Castle Roland


by Joe Writer Man


Chapter 8

Posted: N/A


Copyright © 2012 - 2014 by Joe Writerman and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.

All Rights Reserved

Dale's viewpoint, Maui, Hawaii

Centennial LogoNo sooner had we exited the hotel when the sky opened up sending walls of rain, and hail the size of ping pong balls. Quickly, the officers hurried me to the vehicle, got me inside, and then got in themselves after making sure I was secured. Other than for a few bumps on my head, I was fine, physically that is. I was still distraught at being held in a police cruiser for shit that I hadn't done, nor for what I would never do, ever.

"Unit 24 to Dispatch."

"Dispatch. Go ahead Unit 24."

"Subject Dale Wilson is in custody."

"10-4, Unit 24, suspect Dale Wilson in custody. ETA, please."

"Right now, we are experiencing severe inclement weather, specifically very large hail. We will sit here until the storm lets up, 10-4."

"10-4. Judge Kendall is in chambers awaiting subject Wilson's arrival."

"Roger. We'll notify you when we are able to leave."

"10-4. Dispatch out."

"Unit 24, out."

The bad hail, although no big deal because in Woodward we can and do periodically experience baseball and softball size hail, soon slacked off, as did the torrential downpour rain which followed. The driver, George, pulled out. His partner radioed in and said we were enroute, ETA approximately ten minutes.

My nerves, already on edge, cringed at hearing that we were only ten minutes away from the guillotine, seemingly.

"Dispatch to Unit 24."

"Unit 24, copy."

"Upon arrival, escort subject Wilson directly to Judge Kendall's chambers. They are expecting you."

"Unit 24, roger that, escort subject Wilson directly to Judge Kendall's chambers. Dispatch, do we bypass booking? Said subject is detained."

"Dispatch to Unit 24, 10-4. You are to take subject Wilson directly to Judge Kendall's chambers, bypassing the booking desk."

"10-4. Unit 24, out."

"Dispatch out."

Twenty five minutes later, we were at the door to Courtroom B. It was locked, but we were quickly escorted inside after one of the cops radioed in that we were there and waiting.

I was led into a room off the side of the Courtroom. There, two men and a court reporter were seated, obviously waiting for us. The officers led me to a chair to be seated, however the judge interrupted the process by saying, "Officers, you may release Mr. Wilson's restraints. And then you are directed to leave my chambers and to guard the door, permitting no one in or out, until I say so."

"Yes, Sir." the arresting said, while his partner released my wrists from the handcuffs. I stretched as soon as they were removed, feeling my shoulders seizing from my hands being secured behind me.

"Thank you, Your Honor." I said while sitting down and facing him, respectfully quiet.

The judge said, "I almost forgot something. I will be right back."

I nodded. The other party in the room, a man in his early to mid sixties, arose from his seat, walked over to me and extended his hand, and said, "My name is George Matheson. I'm an attorney here to represent your legal interests. Your son, Jeremy, called a friend of a friend of a friend… and here I am, at your service. This hearing is just a formality. Based on the evidence, or lack thereof, there is no reason to hold you in custody. The prosecutor has spoken to your wife on a number of occasions over the past few hours, and, well, let's just say that the evidence presented cannot be substantiated."

Judge Kendall returned with the evidence bag, tossed it on his desk, sat down, and asked me to explain why I was here.

After I told him the story behind the rags, he just grinned and noticeably relaxed. He then opened the bag, grabbed its contents, shook them so that the full implication of the shredding they had taken was readily apparent. I chuckled, silently recalling, once again, the story behind them, and Jordan's mortal embarrassment – while Luke and I laughed so hard that I thought I was going to wet myself.

Judge Kendall continued, "Sir, our prosecutor has spoken to your wife on a number of occasions over the past few hours. Categorically, we are convinced the evidence is flimsy at best, and I am afraid that her ranting and raving this, that and everything else about you, while extolling her virtuous religious experiences… well… with all that said, you are free to go, with prejudice. This simply means that the legal system, here, has no claim on your person, nor do we believe any federal statute lays claim. If you do not mind, I will have 'these' destroyed by incineration first thing Monday morning… in the meantime, I will hold them under lock and key in my office."

"Thank you, Sir. I apologize for my wife's behavior. I no longer know her; perhaps I have not known her for a great many years. This whole vacation experience has had nothing but grief."

"Your wife has flown back to the mainland. She caught a non-stop flight from Honolulu to Dallas-Fort Worth this evening, or yesterday evening, as the case may be."

That concluded our meeting. George escorted me out of chambers. After exiting, I turned to the two police officers, shook their hands, and said, "Thank you for treating me with dignity, and for not making my departure from my family too traumatic. You are just doing your job. Thank you for your professionalism in carrying it out."

Both officers nodded and escorted George and me out of the Courtroom. They turned to go another way while George escorted me to the rear entrance of the Courthouse. He said, "I'll be glad to take you back to your hotel. It's on my way."

"Thank you. I appreciate your offer."

On the way back to the hotel, I learned that he'd long been a presiding judge to family court, and how he knew, immediately, that I was no criminal the first moment we laid eyes on each other.

When we arrived at the hotel, I invited him in for a cup of coffee. He accepted the offer. I had no card key to my room, so I walked to Jeremy and Rachel's room, knocked on the door, and waited for someone to answer.

Jeremy's voice, from behind the door, asked loudly, "Who is it?"

I smiled, "Some truck-driver from Oklahoma."

The door immediately opened, Jeremy smiled bright and filled with cheer, grabbed me into a deep, deep hug, and then announced that I was there.

One naked Carlin bounded out of his parents' bed and came at me like a runaway train. Jeremy started to say something to the boy, and even held out his hand to stop the inevitable… As expected, as I braced myself for what was about to happen, the boy bounded up into my arms, wrapped his around my neck and just about strangled me.

I kissed his cheek, put him down, and told him to get something on if he was planning to come to my room, because I had company. He looked down the hall, blushed fiercely, and then took off into their room and put on a pair of boardies, returned, and waited expectantly. Meanwhile, Jeremy walked across the hall, knocked on Bradley and Melissa's door and waited patiently for it to be answered.

Rachel answered the door. She took one look at me and loudly announced that Dad was here. I heard footsteps hit the floor, and them coming closer until he was standing in front of me with tears freely flowing down his cheeks. I drew them both up into a big, tight hug. I was in no hurry to let them go, but in deference to my guest, I did so, telling them I'd see them later in the morning for a late breakfast.

I opened the door to my room with the spare passkey I got from Jeremy and invited George to join me.

After making a pot of coffee, George and I sat down at the table, and for some reason, I just needed to talk, I told him what had been happening, what I knew about Luke and Jordan, what their situation was, how I was feeling about Regina and me, and how I was afraid that our family was going to fall apart.

George spoke sharply, responding, "Dale, get off of your pity pot. From what I can tell, your nuclear family is intact, and is in no danger of falling apart."

I needed to hear that. His words quenched my unfounded fears. I knew it was true, I just needed to hear it, from someone else. I started counting my blessings. There were and are many. Regina was the one to walk away, not me. At no time did I even think about tossing the baby out with the bathwater, nor did I want to throw her under the bus, although I was thinking more and more about doing just that – not because of what she'd done to me, but for what she'd done to our family… in the name of God of all things. I didn't and still do not know that kind of God exists. Although I am no biblical scholar, I do remember from my youth, being told that it was little kids, beggars, tramps, broken women, and the like who Jesus talked to and held on his way to Calvary, not rich braggarts who have no other purpose than to judge their brothers and sisters.

"So what are your plans, Dale?" George said, bringing me up from the trance-like spell from memories.

"My plans, right now, are to spend a few days with my family before returning to the Mainland. My wife was absolutely correct that there will be changes in our lives. I'm not sure what I am going to do, since I've been a truck driver all my life, but I'm going to hang up the keys and do something different. I need my family as much as they need me. So, that's what I'm going to do. For now, though, I'm going to give my family what they need the most – me. I've got several thousand dollars saved up, which will, if need be, tide me over until retirement age. The house is paid off. The only real debt I have is my rig, and it will sell quickly, I'm sure. It's a late model Kenworth. They have good resale value."

"I understand. Last year, when I retired from the bench, my wife and I took a three month vacation, just doing what we wanted to do, going where we wanted to go, being nowhere at any given time… and we enjoyed the hell out of it. When we got back, I decided I'd practice defense law for a while, just to keep me busy and out of my wife's hair as much as possible." He chuckled. I saw in his eyes the love he had for his wife, and the pride in his children and grandchildren. I related to the latter, totally.

I looked at the clock. We'd been talking back and forth for over three hours. I felt like I'd made a new friend. I was totally trashed tired, yet my mind was on 'go'. It was time to do something fun for a change…

No sooner had George left to go home than my family descended into my room asking loads of questions about what had happened to get me back so soon. I answered that an angel had landed on my shoulder; it was the only explanation I could give that meant anything, considering the circumstances and situations besetting us.

When they left to take showers and get ready for the day, I sat down, picked up the phone and found two messages, both from Katy's phone. The first was a message from Luke informing me that Lawrence was being taken to the hospital, and the second from Jordan telling me that they would be calling me later to let me know about how things were rapidly changing, and for me to not worry too much. His voice sounded calm, much calmer than had Luke's.

Knowing, hearing that Jordan was that calm, I had no problem, no misgivings about taking my family out to have fun. And that is exactly what we did.

Jordan's viewpoint

"Jordan, wake up." The sound of Luke's voice, and the breath of air he blew next to my ear caused me to smile. "Wake up, something is wrong with Lawrence." He quickly kissed my lips, then padded off into the restroom.

Immediately I got up, tossed on a pair of underwear, the closest ones next to the bed, not caring whose they were or where they'd been. I was fully pronged up, but had no concern as the three of us had long forgotten our modesty with each other, going so far as to mutually jack off on occasion.

I saw Lawrence brushing his teeth, then leaned over and spat in the sink. As soon as I walked into the bathroom, Luke pointed toward Lawrence's lower back. I looked down and immediately saw a very red wet streak running from the top of Lawrence's underwear covered crack until it disappeared down below.

"You're bleeding." I responded, turning him around so that he could see his backside through the mirror.

His expression changed to surprise. He reached back and ran his hand inside of his underwear, scrunched up his face, and then brought his finger out and looked at it, as though it was no big deal, and said, "It does that. The doctor said it would. It's nothing to worry about. I haven't gone for a few of days."

"Do you mind if we look closer?" Luke asked while placing his hands on Lawrence's shoulders, and looking into our brother's eyes through the mirror.

Lawrence added, "Sometimes I get blisters around my hole. I'll take a hot shower and pick them open with my fingernails. They heal better after they're opened. If you want to see them, go ahead."

Luke lowered Lawrence's underwear to the floor. Lawrence kicked them aside and bent over the sink when Luke gently touched his back.

We both gasped at the sight of a very, very large blister poking out from deep between his butt cheeks. The surface was glistening white, yet the inside of it appeared filled with a dark, almost black substance. I took Lawrence's hand and placed it against the bubble. He wiggled his fingers deeper down inside, brought them out and looked at his hand to see blood and other stuff. His face began turning pale. Luke and I quickly sat him on the toilet. Luke said, "Stay here. I'm going to get Dr. Finnegan." I nodded. He tore out of the bathroom without a stitch of clothes on. I heard his feet hit the stairway, and then the door to the kitchen opened. He said something, and then footsteps across the floor to the stairs, and then on down.

Dr. Finnegan entered the crowded bathroom, took Lawrence's pulse, leaned the boy forward and looked back to see behind his patient. "Luke, go upstairs, tell Jared that I need a box of surgical gloves." Luke took off. Without one bit of trouble, Dr. Finnegan lifted Lawrence off the toilet, but when he did, Lawrence's bowels released so he sat him back down and held on firmly as Lawrence gurgled, clearly in pain. The doctor leaned Lawrence forward so that his hands were resting on the floor.

Luke returned. Jared was at his side. Michael and Matthew stood in the doorway. We were all concerned. The concerned expression on their faces was clearly evident. Jared handed his dad two gloves which he immediately put on, and then reached around Lawrence, saying, "Son, this is going to hurt, but just for a moment."

Lawrence's face scrunched up, and then he broke out in a sweat. The perspiration was dripping off of his nose. I retrieved a wet washcloth from the shower bay and used it to tenderly wipe his face free of the sweat beads. He looked into my eyes. In his, I saw only pain and uncertainty. "It's going to be okay, Lawrence. We're with you all the way." I said.

Luke leaned down into Lawrence's face, kissed his cheek, and reiterated, "That's right. We're friends. We're not going to leave you, now."

"You guys have to get out of here. They are looking for us." Lawrence said, woefully.

"No way, Dude. We're here. Doctor Finnegan, what's wrong? Why is he bleeding, and what is that bubble?"

Using his clean gloved hand, Doctor Finnegan reached into the top drawer, extracted a tube of Vaseline, had me remove the top, and then he reached back around Lawrence. "This is going to hurt. Stay with me. It'll be real quick, I promise."

Lawrence's face immediately turned pale and his skin broke out in beads of sweat which ran off of his nose and down his cheeks. Luke refreshed the washcloth and used it to tenderly wipe away the water.

"Lawrence, you are very brave. I'm proud of you. Why don't you push down to expel the rest? It shouldn't hurt as bad, now. You have a mighty big abscess deep inside of your bottom. It needs to be surgically opened and drained. There is also a stricture that needs to be taken care of."

Two hours later, Lawrence was being wheeled into the preoperative holding area with Luke and me by his side. Doctor Finnegan waved aside concerned hospital staff trying to keep us from entering. He told them we were brothers, and that he was giving permission, as the chief medical officer of the hospital, for us to stay with his patient.

Two nurses entered the room. One was a mean looking older woman. Her name tag read "Gertrude, Chief of Nursing Service". I swallowed hard feeling a sudden wave of doom and gloom come washing over me. Then she surprised us. Her voice totally belayed her gruff appearance, saying, "Dr. Finnegan, we have OR #3 open. They are setting up. Is there anything special that you want or need?"

"Yes. I'll need the major lower bowel instrument setup." Doctor Finnegan said, professionally, as he once again took Lawrence's blood pressure and pulse, procedures usually left to nurses, I'd thought all along. He continued after completing the tasks, "His blood pressure is good at one hundred four over seventy six. His pulse is a little high at ninety. Lawrence, are you in pain?"

"It's not too bad. I can handle it."

"Don't be a trooper, Son." Turning to Gertrude, "Please start an IV with lactated ringers, one thousand cubic cc's. Hang a gram of Kefzol to run in over thirty minutes, and two milligrams of Versed STAT. We'll need a blood count and differential, STAT. Anesthesia consult. We'll bypass the routine chest x-ray, for now. We'll get one post op. He doesn't need a surgical prep, we'll clean him up in the OR." Looking to Luke and me, he continued, "Gertrude is going to be busy for a few minutes, would you help me with Lawrence's clothes?"

Quickly, we pulled off Lawrence's shirt while Doctor Finnegan carefully removed our brother's scrub bottoms. He quickly tossed them into the laundry basket, taking care not to soil his or our hands in the process. I looked down at Lawrence's naked body. He looked so thin and pale.

Nurse Gertrude returned, and then started the IV and gave Lawrence the prescribed medications, drew his blood, and then exited the room.

Professionally, Doctor Finnegan examined Lawrence carefully from head to toe, stopping at his privates. I looked up to see the doctor frowning. Doctor Finnegan took hold of Lawrence's penis, gently squeezing it a few times until it began pulsing from arousal. He then ran his fingers down its length after putting a few drops of KY jelly onto the distended organ. He said, "Lawrence, I'm sorry for doing that to you. Examining your erect penis was very important. While your organ has suffered a mild deformity from a very improper circumcision, it appears to function properly. I trust that you experience pleasure, yes?"

Deadpanning, Lawrence replied, "Yes."

"Does it hurt any when you release?"

"Sometimes it stings, but not very much."

When Doctor Finnegan laid Lawrence's rapidly wilting penis up into his growing back pubes, it was then that we saw a scar running from the corona to the base of his testicle. One testicle… I thought he had two. Doctor Finnegan asked Lawrence, "Have you always had one testicle? It's no big deal, really, boys grow into men and are fully capable of fathering children."

Luke took hold of Lawrence's sack to closely inspect the scar, and the remaining testicle.

Lawrence said, "I'm sorry."

Doctor Finnegan gently raised the covers to Lawrence's neck, patted him on the shoulder, and then he and I looked at Luke when Luke took in a deep breath. It was then that we saw Luke's face scrunching up – angrily. His eyes popped wide open, and was just about ready to let loose.

Quickly, I said, while taking hold of Luke's shoulders and looking directly into his eyes, "Don't! Don't go there! Chill it, Luke. Please."

