Blondes on the Brian IV
Brian took out his cell phone. "Whats the extension for security at the gallery?"
Justin didnt respond.
"Justin! Give me the number. Now."
"Good, now sit tight." Brian dialed the number and spoke to the guard, explaining the situation and asking him to have his officers sweep the building. Brian gave the guard his cell phone number, instructing the man to call him as soon as they had any information.
When he hung up, Brian turned his attention back to Justin. The young man was sitting on the sofa, staring blankly into space. "Justin?" Brian walked over slowly, not wanting to startle him, and sat down beside the artist. "Justin, look at me." He pulled the smaller frame into his arms. Justin let himself be held, but he was still rigid from shock. Brian turned the blonds chin up, caressing his cheek. "Come on, Angel, I need you here. Stay with me."
Justins lip started to tremble and he shook his head. "I-I cant," he whispered hoarsely before the sobs broke loose.
Brian held him as flood gates opened and all his pent up fear and frustration rushed out. Finally, the tears seemed to slow and the older man wiped his eyes. "Feel better now?" he teased gently.
Justin shook his head, pulling away as he slumped against the other side of the sofa. Although he was emotionally drained, he didnt think hed ever feel betteror safe--again.
"Oh, no you dont," Brian chastised, pulling the other man back up. "We need to go to the gallery and--"
"No!" Justin shrunk back further. "I cant I-I cant do it again."
Brian took him by the shoulders and held him steady. "Yes. You can."
"No," the blond whimpered.
"Yes," Brian repeated more forcefully. "Justin, you cant let him win. He already took a year of your life away. Are you going to let him have more?"
Justins eyes filled with tears again and he looked away.
Brian turned his head back so they were eye to eye again. "Angel, listen to me. I will not let you give up. And I will not let him hurt you Trust me." He saw a little spark flicker in the artists eye and he knew he was getting through. "We can do this."
Justin forced the panic back down and tried to listen to what Brian was saying. He wanted to believe him, so it was just a matter of whether or not he did He looked at the man in front of him, really looked at him, remembering everything theyd said and done over the past few weeks, quickly weighing everything he knew about this man whod suddenly turned his life upside down and then he slowly nodded. Hed been happier in the last few hours than he could ever remember in his entire life. If he didnt take a chance on that, he wouldnt have much of a life to look forward to.
Relief washed over Brian and he hugged the blond close, kissing away the last few tears that slipped down his cheek before pressing their lips together in a much needed kiss.
Justin clung to him for a moment, gathering strength in the feel of Brian around him before he broke the kiss and fixed his gaze on the older man. "Is this your standard technique for getting people to cooperate, Detective?"
Brian smirked, but his reply was cut off by his cell phone.
On the way to the gallery, Brian filled Justin in on what the security guards had found. Justins office had been vandalized. There was spray painting on the wall and artwork had been slashed. The blond was understandably shaken, but managed to pull himself together by the time they got there.
When Brian and Justin arrived at the gallery, the police had already started investigating. Brian got out of the car and walked around to the sidewalk to wait for Justin. He knew the artist didnt want to be coddled right now, but what he didnt expect was to see the blond double over and throw up on the curb. When Justin slumped back against his seat, Brian walked around to him as the driver handed him a handkerchief and a bottle of water.
Brian raised an eyebrow at the mans preparedness.
"Its the memory. The accident, Sir. He was under the weather quite a bit when he first returned here."
"I see. Thanks, uh "
"Of course, I knew that, Paul. Im just--"
"I understand, Sir," the driver replied before handing him a stick of gum as well and then dutifully stepping aside to give the lovers a moment alone to compose themselves.
Brian gave Justin the water and handkerchief to clean up with. "Thats the last time I let you cook until you get your lesson from Larry. You couldve poisoned me too."
Justin smiled weakly, grateful for the cover. He thought he was past having that kind of reaction, but the lights and sirens had taken him back to that night, fading in and out of consciousness from the pain as the police and paramedics buzzed around him. "Brian, I--"
"Im going to have Paul take you home. Ill take a look inside and talk to the boys. They can get your statement tomorrow."
