Copyright © 2012 - 2015 by Joe Writerman and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.
All Rights Reserved
Saturday, November 10, 2012, 0830 CST,
Matt drove their dilapidated truck into the junior high school parking lot, found a place to rest the weary machine, set the brake then looked at Fox and said, "There's not many people here this morning. Where do you think they are?"
"They're probably putting the final touches on the setup for the memorial service. Let's go inside to see where we can be the most help."
Just as they opened the doors to the truck, a larger, much newer pickup truck pulled up beside them.
"Hey Matt, how's it hanging?" James Lancaster, a fourteen year old boy greeted Matt and Fox as he exited the driver's side of the truck. The two boys bumped knuckles. James then greeted Fox in the same fashion, however Fox, grabbed him into his arms and hugged him fiercely. Jimmy, James' father, did likewise to Matt.
Matt and James, when their father's released them, looked into one another's eyes. James grinned then pulled his childhood friend into his arms and squeezed firmly. Matt's arms went around his best friend in the whole wide world, took in a deep breath and said, "It's good to see ya, Bro."
"Same here. I've missed ya." James said as he gave Matt one last squeeze before they parted.
The Lancaster's had moved to Breckenridge when James was approximately two months old. Mrs. Foxridge and Mrs. Lancaster worked together at the local office of the Texas Division of Vital Statistics. They soon became fast friends as had their husbands.
Around the time that Mrs. Foxridge was stricken with cancer that would eventually take her away from this world, Mrs. Lancaster developed severe heart problems which caused her to retire. It was ironic the two women perished from their afflictions one day apart.
The Lancaster's had an older daughter, Mary. Mary was born with cystic fibrosis. Two years ago she lost the battle and died.
The two families were there for one another during the difficult times, and were with each other during good times.
James immersed himself in competitive sports while Matt completely gave himself to farming with his father. The boys grew somewhat distant over the past year or so. James also acquired a girlfriend, a girl that Matt didn't like and would never have chosen for himself.
Adding to Matt's resentment, James' girlfriend, Kimberly Waters, was pretty much the school's tramp in that Matt had seen her and two other guys making out beneath the bleachers. Word had it that she'd sleep with anyone, and James was just in the line of another one of her conquests.
Matt's venture into memory was interrupted by Fox saying, "Why don't you two go see if you can be of any assistance in setting up the memorial?"
They agreed and headed out on foot toward the old Walmart store to get their assignments. About halfway there, James reached into his right front pants pocket and retrieved a pack of cigarettes, gave one to Matt then one for himself. Matt only rarely smoked and it was only with James.
"How's Kimberly?" Matt asked after recovering from a severe coughing fit. He looked at the cigarette to determine if he would continue or toss it to the ground. He tossed it to the ground and stomped the fire into the dirt. He gave James a wry grin.
James rolled his eyes up then replied, "Past tense. She broke up with me on Tuesday. Just came into school, and in front of her friends told me that we're no longer together. She then grabbed Tim Lackey's hand and they strode off just like nothing had ever happened.
"You are kidding me? Him?"
"Nope, I'm not kidding. I can't believe she fell for that piece of shit."
"Don't cry. Her history... Anyway, for what it's worth, I'm glad you aren't tied up with her anymore. She's bad news."
"I know. I should have listened to that little man deep down inside of me. I thought she would be different, that maybe she would settle down."
"So how far did you two go? I hope you didn't give her your cherry."
James chuckled, "THAT is something I didn't give her. For Christ sake, I'd go gay if she was the only bitch to fuck."
Matt took in a deep breath of air as he reeled from his best friend's choice of words. Not only were the words shocking, but the gravely sound to them took him aback. For the first time, he felt afraid. There would be no way he could tell his truth, not now, probably not forever.
For the rest of the way they remained silent. Normally they were talkative. James noticed Matt's silence, and he also noted the intense expression on his friend's face. "How about you? Are you dating anyone?"
"No. Come on, let's go." Matt said then took off on a sprint. He didn't even want to broach the subject of his relationship with a – guy.
James could have run circles around Matt, but didn't. Instead, he kept pace with his friend. One of his greatest accomplishments in sports was track and field. In fact, if it wasn't for him the school would not have placed second at State finals.
The day was warm. Matt soon broke a sweat. While running, he took off his jacket and tucked it into his left rear pants pocket then stepped up the pace. He loved feeling the breeze against his face and running through his shirt and against his chest. The sweat gave him an excuse to reach up and wipe the moisture from his eyes.
By the time they arrived at the gathering point, Matt was in charge of his emotions, and cracking some old worn out jokes they used to come up with to cause them to laugh. James came up with some of his own. By the time they walked into the building they were acting just as they had in times past.
Matt headed for a portable potty. They were located at the back of the building, just outside the door. He entered, closed and locked the door, dropped his pants and underwear and got busy. At the same time, George's infectious smile filled his brain. He shook his head when he heard his husband's voice say, "Everything is going to be ok. Look, I'm going to be going away. I guess I'm processed into whatever comes next… they won't tell me what's up, only that I'm going to like where I'm going. I'll always love you, Matt. Don't stay alone for the rest of your life. Before I go…"
Matt's eyes flew wide open then clamped shut as a tremendous wave of completely total passion rushed through his veins and out of his … which he was not touching in any way, shape or form. He looked down into his lap and saw the evidence splattered on his legs and into his pubes. The tail of his shirt was wet. He shook his head while hurrying to return to this world.
While cleaning up, Matt felt a tremendous sense of peace wash over and through him.
Jordan, normally the early riser, opened his eyes then closed them as the sun was shining through the window into their room and into his eyes. He rolled onto his side and cuddled up against Luke who was breathing rhythmically, but not deeply. As he rearranged his bits to fully complete the cuddle, he felt slickness down south of the border in just the 'right place'. Jordan thought Luke was asleep but that idea was put to rest when Luke reached back and lifted his butt cheek…
Twenty minutes later found them in the shower washing one another's bodies. When it came time for Jordan's back, Luke took over. But, Jordan had other plans. Grinning like a Cheshire cat, he pushed his lover against the glass wall and…
Knowing that Dog would be waiting for them to take her outside, they quickly finished their showers, got dressed and headed toward the loading dock area where the kennels were located.
As always was the case, they were greeted vigorously, but she was not to be denied her opportunity to take care of her business. As soon as Luke opened the door to the outside, Dog tore out, stopped in the middle of the field and squatted. Meanwhile, Luke wormed his hand into Jordan's back pocket, squeezed a couple of times then said with his voice just above a whisper, "Jordan, have you thought anymore about our plans of going to Las Vegas?"
"Sometimes. There's too much going on around here. It's hard for us to get alone time, and when we do – it is often interrupted. Don't get me wrong, I love everybody. Dale's been good to us, but we don't really know each other, if you know what I mean."
"That's what I was thinking, too." Luke replied.
Their quiet time was once again broken up because Dog took off toward them on a gallop. Both boys, before they were knocked down, laid down on their backs and awaited the trampling. They didn't have to wait long. Their faces and necks were thoroughly licked then her nose dove into those areas down south of the border. Why she did that, they had no idea. But there was no stopping her, until she was ready to stop.
They heard a very young boy's voice say, "You're silly."
They felt dog leave then heard loud squeals. When they looked over they saw Matthew rolling around on the ground with Dog attacking him with all she had, all in play, of course.
Jared, Michael, Eric, Stephen and Dalton were looking on, laughing, and encouraging Dog to do her thing to their youngest brother. Then – the tide turned… Dog was all over them.
Then she was finished. She walked about ten feet away from everyone, plopped onto her stomach on the ground then smiled and fought to catch her breath.
Matthew and Stephen walked to her sat down and began rubbing her fur behind her ears. She dropped her head and was soon sound asleep.
Jared said, "We made you plates of food. They're in the canteen on our floor. Have you see Lawrence and Aaron?"
"Not yet. We just got up not too long ago."
They heard the door to the dock area open. They looked up and saw Muzi and Christian exiting. They walked to the group, sat down on the ground and smiled invitingly. The rest sat down, too. Christian said, "Dad said that some people are coming here tomorrow to talk with you about what you've been through. I know I haven't said much about me, but I'd like to share a little bit with you so that you're not nervous and upset because you'll have to tell your story again."
Muzi spoke up, "Doctor John wants me to talk with them, too. Christian helped me to understand what this is all about… why you're here. I don't know why I'm here, but I like it so far. You guys are my friends. I hope I don't disappoint you."
They heard the door open again. This time, Lawrence, Aaron, Fajib, Leander, Malawa, Naha, Shada, Uman, and Zander exited and approached the group. With some help, Uman and Washamat joined the group on the ground.
Before they got settled, Melissa and Bradley joined them.
Christian said, in response to Muzi's statement about disappointment, "We talked about that last night. There's no need for you to feel that you're in the way, or not wanted, or not needed, and that you cannot disappoint us. Just give everybody time. You'll feel a part of our families before you realize it."
John, Steve, Dale, Rachel, Jeremy and Bea exited the building. They approached the boys. John said, "Hey guys, and gal, sorry. What are you up to?"
Jared, elected spokesperson, replied, "We're going to talk about tomorrow, Dad. I know we're nervous about those investigators coming in to talk to us. Christian says he can help us get prepared."
John frowned. He so hoped the boys wouldn't have to be put through yet another stressor, but knew they had to. He said, "Boys, we'll be putting this behind us. Just tell them the truth. We're here to support you all the way. If you get overwhelmed just say so. They won't push you, and if they do then come get us."
Dale reiterated, "That's right. Luke, Jordan, Christian, Bradley – I'm going to talk with you later on today. But, John's right. Just tell the truth. It will set you free."
The door opened once again. Robbie and Carl exited and walked to their families. Robbie walked to Dog, petted her and received a thorough face licking causing him to squeal in happiness. Dog, tired out, soon laid back down. Robbie found a place to sit next to Carl.