"They can't get away with that shit, Jordan, goddamn it to fucking hell. This has to stop right now, right fucking now!"

"I know it will, Luke. But you being pissed off isn't going to help Lawrence. Look, I feel the same way. Those bastards will pay. Just not right now. We've got to get Lawrence fixed up, first. Then we'll deal with it." With force, to let him know I wasn't going to let his rage continue, I pulled him into my arms and held on tight, saying over and over in his ear to be calm. A couple of minutes later, he hesitantly wrapped his arms around my waist and placed his face into my neck. Without a care in the world, without worrying that Doctor Finnegan and Gertrude were in the room, I kissed Luke's cheek, not like a brother, but like a lover. The tension in Luke's muscles began relaxing and going away.

I looked up into Doctor Finnegan's eyes. His expression registered surprise. At the same time, while his eyes clenched nearly closed, they were wet. He turned his attention to Lawrence, leaned down really close to his patient's ear and said something that I couldn't hear. Lawrence looked up into the doctor's eyes, slowly nodding.

Another doctor entered the exam room. His face turned serious, surely from the somber mood emanating from all of us. I quickly kissed Luke's cheek, looked intently into his eyes and sent, ["Behave. Whoever hurt Lawrence will pay, just not right now. I love you."] Luke and I parted, looked toward the new doctor, shrugged my shoulders, then turned my attention to Lawrence. Lawrence was looking at me with an incredulous expression on his face. I wiggled my eyebrows up and down just as Doctor Finnegan announced to Lawrence, "This is Doctor Johnson from anesthesia. He will give you medicine so that you do not feel anything. He'll be taking care of monitoring and maintaining your blood pressure, pulse and respiration during the operation."

Doctor Johnson smiled, "Good morning, Lawrence. Doctor Finnegan is absolutely correct. I'll give you some medicine to put you to sleep and keep you asleep while Doctor Finnegan works on your bottom. You shouldn't feel a thing."

Doctor Johnson quickly performed a quick listen to Lawrence's lungs, looked into his eyes and ears, palpated his neck. He had Lawrence open his mouth, and said, "I'm just checking your teeth, tongue and palate… we'll be putting a breathing tube in your pharynx to help you breathe. You will be lying on your tummy during the operation. That's about it for me, do you have any questions?"

Lawrence looked at Luke, then at me, then back at Doctor Johnson. He took in a deep breath and asked, "Am I going to die?"

"Son, we will be closely monitoring your vital signs. As with any operation, there are certain risk factors, though small. You are young and generally appear healthy. I do not anticipate any complications, but we are ready in the unlikely event that you have a reaction to any of the medicines. To directly answer your question, yes, there is always the very tiny remote possibility that you will not survive. But… I want you to think positive at all times. When a patient thinks positive, their operations go much, much smoother, and they heal much quicker. Are these your brothers with you today?"

Clearly, succinctly, Lawrence easily replied, "Yes. They are my brothers. I love each of them so very much. I'll try to be positive."

"Would you boys… like to share your love with him? He's apprehensive, which is quite normal." Doctor Johnson said, and Doctor Finnegan nodded appreciatively and stepped back to permit Luke and me to be on either side of Lawrence.

Lawrence reached his arms out and looked at me. Doctor Finnegan lowered the side rail so that I could lean in without encumbrance. Without delay or feelings of embarrassment, I leaned down, took Lawrence into my arms and squeezed tightly, sending him all my love and encouragement. Without even looking up to see who was watching, I touched my lips to my brother's and held it for a moment, until he relaxed and gave back. Tears were freely flowing from my eyes and down my cheeks, landing on his neck. I made no effort to stop them.

Luke put his hand on my neck and ran it down my back, and then he leaned in and pulled Lawrence into his arms so that we could both feel him. Without a care in the world, Lawrence readily accepted Luke's kiss, and gave back. Simultaneously, Luke and I said, "I love you," to Lawrence, our new brother, sealed with a kiss and hug.

Luke turned to Doctor Johnson and asked for all of us, "Uhm, can we hold his hand when you put him to sleep? We don't have to, you know…"

Without waiting for an answer, yes or no, Lawrence reached for both our hands, clasped them tightly, looked into Doctor Johnson's eyes and said, "I'm ready."

"Doctor Finnegan?"

"I'm ready."

Doctor Johnson reached deep into his white lab coat, retrieved a very large vial of a white medicine, popped off the top, applied it to the IV line, and then started injecting the white substance. No more than one minute later, Lawrence's grip relaxed, and then he took two deep gulps of air, and then silence. Doctor Johnson quickly put a breathing tube into Lawrence's throat. "Okay, boys, it's time for you to leave now. We'll be taking him into the operating room for his procedure. There is a lounge just outside. The nurse will show you where it is."

"I'll take you boys. It's going to be a little while before they're ready for me." Doctor Finnegan said, put his hands on our backs and showed us the way out and down to the surgery family waiting room. He crouched down low so he could speak directly to us, "That's the nicest send-off for a patient that I've seen in a very long time. He's going to be fine."

"How long is the operation going to take, Sir?" Luke asked.

"About an hour and a half, give or take a few minutes. The abscess is quite extensive and I need to do another procedure that will remove the band of scar tissue. It, too, is quite extensive. I'm sure that by getting the infection out of his system, and getting him able to poop again without extreme pain will help him a great deal. I am nothing but optimistic."

With that said, and with a pat on our backs, Doctor Finnegan disappeared into the bowels of the hospital.

A girl in a striped uniform walked up to us. She definitely gave us the 'eye', looking from the tops of our heads down to our shoes, taking her sweet time passing up and down our south of the border areas. I was just about to tell her that my Luke was and is 'taken' but refrained when she asked if we wanted to go to the cafeteria to get something to drink, because all the waiting room had available to drink was coffee. Her name tag read 'Ann'.

As we walked through the halls, she gave us landmarks to watch out for when we returned. She left us at the doors to the cafeteria. People were coming and going, walking around us. We didn't even realize that we were more or less blocking the entryway. We went inside. Luke looked into my eyes and said, "We don't have any money. I'm not hungry, are you?"

"Nuh uh." We walked to an island with drinks and glasses. I pulled down a glass, handed it to Luke, and then grabbed one for myself. Luke put his under the water faucet. So did I when he got finished. I turned around just in time to be confronted by an armed security guard.

"Are you boys together?" The man asked gruffly.

"Yes, Sir. Our brother is in surgery; we're waiting for the doctor to tell us how he is."

"You are underage. Put your glasses down. I will escort you to the front doors. You are not permitted in the building without a parent or guardian."

He would not listen to any explanation that Doctor Finnegan was Lawrence's doctor, nor did he pay any attention when Luke mentioned Dr. Johnson was our brother's anesthesiologist.

At the front doors, the man put his hands on our shoulders and walked us outside. His final parting shot was, "No loitering. There is a park down the street, just past the parking garage. Don't let me see you around here, do you hear me?"

I had a plan. A quick one. But… nevertheless… a plan.

Luke was about half pissed off. I grinned, grabbed his hand, and took off down the long winding stairs. When we were about halfway to the sidewalk, I turned around to see if the man was still there. He was. I sent to Luke, ["Watch this!"] I fully turned to face the man, and then held up both hands and gave him one-finger salutes. Luke groaned, but he looked up at the man… and joined me, flipping him off – with utmost respect, of course. We then tore out when the man started toward the stairway. I had no idea where we were going, neither did Luke… we were just going.

We stopped at a street corner about a block away. I looked back over my shoulder to make sure the idiot wasn't following us. The coast was clear. Luke grabbed my arm like he'd never grabbed me before. Before I could say or do anything, we were tearing out in a different direction. I looked back, and just about shit my pants when I saw a big rig bearing down on us… in the microsecond that I looked up into the cab, I grabbed hold of Luke and we tore out back toward the hospital. We ducked into a doorway. The damn door was locked. Luke grabbed my hand. He nearly jerked my shoulder out of place. We tore across the street to the parking garage. He said, "This will buy us some time. She can't get that big fucker in here. And, she's so fucking fat. Did you see anybody in the passenger seat?"

"No. Let's go!"

Katy made the turn onto the block we were running across. She gave that damn thing the gas. The rig was tearing through the streets like a bat out of hell. Just as we ran across the busy intersection to get away, she pulled a weird stunt that put us both directly into her path, and she wasn't stopping; she was going to hit us; there was no way to avoid the collision… until Luke came up with a master plan, one that he did not tell me about, one that I doubt he'd given any real thought to. He grabbed my hair and then slammed us both face first to the pavement, and then he rolled me into him. The rig passed over us. Thankfully she wasn't dragging a load. As soon as she passed over, I was ready to get the fuck out of there, but Luke held me tight, and said, "Play dead. Just do it."

"What if she backs up?"

"Look over there!" Luke pointed to a cruiser passing by. "Just play dead. Don't move."

The air-brakes on Katy's rig locked up, making her tires screech to a stop. The cruiser passed by the intersection, but then a bunch of people started screaming and pointing at us. The cop car flicked on its lights and siren, and when traffic cleared he tore out, burning rubber toward us. Luke said, "Run! We'll meet up at the hospital dumpsters. GO!"

The cruiser pulled up to a screeching halt. We joined the living. He went one way. I went another way, running for our lives. The cop screamed for us to halt. We had an advantage though… I didn't realize it until I had to think about it for a second – there are two of us and one cop. Go figure.

At a full gallop, I ran down a residential street, looking for somewhere to hide. "What would Luke do? He's a scout."

And then there were tons of sirens, everywhere. I looked all around; the cop cars were racing toward where I'd come from. I prayed, even though I don't believe in that crap, that Luke was okay. "Please! Please! Please! Luke, be okay!" I cried, and then spotted an evergreen bush, tree thing. Without worrying about a few stickers, I ran at full bore toward it, and then took a nose dive into its base as a cop car came screaming up the street. He was going so fast around the corner that I was nearly convinced that he hadn't seen me. I hunkered into a little ball, struggling like hell to get my breath back.

["Luke, can you hear me? Please tell me you're okay… please, please, please!"]

["I'm okay. Where are you?"]

["I don't know. I just ran down a street. Cops are all over the place!"]

["I know. I don't know where I'm at, either. Let's just stay where we are for right now."]

["We can't get caught, Luke. We can't. Remember what Lawrence said about Eric and the cops."]

["Yeah, I know. I know. That was Katy, you know. God, why the fuck does she want us dead?"]

["Because we know too much. That's why. We know everything. We're a threat to her. Do you have your phone?"]

["No, it's on the dresser. I didn't think…"]

["Well, it's not like we planned this, you know. Anyway, we don't have anybody to call… so it's no big deal."]

As that last thought passed through my mind, I arose just enough to be able to see the street. I quickly laid back down… a cop car was slowly crawling along. The officer was looking both ways. I know he was looking for us. I sent to Luke, ["A cop car is cruising this street. I'm hunkered down on the ground under a freaking evergreen tree. I don't think he can see me."]

["Okay, you stay put. I've got to move. I'm in a frigging dumpster lying on top of some seriously stinking garbage. Hold your thoughts."]

The cop car turned at the corner and headed away from me. In the meantime, I rolled over onto my side, whipped out my flesh and took a much needed, no, an urgent piss; carefully aiming the wand so that the river didn't run my way. I'll have to remember to not do that again, at least not beneath a frigging tree laden with thorns. Not pleasant.

I'd just gotten my zipper zipped up when an elderly woman's voice commanded, "Get up. Get out of there. Don't do any funny business."

["Luke, I'm fucked."]

Carefully, slowly, intently, I crawled out from beneath the bush/tree thing, but didn't stand up. Instead, I turned toward the voice. Our eyes met. I just about crapped my pants. An elderly woman; she had to be eighty years old; was standing there with a pistol pointing in my direction.

In my head, I heard, ["I wish."]

["You don't understand… I am fucked. This little old lady has a pistol aimed at my head."]

["Oh - shit. Just do what she tells you. She must be afraid that you're a burglar or a prowler. Just give her your sweet innocence."]

["No way!"]

[Giggles. "What's happening?"]

["Nothing. She's giving the ugly treatment, though."] My thought was broken when she said, "Stand up. Face me."

I stood and turned to fully face her. She was my height. Her hair was up in curlers. A 'blue hair'. Her eyes were intense.

I offered, "Ma'am, I'm not here to rob you or anything. Just let me go. I promise – I'll just disappear; you'll never see me again."

"Why aren't you in school? Do I know you?"

"Uhm, no ma'am you don't know me. We just moved here." Sort of.

"Are you in a gang?"

"Oh no, ma'am, there's no way. I'm just a kid. My brother and I skipped school today, we're playing around, you know… uhm, we're playing Army." If she believes that, then she really is stupid. But she's not stupid, not really, when you really look at the situation – old lady, gun, stern expression, not shaking like she has some disorder… no, her eyes were boring holes into my soul.


"Yes, ma'am. May I just disappear? I'm serious, you won't see me again, promise."

She continued staring at me… a thought passed through my brain and stuck… I lifted up my shirt to my neck, locked it under my chin, and then pulled out my emtpy front pockets to show her that I had no weapons. I said, "Ma'am, I'm clean. I don't do drugs. And I don't carry weapons. I'm not a gang member. Look, the truth is that my brother is in the hospital getting a serious operation. I got lost when I went out for a walk. I promise you. Please put down the gun; it's scaring me." I lowered my shirt to its normal resting place, turned and walked away like I owned the place. I didn't look back. And I was praying a bucket-load of prayers as I calmly walked through her front yard to the sidewalk, and then, reaching it, tore out running as hard as I could possibly run. I got past the corner, turned right at the intersection, ran three blocks in that direction, and then turned right again when the hospital building came into view. I hid by the side of a house to catch my breath. I figured I was out of view by standing up close to the wall which was close to a tree. I sent to Luke, ["That was a close call, Dude. I'm standing across the street from the hospital. Where are you?"]

["I'm under a dumpster. Just as I was about to make my break, a bunch of people came out of the hospital to smoke cigarettes. I don't think they saw me. This is fucked up… I can't go in… I smell like a garbage dump. Ohhhh mannnn… God, I can't even stand myself."] Then he chuckled, nervously, and continued, ["We need a diary."]

I cracked up. I couldn't help it. I leaned forward, and promptly – puked. Between nerves and belly laughter… it was all way too much.

["You okay? I felt a twinge… like I was throwing up…"] Luke sent to my mind.

["Luke, that's scary. How did you know I just tossed?"]

["Don't know… doo dah… okay, they went inside. I see a loading dock. That's where they went in."]

I looked all around as much of the building as I could see. Which way was the front, and which way was the back? I sent, ["Luke, tell me what you see. I think I'm close to you, maybe."]

["K… let me get out from under this damn thing. Ugh. Ah, geeze, oh, gawd, the damn dumpster leaked all over my back. Okay, I'm looking around… there's a park just to my left. Do you see it?"]

Just then a cruiser slowly drove down the street. He didn't see me because he was looking the other way when I dove into a brush bush. Oh gawd, the stickers… like porcupine needles. ["I'm in a bush. A cop just drove by… they're looking for us, Luke."]

["I've got an idea. Take off your shirt and drop it out of sight. Then, just like normal, walk close to the building. Don't act nervous… just walk normally. When a cop drives by, just wave like he was your friend, and keep going. I've got gym shorts on. They're wet… this way if we don't look like who they were looking for… we've got it made."] Luke said, then continued, ["Okay, I'm stripped."]

["I wish."]

["Later. Okay, I'm walking out of the loading dock area, just like normal. I'm walking toward that park. Tell me, is the sun behind you?"]


["I'm facing it. So we're on opposite sides of the building. You turn left. When you get to the corner, turn right. You'll see the park on your left at the end of the block. I'll meet you in a grove of bushes. I see them now."]

I crawled out of the bush. The freaking thorns were stuck in my back, legs and in that area up front that should never see or feel thorns. I didn't want to waste any time, so I took off down the street like I owned it or something. At the end of the street, I saw the park, and I saw a cop car coming toward me. He passed on by, though he did look at me, but it was a glancing shot… he drove on up the street and didn't turn at the intersection, he kept going. ["It worked."]

["Good. I'm here. See the bushes right ahead of you? I see you… can you see me?"]

I looked all through the bushes. I didn't see him. ["No, I don't see you. Oh wait…"] I saw his arm stuck out from the bushes, then it disappeared. Nonchalantly, looking all around to make sure I wasn't being followed, and when I felt safe, I took out at a semi-leisurely pace, until I reached him. All bets were off. I grabbed his totally and completely stinking body and pulled it in, and then our lips joined hungrily, needily, wantonly, like there would be no tomorrow, nor the rest of today. All that mattered was that we were together. Tears filled my eyes, my throat constricted, and my chest felt tight. Then, slowly, as Luke continued to hold and kiss my lips, hard, I started relaxing as much as possible. I felt safe again, even though we probably were not safe.

