Beyond the Goat Path
When Nick comes out, his wife leaves him, taking their son. Their abandoned car, along with his wife's mutilated body, is all that's recovered from the edge of the road in a deeply wooded area surrounding Walden Pond. His son, Logan, has simply disappeared.
All manner of horrific, paranormal events begin to plague Nick's days and nights. The handsome man Nick slept with may very well hold the secret to Logan's disappearance--then there is his brother-in-law, Robert, who has secrets of his own. When Nick comes face-to face-with the demon known only as the Goat Man, he is offered a deal crafted in Hell.
Nick has lost his wife and son in a brutal and unexplained murder--or has he?
"Nick, your family's death wasn't your fault."
"Yeah, so you told me in our last session. That's what you do, isn't it? You try to make people feel better, but you and I both know the truth. Rebecca took our son and left when I told her I was gay. If I hadn't come out to her, she wouldn't have been out on the road with my son at night." He hesitated, not wanting to hear the words: "When it happened."
"Nick, I thought we had moved beyond the denial?"
"Fine, when Rebecca and Logan were murdered. There, I said it. Are you satisfied?" New tears filled his sleepy, bloodshot eyes.
"Nick, you have to give yourself time to grieve. It's only been a month. It's going to take some time to come to terms with what happened."
"How can I ever come to terms with it?" He ran his hands over his face and rubbed his eyes with his palms. "The mangled remains of Rebecca's body made her unrecognizable." Nick ran his fingers through his dark, tangled hair. The memory of the night began to suffocate him again. Loosening his tie, he opened the top button of his shirt, stretched his neck then pulled off his sports coat. Sweat from his armpits dampened his blue dress shirt. Nick went to speak, but the words caught in his throat as they did every time he tried to talk about his son.
"Go on, Nick."
"What else is there to say? I was able to bury my wife and say goodbye to her, but not Logan. I'll never get a chance, because his body is still out there." He fumbled with the buttons of his sports coat, which lay in his lap. He bit down on his lower lip to keep it from quivering with renewed grief.
"So your son's casket didn't help with saying goodbye?"
"What in the fuck does an empty coffin do? It made the funeral of my son a mockery of his life and left a hole in my heart, a hole that will never get filled with closure. If your goddamn parents..." Nick hesitated before saying too much.
"It's okay, Nick. You can say it. If it wasn't for mine and Rebecca's parents..."
"They're the ones who insisted on a coffin for Logan. It was nothing but a reminder to me that my son's body is still out in the woods. He's alone. He's cold, and there's not a goddamn thing I can do about it."
"You are doing something about it, Nick. You're getting the help you need to put him and you at rest."
"This is bullshit." Nick stood up and folded the coat over his arm.
"Nick, please give this a chance to work."
"Sorry, Robert. I know you mean well, but therapy is not going to bring my wife and son back--"
"Neither is blaming yourself for their deaths."
"Where to place the blame is something we will never agree on. Thank you for trying, Robert." Nick walked across to the office door.
"Nick, promise me if you ever need to talk, you'll call me."
"Can I ask you something?" Nick opened the door then turned around. "Why are you willing to help me? Rebecca was your sister. How can you overlook what I've done while the rest of the family won't have anything to do with me?"
"You haven't done anything wrong, Nick. That's what I'm trying to tell you. My family... Well, you know what they're like. All I know is you were a good husband to Rebecca--better than she deserved--and an amazing father to Logan. Those are the things that matter." Robert came toward Nick. "You promise to call me? Day or night?"
"Sure." Nick gave the best impression of a smile he could manage before turning and closing the door on the one friend he had. He stepped into the elevator and pushed the first-floor button. As the elevator crawled down from the fourth floor, a twinge of guilt tugged at his heart at how he had treated Robert. He's only trying to help. He thought about going back up to Robert's office to apologize but remembered the woman waiting in the lobby for her appointment. "Screw it. I'll call him later. I need a drink before I can deal with any more of his psychoanalysis."
Nick took the subway back into Cambridge and walked the few short blocks to Club Paradise. As he entered the three-story building, the smell the stale tobacco permeated the air. The heavy beat of the sub-woofers drummed and thumped against his feet as the music slipped through the oak planks of the floor. He contemplated going downstairs and losing himself in the pulsing lights, smoke, and near-naked boys dancing on the bar. He opted for a quiet corner at the end of the bar where he could be alone.
"What'll you have?" the bearish bartender asked, as he wiped down the bar.
"Whiskey, on the rocks." Nick lowered his head, running his fingers through his hair, hoping to avoid eye contact. He reached into his back pocket, pulled out his wallet, and handed the bartender his credit card. "Run a tab."
"Sure thing." The bartender took the card, poured the whiskey over the two ice cubes and handed the glass to Nick. "Cheers."
Nick half smiled and raised the glass. The liquor burned his throat going down. He sighed and set the glass down with a bang.
"Rough day?" The bartender poured another drink.
"Yeah, something like that. Go ahead and make it a double." Nick watched as the dark liquid covered the ice. He swirled the ice in the glass then took another sip. He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples, hoping to ease the headache that seemed to be a permanent side effect of the accident.
The night replayed in slow motion in his mind as he finished his drink and ordered another double.