QSFer G.R. Lyons has a new MM paranormal book out, the final book in the Treble and the Lost Boys trilogy: “Illumined Shadows.”
When Victor Lucius was sixteen years old, a few cruel words out of his mouth led to a brutal tragedy, one that Vic has been trying to make up for ever since. Now, working as a missing persons expert, Vic tracks down and rescues people from abandonment or abuse, trying to alleviate the guilt constantly weighing him down.
His latest case—a boy who was kidnapped at the age of two and then held captive for nineteen years—is by far the darkest of his career. If there’s any chance of Vic finally redeeming himself, helping this boy might be it.
But rescuing Colby from his basement prison is only the beginning, and brings a whole new struggle to Vic’s life:
(Note: This story takes place in a fictional world, the same as in the Shifting Isles Series. There are multiple gods, different names for the days of the week, etc. A glossary is included.)
Warnings: brief on-page sexual abuse and references to past abuse; death
G.R. is giving away an ebook copy of Ice on Fire (first book in this trilogy) with this post – comment below for a chance to win.
THE BOY whimpered and curled in on himself as he listened to all the extra footsteps upstairs. It had been awfully quiet up there since Bad Man had left him two nights ago—too quiet, really—but now there was definitely something going on. If the multiple footsteps meant anything, Bad Man was probably having one of his parties again.
Which was weird, considering it was morning. At least, the boy assumed it was morning, squinting up at the tiny window over the shower in the corner, the only view to outside. Sometimes, if he looked out the window at just the right angle, he could see something blue instead of the empty, soothing blackness he saw out the window at night. He had no idea what the blue thing was, only that it signified day. But that was all he ever saw. And at that moment, chained as he was across the basement from the window, he couldn’t see anything at all except just enough light to suggest it wasn’t nighttime anymore.
Bad Man usually didn’t have parties in the morning. Then again, Bad Man pretty much did whatever he wanted, and the boy couldn’t stop him.
And the boy wasn’t ready. His whole body hurt while his temples throbbed with the pressure of a growing headache, but those agonies paled in comparison to his simple need for both food and water. He’d already lost hold of his bladder and his bowels after trying with all his might to hold it all in, knowing Bad Man would be furious with him. But he couldn’t help it. Chained as he was, he couldn’t reach the toilet, so he’d made a mess, both of the floor and of himself, which meant he wouldn’t be ready for Bad Man’s party guests. It would mean a beating, for sure.
It didn’t matter that Bad Man hadn’t bothered to come down and free him so he had a chance to get ready before the guests arrived. The boy would be blamed anyway.
He tested the chain hooked to his collar, listening to it clang against the pipe it was attached to. There wasn’t far he could move. He felt along the chain with both hands, trying to find any way to get loose, but the links were thick, the collar around his throat too tight to even fathom slipping free of it. He was stuck.
The footsteps overhead continued, and the boy curled up again on his side, the concrete floor cold and rough on his naked body. He pulled his knees up to his chest, hugged them, and tucked his hands up under his chin. This was going to be awful, he just knew it.
And he was still sore from when Bad Man had last used him. If there was a whole party now, he’d wind up bloody for sure. More than he already was.
The boy choked out another sob and tucked himself closer to the wall, barely noticing the cold, rough surface pressed up against his back as he continued to listen to all the activity upstairs. What was taking them so long? Why hadn’t they come down yet? If he had to endure the coming torture, why couldn’t they just get it over with?
Then all the footsteps moved away, and everything went silent again. The boy held his breath, waiting, straining to hear any little sound from upstairs, but there was nothing. He slowly let the breath back out, trying not to make a sound, and listened again. He kept waiting, fully expecting the door at the top of the stairs to fly open, the awful lights to blare on, the group of men to file down, but nothing happened.
The boy trembled, his whole body aching as he stayed curled up against the wall, but even when he was sure that a couple hours must have gone by, there was still no sound. Just like there had been ever since Bad Man last left him. Until all those footsteps, of course.
The silence was so strange. What was going on?
He waited and waited, trembling and crying. Surely, Bad Man would be coming down any moment.
Still, nothing happened. The silence stretched until the boy felt himself on the verge of panic. This had never happened before. The parties never came just to leave again without touching him. It didn’t make any sense.
Hours passed. His headache grew to a stabbing throb, his hunger gnawed at him, his thirst was beyond desperate, and his entire body ached as he lay on the cold, hard floor.
And still, nothing but silence.
He tried to lick his cracked lips, but his whole mouth was so dry that it didn’t help. His body felt wrung out, desperate for even just a drop of fluid. If he could just get over to the sink! But the chain was too short. He’d never make it.
The boy went limp, sinking into the cold, concrete floor, the whole room feeling like it was spinning even though he wasn’t moving and couldn’t see anything. His breaths turned erratic, and for a little while, he actually wished Bad Man would come down. It would mean punishment, and then being used, but he was so desperate for so many things that he was sure he’d pay any price that Bad Man demanded.
