Eric dropped the phone and ran to his office. Inside he opened one of his desk drawers and bolted to the bottom of the drawer was a biometric safe. He placed his hand on the sensors and it unlocked. Inside was his Sig Sauer .45 caliber handgun. He pulled it out, inserted the magazine, racked the slide to put a round in the chamber and put it on safe. He slipped the pistol in a holster and put it in the small of his back. When he came out of the office he saw that Dylan was off the floor but still was holding his side with Ethan supporting him.
"What's going on Mister Barrett?"
"Boys, I've gotta go over to Josh and Derrick's. You can wait here…."
"No way! We're coming with you! If you're going, we're going! If you don't take us with you, we'll take our bikes! It'll just take longer, but we'll get there!"
Eric looked at the three boys who looked very determined, even though Dylan still looked like he was in some pain. He wondered what had happened to him. Why was he in pain? Did Jamie hit him? He thought that they probably would do what they said. Eric shook his head in resignation.
"Okay, but you do what I say, no questions and no arguments. Understand?"
"Okay, let's go."
They followed him to the garage and got in his jeep. He opened the door and quickly backed out, almost forgetting to shut the garage door when he left. He peeled out as he drove down the street going well above the speed limit. He slowed down but didn't stop at stop signs and red lights. He didn't care if he was seen by another cop. He was more concerned with getting to his brother in law's condo without causing an accident. A couple of times there were the sounds of screeching brakes behind him and he had to ignore them. His destination was all that was important right now. He feared what he would find when he got there. It took about five minutes to get there as he screeched to a halt in front of the condo complex. He jumped out and turned back to the three boys.
"Now stay in here and wait."
"Remember, no questions, no arguments."
The boy's face's fell, but they nodded.
Eric turned and trotted into the complex. As he neared Derrick's condo, he saw some of the other tenants peering around corners at the condo. As he neared the place, he heard a single gunshot. He quickly reached to his back and pulled his gun. This elicited a quick scream from a nearby woman. He also pulled his wallet and out and showed his badge.
"Police officer, get back inside your homes."
He slowed down as he neared the front door of the condo. He took the safety off and raised the gun to the ready as he reached to check the door and see if it was locked.
While Eric was speeding to the condo, Derrick looked down at his son lying on his side unmoving. He could see blood starting to soak into the bedspread. He stumbled back to the living room and dropped into the chair. He put the gun in his lap and picked up his glass, and quickly downed the fiery liquid. He looked over at a picture on the wall. He staggered up, letting the gun drop on the ground in front of the chair. He went to the picture and pulled it off the wall breaking the wire that suspended it on the hook in the wall. It was a picture of he and Christine. Between them was ten year old Josh. They were all smiling. Derrick smiled as he remembered the day the picture was taken. He stumbled back over to the chair and dropped into it. He traced his wife's face as his smile melted away and tears came to his eyes and he began to cry.
"Why? Why did you consent to be part of that bastard's experiment? Why did you leave me?"
He let the picture fall into his lap as he buried his head in his hands. The enormity of what he had done hit him. He picked up the picture and through his blurry, tear filled gaze, he looked at the face of his son. The son he had just killed. He snarled and threw the picture against the wall. The frame and glass shattered. He frantically started looking around the chair for the gun. He finally found it on the ground between his feet and picked it up. He looked at it for a few moments, turning it around. Then he stopped and quickly put the gun under his chin and pulled the trigger, splattering blood and brain matter on the ceiling above him. The bullet was buried in the ceiling, among the splatter.
Eric tried the door and found it unlocked. He slowly turned the knob to unlatch the door and then with his gun at the ready, he quickly pushed it open. With his gun leading he entered the condo. The first thing he noticed was the smell of expended gunpowder, followed by the coppery smell of blood and evacuated bowels. He saw Derrick's head hanging forward as if he had fallen asleep. Eric saw the blood splatter on the ceiling above Derrick. Since he wasn't completely sure that he was alone, he announced himself.
"POLICE OFFICER! THROW DOWN YOUR WEAPON AND COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP!"
There was no answer, so Eric slowly made his way over to Derrick, keeping him covered. When he saw the damage to Eric's head, he knew it was futile, but he put his hand to Derrick's throat and found no pulse. He looked around him and saw the gun lying on the ground below Derrick's right hand. He slipped around the body in the chair and checked the nearby rooms. He found nothing out of the ordinary, except a nearly empty Jack Daniels bottle on the counter in the kitchen. He then made his way to the bedrooms and bathrooms. He moved carefully just in case there really was someone else in there and keeping an eye peeled for anyone who might be hiding in one of the rooms. Everything was clear until he reached Josh's room. He looked inside and saw the boy lying on his side with blood starting to soak into the bedspread.
He rushed over and reached down to feel for a pulse. He detected a weak pulse and was elated. He holstered his gun and pulled his phone out to call 911.
"911 operator, what is your emergency?"
"This is Officer Eric Barrett, Hemet Police Department. I need police and paramedics at my brother in law's condo on Devonshire, between Sanderson and Cawston. My brother in law is dead of an apparent self inflicted gunshot wound to the head and my thirteen year old nephew has been shot, but is still alive. I have secured the scene."
"We'll dispatch paramedics and police to your location. What is…..oh, I see that it appears that police are already on way because of a previous 911 call. I will make sure paramedics are on the way as well."
"Thanks. I'll wait for them to arrive."
"I hope your nephew will be okay, Officer Barrett."
"Thanks, me too."
He hung up and went to Josh's side. He knew he probably shouldn't but he had to make sure Josh would be okay. He slowly rolled Josh onto his back and saw that the blood was on the left side. He carefully lifted Josh's t shirt and saw that there appeared to be only one entrance wound. After he checked he once again checked Josh's pulse at his neck and was satisfied that he still had one and let out a relieved but anxious sigh. He went to the dresser and pulled another t shirt and after wadding it up he put pressure on the wound.
