Early the next morning, after having something to eat and reading the paper, Eric left for the condo. When he arrived he took out the key he had and entered the condo. The first thing he noticed was that there was still the smell of blood in the living room. It wasn't the smell of fresh, newly shed blood, but a more rancid smell now. The bits of brain matter splattered on the wall and ceiling added to that smell now. He looked at the wall and ceiling and knew that he had to get that cleaned and the walls painted. On the floor near the chair where Derrick had been found, the carpet would need to be replaced. He found a yellow legal pad on Derrick's desk in his office and started making notes of what he would need to do.
He walked through the condo and made the notes that he could. He searched the desk to find the info he needed to handle Derrick's affairs. He found insurance, bank information and other important papers, among these were some information concerning Derrick's lawyer. He found that Derrick had a safe deposit box at a local bank. He put the paperwork on the desktop and continued searching for the safe deposit box key. He found nothing and went to Derrick's room. Searching around in there he found a safe in the floor of the closet. It had a combination lock, and he didn't know the combo. He hoped to find it somewhere in the bedroom or office.
While searching around he found Derrick's phone in his bedroom. It was a Blackberry that was a few years old. It fit Derrick's style. He turned it on and started trying to figure out what the password was. He tried several things but got nowhere until he entered: J E B S, Josh's initials. That unlocked it and he found the information he needed; the combo to the safe for one, plus some other passwords for the computer at home and at work. He started going through the phone and wrote down everything he would need. Once that was done he went to the safe and tried the combo. It worked and inside he found more of the paperwork he needed. Insurance and investment documents, and more bank documents including birth certificates and the safe deposit box key. He emptied the safe and put the papers with everything else that he had found earlier on the desktop in the office.
He also grabbed some clothes for Derrick to drop off at the mortuary. Among some of the papers he saw information for the local cemetery and that Derrick had some funeral plans picked out and paid for. It was at the same cemetery as his sister, in a plot next to her. Eric sighed. Whatever else, he knew Derrick had loved his sister. He thought the same was true for Josh. It just didn't make sense, none at all.
He went into Josh's room and he saw the bloody covers. He knew he had to get that out of there, so he bundled them up and took them outside to throw them in the dumpster. When he went back into the condo, he looked around and decided that he had the important things for now, so he got the papers together and put them in Derrick's laptop case along with the laptop. He got some clothes for Josh, put them in Josh's backpack and took everything out to his Jeep. He checked the time and saw that it was close enough that he should head to the hospital. He would be a little early, but he thought that maybe Josh might be able to leave a little early.
He left the complex and within ten minutes or so, he was at the hospital. He grabbed the backpack with Josh's clothes and slung it over his shoulder. He soon walked into Josh's room.
Josh looked up and smiled. "Hi Uncle Eric."
"Hey Josh. I've got some of your clothes to change into as soon as the doctor says you can go. Has he come in yet?"
Eric put the backpack in a chair and turned to the door. "I'm going to go see if I can hurry this up and get you out of here sooner."
Eric left the room and went over to the nurse's station. He talked to one of the nurses and she told him that she would try to contact the doctor. He thanked her and returned to Josh's room.
"I talked to the nurse. She said she'd try to contact the doctor."
Josh nodded and turned his attention back to the TV. Eric picked up the backpack and set it on the floor so he could sit down. They sat for about half an hour before the door opened and the doctor came in followed by Josh's nurse. He walked over to Eric with his hand out. Eric stood up and shook his hand.
"Good morning Mister Barrett. I'm sorry I couldn't get here earlier, but I was with another patient."
"Of course doctor. So can I take Josh home now?"
"Let me take a look at Joshua and make sure everything is okay."
Eric nodded and moved out of the way. The doctor went over to the side of the bed. He had Josh pull the gown up to uncover the bandage. He carefully removed the bandage as he had the day before to inspect the incision site. He probed around the wound and asked Josh if there was any pain. Josh shook his head. He put on a fresh bandage and then had Josh roll up on his side so that they could change the bandage on his back. It also caused no pain to Josh. Both wounds were healing well.
