Castle Roland

Chapter 82

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By Friday morning, the word was out. Six people had registered as candidates to run for the incumbents' seats in the upcoming election for the School Board and the Hospital District Board. It had been a long time since any established board member had any sort of organized campaign against them in an election. Some of the incumbents on the Hospital District Board of Trustees had held their seats for as long as 26 years. That was how long that District had been in existence. Over on the School Board, one incumbent was going for his fifth consecutive election to his seat while another one was vying for his seventh time on the Board. This was going to be a very interesting election, for sure.

"Mr. Ken … Bro," yelled both Collin and Ryan as they entered and ran through the house, looking for the man.

"Whoa, there, you two, slow down some. You know I don't want you running in the house. Now, what's so important that you have to yell at the top of your voices for me?" asked the man of the house.

"Bro … we … ah … Bro we got almost all of the kids at school to agree to help with the campaigns. Isn't that great?" both teens tried to get out while they caught their breath.

"That sounds wonderful boys. How many of your friends said they would help? Did you get their names? Did they say which candidate they wanted to help? Did they say how much time they can work on the campaign each week?" were the questions that came fast and furious at the boys from an enthused Mr. Ken.

"Well … ah no … we ah … ah didn't get any of that, Bro," provided Collin.

"We thought that all we needed to do was to convince our friends to help. We didn't know we needed to get all that info, Bro," claimed Ryan.

"Oh, okay, boys, that's okay for now. I f you remember who said they'd help, though, please write their names down for me. Then, if you could call them and ask them those questions I just asked you that will give us a good starting list of people we can count on. Make sure they get permission from their parents to do this. We don't want any of your friends to get into trouble, especially if their parents support one of the incumbents, okay?"

Both teens got out their cell phones and began calling their friends. They also asked them to call any of the ones they knew, who also wanted to help. Before long, the boys had a list of over 50 freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors at the high school who volunteered to help.

Then before long, Collin and Ryan had created a database of names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses along with which candidate the student favored to work for. The 'Teens For Turnover' network was up and running. They had no idea how rough the going would be for them and their candidate.

Later that evening, up in Collin's bedroom, he was checking his e-mail and deleting the SPAM and what not, when he came across a real disturbing one.

"Ryan … come read this," called out Collin to his friend who was doing some finishing touches on the database they just created.

"What's up, Col? You get another one of those porn site e-mails again?" laughed Ryan.

"No … no, come here and read this…"

Ryan closed the database and went over to his friend's computer and began reading over his shoulder. "Damn, Col, is that from one of the teens you met back in California?"

"Yeah, and I'm gonna print this out and take it down to Bro, and see what he says."

Collin printed out the e-mail and the two rushed down the stairs to see Mr. Ken in his Study.

"Stop running down the stairs," yelled out Mr. Ken, just as they entered the Study.

"Bro … Bro you gotta read this, you just gotta," spoke Collin loudly, almost yelling. "Those guys out in California … one of them … he's in the hospital. Is there anything we can do, Bro? Sounds like one of them was beaten up pretty bad."

As Collin was speaking, Mr. Ken read the e-mail with surprise and anger! The e-mail went on to explain how Aidan had been severely beaten up and left in the street near his home. Brent, one of the four boys Mr. Ken and Collin met out in San Diego, e-mailed that it looked to be a 'hate crime' since it happened right after Aidan came out to his parents that he was gay. Brent gave some more details about Aidan's injuries and where he was being treated.

Ken knew that Collin, and a few of the boys he met out in California back in January, corresponded some and was glad he kept in touch with those four. Collin hadn't many friends at that time and those lads seemed interested in the teen, somewhat, because of what they heard happened to him, but also because they sincerely wanted to be his friend. Ken, though, wasn't happy that one of them had come to be beaten senseless because of who he was. Thoughts of what had happened to Collin went zipping through his mind, just then, and he couldn't seem to get them out.

"Bro … Bro … you with us, Bro?" asked Collin, concerned that the man had zoned out for some reason.

"Ah … ah, yeah, Collin, I just let myself get away for a moment," replied Mr. Ken.

"You were thinking about what happened to me, weren't you?" asked the teenager.

"Sorry, Collin … yes … I was. Knowing your injuries and then when you were hit I … I just was thinking about that poor lad so horribly beaten because he was gay. So, what do you want to do? Send flowers or call Brent and talk to him about Aidan?"