John walked to each of his children, patted their backs, and said, "Boys, I need to go to the farmhouse to take care of some business. I should be back in a couple of hours. Meanwhile, I want you to relax. Your only duty today is to have fun. Do you hear me?"
The boys easily saw that John meant business. Each nodded their understanding and approval.
With that made clear, John headed to his motorhome and took off for the farmhouse.
Sheriff Brougham and Doctor Rand had arrived early in the morning. The forensic technicians arrived shortly afterward.
Once again, they searched the house looking for anything they may have missed yesterday. Nothing seemed out of order, and nothing appeared to have been overlooked. Except for a trap door to the attic. They knew it was there, but because of the late hour, they decided to put it off until today.
Also, during the night, they'd procured the crime lab motorhome. In it was everything needed to conduct a full scale crime investigation, perform lab testing, and hook into the state and national crime databases. Using Jim Blake's system to establish communications, they were pretty much connected and operational.
One of the technicians snagged a ladder from the top of the vehicle and took it to the master bedroom where the attic door had been found. Once it was set up and secure, he went up but found the room completely dark. The other technician went to the coach, retrieved two drop lights and returned. Since there was power to the house, they were plugged in and taken upstairs to the attic.
They looked all around and saw nothing too much out of the ordinary, except for four trunks sitting against a wall on the far side.
The trunks were old and dusty. Using small high-tech cameras, they captured sixty five pictures and immediately transmitted them to Jim's database for safekeeping. They then cleared the caches so that more pictures could be taken without fear of loss due to unforeseen technical complications.
The first technician reached for and touched the hasp in preparation of opening the trunk for further evaluation. The thing was hot, so hot that it nearly burnt his fingers. Each of the trunks were equally as hot.
Taking a different tact, the men looked all around the objects, paying special attention to finding the source of the heat. Using a lone unattached two by four, they used the object as a lever to gently pull the trunks away from the wall. They were firmly attached, but there was enough separation to peer down. Surprisingly, they saw a bunch of wires and cables going into and out of each trunk.
The second technician went downstairs and to the coach, retrieved two pair of thermal gloves, returned, and they were able to open each trunk with minimal difficulty.
Inside each of the trunks was computer equipment, likely mainframe and their connections to the outside world, but where did they go? The power lines outside were deemed unremarkable.
Meanwhile, after arriving, Dale, Adam and Jeremy meandered to a barn building to see what was in there.
Steve went inside of the house and returned to the computer terminals in one of the spare bedrooms made into an office.
Once again, he laboriously used every combination that he could think of to breach the security protocols, however the efforts produced no results.
He heard overhead activity, as though people were walking around just above the ceiling. He contemplated for a moment before getting up and walking through the lower levels of the house. Finding nothing, he went upstairs and heard men speaking. "Hello." He shouted.
The second technician approached the attic door and said, "We're up here. I understand that you know things about computers. We've found something that looks like a maze of mainframe boxes. They are operational, at least we think so. They're hot."
"Can I come up and take a look?"
"Sure. We're not that all that savvy with computers. Come on up."
Steve was led to the findings. "Those are mainframe computers. They're pretty sophisticated, too." He looked at the wires entering and exiting then added, "From what I can tell, these computers are relay systems… an intermediary if you will."
"Do you want us to power them down? It's really hard to fully check them out because of the heat."
"No. If they are indeed a pass-point, then we don't want to break any connections. My guess is that the big computers are not that far away. They are using an inordinate amount of power, which is why they are so hot. The power supply isn't enough. There's a lot of resistance."
The door to the barn was unlocked, but it was so heavy that it took all of them to open it just enough for a person to enter if they were sucking in their bellies and chests.
The men gazed from wall to wall looking for anything that could be deemed interesting, malevolent, or enlightening. The barn hadn't been used for livestock in many, many years. There were no smells of dung or animal sweat. Also, there was no smell evidence of decaying bodies. They walked around. Dale, hearing a humming noise, walked toward it. A small hallway opened into a birthing room. But, it was far from being an actual birthing room, instead there was an array of computer equipment all along the far wall. The LED lights were blinking. Most were green, but there were some yellow. This was way above his head.
Adam and Jeremy entered. Adam immediately realized the computers were highly sophisticated though old servers. He had a couple of very small ones at his home. They were used to hold his electronic business files. "Those are servers. I have two small ones, but these are huge. I can only imagine how much data is stored on them."
"Like what kind of data?" Dale inquired, wondering just what kind of data Adam was referring to. He didn't trust the man, but listened to get an idea of what they were looking at and what they were up against.
"Anything." Adam replied, then walked to the equipment and snooped around, looking for communication lines. A bank of metal shelving contained all kinds of amplifiers, relays, and a whole host of cable and telephone lines. All were operational.
Dale said, "Steve is the computer guru. I'm going to go get him. Be right back."
Steve was descending the ladder when Dale entered the room. Dale said, "Steve, we found a great big computer room in the barn. Would you come take a look-see?"
Steve looked at Dale with a curious expression and said, "Sure. The Sheriff needs to see the computer equipment, too. Ready?"
The two men took off toward the house. They found Sheriff Brougham and Doctor Rand carefully looking at the foundation. There was evidence of unearthing, likely from a long time ago, but still it would need to be investigated.
They walked to the sheriff. When they arrived, Dale said, "We've found some computer equipment in the barn. It looks big. But, then again, I'm not a computer whiz. Anyway, Steve and I are going to check them out, if it is okay with you?"
"That's fine. Just don't go interrupting anything. It's going to be a couple of days before the UM people get here. I'll call and ask them to bring in a team of computer savvy folk."
"This is big, really big." Steve announced as soon as he walked into the room. This was paydirt, Steve thought as he walked to the system and looked at it very carefully. The racks were impressive. From all outward appearances, the equipment held approximately eighty terabytes of storage … huge, huge, and huge.
A computer terminal was at one end of the large table being used as a desk. He woke it from sleep state. The monitor showed the user id kB375bwbc main, but no password… the area was blank and the blinking cursor was sitting on the left-most side of the field.
Once again, he entered several combinations, but had no luck getting inside of the monstrosity. He said, "This is probably the mother ship. I'm going to contact Jim Blake. This looks like maybe it is one of their systems." He got up from the terminal and squeezed his head between the wall and the racks to get a serial number. His suspicions were realized when the serial number started with BI and ended with the unit number 372302a. He entered them into a notepad entry on his phone. He then took pictures of the console and the racking.
John, meandering about the property, located a series of what appeared to be shallow graves, and based on their longest length, would be congruent with children, not adults. While the apparent graves were overgrown with weeds, there was a difference between the surrounding ground and what he believed to be actual graves. At first glance, he counted thirty seven, possibly thirty eight. Twenty five yards to the east was another clump of very small graves. Shivers went up and down his spine as he thought that maybe those belonged to infants or very, very tiny children. There were seventeen, possibly nineteen of them.
He decided he'd seen enough. Since there were no live victims on the property, he decided to return to the resort after notifying the sheriff of his findings. He'd made a promise to himself to be with his family much more than he had in recent history. His heart, heavy with grief, concern, and anger at what had been perpetrated on innocent children would only be conquered in the company of his natural born and soon-to-be-adopted children.
He approached Doctor Rand and said, "There are many what appear to be graves on the far end of the property. A clump of smaller graves are about twenty five yards east. If you need me, let me know, otherwise I'll be with my children over at the resort."
Without saying another word, and not listening for anything to be said by the coroner, John returned to the resort.
Dog came running toward him. The man, knowing what was about to happen, started to sit down on the ground, but before he could get there – was attacked with vengeance, all in play, of course. Then, just as quickly as the attack began, it ended leaving him no worse for the wear.
The boys were of absolutely no help. They were clapping and encouraging Dog to maul their father, physician and friend. Once again, Dog flopped on the ground, lowered her head and fell asleep despite the boys' cries for more.
John sat more or less in the center of the kids and listened to their accounts of having been on the receiving end of her exuberance. Matthew crawled into John's lap, nestled his head into his daddy's neck, and soon fell off to sleep. Stephen crept into a space between his baby brother and his father's arm, put his arm up and wrapped it around Matthew's waist and joined him in slumber. The boys, he could tell, were starving for his attention.
Jordan said, very softly, "You're loved, John."
John's eyes moistened. He made no effort to wipe them away, but replied, "I love you too, all of you. I'm going to be available as I should be. This whole experience is not turning out the way we planned."
Jared said, "It is okay, Dad. You're doing okay. We know you love us."
John nodded and said, "It's going to be different. I'm working on an idea. I can't tell you what it is right now. As soon as a few details are worked out, then I'll tell you."
Jordan spoke up, "I guess everything changed for your family when we came along, huh?"
"Actually, Jordan, you and Luke are blessings brought to our lives. Make no mistake, you've enriched our lives, so, please, don't blame yourselves for anything. It's uncalled for. I won't hear it."
Lawrence was about to pipe up, but John stopped him, "Don't. Don't even go there. You and Aaron are a part of my family. "
Luke asked, "Sir, what's going to happen… you know… to…" He didn't finish the statement, but rather looked to each of the new children just recently brought to the resort from a hellhole existence.
"I don't know. We've not talked about it."
Christian broke into the silence, "I would like to take them to my tribe. There they will receive everything they need. The Elders will take them in a, how do you say it? A heartbeat?"
"Your father loves you, Christian."
Meanwhile, once the two men separated from Steve busily working at the computer terminal, Dale and Jeremy headed outside to get some fresh air. Silently, they were worried about their children's safety despite reassurances that they were indeed safe. Jeremy held a secret that he could no longer bear to keep. "Dad, you and I need to talk. Let's head over to that tree."Dale looked at his oldest son with concern. He said, "Yes, I need to talk with you as well." They walked to the old oak tree about a hundred yards away in the front of the property. It was the same fallen tree that had prevented further entry of the vehicles to the house. Jeremy found a place to sit down and made room for his father to sit, too.