Justin shook his head. He took the stick of gum and popped it in his mouth before slowly standing on shaky legs. "Im going with you."
"I want to know how that bastard got in my office. And why they didnt catch him."
Brian looked at him for a moment, and the blond pushed past him defiantly. The decision made, the older man could only follow.
When the entered the lobby, two uniformed policemen greeted them. Brian didnt recognize them so he showed his identification.
"Homicide?" one asked nervously.
"Its not my case, Im a friend of the owners. Whos in charge here?"
"Brighton," the other told him. "Hes upstairs."
Brian thanked them and steered Justin to the elevator.
When they got to the second floor, Justin was pale as a ghost and trembling like a leaf. Brian left him sitting at Janines desk while he talked to Brighton. He filled the officer in on Justins previous relationship with Eric, the accident, the phone calls, and why they thought he was responsible now.
Brighton then questioned Justin, having him verify Brians version of the facts and fill in any blanks. Finally, the forensics team finished gathering the evidence from the room so they let the couple into the office.
At first sight, the room didnt look any different. You had to step inside and turn back to the doorway before you saw the large red letters YOU WILL DIE scrawled across the wall. The painting hanging on that wall was one of Justins works and had been mutilated with a knife.
Justin blanched and stumbled back, but Brian was behind him and put a reassuring hand on his back. Brighton noticed and discreetly looked away.
Brian noted there were other paintings in the room, by other artists, that were untouched. It had obviously been a very angry attack directed solely at Justin. The detective wondered if Eric was lashing out at the younger mans talent because his success had been one of the reasons Justin had left him. And because he wanted to run the gallery for Emmett. Did that mean his attacks would escalate and he would do further damage to the gallery itself?
Besides the personal message and destruction of the painting, it appeared nothing else had been disturbed, but the police asked Justin to verify everything else was as he left it last.
Brian stuck close to the artist as Justin methodically went through his desk. Although he was still badly shaken, the blond kept focused on the task at hand and finally reported nothing else was damaged or missing.
Brighton returned from the hall where hed been having a discussion with one of the technicians. "Gentlemen, I have some good news."
"What is it?" Justin asked cautiously.
"There was no break-in."
"Excuse me?" Brian said wide-eyed.
"There was no break-in," the officer repeated. "We checked the security tapes and access points and no unauthorized personnel was in the building."
"Then what the hell is all this?" Brian asked sweeping his arm toward the wall. "Obviously he got around the alarm somehow, or tampered with the tapes."
"He didnt need to, it was a hoax."
"No, he called me," Justin insisted. "He was here, we heard my clock chiming in the background!"
"Thats where he screwed up," Brighton said, smiling widely. "Tish there," he pointed to one of the technicians packing her evidence bag, "has one of those big grandfather clocks that chimes the hour, but it can be set to silence the chime at night. She noticed your clock has the same feature. In fact, it hasnt made a peep in the hour weve been here."
Justin glanced at the clock. It was now five past ten, but the clock hadnt signaled the hour. He understood what the officer was saying, but then how "What does this mean?"
Brian and Brighton exchanged looks, and then Brian answered, "It means, he got into the building sometime between when you were last here Thursday and today, probably disguised as a courier to get access to this floor. He had his little party here, then left and called you with a recording of the clock when he was safely away."
"Why not just wait until Monday when I came in?"
"Because hes showing you whos in charge," Brighton told him. "Hes controlling the shots, making you react."
"Bri?" Justin turned to the older man, wondering if he agreed, but Brian was lost in his own thoughts. "Brian."
"Excuse me," Brighton said as he went to talk to another officer signaling to him. Justin watched them speak for a moment and then Brighton returned. "Lindsay Peterson is downstairs."
"Lindsay? Why?" Justin asked over Brians obvious displeasure at the news.
"She said she needed to take care of some paperwork."
Justin frowned. "She just got back from a business trip, but it can wait, Im sure. I dont want her to see--"
"Can you have them tell her to go home and Justin will talk to her tomorrow?" Brian interjected.