I looked into Luke's beautiful eyes. His were as wet as mine felt. Our lips joined again, and we went deep sea fishing, looking for tonsilar tissues, or something beyond them. We then parted. Luke looked out of a cubby hole in the bush, searching for anyone who might see us, or worse, take us away. I rubbed his back, tenderly. His muscles, trembling, soon relaxed… somewhat. He sat down. We crossed our legs together, leaned in and kissed.

Then he smiled and said, "I like the diary idea. Who'll ever believe us?"

I sniggered. "Nobody. It really doesn't matter, so long as we're together. Uhm, do you really think Katy would have killed us?" Dumb question… I just needed to hear it from him.

"Damn straight she would have. She's a crazy bitch, Jordan. She's capable of anything." Luke said, running his hand through my hair to knock out the cockle-burrs. He kept one, held it in my face so that I could get a good look at it… at the same time, he grinned and brought our faces together. Our kiss was short and to the point, yet very powerful. It sent goose bumps all over my arms, up and down my spine; even those teeny tiny hairs on the outside of my legs bristled, and then our lips came together again. This time, though, my hands went roaming, found his essence and squeezed very firmly, and felt him violently shudder as his moment rapidly arrived, taking him out of this world and into another one that has yet to be defined.

Although he was nearly unconscious from going to and returning from that far away planet we'd named 'Wowie', I stayed on this celestial body, but not because of choice. Footsteps were coming in our direction. Luke quickly came around. At first he grasped my member, but I pushed his hand away. In his surprise that I would do such a thing, he stiffened up as he too heard feet coming our way. I wasn't too worried that whoever was walking toward us would actually find us… the foliage was full and impenetrable. As soon as they had appeared, they disappeared off into the distance. I looked into Luke's eyes, smiled, and then wiggled my eyebrows up and down, pecked his lips, stood up, and shook off the rest of the burrs. Luke stood up, too. While he was looking through the overgrowth I looked down to his shorts. Although there was a wet spot, it just sorta mixed in with the other gunk soaked in and ground into his shorts. It was then, too, that I realized he smelled like a garbage truck, and that he had bits and pieces of this and that in his hair, pits, and all over his legs, too. "Pffft, you stink!"

"Yeah, don't remind me. Now what do we do? We can't go in there like this, you know." Luke said, holding out his arms to remind us that he was missing, A. a shirt, and B. pants, and that I was also missing A. and, not to forget C. – stink!

"Hmmm…." I pondered. I looked down to find my nipple nubbins pointed out. They did that when they got cold… and the air temperature was… very cold.

"I've got a plan…" Luke snorted. He took my head, pulled me… I thought he was going to kiss me so I puckered up and started to close my eyes but he poked my face into the foliage. It was then that I started to get his idea about what we were going to do next. A commercial linen truck was turning into the receiving dock area. The driver expertly backed his rig to the dock, jumped down, and then disappeared around back. "Come on." Luke continued, grabbing my hand. We ran across the street, jumped to the ground and rolled under the truck, skinning my still sore but scabbed over elbow. He put his index finger to his lips. He was telling me to be quiet. I hadn't said a word. I smiled. I always smile when his eyes bore into my soul. There's so much love there… sometimes I think I'm going to wake up and find all of this to be just a dream, one to be broken by my Mom screaming as she always did for anything.

["Earth to Jordan. Hey you."] Luke sent.

"Uhm, huh, I'm here." I replied out loud, winking, realizing we were not a dream. It's real. If we weren't beneath a very big truck, waiting for Luke's plan to take place, I would have had my Luke right then and there on the spot… all of him. The thin shorts he was wearing were loose. They'd come off with only a slight tug…

Our moment was interrupted by a big heavy door rolling up on its massive metal rollers, and then it clanked when it reached the top. I held my breath and stayed still. Next, something with wheels on it rolled across the bed of the truck, clanked over the sash, got caught, and we heard the man swear. His voice sounded like it was right next to us. Thankfully, the wheels rolled on into the building. All was quiet.

"Come on. We're going up into the truck. This is our way in…"

Twenty, okay I'm guessing, minutes later, with Luke on the top shelf and me squeezed into the bottom shelf, we were rolled across floors, bumped into walls, nearly annihilating us when the truck driver and someone else got into a tussle, using the cart as a weapon of mass destruction… slight exaggeration… maybe. Add this experience to our diary.

All good things come to an end, thank God. The cart we were riding in was then slammed against a wall, and the men left the room, likely to fetch another cart. Luke hissed, "Go." He unzipped the zipper to the cart's cover as far as he could. I took it the rest of the way, up and over. In a nanosecond we were out of the confined space, looking all around for something to wear. On a desk in the far corner, we saw a stack of white, what looked like scrub pants. They were scrub pants.

Five minutes later, stealthily, fully clad, although the garments were way too big for our skinny asses, we exited the room and headed in a direction leading to wherever, and just in time, too. As we rounded the corner into a long hallway, we heard the clankity clank of yet another cart being rolled in. Luke hissed, "Damn it…"

"What?" I asked when he didn't finish his statement. He didn't answer, instead we came to a wide, heavy appearing door. From the stench, and truthfully – I couldn't tell if the malodorous attack was from Luke, or if it was coming from that room beyond the door… probably both.

"Just act normal." Luke said, carefully. "Come on. I think this is the dirty dish room… I recognize the smell, don't you?" He grinned, took my hand and together we opened that dang door. Sure enough we entered an area with a humongous commercial dishwasher in its midst. Stealthily we walked through the room toward another door, that hopefully led into cleaner surroundings. What am I saying? Am I insane?


Luke said, "Just act normal. Just be yourself. We're going out there. Hopefully beyond that door is the cafeteria."

Just as we were ready to walk through the door, it opened toward us, catching us off guard, and to the floor we went when it made contact… hitting me in the shoulder, and Luke's jaw. There was no time to check out our wounds. We jumped up, ran around the man and out into the cafeteria before he could say anything more intelligent than 'fucking kids… hey, come here!"

We half-ran, half-walked through the throngs of people surely there to have their fine food, to the far end where the doors leading out were located. Next, we got onto an already crowded elevator, where it went, we had no idea, but it beat being where we were. By far.

"What floor are you boys going to?"

Luke, without missing a beat, replied, "Surgery."

"That's the fourth floor." We heard, but didn't see, a button being pushed.

Somebody unnamed and unknown whispered, "They really need to clean these elevators better."

I bit my tongue. Hard. Was that blood I tasted?

When the car reached a floor, we couldn't tell which one because we were in the back, someone said that this was the surgery floor. The elevator halted, and we excused ourselves three or four times as we bumped into people on our way out.

We were in surgery, alright. The floors were meticulously shining, and the place smelled like alcohol, and Doctor Finnegan was standing at the nurses desk, facing away from us. A nurse looked up, met my eyes. At the same time, Doctor Finnegan turned around, and then his jaw dropped at seeing us – I'm positive that we looked like two white angels, all dressed up in our white garb… even though we stank… we put on our best innocent 'faces', smiled, and waited for him to either come grab us and hug us, or… don't go there.

My stomach dropped three floors when he frowned and headed to us. Without a word said, he took hold of my shoulder, and Luke's too, and led us into a conference room, closed the door, and said, "Sit." That's all he said. Just "Sit". Succinct. To the point. No mincing of words, just "Sit".

The chair was wide, so Luke and I shared it, sitting close to the edge in case we had to make a break for it. He stood there for a very long, intense moment, just looking at us with this parental expression on his face. He pulled off his surgical hat and booties, ripped off the mask that was hanging from his neck, sat down, and said, "Lawrence's operation is over. He did very well. There were no complications. And just where in the heck… you boys stink."

Ignoring the last observation, "Can we see him?" I squeaked, much higher than normal… truth be told, he was looking right through me, as if my skin and bones were made of crystal clear glass.

"Yes. Since you boys are dressed 'appropriately' for operating and recovery rooms, come with me, and then we are going to have a mind meld. Just you two and me."

He got up, held out his arm, and using his finger, pointed at the door. He opened it and then led us out, down a short hall, turned right, and there we saw many beds with patients. Some were moaning and groaning, most were quiet, though. Nurses were going here, there and everywhere in an orderly appearing manner. Lawrence was in the middle on the right side. He was all covered up in blankets, like he was cold, with only his face showing. He looked pale. His hair, which he tried to keep meticulously combed and neat, was disheveled and all over the place… I wish I had a comb.

"Lawrence." Doctor Finnegan said loudly. Lawrence opened his eyes and looked up at the doctor. The surgeon continued, "You have visitors. Luke and Jordan are here to see you. Wake up now. As soon as you wake up, you'll be taken to your room." To me he said, "Five minutes. I'm staying right here. We'll be moving him upstairs in a few minutes."

Lawrence held out his arms toward Luke. My boyfriend obliged. Even over the side rails they hugged and kissed once then twice. Lawrence quickly covered his face, reached for the puke basin, and proceeded to dry wretch. Nothing came up, but still, the sound… I swallowed hard. Dr. Finnegan broke the silence, by saying directly to Luke, "That sure sounds like pure brotherly love to me, doesn't it to you?" The good doctor emphasized his point by putting his finger behind Luke's ear and pulling away a piece of slightly dry, slightly wet goober of some kind.

Point made.

And then, just to make sure we understood, or perhaps he was inventorying our bodies to drive home the fact that we hadn't exactly been sitting in the waiting room, or the cafeteria… well, we were, or we passed through the cafeteria, right?

Lawrence put down the kidney shaped object onto his chest, and then held his arms out to me. Without delay, I worked my way between the hospital bed rails and his warm, inside the covers, body, and hugged him firmly, and then we briefly kissed, and then I stood back when Doctor Finnegan said, "Okay, Lawrence, these two hooligans will see you after a while when you get to your room. Your nausea will soon pass," looking to Luke, "quickly. I'm positive." Luke nodded. What else could he do?

Instead of taking us to where we'd come from, Doctor Finnegan took us to the doctor's lounge where he grabbed some green scrub suits off of a bottom shelf, and then led us into the restroom part of the area, pointed toward a shower stall that had a door on it for privacy. We both started toward the stall, but Doctor Finnegan took hold of my shoulder and said, "You boys shower separately, don't you?"

"No, Sir, not usually. I mean, well you know… we're brothers."

"I understand. Okay, here's the deal. I'm going to sit here and wait for you. Go ahead Luke, Jordan, take your shower. You're not in trouble with me. I'll get you some shampoo and soap from my locker, don't go anywhere."

I nodded. Luke said, "Okay. We'll get in and you can hand the stuff to us. Is that okay? I kind of need to wash myself."

"I'll say." Doctor Finnegan said, then held his nose in mock disgust. He probably wasn't kidding. It was rank in there, and it wasn't from stale water, either. He knew exactly. We entered the walk-in shower and quickly stripped to the skin. While Luke was busy getting the water to temperature, I waited for Doctor Finnegan to return with the supplies. When he knocked, I opened the door, took them, and said, "Thanks." He nodded.

The scrubs Doctor Finnegan selected were only a little bit big in the butt, legs and shoulders, but otherwise they fit a whole lot better. He tied the strips of cloth to hold them up and snug. I picked up our dirty clothes, underwear included, and tossed them into the dirty clothes hamper. Luke gave back the shampoo and soap, after he'd wiped off the bottles.

The doctor then took us to the cafeteria, bought a bunch of fruit to eat and fruit juice to drink. To say that me and Luke were just a 'little bit' nervous would be an understatement, but we kept to ourselves.

Instead of going to a table to eat, he took us to the medical office building next door, rode the elevator up two flights, and then went down the hall to his office, entered, and went to his private sanctuary where he urged us to sit down at a small conference table. He sat down, too, then pointed to the food. "Go ahead, eat. You're not in trouble, boys, so just get those worried looks off of your faces. Food! Eat!" he said, smiling, as he took a huge bite off of a Red Delicious apple. I started peeling an orange. Luke peeled a banana… his eyes sparkled as he looked into mine, then he sent, ["I'm going to do this to you tonight."], and then he inserted the elongation into his mouth and took a slow bite making sure his lips were firmly sliding the banana in deeper. I scooted my chair closer to the table.

The sound of an apple being bit into brought me back to my senses. Simultaneously, my boyfriend, soul mate, confidante, and I turned toward Doctor Finnegan. He was looking at us intently. The expression on his face told me nothing… it's like he was trying to figure things out. We three swallowed the bite of food we were chewing, which is a good thing. Doctor Finnegan put the apple core down on the table, covered it with a napkin, leaned forward, looking first into Luke's eyes, and then he turned to me, "Talk to me. By law, I must report Lawrence's injuries for they are not consistent with the story I've been told."

"NO! You can't do that!" came out of my mouth just as a slice of orange went in, sending the bite of fruit onto the table in front of me. My head got light, my face felt like it was going to burn up, my chest constricted, and my throat got tight.

Luke took over, "Sir, please do not call them." My boyfriend then took a deep breath, looked into my eyes, trembled, and then he reached for my hand, took it in his and squeezed. I nodded and shrugged my shoulders.

I turned to the man, mustered up some courage from deep within, and said, "They already know what happened to him. Let's just say that law enforcement did Lawrence no favors… you know, they didn't protect him. It's all screwed up, Sir. We can't go into any details – obviously Lawrence isn't here with us right now." I reached down into my lap, retrieved the piece of orange that had fallen into my lap soaking it with its juices, and put it into my mouth and chewed.

Luke took over, "Doctor, we can't really leave right now. Thank you for helping Lawrence. I know that he appreciates everything you are giving him, and have given, and continue to give us. How soon will he be back up on his feet?"

The doctor considered Luke's question for a moment or two before answering, "A few days, no more than a week I would imagine. It all depends on him. He must be on a low roughage diet. While his incisions were placed and closed in a way so that they will not break loose, he will be mighty sore. For obvious reasons, he cannot become constipated," he paused for a second, looked into Luke's eyes and then mine, continuing with a slight accusatory tone to his voice, "or be subjected to further injury. He will need to be on the diet for a good two to three weeks, and then gradually eased into regular food."

I said, "Doctor, I promise you that Luke and I have not hurt Lawrence in any way, other than to make him get help from you. You saw him. He had no remaining choices. Please. Do. Not. Call. The. Cops."

Luke continued, forcefully, "We have to leave now. We're taking Lawrence with us. There's no way that we'll leave Lawrence here. He's coming with us one way or another."

"That's not possible. He was given massive doses of muscle relaxants in addition to regular drugs to put him to sleep and keep him asleep during his operation. Pain control measures have been initiated; he is in no condition to leave this hospital, meaning that he will not be able to traipse over land like you boys were doing. I will not permit his discharge. If, at any time, I feel that he is in danger of leaving, then I will contact our security personnel, and I will forbid you boys from seeing him. This is the way it is. Unless… you provide me with compelling testimony to the contrary."

I felt resigned to the fact that we would not be able to leave Breckenridge with Lawrence, and since we made our solemn oaths to travel together, to not give up, to not separate, to not be caught, to not go back to that hell hole, to find our dream, and to go toward that dream, we would not go without him. Period.

"If we tell you, can you guarantee that Lawrence will not be hurt and harmed in any way?"

"So long as he is under my control as a physician, no harm will come to him."

"Can Luke and I have a few minutes. We need to talk about this. In fact, can we go to Lawrence and talk to him, too?"

"I'll tell you what. Why don't you boys tell me what's going on, and then we'll go from there. I'll give you a few minutes to talk between yourselves. I'm not telling you 'what' to do, I'm telling you what the facts are, and the extents that I must go to in order to keep my patient receiving the medical care that is required for his recovery. Will fifteen minutes be enough time?"

I nodded.

Doctor Finnegan got up from the table, grabbed an orange, walked to the door leading into the hallway, and closed but did not latch it on his way out. I got up, walked to the door, and closed it the rest of the way. Doctor Finnegan was standing across the narrow hall, waiting… and no doubt, watching and listening.

Luke stood as I walked back to the table. Our arms reached out. We embraced, kissed tenderly, sat down on a single chair with Luke facing me.

"Luke, I don't trust many people. I can count the number of people that I do trust, on one hand. Right now, there is you, Dale, Lawrence… I think I trust Doctor Finnegan, too, but I'm not sure about him… I mean I do… I'm just not sure he can be trusted if we tell him 'why' we have to leave if he calls in the cops."

"He and his family took us in. Even Jared didn't trust us one bit because of what he said when we first arrived… well, he's okay."

Luke nodded, leaned into my chest, cradled his head into my neck, breathed in deeply, and then got up, walked to the door, opened it, and asked Doctor Finnegan to come into his own office.