Jeremy reached into his right front pants pocket, retrieved an object and held it out to Dale, and said, "Dad, Rachel and I've decided to return home. This is why. It's the last straw."Dale took the object and looked at it very carefully. Jeremy said, "That's a camera."
Dale frowned as he rolled the very small object in his fingers. Jeremy continued, "Carl brought it to me. It had fallen to their bathroom floor. He didn't know what it was."
"Yes, their bathroom." Jeremy reached back into his pocket and retrieved two more, and continued, "I went to check out their room. One of these was in the air conditioning vent in their bedroom. The other was found in their living room."
"Son of a bitch. You heard them – they said our rooms were not rigged with monitoring equipment." Dale groused while handing the objects back to Jeremy.
"Well, that's not entirely true. Mister Masters and Marie both told us about the red button, and that monitoring would commence to determine what kind of emergency was happening – like fire, crime, etc. I don't think these belong to their systems."
Dale's face contorted from anger, "Do you know that for certain?"
"No. I've not shown them to anyone. I'm letting you know. Perhaps… perhaps these belong to Adam. I don't know for certain. I don't want to go off making allegations…"
"I do not trust him. Until proven otherwise those cameras belong to him."
"So, when are you planning to leave?"
"That's what I want to talk with you about. We're wanting to leave on Monday. Dad, I see no reason for Carl and Robbie to talk to the investigators.""I agree one hundred percent. Bradley may need to talk with them to give details about his mother's involvement with those hooligans in that church, and how it affected him."
"The fucker is dead."
"Ashwood is alive."
Jeremy's eyes opened wide, realizing that his father was absolutely correct. He'd heard just enough of the boys' stories that he felt they were indeed involved and that maybe, just maybe, Carl and Robbie needed to tell the investigators what they knew of Bradley's problems. He said, "Okay, you have a point there."
Dale nodded then said, his voice sounding sinister, "I wonder what involvement Adam may have in all of this, if any."
Jeremy's eyes, once again opened wide. He never thought of Adam as being something that would get involved in something so disgusting. His mind immediately went to Wayne…
Dale interrupted Jeremy's thoughts by saying, "There's something I need to talk over with you… I need your input." Jeremy nodded. Dale continued, "Luke and Jordan – they need to be with John's family."
Jeremy's first action was wonder. Before he could say anything, his father continued, "The fact is that they have bonded with John and his sons and Lawrence. Their bond runs deep, very deep. I do not want to break it. I can't."
"Have you talked with John?"
"No, not yet. That is about to change."
Before they could follow through, Sheriff Brougham approached. He said, "I think we have enough evidence here to declare this entire area a crime scene. I will need to interview the kids who lived here. Steve cannot get into the system so we're going to have the state crime lab look into this situation. Meanwhile, I'd like for you to return to the resort and stay away. I think we've only touched the surface."
"That's no problem, Sir." Jeremy said. Dale nodded. Jeremy retrieved the objects from his pants pocket and held them out to the sheriff. He continued, "Sheriff, my son and his best friend found these in their bath, living and bedrooms. These are cameras. They're highly sophisticated. And, while we do not think they belong to the resort… we do have an idea as to who planted them although we are unable to prove it."
"That's for me to determine. Who do you suspect?"
Dale added, "Sir, our boys have relayed information to me that you need to know – the boys, all of them, have spent a lot of time at the indoor swimming pool. The man, Adam Wright, has been taking pictures of them, telling me that he was making a scrapbook. I told him to cease and desist, that he does not have my permission to take pictures of any of the children."
Jeremy said, "The children, in many of the areas, do not wear clothing. The pool is one of those places. In fact, clothing is highly discouraged to prevent clogging of the filters."
Sheriff Brougham's expression turned grim. He said, "Do you know of any other children's rooms whose privacy is invaded?"
"Not yet, Sir. My dad and I are going back to the resort to check out the other suites."
The law enforcement officer grimaced, "I need to go with you." He pulled an evidence bag from his pocket, dropped in the camera objects, sealed it and replaced the bag into the pocket. "Wait here. I'll be right back."
The sheriff walked to the barn, advised his team that he needed to work another phase of the investigation, and told Steve to leave the system alone, thanked him for his involvement and assistance.
Dale said, "Sir, Steve is a computer whiz, perhaps he can give you more information about what was found…"
The sheriff retrieved the evidence bag and showed it to Steve.
Steve responded, nodding his familiarity with the objects, "Those are mighty sophisticated cameras. I've not seen them used outside of businesses such as banks, trading houses, interrogation rooms… places where minute detail is needed."
"Do they transmit?"
"Absolutely. Audio, visual, the whole works."
Once in Mister Masters' office, Steve, Dale and Sheriff Brougham stated their findings as it related to the audio-visual equipment. The sheriff went directly to the point, "Do you use these apparatuses anywhere in your facility?"
"No, Sir, although…" Mister Masters started to say then reached into his desk drawer, retrieved a magnifying glass and looked for the serial numbers. Once found, he continued, "Although these have BI, or Blake Industries, in their serial numbers, we do not use these models. They are older. We were just outfitted with more reliable equipment a few weeks ago."
Dale groused, "I hear what you are saying… is there any possibility that these were overlooked during the upgrade?"
"No. We didn't use these. In fact, as we explained, the red alarm buttons do indeed activate audio visual equipment to capture the event. Otherwise, our systems are not penetrable. Our staff are carefully screened."
Sheriff Brougham asked, "Here's the deal: allegations of impropriety have been made. Do I need a search warrant to check each of the resident's rooms, or will you accompany me and give permission as we go?"
"Warrants are not necessary. I will cooperate in any way. You have my assurance… we have nothing to hide."
Tony, standing outside Mister Masters' open office door, out of sight, heard the conversation, entered and said, "If it is okay, I would like to accompany you to make sure the children's interests are represented."
"That's not necessary." Sheriff Brougham responded, somewhat surprised that the man would enter and offer, demand that he be involved.
"I already represent the children. They've been through enough. The Feds are coming in tomorrow to question them… with this new and additional information, I feel that my presence is not only necessary, but helpful, too."
Sheriff Brougham considered Tony's points for a moment before agreeing, "Ok, you can be present. Your being there could help rather than to hinder. Are you going to require warrants?"
Tony considered for a moment before responding, "So long as your search does not infringe on their private belongings. If you wish to go this route then yes, warrants will be required. I will insist."
"The children are not suspects. I strongly suggest that they are victims of a demented mind." The sheriff made his point strongly.
Tony hesitantly nodded his understanding and agreement.
John approached the office. He just about turned to walk away but Dale caught his attention. Dale briefly explained what was happening.
Due to John's years of practicing self-control with regards to his patients, he didn't outwardly overreact at hearing that his children's privacy was potentially invaded, however he made it clearly known that he wasn't happy with the way things were going.
Sheriff Brougham requested and received zip lock freezer bags. They took off for the resident's rooms. Their first stop was Lawrence and Aaron's room.
There they found the same type of cameras in their bedroom. One was camouflaged as a flower on the lamp next to their bed. Two more were found in the bathroom. One was located above the shower enclosure. Another was found in the air conditioning vent. They were bagged and labeled.
Jordan and Luke's room was tossed, yielding the same results.
Christian's room was entered and inspected. One camera was found hugging the interior of the toilet bowl. Another above the shower enclosure. Two were located in his bedroom; one above the bed; the other in an air conditioning vent.
Michael and Eric's room yielded six camera objects. Their bedroom had three. The bathroom had two – one above the shower enclosure, one in the toilet. The last one was found camouflaged as a flower on the refrigerator.
Dalton's room had three cameras. Two in the bathroom… one inside the toilet; one above the shower enclosure; one in the air conditioning vent.
Stephen and Matthew's room was clear. John already knew that the boys had always slept with Jared.
Jared's room only had two cameras; one was above the shower enclosure; the other inside of the toilet bowl.
Bradley and Melissa's room held twelve of the objects. They were scattered about the suite. Four of the cameras were in their bedroom.
Seth and Wayne's rooms were empty.
Dale, pissed beyond words, hissed, "How in the hell did the cameras get into rooms not authorized to Adam? Shouldn't he only have access to Wayne's?"
Mister Masters' expression showed clear and convincing evidence that he had absolutely no idea how it happened. They had tested and retested scanning protocols, authorizations, and entries. Finally, he offered, "The corridors are always monitored. We can and will review all footage. It will show who and when their rooms were entered and exited."
All the while, Tony's heart was plummeting into the depths of his being. After all of the years of his friendship and professional relationship with Adam, everything was going down the drain, once again. He only thought he knew Adam, but was finding out that what they'd talked about long ago was basically – moot. He finally said, "I have some information that will shed light on what we've found. I'd like to talk about this in private."
On their way to Mister Master's office, they saw Adam and Wayne sitting in the lobby talking amongst themselves. Adam stood and walked to them. The expression on Tony's face told Adam the gravity of the situation. Tony said to the group, "Excuse me, I'll be right there."
The men headed to Mister Masters' office, however the Sheriff walked into a small alcove to observe the interaction.
Tony said, his voice betraying the discontent and decaying trust in his friend, "We are discussing the latest developments and findings concerning the former president of our great nation. They are disturbing. Because Wayne is not involved, there is not enough reason for you to be concerned about his wellbeing. Anyway, I need to go. I'll talk to you later."
Adam, noting a definite change in Tony's demeanor, nodded. Without a word said, he returned to Wayne. Just before Tony left, Adam said, "Tony, I want to talk with you about adopting Wayne. I've made my decision to continue."
"Okay, we'll talk about that." Tony hedged. They had indeed talked about it a number of times, but Adam had never made the decision to move forward.
Tony returned to Mister Master's office and closed the door behind him.
John opened the conversation, "Tony, is Adam involved? Could he be involved?"
