Monday had turned out to be quite a red-letter day for Bubba and I. Neither of us had ever needed to explain our sexuality to anyone else, much less to two teenagers. I talked to Ian while Bubba was in the shower and Jeremiah was still asleep. He took the news a lot better than most parents do about their children. He didn't get mad or throw a fit. He seemed almost relieved, actually. I had to find out what was running through his head. "So, how do you feel, now that you know about Bubba and I?"
"I guess... I dunno... I just..."
"Hey, It's all right. You don't have to answer right away. You can think on it if you have to."
"I just didn't think of you two like that. Neither of you... act gay."
"Well, I don't act straight either. I just act like I do all the time. I am comfortable with who I am, so I don't have to do that."
Ian asked, “I don't act gay, do I?"
I thought for a moment before answering. It was a good thing too, because I almost missed the message. "So, you are gay, too?"
"Look, around here, most people won’t care. It’s okay for you to be proud of who you are. So, hold your head up, stop crying, and enjoy this place for what it is. Almost everyone will accept you for who you are if you have self-respect." We finished up our breakfast and put our bowls in the sink. "Ian, do you like to play baseball?"
"Yeah, I love it, but I was never allowed to play."
I went to the closet and pulled out two gloves and a ball. "I have some time before I have to go to work. Come on, let's go play catch." We walked out into the yard and started throwing the ball back and forth. Time flew by faster than I expected. I was going to be late for work today, but it was worth it.
We came back inside to find Bubba at the computer and Jeremiah eating a bowl of Fruit Loops in the kitchen. Bubba looked over his shoulder and said, "Hey Rich, you like to play catch in my boxers?" As soon as Bubba said it, Jeremiah spewed his mouthful of cereal all over the counter.
Ian grabbed a dishcloth and began to clean up the mess. "It's okay Jeremiah, I found them snuggling out on the porch this morning!" He finished the sentence in giggles.
"Really? Are they gay?"
Bubba had turned beet red at this point.
"Yep, everything is cool. I think we’re gonna like this town." Ian added.
"Hey, I have to get to work, so I am gonna hit the shower," I said as I leaned over the back of Bubba's chair and planted a kiss on his lips.
Bubba just sat there, still red as ever, and watched me ascend the stairs to the bathroom.
"Hey Bubba, it's okay really. I was just a little shocked when I walked outside, that's all." Ian said as he walked over to where Bubba was sitting. "So, what are you doing on the computer?" he asked, trying to change the subject.
Jeremiah didn't want to. "Hey Ian, who was on top?"
Ian and Bubba busted out laughing. "No one was on top, they were snuggling together, like you and I do at night." Ian answered.
Bubba tried to change the subject again by answering Ian's question. "I am checking out the stock market to see if I need to change my investments at all. A lot of companies are reporting earnings this week."
Jeremiah still wanted more information. "Were they naked?"
"So Ian, you’re okay with us being gay?" Bubba asked ignoring Jeremiah's question.
"Yeah, well, we have a lot in common, since we are too." Ian said matter-of-factly.
Bubba was shocked, but not unpleasantly so. "We, as in both of you?"
Jeremiah was now blushing behind his empty bowl of cereal wondering why his brother had given away one of their many secrets. Then he found out why.
"Yep, and Rich said this whole town is okay with people like us."
"Well, that it is, since most of the other people that live here are mature enough to look at the real person, but not everyone. I would say 90% of the people here are tolerant of each others' lifestyles."
Jeremiah chirped up now. "So I could find a boyfriend in this town! This is way cool!"
"Yes, you could, I guess." Ian said, "But not until I get one!"
"That's okay, because whatever you get, mine is gonna be twice as good!"
Bubba sat there in awe, enjoying the sibling rivalry before him. I came downstairs in my uniform when Bubba noticed me and smiled. "What's up?" I asked.
"Oh, they are discussing who is gonna have the better looking boyfriend!"
I looked over at Ian a little puzzled and asked, "Is he gay, too?"
"Oh yeah, I guess I left that part out, sorry!"
"It's okay, the more the merrier!" I turned to Bubba and asked, "I have to go to work, what are y'all doing today?"
"Oh, we have to go see Dewey Arnold about school at eleven thirty. But that is all I had planned on today. Oh, that reminds me, can you drop them off tomorrow at David's office, 9am sharp?"
"Yeah, David already asked me. It’s a done deal. I might come with you today."
Bubba stood up and walked me to the door. I opened the door and turned to face him, and received the best "have a good day" kiss ever from him. "If you have time, why don't you join us?"
Dewey had suggested that we get their transcripts from the last school they had attended in the States and skip whatever history there might be in Canada, which might also have prevented someone from finding out where the boys are. I knew what he was getting at, and I agreed. Every precaution needed to be taken where the boys were concerned. Ian provided a lot of the information we needed and Dewey faxed a letter off immediately requesting their records. He had also arranged to test the boys differently than using the final exams of the other students, so he could grasp where they were at in their studies. He wasn't too concerned about it since Canadian schools are so much better than the school systems in the States, yet he still needed to find out what educational levels each of them was at.
The rest of the week flew by. Bubba had to leave town on Tuesday morning, and wouldn't be back until Wednesday evening, so I stayed with the boys. Ian and Jeremiah had a really long session with David on Tuesday, and started school on Wednesday. There wasn't much school left for them anyway: Summer was just around the corner; so missing another day didn't seem too critical.
