Trials and Tribulations
As Dad entered the living room he stopped dead in his tracks when there came a knock on the front door, followed by the door bell. Miss Nanny called out, "I'll answer it."
Dad took a seat in his lazy boy and waited on Miss Nanny to announce who was at the door; as the five of us looked back and forth at one another and tried to figure out what was up.
"Mr. Firestone to see you, Judge." Miss Nanny announced from the entrance to the living room.
"Please, show him in." Dad told Miss Nancy before he addressed us. "Boys, I want to introduce you to someone you'll see a lot of for a while."
At that moment, a tall, handsome redhead, who looked to be in his mid to late twenties walked in. "Judge, I did as you asked and a team is setting up a perimeter, as we speak." he said with a faint but recognizable Irish lilt.
"Thank you, Tyler. Please, come on in and have a seat, while I explain to these young men what we have planned. But first, Roger, please call and ask Steve and Alice to come over." Dad said.
Roger nodded and left the room to call his folks. He came back and said, "Dad asked to give him and mom a minute and they'll be right over."
"That's fine." Dad said and then asked Mr. Firestone, "Would you like something to drink, Tyler?"
"I could go for a pint of Gat, but no sir, though I thank you.." For the first time, he seemed to take notice of us teenagers. "Ye have some fair young lads, Sir."
"I agree with you, Tyler." Dad smiled.
Okay, I had been quiet up until now. I didn't say anything back at the graveyard when Dad spoke with this totally hot stranger whose voice sounded like a beautiful song. In my defense, I was distracted with concern for my new foster brother. I didn't question him when he asked us to meet in the living room before we could get out of these church clothes. But to be spoken of, like I wasn't even in the room, even it it was a compliment, had gone about as far as I could take.
"Dad, what's going on here?" I finally asked.
Dad slowly shook his head. "I'll explain as soon as Steve and Alice arrive, not before; now lose the frown. It's very unbecoming."
I heard some nervous giggles and felt a slight poke in the ribs from Roger. I turned to Joey and he just smiled at me as he took my hand in his.
I was surprised when Cody spoke up as he rose to his feet. "Hey! No hittin Andy, Roger." Then he walked over and sat down beside me, scooting a shocked Roger over to the end of the couch. I quickly noticed Cody was slightly trembling. I wrapped my free arm around his shoulder and pulled him into me which seemed to calm him some.
"How's your arm?" I asked. Cody had been one banged-up kid. When I first saw him in the hospital a few days ago, they had both his left arm and leg in casts, but as it turned out, the specialist determined his leg wasn't broken and that cast came off.
"It's better and doesn't hurt as much now, but does itch a little." Cody laid his head back against me. "I am a little tired, too."
I was about to say something to Dad about Cody, but just at that moment Roger's parents walked in. "We're here. What's up, now?" Uncle Steve asked.
"Please. have a seat." Dad gestured to the couch where JT now sat alone after Cody's move. "I would like to introduce Ceannfort Tyler Firestone, formerly of the 43rd Army Infantry Group, of the Irish Defense Force."
'Wow.' I thought. 'What's an ex-army guy doing here? Foreign army guy at that.' I wondered as I stared at this, Ceannfort? I had no clue what a Ceannfort was. Ah, but thanks to Dad, I didn't have long to wonder.
"Ceannfort, is the equivalent of a U.S. Army Major." Dad smile. "I should point out that Tyler was the youngest major in the history of the Irish Army. He saw action in Syria while working under the United Nations, in a peacekeeping mission which was attacked. Under his leadership his forces repelled the rebels without sustaining any casualties.
"He is now employed by Boone Defense Services, one of the best private protection companies in the country; which is made up of former State Troopers, Seals, Army Rangers, and other special forces from around the free world. "I hired them to look after the boys, at least on a temporary basis. We need the help to make sure they are safe until we can catch the ones who killed JT's parents. The criminals are cold hearted and think nothing of murder, kidnapping, or much else."
To most people, Dad would seem calm and sound like he was reading from a prepared speech, but I knew better. I could tell from the tightness of his eyes, the sweeping of his arm gestures, and how he held his chin high, he was far from calm, he was angry. And the more he spoke the angrier he became. Then, I saw him relax some.
"Boone also has an investigation division, and we believe we could actually be near solving this mystery. However, as we near the conclusion, we may find ourselves in more danger, because of it. Therefore, I have contracted Boone for around the clock protection for each of the boys. Tyler here," Dad motioned to Tyler sitting in the chair next to him, "is heading up both the protection and investigation elements of the team sent here to Pine Hills."
"As I said, this is a trial, and if everything works as I believe it will, and if I decide to run for Governor, I may keep some of them on permanently." Dad finished.
