B&R15: The Disappearance of Ray Vecchio
by Dee Gilles
Disclaimer: For entertainment only.
Benny and Ray 15
The Disappearance of Ray Vecchio
Maria had just finished cleaning the kitchen, and was putting away the Mr. Clean, gloves and sponge when the door bell rang, startling her.
She sighed. It was nearly nine o'clock; she was exhausted after fighting with the kids for two hours to get them to bed, and she looked a wreck. Who on earth would have the bad manners to drop by for a visit at this late hour?
She very shortly had her answer. She smiled at the handsome man standing on the front porch. Although dressed in jeans and a blue cotton jersey, he wore his Stetson, which he took off as soon as Maria opened the door. He smiled politely, but Maria could see the anxiety in his eyes.
"Ben! What are you doing here, sweetie? Is everything all right?"
"I'm looking for Ray. Have you seen him?"
Maria drew back in surprise. "No. I assumed he was with you." The two of them locked eyes in understanding "Come in, Ben." She stepped out of the way to let him pass. Right behind him trotted a half-wolf. Mindful of possible listening ears upstairs, she led them to the parlor and closed the door. "I heard about what happened at the station today. That Frannie. I almost belted her. Tell me what's going on."
"Ray was supposed to pick me up today after work, and he didn't show. I waited for nearly an hour, tried his cell phone a couple of times. I figured maybe he just gotten detained somewhere, maybe lost track of time."
Maria nodded. Ray wasn't exactly Mr. Punctual.
"I went to the market and picked up some items for our dinner, got home, and he still wasn't there. The door was locked. I had given him my only key, so I had to crawl through the kitchen window. Didn't look like he had been there at all. I called his cell phone once more. I called the station and nobody had seen him; I asked the neighbors if they had seen him around the building today, and nobody had. Do you know where he might be?'
"Oh, Ben. That's a tough one. Ray knows this city inside and out. He's got lots of hiding places. He can really disappear when he wants to. He has before. There's a few spots by the Lake. Try Navy Pier. There's Tony's Billiards on the Southside. The park. He could have even gone out to the Dunes, or Gary."
Ben nodded thoughtfully and turned to go. Dief followed.
"Woah! Where you goin'?" Maria asked.
"To look for Ray. He may be in trouble."
"Ben, I don't think so. I think he just needed to disappear for a little while, to think things out." She tried to assure him, but she wasn't nearly as confident as she sounded.
Ben had been standing by the fireplace this whole time. She looked at him with pity. "Why don't you come and sit down, hon? I want to talk to you about something."
"If it's a lecture...Maria, please."
"I'm not upset. I just want to ask you about Tommy."
"Ray's friend Tommy. Ray never talked about him?"
"Not that I recall, no."
"Well...Tommy was Ray's...boyfriend for a little while."
Ben's mouth formed a perfect `O'.
"He may have gone to Tommy's. I mean, if there's anybody that Ray feels would understand what he is going through right now, it would be Tommy. He went through something similar, I don't know, maybe fifteen or sixteen years ago now. In college, Tommy got a boyfriend, and after they both graduated and got good jobs, they moved in together downtown, not too far off of Lakeshore Drive. I still remember that place...it was a tiny studio apartment. That was all they could afford, but it had killer views from the twelfth floor...We were all so proud of Tommy. It was like one of our own had made it to the big time, you know? Anyway, it got back to some of the guys around the neighborhood here that Tommy was shacked up with a man, which was bound to happen, I suppose. Tommy came home for Thanksgiving that year. Thank God he at least had the good sense to not bring George. Who knows what they would have done to them... Ben, they gave Tommy such a hard time. His own family, and own supposed `friends'. Tommy left the house in tears. I don't think he's stepped foot back in the neighborhood since then. I know that he and Ray remained friends after that. Maybe even better friends. Ray asked Tommy to be his best man, but Tommy couldn't face up to the old gang that would be at the wedding and reception. Ray understood. After Tommy and George broke up, Ray was right there. I...probably shouldn't tell you this, but Tommy told me he and Ray hooked up again after Ray got divorced from Angie. Tommy told me all about it. It was just a couple of times, he told me. Ray just needed...a little comforting, that was all. Now Tommy's with a great guy named Silvio and they're doing really well together. If you want, I can call Tommy for you, see if he's seen him."
