When Ennis finally got to the station, Jack was nowhere to be seen. But he did spot Peter at the front desk inquiring about Jack and asking to be let in to represent him. The police did say that Jack had the right to have his lawyer there.
"I'm his lawyer and he has the right to attorney," Peter was saying. The man at the front desk nodded, but didn't look happy about it. Ennis could tell that he didn't like it when someone challenged his authority, and he didn't like people like that.
"Peter!" Ennis called as he approached. He turned, looking relieved. He had heard some things since his arrival and he had an idea of what was going on; Jack wouldn't get out of this on his own.
"Hey, Ennis. I'm gonna go in there now and I'll find out what I can. He's being questioned right now but he's asking for me. I'm glad you called right away." He sighed. "It looks bad...such a serious accusation as this usually goes to trial."
"But why is he being accused in the first place?" Ennis asked, feeling confused. "He'd never try to kill anybody. And it's not a mix-up?" He hoped that his suspicions weren't true; it would be just awful for them and he would have to cut his parents off for good.
Peter shook his head ruefully. "No, doesn't look like it. Look, I have to get in there and find out what's going on."
"Does he need bailing out? Will they try to hold him?" Ennis asked; he would do whatever it took to get Jack out as soon as possible.
"The bail's at two thousand dollars, and that's the only way to get him out tonight. You can pay at the front desk." Ennis nodded and watched helplessly as Peter went off to the interrogation rooms. He sat down in a nearby chair, still in shock. He didn't have a clue what was going on, but he hoped that Jack would be okay. He wished that he could be in there for moral support, but not even a marriage license could do that. All he could hope for was that Peter managed to sort this out.
All Ennis had ever wanted was to protect Jack, but this was out of his hands. He wasn't a lawyer and couldn't help Jack that way. But when Jack was released, Ennis would take care of him then and support him no matter what.
He sat there waiting for a few minutes before deciding to call Karen; he needed to hear a friendly voice right now. He dialled her number and waited, keeping an eye out for Peter. Hopefully this would be over soon, when they realised that the accusations were false; there was surely no evidence.
"Ennis? That you?" She was clearly tired and he didn't like to disturb her, but he didn't know who else to call; Lureen would still be at work.
"Karen...something's happened. It's really bad."
"What's wrong? Where's Jack?"
"He's been arrested...someone's accused him of attempted murder. I don't know..."
"Oh my God! Why? He'd never do that!"
"I know...I called our lawyer; he's in the interrogation room with Jack now at the station. I don't know what to do..."
"Okay, calm down. Do you have to pay bail?"
"Yep, two thousand. We've got the money we were gonna pay Lureen; she won't need to take it now."
"I'm sure it'll be okay. Do you want me to come down?"
Ennis considered it, but she was far away. "No...this might not take long and you're far away. We've got Peter; we can deal with this. Besides, if I can bail him out then I can take him home tonight. But Peter says that there's gonna be a trial..." This would cause them a lot of stress and they would need her help at some point.
"Oh God. Do you have any idea why this happened?" she asked. Ennis sighed inwardly, knowing that she wouldn't like this.
"I've got one idea...but I hope I'm wrong. I think my parents are behind this." It was the only thing he could think of, not least because of the timing. It was just too convenient not to be them.
"You think so? But how?"
"Because Jack infected me. When someone transmits the virus on purpose, isn't that classed as attempted murder?" He had read that somewhere but he'd never thought that would be a problem for them.
"Yeah, I think so. But it was an accident..."
"We know that, and I'm sure they know that. But...this means they did it out of spite," he replied, feeling betrayed.
"Oh, Ennis...this is terrible! Just when you guys are getting back on track...what'll happen now? If Jack is found guilty, he'll go to prison for sure. They'll...hurt him in there."
"I know, and that's what's worrying me the most. It'll destroy him, Karen..." Ennis felt a lump in his throat and looked around, trying to keep his composure.
