Castle Roland

Rock and a Hard Place

by Hans Schreiber


Chapter 29

Posted: N/A

Rock Rolls

I started Mom's Audi and pulled out of the school parking lot. Some couples were leaving the dance early. It wasn't even eleven yet and I hated the thought of going back to an empty apartment. I thought about crashing Adam and Justin's sleepover, but decided I didn't really know them well enough for that. Pretty much anyone I could think of to go hang with was at the dance. Then I had an impression to go visit Pastor Morgan. I dismissed it because it was so late in the evening, but the impression came again even stronger. I decided to act on it and headed over to the Rock of Our Salvation church.

When I arrived, I was surprised to see a light on in the Pastor's office and Mrs. Thames' beat up old car in the parking lot. I wondered why William's mom would be there so late. I parked and walked into the church. The lights in the sanctuary were on and I walked in and sat in a pew. I folded my hands and bowed my head. "Father, I don't know what you have in mind for my future. Guide me. Show me the way I should go." I felt the warmth of His spirit flow into me. I felt a peace I had not felt for some time. My spiritual meditation was interrupted by the calling of my name.

"Kyle? Is that you? Are you all right?" It was Pastor Morgan's voice and there was a note of real concern in it.

"What? Oh hello Pastor. Hi, Mrs. Thames. Yeah, I'm fine, I guess. I just needed to talk to someone and I got the impression I should come here." Without thinking about the implication of the question, I asked, "What are you two doing here so late?"

William's mom clutched her sweater and pulled it tight over her shoulders and chest looking nervously away. Pastor Morgan stepped toward me and said, "Mrs. Thames works two jobs and can only meet late in the evening. She is distraught over the disappearance of Mr. Thames and I was counseling with her. Now let me ask, why are you here so late?"

I was embarrassed by the realization of how my question must have sounded, and I stammered a bit, "I didn't mean to … I, er, I guess I'm here for the same reason. I need some counsel. I'm sorry. If I'm too late, I could come back another time."

"No, of course you're not too late. Come into my office." He motioned for me then gave William's mom a brief hug and said he would see her the next morning at services. She scampered out. Pastor Morgan shut off the light in the sanctuary and walked over to lock the entry door before escorting me to his office. He took his place behind the desk and I sat in the nice leather chair on the other side.

"So, what brings you here this evening, Kyle?"

I wavered in my decision about talking with him. But I knew I had been directed to come. "I'm just a little confused about my life right now and I needed someone I could trust to talk to. Can I trust you?"

"You already have trusted me by coming here. Yes, Kyle, whatever you speak about with me is just between us and God."

I stared at my hands that I was wringing in my lap. "I, I'm gay. Does God hate gays?"

"No Kyle. God loves all his children, straight and gay. Why would you think he might hate you?"

"Well. I just recently learned that there was a God from William. He got me started praying and I get these really warm, good feelings when I do. Sometimes, I get like messages from God. Not like crazy stuff, just more like feelings or thoughts that I just know aren't my own. Do you know what I mean?"

"Yes, Kyle. I know exactly what you mean. Tell me about these messages."

"Well, they're just like thoughts that come in my head and I feel warm feelings inside me when they come and usually they are things I should do for others. Like going to check on William that night Mr. Thames was taken by those thugs he was mixed up with. And well, like feeling that I needed to come here tonight and talk with you. Crazy huh? I mean, if William's mom hadn't kept you here late, you would have been in bed, and I couldn't have met with you. But somehow, I just knew I should come anyway no matter how late it was."

"I see. I'm glad you have learned to trust in the inspiration you receive from God. You are a very spiritually inclined young man. But, what about your concern that God hates you?"

"Well, almost every time I follow my feelings I get fu … I, umm end up getting into some kind of huge trouble. When I went out to the ranch cabin and defended Rochelle against Dig's attempted rape, William ended up getting hurt back at the bonfire and he blamed me for leaving him. We talked about that before when I was here, if you remember. When I defended William against Tyler at school over the pictures he was passing around, I got in trouble over that. The worst one is when I tried to go help William when those thugs were at his trailer, the ones who ended up taking William's dad away, and then when I followed them. I ended up in Juvey. When I tried to do the right thing in there, I nearly got raped and my ball … testicles cut off. Now, I've been banned from ever returning to my old school and …" I got emotional. The words literally stuck in my throat and Pastor Morgan slid a box of Kleenex toward me. I wiped my eyes and blew my nose.

Stammering, I continued, "I, I fell in love with one of my classmates and I'm … I'm just so afraid that now we can't be together and see each other all the time, he'll forget about me. My mom is divorcing my dad and she's sleeping with Reverend Rick. She denies it, but I know she is. I ruined my relationship with my dad and I can tell he's not really there for me anymore. He's just into his work. I'm stuck living with my mom in a crummy apartment in a new town with a new school and they don't even have wrestling there. I got kicked out of the school dance tonight because I've been banned from the campus over the gang thing in Juvenile Hall, and I was supposed to spend a special night with the boy I love after the Fall Formal dance, but now I can't. My dog even died. I'm losing everything I love just because I tried to follow the messages from God and do something good for other people. I don't get it. The only thing I can think of is that it's all happening because God hates me and is punishing me for being gay. I didn't try to be gay, and I used to feel really guilty whenever I had gay thoughts, but I know that was stupid. I am how I am." I broke down and started to sob. "I'm sorry, I, I, I don't know why I get so emotional."

Pastor Morgan stood up and walked around his desk. He pulled me up out of my chair and gave me a hug, allowing me to cry against his chest. I don't know how long I was there in his comforting grasp but it felt so good to get it all out. When I was done, I sat back down and he pulled another chair up next to mine. He placed his large hand on my knee and said, "God does not hate you. He loves you. Let me read you a scripture." He took the Bible off his desk and flipped through it. Here it is."