Thursday had come around when I realized that I hadn't even started my file on the boys. It wasn't hard. I had most of the information in my head and a few notes I had buried under a pile on my desk somewhere, and they had been the center of my attention most of the time this week. Since today was my office and paperwork day, it seemed to drag on and on. I wanted so badly to go play catch again with Ian like we had done now every day this week, just not while I was wearing Bubba's underwear. Finally four o'clock came around and it was close enough to quitting time that I decided it was just that, quitting time! I jumped in the Bronco and headed to Bubba’s.
As soon as I got there Ian and I went outside and started to throw the ball around while Bubba and Jeremiah went grocery shopping at Eva’s General Store in town. I figured I would take this opportunity to get some history on them. While we tossed the ball, Ian told me about where they used to live and what had happened since then. Why and how their mom died. How they ended up with Karl. What happened to their real father. All the memories didn't seem to affect him too badly today; he just kept talking and throwing the ball. I sensed he had put himself into a zone of some kind, and I was grateful for that. I really needed the information so I could protect them better from Karl.
Apparently, their natural father had died in the Gulf War almost ten years ago. After that, they all moved to Ft. Lewis in Washington State. A few years later, their mother met and married Karl Jameson. He adopted the boys about a year after that. As the years went by, things got bad between their mom and Karl. Two years ago, he killed her during one of their fights. He had pushed her down a flight of stairs, and then continued to beat her. The night she died, he put them in the truck and headed for Canada. He started to abuse them for not doing things around the house. They were his little slaves, and he punished them daily. The first attempt at running away only lasted two days: Karl found them at a truck stop before they crossed the border back into the States. The beating they received for it burned in my memory of my own childhood. The second attempt wasn't as successful as the first; Karl must have been expecting it. And that beating was even worse than the first one. The third attempt so far was the most promising for them, since Karl still hasn't found them.
I knew I had to get the case file from the military, but that would be next to impossible, especially since it was probably still an open case. The military hardly ever let cases go to civil law enforcement agencies. This would be rather difficult, since it involved murder. Furthermore, they would be asking questions about my interest in the case. This could easily get real messy, and a lot of attention could be drawn to Baysville, which we didn't need. I'm going to have to be very discreet.
On Wednesday, Ian had gone down to check on maybe getting a part time job from Luis bussing tables or even washing dishes. Ian felt like doing something, almost anything to keep from being bored, and to keep his mind from thinking about the past. He figured if nothing was available there, maybe he'd see if he could get something down at Puerhaven. Those were the two main spots Rich and Bubba had mentioned if he really wanted something to do. Ian felt like he was being a mooch and living off Rich and Bubba. He was more than grateful and had come to love both of them like fathers, but he also wanted to contribute.
He thought to himself, "Wow, it's like I have two dads. How weird is that? But at least they understand me better than anybody else ever has, except maybe Jeremiah. I'm just glad they really care for us." He walked along, mind wandering, thinking about the past. He felt a little down today, and just couldn't put his finger on the reason why.
He'd need a bike or something to get down to Puerhaven if he got a job there, but was sure he could borrow the money to buy one and pay off his debt as he got paid. He thought having a bike might not be a bad idea regardless of where he got a job. He walked in to Lusiad's and saw TJ standing there behind the counter rolling up silverware in the large cloth napkins.
"Hey, dude, it's TJ right?”
"Hey, Ian, yeah, that's right."
"Wow, you remembered my name! I'm impressed."
"How could I forget?" TJ was almost startled himself at his response, not wanting to be so obvious at first, and started to blush as they looked into each other's eyes briefly.
Ian was also surprised at TJ’s statement, and he too began blushing. "Well, I mean we have only spoken kind of briefly and I didn't figure you'd remember my name."
"You remembered mine, right?"
"Well, yeah, I guess. That's cool."
TJ, wanting to change the subject and get out of the limelight said, "Sure, so what brings you in today? You want something to drink?"
"Sure, oh, well... I do but I just dropped in to see if there are any openings for something part-time. I just need something for a few days or nights a week to make a few bucks, and keep me from getting too bored."
"I know what you mean, but I really haven't heard Chris say anything. I'll ask him if you want, and I can call you. He's not here right now, so you would have to stop by later, or call him. That's about the only three choices you have right now."
"Darn. Well, I don't wanna have to walk back down from Bubba's tonight, and I'd rather talk to him in person."
"I can always ask him and then let you know. How 'bout that?"
"I guess that's not a bad idea, I'll give you my, oh, um.... I can't remember Bubba's phone number."
"Don't worry, I can get it from one of the guys. Somebody's bound to have it around here."
"Okay cool! Thanks dude, I really appreciate it."
"No problems, I'll even put in a good word for you." He gave Ian a nonchalant wink.
"Thanks. I'm gonna walk down to Puerhaven and check out there too, just to see what's available."
"You're walking? All the way down from Bubba's to here and then to Puerhaven and back? Jeez, you're a brave man." TJ gave Ian a look of surprise.
"I could use the fresh air to clear my mind." Ian looked back with a small sad smile showing the deeper meaning. He turned back toward the door on his way out. "Don't forget to call me, will ya?"
"Sure thing, bro!" TJ waved goodbye.
Ian walked out the door not noticing the wave, but thinking to himself, "I really do hope he calls me. He seems like the kind of friend I need right now."
TJ just sighed, as he watched Ian's cute butt walk out of the door. "I have GOT to get him a job here," he said softly so nobody else could hear. "Oh, man! I didn't even get him anything to drink. Now he probably thinks I'm an idiot."
Ian hiked to Puerhaven, but for some odd reason he just didn't feel like he would enjoy working there. Sure it was beautiful, and maybe an excellent place to go to dinner or something. But he didn’t feel like it would be a good fit for him. He'd had feelings like that before, so he always trusted his instincts. He picked up the application and left but didn't think he'd return it. His mom had told him he had ESP sometimes, but he wasn't sure if that was for real. He walked back home thinking about TJ, and their friendly talk.