"Well, you heal remarkably fast young man. I see no reason for you to continue your stay with us. Mister Barrett, everything looks pretty good, so give me a few minutes to get all the discharge paperwork done and you can take Josh home."
He smiled and left the room. Eric picked up the backpack and handed it to Josh. "Why don't you get changed, so we can get you out of here."
Josh pulled the covers back so that he could slip to the floor. As he stood up, he swayed a little and Eric went over to steady him and take the backpack from the bed where Josh had put it.
"Do you need me to help you?"
"No, I was just a little dizzy when I stood up, its better now."
Eric nodded but stayed beside him, just in case. Josh was able to walk under his own power to the bathroom nearby. Eric followed and handed him the backpack at the door. Josh took it and closed the door. He came out a few minutes later fully dressed and ready to go. Moments later the door opened and the doctor and nurse came in.
"Well Joshua, you are free to go. Mister Barrett, the nurse has some papers for you to sign. I have included some instructions for changing the bandages and a prescription for some antibiotics and pain meds. Follow the instructions for the antibiotics until they are all gone and use the pain meds only if necessary. If he has any unusual pain or bleeding from the incision site, bring him to the emergency room. Do you have any questions for me?"
"What about school, doctor?"
"Oh, yes, when do they go back?"
Eric glanced at Josh. "Monday. We're supposed to start back on Monday."
"Hmmm. Josh, I want you take it easy for the next month…"
"Yes. You should not do anything strenuous for at least a month. So no PE, or any sports for a month. I'll give you a note for school."
"What about riding my bike to school?"
"I….would prefer that you not do that for at least two weeks. By then I would prefer that you talk to your own doctor and if he says you can ride your bike at that time, then I have no problem, but you should still take it easy. No speeding down the road on your bike. At the end of the month I expect that your doctor will release you to full activity then. So just take it easy for a little while, okay?"
He took out a prescription pad and wrote on it, before handing it to Eric.
"That should take care of the school. Make sure you make an appointment with his doctor in about a week to check the incision. Then just continue to follow up with him as he decides."
"Thanks a lot doctor."
The doctor shook hands with both of them before leaving. The nurse handed the paperwork to Eric. He signed where she told him to and she tore off his copies of the papers, the instructions and the prescription form. She told them an orderly would be there soon with the wheelchair to help Josh out to the car.
A few minutes later the door was opened and a young guy with a wheelchair came in. He smiled at them. "I've been asked to escort a Joshua Stuart out of the building as he is no longer welcome here, as we need the bed for an actually sick patient."
Josh grinned and took a seat in the chair. They were soon outside the front door of the hospital. Eric hurried off to get his Jeep, returning a short time later. Josh slowly got up, thanked the orderly and climbed into the Jeep with Eric standing nearby just in case.
Once Josh was in, he got into the driver's side and looked over at Josh. "Well, ready to go?"
"Yeah, uh…Uncle Eric?"
"Um…where is my dad? Is he in Jail for shooting me?"
Eric paused, slightly stunned. He had forgotten that Josh did not know what had happened to Derrick. He grimaced a little and turned to Josh to with a sympathetic look. "No Josh. I'm sorry, you didn't know. Your father…shot himself when he realized what he had done to you."
Josh went pale in shock. He looked at his uncle trying to find some evidence that it wasn't true, but he saw only truth on Eric's face. He looked down and Eric saw his shoulders begin to tremble a little as he began to cry. Eric reached over and rubbed his back.
"Let's get home Josh. We can talk there."
Josh didn't answer as Eric pulled away. Fifteen minutes later they pulled up in front of Eric's house. Eric went around to the passenger side to help Josh. As they walked to the house and inside, Josh clung to him. Eric brought him into the den and sat down on the couch. He pulled Josh into his lap and held him. Josh buried his face in Eric's chest and began to let go with shuddering sobs. Eric held him and told him that things would be okay. He let Josh cry himself out.
He pulled back and looked at Eric. "What will happen to me now?"
"You'll live here with me of course. It was your parents wish that if anything happened to them, that I would take care of you."
Josh hugged him tightly. "I'm a little tired. Is it okay to go take a nap?"
"Sure. Do you need help getting up to your room?"
