shelf, Penhall had a mostly full bottle of shampoo and a half-empty bottle of body wash. He took the body wash first, squirted a large quantity of it in his hands, and scrubbed it all over himself until he was covered in suds. He continued scrubbing as he rinsed it off and then washed his hair. But he still felt disgusting. So he used more of the body wash, repeating his first action over again, scrubbing all over his body and then rinsing it off.

As he did this, he was beginning to feel extremely overwhelmed and frustrated. No matter how much he scrubbed, he still felt just as dirty. Was he ever going to feel clean again?

As he scrubbed the soap all over his body for a third time, he began to feel himself breathing much more rapidly than he should have been as he began to panic. Why couldn't he wash the feeling of Stern's touch off himself?

The bottle of soap was looking less and less full. He wanted to stop using it before he accidentally used all of it, but he couldn't. He kept feeling like scrubbing himself down just one more time might do the trick, but each time, he felt the same way when he was done. He scrubbed all over his arms where he still felt the faint sensation of Stern's hands squeezing around them. He scrubbed his chest where Stern had placed his hands several times. He scrubbed his legs where Stern had pinned them against the wall, and his neck where Stern's hand had threatened to choke him. Tom could feel the man's fingers all over him. Every place the man had touched, Tom could still feel him there, even though he was gone now.

He thought about the traces of Stern's saliva that were probably still inside him. How was he supposed to clean that? And the more he thought about it, the more he could actually feel the memory of Stern's fingers pushing into him. Was he going to feel that man's hands all over him forever?

Hanson felt tears running down his cheeks. He felt so stupid. He was perfectly safe now. Stern was going to go to prison, probably for the rest of his life for raping and killing those other two boys. Gale would probably do quite a bit of time for helping Stern. Everything that had happened tonight was now the past. It was over. Gone. Done. What was there to cry about? He was a grown man! A police officer! And yet he was reduced to tears because someone touched him where he didn't want to be touched and he couldn't wash away the feeling with soap and water. He felt ashamed of himself for behaving like a child. He was more mature than this. He needed to just get over himself. What was crying going to solve? But that was easier said than done. As much as he wanted to force himself to man up, he wasn't really finding any success in doing so.

He soon found himself sitting down in the tub under the steady stream of warm water. His knees were drawn up to his chest and his arms were wrapped around his legs. Tom knew he probably wouldn't get the chance to cry again for quite a while. If he needed to cry, he figured he might as well get it all out of his system right here, right now, where no one could see or hear him. The last thing he wanted was for Doug to know he was this upset. That would only make his partner worry more, and would thus result in more questions. He rested his forehead against his knees and let the tears fall.

...

Doug went to his room and started digging through his dresser, trying to find some of his clothes that might fit his partner. Doug wasn't that much bigger than Tom. The jeans might not have fit well, but something like pajama pants wouldn't be so much of a problem.

He eventually settled on some boxers he rarely wore, some flannel pajama pants, and a plain white t-shirt. He wasn't sure how Tom would feel about wearing another man's boxers, but figured he'd leave the option open and let him decide for himself.

He decided he'd wait until the next day to take a shower himself. He felt a little dirty from all that went on, but he also felt quite tired. He could let Hanson have his bed if he wanted, since he'd be clean, and he himself could take the sofa or the recliner, in order to keep his bed from getting dirty.

While Hanson was still occupied by the shower, Doug quickly changed out of his dirty clothing and into different boxers and a white t-shirt similar to the one he had laid out for Tom.

As he waited for his partner to be finished with the shower, Doug decided to go into the living room and watch television. Nothing good was on, so he settled on a game show. He couldn't really pay attention to it though. He was still focused on the events of the day.

He sincerely hoped Hanson wasn't holding back too many details about what had happened to him in the showers. He wasn't so much worried about any evidence being destroyed as he was about his partner's mental state. Keeping something like that to himself would not be good for him at all. Plus, he was sure Stern would go away for a long time just for his other crimes, so even if there was more to the story than what Tom was admitting, it wasn't like the principal was going to be back on the streets any time soon. Two rapes and two murders, both of minors, plus the kidnapping and assault of two police officers would pretty much guarantee he'd never be out of prison.

Doug was more worried about Gale than Stern. Gale might not spend that much time in prison at all. He was an accomplice, but Penhall was pretty sure he wasn't really directly involved with either of the rapes or murders. He had wanted to be though. If he got out of prison, someone was going to get hurt. Maybe he wouldn't track down Doug or Tom, but he'd find someone. Eventually Gale was going to be the cause of someone's death.

