“Pull over,” Josh demanded as JC evoked a barrage of abuse from yet another road user.
JC pulled to the side of the road his hands trembling against the wheel. “We’re not going to find him are we?”
Older Josh stared into space his Adam’s apple moving rapidly as he swallowed the bile that was rising I his throat. “I don’t know. I’m not sure we can but we have to try. I think we should go to the cops.”
“And tell them what? That you are my older self and you have come back from the future to save your lover who is going to be murdered. They’ll lock us up, both of us.” JC rested his head on the steering wheel. “I can’t live without him,” he whispered. “I can’t.”
Josh squeezed his eyes shut to stop the tears that were burning him from falling. “We go to the cops. Tell them that Justin is missing and that we believe he is in danger; tell them threats have been made. Then we meet Joey and see if he has any ideas.”
“Maybe we could hire a detective. It’s worth a shot,” JC choked back a sob. “It’s worth a shot.”
Joe was waiting in the drive when the two JC’s returned. He shook his head as he met Josh’s questioning glance. “I looked everywhere I could think of. No sign.”
“The cops told us to come back in two days if he doesn’t turn up by then.” Josh sighed sadly, seeing JC staring sadly at the marques. The younger JC started walking towards the cream canvas erection.
“Don’t,” JC breathed, grasping at his young self’s upper arm and pulling him back.
“I have the right to see,” JC’s voice shook.
“You don’t understand the pain you will feel. You won’t be able to think, you’ll lose it.” Josh pulled JC to him and made him rest his head on his shoulder. “Trust me on this JC. Don’t go in there, never go in there. Because if you do … you’ll never leave.”
“What’s going on?”
JC, Joey and Josh all turned towards the person that had spoken.
“Have you seen him?” JC demanded, rushing up to Trace who had just arrived dressed in a dark tux with a blue tie and cummerbund.
The shorter man looked at the distraught brunette blankly. “Dude take a stress pill and wash it down with a JD. Seen who?”
Josh joined JC who was visibly trembling. “Justin, have you seen Justin?”
“And you are?” Trace asked his indifference evident.
“I’m JC’s uncle, not that it has anything to do with you. Now have you seen or spoken with Justin today?”
“No,” Trace lied.
Joey joined the three men. “Look lets go in the house,” he whispered to Josh. “The marques is affecting JC, I can tell.”
Josh nodded and dropped his arm around his younger self. “Let’s get a drink and decide what we should do.” When JC seemed about to protest Josh added. “Maybe Joe could phone around a few of Steve’s contacts, find us some professional help.”
JC exhaled slowly and nodded reluctantly, his eyes settling on the deserted marques longingly before he let himself be led into the house.
Joe felt uneasy and he didn’t know why. He hovered within arms length of the two JC’s, reluctant to leave them for a moment. He glared at Trace as the younger man sat with his left leg crossed over his right knee, a glass of JD in one hand while using the other to pick lint absentmindedly off his pants.
“So just because Justin took his ass off somewhere you are shitting yourself?” The younger man shook his head and laughed. “I told him you were too fucking needy.” Trace drained his glass. “I’m not sitting around here all day. Call me when he turns up. Joey bristled as Justin's so called best friend slammed his empty glass on the table and stomped out, with out even saying goodbye.
“I had forgotten just what an asshole he was.” Josh said as soon as the disgruntled man had gone. “Until Justin was gone I never realised just how much he hates me.”
Joey frowned. “Why would he hate you? No one hates you!”
“Trace does,” the JC’s said together.
Josh poured himself another drink and sank down on the sofa next to his younger self. “He cut me out of Justin's funeral altogether.”
“He what!” Joey and JC exclaimed.
“Oh he made everyone believe that I couldn’t make the arrangements on my own. True I was falling apart but I still could have buried my lover. If he had given me that maybe I could have moved on, picked up my life or ended it sooner.” Josh gulped back his JD and blinked away his tears.
“What do you mean?” Joey asked quietly, beginning to feel frightened.
Josh met JC’s eyes. “He knows.”
JC tore his eyes away avoiding Joey's concerned gaze.
“He’s already made up his mind. If Justin is dead then he intends to die too.” Josh gave Joey a half smile. “How do I know? Because it’s what I would have done. Only I was denied it, forced to live for thirty long lonely years and the day I get the courage up to join my beloved you have to stop me.”
“I stopped you?” Joey asked.
JC poured Josh and himself another drink then passed the bottle to his friend.
Josh smiled again, a smile tinged with sadness. “Well not you exactly but it was you that made your great, grandson several times removed travel back in time and stop me from drinking the cocktail I had mixed. You had to keep my ring didn’t you and tell them what happened to me and Justin.”
“What ring?” JC asked curiously.
Josh held out his hand. “My wedding band. The police gave it to me; it was forced down Justin’s throat. I put one on his finger before he was buried. So at least in my heart we were married.”
Joey stared at the band encircling Josh’s ring finger. A niggling feeling eating away at his brain. “Justin was anal,” he said suddenly.
The JC’s frowned not understanding. “I don’t …”
Joey cut JC off. “Justin would never have just bought one ring. Two make a marriage, so he would have bought two matching rings.”
Joey paled and looked at his two friends with frightened brown eyes. “Shit!” He exclaimed. “I knew there was something bothering me. Let me see your ring again Josh.”
Josh held out his hand and Joe studied it carefully. “I’ve seen this ring somewhere else.”
Josh nodded. “Yes I showed it you when I arrived this morning. I let you hold it and read the inscription.”
“There’s an inscription?” JC repeated hopefully his eyes big and round pleading silently to be allowed to see it.
“No, I know I saw it then. I’ve seen it somewhere else since then.”
“I wear it all the time Joe, you’ve just seen it on me.” Josh twisted the ring around and around his finger conscious of Joey's interest with the platinum band.
“Trace!” Joey suddenly shouted.
Both JC’s jumped and looked even more confused.
“That’s where I’ve seen it before. Trace was wearing one just like it when he was here just now.”
Josh jumped up and ran over to the big man grabbing him excitedly by the shoulders. “Joe are you sure?”
Joey nodded. “I’m positive.”
JC clamped his hand over his mouth. “No, he wouldn’t! He couldn’t … he hates me that much that he would kill Justin?”
“That’s why he’s not concerned. He knows where Justin is.” Josh snatched up the keys to JC’s jeep. “Well are you coming or do I have to save Justin by myself?”