"Ennis, try not to worry. Maybe you could call your parents and try to get them to stop?"
"Yeah, maybe. Um...I'll call you when I know something, alright?"
"Okay. Good luck, Ennis."
"Yep, bye." He hung up and took a deep breath, glancing down the corridor; there was no sign of Peter or Jack.
After a while, he dialled his parents' home number; there was no answer, which he'd half-expected.
"It's Ennis. I'm sure you know why I'm calling and I know you're behind this. Please, stop this right now; Jack doesn't deserve this from you. I know you can't accept me loving him but you don't have to do this. Call me back and we can talk." He hung up and sighed, standing up to stretch his legs. He couldn't pay the bail until they were done questioning Jack, and that could take hours. He looked at his watch; it was almost seven by now. This was going to be a long night.
Jack was trying not to panic, but this was difficult when he was handcuffed to a table in an interrogation room. They were treating him as if he was guilty even though nothing had been proven. He was aware that it was a serious crime, but they had no proof as far as he knew.
"Okay, Mr Twist," said a man who was clearly an Inspector. Jack felt very intimidated. "I think it's time to talk."
"They said I had a right to attorney," Jack pointed out, wondering where Peter was; he had a feeling that Ennis would have called him right away. He knew in his heart that Ennis would be doing everything he could to sort this out; Ennis wouldn't leave him like this.
"I'm sure he'll be here soon," the other man replied, sounding unconcerned.
"Alright...so what's all this about attempted murder?" Jack asked, feeling confused. "That doesn't make any sense." Anybody who knew him would know that he would never commit such a crime; he just didn't have it in him.
"Well, we have received a formal accusation, and given its nature we have to treat it seriously. I'm afraid you'll have to co-operate. So..." He flicked through his notes. "I understand you are married to Ennis Del Mar, is that correct?"
"Yeah. What's he got to do with this?"
"And...I understand that you are HIV-positive?" Jack nodded. "It says here that you infected your partner just over three weeks ago?"
"That's true, but why...?"
"Did you do it on purpose?" the Inspector asked, interrupting him. Jack's eyes widened.
"What? No, of course not! It was an accident." He was starting to piece things together; something wasn't right here.
"Mr Twist...the intentional transmission of the virus constitutes the accusation you have received; attempted murder. It will be a lot easier if you tell the truth, considering your situation."
Jack sighed. "I am telling the truth. Look, I don't know who's behind this, but it was an accident. I would never infect anybody on purpose. Why would I infect my partner?"
"Did you force him into unprotected sexual intercourse?" the Inspector pressed. Jack looked affronted; there was no way he would ever do that to Ennis.
"No! That's how I was infected in the first place, so there's no way I would do that to someone else!" He tugged at the handcuffs, wanting to leave. "Where's my lawyer?"
There was a knock at the door and to his relief; Peter appeared. "Sorry I'm late, Jack...I set off as soon as Ennis called me. I'm his lawyer," he said to the Inspector, who nodded. "What's going on?"
"Mr Twist here stands accused of the attempted murder of his husband, by way of intentionally transmitting the HIV virus to him without his consent. This, as you know, is an extremely serious matter."
Peter sat down next to Jack, making him feel a little calmer. At least now he had someone in here who was on his side. "Alright...can I ask just who is making these accusations?"
"Um...Keith and Sarah Del Mar from Mill Valley, California," the Inspector replied. Jack groaned; he'd had a feeling but hoped that he was wrong.
"Ennis's parents. I fucking knew it," he growled. Peter sighed; he too looked as if he'd figured it out.
"Inspector, Ennis Del Mar's parents have never approved of his relationship with Jack. Isn't it possible that this is being done out of pure spite?"
"Well, even so...it could be true."
"Where's your evidence?" Peter asked.
"Um, well..." He looked uncomfortable. "We don't have anything solid right now. But we have proof that Mr Del Mar was infected. And given how serious this is, we have to treat it as such."