He got home about 5:30pm and was tired from his long trek. He grabbed a Pepsi out of the fridge and collapsed onto the couch. Jeremiah was out back messing around and didn't even hear him come in. Oh, well, the peace and quite is nice. He thought about turning on the new television but didn't. He finished his Pepsi, and just as he set the can down on the coffee table, the phone rang. He figured he'd get it before the voice mail kicked in, so he jumped up and grabbed it off of Bubba's desk.
"Ian, that you?"
"Yeah, Who's this?”
"It's me silly, TJ, remember from like three hours ago?"
Trying to sound like he knew all along who it was, "Yeah, I knew it was you, I was just messing with ya."
"Oh, okay. Well, hey, I talked to Chris and he said to come down tomorrow afternoon about one o'clock, and he'll talk to you. He says he doesn't have anything solid, but could always use some extra help on busy nights."
"Cool, so I'll see ya tomorrow at one. You will be there, right?"
"Yup, I'll be here."
"Okay, cool. See ya tomorrow, then."
"Well, I'm...Well... I was gonna, err...” TJ continued to stutter to get the words out, despite having thought about what he wanted to say already. Now he could barely find the words he wanted to say. "Are you like, busy tonight or something?"
"Actually.... no, I'm just hanging out." Ian started to smile, hoping TJ was going to ask him to go do something.
"Well, I was planning on going down to the lake after 7:30, when I'm done here, and was wondering if you'd like to, uh, go take a boat ride, with, uh, with me."
Ian was almost breathless after TJ had asked him, and didn't say anything for a few seconds. TJ was beginning to sink into despair, thinking Ian was going to turn him down.
"Ian, if you don't, like, wanna go, that's okay. I was just looking for somebody to keep me company."
Ian feeling the silence broken realized he needed to say something, and blurted it out, "Sure, I'd love too. Where do you want to meet?"
"You want to just meet me here at work, and we'll walk down together?"
"Sure, 7:30 right?" Ian was beginning to get excited and felt his palm begin to sweat on the phone.
"Yup, see ya then?"
"I'll be there, okay. See ya then, bye." And he hung up the phone. "Jeremiah!! Come here dude, you won't believe this!!"
Jeremiah came running in the back door, with a look of curiosity on his face, "Dude, when did you get back? How come you didn't say anything?"
Ian in a matter-of-fact tone said, "I have a date."
"A what? You lie!"
"Nope and I'm going to jump in the shower so I can get ready." He ran up the stairs to the bathroom already removing his clothes and Jeremiah quickly followed with a thousand questions a second.
After his shower, Ian put on some deodorant and some of Rich's Tommy Hilfiger cologne. He brushed his teeth and fixed his hair. After getting dressed he sat around for a few minutes just praying Bubba was back at 6:30 like he'd said he would. Sure enough, Bubba was right on time. Ian met him at the door.
"Bubba, I have a favor to ask of you." Ian looked up at Bubba with the cutest face. The tone of his voice told Bubba that Ian was excited.
Bubba was already on his guard; just waiting to hear what this was all about. "All right, shoot."
"Well, I kind of have a date to..." Bubba cut him off.
"A date? Already? With whom?" Bubba thought for a second, then, "Okay, Okay, I'm sorry. Actually, that's cool, I'm glad you have a date. Now that I know what you're all excited about, who are you all excited about, may I ask?"
"TJ. I talked to him earlier this afternoon and then he called me to tell me Chris wanted to talk to me tomorrow about the part-time job. When he called back he asked me to go down to the lake with him. Isn't that sweet? I mean he’s cute, and well, he asked me, and I was hoping he would, and...”
Ian continued rambling on in his excited state, so much that Bubba had to cut him off to make him take a breath. He'd never seen him so excited about anything.
"Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Ian. Slow down before you pass out. I'm happy you have a date, but is it like a real date?"
Ian sighed, "Well, I don't know. I mean he did ask me to go out with him, to the lake. Wouldn't you consider that a date?"
"I reckon so, as long as you both know that it's a date. But maybe he just wants to be friends. Did he say anything else?”
"Well, no, but I just..."
"Then maybe you need to find out what his intentions are before you think you're gonna be 'dating' him. Don't ya think?"
"I guess." Ian looked a little dejected.
"What time are you meeting?"
"I'm supposed to meet him at work at 7:30. That's my favor: can you take me downtown?"
"Sure, I suppose dinner can wait a little bit longer."
"Don't worry, it's worth the wait just seeing you all riled up. It's almost funny." Bubba chuckled at Ian giving him a gentle nudge in the arm.
"I guess I did get a little crazy. I'll try not to be too extreme. I don't wanna have Dr. David putting me on any drugs. So, can we go now?"
Bubba drove Ian down and dropped him off out front of Lusiad’s and told him he'd be back at around 9:30. Ian walked in and gave a quick little wave to TJ as soon as he saw him. TJ came over and told Ian he'd be right back; that he needed to clock out and change his shirt. He was back in a few seconds, and they left.
"I really appreciate you asking me out tonight, TJ. I really haven't had much to do, or anybody else to talk to besides Rich, Bubba and Jeremiah."
"Hey, well... I...I guess I need to be open and honest with you. I mean, being gay is hard enough sometimes. I figured a good-looking guy like you wouldn't last too long around here as a single man. If you haven't already found somebody to hang with, then somebody would have found you soon enough. I just wanted to be the first. If...well, I mean if you'd let me?"
