Honeycutt to the Chase, pt. 2

"Why?" Justin whimpered. "Who wants to kill me?"

"No one, Angel. It’s just to scare you."

"Justin! Baby, talk to me. Brian?" Emmett called from somewhere on the bed.

The older man picked up the discarded phone. "Emmett, calm down."

"Sweet Jesus. Is he alright?"

"Yeah, just shaken up. What did you say to him?"

"I didn’t mean--"

"I know. Just tell me what you told him."

"I thought it would help. I know he’s afraid of Eric," the man lamented.

"Emmett," Brian chided sternly.

The man on the other end took a deep breath. "I didn’t tell him before, but Eric came looking for him last Thanksgiving."

Brian already knew that. "Go on."

Emmett obviously breathed a little easier after Brian didn’t explode on him. "I told him Justin was in a rehab clinic in Minnesota, but he didn’t seem to believe me. I was afraid he would hang around and find Justin at his mom’s, so I had a private investigator keep tabs on him. He did hang around for a few days, but then he just gave up and went back to Paris."

Brian closed his eyes. Come on, Emmett, please tell me you did what I think you did…

"I was worried he gave up too easily," the other man continued, "that he had something else planned, so I hired another investigator to keep track of him there. In case he decided to come back. So we’d know."

The detective held his breath. "And?"

"Michele reports in every Saturday. Yesterday he told me Eric is in Berlin for a performance with his troupe. It isn’t him harassing Justin, Brian. It’s someone else."

"I know," Brian replied flatly, hardly rejoicing in the news.

"What? Why--"

"I needed to prove it wasn’t Eric first, and you just saved me some time. We’ll need to verify Michele’s report, but it sounds like it’s solid so we can move ahead with the investigation."

"Do you have any leads? Another suspect?"


Emmett gasped. "Who?"

"Just get here as fast as you can, Em. We’ll meet you and Ted at the gallery and I’ll fill you in on everything else."

Brian disconnected the call and turned back to Justin. The artist was staring at him, more composed, but his eyes were still wide as saucers. "What’s going on?" he asked timidly.

"Are you hungry?" Brian asked, dodging the bullet for the time being.

"What? Bri--"

The older man put a finger over the blond’s lips. "I’ll tell you everything I know after you eat something. Then you need to take another pill."

"No. I’m not hungry. And no more pills. They make me tired and I’ve already missed too much. Tell me what’s going on now. Please," he pleaded.

Brian sighed. "Justin I will, but your leg--"

"Is fine," the younger man spit angrily. "Stop treating me like an invalid."

Brian raised an eyebrow, his eyes darkening. He understood the mood swings, but they’d talked about this before. This was non-negotiable.

But Justin wasn’t backing down. The anger felt better than the fear and he fed off it. "Don’t give me that look," he snapped. "I know we agreed you’d be all noble and put up with my… deficiencies if I didn’t assume you were hanging around out of pity." Brian looked even angrier, but Justin continued to glare back. "But that doesn’t mean you get to tell me what to do. I’m the only one who knows how this feels, what my leg can and can’t do, so if I have to trust you and let you in… share my feelings," he sneered, "you have to trust that I’m doing that. If I say I can go without a pill, or walk to the fucking bathroom, you have to believe I’m telling you the truth. I can’t live like this, afraid you’re going to threaten to walk out again every time I say or do something you don’t agree with."

They sat in heavy silence for a moment, a stalemate, until Brian said, "I know you’re not hungry, but you still need to eat a little something. That’s the doctor’s orders."

Justin blinked at him. "Fine. Can I have some toast, please? And a little coffee. Just a little, I don’t want to have to piss every five minutes. Using that jug sucks." He looked Brian in the eye. "I can’t get to the bathroom myself…yet."

Brian nodded. "Butter on your toast?"

"And jam?"

"All I have is that disgusting goober shit they make for kids, that peanut butter and jelly goop Ricky likes. What kind of mother gives their kid that kind of crap?"

Justin laughed and scrunched up his nose. "I’ll pass. How ‘bout a little cinnamon and sugar instead?"

"I see your mom wasn’t much better," Brian snarked as he left the room.

He returned a few minutes later with a cup of coffee. The cup was a kiddie sipper cup from Ricky’s infancy. He’d taken the lid off and held it out. Justin stared at him in disbelief until he saw it was lightweight plastic with two little handles.

"Can you hold this?" Brian asked.

Justin reached out and carefully put his index fingers in the loops. The cup was hot because it wasn’t insulated, but the bandages on his palms kept it from burning him. He smiled. "Thanks."

Brian gave him a quick kiss before he went out to the kitchen again and brought back the cinnamon toast.

The smell revived Justin’s appetite and he eagerly munched away on the small triangles Brian cut up so he could feed himself. "So tell me what you know," the artist said between bites. "If it’s not Eric, who is it, and why?"

