Castle Roland

Trials and Tribulations

by Billy

In Progress

Chapter 20

Posted: N/A

Trials and Tribulations

By Billy

Foggy Days

When he reached the top of the hill, which took a lot longer than he had thought it would, JT realized he was a long ways from home. Pine Hills was already a good ways from anywhere, now he was truly in the middle of nowhere.

He decided to try and find shelter for the night and begin his journey at sun rise, the next morning. He took a north-eastern direction and stayed as near to the top of the ridge as the terrain allowed. After hiking for about thirty minutes, he caught a whiff of an unmistakable odor: brewing moonshine.

JT was exhausted and scared, but being born and raised in Eastern Kentucky he knew that there was nothing more dangerous than walking up on someone's moonshine still, except maybe walking into someone's marijuana patch. He froze for a moment: Maybe this still and the cave he had been tied up in were somehow related. He figured if the revenuers or the sheriff came looking for the owner they would need a place to hide and that cave was perfect. He figured since the cave wasn't at still, but on the other side of the hill, so far away that the law wouldn't go looking there for them there. This might be a way to find out who had killed his pa.

JT turned and headed back to the top of the ridge, directly above the cave. Growing up in the mountains, he had done a lot of hunting and stalking. His dad had taught him how to leave signs, and he left one where he had first smelled the still and then left a mark on the hill above the cave. But now, he was right back where he started and the sun was quickly setting, leaving him with less than thirty minutes to find shelter for the night.

He carefully made his way down the north-side of the hill. He had to be careful, because the hill was steep in places. The last thing he needed was a twisted ankle, but his slow decent cut into the precious little daylight he had left.

It was difficult maneuvering over the steep slopes and more than once he nearly fell. He became a little over confident and while trying to get around a rock on a slick grassy spot he fell back onto his butt and slide quickly down the hill, barely missing rocks and trees on his way. It was only by sheer luck that he finally came to a stop against a fallen white oak. Carefully he checked himself for new injuries, but was grateful to find all he had hurt was his pride. When his nerves calmed down he stood up and examined the tree that had stopped his crazy slide down the slope. It had been a huge tree and the roots had been pulled up and out of the ground, probably during a storm earlier in the year. On the right side of the tree there was a small overhang that would make a perfect shelter for the night. Exhausted, he climbed over into his makeshift shelter and quickly passed out as the sun set.

He awoke to a damp, foggy, morning, and the ramblings of his empty stomach. It had been at least a day or two since he had anything to eat or drink, so with no other choices he cautiously started down the hill hoping to find berries along the way to eat or a creek with water to drink.

Closer to the bottom of the hill, the trees became less dense, the underbrush thicker, and the danger for copperheads greater. He took his time to watch where he stepped, because he knew that copperheads didn't warn you like rattlesnakes. Intent in watching his footsteps as he moved through the dense fog, JT almost didn't see the small creek before he stepped in it.

He said a little prayer as he knelt down to the stream before him. He cleared the water of leaves and scooped up a handful of water. The cool water was the best tasting thing he could get past his chapped lips. He didn't realize how dry his mouth and throat had been till he had taken the time to satisfy his thirst. It was the small things he was grateful for and looking down at his torn and bloodied pants made him shake with both anger and fear. Eventually he regained control and stood up to survey his surroundings. He noticed there was a road just a short way up the bank on the other side of the creek. A road meant people, and he realized he might yet find help.

Not knowing the road he was now on, he started walking, in what he hoped was the direction heading towards Pine Hills. The shoulder of the road was covered in coal dust, leaving him to think of the many mines in the area. Anyone growing up near here knew all about the coal mine industry, which kept so many people employed. If this was a road to one of the many mines in the county, it would be well traveled, but it also meant the drivers of the coal trucks would be attempting to make as many runs as they could, since they were paid by the number of loads they made in a day. It wasn't normally safe to be on the side of the road, never mind with the fog still in the air. Alerted to the danger, he listened for any sound that could be an approaching coal truck. He had seen too many cars destroyed by coal trucks to risk one running him over. The fog had at least lifted some, but not much over his head.

He trudged along the side of the road. It felt like hours, but was probably closer to a half hour when the sun finally broke through the fog. It was like leaving a misty cloak behind as the sun warmed up the air and the bright light woke up the birds and animals. It was a sign of a new day, with the dark past turned to smoke and blown away.