Out front, the three boys were trembling with fear and worry. Finally it was too much and Jamie started to open the door.
"Jamie, he said to stay here."
"I know but I have to go. I have to know that Josh is alright. I don't know what I'd do if he wasn't."
Dylan looked at Jamie and saw that his chin was quivering and he was biting his lip to keep everything under control. He nodded and got out as well. The three boy's heads whipped around as they heard sirens approaching. They looked at each other in horror and took off running into the complex. As they neared the condo, they saw worried people around the area. They dashed past all of them and when they came to the condo, they saw that the door was open. They ran in and froze in horror at the sight before them.
"OH MY GOD! JOSH!"
Eric heard Jamie's yell and got up from the bed to intercept him. Jamie appeared at the end of the hall as Eric stepped out of Josh's room. He looked at Eric, searching for some flicker of hope that Josh was okay. He saw the worry on Eric's face and he ran at him. Eric grabbed him.
"No, let me go! Let me go, damn it! I gotta see him!"
"Jamie, the police will be here and the paramedics, lets……ow fuck!"
Jamie had kicked him hard in the shin and Eric's grip loosened and he was able to slip from his grasp and lunge into the room. As soon as he saw Josh, he screamed.
"NOOOOO! OH GOD, JOSH, NO!"
He went to the bed but was in such shock he didn't know what to do. He was paralyzed for a few moments by the blood on Josh and the bed. Then his mind registered that Josh was breathing as he saw his chest rise a little. He moved around the bed until he was on the opposite side of where the wound was. He got on the bed next to Josh and carefully lifted his head until he cradled it in his lap. He was crying as he smoothed Josh's hair from his forehead. His tears dripped unabashedly down his cheeks to drop into Josh's hair.
"C…c'mon Josh. Please be okay. You got….gotta be okay. I can't lose you. You're my family now. You're all I got. Please Josh come back to me. I love you."
Eric came limping in the room rubbing his shin and scowling at Jamie.
"Damn it Jamie!"
Jamie looked up at Eric and saw he was angry, but he just glared back and Eric's anger melted away. He saw the devastation on Jamie's face as he held onto Josh.
He waved his hand. "Forget it."
He reclaimed his place and resumed pressure on the wound. Behind him Dylan and Ethan slipped into the room, they were both scared and crying as well as they stood against the wall looking at the scene. Jamie was stroking Josh's face and hair, Eric was applying pressure to the wound. They all heard the sirens stop as the police and paramedics arrived. Eric looked over to Dylan and made a quick decision.
"Dylan, go out there and direct the police and paramedics."
Dylan nodded and followed by Ethan he ran out of the room. He gave Derrick's body a wide berth as they went to the front door. As he went outside he saw the police followed closely by a couple of paramedics with a gurney heading his way, he waved to them and ducked back inside. The officers led the way to the condo. As they entered they saw Derrick's body. The older officer directed his partner to check the body while he led the paramedics further into the condo.
"Barrett? You in here?"
"Yeah, back here."
The officer led the paramedics to the back of the condo and into the room where he saw Eric applying pressure and Jamie cradling the wounded boy's head in his lap. Ethan was standing behind him and rubbing Jamie's back. Eric stepped aside and motioned for the paramedics to enter. They quickly got to work moving Eric aside. One of them tried to get Jamie to let go.
"NO! I gotta stay with him!"
Eric went around the bed and put his arms around both Ethan and Jamie and gently tried to get Jamie to move back. He kept his voice gentle as he worked at convincing him.
"C'mon Jamie. These guys are the experts. They know what they're doing. They'll make sure he's okay, but you gotta let them do their job, otherwise they won't be able to give him all the help he needs."
Jamie looked around at Eric.
"You sure he'll be alright?"
"Sure. You know I used to be in the Army, the Green Berets. I've seen some of my soldiers hurt a lot worse and the medics helped them get better. These guys are like those same Army medics, so they'll make sure he's going to be okay."
Jamie took one last look down at Josh and then he leaned down and kissed him gently on the lips, before letting Eric draw him away. The other officer nodded as Eric led the two boys out of the room. Eric gestured for Dylan to go ahead of them. They went into the kitchen where they couldn't see Derrick's body. As they passed it, they saw that the other officer had picked up the blanket and covered the body in the chair. The officer nodded to Eric as he went back the way they had come. The boys looked away as they let Eric guide them to the kitchen.
In Josh's room, the paramedic's quickly cut his clothes off and started examining him. They saw that the wound was a through and through bullet hole on the left side halfway between his side and his belly button. They put some bandages on the wounds to slow the bleeding. Hooked him up to a heart monitor, started an IV and gave him oxygen. They made their call to the hospital to report his vitals and their findings.
The younger officer arrived in the bedroom and the older officer went over to him. "Matt, stay here and document the scene in here. When you finish in here, do the same in the living room. I'm going to go talk to Barrett and the three boys."
"Yes, sir." The younger officer pulled a small camera out and started taking pictures as the paramedics worked. He took notes of the crime scene in his notebook as the paramedics readied Josh for transport.
The older officer found Eric and the boy's at the kitchen table. They looked up as he joined them. "Officer Barrett? Corporal Glenn Crandall. May I sit?"
Eric nodded as he kept his arm around Jamie's shoulders. Dylan had his hand on Jamie's back rubbing up and down doing his best to give comfort to his friend. Glenn sat down across from them.
"Can you tell me what happened here?"
"Not entirely. We weren't here when it all happened."
"What can you tell me?"
"I was at my home. Josh, my nephew, and his friends were going to spend New Year's Eve at my house, watch the ball drop and all that. We were waiting for Josh to arrive and then we would make dinner. He had planned to ride his bike to my house. We were just watching TV and the phone rang. When I answered it, I heard my nephew ask me to help him. Before I could ask what was going on, I heard some yelling and then a couple of gun shots. I immediately headed over here to do as my nephew asked, help him. When I got here I found my brother in law, Derrick, dead of an apparent self inflicted gunshot wound and my nephew on his bed, also shot."