Penhall wondered if Hanson was worried about Gale. Did he even know how Gale was looking at him while they were held captive? Was he aware of the things Gale had said about him? The man had obviously wanted Tom more than Doug, but did Hanson even know? It would have been hard for him to focus on such things while everything else was going on, but it was very possible he could have noticed little things here and there. Would he be worried that Gale would come back for him if given the chance? He sincerely hoped Tom would be okay after all this. He seemed so traumatized, and not without good reason.

The look on his partner's face when he had found him in the showers was heartbreaking. He had looked so devoid of emotion, like he'd given up all hope. He had tear streaks down his face, which was very unsettling as well. Doug knew Hanson was a man who never cried, no matter how sad he was, and no matter how much pain he was in. He must have been so unbelievably frightened to have been driven to tears.

Just the thought of how differently this could have ended made Doug feel sick. He could have come in a minute later... He didn't even want to think about it. Or what if he hadn't been able to come to his partner's aid at all? They could both be dead right now. Or maybe they'd still be alive. He couldn't bear to imagine what physical and mental state they would be in if they were still cuffed down in that locker room. He didn't know what to say to Hanson even as it was. What would he be saying to console his partner if they were still locked down there? Doug shuddered.

"Hey," he heard Tom's voice as his partner walked slowly into the room, "thanks for the clothing," he raised his arm to the side, trying to gesture at himself.

"No problem," Doug smiled.

The clothing was a bit too big for Tom, but at least it wasn't falling off of him like the jeans had been. The pajama pants had a tie around the waistband to hold them up. Doug watched his partner as he walked over and sat down on the sofa next to him. He sighed tiredly as he sat down and then groaned like he would have if he'd been exercising all day.

Doug frowned, "Do you feel okay?" he asked, "did you take those pills the paramedic gave you? Are you in pain?"

Tom smiled, "I'm fine, Doug. Whatever pain I feel now is likely to triple by tomorrow. I'll save my complaints until then."

Penhall looked at his partner's face. He looked so tired. Hanson's dark eyes looked almost haunted, like they were holding back copious secrets, like there were so many things he wanted to say but wouldn't let himself. Doug also noticed his partner's eyes were rimmed by skin that looked slightly red as though he'd been crying.

Doug almost asked him what he had been crying about, but stopped himself. It seemed like kind of a stupid question. Doug could pretty much guess why his partner would have been crying. So instead of asking, he offered something more general, "you can talk to me about any of this, you know," Doug offered, "anything you have to say, I'll listen. We're partners. That's what I'm here for, to support you in any way you need it."

Tom's eyes still looked troubled, but he forced a smile, "I know," he said.

Doug frowned, "keeping all this to yourself isn't good for you. You can tell me anything you want. And you have no reason to feel ashamed. Stern's the one who should feel ashamed. None of this was your fault."

"I know," Tom said again, "I already pretty much told you everything. There's no need to go into excruciating detail. I'm sure you wouldn't really want to hear it, and I sure as hell don't want to say it. So we'll just leave it at that. You know the gist of it all ready."

"Well," Doug sighed, "you're wrong about one thing. I do want to hear about it. Anything you say, I want to hear. I wouldn't be asking if I didn't want to listen to you. But I understand if you aren't ready to talk about it. Whenever you are, I'll be ready to listen." He didn't want to press the issue too much. He wanted his partner to talk to him, but he didn't want to force the truth out of him. He could tell him at his own pace. As frustrating as it would be for Doug, he'd just have to wait until Tom was ready to speak up, "just remember that I'm here for you. You can tell me anything."

Tom smiled, "thank you," he said simply. Doug sincerely hoped his partner would eventually want to tell him anything he had been holding back. The longer he waited to say something the more likely he wouldn't ever say it.

"You want something to drink or a sandwich or something? Cereal or anything?" Doug offered. They had skipped dinner. Doug himself didn't feel hungry, but he didn't know if Tom was.

Tom shook his head, "Nah," he declined. He looked over at his partner and narrowed his eyes, "Did I ever thank you for saving me?" he asked.

Penhall shrugged, "I'm not sure. Everything happened so fast."

"Well, thank you," Tom forced a smile, "and thank you for letting me come over. I don't know what I would have done all night by myself. I still feel really dirty..." He must have noticed Doug gave him a worried look, because he proceeded to insist against Doug's fears, "I'm telling the truth... He didn't rape me. But he still touched me, and it makes me feel sickening."