Shaken from his thoughts, he heard the roar a loud diesel engine, as it was up-shifted through it's gears. Happy that the truck was headed towards Pill Hills, he quickly stepped away from the blacktop to not be hit, yet be seen, and stood waiting for the truck. When the truck appeared around the curve, he waved his arms to get the driver's attention, hoping they would stop and give him a ride a little closer to Pine Hills. But instead of slowing down and stopping, the truck seemed to speed up and blew by, creating a mini-tornado of coal dust that swirled around him leaving his lungs full of coal dust and temporarily blinded.

As usual, Dan was one of the first drivers at the mine this morning. Only Jack Rayburn had been inline ahead of him to be loaded. That was fine by him. Jack was a reackless driver and Dan preferred Jack ahead of him plowing the roads clear than pushing him from behind to drive faster than was safe. Just as he rounded a curve, he saw a boy on the side of the road, bent over and violently coughing. The way boy was waving his arms at him made Dan believe he in need of some help. Even though it was against company policy, Dan didn't give a shit; he own his truck and no company man was going to tell him what he could and couldn't do with his property. This was still American as far as he was concerned, besides this boy looked about the same age as his own boy. He hoped someone would stop and help his son if he was hurt.

Without giving it another thought, he hit his air horn and down-shifted while pumping the air brakes to a stop. He turned on his flashers and pulled the park brake. The air releasing from the brakes threw the dust from under the large coal truck into the kid's face as he ran up to it.

He watched as the boy climbed up on the passager side and opened the door. "Hey mister, thanks for stopping."

"You're welcome kid. What wrong?" Dan looked at the kid, sized him up, and then spit some Red Man chewing tobacco into a Mountain Dew bottle.

"Sir, my dad was killed, I was kidnapped, and tied up for a few days, I think. I'm not sure how long I was tied up, 'cause I was blindfolded, too." JT stood on the running board and looked down at the passenger seat. It appeared to Dan that the past few days had been traumatic for the boy and his emotions were raw. He watched the boy's body tremble, tears ran down his coal blackened face, leaving streaks where they washed away the dust. "Mister, I really need to get as close to Pine Hills as I can. I really don't know where I am."

"Climb in, son." Dan reached for his CB mic, but kept an eye on JT as he climbed into the cab of his truck. He had been driving coal trucks for nearly twenty years, and always stopped when he felt someone needed help. From the looks of this kid's torn, blood covered clothes and his emotional state, he needed help. A lot of drivers wouldn't stop if they ran upon a car wreck involving their own mother, but not Dan. He was proud that he put human life above that of the all mighty dollar.

"Now buckle-up. I'll get us some help on the CB radio to meet us somewhere."

JT nodded. "Thank you, Sir."

Dan keyed his radio mic, "Breaker breaker one nine, Hey Rocky Top, this is Ridge Runner, got yur ears on?" After a few seconds of static, Dan repeated his message.

"Keep your pants on Ridge Runner, this old hillbilly needed a cup of joe before yakkin with the likes of you, come on."

"Understand Rocky Top, but I got a no bullshit situation here. Over."

A more serious and business like voice replied, "10-4 Ridge Runner, what can I do for you? Over."

Dan turned to JT, "How old are you, son?"

"Fifteen, Sir."

Bringing the mic back to his mouth, "Rocky Top, I have a fifteen-year old boy sitting next to me, who says his pa has been murdered, and that he has escaped from being kidnapped himself. Can you call the sheriff's office or the atate police and have them send someone to meet him at the Quick Stop, in Ison? Over"

"10-4 Ridge Runner, stand-by, over."

"Hey Rocky Top, let them know my ETA to Ison is fifteen to twenty mintues, over."

"10-4 Ridge Runner, copy loud and clear. Estimated Time of Arrive - fifteen to twenty minutes to Quick Stop, in Ison, over."

Dan placed the mic back in it's holder and laid his hand on JT's shoulder. "It's going to be okay, son. I'll get you to the law and they can take care of you."

JT nodded, not trusting his voice.

"Ridge Runner, the state boys wants to know if the kid has been injuried, over."

Dan looked at JT, "Well, son. Have you?"

"Yes Sir. Someone hit me on the back of the head and knocked me out."