Jamie and the other boys winced a little when Eric said that.
"These boys with you are his friends?"
"Yes, this is Dylan Robinson, Ethan Johnson and Jamie Carpenter."
The corporal wrote their names down, and then motioned for Eric to continue.
Eric nodded, "I called 911 and called for police and paramedics and the rest you know."
"Do you have any idea what would have caused your brother in law to shoot his son and himself?"
"No, not really. There was some tension between Josh and his dad over the last week."
"Do you know what caused this tension?"
"I think so, but I don't know if I can say…"
"It was because of me and Josh."
Glenn looked at Jamie when he spoke. "What do you mean young man?"
"Josh and I are…boyfriends and his dad found out. He was real mad at Josh and me."
"Okay. Did you know about this Mister Barrett?"
"Yes, but I didn't think it was my place to say anything."
Glenn nodded as he added more to his report. He closed his notebook and looked at the three.
"Sir, is there anything else? I want to see how my nephew is doing?"
"Of course. If there is anything else, we'll let you know. We'll make sure the place is locked up when we leave."
Eric nodded and gathered the boys up. They saw the paramedics wheeling Josh out the front door and they followed him, past the curious neighbors and got into his Jeep. He drove as fast as he dared to reach his nephew's side. He found a parking spot as near to the emergency room as he could. The four of them jumped out of the Jeep as Eric hustled them to the entrance. When he got to the emergency room desk he pulled his badge out to show the triage nurse at the desk.
"I'm Eric Barrett. A young teenage boy was brought in just now. Victim of a gunshot wound to the abdomen. I'm his uncle."
The nurse consulted the computer and nodded. She stood up and gestured for him to follow her.
"Please follow me. I can't take you to him right now as they are working on him. He's slated to be taken to surgery. We have a place for you to wait."
Eric nodded and the four of them followed her to a small, more private, waiting room. The door to the room was labeled 'Trauma Family Room'.
"I will let the doctor know that you're here. He should be in as soon as he is able to."
Eric nodded and he and the three boys sat on the couch and waited. It was some time before someone in a white coat and scrubs entered the room.
"Mister Barrett. I'm Doctor Bushman. I am told that you are the injured boy's uncle?"
"Yes, how is Josh?"
"He has been taken to surgery. We need to see the extent of any internal injuries. Our biggest concern is damage to the intestines. There is a high chance of infection if the intestines have been perforated. By bringing him to surgery right away, we can repair the damage and make sure any infection does not spread. We are optimistic that he will be okay as long as we can control any infection. We'll fight any such problem off with antibiotics. I have some paperwork that needs to be signed to okay everything. Also, is he allergic to any medicine or food?"
Eric shook his head as he took the clipboard that the doctor held out to him and signed where the doctor indicated. "No, he's has no allergies."
The doctor took the clipboard back and smiled. "Good, then I think he will be okay. He will be in surgery for a little while. I'll have someone take you to the main surgery waiting area. When we're done with the surgery, they'll come out and let you know."
"Thank you, doctor."
Doctor Bushman nodded and left the room. A few minutes later an orderly came in to guide them to the waiting room. The orderly let the receptionist at the desk know who they were. Eric thanked him and he and the boys sat down to make themselves comfortable while they waited.
"Is it true that Josh will be okay?"
"Yeah, Jamie. It sounds like he will be okay."
Jamie nodded and put his head against Eric's chest and cried in relief. Dylan also leaned into Eric to be comforted as well. Ethan reached over and put his hand on Dylan's back. After a little while, Eric asked them if they would like something from the cafeteria. He wanted a cup of coffee. Since the boys had not had anything to eat since eating lunch at home and the snacks that Eric had provided while they waited for Josh didn't want to eat anything, but something to drink sounded good. Eric extricated himself from the boys and went over to the reception desk and asked for directions to the cafeteria. In the cafeteria Eric got himself some coffee, the boys chose hot chocolate. They brought their drinks back to the waiting area and continued their vigil.
As they were sitting there waiting, Jamie suddenly sat up. Eric and Dylan both noticed and looked over at him with concern.
"Jamie, are you okay?"
"Yeah, but what is she doing here?"
Jamie pointed over to the main desk in the lobby. Standing there was a middle aged lady who was at the desk. She had put her soft sided briefcase on the desk and was talking to the receptionist.
Eric looked at Jamie. "Who is she?"
"Alma Geddes, my caseworker."
"Hmm. You boys stay here. I'm going to go over to the desk for a moment."
Eric got up and casually made his way over to the desk. As he neared it, he heard Alma talking to the receptionist with her normal snooty way that she took when talking to those she considered beneath her.
She was holding out an ID card. "See here young lady, I am from Child Protective Services and I demand to see the doctor for the minor child Joshua Stuart. I know he was brought in here after his father shot him and then shot himself. He is an orphan and I am only doing my job. You are obstructing my work and could be liable for charges if you do not cooperate. Tell the doctor that I require his presence immediately. As the minor child no longer has any parents, we must take custody of him and I must be made aware of any and all medical decisions made for his care."
The young woman at the desk was probably around thirty so she knew that this person was insulting her, but she also knew that she had to maintain calm. Her lips compressed to a thin line to contain her anger.
She saw a man coming up behind Alma. "Excuse me."
Alma looked around with a sneer and looked him up and down. "This is none of your business. I am an official with Child Protective Services and you would do well to mind your own business, if you do not want to face charges for obstructing me in my duty."
She turned her back on Eric in dismissal, another lesser being in her eyes. She focused on the receptionist.
Eric glared at her back and reached into his back pocket and pulled out his badge and ID. "I think it is my business."
She turned around fully intending to tell him to back off, scorn evident on her face.
Eric looked at her with his 'calm police officer' look that he used when talking to victims of crimes, covering up the feeling that he'd like to slap the shit out of this bitch.