"Swallow," Brian ordered. He didn’t want Justin choking when he told him. The blond did as he was told and looked at the other man expectantly.

"It’s Lindsay."

The remaining uneaten toast dropped to the plate. "What?!" Justin shook his head, mouth gaping like a fish on land. "No…no, no…."

Brian moved the plate and gingerly linked their fingers together, ignoring the smear of butter and sugar. "Justin, listen to me. I know you don’t want to hear this but you need to listen. Hear me out, okay?"

The blond slumped a little, trying to pull away. "I don’t believe you. You’re wrong."

Brian kept his grip, needing to stay connected so he could get through this. He couldn’t remember the last time he hated his job so much. "You didn’t tell anyone about Eric, about the calls, right?"

Justin’s brows drew together, but he nodded. "I only told you the other day. And I told the police last night."

"Last night when I talked to Melanie, she told me Lindsay was afraid Eric vandalized the vault as well."

Justin’s perplexed look intensified. "But we checked the vault--"

"Lindsay knew we suspected Eric," Brian pressed, "but who told her?"

"The police," Justin reasoned, resolutely ignoring Brian’s obvious point.

The older man shook his head. "Brighton didn’t pass that information down yet."

"How do you know?" Justin demanded.

"He never left your office."

"He could’ve told someone else who told--"

Brian shook his head. "It doesn’t work that way," he said firmly. "Even if the guys downstairs had heard about it, they wouldn’t tell Lindsay. When you’re questioning a witness you don’t taint their statement by filling in the blanks for them." He let that sink in for a moment then added, "She knew we thought it was Eric because she was deliberately gaslighting you. She wanted you to think Eric was stalking you."

"Why?" Justin asked, his doubt still obvious.

"That I can only guess at until we check the vault," the detective replied. "Whatever her reason is, it’s in there. She was real eager to get in there last night and she was real pissed when I stopped her."

"This is ridiculous, Brian. Do you think she’s smuggling stolen artwork or something? She’s not part of some underground ring--"

The phone interrupted his tirade. This time, it was Justin’s cell phone. The blond looked at the caller ID and let out the breath he didn’t realize he was holding. "Janine." He flipped the phone open. "Hello?"

"Justin, oh, my god, the police just left. They were questioning me about the break-in at the gallery last night. Why didn’t anyone call me? They wouldn’t tell me anything, they just kept asking me questions about what I did and when I was in your office. Did I do something wrong?"

"No, not at all," the artist reassured her. "It’s just--"

"May I?" Brian asked, taking the phone before Justin could protest. "Janine, it’s Brian. Can you meet us at the gallery in an hour?"

"I guess…" Brian heard her talking to someone in the background. He wished she would’ve done a better job of covering the mouthpiece as she negotiated sexual favors with her boyfriend for canceling their plans. Finally, she told Brian she could meet them and hung up.

"Alright, Justin, I understand if you don’t believe me, but you’re going to have to prove I’m wrong then," the older man challenged. "Feel up to some good old-fashioned detective work?"

"That’s your job," the blond retorted. "Anything I say or do you’ll just twist around. I’m not helping you railroad Lindsay because you’ve got a hard-on for her."

Brian winced. "That was an unfortunate choice of words."

"You know what I mean!"

"Is that what you think I’m doing? Letting my personal feelings get in the way?" Brian asked.

"Yes," Justin hissed.

The detective stared hard at him for a moment, then conceded, "Maybe. But it’s because of you, not her. I--" He wanted to tell Justin how he really felt, but now was not the time. Particularly if things started to get ugly between them, which seemed very likely at the moment. He rubbed his temple, trying to ward off the headache that was creeping up from the emotional strain and exhaustion. "I’ll call Brighton, tell him what I know, and let him decide."

"So you’re still going to go after her, you’re just going to have him do it instead."

"Yes, Justin. I’ll take myself out of it because of my personal feelings, but I can’t turn my back on my job. I know it’s her and I’m obligated to--"

"You don’t know shit!" Justin huffed. "She’s my friend, Brian, she wouldn’t hurt me. She didn’t just wake up one day and decide to be a psycho because she had nothing better to do."

"No, she woke up one day and decided to be a psycho because mommy and daddy didn’t give her enough attention," Brian replied.

"You’re a psychologist now?" Justin asked angrily.

"Not me, Dr. Richter. She has a juvenile record of petty theft and property destruction a mile long. Her parents managed to get the record sealed because she was underage with the condition that she get help."

The artist’s eyes narrowed. "If it’s sealed--"

"Her parents told me," Brian snapped before Justin could accuse him of any more impropriety. "They thought it would change my mind about signing over my parental rights. Unfortunately, it was already a done deal."

"They were obviously lying," Justin said. "They never--"

"I had it checked out, Justin, I’m not stupid."