"That's a roger, Rocky Top. Someone knocked the kid out with a hit to the back of the head."

After twenty seconds of static, "Copy, Ridge Runner, they say the whole shooting match will be there waiting or be there shortly after you arrive. They also wanted me to tell you they want you to stay there as well. They have some questions for you, too."

"Damnit," Dan swore to himself, before answering. "10-4 Rocky Top, Ridge Runner out."

JT sat numbly scarcely hearing the things Dan said. He only turned his head when he heard Dan mutter, "Dammit."

Once they arrived at the Quick Stop, he barely registered all the vehicles at the store. He heard the police state they needed to talk to Dan, as he was whisked into an ambulance and taken to the hospital. After the EMT had him secured on the gurney and measured his vitals, he reflected on the little time spent with the truck driver. Although JT didn't even know the man's name, nor could he tell anyone what all the driver had said, just from the man's personality and the tone he used, he felt the guy had a kind soul and would never forget him.

He didn't realize that State Police Detective Bradley Jones was following the ambulance and that he had been taken into protective custody until Jones could discover all the facts and identify the persons of interest in this case.

Detective Fleming, who conducted the interview with Dan, the same detective that Judge Collins had dismissed from Joey's case at the hospital a couple of weeks before, headed to JT's house to investigate the boy's claims of murder and kidnapping, along with several Letcher County sheriff deputies.

When they arrived at the McCray's residence, two deputies entered through the back of the house while the other deputy followed Detective Fleming to the front door, which they found wide open. The detective stopped the deputy from entering and had him radio the other two to hold their position and to stop anyone from escaping. The detective pulled out his cell phone to call headquarters and have a crime scene unit sent to the home, but didn't have a signal.

"Wait here," he told the deputy and walked inside to use the McCray's phone.

The first thing he saw were bloody footprints that led to the corpse of a male, approximately forty-five to fifty-five years old lying in a pool of blood. He drew his weapon. Something in his periphery vision caught his attention, and when he turned to his right he almost lost his breakfast. In front of the fire place laid the body of a woman.

Her servered head on top of the mantle. Her eyes opened in a silent scream.

He quickly, but carefully made his way to the phone on a table by the stairs. He called headquarters and advised them of the double homicide. Most law enforcement officers had been taught that most murders are committed by someone the victims know, so he also asked them to call Detective Jones and let him know that the kid he was with was a possible suspect. He also requested that the State Crime Scene Unit roll to his location ASAP. He was told to stand-by the McCay's phone and wait for further instructions.

Before hanging-up he said, "Wait, I haven't done a search of the house yet, for more victims or perpetrators." He was told to carefully do a search, and not to desturb any evidence. Then rope off the crime scene.

As Detective Fleming walked by the deputy, he told him to hold his position, and went to the car to put on his vest. The serach didn't turn up either more victims or perps, and after they roped off the crime scene, all that was left to do was to wait for the crime scene unit.

There was an unusual lull that morning which left the waiting room nearly empty, so when the ambulance arrived, JT was rolled into the first available examination room. A nurse took notes as she copied the vitals taken from the EMT. Into the chaos Detective Jones soon followed, staying just out of the medical personnel's way, and waited by the door. A doctor came in moments later, checked the notes on the chart and began doing his own exam.

"Hi JT. I'm Doctor Gibson. I just need to you to follow this light for a moment."

JT followed the doctor's requests. He was tired, hungry, and thirsty. Most of all he felt totally worn out.

"His eyes are dilated. Not sure if it is from a concussion or a side effect of his dehydration. I want him taken immediately for a cat scan of his head." Doctor Gibson checked over the bruises on JT's chest. "I want an x-ray of his ribs as well. I don't like that bruising and want to make sure nothing is broken."

JT sat in silence just trying to keep himself from falling apart. The doctors and nurses seemed to be nice, but he was alone and wanted someone to comfort him. He knew if his father had been alive and he had said that, he would have been beaten. He rolled onto his side and closed his eyes for a moment when he heard someone cough. He opened his eyes to see a cop walk up to Doctor Gibson.

"Just a moment, Doctor." Detective Jones held his hand out, preventing an ordely from entering the room with a wheel chair for JT. "Can't you have a mobile unit brought in here the x-rays?"