As soon as he said it, he rolled his eyes, and smacked himself on the forehead. "God, what am I saying? Hell I don't even know for sure if you're gay like me. Hell, I never even thought about it. I just figured you moving to Bayville and being up there with Rich and Bubba you were, too. I didn't even think to ask. I'm sorry Ian, shit, I feel like such a jerk, dude."
"Ah, don't worry about it. Relax, dude." Ian laughed. "I'm gay, too. I've known I was gay for about 6 years now. I've always accepted it." He paused a few seconds, and listened to TJ letting out a sigh of relief. "Hey, wait a minute! You think I'm good looking?"
"I do, I really think you're hot, dude. I mean I know I'm being blunt, but well, I feel a lot different living in Bayville. It's changed me and I feel I can be out and open to just about anybody." They continued to walk down toward the lakeside by a small set of docks. "I'm not trying to get in your pants or anything tonight, but I guess we could both use a friend, and why not get the best looking friend in town, right?"
"I couldn't agree with you more. About you, I mean." They both laughed and continued to chat until they got to the docks
"You ever been in a row boat?"
Ian had never been in any kind of boat, but he loved the water. "Nope, never have, so this is a first for me."
"Well, I asked to borrow it tonight, so we're home free. We still have a couple of hours of light left so we have plenty of time. Hop in."
They rowed around the edge of the lake, talking, mostly about TJ. Ian found him fascinating, and loved to listen to him. Occasionally Ian would answer a question but not in much detail. After a while TJ asked Ian if he wanted to row, so they decided to trade places.
As Ian stood up, never being on a boat before, the small craft wobbled from side to side. As soon as TJ got up to move, Ian lost his balance and fell overboard. Sploff!!! Ian was up and floating next to the boat in no time, but TJ got quite a scare. "Dude, are you all right? Shit, you scared the bejeebers outta me. Here, let me give you a hand." He helped Ian back into the small craft, both of them laughing hysterically at this point. Ian looked like a wet noodle.
As Ian caught his breath and the laughing subsided, he pulled his shirt off to wring the water out. Immediately, TJ saw some of the old scars and healing bruises. "Jesus, Ian…what the fuck happened to you?"
Ian, now realizing he was showing off his battle scars, turned his head looking across the lake and fell silent. He hadn't thought about TJ not knowing and he didn't feel like talking about it, but he did feel that he owed TJ an explanation. After a minute or two, Ian began to tell TJ his story. As the story neared the point of his mother’s death, tears started to form in Ian's eyes. TJ slowly moved to sit next to Ian and put his arm around his shoulder. Ian instinctively reached up, grabbing TJ's hand and holding on as he finished. He explained how they got away from Karl this last time, and how Bubba and Rich were basically hiding them out.
When it was all done, Ian reached over with his other hand and pulled TJ's arms around him. They held onto the hug for what seemed like forever. Ian felt the warmth of TJ's body as the water evaporated, causing him to shake a little from the evening chill. TJ just held on not wanting to let go, but eventually broke the silence.
"Ian?" TJ pulled back slowly and looked Ian in the eyes. "Ian, I can’t imagine what it was like for you, but please: if you ever want to talk or need anything I'll be there for you. Please promise you'll call me or come see me."
"I will.... I will...and thanks, TJ. You really are awesome. Tonight has been really good for me."
"Me, too. I'm glad you came, and I’m honored that you told me your story."
They began heading back to the dock, with only a bit of small talk as they rowed. They tied off the boat at about 9:15. Ian walked with TJ until they needed to separate. They said their goodbyes, but Ian was still gloomy. As TJ turned to walk toward home, Ian reached for his arm and spun him back around, pulling him close into another strong hug, then gently kissed TJ on the cheek. "Thanks TJ, for everything. And just so you know, I think you're hot, too." He gave him a quick version of his million-dollar smile, released him from his hug, and then started to walk away. "I'll see ya tomorrow, dude. Bye." He kissed his own finger and blew it at TJ as he walked back to Lusiad’s to wait for his ride home.
Thursday afternoon, Ian stopped back at the restaurant and talked to Chris, who offered him a job doing dishes on the weekends. He wouldn't get many hours but he'd pay him well, and even gave him the opportunity to work an afternoon shift during the week once in a while. He gladly accepted. Just being able to work with TJ was pay enough for him, but the money would be nice too. He chatted with TJ for as long as he could before he had to let him get back to work. They called each other every night, and got together as often as they could. They were beginning to form a wonderful relationship.
It had been nearly two weeks since the boys arrived in Baysville.
Thursday night Karl pulled into town.
"Damn, I'm hungry. Don't look like too many places to eat, so this is it. Better be good," he grumbled to himself.
Karl pulled up to Lusiad's and strolled inside, trying not to bring too much attention to himself. He sat at a small table and waited for somebody to come over. He waited for a few minutes, until a kid named TJ walked over and handed him a menu. He noted the kid had a make shift nametag on his shirt.
"Good evening, Sir, can I get you something to drink while you look at the menu?"
"Yeah, bring me a Jack Daniel's with Coke. Make it a double, will ya?"
"Very well, Sir. I'll have one of the bartenders bring it over for you immediately."
Luis came over a minute or two later, with Karl's drink, trying to start some friendly conversation with him. "Haven't seen you around here before. Are you new in town?"
"Just passing through. Looking for someone, and then heading out."
"Really? Well I pretty much know everybody around here, maybe I can help."
"Nope. I do my own looking. I’ll just order my dinner and be on my way."
A little taken back by the guy's response, Luis could only respond with, "Sure, what can I get ya?"
"Just give me a burger with all the fixings and some fries. Easy enough for ya?"
"Yes, sir. You sure there's nothing else I can get ya?"