"No, I'm alright now." Josh got off Eric's lap and headed towards the stairs. At the doorway he looked back, "Uncle Eric. Do you know why he did that?"
Eric shook his head. "No, I don't. I'm sorry, I don't understand any of it. I know he loved you. It just doesn't make any sense."
Josh nodded and turned away to slowly make his way upstairs to his bedroom. Once he got to his room, he laid down and soon fell asleep. A few hours later, Josh was shaken awake. He looked around and saw his uncle smiling down at him.
"Hey buddy, are you hungry?"
Josh sat up and rubbed his eyes. After a moment he nodded, "Yeah. Hospital food isn't that great."
"Okay, why don't you wash your face and hands and come downstairs. I'll make some grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for dinner."
Eric left the room and Josh went to the bathroom to clean up a little. After washing up, he looked at his face in the mirror. His face was bruised where his dad had hit him. He felt around it and winced a little when he touched it. Then he pulled his shirt up and looked at the bandage. He felt around it and realized there was really no pain. He looked down at the wound and marveled at what had happened. He kept asking himself how Ian had done that. What had he done? He knew that he had to talk to him and try to understand, but that would wait until later. For now his growling stomach was telling him something now.
Josh went downstairs and saw his uncle putting the food down on the kitchen table. When he sat down the smell of the simple fare made his stomach growl, which got a laugh from Eric.
"Well I guess that answers that."
Josh smiled and began to eat. When he was about done, he looked at his uncle. "Thanks, for well, everything."
"You're my only family, so you know I'd do anything for you."
Josh smiled self-consciously and finished up. He started to get up to put his dishes away, but Eric waved him down and grabbed it himself. Josh sat back down and watched his uncle clear the dishes. When his uncle returned he sat down with a cup of coffee. He noticed that Josh was kind of silent and when he looked up, he saw a look on his face that was if he was trying to figure something out.
"What are you thinking about Josh?"
"Its…um, something, I…uh remember. It was something my…Dad said."
Eric looked at Josh apprehensively. He thought about stopping Josh from saying anything, but he was curious and waited.
Josh looked at his uncle for a moment before continuing, "Before he…hit me…he said I was a freak and that I was probably the reason that my mom died from cancer…"
Josh started crying and Eric rushed to his side and held him. Josh clung to him and as Eric stood up Josh continued to hang on and wrapped his legs around Eric's waist. Eric carried him over to the couch and sat down cradling him. Josh stopped crying loudly but he was still sniffling as he continued to talk.
"He…he was talking also about some…someone else and also something about an experiment or something. He said he had to find the other freaks. Do…do you know something about what he was talking about Uncle Eric?"
Eric continued to comfort Josh and merely shook his head. He actually thought he might have an inkling of what Josh was talking about, because when his sister contacted him, she and Derrick had told him a little about what had happened. He was at Fort Bragg in North Carolina when he received the post card.
Flashback - Two years before
Eric picked up the mail that had come in and found a post card. The picture on the front was from Walt Disney World in Orlando. He couldn't think who he knew would be at Disney World and would be sending him a post card. He turned it over and saw what was written.
Call Me Please
Eric looked at the inscription and was puzzled. Who is this 'C' person? He tapped the card against his other hand as he went back to his room in the NCO barracks building. He lay back on his rack and looked at the card, turning it from front to back. Finally he reached over to the table by the bed and picked up his cell phone. He looked at the number and started dialing. He heard the phone ring and waited.
Eric's eyes popped open.
"Hello? Is someone there?"
Eric swallowed a couple of times and tried to speak, but the sound came out as a squeak. He paused again and cleared his throat. "Ch…Chris? Is that you?"
"Eric. Oh god, Eric…."
Eric sat up when he heard his supposedly dead sister's voice. Surprise and a little anger was evident in his voice. "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING BEING ALIVE?"
"Eric, little brother, calm down."
"CALM DOWN. HOW THE FUCK AM I SUPPOSED TO BE CALM, WHEN I'M TALKING TO A DEAD PERSON?"
"Eric, damn it, shut the hell up and calm down!"
The fierceness in her low voiced order cut through to him. He swallowed the anger down and got his voice under control and answered in a steady tone.