Doctor Gibson looked at JT and then back to the detective. "Sure, but why wouldn't we send him down to have them run? Besides, it's impossible to have a cat scan administered in here. He'll have to be taken to the radiology department."

Relenting, Detective Jones walked up to JT after he was seated in the wheel chair, "I'm sorry, son, but I have to detain you until we can sort out everything. Lets call it protective custody" Then the detective cuffed JT's left wrist to the arm rest.

"What? You think I killed my pa?" he exclaimed, shocked at the turn of events. "Have... Have you contacted my ma, yet? Tell her I'm here at the hospital, and I'm scared." The emotional dam he had been holding in check since the cave was beginning to crumble.

That one request and the way it had been asked convinced the detective more than the whole story the boy had told them so far, that this kid was no murderer and had nothing to do with it.

"Son, besides your mother, is their anyone we can call, a lawyer, a pastor?" the detective asked. In the background the doctor called the radiology department.

"No, Sir." JT said. "Wait a second... there's Joey Adams."

"The kid that's living with the Banks'?"

"Yes, Sir, Roger Banks and his family."

"Sit tight and don't try to go anywhere without me. For the time being, wherever you go, I have to accompany you. Are we clear?"

In answer, JT raised his left arm and the cuffs clanged againt the arm rest and could feel the crooked smile on his face. As he looked up at Detective Jones he watched the man smile in return, nod, and for a moment he thought the detective was going to speak. Instead he waved to the doctor, pulled out his cell, and left the room. JT relaxed, grateful in the knowledge that someone was being called to help him.

"Leukemia? Oh my God." Joey faintly whispered and squeezed my hand tighter.

I was at a lost for words. I tied to remember if leukemia was cancer or not, but at that moment, not much was happening in my head. It was like my brain had completely shut down. I sat there and stared at dad.

I heard what Joey had said, but it didn't really register or have any meaning. It was kinda like listening to one of Miss Lewis' boring lectures, where you sit in her class on a warm spring day, daydreaming about being outside having fun, you hear it, but you don't.

'Damn. Leukemia?' For a moment the whole world just didn't make sense. I was bruising and out of breath, but what did that mean? Then my brain kicked in long enough for me to realize something. Leukemia is cancer. What did I do to deserve cancer? My mind repeated it until I wanted to stand up and scream.

The next thing I knew, my gaze fell on Joey's tear-streaked face. I didn't know what to expect, but what I saw was chiseled determination and his eyes were full of love and devotion. I squeezed his hand and smiled.

He might have been my boyfriend, but there was someone else I had counted on for so long and I knew I would need the love and support of Roger too. It hurt to see the amount of love he had in his eyes. I had hoped for his friendship and support, but what I found was so much more. Roger was more than my best friend, he had become a brother and my confident. There was no one in the world I trusted more than the two guys who now sat squeezing my hands. Roger and Joey were my friends, my support team, and my fellow musketeers. With them at my side I was ready to face whatever else life had in store for me.

I turned to my dad, a great sigh escaped from me, like air being released from a huge hot-air ballon and I took a deep breath to refill my lungs.

As my eyes held my father's, a calmness eveloped me. "What exactly is leukemia and how do I beat it?"

Dad squeezed our hands and smiled. Though tears were flowing from him like the rest of us, you could never tell it from his voice. It possessed a quality I had never heard before, calm and controlled, but still laced with so much concern. It allowed me to slowly accept the painful information he would tell us.

Dad spent the next two hours explaining what leukemia is, what it can do to a person's body, and the methods used to beat it. He answered every question either of us had, as best he could, given his new knowledge on the subject. It seems Dad had spent quite some time Friday afternoon on the phone with Doctor Karthik, having all his questions answered.

I had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

It's a cancer of the white blood cells. Seems my little white blood cells are continuously multiliplying immaturely and are overproduced in my bone marrow. ALL causes damage and death by crowding out normal cells in the bone marrow, and by spreading to other organs. ALL is most common in children between the ages of two to five, and peaks again in old age. Lucky me to beat the statistics.

This week I would have a bone marrow biopsy taken from my hip bone. If it showed conclusive proof of ALL, then I would have a lumbar puncture (a spinal tap) to tell if my spinal column or brain have been invaded by those stupid little immature white blood cells. I had always thought that white blood ceels were the good guys, protecting you from viruses, inflections, and other bad stuff, but mine appeared to be trying to kill me.