Finishing his Jack and Coke, he put the glass down, pointing at it, "Yeah, another one of those."
"On it's way." and Luis turned around to tell TJ about the gentleman's order. Well, he didn't seem too much like a gentleman, but whatever.
As soon as the order was prepared TJ brought it out to his table. He set everything out and turned to walk away. "Hey kid, what's with your bartender?"
"Whatdya mean? I'm sorry, I don't understand."
"He a little light in the loafers, ain't he? I can spot that kind a mile away!"
Shocked by the question, TJ just walked away looking back once or twice, slowly turning red with anger.
"TJ, wassup dude?" one of the busboys asked.
"That man just gives me the creeps. I feel like he's just dangerous or something. I dunno, I just have this feeling. He was asking if Luis was 'light in the loafers'. The reason I came here was to get away from assholes like that. I swear I can't win for losing."
"Don't worry about it, he's prolly just passin' through and has no clue about our little town."
"But still, it pisses me off that people are so closed-minded." His voice raised a little, which caught Luis's attention.
"Hmmm.but what can you do?"
"I know, I know."
Luis walked over to TJ, "Please keep it down a little. I don't want you scaring the customers away. Okay?"
"I'm sorry, but I think the Jack and Coke guy doesn't like you very much."
"Why do you say that?"
"Cuz he asked about you being gay, and he wasn't polite about it, either."
"Is that all? Not everybody understands about stuff like that. You gotta understand that we get people like that in here, too."
"I just didn't figure on it so soon. It's been so nice these past two weeks, I felt like I'd escaped the whole idea of hateful people."
"One does get spoiled here."
"Well, don't worry, I'll still be polite."
"Good, I like to hear that."
TJ went to check on his customer, only to find him done and requesting his third Jack and Coke inside of an hour. TJ thought to himself; what would this guy be like if he gets drunk. It looked like he was trying to do just that. In the next half hour, he had a total of six drinks.
He left enough money on the table for his dinner and barely a tip and walked out almost unnoticed. But Luis did his civic duty and called to let Rich know about the possibility that this guy had drunk way too much to drive safely.
Though Luis called the local dispatch center, Rich got the call out almost immediately after. They informed him of the type of vehicle, license plate number, direction of travel and a brief description of the person, so he headed in that direction, too.
Rich looked for the truck but didn't find it. "Wonder who it was? Alberta plates? Don't recognize it. Hmmm, Oh, well, probably staying out at Puerhaven," he thought.
As Rich continued to drive his mind drifted to the boys, "It sure has been nice having them around. They make it feel like a family. I guess they haven't had much of a family and then being dragged off to Can...”
"Wait a minute! That truck was from Canada, and that's where the boys ran from." Rich thought. It didn't hit him until now, and made him mad he hadn’t caught it right away.
"Central, this is Rich, over." Rich called into the dispatcher.
"Rich, I copy. Go ahead."
"I need you to run a plate for me. Will ya?"
"Go ahead with the plate."
"Alberta plates, Echo Romeo Zulu, 3-6-2."
"Rich, you just want me to check NCIC (National Crime Information Center) to see if it's stolen?"
"Negative, I want the registered owner," he came back a little roughly.
"Not at this time of the night, Rich. Canadian plates are only available for stolen checks at this time. You'll have to wait until morning to call them on the phone."
"10-4, check for stolen now, and have the dispatcher in the morning call it in, will ya"
A few minutes went by and the dispatcher called back. "Rich, central."
"NCIC is down; nothing I can do right now. Sorry, over."
"10-4, but make sure to get that checked first thing in the morning. I want to find out who it belongs to, over."
"Copy. Will do, over."
Rich wasted no time on his way up to Bubba's, knowing he'd probably never find the vehicle now, but he needed to make sure the boys were safe. He brought the Bronco to a stop, throwing loose gravel around in Bubba's yard. Bubba, snuggled up on the front porch in his sleeping bag, was awake by the time Rich was halfway up the road. He clearly heard the sound of the roaring motor through the crisp night air as Rich thundered up to the house. Rich screeched to a halt, and got out running toward the porch. Bubba didn't even have time to get out of the sleeping bag.
"What the hell…?" Bubba began.
Rich interrupted, "Where are the boys?"
"Jeez, don't bite my head off. They're in bed sleeping, of course. Why, what's wrong?"
"I hope nothing, but I need to know that they are okay. Listen, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bite your head off. But something has come up. Do you remember what kind of truck Karl had?"
"Karl? Whatever for? Ok, ok, I’m thinking…Um, it was a dark blue or green Ford I think. I really never paid that much attention to tell you the truth. And that means what?" Bubba was more than a little concerned now. "Do you think he’s here?"
"Maybe, but I need to match the description of the truck. Mind if I ask Ian?"
"Can't it wait till morning?"
"No, Bubba, it can't. I'm sorry; I need to know for sure. Just Ian will be fine for now. No need to get Jeremiah alarmed."
"Well, okay, you know where they are. Just don't scare them to death."
Rich walked inside and went upstairs. The construction was almost done on the house for the three bedrooms, but the boys were still sleeping in the loft together. He walked over to the bed and sat by Ian, reached out his hand, and placed it on his shoulder. Ian had become a light sleeper during the Karl years, so he immediately looked up, and their eyes met.
"Rich, what's up?" Ian croaked through his dry sleepy throat. He could tell something was wrong. The sheriff placed a finger on of his lips and motioned for the boy to follow him to the bathroom.
"Okay, now you want to tell me what’s going on in the middle of the night?" Ian whispered.