"Will they be carrying weapons, Sam?" Aunt Alice asked nervously.
"They would be of little use if they weren't, Alice. Remember what type of people we're dealing with here. I also want to say this to both you and Steve. I would completely understand if you wanted to keep Roger out of harm's way. Any parent would have to consider it. These are insanely vile, malicious, and depraved individuals we are hunting down." I could see the sadness now displayed in Dad's eyes. "I can not and I will not leave these boys to luck and chance. I will do everything within my power to love them and protect them from these and other animals like them." Dad said and I could tell he meant every single word.
I guess I should be scared by everything he was saying, but I wasn't. I knew Dad was in control and would do his best to protect Joey, Roger, my new brothers and myself.
"Sam, what aren't you telling us?" Uncle asked.
"I figured out the motive for the murders this afternoon, after Tyler pointed out a truck spotted following us from the church to the gravesite. We're working overtime now to gather the evidence to support my theory."
"Who?" Uncle Steve asked the question everyone wanted the answer to, JT more than anyone. Noticing JT's uncomfortable expression, Aunt Alice, seated by JT on the couch, placed an arm around him and gave him a reassuring hug.
"I don't think it would be wise…" Dad paused and looked around the room. His eyes stopped on JT. "Please, allow me to speak with JT in private. He needs to hear this alone, first."
I glanced over at JT and he appeared to be shocked by this turn of events; but, he nodded and stood. Dad and JT slowly walked to Dad's office. Uncle Steve and Aunt Alice were talking quietly, but I couldn't hear what was being said.
The Judge was feeling partly responsible for JT's parents death. He knew deep down he had only done what any sitting Judge must do - compel non-incriminating testimony to find the truth. Yet, his actions had led to the death of two people which caused deep emotional pain for this young man standing in front of him and most likely leave a scar on his soul for life. For the life of him, the Judge couldn't help but feel guilty. And now, he must expose his guilt to JT.
"JT, did you know your dad was a witness in a trial a few weeks ago?" The judge asked as he placed a hand on JT's shoulder.
"No sir. He never mentioned it." JT's eyes searched the judge's for the meaning behind the question.
"He was. JT sit down, please." He motioned to the chair in front of the desk, as the judge pulled an extra chair over to sit in front of the boy.
Once both were settled, the judge began. "Mister Emmett Brown was on trial for among other things, extortion. Son, he was extorting your father for money, He had found your father in a compromising situation and demanded a lot of money for not doing or saying anything about it."
"Even though your father was being extorted, he didn't want to testify in court about it, but he didn't want to give Mr. Brown any money either. Your father had to testify if anything was going happen to stop Mr. Brown's illegal activities. His testimony was crucial to the case against Mr. Brown. Yet, even on the witness stand your father was reluctant to give testimony."
Judge Collins sighed, took a breath, and made sure JT made eye contact with him. He wanted to make sure JT understood. He needed JT to know that he didn't have a choice. But more than anything, he wanted JT to know the truth and not hear some rumor later on that was half-truths and outright lies. "The Commonwealth Attorney asked me to force your father to testify, since your father had come to him in the beginning. You see, Mr. Brown told your father he would kill him and his family if he didn't pay the money.' Judge Collins placed his hands on JT's shoulders. "The Commonwealth Attorney felt strongly that for your mother's and your protection, your father must be made to testify; because he felt Mr. Brown threat was real."
The judge paused, glanced at the window where he thought he had seen some movement, then he dropped his hands to his lap and focused back on JT. "I now believe, after Mr. Brown's conviction, his two sons are carrying out that threat. That's who killed your parents and kidnapped you." The judge said sadly. Then he added more forcefully and with determination, "I have a team working with the authorities to find the evidence, so we can prove it in a court of law."
"What kind of compromising situation?" JT reluctantly asked.
"Son, do you really want to know?" Judge Collins titled his head to the right. "Does it really matter?" The judge asked.
"No, I guess it doesn't. Even if he was forced to tell everything. He did and I have to believe he did it to protect Ma and me." As the tears started to flow from JT's eyes, the judge pulled JT in a hug.
Judge Collins kissed the top on JT's head. "In the end, your father did the right thing. And like you, I believe he did so to protect you and your mother. Sooner or later, hopefully sooner, we'll bring all this to an end and see justice…" Suddenly, they heard a commotion coming from the living room, then gunfire.
With cat-like reflexes, Tyler jumped to his feet and rushed to the front window, as he talked frantically to some invisible person, with I assumed, a radio headset. At that moment, chaos erupted outside, as World War III seemed to have come to Pine Hills. Gunfire exploded from everywhere. It was just like being in the middle of all those tornadoes I dreamed about.