"So what happens now? Surely without evidence you have to let me go," Jack pointed out.
"Mr Twist's partner is paying bail for him right now," Peter said, and Jack felt his heart lift; Ennis was close by and trying to help him. "With that, you can't hold him for even a night."
The Inspector didn't look happy about this, which told Jack that Peter was right. He was dreading going to prison, with all the tales of what happened in there to gay men. He just couldn't go through that again.
"Well...this will still go to trial, Mr Twist. More evidence could come up in the meantime, so...we'll be in touch about that." He reluctantly reached over and unlocked the handcuffs, and Jack sighed in relief. "Your trial date will be set, and both you and your partner will be required to attend."
Jack nodded. "Fine. I just wanna see him." The Inspector left the room, telling him he was free to go. They sat there for a moment. "I can't believe all this," Jack said. "To think that they would do this to us...all out of spite. But what proof can they possibly have that it was on purpose?" he asked.
Peter shook his head. "To be honest, none. Only Ennis can attest that it was accidental. And even if it was on purpose, there's no way you would force him. Which would mean it was done with his consent. They've got a very weak argument if you ask me."
"Bet they won't stop, though," Jack muttered, feeling resentful. "They've got it in for me now and...there's nothing I can do but try and fight them."
"Just remember that you're not alone, Jack. If we can counter them with an argument of our own, we'll win the trial. Just remember that Ennis is on your side, alright?" Jack nodded.
"Guess that's another thing we've got to work on," he replied. "What about our adoption application?" he asked. He was fearful that this would affect that.
Peter shook his head again. "It shouldn't have any effect if you're proven not guilty. It will go down as a false accusation and that'll be that." He gestured to the door. "Come on; Ennis is waiting for you." Jack nodded and stood up, looking forward to leaving.
Ennis was staring at the ceiling when he heard a wonderful sound; Jack's voice. He looked down the corridor and saw his partner standing there talking to Peter. "Jack!"
Jack turned and relief flooded his face. "Ennis..." He half-ran down the corridor and straight into Ennis's arms. "Thank God..." He was trembling after his ordeal and was so happy to be back here.
"Darlin'..." Ennis held him close, feeling how he was shaking and knowing how terrified he must have been. "It's okay now..."
Peter smiled at the reunion, but he was dreading how this would affect them. They were probably the strongest couple he knew and he hoped this wouldn't change that. "Ennis...there are things you ought to know."
Ennis looked at him from over Jack's shoulder. "What's going on?"
"Your parents are behind this, just as we thought." Ennis swore under his breath; he'd been right despite his hopes that he wasn't.
"Shit...so now what do we do?" he asked. Peter sighed.
"It's gonna go to trial, and both you and Jack would have to try and convince the jury that he's innocent."
"Alright. See, you can go now," Ennis said to Jack when they pulled apart, trying to make him feel better. Jack nodded. "I'm gonna take you home."
Jack sniffed and Ennis knew what was worrying him; the stories about what went on in prisons. Neither of them knew if it was true, but they didn't want to find out. "Ennis...I don't know what to do..."
"Shh..." Ennis held him close again, rubbing his back. "Look, how do we fight this?" he asked Peter.
"Well, you would simply have to prove that he's innocent. To be honest, I think your parents have a very weak argument; they have no proof that the infection was intentional. And it's like I said to Jack; even if it were, it would have been with your consent. Given how he was infected, it's highly unlikely that he would do the same to someone he loves."
"They could try arguing that it would make him more likely to do it himself," Ennis replied. "Trauma and everything..."
"Yeah, but all you have to do is talk to Jack to know that he's not the type to do this. And that is probably how you could win this trial; circumstantial evidence."
"What d'you mean?"
"Well, consider your relationship. It's not as if you didn't know that he was positive right from the start. You've known for a long time, and you're married. That says a lot if you ask me. And take into account how your parents never accepted him, never even tried to accept your relationship once they knew..."
