He hadn’t checked the time in how long? It had to have been an hour. He rolled back over, picked up his phone. 3:22. Shit, it had only been twenty minutes. He’d been awake since 2:30, and it was pretty obvious he wasn’t going back to sleep.
He got up and woke up his computer, checked the stats on his blog. Thirty hits yesterday on his rave review of Mark Rylance and the all-male “Twelfth Night.” That was a pretty good haul, all things considered.
He smiled as he thought of a new post. He even started typing it. “Dear readers, I AM RICH. So very rich. So disgustingly rich. I can’t wait to give it all away before my evil ex-boyfriend sucks it all into his gaping maw.”
His smile faded. He backspaced furiously till he had a blank post again. Why can’t I tell him to just fuck off? Why don’t I change my phone number? It had been two days since Cody’s reappearance in his life, and he’d been shocked to have gotten even that much peace before the next onslaught.
Speak of the devil, he thought, as his phone chimed with an incoming text. Because who else would text him at 3:30 in the morning?
>I need to see you its an emergency.
Even now, he thought, even now that can make my heart race. He needs me! His hand paused over the phone, trying as hard as he could to ignore the text. But that would just mean another text from Cody, and another and another…then the calls, then the knock on the door. Shit.
>What is it, he texted back.
>I’m in trouble big trouble I need your help. Can I come over.
>OK, Peter said, hating himself for it. YOU’RE SO WEAK! He shouted at himself. Which made him feel even worse.
He buzzed Cody up and stood by the door, waiting for the knock.
Cody hugged him for once, holding on tight. It felt good to be held, had always felt good, too good – how much had he given up for just a moment of touch here and there?
“Thank God,” Cody said, pulling back. His face looked wild, the bags under his eyes making him look even more manic. Cody always did like his cocaine, Peter remembered. “I’m in so much trouble.”
“With the law?”
Cody laughed. “Worse, man. I owe some people some money. Big money.”
“I thought you were doing great, really great,” Peter said, throwing Cody’s words back at him.
“I lied, Peter, I didn’t want you to know, I didn’t want you to think badly of me. Oh, man, I’m in some serious shit.” Cody ran a hand through his hair, walked past Peter, who couldn’t help but look at his profile, his strong, handsome perfect face. Not as handsome as Matt’s, is it? Cody’s face was more beautiful, more…commercial, more of the aquiline beauty of the fashion model. The kind of beauty that had slain Peter when he’d met Cody, astonished that someone so perfect could want him.
Cody opened cabinets at random in Peter’s kitchen until he found a bottle of Glenfiddich that had been sitting there since the agency had given it to Peter last Christmas. Cody cracked it open and filled half a cocktail glass, knocked it back, refilled it, walked around the apartment as if he was being chased even here.
“I got in on a deal, some high end electronics stuff that fell off a truck. It went bad, it was a mob truck, and they are going to fucking kill me if I don’t pay them.” Cody stopped, took Peter’s hand, stared into his eyes. “I know you don’t have much, Peter, but please, if you have any savings, just something I can give them to buy some time.”
He knows. He knows about the lottery. Peter was certain of it now.
“How much do you owe them?”
“A hundred grand. Oh god they’re going to start by cutting my toes off…”
“Calm down,” Peter said, surprising both of them. Peter’s job here was to go crazy, too, to join Cody in his freak out, to frantically think of what he had in savings, on his credit cards, what family heirlooms he could sell.
But we both know, don’t we, Peter thought grimly. We both know that’s not necessary.
A thought occurred to him then. I should let him fucking DIE. Then I’d finally be free of him.
The thought horrified him. Am I that guy? Is that how I’ll solve my problem, by letting someone get killed, cut away piece by piece, toe by toe? He couldn’t imagine how he’d live with himself with blood on his hands. Even Cody’s.
“Let me see what I can do. Go home and get some sleep and I’ll call you later.”
“Can’t I stay here tonight? I don’t want to sleep alone tonight, Peter.” The heat of him, his physical perfection, offered to Peter, so hard to resist…
He could see it, for just a second, the flash of rage in Cody’s eyes, the disbelief that little Peter Rabbit could ever refuse Cody Blake anything! Then the mask was back in place, feral instinct at work.
“Okay. Okay, thanks, Peter. I really appreciate it.”
As if it was a done deal, Peter thought.
Well, isn’t it? a voice asked him, arms folded across its chest, disapproving.
He got Cody out of there, put his glass in the sink, looked at the Glenfiddich. No, he thought, I’m not drinking at 4 a.m. I have a lot to do today.
“Are you sure?” James Plant asked him later that morning. “Until I lift this phone and make the call, you can still change your mind. Hell, even after that. Until the ticket physically goes into their office. But after that…”
Peter nodded, slumped in the comfortable chair across from his attorney. “I’m sure. Let’s…let’s get this over with.”
“Okay. Here goes.”
And Peter’s life changed, forever.
He met Matt for lunch that day, near the shop. “I did it this morning. Told my lawyer to cash the ticket.”
Matt was surprised but not shocked. “So it begins, eh?” His sympathy almost made Peter break into hysterical laughter. Only Matt could treat this much money like a serious illness.
Peter nodded. “Yeah. He said I’ll need to go underground. Well, way above ground. He got me a suite at the Carlyle.”
“Ouch,” Matt said, thinking of the cost.
Peter laughed. “Right? Like, thousands a night. But he said the location on the Upper East Side makes it easier to keep paparazzi at bay, that all the ultra rich neighbors will call the Mayor and order him to, I don’t know, have them all shot. And I need a suite because it’s just easier for my personal security detail to…” He broke off, nearly in tears.
Matt reached across the table and took his hand. “Peter. You can tear it up. Maybe you should. Maybe just let the State of New York have it all back.”
Peter shook his head. “It’s too late for that. I already have obligations, I already owe the lawyer money and the wealth counselor lady money and…” He broke off.
And that rat shit bastard is after it too, Matt thought with an anger that shocked him. Maybe more so because he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this angry.
“And I just can’t walk away from it, Matt. I was too poor for too long to just…struggle for the rest of my life if I don’t have to. I know that makes me a bad person…”
“Hell, no,” Matt said emphatically. “No, Peter, it doesn’t.”
“Thanks. You’re a good friend.”
Matt blinked. Oh no, buddy, you don’t get away that easily. No friendzone for me. “Thanks. Hey, can I use your phone? My battery died and I need to check on a part before this shop closes early today.”
“Sure,” Peter said, handing it over.
“Thanks, I’ll be right back.”
Peter watched his back as he walked outside. Of course Matt was too polite to have a cell phone conversation in a restaurant. Perfect Matt, who you’ll never get to see now, when the tide of money washes away your life. He couldn’t believe how…resigned he was. All that money, and all he could think about was how fast he could get rid of it. Get rid of Cody.
Matt made sure he was out of sight before he accessed the Google Play store and downloaded the app that Guy had written. He installed it, cleared off the success message, and made sure it hadn’t put an icon anywhere.
“Spyware to spy out any spyware,” Guy had called it. “Then we’ll know for sure.”
Then Matt made a call to a parts shop, just to have it on Peter’s history in case he checked. He should have felt worse about this dishonesty, but he didn’t.
I can help him, Matt thought. I have to help him. He can’t do it alone.
He walked back in, saw Peter, frowning, troubled, playing with his glass of water. But even in his troubles, he smiled just a little bit when he saw Matt.
I’ll be your Samwise, Mr. Frodo, Matt said…no, swore to himself, and to Peter. You won’t carry the burden alone.