"Okay, Christine. I'm calm."
"Good. I know you want some answers, but I want to do it face to face."
"Very well, when and where?"
"As soon as you can get here."
"As soon as I can get where?"
"Disney World in Florida. Please little brother. It's important."
Eric was silent for a few moments. Christine said nothing, she just waited.
"I'll see if I can get time off. It's not like I can just leave."
"I know. I didn't know where you were either, I just sent it to the APO and hoped it would get to you by the time we arrived here."
"If I can make it, where are you staying?"
"We're at the Polynesian Resort. Call me if you can make it."
"No, either I'll be there or not. You'll have to wait and find out. I'll call you when and if I can get there. Now I have a very important call to make."
"Important call? Uh, no, you can't call them. I swear to you that it is a matter of life or death. Trust me on that, please?"
"But they need to know. All this time, they have thought you were dead."
"Please Eric, please don't tell them. I have to remain dead to them. They cannot know."
Eric's lips thinned in frustration and he nearly growled. "Very well, but you better have a very good reason for not being dead."
"I do, but you'll have to come down here to hear it."
"Okay, I'll see what I can do. Don't call me, I need to process this."
"I know. I love you little brother."
"I love you too, sis. Bye."
Eric ended the call and fell back on his bed. Only then did he allow the tears to fall. He was still in a little bit of shock, with some anger mixed in. He couldn't believe it, his sister was alive. He wiped his eyes and sat up. He picked up the phone and made a call. He checked his face in the mirror and then left the barracks room. He made his way to the Officer quarters where his company commander's room was located. He asked the NCO on duty to contact his Captain. The NCO made a call and a few minutes later, Captain Halloran came down dressed casually in jeans and t shirt.
"Good evening First Sergeant. What can I do for you? Is there a problem?"
"Sir, I would like to request a few days off for a minor family emergency."
"Emergency? Is everything okay?"
"Yes sir, I believe it will be, but it is a bit important that I go and make sure."
The Captain looked at him for a few moments before nodding. "Very well, there is nothing pressing at the moment. How long do you need?"
"No more than a week, sir. I'll have Sergeant Baker cover for me."
The Captain nodded before he walked over to the NCO's desk and asked for a pen and piece of paper. He bent down to write for a few moments. He straightened up and walked back over to Eric and handed him the paper. "Take this over to personnel Sergeant. When do you plan to leave?"
"Tonight sir, if that is okay."
"Sure. Good luck, I hope everything turns out okay."
Captain Halloran held out his hand and they shook hands.
"Thank you, sir."
Eric turned around and left the building, hurrying back to his barracks room. He quickly changed and packed a few days of worth of clothes. He picked up his bag and left the room. He knocked on the room next door where the senior platoon sergeant had his room. He told him that he would be gone for a few days and he was to take over. Sergeant Baker wished him good luck. They shook hands and he left the room. On the way out of the barracks, he called the Master Sergeant at his home in base housing, to let him know about what was going on. Again he was wished luck and he threw his bag in his jeep. He went to personnel and gave the duty NCO the paper from Captain Halloran
He was soon on his way to Florida. It was about a five hundred mile drive and took him almost twelve hours, counting stops for food and coffee. He'd never been here before, and it took him some time and asking for directions before he was able to pull into the Disney Polynesian resort. It looked like something you would see on Hawaii. He walked into the lobby of the resort and pulled out his cell. He dialed the number and waited for Christine to answer. He finally heard a sleepy voice.
"Chris, I'm here in the lobby…yes, I drove straight through…a little tired, but I'm fine…breakfast sounds good…okay, I'll wait down here…yeah, see you then."
He hung up the phone and found a place to sit down and picked up a paper nearby. Thirty minutes later he heard his name called and he looked up. There was his sister and her husband Derrick, and with them was an eleven year old boy that could only be Joshua, his nephew. He stood up as his sister nearly ran to him and gave him a huge hug. They stayed like that as Derrick and Joshua came over to them. Christine stepped back and wiped her eyes. She introduced Joshua to his uncle, before they all went to the dining room for breakfast. They talked about what they had been doing at the resort for the last couple of days. Eric sensed that she was not saying anything about why they had been pretending to be dead, so he left it alone. He would find out soon enough. After breakfast, Derrick and Josh went back to the room to get ready for the day, while Christine and Eric took a walk out to the lagoon. When they were far enough away from anyone else, so that they could not be heard, she stopped and sat down on the pristine sand. Eric sat beside her and waited for her to start.