She stopped what she was going to say when she saw his badge. Instead she changed to her officious demeanor she used with many people. She looked at him and saw his casual clothes, jeans, polo shirt and light jacket and gave him a patronizing look. "Officer…." She looked at the ID. "….Barrett. Why do you believe that you can assist me in some way? I am perfectly capable of handling my duties."
"You were asking about Joshua Stuart?"
"Yes, the child has become orphaned due to his remaining parent killing himself after shooting the child. I was contacted by the police since his father was his only parent. I am here as a representative of the state to take guardianship of the child as required by law."
"Geddes. Miz Geddes, that will not be necessary."
"What do you mean not necessary. It is my responsibi….."
"No, it is not."
Alma was shocked as he interrupted her and her face turned a little red as she started.
"How dare you, give me your name and badge number, I will report you to your superiors. I will make sure you lose your job for interfering with a state official in the performance of her duties."
"No, Miz Geddes you will leave quietly and quit bothering this lady here. Joshua Stuart is not your concern, nor your responsibility. My name is Eric Barrett. Josh is my nephew and I am his guardian now that his parents are both gone as stated in their will. If anything was to happen to them before Josh became an adult, I was asked to take custody and raise him. I readily agreed and that is what I am doing. Taking guardianship, so you're services are neither wanted nor required. Have a good day madam."
Alma stood there for a few moments frowning at Eric, who returned her gaze calmly except for his eyes; they were hard as flint as he calmly met her gaze. With her lips compressed in a straight line, she turned around to grab her case and brushed past him. He could see that she was practically growling as she walked away. The lady at the desk looked at Eric with a smile and mouthed 'thank you'. Eric gave her a little smile and nod before he turned to go and join the boys. He saw Alma stop suddenly near the three boys. He heard her speak as he came up behind her.
She was glaring at Jamie. "What are you doing here boy!"
"I'm….uh, here to see about my friend."
"Miz Geddes, these boys are with me. Josh is their friend."
Alma looked around at Eric as he joined them and glared at him. "I think it is poor judgment for a supposed guardian to bring children to a hospital, they can get out of hand so easily and disturb the patients. They have no discipline or self-control."
"Miz Geddes, they are with me with their parent's permission."
"Foster parents! I am the legal guardian of this child here and I do not think that this is a place for him. If I did not have other more important things to do, I would take him with me and return him to his foster parent's custody. I should probably look into this foster arrangement as they give him far too much leeway and not enough discipline to let him do as he pleases."
Eric was having a harder time not to rear back and give her a swift kick in the ass to boot her out of the place. When he spoke his voice had a hard edge to it. "Miz Geddes, as I said, these boys are with me and with their parent's permission. You said that you have more important things to do. You should probably go and do them."
"Well, I never…."
"Probably correct, you never. Perhaps you should."
Ethan let out a giggle and covered his mouth as Alma whipped around. The others were looking at Ethan in confusion. He quickly looked down and stifled the giggle. What the others didn't know was that Ethan had heard Eric's unspoken thoughts concerning Alma Geddes.
< You need to get laid. Several times. >
Alma scowled at all of them before turning and stomping away.
Eric watched her go until she was out of sight before turning to the three boys. He looked at Ethan. "What was so funny Ethan?"
"Um, I uh…it's just what you said, it struck me as funny."
Eric looked at him before nodding and sitting down next to Jamie again. He put his arm around his shoulders and gave him a hug.
"I'm sorry you have to deal with that bitch. Maybe your foster parents can make a request to get you switched to another caseworker. That woman should never work with children. Actually she should never work with anyone."
"I know. Maggie and Tom don't like her either. I'll ask if it's possible."
"Well, if I can help, let me know."
"Thank you, Mister Barrett."
Eric let out a sigh. "You know guys, this Mister Barrett stuff, is too formal. Call me Eric, of even Uncle Eric. I don't care, but quit with the Mister Barrett."
They nodded agreement. A couple of hours later the three boys were out. Jamie was leaning against Eric. Ethan and Dylan were leaning against each other. While they slept their hands had joined together. Eric had noticed this, so he saw that Ethan and Dylan were probably a couple as well. He was resting with his head leaned back against the back of the couch and his arm around Jamie who was resting his head against Eric's chest. Eric had his eyes closed but was not asleep.
Over at the reception desk a man in scrubs leaned down to talk to the receptionist. She pointed over to Eric and the boys. He nodded, thanked her and walked over to them. "Mister Barrett?"
Eric opened his eyes and looked up. There was a man in scrubs standing in front of him. "Yes."
"I'm Doctor Grant Lenard. I'm the surgeon for Joshua Stuart."
"How is he? Will he be okay?"
"Yes. The surgery went well. The bullet did some damage to his small intestine and we had to remove a small section, less than a foot and reconnect it. That part went very well and I believe that there will be no problems from that. He is in the recovery room now and will be there for a little while until he is transferred to ICU. My biggest worry is infection. Anytime the intestines are perforated, there is a chance that their contents can spill in the abdominal cavity and peritonitis is a worry. We should be able to take care of it with antibiotics. We will know better tomorrow. If he responds well, we'll move him to a regular room."
"When can we see him?"
The doctor checked his watch and grimaced a little bit. "Visiting hours are just about over and he's going to be out of it until tomorrow some time. So I suggest going on home and come back after eight tomorrow morning when visiting hours start."
"But I gotta see him. I just gotta. Please sir, I just want to see him."
The doctor looked down at Jamie who had awakened. He saw the anguished look on Jamie's face.
"I'll see what I can do. No promises. Give me a few minutes and I'll let you know."
He turned, walked away, and disappeared. He returned a few minutes later. "If you promise to keep quiet, I'll let you see him for a moment. He is still out from the anesthetic so he won't know that you're there, but you can see him and see that he's okay. Follow me."