If I did indeed have ALL, the game plan would be to have chemotherapy in three phases. The first phase was called remission induction where they would try and kill most of the bad cells rapidly until there were less than 5% of those little bugger left in my bone marrow. Then came the consolidation or intensification phase. That's when they would use high doses of chemotherapy to make sure they killed as many as they could of the bad cells left. The last phase was called maintenance therapy. The goal would be to kill any residual cell that wasn't killed by the first two phases. By this time the bad cells are few, but they would cause a relapse if not taken out.

Dad explained that with chemotherapy I would have to be careful around sick people, because the chemo would weaken my immune system, which can result in potentially fatal infections. I would also most likely lose my hair.

And then he dropped the bomb, "Andy, I'm afriad you're done with baseball or any sport for the foreseeable future."

"What!? No fuc... I mean, no way! You KNOW how much I love playing." I was in tears again. I could understand everything else I had been told and accepted it as part of getting better, but no baseball was like ripping my heart out.

"Listen to me, Andy. It's too dangerous. The chemotherapy will be physically exhausting and leave you with the tendency to bleed easily. You will most likely be nauseated and vomiting after the treatments, which can cause diarrhea or constipation, and if you don't eat or drink enough, it could result in malnutrition and dehydration. You'll probably will have rapid weight loss as well, in the beginning."

I sat there feeling numb as Dad explained how my life was going to change so much. I wanted to fight for something, something that would keep me normal. I glared in defiance but one look at him and the anger died.

Dad squeezed my hands. "Son, your life is worth so much more than the game of baseball. Once all this is over and you're back to 100%, I'll spend every dime I have to make sure you can play as much baseball as your heart desires, but our first priority here, YOUR first priority, must be your health."

This was a lot for my fifteen-year old mind to take in. I made a mental check-list of everything I had to deal with to beat this cancer. Bone marrow biopsy, check, I could handle that. Spinal tap, check, although I sensed that would be pretty painful, I figured I might be able to handle that too. Three to four years of chemotherapy, check, even if it was going to make me as sick as I've ever been, I knew without a doubt being sick for a couple of years was better than dying. Hair loss, check, maybe I could start a new trend at school. No baseball, that cuts me to the quick, but as emotionally painful as not playing baseball for a couple of years, Dad was right. My first priority had to be my health, so in the end, I checked off baseball, too. However, maybe there was a way.

"Dad," I began. "We haven't discussed school, yet. Will I be able to continue?"

"Yes, as often as you feel like it. I'll make all the arrangements necessary with your principle for you to continue your school work, even if you have to miss a few days, here and there." Dad's face and tone of voice showed he knew I had come to terms with everything, and I had.

"Okay, I offer a compromise on baseball. As you said, playing could be too dangerous, but what if I just helped the guys and the coach, so I could still be a part of the team." I had an idea and I wanted to get it all out before anyone could interrrupt me. "I don't mean to do anything at all physical. Maybe coach one of the bases during the games or just keep the score book. I want, no, I need to be in the game in one way or another."

Dad smiled and nodded, as he sat back in his chair. It appeared as if a great weight had been removed from his shoulders. "We'll talk to your doctors and coach. If, and I mean IF, they all agree, I won't prevent you from staying an inactive team member. And that, my boy, means no running, throwing, or batting until your doctors have released you from your physical restrictions. Agreed?"

With a smile so huge it almost hurt, I let go of Joey's and Roger's hands, stood, and wrapped my arms around dad in a warm embrace. "Okay. If you let me, I'll beat this cancer on my terms, not it's."

Dad nodded his head.

Judge Samuel A. Collins sat in his office after the three boys had left the room. He opened the bottom drawer of his desk and took out a hidden bottle of Jack Daniels, poured a double shot, and gulped it down. He had just placed the bottle back in the drawer when the phone rang.

"Collins residence."

"Sam, this is Steve."

"Hello Steve, what can I do for you? Joey and Roger are over here if you're looking for them."

"No Sam, Roger told Alice they would be with Andy this afternoon. The reason I called is, a Detective Jones has been trying to find you and wants to talk to both you and Joey about a kid named JT. It appears the kid is in some kind of a bad situation. He wouldn't explain more than that. And to be honest with you, I'm not comfortable with him talking to Joey alone for whatever reason."