He read from Matthew 10:22, "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved." Skipping down a bit he continued, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. … Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."

Pastor Morgan closed the Bible and looked me in the eye. Christ was doing what the Father sent him to do. Yet, it didn't always go so well. The apostles were sent out by Christ to do good works, but He warned them in the passages we just read that it wasn't going to go well for them either all of the time. Christ was hated for the things He did and the truth He told. He was persecuted for it. Nothing about his life and ministry was easy. He was ultimately crucified. Most of the apostles were also martyred for what they did and taught. But it wasn't because His Father hated him or because Christ hated his apostles. The Father loved Christ and Christ loved the apostles and He loves you.

"Kyle, stay true to your convictions. Do what you know is right. Follow the inspiration you receive and continue trying to do good for others, no matter the consequences. You will eventually be blessed and rewarded for your efforts - if not in this life, in the next. And, you have done a lot of good. More than you probably know. You have made a wonderful difference in William's life and I thank you for that. You made a difference to your friend, Dig, as well. You probably saved him from great personal crisis. You may yet make a difference in the lives of your parents. And, I think you have made a very big difference to Scotty."

A powerful warm confirmation of the Pastor's words and the Bible verses overwhelmed me and tears of joy and peace trickled down my cheeks. "Thank you. I was inspired to come here tonight. You know, I always planned on being a lawyer, but I think I'd like to be a pastor like you and help people the way you do. But, I guess that's impossible if I'm gay."

"Not necessarily so, Kyle," Pastor Morgan said. "Old fears and attitudes about that are changing. Just last year, the General Assembly issued over 100 pages in their report on the topic of homosexuality in the church. They adopted several standards that permitted some 'wiggle room' for local authorities to ordain homosexuals who are living in committed relationships into the ministry. It is still a very divisive issue in the church and don't get me wrong, acceptance will be slow, but I see it headed in that direction. The church, and I agree with this, still has very definite issues with anyone, gay or straight, who is engaging in licentious, dangerous or rampant sexual behavior. Unfortunately, that kind of lifestyle often plagues the gay community."

"It's not just with gays," I objected. "Sex has become an emotionless act without any boundaries. I mean, look at Reverend Rick sleeping with my mom while she's still married to my dad."

"Yes, and look at the harm that has done to your family. Sexual urges are the downfall of many men, even good men and sometimes, even clergy. But to deny the ministry to someone whose sexual identity is that of a gay person, such as yourself, provided they are living within the confines of a committed, monogamous relationship or in celibacy if single, seems wrong and counter intuitive to God's teachings. Especially if you believe, as I do, that being gay is part of the individual's innate makeup and not an acquired or chosen behavior. I may be wrong about that, and the conservatives in the church may be right that God is displeased with acting on gay tendencies, but I do not feel that in my heart."

"So you think there is a chance I could be gay and still become a minister? Because I know I'm gay, and I know I can't change that. And I'm really not into all that wild and crazy sex stuff. I won't lie, I've been doing some of it and I've felt uncomfortable about it. I just want to be with one person I love and who loves me back. I want someone who really loves me, not just says it - a person like my best friend who I don't want to lose."

"I don't know whether it will work out in the long run between you and Scotty. You're still both very young, but I promise if you live up to your convictions and follow God's inspiration, you will be blessed in the end and I'm sure he will help guide you to a loving partner for your life."

I was stunned. "Pastor Morgan, how did you know I was talking about Scotty?"

He smiled politely and a bit condescendingly, "It was pretty obvious to me at the youth group meeting. Scotty would never have come to my congregation if he hadn't been drawn here by you. You must have a pretty strong hold on him. Besides, I could see how you two looked at each other when you thought no one else was looking. He is a fine young man and I approve of your choice, by the way. I hope your love for each other can endure."

"I want a relationship with Scotty like his parents have with each other. I've never seen more genuine, honest love between two people. It's just amazing to witness." I said.

"Yes, I think everyone who knows the Simons' are jealous of their relationship with each other. They are a model for us all. Scotty is blessed to have grown up in that environment."

"There's one other thing that really makes me sad about being gay," I said.

"What's that?"

"Scotty and I love children, but being gay, we could never have any. I think that's a really hard thing to give up. It seems so unfair not to be able to share our love with children."

"Attitudes and laws on that are changing too, Kyle. It's becoming more and more prevalent for gay couples to adopt children. Especially when there's a family connection of some sort. If it's in God's plan for you, it may happen. If not, you can always be a mentor to children. The Big Brothers Big Sisters organization is always looking for good people to mentor. I get great satisfaction from my work with children and youth as a pastor. Leave that part up to God."

"Wow, thanks. I guess I better go. It's pretty late and I bet you're tired. Thank you so much for all of your help. I feel so much better now."

"I'm glad. Helping and counseling people like this is why I chose this path for my life. Please, if nothing else, remember that God does not hate you and never could. God is all about love and has no room for hatred - displeasure at the way we behave sometimes to be sure, but never hatred."

I stood and reached for his hand and he took it but pulled me in for a hug instead of a handshake. I wrapped my arms around him and hugged him back. We smiled at each other - his was a kindly smile and mine was full of appreciation. Before heading out, I asked if I could use the bathroom. When I stepped up to the urinal and pulled Little Rock out of my fly, I remembered back being in there with Tanner, the red headed kid who enticed me to suck his balls for him. I felt a new wave of guilt over having done it and felt again like I'd cheated on Scotty. I came to understand to a small degree what Pastor Morgan was saying about being committed to one person. It was just innocent teenage sex play and I admitted it to Scotty afterward and he seemed totally unbothered by it, but still I felt it was wrong. I resolved that as long as I was with Scotty, I would never violate that trust between us in any way. I washed up and left.