The doctor led them to some double doors and hit a large button on the wall which opened the doors. He led Eric and Jamie, asking the other two boys to wait there for them. The room they entered had several curtained off beds. Some with patients in them with a nurse tending to them and others just empty beds. The doctor led him to another smaller room. It was decorated to make kids feel a little more comfortable. There were fewer beds in here and only one was occupied. Eric sensed that Jamie wanted to rush over there, so he put his hand on Jamie's shoulder. The doctor led them over to where Josh was laying. He had a nasal cannula giving him oxygen. The blanket was pulled up to his neck to keep him warm.
"You've got one minute, and then you'll have to come back in the morning."
He walked away to give them some privacy. Jamie walked around to stand at Josh's side. He reached out and touched Josh's bruised and swollen face gently. Then he leaned down and kissed him. Eric smoothed Josh's hair back from his forehead. They stood in silence looking down on Josh's pale face until the doctor returned to escort them out to the waiting room. Eric shook his hand and thanked him for taking care of Josh.
The four of them walked back and got in the Jeep for the drive back to Eric's place. They were a subdued group that went into the house. They sat down in front of the TV but weren't really paying attention to what was on.
Eric got up and looked at the boys. "I'm kind of tired. You boys look pretty tired too."
The boys looked at him and nodded. "Mist….
Jamie caught the look Eric gave him. "Sorry, Eric, can I sleep with you tonight?"
Eric was surprised, but he could see the way Jamie looked. He looked like a boy that needed to be comforted or he may not be able to sleep. He nodded, "Sure."
"Is it okay if Ethan and I sleep together?"
He nodded to Dylan and Ethan.
"C'mon. Why don't you guys get ready for bed and all of you can sleep with me. I don't think any of us want to be alone tonight. My bed is plenty big enough."
They went upstairs to Josh's room where they had left their bags. They changed into gym shorts and went to the bathroom. When they were done they went to Eric's bedroom and waited while Eric turned off the lights and got in bed. They got in the king size bed on either side of him and snuggled up to him. He put his arms around them. Soon the events of the day sent them all into an exhausted sleep.
Early the next morning, Eric felt a little confined and his back was a little sore. He opened his eyes and found that he had not moved from lying flat on his back all night long. The two boys were still curled up against him and Ethan was curled up behind Dylan. He knew he had to get up because if he didn't there was going to be an accident. So with a lot of slow and careful moving he finally extricated himself and left the boys sleeping. After using the bathroom he came back into his room and got dressed before heading back downstairs to start getting breakfast together. He decided on bacon, eggs and toast. A few minutes later he heard movement above and soon the three boys came downstairs. They sat down at the breakfast bar.
"Morning boys. How are you feeling today?"
"Okay, I guess."
"Yeah, and thanks for letting us stay with your last night."
"Yeah, thanks Mister Barrett."
Eric scowled at them. "What did I say yesterday?"
"Oh, yeah, thanks uh, Eric."
He nodded. "Better. I'm glad I could do whatever I could to be there for you guys."
"Mis…uh Eric? When can we go visit Josh."
"Well, the doctor said after eight o'clock was when visiting hours started, so we'll try to get there between eight and nine."
Eric directed the boys to where the plates, cups and utensils were. They put everything on the kitchen table and Eric followed them with the food. After eating they put the dishes in the sink and Eric went outside to get his paper. The boys went into the den to watch TV. They had no sooner sat down when Dylan's phone rang. He dug it out of his pocket and saw Logan's name.
"Oh, dang it I forgot about calling Logan……Uh, hi Logan."
"Hey Dylan. So is Josh okay?"
"What do you mean sorta?"
"Well, um….Josh was hurt and he had to go to the hospital, but they said he'll be okay."
"SHOT! WHAT THE FUCK?"
In the background Dylan could hear someone's voice.
"Josh was shot? Is he alright?"
"Who is that Logan?"
"Ian. He spent the night. You said he's going to be okay?"
"Yeah, that's what the doctor said after they did the surgery?"
"Where was he shot?"
"In the stomach."
"Who shot him?"
"No shit? Oh man, that sucks. Why?"
"We're not sure."
"Oh. Where is Josh?"
"He's at Hemet Valley."
"Can we go see him?"
"I don't know. We're going to go there when visiting hours start."
"Okay, call me when you find out if it's okay."
"Okay, talk to you later. Tell him hi for us."
At Logan's house, Ian was sitting on the bed looking at Logan.
"Sooooo? What happened?"
"Josh's dad shot him in the stomach and they had to do surgery, but Dylan said that he's going to be okay. They did surgery on him yesterday, probably to get the bullet out. I wonder why his dad shot him?"
"Yeah, why would someone do that?"
Ian leaned back against the headboard. A moment later he sat back up.
"Logan, I need to use your computer."
Logan nodded and Ian got out of the bed and slipped his underwear on before going over to the computer and turning it on. While it was booting up, Ian got dressed before sitting down in front at the desk. Once the computer was on he went online and entered a Google search. He read a little bit and selected a couple of different results, before doing some more searches. Logan finished dressing and came to look over Ian's shoulder just as he entered peritonitis into the search bar. He read through a Wikipedia article on it.
"Shit. If he gets this, he could die. Logan, I want to go visit Josh."
"Yeah, should I call Dylan again?"
"No. Why don't we ride our bikes over there? Maybe we'll meet up with Dylan."
"Yeah. Let's get something to eat first."
Ian nodded and they two boys made their way to the kitchen and got some cereal for breakfast. When they were done, they said goodbye to Logan's parents and rode their bikes to the hospital. When they got there, they locked their bikes up and went to the main lobby. They were told that visiting hours started at eight, besides they didn't know where Josh's room was. They would have wait for a little while. They kept an eye out for Jamie and Dylan. Around eight thirty, they saw Dylan, Ethan and Jamie come in with a man that they didn't know and walk up to the reception desk. They stood up and walked up behind them.
"Hi guys." Their three friends turned around in surprise.
"What are you guys doing here?"