Then he wondered if he could die like this. Just go away forever, and never have to endure Bad Man’s touch again. Or any of the others’. The thought brought a hint of peace to his dizzy brain. He could be free.
If Bad Man would stay away just a little bit longer…
* * *
BETWEEN FILES, Vic glanced at Ryley. The man had been smiling almost nonstop since he’d gone to examine that body yesterday. How Ryley could be so damned chipper about a corpse, Vic would never understand.
Ryley caught him staring, and flashed him a cheeky grin. “You have noidea how much I’ve missed this.”
Vic scowled. “Smelly corpses?”
Ryley shrugged. “Being home, doing my job, something I’m good at. It’s like life finally makes sense again, you know?”
Vic grunted. Ryley had a point. He couldn’t imagine being dragged away from his life and his purpose for months on end. He’d go out of his mind.
“The only thing that doesn’tmake sense,” Ryley went on, shooting him a look, his tone a little too teasing, “is the fact that youare still single.”
Vic rolled his eyes. “I thought we went over this.”
“Yeah, but, babe…” Ryley typed a few more words into his report, then spun his chair to face Vic. “I gotta be honest: I figured you’d be practically married by now.”
Vic raised an eyebrow. “We dated for six years and never talked about getting married.”
“Yeah, well…” Ryley floundered for a moment, then shrugged. “We knew we weren’t gonna work.”
Vic nodded. That much was true. It had just taken them both way too long to concede the point.
“I just can’t believe you haven’t found the right guy yet,” Ryley said.
Vic shrugged, but before he could come up with a response, his computer pinged a notification, the sound somehow ominous, tearing his attention away from the conversation. He glanced at his screen, intending to set the notification aside for later, but the date on the case alert caught his eye. 12 Soldis 3578?That was almost nineteen years ago.
Vic clicked on the alert to open the case file: a two-year-old boy who’d gone missing from the local hospital when his mother had gone into the emergency room, where she died from a gunshot wound. The boy had also been mildly injured, leaving his blood on the mother’s clothes. That little DNA sample was the only identification they had for the boy. His mother had been identified from past hospital records, but her file showed no living relatives, and neither her DNA nor the boy’s showed up in any other insurance database available at the time, which wasn’t exactly unheard-of: Some people just liked living as anonymously as possible. The agent who’d originally been in charge of the case noted that he’d searched multiple times, but never found any other records. The missing boy had never been identified beyond an anonymous birth record and his DNA making him his mother’s son, and no trace of him had ever been found since.
Vic clicked the alert again. Their computer system had automatically brought up the old case when a DNA match flagged in a new case. Vic checked the new case and sat back, stunned. It was the medical examiner’s report for the body Ryley had recovered yesterday.
According to the report, the deceased man—one Dr. Bryce Ahriman—had skin under his fingernails and traces of blood and fecal matter in his pubic hair. When those samples had been run through the company’s database, they linked to the only match the system could find.
A boy missing for nineteen years.
“Ryley–” Vic called, not even tearing his eyes away from his screen.
His voice must have been less steady than he thought because Ryley darted to his side rather than just answering back. “What’s wrong?”
Vic gave Ryley a quick glance, then stared at the case notes again, old and new side-by-side on his screen. “Was there anyone else living in that house you went to yesterday?”
“No.” Ryley shook his head. “No, the guy lived alone. Haven’t even found a next of kin yet to notify. I’m gonna have a hell of a time working out his inheritance clause with no heirs to track down.”
Vic pointed at his screen. “He had someone else’s DNA on him.”
“Whose?” Ryley asked, bending closer and scanning the screen. “Holy shit,” he breathed. “A missing kid? And what’s–” Ryley scrolled through the DNA profile generated from the samples collected during the autopsy. “You don’t think…No, it couldn’t be.”
“Couldn’t be what?” Vic asked.
Ryley frowned, thinking, then shook his head. “I was gonna say…blood in his pubic hair…Maybe the doctor raped him, and the kid fought back? Killed him? Except the scene was clearly an accident, and the M.E.’s report–” He nodded with his chin at the screen. “No indication that it was murder. The guy just choked on his dinner and died of asphyxiation.”
“Wait…” Vic turned to the deceased’s file and clicked on the client history attached to it. He scanned Dr. Ahriman’s personal details: name, home address, place of work. “Holy shit.” He switched to the cold case and pointed at the screen. “Your dead doctor worked at the hospital where this kid was taken from.”
Ryley stared back at him. “You don’t think…All this time…”
Vic nodded. He was sure Ryley was thinking what Vic himself was thinking.
While daylighting as office manager for the family auto repair business, G.R. Lyons can often be found working on one of multiple manuscripts or desperately trying to keep up with the TBR pile. Anarcho-capitalist, quietly ‘out’ trans guy, former belly dancer, coffee guzzler, highly-sensitive introvert, CrossFit enthusiast, and lover of m/m romantic fiction.