Doug nodded, "I'm sorry I couldn't prevent him from doing that," he frowned, "if there was anything I could have done, I would have done it. He took you away from me twice, and both times I wanted so badly to do anything to prevent him from taking you. There was nothing I could do. I was so scared for you."

"They hurt you too, Penhall," Tom frowned, "everyone seems to forget that. I was scared for you too. When Stern took me upstairs, I had no idea what Gale was doing to you in the locker room. I still don't know what happened to you. Everyone's so worried about me. Everyone keeps wanting me to fill them in on every single detail of what happened to me, but no one even asks you. Who knows what Gale could have done while I was gone?"

"We mostly just talked. But he did get a little rough at one point. Nothing I couldn't handle," Doug informed him, "you tired yet? I mean, I'm sure you are... but if you want to go to bed, I'll take the sofa, so you can have my bed. It's clean. I haven't had any ladies over or anything."

Tom laughed, "of course you haven't."

Doug smiled, very relieved that his partner was willing to joke around with him. In this moment, his partner's eyes actually looked bright and cheerful and he wore his usual smile.

"Can't we just both sleep in here? I'll take the chair," he offered, looking serious again. His eyebrows were knitted together as if he was asking Doug to make some huge sacrifice and was worried his partner would decline. He looked like he was fully prepared to actually beg Doug to consider his request.

Doug nodded, "you can stay on the couch so you'll be more comfortable, but I really don't mind you taking the bed."

"No," Tom declined, "I just... I don't know... I'd feel better with both of us in here," he sighed and shook his head, "I know it's stupid... I'm being an irrational idiot-"

"It's not stupid," Doug disagreed, "and it's not irrational. I'd feel better with both of us in here too, as a matter of fact. I was just being polite," he smiled.

"But I don't think I could sleep now if I tried," Tom frowned, "if you're ready for bed though, I could turn the television off."

"I'll stay up as long as you do," Doug offered, "we can talk. About anything. Whatever you want to take your mind off everything. We can talk about coffee, stuff we used to do as kids, movies, cars," he paused, trying to think of more possible topics of conversation, "uh... fashion... or llamas, or whatever you want to."

Tom nodded, "you ever owned llamas?" he asked.

Doug laughed. Out of the topics he had presented, he didn't think his partner would choose that one to discuss, "no. you?"

Hanson shook his head, "never really had any space for them," he yawned, slouched down, and closed his eyes. Doug could see his partner was exhausted, whether he admitted it or not.

"Would you have wanted one if you had room for it?" Doug asked, looking his partner up and down. His eyes were still closed, so Doug took this as a free opportunity to survey his partner's visible injuries without Tom getting angry with him. His arms were lined with bruises, which Doug knew would look even worse in the morning. His wrists were also encircled with cuts and bruises from the handcuffs. The paramedics had bandaged his wrists for him, but he must have not seen it necessary to replace those bandages after his shower.

Penhall looked at his own wrists, which were still bandaged. He slid one of the bandages up to survey the damage. He hadn't really paid much attention to himself, not even when the paramedic insisted that he bandage his wrists. He frowned as he noticed how bad his wrist looked. It was bruised and cut even worse than Hanson's. He hadn't realized it until now. But he knew why they were so injured. He had wanted to get out and help his partner so desperately that he was fully prepared to rip off his own hands if that's what he had to do.

He wondered how much pain his partner was in right now. When Doug had found him, his chest, back, and arms were covered in bruises. Doug had never seen his partner so beaten up. How could Stern hurt him like that? Tom had done nothing to deserve such brutal treatment. Sure, maybe Penhall's partner tended to taunt their murder suspects a little more than he should have, but there was nothing he could have said that would warrant being punched, kicked, and grabbed so roughly. Stern was a relatively big man. Tom wasn't tiny, but he certainly wasn't big. The principal against the officer was not a fair match at all. Poor Tom didn't have a chance, especially not while his hands were chained together, or to a pipe so that he could barely move.

Hanson certainly looked small now. Just looking at his partner sitting on the couch next to him made him feel incredibly guilty. Lying on Penhall's couch with his eyes closed, Tom looked completely vulnerable. Hanson trusted his partner with his life. He had trusted Doug to watch out for him. Penhall felt very guilty that he couldn't protect his partner more efficiently. That was a big part of his job - to protect his partner. It was part of the job for all cops, the most important part in his opinion. And he had failed.

"I don't think llamas are really my thing," Tom informed him. His thoughts must have currently been more carefree than Doug's, which made Doug smile. He was glad he was able to get Tom's mind off of everything that had happened, "what do you do with them? Ride them? I'm not really sure what they're for."