Suddenly Justin’s eyes widened. "And you told Mel. That’s why Lindsay hates you. You tried to break them up!"

"I didn’t tell Mel," Brian ground out. "It wasn’t my place because technically I shouldn’t have known. And I didn’t give a shit. We all have things in our closet we’re not proud of. She was a spoiled bitch who acted out when she didn’t get her way. It was easy to see why when I saw what kind of people her parents were. They only told me to take Ricky away from her and punish her for being gay."

"Then why doesn’t she like you?" Justin asked, obviously confused.

"I told her she had to tell Mel because I didn’t want any secrets between the women raising my son, but she refused and accused me of trying to break them up."

Justin grimaced, then looked appropriately contrite.

"In the end, Mel found out anyway because she overheard us arguing about it and Lindsay has never forgiven me, even though Mel didn’t care."

Justin thought for a moment, his head swirling with everything Brian had just told him. He didn’t want to believe it, but deep down he knew Brian was just doing what he thought was right. The only way to put it to rest was to follow it through and hope for a reasonable explanation.

"We better get going if we’re going to meet Janine at the gallery," the artist finally said.

Brian nodded, grateful Justin was at least open to finding out the truth. "How do you want to do this?" he asked.

Justin looked at him pointedly. "You’re the detective, you tell me."

The older man rolled his eyes. "I meant getting around. You were so out of it last night, I could have folded you in half and stowed you in the trunk. Today, however, I have a sneaking suspicion you’re going to be feeling some of the aches and pains, so tell me what you want me to do to help make it easier."

"Oh." The blond blushed slightly, once again overcome with the knowledge he didn’t deserve this man. But he had him anyway…he hoped. Needing to close the gap that had suddenly opened between them again, he reached out and put his hand over Brian’s. "Just don’t…" he struggled for right words, but Brian knew what he was trying to say.

"I won’t if you won’t."

Justin smiled. "Deal."


By the time they were at the gallery, Justin was ashen and sweating from the pain of having his knee and ankle jostled around. Brian knew it was bad when the blond asked for a pain pill, but he hoped once they were inside and Justin could sit still it would pass.

He pushed the wheelchair to the handicap entrance, and rang the bell. After a moment a guard appeared and let them in. When they got to the lobby they were accosted by Janine, Emmett and Ted.

"Holy Mother Mary," Emmett cried. "Baby, what happened?"

Brian deftly stepped in front of the chair to block them from physically pawing at the blond. "He fell down the stairs last night, but he’s fine."

"He doesn’t look fine," Janine chimed in, glaring at him.

"I am fine, guys," Justin reassured them. "I just twisted my knee up and got some scratches. It looks worse that it is."

"Where were you?" Emmett snapped at Brian.

The older man bit his tongue. He knew blaming Lindsay now would not help his cause.

"What’s he supposed to do, Em, keep me in a bubble?" Justin asked. "It was my own fault, I wasn’t looking where I was going."

"Of course not, you were looking at him."

"Emmett," Ted interjected. "That’s not fair. It was an accident."

But his boyfriend ignored him. "Princess, we need to get you home. You should be in bed. Cookie will--"

"STOP IT!" Justin shouted.

Once he had everyone’s attention, the blond continued, "Em, I love you and I know you mean well, but I don’t need you to take care of me, okay? Brian’s going to help me until I can get around again on my own."


"And Ted’s right," the artist added, cutting him off. "It wasn’t anyone’s fault so stop looking for someone to blame. It just happened, and I’ll deal with it."

Emmett fought back tears as he nodded. Brian had the feeling he just missed something between the two friends, something only they understood from the first accident, and he forced himself to let go of the anger that was boiling up at Emmett’s accusations. The day was going to be long enough as it was, they didn’t need to add more bad feelings.

"Brian, are we going to the vault now?" Justin asked, interrupting his thoughts.

"Yeah," the detective responded, glad to move on. "Here’s what we’re going to do. I want you four to go to the vault and go over the inventory with a fine tooth comb."

"That’s easy enough," Janine said. "Lindsay has a program on the computer that has updated changes from every exhibit and fundraiser. I’ll print off the latest copy."

Brian shook his head. "I want you to personally verify every transaction this gallery has made over the last year. Gather together whatever paperwork you use as documentation and have Ted verify the books."


"Just do it," Brian ordered sternly. "I’ll answer all your questions when you’re done."

"What are you going to do?" Justin asked.

"I need to make a few calls and then I’ll meet you downstairs."

The blond nodded. "Okay, let’s get this over with. Janine, go upstairs please and get the paperwork and set Ted up on the computer so he can go over the bank records. Emmett and I will head downstairs and open up the vault. We can print a copy of Lindsay’s current inventory list from the computer there to compare with the files."

Everyone went on their separate missions. As Emmett pushed Justin toward the elevator he asked, "Where’s Lindsay?"