"Eric, first let me say I'm sorry to put the family through everything that happened. Please understand I really had no choice. When I said on the phone about it being a life or death situation I was completely serious. It truly is a life or death situation and by contacting you I have put seven other families in jeopardy. If certain people find out that we are alive, there is very possibly little that they would not do, to find us and the other families."
Eric looked at his sister with a worried look now. The anger he had held earlier was completely gone. He could hear the fear in Christine's voice as she said what she said. He was now scared for her. What had she gotten herself into? "What are you involved in Sis? I take it from what you said that the others are also alive."
She reached out to him and he took her hand as she nodded. "Yes, all of the families are alive. Well, all except for one person, he did die in the fire. But for the safety of everyone, none of the families know where the others went. We haven't seen any of them since that day. It was safer for all of us to cut all ties with each other and our families, no matter how painful, and lay low. Otherwise our families would be in danger as well."
"Okay, I think you need to back up and explain this, so I can understand what is going on that would cause everyone to be in danger."
She nodded a couple of times and began to outline everything that had happened. Brett's experiment, their agreement to take part in it, what Brett had found out about the GRA or PRI as they were formerly called, what they planned for them and their boys, Brett's plan and how it was implemented.
"…That was the last time that any of us saw each other. We had all become pretty good friends by that time too. The hardest thing was Kathy and her son. She lost Brett and her son lost his father before he even knew him. She had to start out on her own."
"Did you ever try to find any of them?"
"Oh, no. We were told that such searches might bring attention to us, so we stuck to the agreement and never tried. Besides, everyone was given a new name."
"A new name, but what about you guys. You're using your real names."
Christine let out a little sigh, "Derrick hated the new names. We used them for a couple of years, until he thought they would no longer be actively looking for us, but he eventually wanted us to revert to our original names. He wanted Josh to have his family name. So we moved to a new city and reverted to our real names."
"That's kind of selfish isn't it? Doesn't that put you in danger?"
"We've kept a low profile and we've found no evidence that anyone is searching for us. We've been using our real names since Josh was two years old and we have had no problems, so I think it is okay now."
"But why contact me…now and not our parents?"
"For a couple of reasons, one reason we decided to do this is that since you are in the Green Berets, you probably know about confidentiality, I'm not sure Mom could keep it secret that we are alive. As much as I wish Josh could know his grandparents, it is just not safe for them to know about us and you must promise me that you will not tell them."
He looked at her and saw the pleading look she had and he reluctantly nodded. "Okay I won't tell them. What's the other reason?"
"I need your help Eric. I…I've been diagnosed with a form of leukemia. The doctors have said that my best chance of beating this is a bone marrow transplant from a close relative like a brother or sister."
Eric was silent for a few moments as he digested this. "So if it wasn't for this, I probably wouldn't know that you guys were alive."
She nodded. "Probably not, I'm sorry Eric, but it was for everyone's safety, but now, I want to do everything I can to be there for Josh. So I contacted you, since you were my best chance."
Eric looked out across the water toward the other resorts and the Magic Kingdom Park for a couple of minutes. When he did speak, his voice was low and held a hurt tone, "You know Mom took it real hard. Josh was her only grandson and losing both him and you like that hurt a lot. I was overseas at the time and got home in time for the funeral. I stayed for a few days but had to go back."
"I knew it would, but I had to. I swear, I had to, but I understand if you are mad at me, but I can't change it. It happened and I had to move on. I'm sorry I did this to all of you, but I had to. Thanks for coming Eric and listening. Please, I beg you, don't tell Mom and Dad. I don't want to put them, or any of you, in danger. Bye Eric, I do love you."