"Ah … ah Bro … I ah … I was thinking we could ah … ah maybe go out there. You know the three of us. We can go see them and see how Aidan is and all. This is a three-day weekend because of President's Day. What do you say? Huh? It's been a long time since we used those papers Judge Adam gave us," said Collin.

Ryan just looked on at Collin, dumbfounded, when he heard him say he wanted the three of them to go out to California. Mr. Ken didn't react to that at all. It appeared the man was in deep thought and he knew he had to wait for an answer and not to badger him about it. In the meantime, Collin just looked at his mentor, also seeing he was back to thinking through something.

"Collin, did you notice the date on this email? It was sent to you on Wednesday and this is Friday," spoke Mr. Ken, "I don't think we should go…"

"What? Not go? Bro, he needs us; he really does! He needs his friends to be with him to help him cope and get through this," a very annoyed off Collin cried out.

"You didn't let me finish, Collin, sheesh! If you would have let me continue, you would have heard me say I don't think we should go ONLY to visit Aidan and the rest of the lads but we should also make this into a mini-vacation, too. Not that Aidan's injury should be overlooked, but there is only so much we can do. We aren't family. Matter of fact, we are hardly anything to those boys, other than a 'long distance' friend. So, what do you have in mind? When should we leave? Where else shall be go besides San Diego? You have any idea, Ryan?"

The three of them talked about making plans for their trip until Ryan mentioned he needed his mom's permission to go. He quickly called his mom but she wasn't home. When he called her cell phone, he was sent straight to the message cue. He had no idea where she was and he couldn't go with them until she gave her permission. Mr. Ken still had the Power of Attorney he could use in the event Ryan got injured when he was with the man, but he still needed the woman's OK if Ryan was to go.

"Okay, what say we all make plans on taking a trip to California? We all need to pack yet, and I have to call the pilots for them to get the plane ready, and besides, it is a two hour gain in time so we can always leave in the early morning and get there quite early, too. I think the pilots will want a six hour minimum notice, so we have lots of time," offered Mr. Ken.

"Ryan, do you think you have enough nice clothes here or will we need to go home and get some more for you? … Guys, we will all need a light jacket. The days are warm out there right now, but the evenings will get damp and cool. So pack accordingly," added the man.

"Oh, damn," said Collin. "I think I promised a certain youngster that we would have a big swim party this weekend. Bro … ah … ah do you think Bro … ah that we … ah could also you know take … ah our little brother? I know he would just flip if he could go! So, what do you say, Bro, Mr. Ken? Can I call Miss Judy and ask her if he can go? Ryan and I will watch out for him and everything. Won't we, bro?" finished Collin.

"Yeah, yeah, we will. It would be fun to have the little squirt along with us," replied Ryan.

"Guys, I don't have a Power of Attorney for him, as I do for you, to take you out of the state or authorize medical treatment if he were to get injured, even if it was just for a Band-Aid. And it being a Friday evening already, there is no way I could get that done, as courts are already closed. There is no way I could get that done now," said Mr. Ken.

The two boys went upstairs to begin packing. Mr. Ken called the pilots and told them of their plans. Seeing it was already past eight PM, the earliest they could get off the ground would be two AM. He told the pilot to plan a four AM take off and then he, too, went to begin packing.

While Mr. Ken was in his bedroom packing, his cell phone rang.

"Hello. Oh, hi Collin. … Have you heard anything else from Brent? … No, okay … ah … okay, so Ryan needs to go home. Yeah … did he contact his mom? … She did? That's good. Is there anything else on your mind? … Hmmmm … no I didn't read through that Power of Attorney. … Okay, I'll go to my study and see what it says. Tell Ryan to come down to the Study and meet me there. Oh, by the way, I told the pilots lift off would be at four AM, so we all have time for a quick nap before we leave. Tell Ryan and … okay. Bye."

Collin's phone call was primarily about Eric's Power of Attorney. Back in early January when there was a big shake up over at the Children's Protective Services, Judy Turner, Eric's mom, thought she might be arrested for some missing papers and be made their scapegoat. She asked Ken Thomas, back then, if he would be Eric's guardian if anything happened to her. Ken was now going to his Study to check to see what the Power of Attorney covered.

As Mr. Ken was reading the document, the two teens walked into the Study.

"Bro, did you hear?" asked Ryan.

"Hear what?" replied Mr. Ken.

"We didn't run, that's what," answered a laughing Ryan.