"So we can prove that it was spite?" Ennis asked; he hadn't even known about such counter-arguments but he could see their way out of this.
"Hopefully. If we do this right, the jury and the judge will see that this was an attempt to punish an innocent man purely because they didn't like him."
"You hear that, bud?" Ennis asked, trying to peer into Jack's face. "What d'you think?"
Jack had listened to every word and the idea gave him hope. "I guess," he replied. "If it's our only chance then I'm all for it."
"Good. Listen...it's getting on now and I reckon we should all head home and get some rest, if we can. Jack, try not to worry too much," Peter said to him. "I'm sure this will all work out in our favour, okay? All we need to do is build up our counter-argument and we'll be set."
"Thank you," Jack said to him, shaking his hand. Ennis did the same and took Jack by the hand, squeezing it gently.
"Come on, bud." He led Jack out into the fresh air, hearing him sigh.
"How much was the bail?" Jack asked.
"Two thousand...I used the money we'd set aside to give to Lureen; reckon there's no better use for it now." He put his arm around Jack and they set off walking. "Were they...hard on you in there?" he asked softly. Jack nodded.
"Yeah...so much for 'innocent until proven guilty'. I think it's the other way around with them, the way they were questioning me. Asking me if I...forced you into sex without a condom, like I would ever do that to you..."
"I know," Ennis soothed, kissing his temple. "They don't know anything about us, Jack...they were just doing their job. But I reckon they should have at least got some solid evidence before arresting you."
"Yeah...why are your parents doing this?" Jack asked as they walked through the streets. "I mean...do they really hate me so much that they would rather see you hurt and alone without me?"
"I dunno," Ennis admitted. "I was willing to let this whole thing go, but now..." He sighed. "As soon as you were led away, I called Peter and got him to go to the station ahead of me. Then I left a message on my parents' phone; I told them that I knew they were behind this and I've asked them to stop. I don't think they will, but it's worth a shot." Jack nodded.
"I just can't believe this...just when we were getting back on track. What are we gonna do?"
"We'll just have to deal with it," Ennis replied; their apartment building was now in sight. "You wanna go straight to bed and get some sleep?"
"I need a shower," Jack said. "Feel all grimy after that. And I reckon we should talk this out," he added, and Ennis nodded; Jack needed to say what he was so afraid of, even though they both already knew what this was. He couldn't keep it bottled up.
Ennis only knew one thing; once this was over, he would never speak to his parents ever again. They had betrayed him, no matter if they had thought they were doing the right thing. He would do whatever it took to fight them.
Jack headed straight for the shower when they got back, and Ennis was happy to let him do whatever would make him feel better. He hated those people at the station for treating Jack like he was guilty, especially since there was no proof. He just didn't know how they would go about their counter-argument, but at least they had a good lawyer on their side.
He sat down and pulled out his phone, flicking through to Karen's number; he had promised to call her when he knew something. He didn't want her to get involved, though; he knew she would want to call his parents herself and shout at them, but this wouldn't achieve anything.
Ennis knew his parents well enough to know that they wouldn't let this go until they got what they wanted. He hoped that if he and Jack won the trial then his parents would leave them alone, but that was no guarantee. Even if they thought they were just trying to protect him, he hated what they were trying to do.
Hearing the shower start up, he dialled her number and waited. He would call Lureen another day, when things had settled down a little. As much as he and Jack loved her, she was too far away to really do anything, and Karen was close family.
"Hey...we just got back from the station. Turns out that my parents are behind this." Even just the thought of it made him angry; they were supposed to support all of his decisions but they clearly didn't want him to be with Jack. He would never give in just to make them happy.
"What? Why?" she asked, sounding confused.
"Because they never accepted me being with him once they found out about him having HIV. Now I've got it too, they probably think he should be punished for giving it to me."
"Oh God...this is awful! Are they holding him there?"