"We decided to come and visit Josh. That's okay isn't it?"
"Yeah, sure, I guess it's alright."
Eric finished talking to the receptionist and found that Josh was in a regular room rather than an ICU bed. He motioned for the boys to follow him as he headed towards the elevators. He pushed the button and turned to the three boys but paused in surprise when he saw that there were five boys.
"We seem to have grown a bit. Who are you guys?"
"I'm Ian and this is Logan. We're friends of Josh."
"Okay. That's nice of you to come by guys. I'm Josh's Uncle Eric. I'm sure Josh will be glad to see you. I don't know how many of us will be able to go in the room at a time, but we'll find out when we get upstairs."
The elevator arrived and they got in. Once they got to the floor that Josh was on, they got out and went to the unit secretary's desk and asked which room Josh was in. The first thing Dylan noticed when he got off the elevator was the assault on his senses. It nearly staggered him. He was nearly overwhelmed by the pain, fear, worry, sadness that came his way. He put his hand up to his head and quickly damped those feelings down.
Jamie noticed Dylan cover his eyes. "Dylan, you okay."
Dylan was able to shake it off and look at his friend and nod. Ethan was looking at him in concern. He could read what had caused Dylan to do that. He had already filtered everything but his friends surface thoughts.
"Yeah, I'm okay. I'm….uh, just worried about Josh."
"Yeah me too."
The unit secretary asked who Eric was and he pulled his wallet with his ID and police badge, telling her that he was Josh's uncle. She nodded and gave him the information. He led the boys over to the waiting area and told them to wait while he went to check on Josh. Jamie almost protested but Eric told him that he wanted to make sure that Josh was ready for visitors.
Since Dylan had filtered out the feelings from patients and family members that were there, he was able to filter out Jamie's feelings of worry that he had been feeling since they left the house to go to the hospital.
When Eric got to the room he had been told was Josh's room he opened the door and went inside. There were two beds in the room. One of the beds appeared to be unused. He went to the other bed and saw that Josh seemed to be sleeping but Eric noticed that he looked a little flushed. When Eric felt his forehead, Josh stirred and blinked his eyes a couple of times.
Eric made sure he was smiling when Josh focused his eyes on him. "Oh….hey, Uncle Eric. Where am I?"
"You're at the hospital Josh."
Josh tried to sit up but winced in pain as Eric put a hand on his shoulder to keep him still. Josh put his hand down to his left side where he could feel the bandage over his surgery scar. He could also feel something on his back as well. He felt there and found another bandage.
"Easy there Josh. You don't want to tear your stitches out."
"Yeah, buddy. They had to operate, but you're going to be okay."
Josh looked around and there was a little worry on his face when he looked back at Eric. "What about my….dad?"
"Don't worry about that right now. You just relax and work at getting better. That's the only thing that you have to do. Don't worry about anything else. Okay?"
Josh nodded and swallowed a couple of times to try to push down the tears that came to his eyes.
Eric gently smoothed his hair back. "Josh, do you feel up to some visitors?"
Josh brightened at that and nodded. "Yes….uh, wait….do they know what happened?"
"Yeah. Dylan, Ethan and Jamie were with me when we went to your home."
"Oh. Well, I guess it's okay."
"Your friends, Ian and Logan, are here too. Is it okay for them to come in too? It's up to you."
Josh thought for a few moments and then nodded. "It's okay, they can come in."
"Okay, I'll get 'em and be right back."
Eric patted him on the shoulder before he turned and left the room. He made his way down to the small waiting area where the boys were waiting.
Jamie practically jumped up when he saw Eric coming towards them. "Is Josh okay? Can I see him?"
"Yes, Josh is okay. He's a little sore right now, but he's okay."
"So when do can we go see him?"
"That's what I came out here to do. Get you guys? So, if you're ready, come with me and remember you're in a hospital, so keep it down."
Eric turned and headed back to Josh's room, the five boys followed along behind him. He paused outside the door and turned to the boys motioning for them to come closer. "Guys, there's one more thing. I haven't told Josh about his dad and I'd appreciate it, if none of you said anything either."
He looked at each of the boys and they nodded. Ian and Logan were a little puzzled by the request, because they didn't know exactly what he was talking about. Ian started to say something, but Dylan looked over at him and shook his head and he shrugged and nodded.
Eric nodded. He opened the door and held it open for the boys to enter. They filed in, with Jamie leading the way. He froze for a moment when he saw Josh. The bruises where his dad had hit him were showing more now. Tears threatened but he controlled himself and went to Josh. His movement got Josh's attention and he turned away from looking out the window. He saw Jamie walking toward him and he gave a little nervous smile. Jamie had to stop himself from rushing over to Josh and jumping in bed with him. Instead he went to the near side of the bed and took Josh's hand in his.
Josh held tightly to him and smiled in relief. He had been a little afraid that Jamie would be a little freaked out about everything. "Hi Josh."
"How are you feeling?"
"Kinda sore, but okay, I think."
Jamie bit his lip and nodded because he didn't know what to say. Josh nodded and squeezed his hand.
Dylan finally could relax because Jamie's worried feelings finally lessened when he saw that Josh seemed to okay.
Josh saw the others. "Hi Dylan, Ethan. Oh and Ian and Logan….uh, hi guys."
"So, uh, Josh, how are you feeling?"
"I'm okay, I guess."
"Hey guys, I'm going to the cafeteria. Anyone want anything to drink?"
All of the boys shook their heads and Eric nodded and left the room. Ian watched Eric leave. Once he was gone he looked at Josh. He and Jamie were staring at each other. Dylan and Ethan were on the other side of the bed and he started talking to Josh. Soon they were all talking. Ian and Logan had taken a seat in some chairs at the foot of the bed.
Ian mostly looked at Josh. He saw that Josh looked a little pale, which made the bruises look darker against the pale skin. After a few minutes he leaned over toward Logan and plucked at his sleeve. Logan turned to him. Ian kept his voice low, so the others couldn't hear him. "Logan, I want to help Josh."