"Just having around, I guess," Doug shrugged, "I don't think anyone rides llamas. Maybe you can keep them around and sell their wool. Or maybe they're just nice pets."

Tom's eyes were still closed. Doug looked at his face. His cheek was scratched and it looked like he had some light bruising there as well. He wished he could punch both Gale and Stern all over again. Even though Gale didn't do much, that didn't mean he wasn't capable of it. And he knew the janitor was more than willing to do terrible things just like Stern had. Doug shuddered to think what the janitor would have done to Tom if given the chance. Though a follower, the man was obviously quite disturbed. In fact, Doug imagined that Gale would have probably been even more cruel than Stern if Stern would have let him.

"Do you think Fuller's mad at me?" Tom asked, raising his feet up onto the couch and turning so he faced his partner.

"Nah," Doug doubted it, "he's worried about you. That's all. You know how he is."

Tom nodded, "I think I was kind of rude to him. Over and over again, actually."

"He knows you didn't mean to be," Doug assured him.

Tom nodded and laid his head down on the back of the couch. He let his feet hang off the couch again. At the angle in which he was sitting, one foot touched the floor while the other just dangled over the edge. He was still half-way facing Doug.

Since his partner wasn't saying anything else, and Doug wasn't sure where to lead the conversation next, he settled on staring at the television instead. A different show was on now, and he still couldn't bring himself to focus on it. He was so relieved that he had gotten his partner and himself out of that school. A few hours ago, he was fairly sure that they would only leave the school in body bags.

Doug didn't like to think about hypothetical disasters, but for some reason he had himself wondering what he would do if someone had come to rescue them only after Tom had been killed. What would he have done if he had survived and Tom hadn't. He shuddered. He didn't think he could have lived with himself if his partner was killed.

"You okay, man," Tom asked him.

Penhall glanced over at his partner. Tom's wide, dark eyes were fixed on him, and they looked quite concerned. Doug must have worn an expression that showed the misery of his thoughts, "I'm fine," he assured his partner, "just thinking..."

Tom nodded, "yeah..." he started staring off as well.

But Doug didn't want his partner's thoughts to be filled with the same horrors as his just were. Or similar, equally horrifying possibilities and realities, "so," Doug started, trying to change the subject and keep his partner's thoughts occupied with trivial matters, "we've got the day off tomorrow, more or less... You want to hang out with me? Go to lunch, see an early movie or something?"

Tom shrugged, "maybe," he yawned and laid his cheek back against the sofa's cushion. He was still facing his partner, but closed his eyes again, "Doug?" he asked.

"Yeah?" Doug looked down at him. He looked so small and innocent in the over-sized clothing Doug had lent him. Even though Doug knew his thoughts were swimming with fear and dread, he looked quite peaceful with his eyes closed and his body laying so sleepily. He didn't look at all tense or worried on the outside.

"I was so scared," Tom mumbled. He sounded like he was half asleep, "What he was doing to me was terrible, but it was about to get so much worse. You saved me just in time... it's all a blur. I think..." he paused. For a moment Doug wondered if he had fallen asleep in mid-sentence, because it took him a while to finish his thought, "I was so panicked, that I just blocked everything out. One minute he was right there behind me, his hands all over me, and I was just wanted to die. Then everything went dark and the next thing I knew you were there talking to me. Everything happened so fast."

"Blocking it out is your mind's way of protecting you," Doug told him, "I'm sure you were terrified. I wish I could have convinced Gale to let me go sooner, so we could have avoided all of whatever he did to you before I got there."

Tom fell forward very slightly, "mmm hm," he agreed.

"But you're okay now," Doug reminded him.

With his eyes still closed, Tom reached out his hand, feeling around on the couch and on Doug's leg until Doug guessed at what he was looking for, grabbed his partner's hand with his own, and squeezed it gently.

"I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't saved me when you did," Tom frowned, "I actually wanted him to kill me instead of what he was about to do. If he'd done it, and then we escaped only afterward..." he paused, "I don't know if I could have lived with myself."

"You're perfectly safe now," Penhall rephrased, looking down at his partner's closed eyes. His eyebrows were knitted together with worry and his lips formed a slight frown, "and you can talk to me about this whenever you want to. Don't hold back. You can tell me anything. You don't have to deal with all this alone."

"I know," Tom's voice was soft and tired, "but I won't talk about it now. Not yet."

"Whenever you need me, I'll be here," Doug promised, "just keep in mind that you're okay. That's what really matters. No matter what he did to you, he can't do it again, to you or to anyone else. You're alright."