Before Tony could respond, Dale groused, "Level with us. We're talking about our children here. You know what those kids are doing in the privacy of their rooms just as well as I do. Talk to us."
Tony's expression showed grave concern and a trace of confusion. Finally, he said, "Adam is my client. I cannot disclose any information that would infringe upon the relationship we have…"
Dale, now highly irritated, said, "Bullshit, Tony. I have not said anything, but it was brought to my attention, by several boys, that he was taking pictures of them for some kind of fucking scrapbook… they were taken at the pool… and you know damn well how the boys dress, or to be correct… how they don't dress. We're talking naked kids here, Tony. Naked. Boys have erections. Most gay kids have sex with other gay kids… it's just the way it is… they have enough problems with society… they do not deserve to have their privacy violated… what do you know, Tony? I'm asking you as a friend. Crimes are being committed."
"Fair enough. Understand that Adam has been and continues to be my client so there is certain privileged information that I cannot and will not disclose, however – a search of public records will find that shortly after the death of his wife and natural born son he was indicted, charged, tried, convicted and sentenced for producing and distributing child pornography. The feds had a compelling case. As his friend, I was convinced that he had turned… and, well, Adam is a good man. He's done many good things since getting out of prison. He's given of himself to those in need."
John sat back in his chair, contemplated for a moment before saying, "You mentioned a child taken in by Adam… what was his name? The farm kid."
"Oh, that would be James. Yes, absolutely. Adam gave the boy a home when he had nowhere else to go. I can assure you that James was never taken advantage of in any way, shape or form."
Sheriff Brougham brought out his PDA and entered some information. He asked, "What's the kid's name? I'll need to talk with him."
"James Richardson. I represented the child during his custody hearings and adoption proceedings. I would like to be present during any and all conversations."
"He's not a suspect, Tony." Sheriff Brougham stated, factually. "He does not need legal representation."
Tony then realized that he was being considered a suspect, or at least an accessory. He knew he was clear, but the law enforcement officer and the prosecutor would have to independently determine that for the case.
"I understand. Do as you must do. I will cooperate. I believe that now is the time to review footage to determine who and how the rooms were entered without authorization."
Mister Masters nodded after the sheriff said, "Perfect." He then pushed several buttons on the computer sitting to the right side of his desk.
A half hour into reviewing the tapes, Bea interrupted from the door, "John, Wayne's having a prolonged seizure…""Excuse me." John replied then got up and followed her into the lobby where Wayne lay on the floor while suffering a severe seizure. Adam was attending to the child.
For a moment, John wanted to drop kick the man into next week, but his patient took priority. He said, "Let's get him to the clinic. Somebody, grab a blanket."
Bea ran to the cafeteria to procure a blanket left there by one of the kids. She got two then returned and helped Adam wrap the child to prevent exposure to the cold air outside.
Once in the clinic, Adam carried the boy into the operatory, gently laid the somnolent child on the bed and watched John and Bea go into action. They started an IV and then administered several medications into the tubing. The medicines worked quickly and effectively.
John said, "The boy needs to be airlifted to a hospital better equipped to diagnose and treat him. There's more going on here than I thought. I've titrated his dosage to the maximum end of the spectrum… there is more to his condition than I originally thought."
Adam said, "I've been thinking about taking us back to Wichita. There is a wonderful children's hospital, and the rehab facility. He's regressing."
"No, Adam. Returning to Wichita is not an option; not at this time. His condition is very serious. Time is of the essence."
Adam looked to Wayne lying naked and exposed on the hospital bed. The boy, despite his teenage boy size, looked so very small and helpless. If he could just get Wayne back to his familiar surroundings, he would improve. If he got back to rehab the regression would soon end. Yet, the disapproving expression on John's face told a completely different story. He turned to Bea only to find the same grave expression in her demeanor. "Then, have him airlifted to Wichita. He will get better if he's in his familiar surroundings. He did so much better after he moved to my home."
John knew that Adam had bigger problems that would soon be made known to him, so he relented, "Which hospital would you like him to go to?"
"Wesley Medical Center. They are the best there is." Adam replied, hopefully then added, "I'll take him straight there."
"Adam, I cannot let you do that. He needs constant monitoring. And he has an IV. If he was to experience a seizure… then he would be in serious trouble… and there is a lot of nothing between here and there. No, he needs to be on a medivac flight. I'll make the arrangements."
Adam knew he was going nowhere with arguing the point. Besides he looked at the boy once again and decided that he deserved the best medical care available. "Okay. I understand. There isn't anything keeping me here. I'll get our stuff gathered up and take off."
"Good. I'll be back in a little while. Bea, if he suffers another seizure, come get me ASAP."
John went into his office and phoned his brother at Fort Leonard Wood. He was promised a flight within two hours. He then called Mister Master's office using the inter-facility phone system, "Wayne has suffered a severe seizure. I am having him airlifted to Fort Leonard Wood. Adam is getting their stuff together and will be leaving shortly for Wichita."
The physician returned to the operatory. He found Wayne sleeping and breathing deeply, rhythmically and regularly. A quick check of the boy's reflexes reassured John that his patient hadn't suffered a stroke or other catastrophic event as a result of the seizure.
11:30AM, Topeka, Kansas
Aiden Stryker, at age 14, 5'9" and 131 pounds, though not the star player for the team, definitely contributed to this championship football game as a small wiry receiver who didn't drop balls, stumble and fall, do his own thing, or forget plays. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the team was down six to three. At the two minute warning, they were still deadlocked. Although they had been unable to score, neither had the opposing team due to their stellar defense.
At forty five seconds and third down, in the huddle, the quarterback called the play. They smacked hands and butts then settled into their positions.
On first down, a delay of game penalty knocked them back to the thirty eight yard line.
Second down resulted in an overthrown pass but Aiden got a touch on it. That stopped the clock. To win, they had to have a six point touchdown and the point after. A field goal would only tie them up. Both sides of the ball were tired from playing so hard.
The coach called a timeout to regroup the team. He knew they could get it, but had to concentrate just like they'd done all season. Their standings were eight wins, one loss. He knew they'd worked so hard to get where they were right now. "Okay Stryker, you're up. Run an out and cross pattern. Their secondary doesn't have a chance. You've done it before. Now is the time to rise and go above the line. Go guys. Bring home the trophy."
Third down gained seventeen yards on a deep out to Aiden, but he couldn't break free to go into the end zone, but they got a first down, and got out of bounds to stop the clock. Even though they had a new set of downs, the clock was working against them.
Two incomplete passes, a fumbled and recovered ball took them down to fourth down. The clock had four seconds on it. It was do or die time. The coach had one last play to execute, one that may just get them in the end zone for a touchdown. It was a huge chance because they'd tried and failed the play three times during the season. The coach left the decision to play it to the quarterback. This would be the last play of the game and the season.
Herndon, the quarterback, asked the coach for the field goal team to set up for three points, but instead of kicking the ball, they'd try faking it and have the kicker throw for a touchdown. The referee was close by so coach, buying into the plan, called him over to make Aiden a safety. The boy, not a big player by any stretch of the imagination, experienced a shiver running up and down his spine. If he missed, he'd be annihilated, but if he got loose then it was all over – they'd surely win the game.
The opposing team read the play like a book. Aiden's fears became reality. He was plastered to the ground, causing the breath to be knocked out of his lungs, and then another defensive player pummeled him with a cleat to his groin. Although he was wearing a hard plastic cup, the damage to the surrounding area was catastrophic causing him to assume the fetal position in withering agony.
The good news was the quarterback was able to worm his way through the middle. With two good blocks, he was able to go into the end zone, scoring six points, and winning the game. Aiden, still not breathing normally, managed to get up and hobble to the sideline, and celebrate the win with his team.
The extra point was good. They won the game and the championship ten to seven.
Because they were at the opposing team's stadium, the crowd wasn't quite as raucous as it would have been had they played at home, but, still it was good.
The entire coaching staff and team thought the game was over, put in the bag, and would be going home victorious.
The crowd began running down the bleachers toward the field, but the referee's constant blowing on the whistle caused everyone to look up at the clock to see what was happening. The clock had one second on it. The game wasn't over just yet.
Aiden, still reeling from the pummeling, and a member of the offense, sat out as their kicker kicked a huge kick deep into the end zone. The receiving team took the ball out, broke through three tackles, then the receiver was in open field, and ran the ball all the way to the end zone for the winning touchdown. The extra point was good. The final score: fourteen to ten.
Steel Pierson, the team's chief trainer made his way to Aiden and helped the dejected player into the locker room, and on into the training room, and closed the door. "You took one hell of a shot. It was a dirty play. The coach is going to protest the fact that an unnecessary roughness penalty wasn't called."
"It won't change anything. We still lost. I'm okay. Can I go?"
"You know the drill, Stryker."
"Yeah, well I tried."
Tommy Jenkins, the team center, wearing only a jockstrap, knocked on the training room door then let himself in and closed the door behind him. "Dayumm dude. God dang. Don't worry, coach is going to protest. He said so."
Speaking of the coach, he didn't knock on the door and entered the training room to see his trainer peeling off Aiden's uniform. He then used a pair of scissors to cut away the jock. Tommy took it and tossed into the trash can. Aiden, at the trainer's insistence, slowly hoisted himself onto the table and made a great effort to spread his legs enough to check out his bits. His bits were fine, but his groin was already turning an angry red from being smacked. Two cleat marks were seen on the periphery. They didn't puncture the skin, but the indentations showed that if the player had weighed another pound then the skin would have been broken.
Tommy reached into a refrigerator and pulled out an ice bag and was about to apply it but the trainer said, "Don't put that on his nuts. Freezing cold will mess up sperm production, not that Aiden is a baby maker, mind you. Are you, Aiden? Are you a baby maker?"