"Yeah, sure, but how…oh."
He looked over at Josh before turning back. "Are you sure Ian? It could get really weird. They're gonna see you do this. What if they freak?"
"I don't care, that was fucked up what his dad did. If it means that they freak, then they freak. He's my friend and I don't want him to be hurting."
"Okay, you know I got your back?"
"Yeah, I know. Go make sure Josh's uncle doesn't come in."
Logan took his hand and squeezed for a moment as they both got up. Logan nodded and went to the door.
Ian walked over and stood beside Jamie. "Josh, can I ask you something?"
"Yeah, I guess."
Ian took a deep breath to gather the courage to let them know about what he could do. The four of them were waiting for him to continue.
"I hope you won't get freaked, or mad, but I gotta ask this. Josh, will you show me where you got shot?"
Both Dylan and Jamie turned and scowled at him.
"Not cool Ian. Why'd you want to ask him that?"
Ian held his hands up. He saw that Josh's eyes teared up and fear came to his face.
"Whoa, I know. Please, I know it sounds harsh, but there's a reason."
"Guys listen to him. Ian has a reason he's asking. Just give him a chance."
Ian had not heard Logan join him until he felt his hands come around his waist to hug him and he spoke in his defense. The other three looked at both of them and Josh nodded. He put his hand over the spot covered by the bandages.
Ian tried to look apologetic. "Um, I mean can I see it. Please trust me. We don't have much time before your uncle gets back. If I'm going to do this, I want to do it before he gets back."
"I gotta ask you to just trust me, please?"
The four boys exchanged glances. Dylan and Jamie were still a little upset about what Ian had asked and looked at Josh to see what he would do. Ethan looked at Ian with wonder and his mouth dropped open but he covered it up quickly and none of the others noticed. Josh pulled his hand from Jamie's grasp and pushed the covers down and then pulled up the gown he was wearing until the bandage was exposed. Ian smiled at him and reached out to the wound but stopped himself.
"I'm sorry but is that the only place?"
"No, my…b…back too."
Josh sucked in his breath as he tried to move, but couldn't because of the pain.
Jamie reached for Josh to comfort him and turned his scowl on Ian. "What are you doing Ian?"
"Trust me. Josh, I'm going to put my hands on the places you were shot."
The three guys were looking warily at him. Ethan was focused on watching what Ian was going to attempt. He had read what he was going to do and he really wanted to see this. Jamie was having a hard time not grabbing Ian and pushing him away. They all watched as Ian placed one hand over the bandage on Josh's stomach and slowly and carefully slipped his hand under Josh and covered the bandage on his back. He closed his eyes and started trying to send his gift into Josh.
Dylan could feel the little bit of anger that Jamie was feeling and the nervousness of Ian, along with the confusion and nervousness that Josh was feeling. He also felt something strange coming from Ethan and the closest he could get to identifying it was, anticipation. His brow furrowed as he looked at his boyfriend with curiosity. Why would he be feeling such a strange feeling?
Ian was afraid that nothing would happen and the others would quit being friends with him and Logan. He was nervous and he tried to relax but it was hard.
Dylan tried to send some calming feelings to all of his friends to get everyone to calm down. He had never tried to influence as many people as this. Nothing seemed to be happening for Ian and that made him more nervous and then he felt a gentle kiss on the side of his neck and he could hear Logan telling him that he loved him. That seemed to relax him and he suddenly felt his gift start to work.
"What's going on Josh."
"I…I don't know, I can't describe it."
Ian kept his hands in place. He felt around and found what he thought were damaged areas. He searched around and when he found a place that didn't feel right, he wrapped his mind around it worked on the area until it felt mostly right as far as he could tell. He moved to another area and did the same thing. This continued for a couple of minutes in real time, but it seemed a long time to Ian. When he took his hands away, Josh was staring at him in awe.
Dylan also noticed a difference in the feelings of pain that he felt coming from Josh. They were practically nonexistent now, compared to what they had been before Ian did whatever he did.
"Dude, what did you do?"
Ian felt really tired and dizzy right then. Logan felt Ian sag in his arms a little and he guided him to the chairs. Jamie was looking between Ian and Josh very confused. Dylan felt a huge lessening in the amount of pain that Josh was feeling. The acute pain that Josh had been feeling had nearly disappeared. It was more like a feeling of sore muscles.
Jamie was looking down at Josh who had a look of surprise on his face. "What do you mean Josh?"
At that moment, the door opened and Eric came in. He was carrying a few drinks. "Hey guys, I figured you might want something so I brought some cokes for you."
He stopped when he noticed no one was talking and he looked around. Josh had a wide eyed stare directed at Ian, and Jamie was looking at Josh with concern. Dylan was looking back and forth between everyone. Eric looked around wondering what was going on.
Josh broke the silence that was palpable in the room. "Thanks Uncle Eric. I am a little thirsty."
Eric smiled and handed him a bottle. Soon the others were grabbing the other plastic bottles as he handed them out. Eric figured that they had been just talking about something that they didn't want to share with him and that's why they had been looking at each other with some strange looks. Jamie pulled another chair next to the bed and reclaimed Josh's hand. They were soon just talking about things. Every so often Josh would give Ian a curious look and he would also reach down and feel around the bandage. He also would carefully squirm around to see how it felt. He was surprised to find that there was very little pain.
The coke seemed to help Ian feel better. Once he finished the coke he stood up, with Logan getting up with him. "Josh, it's good to see you're okay. Me and Logan gotta get home. We'll see you later."
"O…okay, thanks Dude."
Josh gave Ian a look that spoke volumes. Ian knew that eventually he was going to have to explain, but now was not the time. They left the room and walked out of the hospital to their bikes.
Before they left, Logan put his hand on Ian's arm. "Are you okay, Ian?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. That coke helped. After I healed him, I felt weak and dizzy. You know, a little tired. I'll be okay, but I think I might take a nap when I get home."