I got in the Audi and saw it was past midnight. I thought how Scotty and the gang were at Great America probably riding a roller coaster and having fun, but I didn't feel cheated. What I had just experienced was better than a roller coaster with my friends. I'd just experienced an epiphany and a glimpse into the value of my life and came to understand that God loved me. I knew he did. Nothing could change that. A confirming chill ran down my spine to verify that thought. There would still be hard times, but I could endure them now. A magnificent joy filled me and the spiritually charged experience that fell over me right there in the car was more powerful and satisfying than the strongest orgasm I'd ever had. It was exhilarating and calming at the same time. I pulled my phone from my pocket and sent Scotty a text, "Have fun 2 nite. ILU"

My phone buzzed for a return message, "Thx luvu2" I shoved the phone back in my pants pocket and just sat in the church parking lot listening to a soft rock station just drinking in all that had happened. Coincidentally, the Death Cab song When Soul Meets Body came on. I sang along to the first lines,

I want to live where soul meets bodyAnd let the sun wrap its arms around meAnd bathe my skin in water cool and cleansingAnd feel, feel what it's like to be new

Then these words made me think about Scotty and wonder if what Pastor Morgan said might come true, whether we may drift apart or our love endure. I sang along until the song faded out,

And I do believe it's trueThat there are roads left in both of our shoesBut if the silence takes youThen I hope it takes me tooSo brown eyes I hold you nearCause you're the only song I want to hearA melody softly soaring through my atmosphereA melody softly soaring through my atmosphereA melody softly soaring through my atmosphereA melody softly soaring through my atmosphere

As I started the car and put it in reverse, intent on heading home and facing my new life with my mom, my phone rang. I stepped on the brake and unbuckled my seat belt to fish my phone out of my slacks pocket. They were deep and I had trouble retrieving it. I got frustrated and put the car into park and stretched out as straight as I could and finally got the phone, wondering who could possibly be calling me. To my irritation, it stopped ringing just as I got it out, and I groaned when I saw it was Scotty who called. I quickly redialed.

"Scotty my love, what's up? You headed to Great America?" I asked.

"No. I talked to Jennie about skipping Great America and when I sort of explained why, she not only said it was okay, she practically insisted on it. She thought it was romantic. Actually, I think she was kinda glad she wouldn't feel obligated to hang out with me and she could just go be with her friends."

"Wait. What are you saying?" I asked, almost unwilling to get my hopes up.

"I'm saying that the bus just left for Great America and I'm not on it. And if you don't get your hot little ass back here in the next ten minutes, I'm gonna start hitchhiking home."

"Holy shit! I love you! This is sooooooo awesome. But what about your parents? I mean what will they say when they come to pick you up? Or are you just gonna have me drop you off in time so you're back there when the bus shows up? But what if they get there before the bus and you're not on it? Shit, who cares? I'm on my way to come get you. Where should we go? Why don't we go back to my mom's apartment? It's a little bit of a drive, but we'll have everything we need there. Plus, I don't think we can rent a hotel since we don't have a credit …"

"KYLE," Scotty shouted. "Take a breath, dude." He started laughing and I then I burst out laughing. "I wouldn't do this without clearing it with my parents first. I already talked to them about my feelings for you. They know I'm gay and they know I'm in love with you. We talked all about it after the whole jail thing. They said we can go to my house. They weren't thrilled about me riding in the car with you, but they agreed to let me with a little begging and a few promises since it's not very far. So shut the hell up and get over here, now. I got a massive boner that needs a nice cozy place to play snuggle in."

"Dude, I'm on my way. See ya. Oh, and you really rock, you know that?"

"Cool! I rocked my Rock's world. Awesome." He hung up and so did I.

"Woo-hoo! Hot Damn! Scotty's gonna fuck me, Scotty's gonna hump me, Scotty's gonna love me tonight, Oh yeah!"

I headed back to the school, trying desperately to obey the speed limit. My mind kept wandering and I was so excited that I kept accidentally speeding. Every time I looked down and saw I was ten to fifteen miles over the limit, I'd freak out a bit and search for cops. I pulled into the student pickup lane and there was Scotty looking sharp in his nice grey suit. He smiled that delicious smile as I drove up and I popped the door locks. He jumped in and I took off. As soon as I rounded a couple of corners, I stopped at the next stop sign and put the car in park. I turned toward him and didn't even have to say it. He smiled, undid his seat belt and climbed over the console and we started making out.

We were swallowing each other's tongues and groping our faces and necks. We were lost in mad, wild, lustful love. Forget that I'd already cum twice before in the day, I was boned up as hard as I'd ever been. Scotty reached down and gripped my boner through my black slacks and I moaned in anticipation. I reached down and grabbed his trapped hard-on and squeezed it while we continued kissing with intense passion. Our little impromptu make-out session was interrupted by a car horn. He jumped back into his seat and I sped off around the corner.

I headed toward Scotty's house skirting along the industrial district and stopped at a red light. What I saw next, sickened me. Already, my newfound resolve to do the right thing no matter the consequence was being tested. Passing in front of me was Lenny's old, beat up Celica and there were two desperately frightened boys in the back seat. The boy on my side turned a pleading face toward me and my headlights illuminated his face as they drove past. It was Pablo from Juvey!

"Did you see that?" I asked Scotty.

"Yeah. It was that Lenny creep. Let's get the hell out of here."

"No, not that, the boys in the backseat. The one by our window was Pablo. The bigger one is probably Bull. They're never separated. Did you see the terrified look on Pablo's face? I swear he said 'help us'." Then I added resolutely, "Bull saved my life in Juvey."

My light turned green and I crept slowly into the intersection. My good sense told me to press the gas pedal and drive straight to Scotty's house. My intuition and conscience made me turn off my lights and follow Lenny.

"No. Shit no. Kyle, we can't do this again. I told my parents … I promised my parents we would come straight home and we'd be careful. Turn around. You don't know they're in trouble."