After he was seated, he offered us each an apple, put his hands on the table, and his expression changed to warm and inviting. I said, "Doctor Finnegan, you are the second person who will know this stuff that we're just about to tell you, even Dale, our friend, does not know some of the details. He's doing what he can, but he is in Hawaii with his family. You have to swear to God that you'll not tell another person, ever; at least until we are out of here and long gone. You will find out exactly why the cops cannot be called. Do we have your word that you will keep what we say totally confidential?"

Doctor Finnegan took in a deep breath, exhaled, contemplated for a moment before looking in our eyes and saying, "Boys, technically, right now at this very moment, you are not my patients so I cannot promise anything, I will have to be the judge and jury. You see, I cannot extend or invoke the Veil of Confidentiality to you, not like I can to Lawrence. Let me ask you this… I can tell, I could tell that you boys are somewhat emaciated from your travels from and to wherever… Luke, do you have an injury or do you feel bad… something that needs the attention of a doctor? Jordan, technically you have had and still have a health need," he took hold of my arm and lifted it up to see that my elbow was healing, "but I don't for you, Luke. If you were both my patients, then we could talk, confidentially, although, by law, you are still minors. I am required to share with your parents and/or guardians any situation where I feel you are in danger… if you level with me, and I mean totally and completely, I'll weigh things out and will likely not tell anyone, not even Lawrence, if you say so. Just know that I am the adult, and I am obligated to make adult decisions and take actions that protect you… do you understand what I'm saying?"

At the same time, Doctor Finnegan got up, walked to a cabinet next to his desk, reached in and grabbed a tube of something, returned, opened it, squeezed out a dollop, and then applied it to the scabs on my elbow. After wiping off the excess with a Kleenex, he turned to Luke.

Luke looked at me, nodded, then stood, untied the string holding up his scrub pants, lowered the waistband to just above his dick and showed the doctor the rash caused by having had his pubes shaved off. Doctor Finnegan looked at the rash intently. He squeezed out another dollop of the cream and applied it, professionally, to the affected skin area. He then handed Luke the tube and said, "Put this cream on three times a day for three days. Your rash is caused by shaving that tender area. It will heal completely, provided you let your body go through its normal changes without being shaved."

Doctor Finnegan walked into his restroom, washed his hands, and returned, sat down, picked up the orange, began peeling it, and said, "Okay, boys, I am now your physician. I am invoking the Veil of Confidentiality bestowed onto me by the Healing Board of Arts of the State of Texas. Speak freely."

Instinctively, naturally, without our paying attention, at least to start out with, our hands reached for one the other's, took hold, squeezed firmly, I started, "Legally, Sir, we are not brothers in the technical sense of the word… we're more than that… we love each other… we're together; we're boyfriends; we're soul mates… and lovers. We share our most intimate moments, together."

"I know," Doctor Finnegan said very softly, reassuringly, "thank you for confirming my thoughts. I have no issues with gay people; I see nothing wrong with your decisions, simply because being gay is not a choice; it is who and what you are; meaning that you boys are simply who you are. You are not bad kids, I can easily tell that you two, despite the circumstances, are very much in love. This conversation will not leave my office. It is a very dangerous world out there right now for gay people, and for those who love and cherish them for who and what they are – good, kind, caring citizens."

"Three weeks ago, we ran away from home. My mom hates me. She said so. More than once. She told me my sperm donor left town just as soon as he found out that she was pregnant; he hates me, too."

Luke continued, "We hitchhiked for quite a while before Dale picked us up and took us to Dallas-Fort Worth where he passed us off to one of his truck-driver friends. Her name's Katy; don't know her last name, she never told us, and we didn't ask. It didn't take us long to figure out she doesn't like kids, not really, but then again she must like kids…" Luke did not stop. He shared everything, including Eric's injuries, and how we thought and pretty much knew that Charles, at least, had been his main major problem.

I told him about what was sexually done to us, and the physical pain we were subjected to. I was quick to point out that those assholes did not take away our spirits, just that they had been damaged, but not irreparably, that Luke and I were okay, though we didn't trust many people.

Doctor Finnegan nodded his understanding. He said that we were doing really great, under the circumstances, and that he knew this was very hard for us.

Luke added, "We were told that our sex powers, our hormones, and stuff, our natural needs and feelings were abnormal and against God's word… I was totally confused when they did and forced us to do sex stuff. It made no sense."

"That's typical of a cult, Boys. I do have to report this to law enforcement. Were there other boys and girls involved, of course there were…"

"I can see how you feel that way. We'll be out of here by tonight… and we're taking Lawrence with us." I said, getting up and heading to the door. Luke took hold of my hand and walked with me to the door. He reached for the door knob and started turning it.

Doctor Finnegan said, "Boys, talk to me. Just because I have to call in the law… doesn't mean that I have to tell them about You… I need to call them so that no other kids are hurt."

Angrily, I turned around and half-screamed, "The fucking cops are involved in it. There is at least one cop, and probably more, who, according to Lawrence, fucked and raped and bought and sold one of the kids – Eric. Eric's black. Black people are less than human, according to lore around here."

Luke, much calmer than I, added, "Sir, we will be killed if we have to return to that camp; I know we will be. I don't know what will happen to Lawrence… he told us that he, too, had been bought and sold to assholes in Iraq, and that is where he was hurt, and that is where he had his first operation – because he'd been injured from being raped. He was brought back to the States. Apparently, he was 'promoted' to teacher, or trainer, or something… because he became Jordan's mentor… for a night, anyway… he gave him a shower, an oil treatment, and other stuff, but he never hurt him. He would never hurt him, or me, not in a million gazillion years… in fact, it was he who got us out of there. He escaped, too. He didn't want to go, not really, but he had no choice, because Jordan and I did not give him a choice. I knew he would be killed, or worse. And so did he."

Doctor Finnegan got up from his seat, walked over to us, and said, very tenderly, understandingly, "I will not be calling local law enforcement. I believe you. Is there anything else I need to know right now?"

I replied, "Yes. Lawrence had a boyfriend. His name's Aaron. He was killed by Secret Service agents. There was a boating accident in December of last year… we know that his parents were both killed… Lawrence saw it happen. So… Lawrence is all alone in the world without us. Oops." Terrorized, I looked deep into Doctor Finnegan's eyes, hoping against all hope that he didn't hear what I'd just said, because it put Lawrence into even more grave circumstances.

Doctor Finnegan took hold of our shoulders and led us back to the table, made sure we were sat down, and then said, "I know who Lawrence is. He is the son of a very bad man. I must disclose to you that I contacted, or tried to contact him, so that I could get informed consent to perform Lawrence's operation. Instead, I talked to his mother… she sounded very, very impaired… although, legally she could not provide the needed consent, I used her words anyway, and signed the form by proxy. The important thing is that he is being treated for his injuries. Which brings us to a very, very, very serious situation for you boys, my boys, and me, too."

"Here is what I am going to do. First, I am going to take you to Lawrence's room. There, I am going to order hospital security to post at the doorway, permitting nobody but duly licensed hospital staff to care for him…"

"Uhm, there is a complication there, Doctor. We were run out of the hospital by security. The man said we're not old enough to be in the patient areas, and he ran us out, literally he took us out of the hospital, told us to get lost, and to never again enter." Luke offered, then turned to me.

"So we headed out. But, when we went to cross the street, an eighteen wheeler, Katy was behind the wheel, tried to run over and kill us. At the very last possible second, Luke yanked us to the pavement so that the truck drove over us, but obviously, thankfully didn't hit us. We split up and ran for our lives. I was hiding in some bushes in a residential area, until some old lady pointed a gun and told me to get out from beneath the tree I was hiding under." I said, recounting the events from earlier in the day.

Luke told his dumpster story. Doctor Finnegan, while paying rapt attention to our stories, couldn't help but smile when Luke shared our linen cart adventure. Although the expression on his face was dead serious as he listened to our travels thus far, seeing him smile relaxed me. Luke relaxed his squeezing on my hand, but didn't let go, nor did I push him away, nor did I feel the least bit concerned about how Doctor Finnegan responded to our disclosure of being gay, of our being a couple. No, I sensed that the doctor was on our side. Add one more person to the list of people I implicitly trust.

And because I implicitly trust him, I felt no fear when he stood up, walked to his desk, pushed some buttons on his phone, and said, "Gertrude, has Lawrence been transported to his room yet?"

"Okay, is he waking up?"

"That's understandable; he was given a lot of muscle relaxants during the procedure. Here is what I want you to do, now: Take him to the lockable isolation room on the third floor. You are to stay with him at all times. No one, and I mean no one is to enter that room. I do not have time to explain. If anyone asks, then just tell them I said he has communicable infections, which is true to a certain extent. Also, the patient will have only two authorized visitors… they, too, are to be kept in the room. They, too, have been exposed to the infectious pathogens, so they need to be quarantined for not only their protection but for the general population, too."

"That's right."


"We will be over in just a few minutes.


Breckenridge, Texas, City Hospital, Doctor Finnegan's Viewpoint

I got the boys situated in the suite where my primary patient, Lawrence Ashwood, was lying in bed recuperating from his extensive surgical procedure. When I really stopped and looked at those boys, I knew they deserved some serious assistance in their lives, someone to believe in them, and guide their ways, for if they didn't get someone soon, then they, too, would and could very possibly get lost in the system… a system that was very deeply troubling to me.

By the time I got back to my office, patients were arriving for their afternoon appointments. The schedule was light, so I got right in there and got them seen. The last patient of the day, a new kid whom I'd never seen before, came to me with vague complaints of belly pain. The boy would not look into my eyes, no matter what, no matter how gently I talked to him, and reassured him that I'd do whatever I could to get him better. When I could hardly get a word out of him, I called my nurse to bring his parent or parents back so that I could talk to them. She called me out into the hallway. I told the boy that I'd be right back. He was fumbling with his fingers, and would not look up.

Sally, my nurse, said that an older boy of about seventeen years old, had dropped the kid off and immediately left. As far as she knew, our patient was a "John Doe", a kid without a name and history.

Very quietly, I asked Sally if she'd called CPS. She hadn't. I said, "I'm first going to give him an exam to find out what's wrong, then we'll go from there." Sally nodded.

All of my past experiences with CPS, and there had been many such occasions for their intervention, all had been negative and unproductive… for the child. I hated dealing with their bullshit… and apathy. So…I took off my bureaucratic hat, thanked Sally, and then went back into the examination room – as a doctor, and a father who had seen and experienced my children's troubling experiences with losing their mother to a drunk driver years ago.

I was still aghast from hearing Luke and Jordan tell their story, and what they knew of Lawrence's experiences, and now here was this child who was so, so very frightened. I took a deep breath, opened the door, and was the first and only one to notice that my patient was fiercely and frantically attempting to bring himself pleasure. This is a natural response for a child who has no skills dealing with major stresses in their lives. The boy's eyes were closed, so I stepped back out into the hallway, closing the door to within six inches of being latched and waited. I listened, too, because some kids will then return to the pain they've known and become accustomed to. I took a quick mental inventory of my exam room, searching for any tool that which he could hurt himself. There was nothing in the room that would cause him harm.

When the noise from him hitting his elbow against the soft cushioned table ceased, I gave it a minute before entering as if nothing had ever happened, as if I'd not seen or observed him. He sat up on the table when I entered, looked to the floor and held his head low so that our eyes would not meet.

"Hello, Young Man, what can we do for you, today?" I inquired pleasantly, totally disregarding our 'first' meeting.

The boy, whom I put at age twelve or thirteen, looked up, and then his facial expressions changed completely. A broad grin, an innocent grin, one that I'd seen from my own boys when they had done or were about to do something totally off the wall. Immediately, I relaxed about eighty percent, entered the room and closed the door behind me. The child hopped off the table, walked to the counter where I keep cotton balls, bandages, and other various and sundry tools of my profession, took hold of a tube of KY Jelly, held it up to me, and then he turned around, dropped his torn and worn shorts to the floor and held his cheeks open wide, saying, "Please! You're a nice man."

Shocked, but not surprised too much, I opened the door and called to my nurse, "Sally, come here. This is urgent."

Sally's footsteps rapidly walked down the hall until she was standing beside me, looking in to see the child still bent over the table with his fingers busily working between his cheeks. Sally said, "Oh, Lord God in Heaven. Oh sweet Jesus." She entered the exam room, went to the child, pulled his hands away, turned him around to face her, while she reached down and pulled his shorts up. His penis, still very erect, showed the same signs that he'd been harmed too. My stomach did flip flops, and my objectivity and professionalism, I felt, were going out the window.

They did go out the window when the child walked around Sally and stood in front of me and said, "Sir, am I not good enough for you? I promise I'll be good." The child reached his hand out in a way that caused me to take hold of his hand and put it by his side. I said, "Son, we don't do that here. I want you to look into my eyes. I want to tell you something. I want you to pay very close attention to me when I speak. Can you do this for me?"

"Sure, I mean yes, Sir. I'm sorry, Sir." he said, then before Sally or I could react, the boy slapped his head with all of his strength.

I took hold of his hand, and wouldn't let go. Because I felt something very rough on this child's hand, I turned over his palms so that I could see them. A large scar ran horizontally from his thumb to his little finger. It was largely healed, but had serious scar tissue just beneath the surface… consistent with a laceration caused by a very heavy sharp object, usually a grasping injury.

"That looks like a big owie, young man. I bet that hurt."

The boy shrugged his shoulders, dismissively.

Sally said, "Child, you have a name don't you?" Sally's voice is really comforting and soothing to my patients, and to me, too. The boy looked up and into her eyes. He thought for a moment. I saw the wheels turning in this child's eyes, two or three shades darker than his ebony skin. While dull and sad, they were, nevertheless, large and very beautiful. I started his exam indirectly, hoping to allay his fears of men. The inner white section of both eyes had evidence of old bleeding. He also had spots on his eyelids, forehead, nose and the front of his face beside his nose, evidence of having held his breath while being squeezed very tightly.

Sally and I coaxed him into sitting on the table so that I could do the 'usual' doctor things, such as looking into his throat, listening to his chest and belly, all of which appeared normal. We laid him back onto the table so that I could examine the rest of him. I handed him the stethoscope, placed the ear buds appropriately so that he could listen to his tummy while I gently pushed on it. This is usually a good diversion for the child.

His tummy was soft. He didn't act like he was in pain. I placed the stethoscope bell over his heart and told him to listen very carefully for the lub-dub-lub-dub, while I quickly lowered the front of his shorts to see, to confirm what I'd seen earlier. Visually, I saw that his left testicle was surgically absent, and that he, too, had a botched circumcision just like Lawrence. Very quickly, I pulled his shorts down just a little more to see between his legs… there, I saw caked remnants, evidence of not cleaning properly, or God forbid – being recently abused. I returned his shorts to their rightful place, turned my attention to his face that was being gently cleansed by Sally. His facial expression had changed from fear to more of a detached appearance. He looked into my eyes. Was there a light on in there? Yes, I believe there was.

I pulled down his shirt so that it covered his bare tummy. "Did you hear your heartbeat?"

"Yah. It goes bump bump bump."

"Oh phooey, no it doesn't go bump bump… it goes lub-dub-lub-dub!" Sally said, mischievously.

The boy responded, "Yes it does." And then he warily snorted, and the corner of his lips turned up, as if he were about to smile, but then he turned his attention back to me, and the bare hint of a smile disappeared.

Smiling, sensing a little boy was behind those dark orbs, I said, "Is Sally being silly with you?"

"Yes…" The boy did indeed smile. He turned to her, and said, "Are you silly?"

"Sometimes, sweet cheeks. Only when I have to, though." Sally said, giggling.

Yes, the boy does smile. His face lit up, just a little bit, but it was enough. This child is not totally dead from his ordeals. My heart was tugging against my chest. I so wanted to grab up this child, hold him and not let go, to tell him that everything was going to soon be okay, that he would be playing and being a boy.

Then the boy shattered my existence by saying, looking directly into my eyes, "You are a good man. You say no to me." Then, as if there was anything left of my sense of professionalism, of my composure he ripped it away by tenderly placing his hand on mine and tenderly patted it.

With a lot of power and determination, I suppressed my emotions, knowing that I needed to remain professional, at least for a while. "Have you been hurt in other places on your body?"

The boy shrugged his shoulders, and then the light in his beautiful eyes started flickering. I said, not wanting to lose him again, "What's your name, Little One? It's hard to talk to someone when you don't know their name. Mine is Doctor John."

He thought for a moment, took in a deep breath, slowly exhaled, and with a shudder, and with his mind going ninety to nothing, he said very quietly, "Eric."

"Hi Eric. I'm glad to meet you. You are a remarkable young man. How old are you, Eric?"

He thought for a couple of minutes before replying, as quietly as he gave us his name, "I'm thirteen. Yeah, I'm thirteen." The boy looked up for approvals.

"I have a son who is thirteen. His name is Michael. I'm sure he would like you. And I'm very sure that you would like him." I responded very fondly, thinking of my son, who would be getting off of the school bus right about now. My heart leaped into my throat, thinking of my boys being home alone, of getting off of the bus, and how they knew no strangers.