That earned Tommy a full-fledged one fingered salute. Tommy grinned then moved Aiden's penis and balls around. Finding nothing wrong with those vital organs, Aiden got up and headed for the door to go shower and get dressed. When he exited the room he very nearly ran into Brandon, his seventeen year old brother who'd come to check on his baby brother. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. No damage to vital structures. But thanks. You can go now." Aiden said, knowing his brother wouldn't leave, but hey, he had to defend his honor.
As he passed the door into the locker room, he saw his father standing just inside looking at him with concern and curiosity in his expression. "Hey Dad. I'm okay. Nothing was seriously damaged. I'll soon be making babies for you and mom to dote on. Mom didn't come down, did she?"
"No, Son. She didn't come down. She wouldn't do that to you."
Aiden grinned and rolled his eyes up into his head. Quickly, he crossed the plane of the door and headed into the shower room. Tommy stripped off his jock and tossed it into the trash can then joined his friend.
"Good game, Stryker. We fell short. There's always next year." One of his teammates said pleasantly.
The elder Stryker and his oldest son exited the locker room and made their way to the concession stand where his wife was anxiously awaiting word on her baby son. Stryker said, "He's going to be okay. He's promised us grandchildren."
Sara, his wife and the children's mother snorted and very nearly spilled a wax paper cup filled with tea she was handing her husband. She quickly recovered and looked into Charles' eyes hoping her guffaw didn't disclose too much information.
Meanwhile, Aiden showered and Tommy helped him to dress in jeans and a t-shirt then a button up flannel shirt over that.
The custom was for parents to take turns taking the boys out for pizza after a game, whether or not they won. This time was Charles' and Sara's turn. Stryker knew that he was going to have to cut this one short because he was scheduled to interrogate the younger Phillips boy at 2:00PM.
Aiden, sitting next to his father whispered, "Thanks for coming, Dad. You're being here means the world to me."
"Have I ever missed one of your or your brother's games?"
"Well, no. I'm just glad you're here."
Stryker patted his son's back then got busy eating the pizza that was just delivered. He could tell his boy was hurting, and from what he'd seen, Aiden was going to be sore for a few days. Although the boys were somewhat subdued, they were a lively bunch despite the loss.
"Tommy's going to spend the night, okay? Thanks, Dad."
"Ha ha, what if I'd said no?"
"You won't. You love him as much as you love me." Aiden said, grinning.
"Not quite, but close. Say, I'm going to have to leave and do some work at the office this afternoon. I'll be home early. We can grill some burgers or something. Meanwhile, I want you to take a cool bath. You're going to be sore down there."
"Yip. Will do. Uhm, I need to talk to you sometime soon. It's important." Aiden asked. Stryker saw that his son was seriously cautious.
"Anytime. I'm off tomorrow. I want to take you to the gun shop. They've got a nice 9mm you need to see. We could do breakfast."
Stryker kissed his wife and hugged his oldest son and then took his leave and headed to the juvenile detention center to 'interview' Edmond Phillips, the younger punk kid involved with indescribable crimes against children younger than he.
He stopped at his office to check phone messages. The prosecutor had called twice reminding him that the seventy two hour hold was quickly closing in. He grabbed a manila envelope from a bottom drawer of his desk, looked at it intently, then set his jaw and headed to the juvenile detention center loaded for bear.
The audio-visual equipment was already set up. Allen Freer, homicide investigations, was available to help interview the younger Phillips boy but Stryker thanked him and said that he would be just fine.
"So what's the story on him?"
"He's not talking to me. His brother is squealing like a pig. He's putting everything on his brother. A real piece of work."
"How hard did you work them?"
"Not very. I simply went in there on a fishing expedition. Like I said the younger kid isn't talking."
"He's thirteen. What do you expect? Does he have an attorney?"
"Yeah, a public defender. Rupert."
"That's strange. The family has megabucks."
"Seized. Do you want him restrained?"
Freer grinned and chuckled, "You may want to rethink that. The punk got into a fight this morning. Knocked the shit out of another kid."
Stryker sternly stated, "Nah, I don't need protection. I've got him by the balls. And – fuck Rupert."
Freer suffered from chills running up and down his spine at knowing the ruthlessness his boss and his interrogation technique instructor was more than capable of.
Stryker carried the manila folder into the interrogation room set aside for his discussion with one of the youngest youthful sexual offenders he'd ever worked. He entered the room then tossed the evidence packet on the table, dismissed the jailer, reached for the recorder and flipped the switch to the 'on' position. The recorder was only a decoy. The room was already monitored by a sophisticated audio-visual system. But, the offender didn't know that, and he had no plans to say otherwise.
He noted the boy to have a dark bruise on his left cheek, redness in the eye, was favoring his left arm, and had swollen knuckles on both of his hands. "I see that you've been welcomed to your new home." Stryker said, callously.
"I was jumped."
"Well, gee whiz. And, just why do you think you were jumped?"
The kid didn't answer the question. Instead he shifted in his seat and leaned forward. Stryker wondered if the kid had been properly indoctrinated. The boy, he thought, wasn't capable of defending himself. He appeared to be around 5'0" and between 90-95 pounds. His arms were thin as were his legs, from what he could see. The jumpsuit was two to three sizes too big for him.
Stryker sat down then slammed his arm down on the table causing the youth to nearly jump out of his seat. "Talk to me. Tell me everything you know. I've got all day and night and tomorrow and tomorrow night. You will not be permitted to sleep until my questions are answered, do you understand where I'm going with this?"
"Yes, Sir." Edmond replied, respectfully. The response was exactly what Stryker anticipated. The kid, he could tell, wasn't a bully and was easily intimidated.
"Here's what we have on you. First, your DNA was identified at the crime scene… specifically in your grandfather's house, in the basement, on a boy close to your age, on a black tube that had been inserted into the boy's rectum. A DNA test from sperm inside of the victim's rectum has been determined to be yours, and only yours. Do you deny any knowledge of how your sperms got inside of him?"
"My attorney said for me to not answer these kinds of questions."
"Oh, that's fine. But, I'm not on a fishing expedition. I am speaking to you about cold hard facts. DNA is factual evidence. It is not subjective. How did your DNA get inside of him? Did you put your penis inside of his anus?"
Stryker smiled. The boy shifted his eyes away toward the right side, over Stryker's right shoulder, then returned his gaze toward his interrogator. A sign the kid was telling the truth.
"Then, pray tell… you know all about praying, correct? I mean after all your grandfather was a preacher…"
"Faggots are to burn in hell for all of eternity. I am not a faggot. This world is having so many problems because of gays. America is doomed. I would never cross my grandfather. Ever."
"Now, that's an interesting observation, but we'll come back to it later. How did your DNA get inside of the boy? This is a simple question."
"My attorney said for me to not answer these kinds of questions." Edmond replied.
"Fair enough. Again, the facts speak for themselves. At the very least, you are facing a charge of aggravated first degree rape. It's good for – let's see… I can recommend to the prosecutor that you are a prime candidate to have your case tried in adult court. My, my, a thirteen year old in an adult prison…"
Edmond's eyes opened wide. A shiver went up and down his spine. He couldn't help but to shake in his seat. Again, he squirmed. Stryker could tell that the boy was very carefully considering his last statement. The boy's gaze returned to his. The child was scared shitless. Stryker's gaze bored holes into the boy's soul.
"I did not rape him. I did not do it."
"But, you were going to… remember Edmond, your grandfather was quite clever when it came to taping everything that was done to any and all of the kids brought into his care and custody. You did know about that, right?"
Edmond shrugged his shoulders. After a moment of silence he answered, "Then you know that I didn't have sex with him."
"Did you want to… you know, have sex with him?"
"Gay is an abomination to all mankind. It is completely unnatural. It's against all of God's teachings."
"That may be true. I doubt it though. But, it still doesn't answer my question – did you want to have sex with him?"
Once again he shrugged his shoulders and said, "I think he wanted to have sex with me. I mean he felt me up…"
"So, you would have had sex with him had the circumstances been different?"
Edmond shifted in his seat. He stood up and began pacing the floor. The intensity in his expression told Stryker that the boy was carefully considering the question and was attempting to answer the question without going over the line, that he just maybe would have had sex if the circumstances were indeed different. Stryker said, gently, "What is wrong is forcing sex upon an unwilling partner. This is true for gay or straight. Wrong is wrong. The facts are that your DNA was found on, near and inside of the victim's anus and lower rectum. This is, as I said before, good enough for a rape charge. Because the victim was tied up, this ups the charge to aggravated premeditated rape. As I said before, there is sufficient evidence to up the charges to the adult level."
Edmond frowned and shifted his gaze to look into the man's eyes. He sat down, leant forward, placed his elbows on the table and held his hands out, palms up, and said, "He pushed me. I had no choice."
"He pushed you? Who did that?"
The boy once again arose from his seat and began pacing the floor on his side of the table, pondering if he should give his grandfather to the man who was staring him down.
"Sit down. You do know that withholding evidence is a crime. You seem pretty smart. All we are after is the truth. A lot of people were hurt. They deserve justice. It's time for you to man up. It's time to deal with this. I give you this one promise – your grandfather will not have any opportunity to punish you."
"And, if I tell you what I know… then what?"
"If you tell me truth that can be verified with facts then it will be easier on you. Plus, and this is a big plus – you'll have told the truth. Despite any punishment that comes down, you'll relax by knowing that you did the right thing."
The boy pondered Stryker's statement for a moment before sitting down and looking directly into his interrogator's eyes for another moment before saying, "I lost control of myself. I'm probably gay. It's true that Jose, that's his name, and I would probably have gotten together, as you say, had the circumstances been different. When I was pushed toward him and touched him … I lost control. I shot my stuff. But, I didn't rape him. I didn't go inside of him. I swear."
"You would have, correct?"
"But I didn't."
"Only because you shot your stuff, correct?"
Edmond nodded his acknowledgement.
"Thank you for telling the truth. This will reduce the charge to an attempt. So long as it is only an attempt, I do not see the prosecutor sending your case to adult court. Tell me – do you have any recognizable physical characteristics about your body that is different than anyone else's? This can include scars, pigmentations… anything that sets you apart from most everyone else?"