"No, I could bail him out. He's in the shower right now...he's taking this really hard."
"I'll bet. So what's gonna happen now?"
"Well, there'll be a trial because it's a serious accusation. And my parents are probably gonna try to find more evidence. But our lawyer reckons it's a weak argument because of our relationship and everything; that it's our best defence." It was the only chance they had of clearing Jack's name, and he hoped that it would work.
"Sounds about right. I mean, it's not as if you didn't know about him having it. And you two are in a loving, consensual relationship so it's not like he forced you. I'm sure it'll be fine."
"Yeah. Karen, I...have you ever heard the rumours about what happens in prisons, especially to gay guys?"
She sighed. "I think everybody's heard those rumours, to be honest. He's worried about that, isn't he?"
"Yeah...I can't let him go through that again. It's only happened once and look at the effect it still has on him. He still gets nightmares, for God's sake. For it to happen in there, where I can't protect him...it'll hurt us both and...we might not ever recover from it. My parents could ruin our lives and our marriage if they win this."
"So you have to make sure that they don't," she told him. "Listen to what Peter says and try to make your argument stronger than theirs. That's all you can really hope for, Ennis."
"Yeah." Ennis heard the shower stop. "I think he's finishing now, and we've got a lot to talk about. We'll speak soon, okay?"
"Okay. Tell Jack I love him."
"Will do, bye." He hung up and thought that Jack might want something to eat and drink; it had been a few hours since dinner and they had been under stress since then. Plus, they had to talk all of this out tonight.
As he started to put something together, his thoughts turned to how on earth his parents had managed to get Jack arrested. Whatever proof they had, it was clearly enough for the police to take seriously. But there was nothing to prove that Jack had transmitted the virus on purpose.
As if a film reel was playing before his eyes, his thoughts turned back to that day at his parents' house.
"I need a smoke," Keith muttered, grabbing a box from the coffee table and heading out.
"Since when does he smoke?"
"Since he's stressed..." And then, "Electronic..."
Ennis paused, thinking over this conversation. The box that his father had picked up from the table; he hadn't paid much attention to it. Had they been electronic cigarettes? His father hadn't smelled of smoke afterwards, so it could be likely. But then again, had his father even been stressed lately, before their visit? He couldn't see why, unless it was something unrelated.
I'm missing something here, he thought to himself, wracking his brains. Something's not right...
Then he remembered something else; a banging sound outside whilst talking to his mother. It was a quiet area, so it was a strange sound to hear. Now that he thought about it...
A car door, he realised. Then he remembered his conversation with Jack the morning after.
"By the way, have you seen my medical records? I can't find them..."
Of course, he realised, the truth hitting him like a ton of bricks. I didn't see it sooner because I was so hurt by what they said. It's the only explanation! My dad stole the records from the car and now...
His parents were using the proof of his infection to try and get Jack locked up. They had the perfect ammunition against him, but Ennis would not let them have the upper hand. They still couldn't prove that it was done on purpose, and Jack would only be charged if they could. He and Jack had to fight this until the end, and he just hoped that Jack was prepared to do this; they had a long road ahead of them.
Ennis was sitting at the table when Jack emerged from the bathroom, looking a lot better now. He was in his dressing gown and his black hair was all over the place; a look that Ennis usually couldn't resist since he was still wet. But Ennis knew that being pounced on was the last thing Jack needed right now; they had a lot to talk about.
"Feel better?" he asked as Jack sat down opposite him. Jack grabbed a sandwich and nodded.
"Yeah. Now I've got that place off me. Listen, I...I'm really glad you did all that tonight. You called Peter right away and then followed...you paid the bail and didn't move until they let me go...I just wanna say thank you for that." He managed to smile at Ennis.
"Jack...I'm your husband. I was doing what I was supposed to do because I love you. I didn't like what was going on and I just wanted you out of there."
Jack nodded, trying to eat but it wasn't easy with the knots in his stomach. "Well...what are we gonna do now?"