"Couldn’t get a hold of her," Justin lied.


Brian’s first phone call was to Brighton to ask how the investigation was progressing.

"I was just going to call you," the other man said. "We got a break. We traced the call to Taylor’s phone back to a gas station just of off I-76. The station has a video camera pointed at the pumps, but the attendant swears it picks up anyone in the phone booth as well. I just sent a car to pick up the tape."

Brian felt a cold chill pass through him, knowing who they would see on the tape. Justin would be devastated. But he couldn’t think about that now, he needed to figure out what she was up to. So Lindsay had been on the freeway coming back from Philadelphia and she stopped to make the call, but why?

"I’ve got some other news," Brighton continued. "I hate to say it, Kinney, but I suspect the ex had an accomplice. Lindsay Peterson. I haven’t figured out what kind of scam they’re running yet, but I will."

"She’s not an accomplice, she’s the stalker," Brian corrected. "You’re going to see her on the tape."

"No shit? How do you figure?"

"She said something last night that tipped me off. But tell me what you got. How do you know it was her in the office?"

"We narrowed the window of opportunity to Friday because the cleaning crew comes in Monday and Thursday. Friday, no one was in the offices except Peterson and the secretary. So the secretary has a hot date and wants to leave early for lunch, but she’s waiting for a call from some client. That’s when Peterson tells her to go, she’s waiting around for a courier, and she’ll listen for the phone."

"So she’s alone."

"Right. When the secretary comes back, Peterson leaves on her business trip. The secretary is sure to ask if the call came through, which it did, and if the courier came by, in case she needs to watch for him. Peterson told her he’d already been in."


"Security has no record of a courier checking in that day."

Brian exhaled sharply. "So you think she did the office while no one was around? What about security, don’t they do rounds at night? Wouldn’t they have seen it sooner?"

Brighton chuckled. "The guard admitted they check the door knobs, maybe poke their heads in if they hear a noise, but you saw the way she set it up. You had to walk in and turn around to look at the wall, and she knew they wouldn’t do that unless they were given a reason. Like a supposed break-in."

"Son of a bitch."

"Uh-huh. I’m gonna bring her in now, make her sweat a little while we wait for the tape, and see if she talks. You want to come down?"

"In a bit," Brian agreed. "I have the owners at the gallery here checking over the inventory. I think she was trying to scare Justin so she could cover up whatever she’s been doing behind their backs here. If I find anything I’ll let you know."


Lindsay answered the door and found herself face to face with the police. She knew he was a detective before the man flashed his badge.

"Is anyone else at home, ma’am?" the man asked as he stepped inside.

"N-no," she stammered, forcing herself to regain her composure. They couldn’t prove anything. "What’s this about?"

The man removed his hat and fixed her with a cold stare. "I know what you’ve been up to, Ms. Peterson, and frankly I don’t appreciate the competition."

Lindsay felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. She hadn’t even heard what he’d said because another realization had hit her. She instinctively took a step back. "You’re—oh, god…"

"No, not god, but close."


Brian joined the others in the vault and immediately knew something was wrong. Justin’s face was hard as stone as he stared at a pile of documents in his lap.

"What’s going on?" he asked.

Justin looked up and him, then away. Ted stepped forward and put a hand on the blond’s shoulder. "We know what Lindsay’s been up to. We’ve only started, but it’s already obvious some of Justin’s paintings are missing. I suspect she’s been selling them and pocketing the profits, then doctoring the inventory list to cover it up. But you already knew that, didn’t you?"

Brian nodded. "I thought it was a little more sophisticated than that, but yeah." Since Justin had obviously told them his initial suspicions, he saw no reason to hide the rest anymore. "I didn’t have a clue until last night, but then the pieces fell together. When you put the fact that Lindsay and Melanie weren’t having anymore money problems because of Justin’s ‘generous commissions’ with the fact that the phone calls started around the time Justin came back to work, it’s natural to assume she was behind it. She needed him distracted to keep him from figuring out what she’d been doing. What I don’t know yet is what happened to spook her and make her suddenly escalate her scare tactics. She must’ve thought she was about to be caught so she needed to cover her ass quick. The break-in would get blamed on Eric and when she conveniently discovered the missing art, everyone would assume he stole it too." Then he shrugged tiredly. "Anyway, that’s my theory. A car’s picking her up now because Brighton thinks he can prove she made the phone call and vandalized the office. Hopefully, once she’s in custody, she’ll give him some answers if she doesn’t want to go to prison until Ricky graduates."

Before anyone could say anything else, Brian’s phone rang. He checked the ID and saw it was Brighton. He flipped it open. "Kinney."

"Brighton. I’ve got some bad news, Detective. Lindsay Peterson is dead. Her partner found her when she returned from the store. Self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head."

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