I just stared at him, a bit disappointed. He squirmed and said, "All right, they're obviously in trouble, but there's nothing we can do to help. Let's just go report it to the police."

I looked at him again and shook my head. "Sure, We'll just drive over to the police station and tell the nice man at the desk that we had so much fun in the stolen car last weekend that we decided to do it all again, only this time in my mom's Audi. Then we'll just explain about seeing the Celica with the bogus license plates, that I don't think the cops ever believed us about, drive past with two kidnapped homeless boys. I'm sure they'll get right on it and send us on our way with a lollipop. I'm NOT going to the police and risk ending up in Juvey again. Forget that."

Scotty slumped and put his hands over his face. "Shit," he groaned.

I stayed a significant distance behind them. Some of the buildings seemed familiar from the week before. When we crossed the train tracks, a chill ran up my spine and my blood ran cold. I was glad my bladder was empty. My heart was racing and I had no real idea what I would even do when I found out where they were going. They proceeded down the dead end street and I stopped in the shadows of a large tree and turned off my engine. I watched as Lenny pulled into one of the warehouse building driveways and waited for a garage door to open up. There was a group of maybe six or seven young guys milling around, quite obviously gang members. My heart raced even faster and I was sweating. My mind was swirling. Scotty was frozen in fear.

I thought about calling my dad, thinking he would know what to do, but he'd probably not even answer since he would be at work or asleep and almost certainly wouldn't answer if he saw it was me calling. Besides, he let me go to Juvey last time and I was not risking that. Although, I doubted he would do that again. I really didn't know what to do. I was gripping the steering wheel in fear and panic was welling up inside of me. "Scotty, what are we gonna do?"

He just looked at me. His face was white as a sheet and I'm not sure he wasn't suffering from shock or a panic attack. He didn't speak, but shrugged his shoulders and put his face back in his hands.

Then, the passenger door of Lenny's Corolla was flung open and a couple of gangsters pulled a large boy from the opposite side of where I had seen Pablo sitting. It was Bull. His hands were tied behind him and they threw him to the pavement. They began kicking and beating him with clubs. He squirmed and kicked at them at first, but then he curled into a ball and took the abuse being heaped on him. I assumed it was retaliation for what happened in Juvenile Hall. I broke into tears as Lenny drove into the open roll-up door and the door began to close.

"Dear God, if ever I needed your help in order to help someone else, this is it. Please help me know what to do." I earnestly pled.

Immediately, the idea popped into my mind to call Officer Milsap. I dug the phone from my pocket and desperately searched for his number in my contacts. I found it and pressed it to dial. It rang several times before Officer Milsap's tenuous voice came on the line, "Hello, who is this?"

I almost couldn't speak from the relief I felt at him answering. "Officer Milsap, it's me, Kyle. I need your help. BAD!"

"Kyle, what's going on? Where are you?"

"I'm back in town in the industrial district."

He interrupted me, screaming, "You're where? Are you crazy? Get the hell out of there now!"

"No, listen to me, I can't leave. I saw that Lenny guy, the one I told you about who was at William's trailer that night and who chased us. I followed him to this warehouse on a dead end street and he had Pablo and Bull in his car. He kidnapped the two homeless guys that were in Juvey with me. Bull's the one who Renaldo made him put me in the sleeper hold so he could fuck me and who ended up turning against Renaldo and killed him in the end. Oh, I wasn't supposed to say that. I mean, pushed Renaldo off me before he slipped and hit his head. Anyway, a bunch of gang members are beating the shit out of him. I think they're planning to kill him. Hurry, please hurry."

"Kyle, where are you? I have to know where you are!"

"I don't know. There's no signs. It's a dead end past the railroad tracks."

"Kyle, there's two dozen or more of those in the industrial park. Find a business name or something we can go by."

"It's too dark. I can't see any. I started out on Seventh Street headed west and then I turned left and then we wound all over the place. I didn't see any street signs. Oh God, I swear they're killing him and God only knows what's happening to Pablo inside the building."

"Kyle, you have to give me something to go on to find you. Think!"

I said a quick silent prayer again and yelled into the receiver, "LO-JACK!"

"What?" Officer Milsap asked, sounding confused.

"I'm in my mom's Audi and it has Lo-Jack installed in it. Can't you trace it?"

"Yes, but it will take a while. We don't have a tracking device in this squad car. We'll have to call it in. I need the tracking information. Give me the VIN number off the registration."

I opened the glove compartment and pulled everything out onto Scotty's lap. I dug through it frantically until I found the registration. Scotty just watched. I read it to Officer Milsap and he had to tell me three times to slow down. He made me repeat it along with the make and model and license number three times. Finally, he said, "Okay, I got it." He told me to stay on the line and I heard him call in to the station. I watched in continued horror as they pummeled Bull. For all I knew, he was already dead. Suddenly, he sat up and then stood. I could see he was screaming at them. I could hear his voice and the fury in it even as far away as we were parked. He began kicking his assailants and he caught one of them squarely in the balls, doubling him over. His defiance was short lived, however, and they ganged up on him and tackled him back to the ground. One of the larger gangsters grabbed him by the ears or the hair and forced his face to the curb. He was trying to force Bull's mouth over the edge of the curb and then one of them pulled a gun and pointed it against his skull.

"Oh God, they're gonna shoot him." I dropped the phone between my legs. Bull went limp and allowed them to force his mouth over the curb. I already had the Audi started and pulled it into drive. I hesitated, knowing I was putting the guy I loved more than anyone in the whole world at danger by getting involved, but failing to act would almost certainly mean the guy who saved my life in Juvey would be killed. I was truly between a rock and a hard place.

The gang member who Bull had kicked in the balls had his foot raised up over the back of Bull's head ready to drive it into the back of Bull's skull. He clearly intended to break out Bull's teeth on the curb they had just forced him to bite. I turned on my headlights and hit the brights and then started honking the horn.