Tom leaned against his partner's arm. He seemed mostly, if not completely asleep. But he murmured one last thing, "because you saved me."

Doug frowned, "yeah," he wrapped his arm around Tom's shoulders and kept a hold of his hand.

Hanson didn't say anything more, and Penhall decided to keep quiet as well. If Tom was finally asleep, Doug wasn't going to risk ruining it by speaking or moving, so he just stayed perfectly still and completely silent.

With his arm around his partner, he could feel the steady rise and fall of Hanson's body as he breathed in and out. It was a very satisfying feeling, having his partner here in his arms, breathing calmly and looking peaceful, knowing his best friend was safe, knowing no one could hurt him now.

For a while, Doug sat on the sofa, just watching his partner sleep. He hoped Tom's dreams were as peaceful as he looked on the outside. He couldn't imagine how scared his partner must have felt. Sure, he himself felt tremendous fear for his partner, but Tom must have felt a hundred times more terrified. Doug had never even come close to being raped. He hoped he never would, and still couldn't believe how close Tom had come. He wondered if Tom would be changed by this. It was impossible for Doug to really understand what his partner was going through or how he felt, because he'd never experienced anything like it himself. And of course he didn't really have all the details either. He couldn't expect to understand what had happened to Tom if Tom wouldn't tell him what it was.

He shook his head, not wanting to think about that. However, it was a difficult thought to shake free. Tom must have felt so helpless, his hands locked up, his body already weak from abuse and struggle, forced to undress and at the complete mercy of a sadistic man who was quite a bit bigger than Tom was.

Doug hoped his partner would never experience anything even remotely close to that again. As long as Penhall was on the case with him, and even if he wasn't, he was going to do anything and everything possible to make sure his partner stayed safe.

The thought of losing his partner wasn't something he ever really thought of before tonight. Sure, there were moments, and even somewhat lengthy spans of time where he wasn't sure about his partner's safety, but every time, he always assumed they'd find him in time, or he'd get out of whatever trouble he was in. He had never seriously thought Hanson might be killed. Just remembering how that felt made him determined to make sure he'd never have to think like that again.

Since he didn't want to wake his partner, Doug decided to stay on the sofa. He hoped Hanson wouldn't think it was awkward, but Doug considered him his best friend and didn't mind staying with him at all.

He could plainly see his presence was comforting to Tom, because the young officer actually snuggled in closer and wore a slight smile on his face. Maybe Tom would feel embarrassed when he woke up in this position, but Doug didn't care. Right now, his partner seemed at ease, and Doug wasn't going to mess that up.

Penhall laid his head down on the back of the couch. He kept his arm wrapped firmly around his best friend and closed his eyes. At this moment, he felt everything was going to be alright; any worries he or Hanson felt could be dealt with tomorrow. For now, they would just relax and forget the world. In his state of exhaustion, he was asleep in no time.

The End


Author's Notes: Thank you to everyone who has read and or reviewed this story. I appreciated all the praise as well as the criticism. I'm sorry if you feel like this ended without closure, but I don't think Tom is ready to talk to Doug in detail about what Stern did to him. He might not be ready to say anything about this for quite some time and I didn't think drawing the story out for a few more days or weeks or months would be a good idea either. For now, this is where it ends.

It is entirely possible that I will feel compelled to write a sequel to this. As you can see, many pieces are in place where that could work: Gale might not get a very long prison sentence and is obviously a fucking creepy freak who may return for vengeance; Tom hasn't really talked to Doug about all this, or Fuller(if he's even going to tell him at all)... So many things I could cover... It's just a matter of if I feel like writing it or not. We'll just see... If I do write it though, we are all going to ignore the fact that it often takes up to a few years for people to go to trial... I'm also probably not going to do tons of research on prison sentences for accomplices to murder and all of the other crimes Gale committed... It won't be entirely realistic... But I might not write it at all. Writing these takes up a lot of time and effort, so I may not be up to the task... Don't get your hopes up. I hate disappointing people.

I welcome any suggestions though, on what kinds of things I could include in a possible sequel. I may not use your suggestions, but I'll consider them at least. This hypothetical sequel may be posted as extra chapters to this, or may be posted as a separate story. I'm not sure which would be most logical... Let me know what you think...

At any rate, I sincerely hope you liked the conclusion and the story as a whole. I worked pretty hard on it and it consumed a lot of my time. I had fun writing it and reading all your wonderful reviews, so I hope you had fun reading it and writing those reviews. :) Please have a wonderful day. I love you all.