"It's my fault he couldn't get ahold of me today, Steve. I've had my phone turned off."

"That's not like you, Sam." There was a pause and when Steve spoke again his voice was soft, filled with concern. "What's wrong?"

Sam took a deep breath.

"Andy has leukemia." Sam could hear the sudden intake of breath on the other end of the line. "I've been trying to wrap my mind around the whole thing and I needed time to figure out how to tell the boys. I sat them down when they came home from school today."

"How did it go?"

"Surprisingly well, to be honest. But then again it shouldn't surprise me. Andy, well, all three of them are bright boys. They peppered me with intelligent questions and showed remarkable maturity. The only thing Andy refused to do was to give up baseball altogether. I compromised and said he could help the team , but not as a player."

Steve felt a bit odd, and then there was a muffled laugh. He knew Sam was thinking of his son fighting to stay with the team. It gave him a chance to breathe as he realized Andy was going to fight.

"Well, Sam, you know Alice and I will do all we can to help both Andy and yourself."

"Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You and Alice were there for us when Ellen died. I'll never be able to repay you for all you two have done."

"Sam, both you and Andy repay us everyday with you love and frienship. We're family, Sam. It's what families do."

Sam sat thinking of his wife and now his son. It would be so easy to get lost in his own thoughts, but he realized Steve had called because someone needed him.

"Okay, let me call Detective Jones and find out what this is about. I'll call you back as soon as I know why he wants to talk to Joey. Are you at home or still at work?"

"I just got in a few minutes ago and saw the message on the answering machine. I called him back and told him I would either call you or walk over to your house. He remembered me and Joey from the hospital, and that you and I are good friends."

"All right then, I'll called you as soon as I learn what the gentleman wants."

"I'll talk to you then, Sam. Good-bye."

"Bye." Sam sat for a moment, collecting himself. He reached for his briefcase to grab his book where he kept the numbers for various people he needed to keep in contact with for work. However before Judge Collins could look up the detective's number, the phone rang again.

"Hello, Collins residents."

"Judge Collins?"

"Yes, it is, may I help you?"

"Yes, Sir. This is Detective Jones of the State Police."

"Detective, good of you to call. You saved me from having to look up your phone number. What can I do for you?"

"Well Sir, James McCray and his wife have been murdered."

"Dear God, when did this happen?"

"The coroner hasn't seen the bodies yet, but from our initial investigation and the state of rigor mortis, greater than twelve hours, probably Friday night sometime."

"God. What do you need detective? Are you calling to have me sign a search warrant?" Judge Collins picked up a pad and began to write down the information the detective had given him. It was an automatic habit. If there was a warrant or some other piece of law the detective needed, the more information he had the better it would be.

"No, Sir. I'm calling in regards to the McCray's son, JT. His account of the events are, when he arrived home from the football game late Friday night, the electricity was off, and after entering the living room, he stumbled and fell over his father's body. Then he was knocked unconscious, kidnapped, and held tied and blindfolded until Sunday afternoon in a cave. A truck driver found him this morning on Black Thunder Road, near Defeated Creek," he paused. "Sir, the boy doesn't appear to know that his mother has been murdered as well. I'm inclined to believe him, but so far, he is the only suspect, at this time, at least until he's cleared. When I asked him if there were anyone he wanted me to call that could possiblely be of some help, the only name he gave me was Joey Adams."

Judge Collins was surprised to hear JT had given Joey's name. He knew the boys had settled their disagreement, but he had told them to keep their distance from the McCray family. Why would JT be giving Joey's name as someone to offer help?

There was a sharp intake of breath on the other end of the line and the Judge realized Detective Jones had something more to say. "Your Honor," he began, his voice low but steady. "The information I'm getting from Detective Fleming is that he's going to push the State Attorney's Office to have the boy charged with a double homicide, by tomorrow afternoon. I can't speak to the evidence found at the scene, since I haven't been there, but Judge, I don't believe this boy is responsible. As of right now the boy has been taken into protective custody, mainly as a material witness, but that can change at any moment. The boy doesn't have legal counsel. Nor do I have a reason to believe he can afford any. Sir, I hope I'm not over-stepping here, but when he asked for the Adams boy, and knowing the relationship of your two families, well, I thought I should call you."