"Come here and sit down on the toilet. I need to fill in some gaps of information to ease my mind. Now, I've told you I would protect you both and I mean just that. I hear through the grapevine that folks around here actually like you two, but we haven't mentioned much about your history to others. A few people know who you are, where you're staying and basically where you're from. The only people who know the whole story about you are Dr. David and Dr. Lisa. Until your step dad-"
"It's Karl! Don't EVER call him my dad when you talk about him, okay?!" Ian interrupted, a little too loudly.
"I'm sorry Ian, I didn't mean anything by it. But let's not wake Jeremiah."
"Ok, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have yelled. But Dr. Dave wants us to get in touch with our anger…"
"Don't worry about it, okay? But until Karl gets located you might still be in danger. He may not have loved you, but he might still try and find you because he thinks he owns you. It sounds to me like he's crazy as a loon, but smart as a fox. It's not too easy to pull the wool over the eyes of the law, but he’s done it before. Even if it was for a short time."
"I don't care if he gets caught; as long as he leaves us alone. I know he'll rot in hell." Ian said just under a whisper.
"You're probably right, but as long as he's out, you're in danger...Some of the questions I'm gonna ask I should have gone through with you a couple of weeks ago, but never thought it would really be necessary. What kind of vehicle does Karl drive?"
"Well, when we got to Canada," Ian started, " he sold our old pick up truck and got a new one. It was like dark blue or something like that. I really didn't pay that much attention. I really didn't care."
"Do you remember what the license plate was? Was it an Alberta plate, that's where you were, right?"
"Yeah, I think so."
"Okay," Rich said as he was jotting this down in his notepad. "Did he ever use any nicknames or anything like that?"
"Not that I know of."
"Can you give me a description of him?"
"Yeah, he is about 5'11" and 180lbs, black hair with gray in it. He has a scar running from his chin to his collarbone. I gave that to him one night!" Ian said proudly.
"Okay, that's good enough for now. You get back to bed and rest easy." Rich leaned over and kissed him on the forehead, and patted him on the butt as Ian left the bathroom. Rich, lost in thought for a minute, got up and went back downstairs.
"Bubba, I think we may have a problem." Rich said after closing the door behind him. "Luis called and said some guy drove off after drinking too much, driving a truck with Alberta plates. It didn't hit me until I was halfway up here about their step-... Karl. The description fits him to a T."
"You think he tracked them here?" Bubba looked at Rich with one eyebrow cocked up and the other pointing down.
"I swear every time you do that, I think you are half Vulcan. The only people I've ever seen do that with their eyebrows are Spock and Mr. Tuvok."
"Answer me, dammit, you're getting me worried."
"I think it's possible. Luis called me about some strange drunk guy and I tried to find the driver but couldn't. I guess he was long gone by the time I got out that way. I was on the other side of town."
Bubba just sat there, a million things running through his mind. He wondered silently: "What if he knows where they are, or who they're with. What do I do if he shows up here in the middle of the night?"
"Bubba?" Bubba, still deep in thought, didn't hear Rich talking to him. "Bubba? Yoo-hoo, anybody in there?”
"Wha...oh, I'm sorry. Just thinking."
"That was pretty obvious, man. I thought you were gonna go catatonic on me." He smiled at Bubba and continued, “Do you have a gun?"
"What? Oh no, I'm am not gonna have one of those in my house, especially with the boys here."
"Well, use the baseball bat if you need to, ok?"
"That I can do. I was a two time highest hitter in high school. I'm not worried though, if this guy's in town, you'll find him before he finds us. Right?"
Rich got up to leave, and turned to Bubba as he reached for the railing on the stairs, "Sleep with one eye-lid open."
"Yeah, thanks, but I don't think I am gonna get too much sleep tonight." Rich knew the tone of Bubba's voice was both sarcastic and joking at the same time, but he still couldn't help but wonder.
"Night, bro'. I'll stop by first thing in the morning. Do try and sleep tonight."
"Why not stay here with me? Keep me company on the porch, please..." Bubba gave his best puppy dog eyes. "I know the boys would appreciate you staying."
"Yeah, but we definitely wouldn't get any sleep then, would we?"
"Well, at least it wouldn't be a bad thing keeping us awake."
"Okay, let me get the blankets out of the truck, at least we could have some more padding!"
Dr Dave had talked with the boys on several occasions now. He determined they were psychologically healthy under the circumstances. He said they were both strong willed, and that had helped them a lot. It would take time and lots of love, but the healing had already begun. David talked to Bubba about their needs and learned that he and Rich were doing everything possible to provide the boys with anything they needed.
Saturday morning the boys were awake at 9 a.m. They had told Bubba they wanted to go down to the park to play catch, walk around town, and maybe hit the arcade while Bubba was out attending to some business. Rich had to work today to cover an open shift, because one of the other officers had called in sick. Rich just figured he'd cover it himself since he wanted to stay on top of the Karl situation anyhow.
Bubba thought at first that he should keep them close to home, but remembered what Dr. Dave had said about encouraging normal activities, so he handed them a twenty dollar bill each when he dropped them off at the park. "Don't spend it all on video games will ya. Eat lunch, too. I'll pick you up on the corner over by the arcade at about 2:30, all right?"
"Sure, Bubba. Thanks." Jeremiah seemed happy about being out on the town with just his big brother.
"Ditto," Ian echoed. They ran off and played catch for about 45 minutes and then ran over to the Burger Barn opposite the arcade. They both ordered burgers, fries, and cokes, and sat down at a table.
"You know, I'm really not that hungry." Ian remarked.
"Why not?" Jeremiah was a little surprised.
"I just had a thought about Mom. Today is so nice, and she would have really had a good time with us here. I just miss her. And I wish I could show her our new life, ya know?"