"What's the matter?" Eric asked, sitting up, looking deeply into my eyes… In his I saw a flicker of life.



"Would you let me finish checking you over? I am a doctor. I will not do anything bad to you, I promise. Sally is here, too. May I?"

"Sometimes I poop myself. I did today, Sir. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to. It just does."

"Eric, I won't be offended. In fact, we could go across the hall to the bathroom so that you can clean yourself. I will be glad to help you. Are you sore back there?"

"Yah. They usually have to use a brush, Sir."

"Oh well, I won't use a brush. Don't you worry. I'll make sure you have a soft washcloth. Are you sore back there?" I asked, helping him down off of the exam table.

"Oh yeah. But I won't say anything. I learned how to… well… you know… Can Sally come with us?"

"Sure she can. Sally, would you help us?"

"Absolutely, Cute Cheeks. Doctor, I'll get us some gloves. And some scrubs for Cute Cheeks."

The boy flinched. His demeanor drastically changed from barely trusting us to fear filled. Realizing what Sally had said about 'scrubs', I quickly responded, "I will not use a scrub brush, Eric. What Sally is talking about is these green clothes that I have on. They are what doctor's call uniforms. Yours will look just like mine."


The boy, still stiff and afraid, stood in place, waiting expectantly. Sally pulled a small pair out of the cabinet and held them up to Eric, to see if they were the correct size, or close to it. She held them up for him. Hesitantly, he reached over to carefully feel their softness. But then, grimaced when he felt the tough Velcro waistband in front, in place of buttons and zippers. "That's not what I will clean you with, Eric. If you want to, you can leave them here until we get finished." To put substance to my words, I took him to the jar of surgical sponges, grabbed several and asked him to hold them. "These are what I will use to clean you… they're nice and soft, don't you think?"

The boy barely smiled, but the faint glimmer of light returned to his eyes. I reached out my hand, hoping he would take it. He started to reach up, but then stopped and put his hand back to his side, and then nervously twitched the front of his worn, torn shorts, showing that his excitement was returning, and that he would more than likely begin masturbating. I took hold of his hand, and held it in mine. I didn't say anything, instead we walked to the door and out into the hallway. Sally opened the bathroom door. Eric followed her in. He then looked back to see if I was coming with them. That would be his okay for me to enter. I know that allowing the child to lead is most important, as it helps them to feel like they have some control over their life, about who and when they would permit someone to touch them. He was sizing me up, to see if I was going to be good to my word.

He walked to the sink, turned on the hot water, and then dunked four of the surgical sponges into the faucet, getting them soaking wet, and then placed them into the sink, dropped his shorts to the floor and kicked them aside, turned back to the cleansing materials, grabbed two, squeezed out the excess water, turned around and held them out to me. Sally gave me a pair of gloves which I put on. I said to Sally, knowing that his bottom would be sore from several things, "Would you fill a couple of gloves up with ice and get a washcloth or two to protect his skin. His tissues will likely be very sensitive."

"I'll be right back, Young'in." Sally said using her best southern drawl. The boy smiled. He then knelt down facing the toilet bowl, stretched out, giving me full access to that which is or should be his most private place.

He was a trooper during the twenty five minutes that it took to get down to bare skin. His skin, as expected, was horribly excoriated, red and inflamed, and very, very sensitive. Sally retrieved hydrocortisone prescription strength cream that I liberally applied, and then, with his permission, I performed a superficial internal examination. His tissues, while red and very swollen, surprisingly felt within normal limits, though he was filled with need. When I was finished with his examination, he looked into my eyes, longingly. I nodded. Sally said, looking into his eyes, "I'm going to step just outside okay?" The boy looked at her as though he was being abandoned. Sally continued, "I can stay here if you want me to."

"No… I mean… I'm sorry…" The boy looked into my eyes. He clearly couldn't decide what to do.

I said, "I'm going to step out in the hall. We'll wait for you, we're not going anywhere. I'll leave the door open a crack in case you need me. Is this okay, Eric?"

He shook his head, twisting his fingers together, looking down to the floor.

The door closed after Sally silently left us alone to deal with this situation. I asked softly, "Eric, I want you to sit on the toilet, do your business, clean up, and then I'll put some more salve on your bottom."

The child whimpered, scrunched closed his eyes, but readily obeyed my directions to sit on the toilet. At the same time, though, he put his head in his hands and started crying softly, pitifully. I looked down on this child. A wave of compassion washed over me like a warm blanket around my shoulders on a cold winter night. I knelt down on my knees and urged him to sit forward. I opened my hands and faced them up so that he wouldn't feel threatened. He grasped hold tightly, and then pushed down hard, squeezing my adult hands with a vice-grip hold. We both heard the first one fall. He looked up and into my eyes… gone was the terror. I'm convinced he found that going wasn't as painful as he thought it would be. The boy earnestly finished his business. I asked, "You okay now, Bud?"

"Yeah… yes… I'm sorry for being a baby."

"Oh, you worked like a trooper, kiddo. You had every right to be scared. I'm going to put you on a diet full of vegetables and fruits so that everything works like it should, so that going to the bathroom doesn't hurt you. I'm going to step out now, so that you can clean up in private." When the boy nodded and reached for the tissue paper, I took my leave, took Sally into my office, and said, "The boy has been raped in the not so distant past, maybe two or three days ago."

Sally said, "I'll call CPS…"

"No. Today, I had three patients, now add one for Eric, who tell me that law enforcement has been directly and indirectly involved in their abuse. It's frightening. The victims are all boys. They're all young adolescents. The oldest is fourteen. As I think about it, there have been other kids come through the Emergency Room with similar injuries. I was never called. I'm on the pediatric trauma and abuse committee, too. I should have known about them, but wasn't notified, nor was a report filed, and their charts weren't flagged. Damn it. Sally, here is what I want you to do: cull all pediatric and adolescent patients between the ages of six and fifteen. Flag any cases that raise your antennae. Print their records… keep them in a safe place."

Just then Eric stepped into the doorway. He was frightened. I said, "Come on in, Eric. You're a good boy who just did a hard job so well. I'm proud of you. I know it wasn't easy."

To Sally he said, "Doctor Finnegan… he got down on the floor and held me in his arms. Pooping didn't hurt this time. Oh… wait…" The boy took off. We both got up from our chairs to make sure that he didn't run away, but by the time we got to the door he returned, holding out the tube of cream to me. In front of us, he raised up his scrub top and dropped the bottoms. I saw small water blisters on his mid-spine. I applied the salve to his bottom, wiped the excess off with a Kleenex, and used an antiseptic wipe to clean my hands, then pulled up his pants and fastened them securely. "That feels good. Thank you." The boy beamed a cautious smile, then realizing what he was doing, he looked to the floor and found a spot to intently stare upon.

"Eric, will you show me your back? Boys your age need to be screened for curvature of the spine. I promise I won't hurt you."

"That's okay. You haven't hurt me yet. You're making me feel better, but why?"

"Eric, that's a very easy question to answer… first, I am a doctor. I'm also a Dad to four boys, my sons kinda like me, ya know."

The boy cocked his head to one side, and then put his hands to his face, hiding his eyes. His bony arms began trembling, and then he rapidly reached his arms out, and began the trajectory to slap himself again, but I was faster than the boy, catching his hand just before it made contact. "Eric, that's enough of that. You are a very, very brave boy. I am very proud of you. You've had to be so very strong. Being strong is a very good attribute. At the same time, though, you need to be a thirteen-year-old boy. I need for you to be a very brave boy one more time for right now… turn around and let me examine your back, then I'll be finished, promise."

"I was a very, very bad boy, Doctor. You'll hate me. I know you will." Eric lamented sadly. Nevertheless, seeing that I wasn't going to budge or fudge on my request, he slowly turned to face the door and stood straight up and tall, waiting expectantly.

I felt as though I was heading into some sort of nightmare. Luke and Jordan had told me about what they'd observed on one of the children in the care and custody of what I'd decided was a 'monster', to say it politely. An involuntary shudder violently made its way through my body, leaving my hands trembling, my chest tight, my throat constricting, and an awful feeling of dread. Quickly, I pulled myself back into the present, took hold of the hem and pulled it up to his neck to see the most hideous sight I'd ever seen in all my days. Luke and Jordan, those poor boys, those poor kids… all of them. 'What kind of fucking monster would ever do this to a child?'

Right then and there on the spot, I lost all professionalism as I lowered his shirt to its normal resting place, turned him to face me, and then gently pulled him into my arms and held him tight, weeping.

The boy totally surprised me by melting into my hug, and then his words rocked my world, "Don't cry, Doctor. I'm a really, really bad spawn of Satan; my Patriarch said so. He did that so Jesus would love me… it was my last chance. I didn't cry very much… well… I guess I did, but I didn't mean to. I wasn't very brave. You don't know me. I'm bad."

I held the boy out so that I could look into his eyes, yet I kept him close by having my arms safely around his very thin waist, and said, "Child, Jesus doesn't punish little children like you have been. He loves us regardless of what we do and think. I just know it's true. One more thing before we blow this joint is this: you are not a bad person, so get that out of your mind, right now. Do you hear me?"

"But…" He started to say, however Sally came over, knelt down so that they were eye to eye, stared him down and pronounced firmly, "The only bad thing about you, child, is that you think you're bad. Didn't anyone teach you not to lie. Now, you stop your lying, boy. Give me a hug. That's an order!"

The boy accepted her 'order'. Sally wasn't about to let go of him anytime soon, so I took my leave, walked to my in-office pharmacy, located a large tube of Silvadene cream, took it back to my office and liberally and carefully applied it to the sores on Eric's back.

"Do you have a hug for Doctor Finnegan, Eric? Can you give him one? I'll be right here in case you get scared." Sally said, choking back a sob. Eric did turn to me. I held out my arms to permit him to come to me, or not. He looked into my eyes, and then entered my arms and permitted me to engulf him.

With him safely in my arms, Sally gently lifted the hem of his shirt up high enough to see where a crucifix had been branded with a hot iron on his ebony skin.

Sally said, "Eric, you're going to be okay. Trust me." She looked into my eyes. I knew she needed some time alone to process her feelings, and so did I, but there would be time later for me to do just that. Now wasn't my time. I had this boy in my arms, and he wasn't going to let go anytime soon, nor was I for that matter.

The boy, still in my arms, turned his head toward Sally, and after seeing her crying, he said, "Don't cry, Miss Sally. I'll try and be a good boy."

As we held one another, just enjoying our quiet time together, I realized that I was totally unhappy in this town, and that our hospital was somehow involved in these atrocities besetting children who needed adults the most in their very young lives, adults to protect them, to love them, to hold them, and to care for them as they grow up. I've seen some terribly wicked things that adults do to kids, but never in a million years would I have guessed they could do something like this to this sweet young boy. As hard as I tried to maintain, or return to professionalism, I found that it wasn't going to happen, not with this child.

Slowly, the boy shifted, removed his arms from mine, stood back a step, looked into my eyes, and then gave me the most beautiful smile I've almost ever seen. 'Almost' because my sons can and do smile big and bright enough to melt my heart into a puddle. Generally speaking, they turn it on when they want something… but… they give their best warm ones, surely, just for me, just because they can. I'm really lucky in this world. As if it was possible, and I don't see how it could be true, his smile got even bigger and brighter… I was in dire need of sunglasses, his radiance was blasting my retinas, and sending shards of light into my soul. A warmth, a protective warmth spread throughout my body. The feeling was very comfortable. I could get used to this.

"Eric, we're going to go over to the hospital. I want to put some bandages on your back so that your shirt doesn't keep rubbing against that tender skin back there. First, though, I want to take some pictures of your injuries. If it is the last thing I ever do, those people who hurt you, will be punished. You, child, deserve your day in court. I'm going to make sure that you see justice served upon those that hurt you."

Eric cocked his head slightly to the left, thought for a second, before saying, "Sir, the police are already my… uhm, friends. Uncle Carter told me he is taking care of everything. He told me not to worry."

"Well, Eric, I'm very concerned. I'm not too worried about your safety, but tell me: are there other children where you've been staying?" I said, firmly, yet gently.

"Yes." Eric replied with not one trace of hesitation in his voice. At the same time, he gently pushed his hands against my chest. I released him, not realizing how firmly I was holding his thin frame.

"Eric, are they in danger?"

His first answer was a shrug of his shoulders, then he resolutely said, "No. Patriarch made everybody know that I'm the Spawn of Satan. And the Elders made them tell me every day that I'm no good, and to stay away from me, and I am to stay away from them."

"Okay, I have two more questions to ask." I said. The boy looked into my eyes, searching for truth. Before he could get very far down in his mind, I popped the first question: "Are you hungry?"

Eric looked away, then slightly shrugged his shoulders with his head busily navel gazing.

"Eric. When was the last time you had something to eat?"

"Uhm… two days ago."

"Two days ago, huh… we'll, let me tell you what… let's get you something for your tummy. You'll feel better with some healthy food right here." I said, pointing to his belly. "Do you like oranges?"

Eric's eyes considerably brightened. I walked over to my desk, fetched one of the last remaining oranges and handed it over. His bony hands, neatly manicured, quickly made short order out of peeling the fruit. We both laughed when he took a bite and the thing squirted his eyebrows. I fetched a Kleenex and wiped his face.

Before taking each bite, he would look into my eyes. He was asking me for permission to eat, without using words. I took several sections of the orange and put it in his mouth. By the time there were two cleaves left, he ate them on his own, though he looked into my eyes before he actually took the bite.

I took him to the bathroom so that he could wash his hands and face. He's a neat tidy kid. He took great pride in washing 'just right', and then he looked at me for approval. With his need for approval, I put his emotional age at about nine years old. A thirteen year old boy does not ask for permission to eat, nor does he look for, demand adult approval – just to eat.

We returned to my office. I had him sit in a chair, and I sat next to him on another. I turned to him and asked, "Eric, do you know the names of any of the kids that were with you?"

'Yes, Sir. I can't tell you their names."

"Oh, why is that?"

"Uncle Carter said so. He told me he would kill them if anybody shared any names."

"I see. Are they all boys or are there some girls, too?"


"Are there more boys than girls?"

"No. When I ran away, there were two boys and four girls. But there were more. But they left."

"More girls or more boys?"


"Would you know them if you saw them on the street?"

"Oh yeah. Sure. I mean 'Yes, Sir' I'm sorry." The boy quaked at the lapse in adult decorum. He then got up, dropped down his scrubs and bared his cheeks, and then started slapping the hell out of them before I could stop him. I took his arms in my hands, gently turned him around to face me, and said, "Eric, you are in no trouble here. Let me tell you something, but first let's get your pants up." When we had him all fastened together, I continued, "My sons are fifteen, thirteen, ten and eight years old. In all of their lives, they have never received physical punishment, of any sort. I am not going to spank you for any reason, do you understand me?"

The boy sat in the chair after I pointed at it. He would have to learn to trust my word. I reminded myself that trust takes time. Although we were making strides.

After a moment or two of silence, he confessed, "I promised. He said he would kill me if I told anybody." Any hint of smile was completely gone. Tears threatened to leak from his brimming eyes. He quickly wiped the dampness away with the back of his hand.

Taking a different tack, I said, "You've been very brave, Eric. You told me your name. I had a talk with Luke and Jordan today, they told me the same thing you are telling me."

The boy jumped up, turned to me, and shakily exclaimed, "You talked to Luke and Jordan? Really?"

"Do you know them?" I asked, deadpan.

"Yes, Sir, they were nice. I watched them go. I wanted to go, too, but I was afraid." The boy said slowly, reminiscing over a difficult decision he'd made that kept him in captivity with a bunch of low-life, scumsucking pieces of feces. Eric put his hand on my arm, looked up into my eyes with many questions floating around in his mind. "Uhm… is Stan with them; he was my only friend… well, that's not entirely correct, there was another guy but he didn't come around very much, Lawrence. And then there's Charles. Charles is bad, bad, bad. He helped Patriarch put the sores on my back, and then he… he… he… nevermind, I don't want to talk about it."

I started to speak but he interrupted, "Rhonda was the oldest, then there was Stephanie, Jennifer and Amanda."

"You speak of Patriach. Is that the preacher from Kansas? I believe his church is called Burroughs West…"

The boy finished, "Baptist Church. Yeah that's him. He just comes here to teach us kids right from wrong. Then he goes away."

"Is he teaching you what you feel to be right deep down inside right here?" I asked, gently touching my hand to his chest.

"My job was to serve him. I gave him everything I have. I never turn him away, in fact I am not permitted to look away, no matter what. It's respect. No…"



"Eric, I am going to do everything in my power to keep you safe and out of harm's way. You are brave and oh so very strong, I'm going to need your help."

"Okay, what do I have to do?"