"Oh … that's good. Make sure you don't do that again," the man said subconsciously, as he was reading Eric's paperwork and not really listening to what the teen had said."

"Did you really mean that, Bro?" kidded Ryan.

"Don't bother him, Ryan," chided Collin. "You know what he means even if he said it wrong. He's too preoccupied reading Eric's Power of Attorney; if I am correct. Let's wait and see what he decides. I hope Eric can go with us. It is getting late and we need to get him packed and over here, so we can all leave together for the airport."

"Boys, I think we can take Eric. Let me call Judy right now. I heard what you said, Collin, about it getting late."

"Judy … Ken Thomas here."

"Yeah … I guess it was kind of formal.

"Well … ah … Judy … ah the boys and I are … wait let me give the phone to Collin. He can explain it better. Anyway, he is standing here jumping out of his skin wanting to ask you. Here's Collin," said Mr. Ken. He then handed the phone up to Collin who was standing right by the side of the desk.

"Miss Judy … Yeah, Hi … well, I received an e-mail today about one of my friends out in California. … Yeah, the ones we met right after the New Year when Mr. Ken took us on that mini-vacation. … Anyway, the email told me that one of the boys was beaten up … yeah, really bad and Mr. Ken agreed to take us out there and … well … ah, we wanted to know if our 'Lil Bro' can go with us? Ryan and I will take good care of him. We'll watch him like a hawk. Besides, it will be fun for him and it will give you a few days to yourself. … Yeah. … Oh, in about six to eight hours. The pilots need to pre-flight the plane and everything. Okay, let me give the phone back to him."

"Yes, Judy?" asked Mr. Ken.

"Yes, I just read the Power of Attorney you gave me when Eric stayed with us back in January. It is very thorough, to say the least. Since Judge Adam signed it, I bet he suggested it read like Collin's. With your permission, I can even take Eric overseas with me. We just need to get him a passport. … Oh, yeah, he'll need regular clothes for out there. The days are warm but the evenings can get damp and cool, so he needs a light jacket. … We can pick him up after we stop by Ryan's so he can get a few more clothes that he doesn't already have here, hehehehe. … Yes, this will be a big outing for him.

"He'll get to fly in a corporate jet with no stops between here and LA. … That sounds good. We'll stop by there in about an hour. He'll sleep with the boys for a few hours before we head out to the airport. … No, Judy, thank you! It really was Collin's idea. …We can give you an hour and then some. And tell him if he isn't out of the shower by the time we get there, I know two teenagers who know how to get him clean fast. … Oh, you told him that and he is running up the stairs as we speak. That's funny! … Don't worry about him, Judy. The lads have promised to take good care of him. I'll tell you more when we pick him up. … Okay, bye."

The three headed out to go to Ryan's for more clothes and talk to Mary and ask her to take care of Chief while they are away for the weekend. Ken explained he had already given Momma Maria the three day weekend off, so she could have some time to herself and Chief needed 'her'.

When they got to Eric's, the boy was on overload. The boy was so charged up that he was getting to go on the trip, he couldn't keep still. He'd never done anything like this ever and this was something totally beyond his belief. The two adults talked for about fifteen minutes while the boys loaded the car with Eric's stuff and soon they were all back at Three Finger Cove so Mr. Ken, Collin and Ryan could finish packing.

It was eleven PM when Mr. Ken made the lads lie down for a short nap as the next day would be a long one for them all, especially Eric. Four hours later, Mr. Ken woke the boys and told them to get cleaned up and downstairs in 30 minutes. Exactly 29 minutes later, the three, still sleepy, boys joined their guardian outside the Cove's front door, watching the limousine drive through the Security Gate.

It took the limo 45 minutes to get to airport. Add another 15 minutes for the four travelers and their bags to clear airport security. Then, fifteen minutes after that, the group was airborne and headed out to San Diego, California.

Eric was still fit to be tired. His antics gave everyone a smile and they thus forgot the unholy hour they were flying to the west coast. A half hour after takeoff, a steward offered them some breakfast and they each had a wonderful cooked breakfast of bacon and eggs and pancakes, along with syrup and butter and coffee and juice. When that was finished, Eric was invited up to the cockpit and shown around. They even let him sit in the co-pilot's seat for a few minutes while they explained the instruments to him. When Eric got back to the rest of his fellow travelers, he found them all reclined in their separate seats and sleeping away. Mister Ken heard the lad coming back, so he got up and helped the youngster recline his own seat and soon the young boy was fast asleep as well.