Jeremiah nodded his understanding, and said, "So much has happened these past two weeks, I feel so much better. But then I forget Mom sometimes, and then I feel bad."
"Me too, it's like a nightmare and a dream come true at the same time. I mean, we lose our Mom, but find a whole new family. I've never been so sad and happy at the same time. We never even got a chance to say good-bye to her. Fucking Karl.... I hate him so much, I'd like to kill that sonofabitch."
"Well, now's your chance, pretty boy!" Ian never saw Karl coming up behind Jeremiah. Jeremiah didn't turn as the hand fell on his shoulder. All he could do was stiffen up in frozen terror. He knew that voice very well. Ian's eyes grew as big as saucers, and he had started to get up when Karl spoke again. This time his tone was low and full of venom.
"I never thought I'd find you so quickly, so you better not make a sound or any funny moves or little brother gets his neck twisted off. You get me?"
All Ian could do was nod his head as he collapsed back onto the picnic table bench. Karl sat down and picked up a few fries with his spare hand.
"Thanks for the lunch boys, I was beginning to get hungry. Now, move slowly to the truck, and get in. Remember what I said."
They slowly got up, and Ian could see the shock freezing Jeremiah's face. Ian felt a lump in his throat, and the bottom fell out of his stomach. His back muscles began to stiffen and hurt. He felt he was going to lose the lunch he never ate. The taste of bile filled his throat, but he kept it down. His breathing was three times faster than normal, and he felt like his chest was going to burst. "How did he find us?" was the second thought going through his mind. The first was "What's he gonna do to us now?"
That morning Rich checked in with the dispatcher to see if she had gotten anything further from Canada. Canadian authorities said the vehicle had been issued to a Martin Frewell, and that everything was in order. Rich breathed a sigh of relief and figured that it was all just his imagination. "Whew, okay! I guess I was chasing ghosts." He called Bubba and told him the news, and Bubba also breathed sigh of relief.
Rich began his morning rounds in the Bronco with nothing exciting happening. "I swear," he thought, "I wish I was someplace with a little more action than here, but then again, I'm safe, the town's safe, and nobody causes me too much paperwork."
Rich then went back to the office for a while to check the computer printouts for the day, and to make sure the shift schedule was ready for next month. After he finished, he decided to go back out to fill the Bronco up with gas and run a few errands.
The boys never noticed Dr. O'Connor as she finished a house call and ambled slowly back toward her office. But she saw what was happening. She was on her cell phone to dispatch before they even finished getting in the truck. She didn't recognize the man, nor hear what was said. But she could tell that something was very wrong. She told dispatch to get somebody over to the Burger Shack quick, giving a description of the truck and driver.
Rich heard the chatter on the radio, but was kind of daydreaming, when he heard the words, "possible kidnapping." That snapped him back to reality. He picked up the mike on the radio. "Central, Rich. 10-9!"
"Rich, Central, Have a report of a possible kidnapping in progress at the corner, Burger Shack opposite the Ball Park. Dr. O'Connor called in and said she noticed a man picking up two juvenile males. She said you would know the boys."
Rich sat dumbfounded for about two second with a thousand thoughts in his brain at once. First thought: "Okay where am I?" Then: "Which way is the easiest to get there? What if he has a gun? What if he's hurt the boys? What's my first action?" The thoughts kept rapid firing through his brain, but in about the space of two seconds they were all answered in his head and action plans formed. Rich hit the emergency lights on the Bronco and pushed the accelerator to the floor. He felt the vehicle lurch forward and take off, pushing him back into the seat. He decided not to turn on the siren unless he really needed it. He wanted to avoid being detected until he had the advantage. Heads turned as he drove past, looking like a madman. Being only a few blocks away, he really didn't need to turn on his "jukebox" anyhow.
Karl got into the truck now that the boys were in. He put the key in the ignition and started the engine. He turned around to see what was behind him as he put the truck in reverse. He slowly tapped the accelerator, and backed out. He turned again as he put the truck in drive, and headed out of the parking lot. "Well, I guess we're heading back home. I'm sure you'll be happy to get back, right?" That false cheerfulness always meant trouble coming soon. The boys knew that and shuddered.
Nothing but silence came from the boys. Karl was expecting one of them to say something, but they just stared out of the front window. "I asked you a question, boy!" he screamed as he brought the back of his hand straight up, popping Ian's lip hard. It began to bleed immediately. Ian grabbed his mouth and looked at Karl with all the hatred he could muster.
Rich was pulling up to the back of the Burger Barn while Karl was pulling out the front parking area. He'd slowed down quite a bit, so as not to cause an accident. He turned off the red, white and blue lights on top of the Bronco, and crept around the side as the truck was pulling out of the parking lot.
"Shit!!!" Rich muttered. He recognized the truck from the airfield where he and Bubba "picked up" the boys. He knew it was Karl. It was the same truck from Lusiad's, too. His fears had been justified after all.
"Central, Rich. I have the vehicle in sight. Notify any other available units the subject is possibly armed and dangerous. Notify the highway patrol, he may be heading out of Baysville on Route 7. I'm now in pursuit!"
He flipped the lights back on and he cranked up his jukebox. Most folks around town hadn't heard a siren in a while. Stuff like this never happened in Baysville. So when people heard a siren, they generally came out of the woodwork to see what was happening. This time was no exception.
Karl heard the siren and looked in the rear view window. "Fuck! What'd you do? You fucking pukes rat me out?" Karl too, put his foot in the carpet. The tires smoked as he turned the corner and speeded up to avoid capture. Karl's attention turned from the boys to his driving. He wasn't gonna go down without a fight.