"Pigmentations? What does that mean?"
"Birthmarks, discolorations, skin tags… basically anything that looks different than surrounding skin." Stryker explained. Then added, "By the way, the doctor who processed you in reports a peculiar birthmark. Once again, this is fact. I need to hear it from you. It's another truth test. Tell me the truth and I'll go as easy as I can, otherwise…"
"I have a birthmark. It's on my penis. It kinda looks like a crescent moon. I have another one on my knee. It's just a dark spot."
Stryker nodded in agreement. "Remember, the questions that I'm asking you are based in fact. I'm asking them to get your truth about the facts. Nothing more. Nothing less. Do we have this understanding?"
"Good." Stryker said. He opened the manila folder, removed the first picture, an enlarged glossy print then laid it on the table so that it faced Edmond. Continuing, "Again, Edmond, we're dealing with facts… do you recognize the birthmark in this picture as being yours?"
The boy looked down then nodded and said, "That's mine."
Stryker noted the boy showed no sign of embarrassment. Knowing his sons and how modest they were, he found Edmond's reaction quite unusual, except that he saw the boy's eyes moisten. His eyes weren't wet enough for tears, but they were enough to determine Edmond was indeed embarrassed.
"In your bedroom, our forensics team found stains on your sheets. Some of the stains were from emissions; some were from feces; some were saliva; some were unidentifiable. Some were yours. Some matched to your brother, Jeffrey. When our doctor examined you the other day, he found your anus to be inflamed, red, and quite swollen. Jeffrey's DNA was found inside of you. Facts. Just facts. Were you and Jeffrey sexually active with one another?"
Edmond nodded, "Yes, Sir."
"Did you give permission for him to penetrate you?"
Edmond shrugged his shoulders and slightly shook his head, "I had no choice, Sir. It was either I give it to him or he'd beat me up until I gave in, so I gave in which kept me from getting … you know… raped."
"So… consensual sex between brothers is not totally out of the picture, meaning it is not determined to be absolutely wrong – so long as permission is requested and given. Did he ever ask you for permission?"
"I was curious."
"Did you ever… what's the term? Did you… did he receive your penis as in did you insert your penis into him?"
"No, Sir. Never. God, this is embarrassing… Sir, I mean, well, I preferred… I know this doesn't sound right… but I felt better when… you know… when I received. I like to be… fucked… sorry, Sir."
"No apologies are necessary. Everybody has their sexual preferences. I do have a bit of a problem with your preferences, however… when the doctor examined you, do you remember him putting a cotton swab into the opening of your penis?"
"Yes, Sir. That hurt."
"I'm sure it would be painful. If you prefer to receive, again we have laboratory confirmation – in other words – facts… the sample he removed contained feces. It is also confirmed that you have a urinary tract infection. The bacteria is commonly found in the colon. Now, let me show you something… again, we're talking about facts, and only facts."
With that said, Stryker removed eighteen enlarged but not otherwise modified pictures. He spread them across the table, facing Edmond. The boy did not look down. Instead, his eyes filled with tears and they rolled down his cheeks. Quickly, he reached his hands up and using his fingers as if they were squeegees wiped them away, but new ones replaced them. The boy's shoulders heaved as he valiantly tried to maintain his composure. A long string of snot exited his nose, suspended itself then strung down and touched the table. He didn't bother to wipe it away, instead he started crying. Between sobs, he cried, "I'm sorry. I'm a piece of shit. I'm a piece of fucking shit. Kill me. Just kill me. Please kill me."
"We can't do that. That's up to a jury. And, the jury does not have an option to sentence a child your age to death. Please look at the pictures. Confirm or deny the penis with the crescent birthmark you see in them to be yours or someone else's." Stryker said, softly.
Edmond got up, walked to the corner of the room to a trash can, blew his nose into it then wiped the remnants from his fingers onto the jumpsuit he was wearing. He returned to the table and sat back down and looked at the pictures, and said, "It's mine. Jeffrey did it, too. He did babies. I wouldn't, but he did."
Stryker nodded to acknowledge his understanding. He went on to ask, "Our lab identified twenty two different little kids. They all appear to be between three and ten years old. Where were these children taken to? Where are they?"
"I don't know. Honest, I don't know. All I know is that Grandfather took them away."
"You never saw them again?"
"I didn't say that. I said Grandfather took them, but I don't know where. With God as my witness, I swear I don't."
"So you did see them again?"
"For more sex?"
"Sometimes? What about other times?"
"They'd sleep with me. I swear to God that I tried to make it up to them… I was so sorry. Please, Sir, just kill me. I'm going to hell anyway, so just kill me… don't give me another thought… I'm just a piece of shit. I'm worthless."
"As I explained, we can't do it. I wouldn't do it anyway. I have two additional very difficult questions to ask then I'm going to let you go back to your cell."
"Go ahead, Sir. I have to tell the truth. It's got to stop. I can't take it anymore." Edmond said with his eyes once again filling to the brim. The tears started running down his cheeks. With not a trace of doubt, Stryker saw that they were coming from deep within Edmond's heart and soul.
"When did your abuse begin? How old were you when your Grandfather started perpetrating sex on you?"
Edmond completely lost it. He began sobbing uncontrollably and he started hitting his head with his fists. Then he scooted the chair back and fell to the floor on his hands and knees and began pounding his head on the concrete floor. Stryker got up from his seat, rushed around the table, grabbed the boy and held him out so that he wouldn't hurt himself. At the same time, the jailer hearing the commotion quickly unlocked the interrogation room door, entered and took the boy from Stryker's arms and sat him back in the chair. Edmond cried, sobbing, "My mom… my mom… she… she… she held me… I remember my face rubbing on the cold sheets in my crib. She would scream for me to be quiet. Sometimes she'd beat me until… until… I couldn't scream anymore."
Stryker nodded to the jailer. The man, seeing the inmate was under control, left the office but did not lock the door on his way out.
Meanwhile, Freer, watching everything from the console, wiped away tears from his eyes. Finally, he put his head down and started crying, nearly uncontrollably, as memories began flooding his mind… so much so that he drew his weapon and placed the tip to his head and pulled the trigger.
Although, in the interrogation office, the sound was muffled, Stryker rushed around the table, grabbed Edmond and took him to the floor using his body as a shield. The jailer entered and whisked them off down the hallway, then they took off down the stairs toward the jail. Once there, the jailer grabbed Edmond, but Stryker tightly held onto the boy and told the jailer that he had the child under control, and that the situation had to be neutralized before he would let go.
All law enforcement staff on the first floor ran from office to office to determine the source of what was clearly a gunshot. Two of the staff opened the door to Freer's office to see the detective slumped over his desk, obviously deceased.
Edmond, meanwhile, was pleading and pleading and pleading with Stryker to let him go so that he could get killed, that he wanted to die, that he no longer wanted to live, that he was so wrong for doing what he knew was wrong, but couldn't stop what he'd done.
Stryker, a seasoned law enforcement officer, hearing the child begging and pleading that he wanted to die, thought of his children and how he'd held them when they were little kids when they were scared. Without even thinking, without hesitation, he pulled Edmond into his arms and held on tightly. He didn't even care that he was blowing the case all to hell, that he'd completely lost his objectivity, and that he would never again get a chance to unravel the mysteries surrounding the whole ordeal. With his paternal instincts going full bore, he picked up the child and sat him in his lap and held firmly even though the child was begging to die.
The jailer returned. He just stood there watching the seasoned law enforcement officer consoling one of the most prolific prisoners they'd ever had in Topeka's juvenile system.
Edmond's sobs ebbed and flowed. One minute he'd recover; the next minute would find him uncontrollably sobbing. Fifteen, maybe twenty minutes later, the child calmed. Stryker noted the child's breathing became regular, deep, rhythmical, and peaceful. Stryker looked to the jailer and said, "Put him into protective custody, on my orders. He goes on suicide watch. He does not have any contact with any other inmate. He showers alone. He sleeps alone. He goes outside alone."
"We're not going anywhere, Sir. The building is on complete lockdown."
"Understood. The doctor needs to see him, too. This kid is not a monster. The courts may see his crimes differently, though."
The boy stirred and opened his eyes. Stryker said, "The building is on lockdown. This means that nobody moves anywhere in this building. Right now, we're here."
"I've gotta use the restroom, Sir. It can't wait." Edmond said and got up, held his hands out so that the jailer could cuff him and then waited not too patiently.
"I've got it." Stryker said. They then went to the unisex restroom. Stryker led the boy inside then stepped out and closed the door to give the kid some privacy. Then he heard glass breaking. He quickly rushed the door. His first glance revealed Edmond with a piece of broken mirror and was holding it to his neck. "Don't do that. Put it down, now. Don't make this hard on yourself. Put it down, NOW! DO IT, NOW!" Stryker commanded.
Edmond stared into Stryker's eyes. Instead of surrendering the weapon, he extended his arm and started the trajectory toward his neck. Stryker, knowing he had but a half a second before the glass touched the kid's neck, lunged and grabbed the glass a mere nanosecond before the object struck Edmond's neck. He wrestled the glass away, tossed it into the hallway, then took Edmond into custody by pinning Edmond's arms behind his back and leaned him against the wall. In the process, the man saw the toilet bowl. In addition to floating objects, there was a lot of blood in the water, too much to ignore even though consensual and nonconsensual sex amongst inmates was not all that unusual. Plus, this kid needed psychiatric help in the worst possible way.
"I'm going to release my hold on you. Understand this though… if you so much as think you're going to get loose – think again. Are you going to comply?"
Edmond nodded. He closed his eyes then leant his head against the cold tile wall. "I'm going to take you to medical. You will be compliant. You will let the doctor do his thing. Do you agree to these terms? If not, then you'll go back to your cell … I won't promise anything."
"Why didn't you just let me die? I'm a piece of shit. I did wrong."