"Are you completely nuts?" Scotty yelled at me. "They have guns!"

They all turned and faced me as I sped directly toward them. As they realized I wasn't stopping, they all scattered. I could hear Officer Milsap yelling at me on the phone not to be a hero. I snapped the phone off, cutting the signal.

I couldn't just let them kill Bull. Not after he saved my life in Juvey. I screeched to a halt just before running poor Bull over and killing him myself. I opened my door, stepped one foot onto the pavement and yelled for Bull to get in the car. He scrambled to his feet and ran to the rear passenger door. He pulled on the handle but nothing happened. I forgot about the automatic safety locks and fidgeted with the controls on the door handle until I hit the unlock button.

Suddenly, my head was propelled forward so forcefully that my face smashed into the door jamb of the Audi leaving me stunned. I dropped to the pavement and was dragged away from the car. I watched as another gangster threw my phone on the ground and smashed it with his club. I was thrown onto the sidewalk and a knee jabbed hard into my back. I was lying next to Bull. He didn't speak, but he shrugged as if to say, "Thanks for trying."

Scotty landed hard next to Bull and was screaming and crying that we wouldn't tell on them if they'd just let us go and begging them not to hurt us. He was hysterical. They started kicking and smacking him with a club until he shut up.

In a minute or so, the older guy with the foreign accent and the BMW, who had been at William's house, came out of the building and inspected the scene. "Bring those two inside and get their blood type. NOW!" They picked me and Scotty up and dragged us toward the building. "And get that car inside."

"Hefe, what about theeze one?" He kicked Bull brutally hard in the ribs, extracting a painful cry.

The old man turned and snarled, "I told you he's not a match and that you can torture him all you want, but do it out back where you won't leave an obvious mess. And when you're finished, clean up your mess back there and stick his body in a bag and throw it in the crematorium truck." They started dragging Bull to the side of the building, while one of the gangsters climbed into my mom's car to drive it through the rollup door that was opening up again.

We were physically forced into the stark white, industrial building through a garage area where the old man's BMW and Lenny's Celica, along with two other very nice cars and a panel van, were parked. I counted at least four angry looking Hispanic men with large guns positioned around the perimeter of the garage. Scotty and I were pushed through another door at the back of the garage area and into a small room with an assortment of odd looking medical equipment in it. We were each forced into a couple of blue vinyl chairs with black plastic arms. Our wrists were taped palms up to the arms of the chairs and a small man in medical scrubs rushed in and poked a needle into our arms. Then he pushed a vial into the receptacle at the end of the needle and I watched my blood rush into the tube. He pulled it out when it was full, removed the needle, and put a Band-Aid over the prick mark. He did the same to Scotty.

Then we were cut loose from the chairs and taken forcefully back through the garage area into another room off to the side. In this room were rows of cages, some of them filled with muzzled dogs, who became agitated and began circling about wildly, and the remainder of the cages were left empty. On the other wall was another row of cages, empty except for two. In the two occupied cages were small monkeys lying listless on the metal floor of their enclosures. Scotty and I were roughly shoved inside a small room and the door was slammed behind us.

"Weto! Whachu do-eeng here?" Pablo asked in shocked surprise.

There were several other young boys our age cowering in the back corner. They appeared as shabby and unkempt as Pablo and appeared to be about my age. I assumed they were all runaways and homeless boys like Pablo and Bull. There was a white porcelain shitter and a sink in one corner of the room, open to view just like in Juvey, and wooden benches on one wall. The sides of the shitter and the floor surrounding the shitter had dried puke on them and the stench in the room made me gag. The floor was grey painted concrete with splotches of blood here and there. Next to the sink, lay a pile of shabby clothing with no occupant for them. Otherwise, the room was completely empty and without any windows and only the one locked, steel door. "Pablo, what's going on here?"

"I don' know, buey. Theeze assholes take our blood an' steek us in here. We really scared, man. Where eez Bull at?" I didn't know how to answer Pablo. I couldn't bring myself to tell him they were killing him out back. I just shrugged.

"Buey, we gots to stop meet-eeng like theeze, no?" He tried to break the tension in his own way with some humor. Even though I found no humor in it, I definitely agreed with him.

"Pablo, this is my friend, Scotty." I turned toward Scotty who had no color left in his face except for a trickle of blood from the cut on his cheek he got from being slammed into the sidewalk outside. The red streak on his chalk white face made him look like a little kid made up as a Vampire for Halloween.

"Chu don' look so good, buey. Chu better seet down, man." Pablo and I helped Scotty onto the bench. He put his elbows on his knees and his face back in his hands.

I found out that Pablo and Bull hadn't been transferred from Juvey into another facility like I was told. Instead, they had been taken straight back to child services and then they had been placed with an out of town foster family. They had kept them together with the same foster family for a change. But just as Pablo had told me back in Juvey, the two of them ran away at their first opportunity, after stealing whatever money they could to tide them over. They had returned to their old camp by the canals. That's where they were when they got kidnapped by Lenny and the gang members. One of the gang members apparently recognized Bull from Juvey, according to Pablo. I wondered why he hadn't recognized me.

After about thirty minutes, two large guys walked in pushing a gurney. The old man with the accent followed them, smiling like he'd won the lottery. "Strip naked. Quickly," the old man barked at me.

"Why?" I demanded.

"Because otherwise, I am going to shoot you dead." He drew a gun and pointed it at me.

I gulped and Scotty wailed.

"Good reason," I said. "I'm doing it, don't shoot me." I kicked off the Reverend's expensive shoes and pulled my socks off. I unbuttoned my white dress shirt and black, suit pants and pulled them both off. I slid my boxer briefs off, followed by my white undershirt and stood there stark naked. I put on hand over my privates and wrapped my other arm around my bicep and started shivering uncontrollably, more from fear than from cold.