"Okay, but if you get tired on the way home we'll stop, and you can rest."
"Alright, let's get going. I can feel that bed calling me."
Logan chuckled and they took off.
Back in the room, the doctor came in the room followed by Josh's nurse to check on him. Eric and the boys were asked to leave while the doctor was with Josh. They returned to the waiting area until they were allowed to return to Josh's room.
Inside, the doctor had the nurse put the bandaging supplies on the rolling table beside the bed, "Good morning, Joshua. How are you feeling today?"
"Well, let's take a look at your incisions and see how they are healing."
Josh nodded. The doctor smiled and patted his arm as he pulled the hospital gown up and turned the covers down enough to uncover the incision site. He carefully peeled the tape holding the bandage away. Josh winced a little when it pulled.
"Sorry young man. I can't remove it like a bandage and just rip it off. So just hang in there while I take it off."
"I understand sir."
The doctor smiled his encouragement and continued removing the tape and then the gauze that covered it. He glanced at the gauze before setting it aside on the table. He looked down on the wound and he furrowed his brow in confusion. He probed all around the incision site as he inspected it. He looked at Josh, "Does it hurt anywhere as I press down?"
The doctor nodded as he continued to inspect the incision site. He motioned for the nurse to assist him. "Karen, would you help me turn Josh on his side so that I can check the wound on his back?"
She nodded and started to move forward but was stopped by Josh speaking up.
"I think I can get on my side, sir."
He put his words into action and carefully started moving until he realized it didn't really hurt, there was only some pulling around the incision site. The doctor proceeded to remove the tape and gauze over the exit wound. When it was exposed, he again probed around the site and asked Josh if it hurt when he did. Again the answer was no. The doctor shook his head before he asked the nurse to put a fresh bandage on Josh's back. Once that was done, he had Josh roll back. The doctor looked down at the incision and gently probed once again. He shook his head and stepped back to let the nurse put on a fresh bandage.
The doctor went around to the other side of the bed and looked down on Josh. "Well young man. You have done some remarkable healing. Everything seems to be coming along extremely well. I'll go outside and let your family come back in. Take care."
He patted Josh's shoulder before he turned to leave the room. The nurse finished up and smiled at Josh. Outside the nurse walked over to where the doctor was entering some notes into the computer.
He looked up as Karen walked up to him. "So, am I crazy or did that look like a surgery incision that was less than twenty four hours old to you?"
She shook her head. "No. It seemed to be a few days old. What happened?"
"I don't know. I have heard of fast healers, but this is about the fastest I've ever seen or heard of anyone healing. Even when he moved to the side, he didn't seem to be in much pain at all and I would have expected him to need help to move like that."
He shook his head and returned to his progress notes. He finished up and made his way to the waiting area. Eric and the boys saw him coming and stood up.
"Everything looks good and he seems to be healing extremely well."
Jamie and Dylan exchange looks when they heard that.
"Great. So when can he come home?"
"I think that tomorrow would be okay. I'd like to keep him one more night for observation, but considering how well he's doing, I think you should be able to take him home around noon tomorrow."
"That's great news, thank you doctor." Eric smiled and shook the doctor's hand.
Dylan and Jamie had big smiles on their faces as well. The doctor left and they headed back to Josh's room. Eric went over to Josh's side and leaned down to give him a peck on the forehead. Jamie took Josh's hand and smiled at him.
"Well bud, the doctor said that you can go home tomorrow."
"For now, I have some things that I have to take care of. So we'll have to say goodbye for now. I really need to get these guys home too. When I come back tomorrow I'll be sure to bring you some clothes to change into."
Dylan and Jamie were a bit disappointed but they knew that they had to get home. Jamie leaned down and gave Josh a quick kiss on the lips and a hug. Dylan and Ethan did the same and they followed Eric out of the hospital. Outside, Dylan was finally able to stop having to filter out all the bad feelings from assaulting his mind. When he did he noticed that he had a little headache and winced in the sunlight. He rubbed his head a little to try to make the pain go away. He and Ethan got in the backseat for the ride to Eric's house. Once there they went to the bedroom to gather their things. While they did they talked.
"So what do you think happened with Ian?"
"I don't know Jamie. I didn't see anything happening. What do you think?"
"I don't know either, but Josh seemed to be more comfortable after Ian touched him"
"Yeah. We should ask Mister Barrett if we can come over tomorrow afternoon to see Josh. Maybe he can tell us what happened. That doctor came in before he could say anything to us."
"Good idea. C'mon, let's go ask."
Ethan hadn't said a thing, because he didn't want to mention anything with Jamie in the room. He would wait until later when he got Dylan alone. They went back downstairs where Eric was sitting in the den watching television.
"Hey Eric, we've got our stuff so I guess we'll head home. Thanks for letting us stay and come with you to see Josh."
"My pleasure guys, thanks for being here with me, too. It helped."
"Sir, can we come over and see Josh tomorrow when he gets home?"
"We'll see. He and I have a lot of things to take care of tomorrow and we may not have time. I'll have Josh call you when he gets home."
"Will he be living here then?"
"Yes. I'm his godfather and if anything were to happen to his parents, he is supposed to come live with me. So he'll be here. That is part of what we have to take care of tomorrow and for the next few days, along with funeral arrangements and such."
"Okay. We'll wait to hear from Josh."
"Good, have a safe ride home. See you guys later." Eric got up from the chair and gave each boy a hug and led them to the garage where their bikes were parked so he could open it for them. They grabbed their bikes and soon were on their way home. Eric waved to them and closed the garage door. Tomorrow he had to go over to the condo and start making arrangements to clear the furniture and personal effects, and talk to a lawyer about the estate. It was going to be busy few days. He also knew that he had to arrange to get the place cleaned. He decided to head over to the condo early before he went to pick up Josh from the hospital. He was a little surprised but glad that Josh was coming home tomorrow.