"Yes, you did do wrong. And you will be punished. I want you to think long and hard about remembering where those little kids were taken. If you know anything, anything at all then you need to tell me. If you want to do right, then you will help me, not hinder me. If you know where they are, and they are injured or worse, then you'll be held accountable. This is the way it is."
"They were taken away. I don't know where. I swear I don't know."
"Does your brother know?" Stryker asked, thinking that the two boys were not all lovey, lovey with one another. After years of sexual abuse, how could Edmond not have animosity toward at least one of his abusers?
"He took the babies to either Grandfather or Mother. I don't know where they were taken, only that they were."
Three jailers approached the little room Stryker and the boy were holed up in. Each had a pair of cuffs. One was holding a body restraint. Another, a law enforcement officer, had his hand resting on his holstered gun.
Stryker said, "These men are going to escort you to medical. And, I do not want you talking about what we've talked about. Not to anyone, including your lawyer. Remember, everything we've talked about is collaboration with facts. Nothing more. Nothing less. I am going to speak with the prosecutor. I can't promise anything. Let me do my job." He turned to the jailers, "He won't give you any trouble." To Edmond he asked, "Did you knowingly do what we talked about while knowing that everything was being photographed and captured on video?"
"I knew we were being photographed. Grandfather had cameras all over the house. I figured he was… videotaping, too."
"Do you know if those pictures and videos were being transmitted anywhere?"
"One last question… do you know what was being done with the test tubes? I know that your DNA gathered from sperm was in at least one test tube?"
"My Grandfather told me and Jeffrey, many, many times that we were beautiful children."
"How often did you have to give your sperm?"
"Three times a week. Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday's."
"Did Jeffrey give his samples, too?"
"We did it together. I'd hold his. He'd hold mine. Test tubes, that is."
"Were there other boys, other than for the boy you identified as Jose?"
"Yes, Sir. I didn't know their names. I'd get their samples. That's all I did."
"You didn't restrain them?"
"Grandfather would hold them down while I locked the restraint locks."
"You didn't do anything to them?"
"Grandfather was going to teach me how to initiate a new person."
"And what does 'initiate' mean?"
"I don't know, Sir. I'd not done it before. He was going to teach me."
"What about Jeffrey?"
"I don't know, Sir. He was pissed at me. He was supposed to do the first one, but Grandfather wanted me to do it instead."
Stryker looked to the jailers. Their expressions showed anger and resentment. He decided to escort the child offender to medical himself once restriction was lifted. He relaxed his hold on the boy, turned him so they were face to face. He could see the child was contrite, and his behaviors showed profound remorse and regret. Because restraint was required for travel to the administrative and medical areas, he accepted a child size pair of handcuffs, and placed them appropriately for conditions, meaning they were fairly loose.
Twenty minutes later the all-clear was announced over the loudspeakers. With the jailers in tow, Stryker led Edmond to the medical unit, gave Doctor Fairchild, a stout woman, a brief account of what he'd seen both mentally and physically. When he left the area, Edmond was being led into an exam room.
Stryker returned to the interrogation area and was briefed about the suicide. He knew Freer and his family, but not as much as he probably should have known. He said he would make official notification to the next of kin, a job he absolutely hated.
11:30AM, Saturday, November 12, 2012 CST,
Ozarks Resort, Missouri
Once Wayne was stabilized, John returned to the resort, Mister Masters' office. There he saw the men still reviewing the audio-visual captures. Dale said, "We've not found anything yet. Uhmm, will you all excuse me? I need to speak with John about a couple of things."
"Sure, that's fine. Your presence is not required." Sheriff Brougham said, dismissively.
Dale took no offense, got up and walked into the corridor and said, quietly, to John, "I'd like to speak with you about something confidential. Can we go to my room?"
John nodded. They headed to the residential area. John said, "I have coffee made…"
They entered John's room. John closed the door and walked into the kitchen with Dale following.
John poured them cups of freshly made coffee, sat down and waited for Dale to speak.
Dale dropped the bombshell, "John, Luke and Jordan belong with you and your family."
John, clearly taken aback by Dale's statement, set his cup on the table and looked down for a moment before looking up and responding, "Those boys look up to you, Dale."
Dale took in a deep breath, "That may be true. But it is you that they love. The boys and me, well… we haven't talked all that much. I've tried to engage them. They talk about your kids… like they're brothers. I'm also cognizant that Lawrence is their closest ally. I'm not sure what's going to happen, but I believe separating them would be the wrong thing to do. They've been through so much… already."
John nodded and waited for Dale to expose his deepest feelings.
"John, my family, we've decided to go back home. There are just too many things going wrong. The deal with Adam is the last straw. If Luke and Jordan were to come with us then they'd be separated from the family they do truly love and depend on. What are your thoughts? I'm sorry to spring this on you without warning."
John pondered Dale's question for a moment before replying, carefully choosing his words, "Ever since Luke and Jordan came to live with us, then when Lawrence, then Aaron and Dalton were brought into my home… I, too, have noted their bonding. As you said, it happened quickly, and it is deep, and I believe it is long-lasting, permanent even.
At the same time, when we were at home, they talked about you quite often. They are eternally grateful that you came along and picked them up. Also, as you know, they found the little mirror experience quite entertaining."
Dale grinned his agreement. John also grinned then continued, "As far as my children, both biological and acquired, I'm not sure what I'm going to do. The hospital where I worked is destroyed. There's nothing left of it. My roots are there. It is where my children rooted, too, as well as where they went to school. They had a few friends who had big impacts on their lives. I had friends, too. I haven't brought it up, but I've been thinking the same things you are – such as our safety and well being, and what we're going to do on a more permanent basis.
My question back to you is this: what do you want to do? I understand and agree what you are saying about the boys' bonds."
Dale mulled over the question – the same question he had posed, only tossed back. "Would you consider keeping Jordan and Luke? I just hate to take them away from people they love and care for."
"More?" John inquired, noting Dale's cup was empty and his was getting cold. He also wanted a moment to consider all options, mainly to feel out what would be best for the kids. After refilling their cups, he once again sat down and looked into Dale's eyes. Continuing, "I agree. However, before we make the decision and take the action, we should consult the boys, Luke and Jordan to see what their thoughts are, where their hearts lie." A knock on the door interrupted their discussion.
Luke locked Dog's kennel gate while Jordan filled her food and water dishes. They were worn out. Dog had been very exuberant during her morning romp. She kept coming to them, largely ignoring the other boys.
Once Dog was settled in and lovingly patted, the boys headed to the adult commons area to find Dale to see if they could play games on his laptop computer. He was not there. Neither was any other adult. They walked to the hallway and headed for Dale's room. He wasn't there, either.
Adam exited just as they walked past his door, "Hey guys, what's up?"
"Nothing much. We were looking for Dale or John. Do you know where they are?"
"Nope. I haven't seen them for a while. Are they in the commons area?"
"Nuh uh. Okay, we'll keep looking. Thanks." Luke replied, respectfully. At the same time, he noticed the man carrying what appeared to be a small camera. The hair on the back of Jordan's neck raised. A shiver went up and down Luke's spine. He asked, pointing to the object in Adam's hand, "What's that for?"
"Oh that. I'm adding to the scrapbook. One day we'll be able to look back and remember our experiences here at the resort. Wouldn't that be neat?"
"Are you really going to keep the pictures of us kids… you know… naked? It's weird."
"Probably not. Everybody will have the opportunity to save or discard whatever pictures I've taken and captured. I have already edited several of them."
"As long as the adults are permitted a final opportunity to keep or reject them… I guess it is okay." Luke offered while squirming in his skin, knowing that a good number of the pictures were taken of them in their natural state.
Jordan nodded, feeling more comfortable with Adam's comments. He said, "Well, we're going to go now. See ya later."
Adam nodded and watched the boys walk down the hallway to John's door. They knocked.
Thirty seconds later, John opened the door. His facial expression quickly showed the kids that he was glad to see them. Jordan offered, "We were looking for Dale. Is he here?"
"As a matter of fact, yes he is. Come on in"
Dale, hearing Jordan's voice, got up and walked to the foyer to meet and greet the kids. Luke asked, "Is it okay if we use your laptop to play some games?"Dale thought for a moment before responding, "Well, it is still buried somewhere in my truck. I don't know where it would be."
John offered, "You are more than welcome to use mine. It is in my bedroom on the little desk behind the door."
Jordan looked to Dale for approval. Dale nodded, "Go ahead. It's fine with me."
To help answer both men's questions as to which track to take regarding their wellbeing, Jordan hugged John's waist before turning to Dale and offering him one. Luke, meanwhile held out his arms to Dale. Jordan squeezed tightly while Luke's was cool and reserved. Luke said, "Thanks. We'll be in our room, okay?"
"That's fine. We're going to talk to you about a couple of things later on today." Dale said, giving each boy another squeeze before releasing them.
Both boys looked at Dale then John with curiosity emanating from their eyes.
John said, "Don't worry. It's all going to work out just fine."
Luke piped up, "Uhmm, we ran into Adam. He's got a camera and said something about a scrapbook. He said that you guys will have the last say-so about what is put in and what is not."
Immediately, he saw John and Dale's expressions change to concern and how they were trying to remain calm. John said "Of course we will. In fact, there is a very real possibility all of those pictures will be rejected. Don't worry; we'll handle it from here, okay?"
Luke nodded. The men noted Luke's expression turn from concern to trust.
Both men looked at one another for a second or two before Dale said, "Okay, I'm going to take off. I have some things to take care of. I'll see you later, and thanks for bringing your concerns to us." He patted Luke's back and then walked out and headed down the hallway, intending to get to the bottom of the issues facing them and the boys.
Meanwhile, Luke and Jordan accompanied John to John's suite. On their way, Jordan asked, "What are we going to talk about, John? Have we done something wrong?"
"No. If you had then you know we would have already talked about it." John explained. "I do need to ask you a very serious question, and I need a straight up answer."