"Climb up on the table." He gestured to the table with his gun. I didn't ask why. I just did it. The two goons strapped my hands and feet to the gurney and then strapped my head down with a leather strap tightly over my forehead. I started to get panicky being constrained like that. I continued to shake all over and my throat was tightening up.

"Why are you doing this to me? What the fuck is going on? I called the police on you assholes, you know. They're on their way, I swear. Whatever you're planning you better fucking stop it now."

Scotty desperate to try and do something out of his love for me, jumped up and took a swing at one of the goons. The ugly, large man flicked him off like a bug, sending him sprawling on the floor, but he jumped up with fire in his eyes. He flung himself into the large man's midsection and stepped behind the man's knees and performed a masterful takedown.

Pablo jumped up and yelled, "Chess, geet heem, Weto, geet heem!"

The second goon ran to the other man's aid and I heard a dull thud and Scotty groan.

"Kick his ass, Scotty!" I yelled.

"Shut up." The old man stuck the barrel of his gun in my mouth and snarled, I felt the cold steel pressed into the roof of my mouth. "Do you understand?" I nodded as best I could with my head strapped down. He removed the gun and I was wheeled out. Scotty was lying on the floor whimpering in pain.

"I love you Scotty. I'll always love you," I called out as they hauled me away. "Please forgive me for getting you into this mess. Please forgive…" The door slammed shut.

They wheeled me into a very clean, white room and rolled me under super bright lights. The room smelled sterile and everything was shiny. A heavy set doctor dressed in full scrubs, masked and gloved, walked up to me. Something about his eyes was familiar but I couldn't place them. When he looked at me, his eyes widened in obvious surprise.

"We have gotten very fortunate," began the old man. "After your blunder with the last match, I thought we were most certainly dead men. This stupid boy, who literally fell into our hands, is an excellent match. Hurry up and get this done and let's get out of here. This place is getting much too hot and we need to abandon this facility and move on."

The doctor said, "Oh, this one will be a pleasure to work on." He pulled the mask free from his face and gave me a sinister grin. I gasped in complete terror. It was William's asshole father, the barnacle.

"I can't believe our fortune getting ahold of you." The barnacle sneered, "You're the little, rich bastard who ruined everything for me. You got William's ball smashed and that ended up getting his dick straightened out which ruined everything for me. Just when I was making progress in my research, you got involved and fouled it all up. If it weren't for you, I would have succeeded in correcting his curved dick and making it grow larger. I was so close. I would have been rich beyond my wildest dreams." Turning to the old man who was now gowned and masked as well, he said, "I'd like to cut this one open without the gas. I want him to feel the pain of my scalpel as I carve him open and remove his liver." The barnacle laughed maniacally waving the scalpel in my face.

His words sunk in suddenly and I became frantic, pulling at my restraints and crying out. "What are you talking about? What are you planning to do to me? What is this place?" I had a million questions but those three spilled out from the top of the pile.

"This is a research lab, you nosy little asshole. We do experiments on dogs, cats, monkeys, rats, homeless people and other useless animals that can't be done in a regulated laboratory. We also supply animals to researchers on the sly, for their own research, like the ones I used for my male genitalia research. The cash crop, however, is harvesting organs from homeless people and runaways for the drug cartel. We perform transplants for rich people who couldn't otherwise get them. It's a nice side business. Once I've worked off my debt, I plan on staying on and making some nice cash. Things will be different for me from now on and no shithead, rich, doctor's brat like you, or an idiot kid like William can get in my way this time. I just wish I had time to cut your balls off and feed them to you before I harvest your liver. I'd enjoy that."

"Get on with it!" The old man yelled.

"All right, I'm gonna slice him open without the gas," the barnacle said. He lowered his scalpel and I felt pressure and then a stinging sensation from just under my right rib cage across my rippled abs. A second cut was made from my sternum down to meet the first cut. Searing pain reached my addled brain and I began screaming and thrashing against the straps holding me down.

The old man approached and slapped William's old man hard across the face. "Listen, you idiot. The son of a high ranking, drug cartel leader is lying in the next room waiting for this boy's liver. If you screw this up over some sadistic need for revenge on this boy, I'll personally strap you to a tree and tie your small intestines to the bumper of my car and drive off while you watch your guts unravel into the street. Give him the fucking gas and then finish this job right and do it RIGHT NOW!"

"All right, all right!" William's father reached for a mask and moved it toward my face. I was actually thankful that I would die without any more pain. Then he added, "Or I could just slit his throat and watch him spit and gurgle until he dies."

"You can destroy my body, but you cannot destroy my soul," I said, quoting the scripture I had just heard from Pastor Morgan. "Your soul, on the other hand, is beyond redemption, you worthless bastard. Rot in hell!" I spit at him but he just laughed with even greater amusement as he put the mask over my face and bent down to turn the gas on. I sucked in a large breath before he did and held it.

Then I heard a sickening sound, a muffled gunshot. I realized Bull had probably met his end. It was followed by a series of gunshots and I thought how much it was like these filthy fuckers to riddle his body with bullets for their sadistic pleasure. I felt the cool rush of air against my face and heard the hissing sound of the gas flowing. I held my breath. More gunshots erupted. They were closer. There was confused yelling and screaming. The barnacle stood up and the old man pointed to a side door. They both rushed out together. I felt the wet blood from the gashes in my abdomen dripping down my side. I knew I couldn't hold out much longer as my lungs burned for lack of fresh oxygen and my brain screamed at me to breath. It was like being in an inescapable wrestling hold and fighting off getting pinned to the mat until the round expired. I realized what must be happening just as I heard a commanding voice yell, "Police, freeze!" More gunshots erupted, and more screaming.