"Everybody down on the floor!" Tyler shouted. From out of nowhere, he pulled out a pistol looking gun, but clearly it was a sub-machine gun. I later learned it was a MP5.
I pulled Cody and Joey to the floor with me as I kept my eyes on Tyler; and Roger smothered the three of us with his body. As Tyler passed a window, I saw the window shatter and he spun a hundred-eighty degree before hitting the floor. Cody started to shiver and make whimpering sounds and I didn't know if it was from fear or his arm. "You hurt Cody?"
"I'm scared" He whispered.
Joey held him tighter and whispered, "God will protect his, wont he Andy?"
"He will." I kissed Cody on the forehead and then lightly kissed Joey on the lips. "I love you." I told Joey and then glanced back towards the shattered window. "Let me check on Mr. Firestone." I said seeing the love returned in Joey's eyes.
"Mr. Firestone, are you alright?" I called, worried our bodyguard was dead. I could no longer see him, because the couch Uncle Steve and Aunt Alice once sat on, was blocking my view of him. He wasn't saying anything. All I could hear was gunshots which had gotten louder and the muffled cries of Aunt Alice.
"Stay down Andy and keep quiet." Uncle Steve told me in a hush voice.
"Roger, you boys stay out of the way, for God sakes." Aunt Alice whispered in a commanding voice. I caught Roger rolling his eyes.
Aunt Alice didn't look any better off than Cody did, but Uncle Steve had her wrapped in his arms protectively. "But where's Nurse Nanny?" I whispered back.
"Do as you were told Andy." I heard Dad say behind me. I nodded I understood and turned to look at him and saw his HK45 in his right hand and a Smith and Wesson 38 in his left. "I'll find her." Then Dad tossed the 38 to Uncle Steve with a box of ammo from his pocket. "Take the .38 Steve and load it. It's not loaded."
"I think I saw Firestone with one of those special ops types, he's down over by the window." Uncle Steve said as he pointed to the other side of the couch.
"I'm much better with the 45. Take his gun if you prefer, but stay here and protect Alice and the boys while I search for Nancy." Dad said.
Just as Dad left the living room, all the shooting stopped. I thought maybe it was all over. That is until I heard the front door slam open.
"Go that way and Imma gonna go this way" I heard someone say.
"That's the Brown brothers." JT said as I noticed him back in the living room for the first time.
"Bad news." JT said with a shake of his head and then brought his index finger to his lips for me to be quiet. Who was I to argue? I didn't. The one thing I noticed about JT was, he might of been the only person in the room, not nervous or scared. In fact, I think I saw fire in his eyes.
A dirty bearded man dressed in overalls rounded the corner, "Don't move a muscle ass wipe." He snarled at Uncle Steve. I felt JT stiffen beside me.
"Okay." Uncle Steve stopped loading the pistol.
Then a shot rang out, and then another. Cody jerked hard and cried out. I was scared that Uncle Steve or Aunt Alice had been shot, but then I realized it came from another room. The bearded man turned towards the gunfire and almost immediately rapid ear splitting shots, like from a machine gun, were fired from right here in the living room and the bearded man hit the floor with a thud.
Aunt Alice screamed.
"Mom!?" Roger called.
"She's fine, son. Stay put." Uncle Steve told him in a reassuring voice.
A hushed voice sounding like Mr. Firestone's asked, "Is everyone okay?"
"For now." Uncle Steve answered. "The other shots sounded like Sam's 45."
"Yeah, I believe it was, too." Mr. Firestone said and then cautioned, "Stay put. The cavalry is on the way and we don't want anyone mistaken as perpetrators. And we don't know if anyone is still outside."
Then I heard Dad, "I have one down in the kitchen."
"One KIA in the living room, Judge." Mr. Firestone called.
"Anyone hurt?" Dad asked.
"Just me, I think, I was hit in the shoulder and it feels banjaxed, but I don't believe my two men outside made it." Firestone answer in a sad tone.
"Andy, you're bleeding" Joey's voice was full of concerned.
"I don't think so, I didn't feel anything." I said surprised.
"Andy's been hit!" Roger yelled.
"He must of been hit earlier, before those assholes made it into the house." JT said in a nasty growl full of venom.
Funny, I didn't feel shot. I thought you were suppose to feel searing pain or something. But I have to admit, the more I thought about it, the more nauseated I felt. When I rolled off on Cody, it hit me and everything started to go out of focus. In the distance what sounded like a hundred sirens could be heard screaming towards our house. Then everything started spinning, like I was being sucked up into the vortex of a tornado. I began to feel cold as unfocused light faded into darkness.