Ben looked shell-shocked. "Yes...I'd appreciate that."
"Look...maybe me telling you this was a bad idea. I'm sorry if I hurt you. I only thought it would help if you knew. "
"No...no, you're right." He forced a small smile.
"Ben. Ray loves you. You know that, right?"
"I know," Ben whispered, staring at the floor. At his feet, Dief whimpered softly.
"He'd never hurt you, Ben."
He only nodded.
Abruptly, the parlor door was yanked open. Frannie stood in the doorway. "Oh!" She said theatrically, "I'm sorry! I didn't know anybody was in here." She put her hand to her mouth a little too slowly.
"You!" Maria said. Quick as lightening, she was across the room and had delivered a smart slap across Frannie's face.
Frannie yelped in surprise as much as in pain.
Maria said, "This is all your fault! Ray's missing, and it's all your fault!'
Frannie protested, "I didn't do anything!"
"You were running that big mouth of yours! You'd better learn to shut it!" Maria was about to slap Frannie again, but Ben had crossed the room, and restrained her.
"Ladies, ladies, please! I should go. I didn't mean to cause such strife in the family."
"You didn't do anything wrong, Ben," Maria assured.
Frannie burst into tears. "Yes, he did do something wrong! He's a fag who's corrupted--
Maria swung a roundhouse punch that Fran barely ducked. She shrieked, enraged, and flung herself at Maria. Ben quickly stepped between the two women and was scratched on the cheek by one of Frannie's nails. He caught one of Maria's poorly aimed slaps, and ears ringing, forced the two women apart. "Ladies! Ladies, please!"
Maria tried to jockey around Ben to get at Fran. "Yeah, you're lucky Ben's holding me back, or I'd kick your ass, bitch!"
"Maria, please!" Ben protested. While holding on to Maria, Francesca had managed to skirt around Ben and grab a handful of Maria's hair. She screamed.
A male voice sounded in the doorway. "Hey! Hey! Hey!" Tony rushed in to help Fraser separate the two sisters. He grabbed Francesca in a headlock. "What's all this?! People are trying to get some sleep here!"
"You're just mad because you can't have him, you little slut! He's too good for you!" Despite Ben's hold on her arms, she tried to get at Francesca, kicking and doing her best to pull out of Ben's firm grip.
"Maria!" Ben admonished. "Stop! Please!"
"You girls are gonna bring Ma downstairs! Then we're all gonna get it!"
"All right, all right. Let me go, Ben," Maria said calmly.
"You promise to keep your hands to yourself?"
"Yes, I promise."
Ben cautiously released Maria, who only smoothed down her hair, breathing hard.
"What the hell is this all about, Maria?" Tony asked once he had released Frannie from the headlock.
"I'll tell you later. I gotta make a phone call, first." Maria pointed a threatening finger at Frannie. "And I'm telling you," she said to her sister, who eyed her cautiously with balled up fists, "If any harm comes to Ray because of anything you said, you'll be dealing with Ma first. And if there's anything left after she gets done with you, then I'll finish you off myself."
Maria felt tears well up, unexpectantly, and quickly wiped them away. Shit. She couldn't stand to see Ray under attack for any reason, even if occasionally he did something to deserve it. Hadn't he suffered enough at the hands of Pop? Not only the beatings but constant insults Pop threw at Ray. Loser. Wimp. Pansy. Idiot. Nobody understood how deeply Pop's words had hurt Ray, except for her. Because Ray was careful not to let anybody see his pain.
"Stay put, Ben," Maria said. "I'm gonna go call Tommy." She pointed a finger again at Frannie. "You'd better get on your hands and needs and pray tonight that Ray's okay."
End B&R15: The Disappearance of Ray Vecchio by Dee Gilles
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