"Just help me do the right thing. Can you do that?"

"Sure, I'll do anything for you." The boy said while closing the distance even closer than we already were… and then… and then… and then I felt his hand take hold of my penis and squeeze.

Automatically, instinctively, I pulled away his hand and separated us. I tilted up his head by his chin, and said deliberately, "Do not ever do that again. You will never ever in a million years and a million years after that ever be asked to do any sex stuff with me or any other adult. Did Patriarch expect you to give him sex? Answer my question, young man… do not be afraid."

"It's a secret. I promised…"

"Bologna sauce. Think of the right thing… does what he did to you feel right?"


"That's right, Eric. You are exactly right. Thank you for telling me the truth. The truth makes you a good boy. No matter how hard it is – always tell the truth. Always. Sometimes all a person has is their integrity. Integrity means someone can trust you no matter what, always."

"Always?" The boy asked, thinking very hard.

"Except for Christmas presents."

The boy looked into my eyes with this incredible expression passing across his face. Then it dawned on him what I said. Although he didn't say anything, his eyes expressed the usual teenage 'oh gawd, adults' look. And then his momentary expression changed to sadness, as though he'd lost his last friend.

I wasn't about to let him stew. I said, "We can talk about that later. Before we talk about Christmas presents, I need you to help me out here. This is what we need to do: we need to have a record of your injuries, so we're going to take some pictures of your skin where you've been hurt. When that's done, we'll go over to the hospital and put some protective bandages on your back so that your clothing doesn't keep irritating the sores."

"Yup. Come on, let's get you fixed up. I'm going to get the camera. Do you want Sally here?"

"No. I don't want Sally to see me, that way, please."

"No problem." I replied, then turned toward my desk, walked to it and got into the bottom drawer where I kept my Nokia for such occasions. I straightened up with the camera and was going to go back to get the special up close lenses, however Eric's movement caught my peripheral vision.

He was naked, and his hand was reaching for his penis. "Eric, we're not here for that. Masturbation is best left to your room, in private. There's nothing wrong with pleasuring yourself. We just do it privately, or with someone we give permission to, and they have to agree. I do not agree. I do not give you permission. Now, about the pictures, they will be kept safe and secure. When we find someone in law enforcement that we, you and I, together – trust, we will turn the pictures over to them."

"They took pictures and made movies. We were usually doing sex stuff. I'm just being integrity. You told me to be honest. I'm just saying. I'm sorry." Eric said while removing his hand from its trajectory. He waited expectantly while I fumbled around with the camera.

"Thank you, Eric. I'm proud of you."

Quickly, we got pictures of his deformity and the scars on his back. Using the special close-up lens, I took pictures of his bottom. When all of his physical attributes were photographed, I took him with me to my desk, plugged in camera to the computer, uploaded them into a special folder on the server. When the transfer was complete, I deleted the pictures from the camera, then handed it to the boy and instructed him to put it into the drawer and lock it, with the hope that he would feel that his privacy was being guarded and valued.

Before we left the office, with him wearing a clean pair of scrubs, I checked in with Sally. She hadn't found anything, but then again, it took some effort for her to get into the hospital's computer system.

I took the boy to the ER trauma bay where I applied ample quantities of the burn cream to his back, dressed it thoroughly with big bandages, helped him with his shirt, and then we took off upstairs, stopping at the cafeteria to get soda pops to take to our friends. With our hands filled, we headed to room 461, located on the right side, at the end of the long corridor.

I stopped at the nurse's station. We put our drinks on the counter. I logged into the computer system to check on Lawrence's progress. Everything was in order. He'd had no pain medicine administered, nor had he taken any from the pain medicine pump at his bedside, attached to his IV. I found it odd. The operation creates a lot of discomfort, but then again, while I was operating, I realized the stricture and large abscess would have given him a great deal of pain, not just during elimination, but all the time. Had his pain tolerance, over time, arose to dangerous levels where a patient should feel pain but doesn't?

Seeing that his vitals were stable and he'd awakened from the anesthesia just fine, Eric and I took off to go to Lawrence's room. Gertrude was doing double duty, carefully monitoring the activities all around his room. She smiled at Eric and nodded toward me, and said, "He's doing okay, Doctor. I changed his dressing a few minutes ago. He seems to be doing just fine."

And then I felt a small hand grasp mine. I looked down to see Eric staring into the room, specifically at the boys lounging on Lawrence's hospital bed. They were turned in such a way that we couldn't' see their faces, directly, however their silhouettes were clear. That little hand started trembling. He looked up into my eyes; his were filling with tears. He turned into my chest, put his arms around me, and held on.

I said, "Eric, you and they are now safe. And, I mean really safe. This floor is being carefully monitored. No unessential personnel are being allowed up here."

Gertrude took the drinks from our hands. I looked at Eric very closely to gage his reactions. When I turned to face the actual hospital room, he put his arm around my waist and held on firmly. "Are you ready?" I asked, softly.

"Yeah. I know them. They didn't hurt me. I didn't hurt them, either, Sir. Uhm, Sir, you told me to be honest… Patriarch really liked Jordan… I mean he really liked Jordan."

"Yes, Jordan told me. Eric, that stuff is over. It's not going to happen again."

The boy looked into my eyes. He slowly nodded his understanding, then released his hold on my waist and took two steps forward to the door that separates the anteroom from the actual patient area. Gertrude pressed a button on the console which caused the lock to click unlocked. Luke, Jordan and Lawrence looked our way at the same time.

Immediately, Luke and Jordan got off the bed and walked over to us, stood there a moment, and then slowly approached Eric. All of the boys started running tears down their cheeks, and then there was an en masse hug fest. Their reunion brought tears to my eyes. Although I'd superficially felt their reunion would be as such, it was a totally different thing to actually see it happen in front of my eyes.

My cell phone rang. The ring-tone belonged to Jared. Seeing that the boys were okay for the time being, I stepped out into the hall to take his call. "Hello, Son."

"Dad, I'm sorry to bother you. Can you come home? It's important." Jared said. The tone of his voice bothered me, a great deal.

"What's wrong?" I asked, suddenly concerned when I heard sniffling in the background. Stephen and Matthew were speaking behind the scenes. I didn't hear Michael's voice… normally he's the more vocal one of the bunch.

"Michael got jumped today, again. Dad, when is it going to stop?" My son then broke down and sobbed, "I didn't get there in time. They beat the hell out of him, Dad. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." By then he was inconsolable.

"I'm on my way. Does Michael need to come to the ER? I can meet you here if you think he does… it would save us time. Better yet, let me talk to him."

"Just a second. Michael, here's Dad."

"Hi, Dad." my son, Michael, said, lisping painfully.

"Hey, my Son. I'm going to take off for home, here in just a minute or two… first though, do you need to be seen in the Emergency Room?"

"I can wait. It's not too bad. I'm sorry, Dad, they caught me off guard. I wasn't paying attention… The Lackey twins, again. Dad…"

"But they beat you up pretty badly."

"Yeah, I'm definitely beat up. Daddy, I can't take this anymore. Is Lawrence okay?" My son said, deflecting the attention away from himself.

I decided to let him divert the conversation, knowing that we'd talk about it later, face to face.

"Yes, he's doing well. I'll tell him you're asking about him. Meanwhile, back to you," I said gently, "do you need to be seen here in the emergency room? If you do then Jared can bring you in… this will save us time."

"I don't think so. I got a busted lip and my front tooth got chipped a little bit. Jared put ice packs on my face… it seems to have taken the worst part."

"Okay, I'll be home in about an hour." I said, as a plan began coming into place, in my head.

"Love you, Dad. See you in a little while."

"I love you, too, Son. Tell the others I am on my way."

"Daddy, Jared is taking this harder than I am."

"I know. I know. Things are going to be different. Life is about to change."

I stood there for two minutes, no more, contemplating, thinking, deciding, resolving, determining a slowly evolving plan. I looked into the hospital room to see the four boys sitting and resting and talking as if they'd known each other their entire lives.

Seeing their interaction, and thinking of my own boys first and foremost, my decision to implement changes was set in concrete. I walked into the room, sat down on the edge of the bed and said, "Boys, there are going to be some changes made. You have been through enough. Now it's time to start living again. Bad things happen in our lives, for sure. Yet, getting out of the continual conundrum is a choice. I am going to be gone for a few hours. I've got some things to take care of, mainly my son, Michael. He got jumped on his way home from school today. My oldest son, Jared, is blaming himself. Stephen and Matthew are upset; they really don't fully understand why their brother is being bullied the way he is. Now, to the point… you boys and my sons are not safe here, not really. I've got some ideas. We'll take a trip. For how long, I do not know. Until we're safe."

"But… where are we going, Sir?" Luke asked genuinely interested.

"You boys are going to have to trust me. I cannot tell you where we are going, and you won't know until we get there. All I can guarantee you is that we will be safe."

Luke and Jordan stared into each other's eyes for a moment or two. It appeared as though they were silently communicating in some way.

Lawrence broke the silence. His voice, groggy from the medications, said, "They are after me, Sir. Just leave me here. You guys go. I'll be okay."

"Lawrence, this is an opportunity for you, too. I don't know what's going to happen down the road. I think it best that we just take this one day at a time, one hour at a time, even one minute at a time if absolutely necessary. We want you to come with us. You've been with us, a part of our family, whether you know it or not… my boys like you, and they don't normally chum up with strangers. Please don't make me go home to tell my boys that you're on your own again." To Eric, "Eric, we just met today. I meant what I said earlier about you being brave and strong. Now it's time to let us be brave and strong for you. You are going to be part of the plan."

"I'll just be nothing but trouble to you, Sir…"

"What did I tell you about saying those things?"

Jordan piped up, "Did you get the lecture about knocking yourself down?"

"How did you know?"

"I just know. Been there done that a couple of times. You've got to come with us, even though we don't know where we're going. Doctor Finnegan has always been straight up with us." Jordan looked into my eyes, and said, "I have a question?"

"Go ahead." I said, nodding.

"Where does Dale fit into this picture? He's worried about us, too. Just saying…"

"Luke, Jordan, Lawrence, do you mind if I call him myself?"

Jordan spoke up, "The phone is on our dresser downstairs in the basement. We forgot it. Luke?"

Luke looked into my eyes. I know that he was sizing me up… am I trustworthy… can he actually put his life in my hands, even though he doesn't know what's about to happen, or where we're going, or what we're going to do when we get there?

Then they turned their attentions to Lawrence. Both boys leaned in close to Lawrence's ear, whispered just loud enough to know that they were conversing, and then they pulled Eric into their mix and talked to him, too. Then they started arguing, as teenagers will do. Finally, Eric turned around, gazed deeply into my eyes, shuddered involuntarily, and then said, "We're in." Luke, Jordan and Lawrence all patted his back. His smile returned, though he was trying to camouflage it – some. What I saw in his eyes, though, was hope.

As I made my way out of the hospital, I was greeted by many people who I've had the opportunity to work with over the years, however I acknowledged none of them. My brain was totally focused, like it had never been focused before, even while performing difficult surgical procedures… now was the time to make changes… and to actually help someone, some people who I cared about more than life itself.

I vaguely recall the twenty mile drive heading to our home in the woods, away from civilization, to protect my kids from the harsh realities of life, from this godforsaken hole in the wall, Podunk land of snakes, lizards, tarantula, the fucking idiots at city hall, the jerks at my kids' schools, their teachers, and the fucking nuts calling themselves religious.

"Why am I doing this? Why am I putting my family through this?" I asked myself. Knowing, thinking that these questions are simply rhetorical, they have no meaning, unless I just keep asking them.

As soon as I hit the outskirts of town, I pulled off into an abandoned service station, retrieved my cell phone, looked at it very carefully, knowing all too well that if I made the call, then life itself would forever be changed. I continued to look at that phone. And I heard my oldest son's cries at night, muffled into his pillow so that his dad, me, would not hear his pain coming out. And I then saw Michael, Stephen and Matthew wilting from having their hero being not so much of a hero to them any longer, not since we moved here. Tears sprang from my eyes… I let them stay… I let them fall. The visions of each of my sons, and the love and devotion on that floor in the hospital… made my decision for me.

Quickly, I pulled a Kleenex from the box on the console, put it to my nose, blew hard, wiped my eyes, tossed it into the trash can, and then got a hold of myself, keyed in #18# and hit Send.

"Hello." a man's voice answered on the third ring.

Despite valiantly trying to maintain my composure, tears sprang from my eyes, my throat constricted, my chest tightened at hearing that familiar voice, even though the last time I heard it was years ago. With considerable effort, I replied, "Adam, this is John. I'm so sorry."

The barely restrained emotions burst forth into a torrent of choked sobs as the whole of our estrangement came barreling, unceasingly, into and through my head and heart.

"John, it's good to hear your voice. I've missed you." Adam said, his voice thick and raspy.

"Yeah. Yes, I've missed your voice, too. Truly, I have."

"We've always had hard heads, Bro, even when we were little ones. Especially when we were adolescents. But you know what… we always made up, and ten minutes, maybe fifteen after we'd really got out of control, we hugged and trudged on as if nothing had ever happened. I'm glad you called. I was going to call you next weekend. You do realize that we've broken a record; a record that I never again want to come into contention."

We'd cut all contact, and I mean all contact. And I do not blame him for not being around… I was a total and complete asshole for going to Harvard Medical School… forty five steps up from our roots, all hot shot and big, turning my back on my family so that my desires would be met, no matter the cost. And then there was his 'business'. I'd used it against him, more than once, as often as I could. Our mother and father both died knowing their sons hated one another, and would always hate each other to their dying days… and we did. Even though we weren't dead yet? Were we?

I now know and realize why my brother distanced himself from the rest of the family, too. He even changed his last name so that we were legally separated, too. All because of my drive to succeed, no matter what… even root family made no difference, other than to stay away from it.

My children, even my fifteen almost sixteen-year-old had never before met his uncle, his only uncle, as my wife's family consisted of her and her sisters. She'd never met Adam, either. Adam was a secret. I hadn't even told my wife about him.

"I was wrong, so very, very wrong Adam. Please forgive me."

"Nghhhh…. nghhhh…. nghhhh… I've been thinking… nghhhh, of you a lot lately, nghhhh, nghhhh, nghhh. I don't know why… what has it been now, twenty years, twenty one? Nghhhh."

"Seventeen years, four months and thirteen days. I count them each and every day." I responded, truthfully, sadly.

Just as another wave of anguish threatened to take me over, Adam said, "Bro, when are we going to get together? Can you get away for a few days, just you and me? Do you remember the old times when we went camping in the wilderness for a week or two at a time?"

Despite the impending collapse of my emotions, I had to smile; experiencing a twinge of the youthful adventures we'd shared. I said, "Yes. Yes, they were a blast. And yes, I'd like to get together with you, but we won't be alone. I have four sons. And, my family has taken in three runaway kids, no, make that four. We got another one today. These kids have nowhere else safe enough to live their lives."

"Well, I have plenty of room here or at the lake house, or we could meet somewhere in the middle. Where are you living, now?"

"Breckenridge, Texas. I moved my family here right after my wife passed away. At first we liked it here. The boys were doing fine. I bought into a really great practice. Then things started going downhill. My kids, especially my middle son, have had a hard go of it. I wasn't aware of just how bad things were for them, until today. It's a long story."

"John, I understand. My wife and only son were killed in a traffic accident a few years ago. I've grappled with the guilt. Last summer, I met a remarkable young man, a child, who helped me out of a desperate struggle with depression. Like these kids you've recently met, he had nowhere to go and nobody to give a care where he went."

"Did you adopt him, Adam?"

"No. A friend and I found him a good home, though. He's now happy and content. He was adopted into a family who has lots of kids pretty close to his age. I see him every once in a while. And he calls, sometimes once a week, sometimes a month goes by. His parents are super. They're everything James needs. And the boy has a significant other who he loves and cherishes to all ends of the earth. The feelings are definitely mutual."

"I'm happy for him. I'm glad he's got a loving family. Every kid deserves one. And… I'm glad you were able to help… you're a good man, Adam. Now, on to a significant challenge. Adam, one of these boys is very special…"

"They're all special, John. Never lose sight of this." Adam interrupted, briefly.

Continuing, "You're right, but this child is special in that his safety is extremely important. No doubt there are many people in very high places looking for him. Look, after everything that has happened of recent, I'm not at all positive that this phone line is secure. Let me just say that his father rides Air Force One to wherever he goes for business or otherwise."

Adam took in a deep breath of air and slowly exhaled, saying, "John, buy yourself a cheap, pay by the minute cell phone so that any conversations from here on out are more secure. I have a plan. As soon as you get the phone, then call me. We'll go from there."

"I can do that. The boys need to have a more secure method of talking to their truck-driver friend, too. I will get them phones, too. We could even tag team."



"I love you, Bro."