"Sir ... excuse me, Sir, we are 30 minutes out and we need you and the boys to put your seats up,' advised the steward.

"Oh, thanks. Please wake up the older boys for me," asked Mr. Ken.

"Eric, it is time to wake up. We're going to be landing soon, and we need you awake. Eric, time to wake up," lightly spoke the man to the younger boy while shaking the boy's shoulder.

"Wha … are we almost there?" asked the still half asleep ten year old.

"Yes, Eric, we are almost there. It is time for you to straighten up your seat and tighten your seat belt. You can watch out the window and see Los Angles as we begin to fly over," added Mr. Ken.

The three boys all looked out their windows as the Lear Jet slowly descended to Los Angeles International Airport. The total time of flight from wheels up in Texas to touchdown in L.A. was four hours and 8 minutes. The pilots made good time and it was just about 6: 30 AM Pacific Standard Time (PST).

The travelers off loaded at the business terminal and there was a limousine driver waiting and holding a sign with the words "Thomas Party" embossed on it.

"We are the Thomas Party," said Mr. Thomas to the man with the sign.

"Ken Thomas, from Texas?" asked the driver.

"Yes, sir" answered Mr. Ken.

"This way, Sir, if you would, please. I'll have the Sky Cap bring your luggage directly. Can I get anyone a refreshing drink before we leave for the hotel, Sirs?" inquired the limo driver.

"Ah … ah, Sir … ah can you ah … ah show me where the boy's room is? Please!" spoke up Eric while slightly crossing his legs.

"Yes, Sir, follow me if you would, Sir. Gentlemen would the rest of you like to use the facilities before we depart? It will take me about a 45 minute to drive to the hotel at this time of day," offered the driver.

The four all walked to the Men's Rest Room and relieved themselves and then washed their faces and hands before exiting to meet up again with the limo driver.

"Sir?" asked Eric, as they gathered at the limousine.

"Yes, young man?" answered the man dressed in the clothing designed for a limousine driver.

"What is your name, please? It will be easier for us to talk to you if we have any questions," offered Eric.

"Yes, please," added Collin and Ryan together.

"Young man and Sirs, my name is Mason and I am scheduled to be your driver the entire time you are here in Los Angles. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me anything. I've been driving out here for close to fifteen years now and know my way around pretty well and I know just about all the sights there are to know."

"Thank you, Mason," said Mr. Ken. "Boys, let's get a move on and get settled at the hotel before we drive down to San Diego."

"Mister Mason?" said Eric.

"Yes sir," replied Mason.

"Since you're our driver here in Los Angles, who will be our driver when we go down to San Diego? I want to know so when we meet him I can call him by his name, too," innocently asked Eric.

The driver chuckled at the young boy's naivety. "Well, young sir …"

"Eric. My name is Eric."

"Well, young sir, Eric, I will be your driver for your drive to San Diego, too. I am to be your driver for wherever you may want to go while you are out here in California. That is, if I do not go beyond the amount of time I can legally drive in one day's time. Otherwise, I will let Mr. Thomas know if there will be any changes. How about we get started and we can chat while we drive to the Sheraton."

"Bro, is that the same place we stayed back in January?" asked Collin.

"Yes, little bro, we are staying at the same place. We'll have the two bedroom en suites with an additional single bed added for Eric here," replied Mr. Ken.

"Ah, I don't get to sleep with Collin or Ryan?" whined Eric.

"Well, Eric, I didn't want to assume that you would want to sleep in the same beds with the guys, so I made sure there would be a comfortable bed in that bedroom for you. If you want to sleep with the guys and they don't mind, then that will be Okay with me."

Eric put on a big smile upon hearing Mr. Ken's explanation and he then sat back and enjoyed the view from the back seat of a stretch limo.

The drive didn't feel anything like it was 45 minutes when the vehicle drove up to the entrance to the huge hotel. As soon as it stopped, two bellhops immediately approached the limo and one opened the back door while the other went to the trunk to retrieve the luggage.

"Welcome to the Sheraton," offered the senior bellhop. "If you will follow me, I will get your registered and show you to your suite."

As the guys followed the bellhop into the massive hotel, the other bellhop soon followed with a luggage trolley filled with their things. Mister Thomas signed for four suite key cards and the two bellhops led the way to the elevators and their rooms.

"Here we are, Sirs. I put the boy's luggage into the two-bed en suite and your things, Mr. Thomas, into the master en suite. Will there be anything else for us, Sirs?" inquired the senior bellhop.