"Uhhhhhhh." I pulled in a long gasping breath. I couldn't hold out any longer. The poisonous gas they were killing you with was odorless and tasteless. I supposed it was too late for me now but I held my breath again just in case one breath wouldn't finish me off. Fearing the worst, however, I prayed to God, "Father, I'm coming to live with you now. Take my soul into your loving care, Father. Forgive me for my mistakes and show me mercy. Help me forgive others in my life. Bless my dad and bless my mom and help them find their way. I forgive them, Father. I forgive them for how they treated me. Most of all, please bless Scotty. Save Scotty, please. It's not his fault. Don't let him die because of me. I love him. Amen." I closed my eyes and prepared to die. I sucked in what I assumed would be my last breath.

I was surprised to still be conscious when the door burst open with an enormous crash. There was shouting and much confusion. The mask was ripped from my face and a paramedic pressed something against my abdomen. Suddenly, I was being wheeled away. Through the corner of my eye, I could see dead bodies lying all around the garage area. I was sickened by waste of life. But I can't lie, when I caught sight of the fat barnacle slumped, lifeless against a wall, I felt no remorse for him. I felt he got what he justly deserved. "Rot in hell, you asshole," I muttered. Outside, there were swarms of police and emergency vehicles with their lights blazing. I was unstrapped and placed on an ambulance stretcher and then I got the second ambulance ride of my young life. I hoped it would be my last. "Dear God," I prayed, "Please let Scotty be all right!" I closed my eyes. That's all I remember until I woke up in another hospital.

Thinking I was dreaming, I saw Officer Milsap's face peering down at me.

"I'm thirsty," I moaned. The kind officer shoveled ice chips into my dry mouth. I savored them and asked for more. It wasn't a dream after all. Once I'd consumed the entire cup, I stretched and felt the pull of the taped bandages and stitches in my abdomen.

Looking up at Officer Milsap, I said, "Thank you for saving me. If you hadn't given me your number, I'd be worm food right now."

"I'm so glad you thought to call me. I'm proud of the way you acted, but you really shouldn't have tried to be a hero." It was a mild rebuke.

"Yeah, I'm no hero. I guess what I did was pretty stupid, really, driving down there like that. I put my life and Scotty's life at risk, and it didn't even end up saving poor Bull after all. Is Scotty all right? Did he get hurt?"

"Scotty's fine. He's a little freaked out and he's got some bruised ribs and a nasty gash in the back of his head. He's in a safe house under FBI protection at the moment, along with his family. He said to tell you he's thinking of you and … that he loves you. Your friend William and his mother are also in a safe house, so don't worry about them either."

I pressed my palms together and pointed my fingers heavenward. "Thank you God," I said with tears of relief trickling from the corners of my eyes.

"Oh, and you're wrong about not saving Bull's life," Officer Milsap continued, "Bull's in this same hospital recuperating. He's beat up pretty badly, broken ribs, concussion, possible loss of sight in his left eye, and his front teeth busted out, but he is definitely going to live."

I started crying for joy. "You mean, I really did save his life?"

"You really did. So I guess you are a hero."

"If you see Scotty, tell him that I love him back. Why is he in a safe house and why is his whole family in a safe house? And why William and his mother too?" I asked. I was very relieved that they were safe, but I was concerned about the implications of his entire family being in a safe house.

"Kyle," Officer Milsap said sternly, "I can't believe you still don't get how dangerous these people are. They don't mess around. They are connected with a major drug operation in El Salvador. We've been investigating them for a while and you and Scotty dropped us right into their central operation in our valley. We've already scored some very high level arrests from last night's raid. Look out your window; you're in an out of town hospital. There were skyscrapers in the horizon.

"What about Pablo?" I asked.

"He's also safe under police supervision until he can testify for us."

"What will happen to him after that? Will he be deported or put back in the system? If he goes to another foster family, he'll just run away again. It's what he and Bull have always done ever since Bull got abused by a foster parent. Then, they'll just end up on the streets again and the gang will kill them." I was very upset and shaking just thinking about it.

"Bull is a legal age adult now, so he will go into the witness protection program. He's key to our case against the gang and the drug lords. Pablo is also a useful witness against the gang members running the drugs in the juvenile justice and prison system, as well as supplying stray animals and humans for the unthinkable experiments they were performing. A deal will be worked out to get him legal status in exchange for his testimony. There is already a pretty good plan in place for those two if it works out like I think it will. They're going to get a real shot at a good life."

"What is it? What's the plan for them?" I asked, eager to know.

"I can't say right now. Just trust me that they are going to be okay." He rested his hand on my shoulder and smiled kindly.

"What's going to happen to me?" I asked.

"That depends. It's not exactly sorted out yet. Your parents have to make some big decisions and right now, they're not on the same page. Hell, they're not even in the same library. We had a difficult time even finding your mother until early this morning. She was off at some spa retreat leaving you home alone, which really infuriates me. But I guess you knew that. Hopefully, we resolve your future with them today." He yawned long and wide and said, "I gotta go get some sleep before I drop where I stand. I'll be back later. There are two guards at your door. You're safe here. Don't worry."

"Officer Milsap, thank you for everything. Can I ask one more question before you go?"

"Sure, and you can call me Peter when it's just us together. You don't need the Officer formality crap. What do you want to know?"

"Well, if William's pathetic old man turned the poison gas on me before he ran out, how come I didn't die from it?"

"Oh, that's a good question. I don't really know. I'll see if I can find that out from the detectives or maybe the paramedics." He waved and left. I couldn't believe how kind he was for a cop. He seemed so understanding and wasn't just all about being tough and nasty. Surely, God brought him into my life like a guardian angel. After he left, I lifted the sheet and my gown and inspected the bandages over my lower rib cage and abdomen. I wondered what horrible scars would be left on my beautiful body. I thought about all the scars Bull had from being cut up. I marveled at a human's capacity for cruelty and meanness and contrasted it with Peter's capacity for kindness and ability to do good for someone he really didn't even know. He talked about me being a hero, but he risked his life every day to protect people he doesn't even know. I thought about Corrie ten Boom and her willingness to risk her safety for strangers and the incredibly evil cruelty she was subjected to because of it. Yet she forgave.