"I love you, too, Bro. Thanks. Thanks a lot. Good bye for now."


I was six miles from home, driving our old 2003 Ford Taurus… it was on its last legs… there was no way nine of us could possibly travel any distance and be comfortable.

I'd been threatening to buy one so that we could take a summer off and travel to wherever we wanted to go. I looked at my watch.

Sensing that I would have plenty of time to wager a deal, I fired up the ole Ford and headed back into town to the travel trailer dealer.

No sooner had I pulled into the parking lot than a young guy came barreling out the door and walked to me. I wasn't even out of my car, yet.

I told him I needed a big rig, with enough room for eight boys and me, and that price was of no concern, and that I would be paying cash. His eyes got as big as saucers, then he took me to a thirty two foot rig, which was open for showing.

The thing was a home on wheels. King size bed; large kitchen; large bathroom; plenty of cubby holes and storage bins above and below; lots of windows so the boys could look out; a very large diesel engine; automatic transmission; duelies; a one hundred gallon tank and a fifty gallon reserve.

I found it to be satisfactory. As we walked to the doors leading into the dealership, I asked Kenneth, the salesman, if they could install a safe into the rig, tonight. He assured me they could do just that, and they did just that while I was settling the financial end of the transaction with the finance people. I performed an immediate wire transaction directly into their account, while they watched me do it. Both of them nearly popped their eyeballs out of their sockets when I didn't bat an eye at transferring that much money.

The young man leant forward. His shoulders started shaking. Quicky, he got up and headed into the bathroom across the hall, leaving the financial manager sitting there nodding his head. He said, "Sir, you just made his day. He's a good man. Did he tell you about his family situation?"

"No." I replied curiously.

"Come with me, then."

We walked into a small cubicle size office. The first thing I noticed was a picture of a young lady holding a small, approximately five-year-old child in her arms. The little one had no legs and a deformed hand, but the baby was so damn precious all dressed up in frilly white clothing. The man said Kenneth was overcome with emotion because he could now have the child fitted with prosthetics, and have an operation to repair her hand.

Kenneth returned a few moments later. When he saw me, his eyes moistened, then he headed to the picture and held it up in front of him. He said, "That's my daughter. We love her so very, very much. Thank you for making our dream come true. My commission will pay for her to have legs to walk on, legs that we often take for granted. She's a trooper, though. Thank you, Sir."

"Kenneth, there is an excellent prosthetist at Shriner's in Galveston. His name is James Smith. I have sent many patients to him. He does marvelous work. If my children or I needed services of that kind, he would be who we went to. Also, Shriner's bills no charges, but they do take donations to help out with funding their missions."

The young man put down the picture, walked to me and asked, "Sir, may I hug you? You don't know how happy I am for my daughter."

I closed the distance and held out my arms. We hugged tightly for a prolonged period as his emotions were spilling over once again.

A few minutes later, a mechanic entered the office to say that the safe had been installed where I'd wanted it. Kenneth handed me the keyes and wished me well, and safe travels.

I just wish the parking lot for the Radio Shack was as accomodating…

Thirty minutes later, I pulled into our driveway, locked the rig securely, then headed inside to see what the boys were up to.

They were anxiously waiting for me. Michael was sitting at the table with his head leaned over. Jared, Stephen and Matthew were attending to the bruises, abrasions and scrapes on their brother, Michael. As I leaned over to get a good look at his injuries, Stephen made room so that I could sit down next to his brother. I pulled Michael into my arms, held him as firmly as I dared, and rocked him gently. No matter how upset he would get about something that he had absolutely no control over or about, he would always relax while I rocked him. I said, just above a whisper, so that all my boys would hear me say what was about to be said, "Boys, we're going to be making some changes. What am I talking about 'some'? We're going to completely change everything about where we live, shop, go to school, where I practice medicine, that is if I continue to be a doctor… maybe I'll be a ditch digger, who knows."

I had their full attention. Continuing, "The first thing you need to know… and I am extremely ashamed to have to tell you this late in the game, you have an Uncle, my brother. His name is Adam. He's agreed to take us all in for however long is necessary. I cannot tell you where he lives, right now, until we get there. We are going to be leaving in a few days. I have some things to tie up, here, before we go. On another note, Lawrence's operation went well today, but he's going to be really, really sore for a few days, but Jordan and Luke are with him; also another boy named Eric who the three of them know. I've asked them to come with us. As you know, they have had a rough go of it. As I found out today, those kids have been through hell… from several forms of abuse. The final decision is up to you. If you object, then we'll make other plans for them."

Matthew spoke up, "Daddy, I like them. They're nice. Nobody's going to say they can't come." He quickly looked to each of his brothers, looking for any negative sign from them. There was none, in fact, Stephen, very seriously responded, "Yeah, they're cool. They're in. I'm in."

Jared, usually the spokesperson for Michael, offered to his brother, "Michael, this is your decision, too. I'm not going to give my answer until you first make yours."

Michael quickly sat up and looked intently into my eyes, through his swollen ones, "Dad, it's a no-brainer. They have nowhere else to go. Me and Lawrence, uhm, we've talked about some serious stuff… I kind of know what happened to him. And I know who he is. He's just a regular guy. Jordan and Luke, well, they are regular guys, too. I'm in."

"I'm in. The only question is 'when'. Michael can't go to school like he is. I… uhm…" Jared offered, clearly defeated. The boy, I knew, had a tremendous amount of guilt inside of himself. I started to speak, however our home phone rang. Stephen picked it up, "Hello. Finnegan residence."

"Okay, just a minute. It's for you, Dad." Stephen said, handing me the phone. Before I got it to my ear, Jared's eyes opened wide. I covered the phone with my hand and looked deeply into his eyes.

"Dad, I was expelled today for fighting."

Michael quickly said, "Dad, he kicked some serious ass after they got done with me."

"Okay, thanks. We'll talk about this more, later." Pulling my hand away from the mouthpiece, I said, "Hello."

"Doctor Finnegan, this is Walter Culp, the principal at Breckenridge High. I'm afraid I have some disturbing news to share with you."

"Oh… okay, I'm listening. I've got some really bad news for you, too." I replied, professionally, yet feeling my ire rising minute by minute. Jared looked into my eyes.

Mr. Culp cleared his throat. I said to Jared, "Hold that thought… thanks for telling me." To Mr. Culp, I continued, "Look, my middle son, Michael, had the hell beat out of him today. Where were you when he was being fought?"

"Fighting is not the answer to any situation. Jared has already been suspended three times just this school year. It's three strikes and you're out."

"How come I wasn't notified?" I asked the principal while looking into Jared's eyes, searching for a reason, any reason why he hadn't come to me with the situation. He shrugged his shoulders. I reached up and patted his cheek and mouthed the words, 'We will talk about this later.'

Mr. Culp started blathering something about school policy where they first take care of things there before taking the issue to the parents. By this time, my blood was boiling. I calmed just enough to hear him say, "It's like he is a magnet for trouble. This district has a zero tolerance for bullying."

"You still haven't answered my question. Listen to me very carefully. Michael had the hell beat out of him today. Have you handled the assailant in a similar way, suspended, or better yet – expelled from school?"

"Sir, I cannot speak about the other boy due to privacy concerns."

"I understand privacy concerns… however, I see and feel a disparity here… unless the other boy is being protected. Michael, who is it that beat you up?"

"Harvey Sanderson. Jared got into it with Harvey's older brother and a couple of other dudes." Michael lisped, gently touching his lip with his fingers.

I turned to Jared. He nodded. Tenderly, I kissed Michael's swollen eye, looked deeply into Jared's eyes, then Stephen's, and finally Matthew's. I covered the mouthpiece and said, "I love you boys. The crap stops right here, right now. We'll talk about this later, I want you boys to get your showers. Michael, I want to take a look at you before bedtime. None of you are in any kind of trouble with me, and since the buck stops here, right now… I will speak to Mr. Culp on an adult level so that he understands perfectly our concerns. I love you boys. I'm sorry I haven't been there like I should have been all along."

All four boys kissed my cheek. They took off for the bedroom section of the house, leaving me sitting there, looking at the phone, wondering if I really wanted to get into it with Mr. Culp. With everything that I'd seen and experienced today, I simply said, "Mr. Culp, there's nothing further to discuss tonight. Have a good evening. Oh, and by the way, I will pick up my children's transcripts tomorrow morning by 10:00am." Click.

I turned toward the sound of padding feet. At the same time, I saw a little head poke his way around the wall. I smiled. Matthew gave me his best impish smile. He whispered just loud enough for me to hear him, "Daddy, are you mad?" His face immediately turned worried as I got up from the table and used my finger to tell him that he was to come to me. Slowly, my son shuffled over and stood, wondering what my answer would be.

"No, but there's a bear in here. Didn't you see him? He stands about four foot five inches tall and weighs right around sixty five pounds, has blond hair with a tuft in front, and he's looking at me RIGHT NOW." Before he could react, I grabbed him up, held him upside down, and then we took off to hunt down other bears that may be in the house, right this very moment… with him squealing all the while, warning the other bears to hide because there was a bear hunter on the loose.

All laughter, all fun and games, ended tragically as we passed by the bathroom door. There we saw Stephen and Jared lifting Michael's shirt up and over his head. Michael was crying, and Jared and Stephen were encouraging him, telling him they were just about finished. I let Matthew down. He put his arm around my waist and held on for support as he too began crying, and then he went to Michael and began tenderly touching the bruises on his older brother's chest and sides. He then kissed them one by one, telling Michael how so much he loved him, that everything was going to be alright, just give it time.

I walked in, went to my middle son to help Jared and Stephen, but they were doing just fine, however I slowly lowered Michael's arms to his side when they had his shirt off. I leaned down, kissed the top of his head, then gently pulled him into my chest and held him as firm as I dared, not wanting to hurt him, yet wanting him to feel my support and love. His back, I saw looking down, had many bruises – some old, some very new. I realized I knew but only a little of what this child had been through.

Jared said to Michael, "You need to come clean with Dad… you have to, or I will tell him. Come on, guys, Michael and Dad need to talk, now." Jared turned to me, "Dad, just listen to him. He needs to tell you something very important. It will put everything into perspective."

With that pronouncement, Michael's brothers, led by Jared exited the bathroom, closing the door behind them.

"Do you want to talk to me about it? Jared won't tell me what you have on your mind, Son."

"I know. Can we talk after I take a shower? I feel really grungy right now." Michael said, reaching down to undo his belt buckle. It was then that I saw that his hands were swollen, black and blue with bruises.

"Looks like you got a good swing or two in, yourself."

"Yeah, but it wasn't enough. Dad, I didn't have a chance. I tried though. I put out some damage…" Michael said, getting frustrated that his fingers weren't moving the way he wanted them to move. Clearly defeated, the boy dropped his hands to his sides, stood still, looked deeply into my eyes and said, clearly, "Dad, I know you and my brothers could never hate me, but everybody else does; I'm gay. I kissed a boy today… I thought we were close… but we're not… he threw the first punch… that's why my lip is busted. And then he grabbed me, threw me to the floor, kicked me in the nuts with his foot, ripped down my pants and underwear… I was terrified… I thought he was going to… you know… fuck me or something. I just wanted to get out of there. I didn't want to fight. I didn't know Jared was around, until he was just there, fighting for me while I laid on the floor, helpless."

"It doesn't appear that you were totally helpless, Son. By the looks of your hands, I'd say you put some serious damage on the kid. Harvey?"

"Yeah. Dad, he felt me up and stuff. I thought it would be okay to kiss him… boy, was I wrong."

"Oh Son, I wish you would have felt safe to tell me your secret, before now. Not telling doesn't matter… you've told me… I now know… I love you… I will always love you, no matter what. Do you understand?"

His reply was to put his arms around me and hug me in close. For being beat up so bad, his grip was firm and unwavering. I put my arm around his shoulders, tenderly kissed the top of his raggedy haired head, gently rubbed his neck to loosen his tense, stressed and strained muscles. He broke the hug, and then began frantically fumbling with the snap and zipper on his jeans, trying to get them unlatched.

Sensing urgency, I reached down to his pants, undid the fastenings. He then hurriedly pushed them down and sat on the toilet, and then unrestrained, blew loose.

I patted his bare back and said, "I'll be outside. Call me if you need any assistance."

The boy took hold of my wrist with both of his hands, looked down and strained until he was finished. When he reached for the tissue paper, and seeing that he had it under control, I exited to give him his privacy in such matters.

Jared, Stephen and Matthew were waiting in the hall, expectantly. They each looked up into my eyes, wonderingly. I said, "I know. Michael told me. Does anybody have a problem with your brother, because if you do, then you have me to deal with."

"What?" Stephen asked, unknowingly.

Matthew said, indigently, "He's my big brother. I'll kick some ass if they hurt him again."

Jared said, "That goes for me, too. Stephen, Matthew, Michael will tell you about it when he's ready. Just trust him for right now. Will you do that for me?"

Both of the younger boys went to their brother, put their arms around his waist, and then pulled Jared's arms around them. I smiled. Don't mess with my kids… they will get ya. A tremendous warmth passed through my mind, realizing and being so grateful that those kids were so tight, and that I was their dad. Blessings come in all different ways, but a child's love for his father is unfathomable.

Just as tears came to my eyes, a voice, Michael's voice from behind the closed door said, "Dad, uhm, I need to talk to you, please."

I opened the door, peered inside, then entered when he shrugged his shoulders, holding up the paper. I went inside and closed the door. He said, "I'm sorry, Dad. I don't mean to be such a damn baby…"

Five minutes later, I reached into the shower and got the water running while he haphazardly brushed his teeth. At first, he was skittish and embarrassed about having me help take his clothes off, but he acquiesced after receiving gentle reassurance and encouragement, that it was okay, that I'm his father.

When he was done, I dried him off and wrapped the towel around his midsection. As he went out the door, the towel fell off. Matthew, with an ornery look in his eyes, said mischievously, "BEAR WARNING!" I shooed them into the bathroom to take their showers and to brush their teeth. I went into Michael's bedroom with him, pulled out a pair of short gym shorts and helped him into them, then we sat down on his bed. I said, "What I am going to tell you may very well surprise you, it did me when your Mom told me to watch out, that you are strong, courageous and virtuous, and that you were keeping a secret you didn't even know you were holding. She told me that you had a ninety percent chance of being gay. We had a long talk. She loved you, Michael. She always did. And she always will. The same is true for me. I am sorry this happened to you, Son. Not all guys are like him. You will find someone who will fill your heart, and he will love you just as much as you love him. Did you know that Luke and Jordan are gay, and that they are a couple?"

"Yeah, they told me. We talked about it."

"You're not alone. They are good kids. Keep talking. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Now, I have to give you a word of warning. You've already found out how people are treating gay people. My word of warning is to keep your sexual orientation out of conversations with anyone outside of our family, not including Luke, Jordan, Lawrence, and probably Eric, too. I think Eric is confused. He's been abused so badly… I really do not think he knows who or what he really is. I think you guys will like him. But I need to tell you that he will present himself to you for sex. It's what he's trained to do, to bring pleasure to older boys and men. No matter how horny you get, please do not engage him. He's got a lot to work out."

"Dad, it's not like I want to fuck with every swinging dick. Sorry. I really thought Harvey liked me. I really did. I'll be careful. I don't want my brothers hurt because of me. I'm sorry they got involved."

"They are your brothers, Michael. Do they know?"

"Jared does. I told him. Dad, I'm worried about Jared. He got so mad today. I had to pull him off. Please don't tell him that I told you. It would hurt his feelings."

"I'm proud of you, Michael. It's not every day when a caring and loving person, like you, thinks of their brothers first. You have a lot of courage. You're going to be okay. We're going to be okay. I love you. Let me tuck you in. I haven't gotten to do it for years, now."

I pulled down his covers, and in the process bumped his pillow off the bed. Beneath the fallen away pillow was a plastic bottle of body lotion and a hand towel. I snickered as Michael bent down to retrieve his pillow. When he came up, he looked at the bottle, and he turned a million shades of red, deep red, scarlet red, and said, "Oh God."

"You're busted, Son." To push the envelope, I grabbed hold of the bottle, but left alone the towel, handed it to him, and continued, "Have fun." I kissed his cheek and quickly made my exit, chuckling all the way out, as he groaned, morbidly embarrassed… causing me to chuckle even more, adding to his groaning and yelps, "Dad, stop it!"

I chuckled while walking into Stephen's room. He and Matthew were lying in their beds, reading. They looked up when they felt my presence. They asked me to pronounce and define a couple of words they could not get past. Satisfied with my answers, they turned back to their reading after sharing a tight hug and a light kiss on the cheeks.