"Detective Jones, seeking the truth is never the wrong thing, nor is protecting the innocent," Judge Collins paused trying to figure out exactly what Jones was asking for. Sometimes the best way to get an answer was to ask a direct question. "Are you formally requesting Joey Adams to come to the hospital and answer questions?"

"No, Sir, not at all. I'm only informing a friend of JT's that his parents have been murdered and that JT has been admitted to the hospital for observation, due to a possible concussion. And that JT's friends are welcomed, at this time, to come and visit."

"Thank you, Detective Jones, and God bless you, son."

"You're welcome, sir. I hope you have a good evening."

There was a soft click as Detective Jones hung up. Judge Collins sat back and reread his notes. Today was not shaping up to be a good day at all. He wanted this to pass, but his conscious wouldn't let him. Determining the best of course of action would be to get to the truth of the relationship between JT and the boys. He walked to the foot of the stairs and shouted up, "Boys, would you come down here, please?"

We were sitting around trying not to talk about the bombshell Dad had delivered this afternoon. Joey kept hugging me and Roger was letting me win on Xbox. I knew they were trying to help, but it was driving me nuts. When Dad asked us to come down it was almost a relief. I jumped off the bed and ran to the door yelling, "We're on our way, Dad!"

After we all were settled in our seats, Dad asked, "Joey, are you friends with James McCray?"

Joey's face scrunched up in thought. "Who?"

"Joey, I think he means JT. Yeah, we know him, if you mean a boy our age. He's the one I got into a fight with that day for hitting Joey." Joey and Roger both nodded they knew him.

"Yeah, I know him, Uncle Sam," Joey began. "But we have all worked out our differences, I think. In fact, we have been talking a lot about God and prayer during the last week or so. Why?"

"Boys, his parents have been murdered, and it appears that JT stumbled onto it and was kidnapped." Dad raised his hand to hold off our questions until he was finished, "He got away somehow and was picked-up this morning by a truck driver who called the police. He's been admitted to the hospital over-night for observation, because someone knocked him out with a blow to the back of the head. So there's a possiblity of a concussion. I believe they are just playing it safe,"

"He knows his parents were killed?" Roger couldn't keep quiet.

"Yes and no, Roger. He knows his father was murdered, but he doesn't know his mother is also gone. Joey, the reason I asked you if you knew him is because he said you were the only person he knew, besides his mother that could help him."

"Can I go and see him, Uncle Sam?" Joey's voice didn't hide that this news had affected his already gloomy mood.

"Of course, if Steve and Alice appoves. I'll call them before we go. I also have to make one other call, okay boys?"

We all nodded and left dad some privacy to make his calls. The three of us headed into the kitchen to raid the fridge. Joey and I sat at the table, while Roger grabbed three cans of Mountain Dew.

Placing the refreshments in front of us, Roger said, "JT has been a pain in the past, but no one derserve this shit."

I placed my hand on top of Joey's "I agree. JT was starting to come around, and from what I heard at the social yesterday, he kicked ass Friday night against Perry County Central."

"Yeah, what a hell of thing to walk into after a night like that." Roger nodded.

Joey turned his hand over and intertwined our fingers. I looked down at our hands and back up to Joey. "Andy, I have a feeling we need to help JT. I don't know how, but I have a strong feeling if we do, we'll be helping ourselves too." Joey leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. "Why don't you and Roger stay here? You've had enough to deal with today, let me go and see what's up. Then we can determine if we can be of any help. Okay?" Then he turned on those puppy dog eyes and there was no way I could argue with him. I didn't even try.

While Dad and Joey went to the hospital to visit JT, Roger and I played some Call of Duty on my PC. I was in the middle of clearing out some Germen snippers when the doorbell chimed.

"I got it." Roger called as he took off downstairs.

A couple of minutes later, Roger stood in the doorway to my bedroom with a worried look on his face. "Andy, you'd better come downstairs. There's a detective at the door asking for you."

"What would he want with me?" I was confused.

"I don't know, but when you go down, I'm calling your dad."

Author's note: "revenuers" a name given in Appalachia for a government agent who is in charge of collecting revenue, especially those in charge of stopping the illegal manufacture of alcoholic beverages.

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