She started to get up and go join Derrick and Josh, but Eric grabbed her hand and pulled her back before she had moved much. He then pulled her into a hug and she held on tight. "I love you sis, of course I'll do as you ask. I understand why you did it. I don't like it and having some apparently black ops group doing things like this is something I really don't like. I want to find out more about this agency."
Christine pulled back quickly and looked at him in fear. She shook her head violently. "No! That is something that you absolutely cannot do. If you did, they would find you and then start to wonder why you were interested in them. It could lead to us. Please forget them. We're doing okay and I'm afraid something could happen to all of us."
Eric looked at her and finally sighed and nodded. "Okay, I don't like it, but okay. So when do we need to do this?"
"Can you come out to Southern California where we live in a couple of months, for a few days, maybe a week? I'll call you once we get back home."
He looked down at the ground as he thought about what his unit had coming up. They had just returned from deployment a month before and weren't due to go back soon, but sometimes missions came up. He thought he could arrange it with little problem. "Yeah, I think I can get some leave to come out there. I have plenty of leave saved up, so when I get back, I'll request a week's leave and come out there. Where do you live now?"
"Hemet, it's in Riverside County."
"What's the nearest big civilian airport?"
"Ontario International, that's where we flew out of to come here. It's about an hour's drive from the airport to our house."
"Okay, that's where I'll go to. I thought about taking a military flight from Pope Air base, but since these GRA people are part of the government, I don't want to make it easy for them to find you, just in case. So I'll use a civilian flight. I'll rent a car and drive there. Just give me your address and I'll use Google Maps in my phone to find it."
Christine nodded and got up from the sand brushing it off of her pants. Eric got up and walked with her. He asked her to wait in the lobby while he got his bag from the Jeep. When he rejoined her they went up to the room. Derrick and Josh were watching TV when they came in.
Derrick got up and came over to them. He looked at Christine and she gave a slight nod. Derrick smiled and shook Eric's hand. "Thanks Eric."
"Don't mention it."
"So do you want to join us? We're going over to MGM Studios today."
Eric shook his head and had to stifle a yawn.
"I think I'll take a nap. It was a long drive."
"Okay. C'mon Josh, let's get going. Your Uncle's going to take a nap and we'll see him later."
"Okay, bye Uncle Eric."
"Bye Josh, have a good time, I'll see you guys when you get back."
He hugged his sister goodbye and once they were gone he lay down on the couch and was soon completely out.
Eric remembered he'd had little problem getting a week's leave and making the trip to California. They had tested him and found him to be a good match. They took the bone marrow from him the next day and gave it to Christine. By this time she had been given chemo treatments and wasn't always feeling very well. She had lost some of her hair and was a bit pale. When he left they had hopes that it would work. It proved to not be much help and he received the call from Derrick a few months later that Christine had died. He had been expecting it from the occasional calls he had made when he talked to her. They had decided that they didn't want to be sending a lot of letters back and forth, in case someone was watching Eric. They also kept the phone calls limited as well. He was once again able to secure a short leave. It had to be short because he was to be deployed to Afghanistan in a couple of weeks and couldn't be gone too long. He had stayed with them for a few days for the funeral and to help out, but he had to return. He stopped his reverie when he realized he hadn't answered Josh yet.
"No Josh, I don't know anything about that."
He hoped Josh hadn't noticed that he really hadn't answered the question he had asked. He hadn't lied, he didn't know the person who was in charge of the experiment, since he never met him, and he just didn't answer the rest of the question about the experiment and all that. Apparently Josh had heard the 'No' part and didn't pay attention to the rest of it. Soon the emotional toll, plus having just gotten out of the hospital began to affect Josh and he started to fall asleep. So Eric got him up and to his bedroom. He fell asleep quickly.
Eric went downstairs and decided to do some searching. What Josh had told him drudged up his curiosity and he thought he might see if he could find anything. He booted up his computer and tried to search in a roundabout way, not actually entering anything that would look like he was searching directly for the GRA or PRI, but searching for similar types of topics, hoping something would appear. He was a little worried that a direct query could expose him and Josh. He found nothing, so he also decided it was time for bed. He shut down the computer and made his way upstairs. He looked in on Josh before going to his own bedroom and stripping down, got under the covers and was soon asleep.