When I turned to leave, I bumped into Jared silently standing behind me, holding a towel in front of him to cover his bits but not much else. Without forewarning, I grabbed him up in a bear hug and held him tightly, just to convey how very much I loved him and how proud I was and am to be his daddy. Just as I had done with him when he was a little boy, I picked him up and carried his naked butt to the bathroom where I dropped him off. I kissed his cheek and put him in charge as I needed to go back to the hospital to check up on my post operative patients, and to bring Luke, Jordan and the new boy Eric home for the night.

All four boys were sound asleep, cuddled around Lawrence and Eric, with arms and legs intertwined together. They easily awakened, so I checked Lawrence's bottom to find no signs of bleeding. His pain was manageable after accepting medication to control it.

Jordan asked if they could stay at the hospital. Both Luke and Jordan accepted my telling them that I'd rather they were home sleeping in their bed, and besides I had a surprise for them.

Eric was subdued, timid and shy when I asked him to come home with us. I reminded him that his life was changing for the better, and gently reminded him once again, that we are trustworthy and would not demand anything of him. The boy exited Lawrence's room with Jordan's and Luke's arms around his shoulders, taking care to not touch his sores.

Luke and Jordan were funny. They and Eric had run ahead to the car, but were surprised to not find it, and were equally as surprised when I headed to a travel trailer parked way out in the end of the parking lot. They really got interested when I pulled out my keys, opened the door, and waved them to enter with me. For the second time in a day, Eric's eyes popped wide open with surprise and happiness. The boys entered and looked all around, and then found seats, put on their belts, and we headed home.

When we arrived, I started making them sandwiches after they professed starvation, even though the duty nurse had said that she'd made sure they were fed. I shooed them off to take their showers, and then went and checked on my boys. They were all sleeping soundly. Even Jared, my usual night owl, was out like a light.

The house was quiet. The shower had turned off quite some time ago, so, curious, I walked through the living room to the bathroom. My heart went pitter patter at seeing Luke and Jordan very carefully dressing Eric's wounds. Eric looked so peaceful at having so much attention paid to him. Eric, facing the vanity and mirror, turned to me. At first he was surprised that I would see him so vulnerable, then he turned back after wiggling his eyebrows up and down, telling me, without using words, that everything was okay. I went back to the kitchen, sat down, and counted my many blessings.

A few minutes later, the boys came to the kitchen, wearing only towels, chowed down, then excused themselves to go to bed. Jordan and Luke went down first, but then Eric turned back, walked to me, and said, "Thank you, Sir. I'll be real good. Are you sure I can't… you know… for you…"

"No, Eric. We're not about that around here. Like I told you earlier, you will never be required to do anything sexual with any of us. Just be a boy. You're safe here with my family and me."

"Okay, I was just checking. Uhm, would it be okay… I mean… no… never mind… sorry."

"Would it be okay for what, Eric? You can ask questions. I prefer to be open and honest, and you will find that my boys… when they have something on their minds… they say so."

The boy walked to me, tilted his head up to look directly into my eyes, "Uhm, would it be okay if I asked Luke and Jordan if they… might… want to play around some… you know…"

"Well, Eric, that is totally up to the three of you. I do know that Jordan and Luke are a couple, meaning they are devoted to each other… talk to them… just be open… be prepared for a 'no' answer. If they say no, then there is always the bathroom where you can take care of your needs… boys your age have needs. Either way, have some fun, okay?"

"You won't get mad at me if I… you know…"

"No, Eric, I won't get mad. The only thing I ask is for you to tell me if one of the boys in this house tries to make you do something you do not want to do, and please do not do something when someone says 'no'."

"Okay… no means no. Yes means yes. Right?"

"Absolutely. If you feel uncomfortable with anything here, then tell me about it… we'll work something out."

"Okay, Sir. Thank you."

"You're quite welcome. Good night. Sleep tight."

After getting the kitchen cleaned up, I noticed the door to the basement was open. I walked over intending to close it, but refrained. I heard pleasant sounds of three young voices enjoying themselves, immensely. I left the door open so as to not disturb their playtime. I smiled knowing they were in good hands, or however they'd chosen to play.

When I turned off the kitchen light before going to my room to call my brother, I noted Luke's phone was missing from the charger. I went on to my room.

"Adam, I need to disclose to you that Michael, my middle son, came out to me this evening. He's gay. Does this present a problem?"

"Oh hell no. James' significant other's name is Rocky. And not only is James gay, but he has at least one other brother with the same sexual orientation. Skeeter has issues with his significant other, however the crux of their issue is because his love lives in Chicago, but, all in all they do okay."

"Oh, that would be tough for them. Well, Michael doesn't have a boyfriend. He's just not that far along yet… which brings the issue to the front. My son felt comfortable enough with this other boy, enough so that they kissed, and the other boy turned on Michael, and I'm afraid to say that Michael was beaten unmercifully. My oldest son was expelled from school for taking care of the situation by protecting his brother. And then, my second middle son has also gone through hell in the same school for pretty much the same reasons as Jared. I don't think Stephen is gay, but I would be perfectly okay if he were to come to me and confide that he was, or is."

"Gay kids and gay parents are in a hell of a pickle, John. Hopefully Jack Bryce will straighten things out so that people can just live their lives."

For the first time, I really felt a load lift. I offered, "Well, I don't think Bryce is going to straighten any such thing."

"Ah, I see you're still quick with the wit. Tell ya what… why don't ya all just come up here for a few days until we can figure out what is going to be best for you and your kids. I've got plenty of room. I more or less rattle around in this place, so it will be nice to have some really, really good company to share it with for as long as you need a place to stay."

"Thanks, Adam. I have some loose ends to tie up here, before we can leave. I really need to get these kids to a safe place."

"Think nothing more of it. We're family. This is what we do. It's who we are. Mom and Dad taught us as much. By the sound of things, we're living according to their principles."

Maui, Hawaii, Dale's viewpoint

By the time we returned to the hotel, we were sun and wind burnt, but, oh my God, we had a blast. The dolphins returned and tossed my kids as though they were feathers. Because Regina had cleaned out the hotel room, I had no camera to take their pictures. No doubt, though, the pictures in my mind would never go away.

We took a three hour boat trip out to sea. The water was calm as was the breeze. Finally, I was able to relax and just enjoy our day without too many concerns and worries. The kids kept me busy by cutting up, laughing and carrying on their antics… the bottom line: having fun.

On our way back to the hotel, I stopped and purchased tickets for Carlin and I to go to sailing the next day. Bradley, Jeremy and Rachel had no such ambitions. I purchased tickets for them to go on a guided tour of the islands. I had no interest in doing that. Neither did Carlin. Everybody had something to do. My relaxation continued on into the evening. After returning to our abode, we took showers with plans to meet in an hour to go eat at a restaurant we'd passed.

Carlin took his shower first while I checked for voice mail messages. There were none. I punched in Katy's cell phone number. There was no answer so I left a message telling them we'd talk later. I turned on the TV to see what, if anything, was worth watching.

Nothing worthwhile was on the screen, other than Ashwood and Bryce going at it like cats and dogs, bashing one another, not even mentioning anything that would remotely affect the American people. Jack was more in tune, saying fundamental things about our economy that Ashwood did not. As I was sitting there watching and listening… my thoughts turned to the crap Regina had been saying all along.

I turned the set off, totally disgusted with the whole politics thing.

I walked by the wide open bathroom door. Just as I opened my mouth to tell Carlin to get a hurry on it, I heard a very loud, "Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. Ahhhhhhhhhh. Ahhhhhhhhhh" emanating from behind the shower enclosure. I smiled, knowing he was very much enjoying his time alone. I walked into the kitchen, grabbed a Coke from the refrigerator, sat down at the table, popped the top, took a large swig and waited for my grandson to make his appearance.

Ten minutes later, he came traipsing through the kitchen without a care in the world, walked to the refrigerator, pulled out a soda pop and then plopped down in a chair opposite me… and smiled broadly.

I couldn't help it, "Did you have an enjoyable shower?" My turn to smile. His face went bright red, redder than the moderate sunburn. I laughed. His only reaction, then was to roll his eyes up into his head, look into my eyes – and ignore my question, a good one at that! I thought so, anyway.

I looked at the clock and saw that I had about half an hour to go until we met up with the kids to eat dinner. I winked at Carlin, got up and went into the bathroom to get ready.

He was gone when I went to my bedroom to get dressed. I was just buttoning my pants when he and Bradley showed up. They were dressed smartly, wearing white mid thigh shorts and soft yellow pull over shirts, accentuating their tans.

During dinner, a very large family entered. I counted eight kids and a middle aged couple. The lady was carrying a wee young little girl with sun bleached hair wearing a frilly little dress, a truly beautiful child. The kids were all happy. They, en masse, loaded up their plates with various delicacies, sat down and began chowing while the parents just looked on with awe clearly written across their faces.

I couldn't help but to notice that the kids all made three trips to the food bar, followed by bowls of ice cream. I chuckled. I also wondered how in God's world could they keep their kids' stomachs filled at home… surely their grocery bills were in the thousands of dollars – each time they went for groceries!

Bradley and I are notoriously slowpokes. We were the last to hit the desert area. He turned to me and said, just above a whisper, "Dad, thanks. I don't know how you do it."

"What do you mean, My Son?"

"You're doing for us exactly what we need. The last couple of days have been wonderful. Thanks."

"Well son, thank you. I guess being down in the dumps or being on top of the world is, or can be a choice. We really can't change what's happened. We can go forward or stay in the past. It's all a choice as I see it."

"Do you miss Mom?"

"Every day. I wish she was here to enjoy, but she's not. This is her choice, not mine, not yours, not Rachel's, not Jeremy's, not Carlin's. I wish things were different, but they are what they are. Oh, there's Chocolate meeces." I put my arm around Bradley's waist, squeezed tightly, and then got busy loading my plate… sweets are my downfall each and every time!

He reached over to kiss my cheek. He said, "Thanks Dad, you're right."

I chuckled, "That's right. Don't forget it!"

He laughed and got busy filling his plate.

With mine filled, I turned around to return to the table, but bumped into a boy of about sixteen years old. He fell to the floor and hit his head on a table leg. Quickly, I sat my plate down and extended my hand, apologizing profusely for being such an oaf. He accepted my hand. When he was standing, he quickly adjusted his shorts that had ridden up, way too high, and made an adjustment to his leg while I held him steady as he did so.

The man from their table quickly walked over to check on his son. I apologized to him, too, for being such an oaf. The boy said, "I do that all the time. It's no big deal. Just call me Grace." He stuck out his hand, we shook hands, and then he got busy loading up and I walked to the table, sat down and dug in.

Carlin was out like a light as soon as his head hit the pillow, a very tired boy. Me, I was still wired up from the sweet sugar stuff. My cell phone was in the kitchenette. Two messages, both from Katy's phone, awaited my recall. I looked at the clock. It read 8:15pm, meaning it would be just after midnight back home.

Message #1: Hello, this is Doctor Finnegan. I need to speak with you about Luke, Jordan and Lawrence's well being. Luke gave me permission to phone you. Please return my call at your earliest convenience. Thank you.

Message #2: Dale, it's Luke. Please call. Bye.

"Hello, Dale. Whatcha up to?" Jordan's voice said. He sounded relaxed.

"Hey Bud, doing okay here. We spent the day at the beach. How's Lawrence?"

"He's doing pretty good. So long as he doesn't run a fever, he can come home, I mean here in the morning."

"Are you okay?" I asked.

"Yeah, we're good. Dale, do you remember us talking about a kid named Eric, the black kid at Katy's house?"

"Yes, I do recall."

"Well, he's here. He got out of there. Doctor Finnegan is his doctor and everything… anyway, to make a long story short, he trusts John. By the way, Doctor Finnegan says we are to call him John, like we call you Dale."

"That's okay, so long as he said it's okay… anyway, is Eric okay? I mean, under the circumstances, is he doing alright?"

"Well, he's real quiet and stuff. He's trying to smile… he's trying."

"That's good. Be sure to give him a bunch of hugs, that is if he's comfortable with it… don't push him."

"We won't. I know how it is… I mean, well I didn't go through half of what he had done to him, but I know I really didn't want to get close to people, too much. Uhm, Dale, John is going to talk to you about leaving here. Michael, his middle son, well, he had the hell beat out of him for being gay. Michael is a strong kid, too. His eyes are swollen shut, his lip got busted wide open, and he's got a bunch of bruises all over his body, especially his between the legs area."

"That's just sad… it really is. Why people do that… I can't figure it out. Jordan, I hope you and Luke are… you know… keeping it under wraps, at least out in the public. The world's getting to be a very dangerous place for gay people, and others, too."

"Yeah. We've kinda been watching the news. It's okay here… the Finnegans anyway. They know about me and Luke. We feel safe."

"That's really good. I know you two have been so very afraid. You've had every right to be scared for your lives after what has happened. Jordan, I can't say I'm sorry enough for putting you boys in a dangerous situation. I just didn't know…"

"You had no way of knowing. We know you wouldn't intentionally put us into a bad situation. You helped us when nobody else would, until we got here, you know what I mean."

"Thank you for understanding. I'm just as surprised that she would do such a thing. I really am. On to another subject… I'm going to rest comfortably tonight knowing you are in good hands. John sounds like a good man. Do you know what he wants to talk to me about?"

"Not really, other than we're going to take a trip to get away from here. I don't know where. All he said was that we were going somewhere super safe, away from people who might hurt us. Jared got kicked out of school for defending his brother."

"That's too bad, but I'm glad Jared was there for him. Jordan, I've been thinking about something… do you or Luke have any money? If you don't then I'm going to call one of the cell carriers and get you your own phones with private numbers so that you aren't using Katy's. It has GPS, and… I'd just feel more comfortable if they weren't able to track you guys."

"That reminds me… John bought all of us phones. They're the cheap, pay by the minute kind. They do not have GPS." Jordan said, confidently, and then gave me his, Luke's and John's numbers.

"Here, Luke wants to talk to you."

"Hey Dale."

"Hey yourself."

"Jordan already told you the big stuff. Dale, we've got to get out of here. This fucking town is crazy… at least the people we've come in contact with are. Hell, we got chased out of the hospital where Lawrence was having his operation. Katy tried to run us over with her big rig. She would have, too, if we didn't get on the ground at the very last possible second. The rig went right over us. And then the cops were everywhere. We ran. We remembered what Eric had said about cops here in this godforsaken place. We weren't about to get caught."

"I'm glad you're okay, Luke. That worries me. It worries me a lot. The important thing, and this is something that I want you to remember: you're safe now. Stay that way. Do what you're told."

"Dale, what's going to happen to us?" the boy asked with worry clearly in his voice.

"Dream big. Many dreams come to be reality. Don't give up hope. Just do what you're told if it makes sense, if you feel safe doing so."

"It's hard, Dale. We have nowhere to go. But… Dale… we trust John, more than you know."

"I hear it in your voice, Luke. I hear that you trust him. This is good. This is very, very good."

"Yeah. So, uhm, when are you leaving Hawaii?" Luke asked very quietly, as if he didn't want to be a burden.

"In a few of days. Now that I know you're safe, we're going to go ahead and stay our entire time. We will be home Wednesday afternoon. Then we'll figure out how to meet up again. That is… if you want to. Think about it. Okay, young man, it's about time for you to get some shut eye… you sound mighty tired."

"Yeah, we're definitely tired. Okay, let me take the phone upstairs to John. Good night."

"Good night, Luke. Sleep tight, rest easy, relax. Things are going to turn around."

I shared those same sentiments with Jordan as he walked up the stairs. Some voices were heard in the background. Jordan said, "John's going to call you back from one of the cheap phones if that's okay."

"That's fine. Good night, Jordan, sleep tight. This is all going to work out."

"I hope so." Click.

A couple of minutes later my phone rang, "Hello."

"Dale, this is John Finnegan. How are you tonight?"

"Oh, I'm doing okay. And I'm doing much, much better knowing that the boys are safe. I've not heard them quite so relaxed, ever. So, thank you. Is your son, Michael, okay? Well, I know he's probably quite troubled by the turn of events…"

"Yes, he is okay under the circumstances. Quite frankly, I'm pretty upset with this godforsaken place. I talked to my brother today. We're going to visit… I've got some loose ends to tie up. There's really nothing holding us here, except for the mortgage on the house."

"Same here. Our house is paid off. I'm afraid my marriage is in the past, now. I love my wife, but I hate what she's doing, and I can't go along with her ideas." I said, then we talked for a couple of hours about the plans. We changed some of them a couple of times, added a piece, took away three other ones, and then reached a consensus of the minds.

Editor's Notes:

Once again I find myself sitting here biting my nails, hoping everything will work out well for the boys, all of them.

As is always the case with Joe's stories, there are difficulties to overcome, yet somehow, everyone seems to find their way into better situations. I find myself hoping that something can be done to keep Katy and her bunch from hurting any more kids, and putting a stop to that other creep.

I need to get this chapter back to Joe so he can post it.

Again, I want to thank him for allowing me to edit for him.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

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