"Central, target vehicle has turned north on Main Street. It looks like he's heading outta town."
The chase was on in earnest. Rich's Bronco had a huge engine that was especially designed for law enforcement vehicles, and with the special suspension package it could handle the curves better than Karl's truck. Rich was stuck on him like white on rice. He was not about to let them go. The boys depended on him to save them. Rich was bent on being the savior of the day, while Karl was hell bent on destruction.
The chase went on for what seemed like an eternity, but at these breakneck speeds only took a few minutes. As they neared the county line Rich pulled up beside the truck enough to swerve in and hit the back corner panel. He nudged the Bronco over just enough to tap the back corner of the truck. Once he felt the contact he pulled hard to the right, pushing the truck into a spin and causing it to run off the road.
He put the Bronco into park as fast as he could and jumped out, drawing his duty weapon as fast as his training would allow. His aim was right on the back of Karl's head. But Karl moved fast himself, opening the door and dragging a small half-conscious Jeremiah out of the truck with him, knife to his throat.
"I'll kill him, I swear to God!!!" Karl was screaming like a madman.
Rich tried to keep his own voice calm. "Drop the knife and let the boy go."
"Come on boy, you want me and I know it, you fucking pig cop!!!"
"Damn right, and if you don't drop the knife and let him go, I'm gonna make your birth certificate a worthless document."
Rich, trying to remain calm, talked as softly as possible but at the same time loud enough to let Karl hear him. He tried to get him calmed down, so he could reason with him. Rich had no desire to shoot him, whatever he said. He never really wanted to kill another man.
"I tell you what, I'll put my gun away, then you put the knife away." He lowered the gun to a low ready position and slowly moved the gun towards the holster. Karl got a little edgy but took a deep breath as he saw Rich snap the strap across the weapon. Rich stepped closer and was now within about 15 feet of Karl and Jeremiah.
"Let the boys go, then get back in the truck and go. I don't want to see anybody hurt here, okay?"
"They're my boys. I own them!!!" Karl looked like a totally crazed madman. Rich was even more on edge himself as he got closer to this maniac.
Rich was easily in harm's way, but trusted his instincts and training to get him through this. Karl's actions were faster that Rich had expected though, catching him off guard. Jeremiah was thrown to the ground and Karl lunged at Rich with the knife, catching him across the forearm. It opened a gash that bled immediately, but Rich spun in the opposite direction, pushing Karl away while bringing up his collapsible baton. It flashed open in a split instant and as Rich continued his spin he brought it down like a samurai sword across the back of the knife-welding wrist. Karl dropped the knife yelping in pain, as the bones in the wrist shattered.
Karl turned to reach for Rich, but another quick spin allowed Rich to bring his elbow up along the side of Karl's head, dropping him like a sack of flour. As Karl tried to get up, he fell back onto his face, smacking his forehead on the ground. Rich reached down, grabbing Karl's good hand, twisting it behind his prisoner's back, and trying to inflict as much pain as possible. Karl nearly passed out from the pain as Rich jerked his other hand behind his back, grinding the broken bones in his wrist.
Once Karl was handcuffed, Rich reached up to his shoulder epaulet to his radio mike to notify the dispatcher that the high-speed chase was over with one in custody. Rich, nearly exhausted by the physical and mental testing he'd just passed, walked over to Jeremiah, whose whole body was shaking as he cowered by the side of the truck. He was already deep into a shock reaction. He leant over the boy and tried to pick him up, without success. Jeremiah's legs were like Jell-O. He pulled him up to the seat of the truck and sat him there. Rich then looked inside and for the first time saw Ian crumpled on the floorboards. Rich could see an angry bump already forming on his forehead.
"Central, Rich, roll medical. I want them here fast! I'm just by the county line heading toward Green Valley." Rich had completely forgotten that the gash on his own arm was bleeding steadily.
Rich left Karl face down and moaning in the grass on the side of the road. The two ambulances arrived within a few minutes of each other, and their crews treated Ian and Jeremiah first on Rich's orders. The crew efficiently had the boys packaged up quickly and off to the hospital. Karl was going to the hospital in the Bronco, so the second ambulance was released. Another one of Rich's officers showed up seconds after Karl was cuffed, so Rich assigned him to clean up the scene. He'd heard Rich's siren and although he was still dressed in jeans and a tee shirt, had tried to follow what was happening on the radio while catching up with Rich.
The highway patrol eventually showed up, but not until the scene was completely under control. Rich was slightly perturbed by their tardiness, so sent them away with the barest of polite thank yous.
Karl swore at Rich most of the way to the hospital, but the Sheriff quickly tired of his guff and reached across as hard as he could punching him in the side of the head. Karl was immediately quiet, mainly due to the fact that he was unconscious. He got Karl checked in at the hospital, and called one of his off duty officers over to keep Karl under lock and key, until he could be treated and taken back to the jail.
Ian was still under close supervision by the doctors and stayed in Intensive Care that whole night, while Jeremiah was placed in a private room under the watchful care of a private duty male nurse who was experienced in caring for traumatic injuries. Although Jeremiah wasn't hurt physically he was still suffering badly from the wave of adrenalin-induced terror that had washed through his thin frame. Ian finally woke up around 1 a.m. the next morning to find Rich sleeping in the chair next to his bed. He noticed the bandage around Rich's arm, and wondered what had happened. His last conscious thought was of racing down the road with Rich behind them and then everything started to spin. He couldn't remember anything else after that. He then realized his head hurt and that he was in the hospital, and rather than wake Rich, he pushed the nurse's call button on the side of his bed. It seemed weird after all the horrible things that had happened, but Ian had to pee. Really bad.