The rest of the day was filled with the typical hospital routine. The evening news was full of the big story about the police raid on the drug cartel and illegal medical lab. Apparently, the warehouse was not only a medical lab but a large drug warehouse and distribution point as well. The police were being very vague in their responses to the media and it was mostly speculation being reported by the news stations as if it were factual. I was surprised how much wrong information was being given out with almost breathless conviction of 'having just learned' or 'this just in'. So far, it seemed that they had managed to keep Scotty's and my name out of it. One station mentioned that homeless youth and animals were being held in cages and that unspeakable human experiments were being conducted on them similar to what Josef Mengele had done under the Nazi regime in Germany.

Around noon, my father called. "Hello Kyle," he said, "How are you doing? Are you recovering well?"

"Hi Dad. Yeah, I'm doing fine. They sewed me up and I guess I got some replacement blood."

"Well, that's good. I don't know what to do about you. You just can't keep out of trouble, can you?" he scolded. I could tell he was exasperated and even sort of angry with me.

"I guess trouble just seems to find me."

"You don't make it too hard on trouble to do just that when you do the stupid things you do. Why can't you just go out and get drunk and laid like every other normal high school kid? Why do you have to take on gangs and drug cartels and rescue every lost puppy you see? You can't live this way. You've put a lot of people around you in danger." He obviously had tried to keep his conversation surface level, but he just couldn't control his urges to spill out his frustration with me. I didn't get mad. I was past getting mad. I'd done the right thing. I'd saved some innocent lives. I helped expose evil and crippled, to some degree, the drug trade in our valley. More importantly, I followed the inspiration from a higher power and I didn't need my parent's approval or even understanding about it. Like Pastor Morgan had said, "He who loves father or mother more than God, is not worthy of Him."

"Dad, I'm sorry I've inconvenienced your life. What's going to happen with us? Can you please get me back from Mom and maybe we could move away and start over?"

"It's a difficult problem. It's not so easy for me to just pick up and move. The FBI is pressuring your mother or me to do just that. She doesn't want to leave her precious Reverend and I don't want to leave my work here at the hospital. I've created something special here. We are on the verge of some exciting and promising breakthroughs in our cancer research."

In the long agonizing pause that followed, the irony of what he just said slammed me in the gut. "So … neither of you want me. I'm too much trouble. I wish the gas had worked. It would have made it easier on everyone."

"What are you talking about? What gas? And don't be ridiculous, of course we want you, it's just a very difficult position you've placed us in." my father said. "As soon as you're well enough, probably tomorrow, we're going to meet with a judge regarding custody. I'll try to get custody and we'll just have to move with the FBI's protection. I don't see any other real solution. Your mother will not leave Reverend Rick so I'm … I'm needing to step up and protect you. But for God's sake, after we do move, no more crusades, understand?"


"Goodbye son."

"Goodbye." I hung up with my father, set the phone down and dialed my Father in heaven, "Dear God, please give me the strength to forgive them. They just don't understand. Amen." I struggled with how Dad was about to say he was stuck with me, but he caught himself and said he needed to 'step up' instead. "Let it go, Kyle," I said out loud to myself.

Monday morning, Peter brought me a letter from Scotty as well as news that I was considered well enough to leave. He brought me new nice clothes and I dressed after reading Scotty's letter,


I'm so worried about you. I hope you are getting better fast. I love you, man. Even if you are crazy. My family and I are all in FBI protective custody. I guess the people you messed with are some real bad asses. I don't know exactly what's going to happen to us. They can't tell me what's going to happen with you either. It's a big, scary mess. Whatever happens and however long it takes, we will find each other. You're my Rock and I'm your Banana Boy forever. Love, Scotty

I clutched it to my chest and thanked God for Scotty. Whatever the future held, someday we would be together. I felt it with every fiber of my heart and soul. Around noon, after the doctor examined my wounds, the head nurse said I could get dressed to leave. Peter signed me out. He wheeled me outside since the hospital policy required it, even though I was capable of walking. We drove into the city where arrangements had been made to meet with my parents and their lawyers in front of a family law judge. I dreaded it and welcomed it at the same time.

Finally, my father and I could be together again, move away and start over rebuilding our relationship, however long that took. Scotty and I would find a way to communicate and find each other someday and my life could be filled with joy and love again. We entered the large courthouse from the rear alley and parked underneath the building in a special lot. Peter flashed his badge to the security guard and after checking his list, he waived us through. We went through a series of security checks and Peter left his weapon at one of them. When we exited the elevator, there was Dad and his lawyer, Mom and her lawyer and Reverend Rick. They stood to greet me and Mom came over to me acting all concerned and motherly. I put a protective hand over my abs and held the other one out to stop her from giving me a hug. "No hugs," I said sternly. "My gut still hurts too much." Mom stepped awkwardly back not knowing how to react. The Reverend stepped up and put his arm around her.

"How come you didn't call or come see me in the hospital, Mom?" I asked, intending to embarrass her. I succeeded.

"Well I wasn't allowed to. The FBI is involved in this mess, you know that." She squirmed as she said it.

"Dad called." She scowled at him but didn't speak. I nodded toward Reverend Rick and asked, "What's he doing here?"

"He's my spiritual counselor," Mom retorted with a tone that indicated I shouldn't go where she knew I could go and really wanted to go.

I didn't go there though, and just responded, "Oh, I see." I walked over to my dad and shook his hand and sat next to him as an obvious display of which team I was rooting for to draft me.

We all sat in very uncomfortable silence until a middle aged woman came out and said, "Judge Tennyson will see you now."

Next chapter will be the wrap up and conclusion of this story. I appreciate the readers who have taken time to email me and share their thoughts along the way. I cherish some of the internet friendships that have grown out of it. Hans.

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