"As soon as we can, we'll go and see Peter and get our argument started. I, um...I've realised what happened to my medical records. Remember when my dad went outside, claiming he needed to smoke?"
"God...you think he stole them?" Jack asked, the pieces all falling into place. "So that's proof that I infected you."
"Right, but there's still no proof that it was done on purpose," Ennis replied. "And there's our argument right there."
Jack still didn't look any more hopeful than before, so Ennis tried something else. "I called your mom; I told her what happened and she asked me to tell you that she loves you. You should probably call her sometime."
"Right..." Jack couldn't swallow with the lump in his throat, so had given up trying to eat anything.
"Jack...are you okay?" Ennis knew it was a stupid question but he didn't know what else to ask. Jack looked up at him.
"Am I okay?" he repeated, sounding incredulous. "Are you seriously asking me that?" He leaned back. "I'm being accused of trying to kill the man I love, and now you're asking me if I'm okay?"
"Jack-" But Ennis was cut off by Jack standing up.
"I know your parents were never gonna accept me being with you, but neither of us thought they'd do this. And you know why? Because they think I ought to be punished for doing this to their precious boy," he seethed, looking angry. Ennis knew that Jack wasn't angry with him, so he said nothing. "They're trying to break us up."
"Jack...even if you're locked up, I won't want a divorce. You probably won't get a life sentence, maybe just a few years. I'll be there at the end of it."
"You won't put your life on hold for a few years," Jack replied, his anger deflating. Now he just looked miserable. "You'll need someone to love, and you won't wanna wait. So this really will break us up if I get locked up."
Ennis hated the prospect of a life without Jack, and he was more determined than ever to make sure it didn't happen. "You don't know that..."
"Yeah, I do. And I'll tell you something else...you know what'll happen to me in there."
"Come on, Ennis. We have to be honest here. We've both heard the stories and rumours; everybody has. You know what'll happen."
Ennis stood up. "Will you calm down?"
"No!" Jack yelled back, stepping away. He was truly terrified of that happening to him again. "You know what they'll do to me in there, Ennis! The same fucking thing that Daniel Waters did to me in the park all those years ago! And this time...I'll never recover. I know that much."
"Jack, stop it. There's a chance we can fight this and keep you out of there. Stop panicking before anything's happened!"
"I can't help it!" Jack's voice broke as he said this, looking scared and upset. "It's all I can think about. The pain, the blood...the feeling like I'm some kind of prey...if I hadn't met you, I...I might have thought about ending everything."
Ennis looked shocked. "Jack...you've never told me that, in all the years I've known you. Are you serious?"
Jack nodded. "I was heading that way before I came to California. Didn't have any friends apart from Lureen, I couldn't come back here, my dates never worked out...I had nothing, Ennis. If it hadn't been for you, I probably would've done it."
"Bud...you should have told me before," Ennis said softly. "You feel like you'll do it if you go to prison and it happens again?"
"Maybe," Jack murmured. "The only thing keeping me going right now is knowing that you love me and that you're trying to help me. If it happens, and we break up..." He put his hands over his mouth, choking out a sob.
Ennis was soon close to him, wrapping him up in his arms and murmuring to him. "It's okay..." he soothed, rubbing Jack's back. "Calm down...look, there's no guarantee that they'll win. It's more likely that we will, and then it'll be over."
"But what if I do get sent down?" Jack asked, still trembling in his arms. Ennis held him closer.
"Then we'll deal with it. I'll still love you, and I'll do whatever it takes to get you out of there as soon as possible." He pulled away to look into Jack's face. "You're not gonna lose me, Jack. Ever, you hear?" Jack gulped and Ennis held his face in his hands. "We're gonna fight this, together."
Jack nodded, finally believing that there was a chance for them. He couldn't fall apart and give up, not when he had so much to live for. He had this wonderful man by his side and not even a prison sentence could tear them apart.