"Sure, as soon as theyre done questioning her. She might have seen someone or something out of the ordinary Thursday or Friday. Then well get started with the other names you provided."
The police would interview the full-time staff, interns, security, and cleaning crew. There was no sign of a forced entry so someone had to let him in.
And because they finally had a threat from the phone calls, they could get Justins phone records and trace the call, although they didnt really expect a break. They guy probably used a pay phone, but a location would be a start.
"Can we go home now?" Justin asked.
Brighton agreed after verifying Justins contact information. He said he would call as soon as they learned anything else.
As the couple rode down to the lobby, Brian suggested they go to a hotel for the night. It bothered him that Eric had known Justin was at home. If he hadnt, he wouldve called the cell phone. Which made the detective wonder if Eric really had called Justin just to harass him, as Brighton suggested, or did he want Justin at the gallery, and away from the house, for a reason? He didnt know, but either way, the fact that he knew where they were meant they were being followed.
Justin shook his head. "Isnt that what stalkers do," the blond asked trying to make light of the situation, "stalk you? I want to go home, Bri, he cant get on the grounds. Isnt that the safest place to be?"
"Yesterday I wouldve agreed with you, but today he proved he can get in anywhere. Fuck, he might have walked right past Janine and she didnt recognize him."
Not having thought of that, Justin nervously agreed to stay someplace else as they stepped off the elevator and were accosted by Lindsay.
"Justin, oh, my god! Are you alright?" she asked as she rushed over and hugged him, ignoring Brians attempt to block her.
The artist gave her a weak smile. "Im fine, Linds. What are you doing here?"
"I just got back and thought I would file this paperwork now. I wasnt really looking forward to going home, you know. Mel and I " her frown turned into a scowl when she looked at Brian.
Brian glared back at her. It wasnt his fault they werent getting along, despite how much shed like to think so.
"They said someone broke in and vandalized your office," she continued. "How bad was it?"
"Nothing a little psychotherapy cant fix right up," Brian snapped.
"Brian," Justin chastised. "How was the trip?" he asked the woman, eager to talk about something else for a few minutes.
Lindsay rolled her eyes. "I suggested dinner last night, to smooth things over, and Roz wanted to go to Le Bec-Fin."
Justin tried to suppress his smile. Lindsay hated French food. "And?"
"Of course shes best friends with the owner, arrogant prick, and of course he insisted we try damn near everything on the menu. Including a three hundred dollar bottle of wine Roz picked out!"
Justin looked at her confused. "Roz doesnt drink."
"Her. Staff. Does." The woman ground out through clenched jaws.
Justin bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing out loud. He really needed to talk to Roz about picking on Lindsay so much. "Dont worry about it," he told her when he could keep a straight face. "I wont take it out of your commission."
"Yes, you will," she insisted. "Im the one who let her bully me into such a ridiculous farce, Ill pay for it."
"Christ, Ill pay for it," Brian growled, "if itll shut you both up. As long as I get to meet this woman after my own heart," he added with a smirk.
Lindsay shot daggers at him and Justin shook his head. Why did he have to bait her so much?
Before anyone could say anything else, Brian told them, "Were leaving now," as he took the blond by the elbow and directed him toward the door.
Justin followed, but squirmed out of his grip. "Stop it," he warned.
Brian opened his mouth to say something else, then shut it. He wasnt trying to push the kid around, he was just on edge. The detective huffed out a breath and held the door open for the blond.
Justin realized Brian was just being overbearing because he wanted to protect him so he let the detective know he was forgiven and appreciated with a light brush of his arm as he walked past. Lindsay scurried behind him, and Brian brought up the rear as they headed down the front steps of the building.
"Hey, what about the vault--" Lindsay started to ask when Justin turned back to Brian, not paying attention to his friend.
Then Brian saw the woman cross in front of the younger man, tripping him as he took the next step. As he watched in horror, Justin stumbled and fell down the remaining steps until he sprawled on the sidewalk. The blond lay motionless as his cane rolled into the street.
To his dying day, Brian would swear Lindsay had done it on purpose.
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