"No, that should be all for now. Eric, please give each of those gentlemen one of these," said Mr. Thomas, giving Eric two ten dollar bills to pass to the bellhops.

Eric smiled as he gave each man a ten dollar bill and then went back to stand by Mr. Ken.

After the two men left with big smiles on their faces, the three boys went into their bedroom to unpack and have a look around. Ken went into his bedroom and unpacked and then went out into the living area and made a pot of coffee while waiting for the boys to finish doing what boys do best, taking their own sweet time.

"Boys are you hungry? Do you want to go downstairs and get something to eat or do you want to get going on the two hour drive to Rady Children's Hospital down in San Diego? We can stop along the way or get something when we get there. It is just now going on 8:30 AM and visiting hours start at 10 AM," asked Mr. Ken, trying to get some idea of the boys' thoughts about things.

"Mr. Ken, I'd like to get to the hospital as soon as I can. I'm too worried to eat right now," spoke up Collin. "I'd like to get there and find out how Aidan is doing and all, if you don't mind."

"Eric, are you okay with that? Ryan? We can always stop as Mason said we could, along the way," reminded Mr. Ken.

They unanimously agreed to freshen up and begin the two hour drive as soon as possible.

It was close to eleven AM when the limo pulled up to the front of the Rady Children's Hospital. Many people looked on as the four exited the vehicle and walked in through the entrance.

Collin walked quickly into the hospital and went straight up to the reception desk and asked which room Aidan Horner was in. Having gotten it, and directions, he quickly began walking, and the other three had to hurry to keep up.

As Collin turned a corner, he saw Brent sitting in the waiting area and he went over to the teen and gave him a big hug.

"Brent, it is so good to see you," Collin got out as he hugged the teen.

"Collin, it is great to see you, too, man. You didn't have to come all the way out here to see Aidan. A card and some flowers would have been enough," answered Brent.

The two stood there talking while Mr. Ken, Ryan and Eric stood back letting the two boys get reacquainted.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Ken. Brent, you remember Mr. Ken, my guardian. And this here is Ryan, my Best Friend in the whole world and this here munchkin is our best 'lil bro' in the whole world, Eric, he's ten."

"Hi, and thanks for coming," said Brent.

"How is Aidan doing, Brent?" asked Mr. Ken.

"He's not! He hasn't awakened since Wednesday night. His mom is in hysterics. His dad is beside himself over the incident," replied Brent.

"Do they know who did it or … or how it happened?" asked Ryan.

"Well, there are some boys in the neighborhood that always thought Aidan was, let's say different, and they always teased him. It just so happened the night he 'came out' to his parents Aidan was walking over to my house to do some homework together that he was attacked. Right now, no one knows anything but we have our own suspects.

"Unfortunately, the police won't act on our hunches. That's what so pisses me and our friends off. By the way, Doug and Clint will be here later. We are all taking turns standing by, hoping Aidan will come out of his coma. They say the longer he stays in it the longer his recovery will take." Then, as Brent finished talking, he sat down and broke down and cried.

Mr. Ken went over to the teenager and held him close to allow the lad to cry it out of his system. While he was doing that, Collin snuck away from the group and entered Aidan's hospital room.

"Aidan … its Collin … you remember… from Texas? … Me and Mr. Ken came to see you and tell you it's time to get better. We flew down here this morning … just to see you. We want to take you over to the Giant Dipper to ride the rollercoaster. We have extra tickets, so come on and get better and let's go."

Eric had seen Collin walk off and he sort of followed him and watched as he walked into the room. Eric waited outside for Collin to come back out but when he didn't right away he walked in as well and heard his Big Bro talking to the 'sleeping teen' while he held his hand.

Eric stayed back at the door and then he heard Collin begin to cry. He then went to the other side of the bed and picked up the other hand and looked up at Collin then down at the comatose lad and said, "Aidan … you don't know me, but … but I'm Collin's 'lil' bro. Please get better for him and your friend Brent. They both love you very much and don't want to see you lying here in this hospital. A few weeks back, Collin was in the hospital, too, because someone hit him real hard. I was afraid I'd lose him and he just became … became my 'big bro'."

Eric began to cry as he said those last words. And as he was standing there, with tears in his eyes, Mrs. Horner came into the room.

"Who are you two boys? I don't know what you are doing in here, but you got to get out of here. Now! Get OUT!" yelled Mrs. Horner.

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