Jordan stopped unplugging the unit and turned to John. Luke was already looking at the man with his interest peaked out.
"Are you guys happy here? Be honest. Tell me your feelings."
Both boys slowly shrugged their shoulders and looked to one another. Jordan sent to Luke, "You always say it better than I do - go!" Luke turned to John and said, "I guess. I mean there's always something going down… bad stuff… I guess we're scared. And, I'm not really talking about us…"
"We're worried about Lawrence. And Aaron, too. They're really scared." Jordan said, softly.
John held out his arms and said, reassuringly, "I know." They joined into a deep hug and held on for a moment or two before breaking away. He felt the almost missed shivers emanating from deep within both boys. He was having a difficult time with thinking of them being separated. Not them… rather he and them. At the same time, he remembered seeing the pain in Dale's eyes. Was the pain coming from being separated, or was it true that he was concerned about the separation from his sons? He knew the bond was deep. He fully realized how deeply hurt the boys would feel if they were taken away from those they truly loved.
The boys observed John deep in thought. Jordan stated, from the depths of his heart, "John, Luke and I have been talking… we're… we're thinking that maybe we could continue on our journey… you know… to Las Vegas… or somewhere… maybe California."
John immediately pulled the boys into his chest and said softly, "Would you not do that quite yet? Just give us some time to figure things out. I can't go into detail, but let me put your hearts to rest – you are loved and respected here – by my family and everybody else. Besides, what would you do out there, all by yourselves?"
"I don't know. We haven't decided anything. We were just talking about it." Luke said while doing a 'backpedal' into safer territory.
"Well, think about it very carefully. And, please, don't do anything rash. You boys have a lot of growing up left to do. And, you may very well need some help along the way." John said, kissing both of their bare heads. He gave them one more squeeze before releasing them. He could see the relaxation in their eyes. They both nodded. He so much wanted to tell them about the change in plans, but there was still uncertainty as he and Dale had not yet completely agreed that their plan was absolutely the correct one.
Seeing that they were doing just fine with unhooking the laptop computer, John took off to find Dale. The time had arrived to make a decision and to put the hold on Adam and his 'hobby'.
The boys returned to their suite, stripped to the skin, walked into their bedroom where they assumed a sixty-nine position on their bed. The session was quick but highly fulfilling, yet, once again, solidifying their bonds that would never experience breakage. For a while, their cares and concerns were put aside, and replaced by unbridled pleasure.
After peeing and grabbing a Coke apiece, the boys sat down at the kitchen table to set up the laptop computer.
Once it was brought up, Luke used Jordan's login credentials.
The only games John had on his computer was Crazy 8's and Solitaire. Those games held no interest for the boys so Luke said, "We can get online. It's possible to play Xbox games on a laptop. It's not as good, but it will do. Be right back. Go ahead, create your screen name. Mine is TomkLuke. My password is 'godad'"
With that said, Luke went into the bathroom and sat on the toilet to take care of his daily chore. His back end was quite sore from the pummeling given him by Jordan the night before.
Meanwhile, Jordan opened the IE browser, waited for it to load up then clicked the little bar at the top to find the Xbox website. While scrolling down, he saw the website that had once showed Lawrence's pictures. He looked to the bathroom, wondering if he should click on it. All he heard was Luke's groans and puffs of air. Without further questioning, he clicked on the website that had Lawrence's bio and pictures. He wondered if it had been taken down.
In Maui, David, the early riser in the Blake household, was in Jim's office researching to find the missing link and login information to the Burroughs church. A blinking red light at the bottom of the screen caught his attention. He clicked on it to bring it up on a third screen. The screen showed an outbound transmission from the resort. He clicked a button to see what website was being called up.
Jordan clicked on www dot bwbcproductions dot org. Thirty or so seconds later, David saw keyboard activity as it was being typed in. The user name was TompkinsJordan. The password was millerluke#1.
David wondered what that was all about, but he immediately recognized the website. It was the site he, Peter, Allen and Angel had been trying to break into, but was unsuccessful due to powerful and confusing protocols. David then shit when he saw a picture site come up. The pictures displayed various teenage boys, all dressed. He then observed the cursor being placed on an image on the top right side of the screen.
Another username and password entry was required. He took notes on a pad of paper. This username was MillerLuke and the password was the same. The screen changed to display another page of boys. This one, though, showed several boys in various states of dress. Although none were naked, they were wearing sheer clothing, which didn't require a whole lot of imagination to determine they were naked.
Having seen Lawrence's biography pictures on previous occasions, his breathing became rapid as he saw Lawrence's picture in the middle of the page with a caption below reading 'HAWT special for you'.
The cursor landed on the picture. Nothing happened.
Meanwhile, Luke, finished with his duties, returned to their bedroom, squirmed between Jordan's legs, leant back, and said, "Damn, what are you doing in there?"
"I just wanted to see if Lawrence's stuff is still there. It looks like it is." Jordan replied then clicked on the picture. Twenty seconds passed before the profile appeared. All around the periphery of the page were thumbnails of Lawrence. He chose one on the bottom left side of the page. It opened a full page of Lawrence… mostly in red sheer lingerie. "His stuff is still here."
David was observing the screens very carefully, taking notes, cutting and pasting URL's into a document for further scrutiny. He quickly captured screen images and placed them into a file named Ashwood, Lawrence.
Jordan clicked on one of the pictures. As memory served him, the next screen would show Lawrence in compromising situations. The page was still there. Images of Lawrence's fully extended member was seen. Two of them had white trails of liquid scattered about on his belly.
David noticed that Lawrence's eyes were glazed, as though he'd been drugged or was drunk; possibly a combination of both. He quickly captured the images.
The next page the user clicked on was a full page close-up shot of Lawrence's fully erect member.
Jordan's recall was perfect. He hesitated before clicking on the image for he was afraid that the skanky, horrible and horrific abuse to their friend and brother would still be present. Both boys took sharp intakes of breath after Jordan clicked on the thumbnail, which opened up a screen of several pictures showing invasions of Lawrence's rectum by adult mens' penises.
David, sickened by what he was seeing, quickly captured the URL and images then got up and walked to his Mom and Dad's room. Jim was awake and in the bathroom shaving. "Dad, you've got to see… sorry, I'm sick… follow me, please. It's important. Someone is accessing the Resort's dedicated line – Lawrence Ashwood – his pictures… bad ones."
Jim put down the razor and followed his son into his office to see what David was so upset about. Upon entering, he looked up to a monitor screen affixed to the wall to see a man's very large penis deeply embedded into a young boy's anus. David quickly explained the details, how he'd captured user name, passwords and images.
Jim sat down, picked up his phone and called Peter Granger in Woodward, Oklahoma. The phone went to voicemail. He left a message, "Peter, this is Jim Blake. Call me. It is urgent." Click.
"Good work, David."
"How could they…?" David said, reaching up and wiping a tear threatening to fall from his eye.
"There are sick people in this world, Son."
"I know, Dad. But why?"
"There is no logical explanation, my boy. Sick. Sick. Sick."
The screen then went blank then opened to a login screen.
"We've got to tell Dale. Wait…"
David and Jim saw the screen switch to Active Directory mode. The screen scrolled then went into an unnamed folder. It opened. Fourteen preview thumbnails were in line, one after another. The user opened one of the pictures. It was of Lawrence. David recognized the image as being one that had been on a website.
The phone buzzed. "Jim Blake. Peter, the dedicated comm line between your location and resort has been breached. I have seen, and my son has tracked, locations where Lawrence Ashwood was engaged, against his will, in anal sex. This is big. Whoever the user is has entered a domain we've tried to break."
Peter Granger quickly opened a comm between the resort and his facility. "Marie, how can I help you, Jim?"
Jim relayed the information. He requested an urgent search of the facility to find out who had entered the secure and trusted and dedicated communications.
Meanwhile, Luke, having seen enough, quickly got up and ran to John's suite. John and Dale were heading down the hall toward the canteen. Luke quickly caught up with them and relayed what they'd found.
Marie approached and stopped in front of them and asked, "Sir, Peter Granger is on the phone. This is extremely urgent. Boys, do you know of anyone on the internet?"
Luke looked to Jordan then to John. John said, "Maybe." Then to Jordan he asked, "Are you in the website that contained Lawrence?"
Jordan replied, "We just went there to see if… if those pictures were still up. They are. I'm sorry. We shouldn't have gone there."
"No, that's okay. Tell you what… is the computer still up? Are you still in the website?"
"No, we logged off. Sorry John, but we kept some of those pictures when we found them before… remember?"
"Yes. Marie, we found some pictures of boys being abused, particularly Lawrence. He doesn't know that we found them. We didn't tell him."
"Gotcha. Okay, leave everything as it is. Jim Blake is working. Please don't do anything more."
David and Jim, meanwhile, continued searching using the login information. Using their database of pictures of the boys, they found image sites of Eric, Aaron, Luke, Jordan and five other boys they could not identify.
John and Dale took the boys to the adult commons area, sat them down and John said, sharply, "Boys, why did you go into a website that I asked you not to go to?"
"We just wanted to see… if it was still up. That's all. We didn't snoop around anywhere else." Luke explained.
"Have you told Lawrence?"
"No, Sir. You told us not to."
John nodded and said, "Don't. Don't tell him. They would deeply hurt him. For now let's keep this between ourselves. In the meantime, don't go to any pornographic site of any kind."
Jordan offered, "No, Sir. Seriously, we just wanted to see… if…"
"That's okay. I understand your curiosity. But, in the future, please don't do that."
Dale spoke up, "Are those the same pictures that you sent to me?"
John looked sharply to Dale then to Jordan then to Luke. Luke further explained, "We sent them to Dale so that there would be a third copy. I'm sorry, but, we saved a bunch of the pictures on your laptop, too."
Marie was standing in the entryway of the adult commons area and overheard their conversation. She turned away and headed back to Mister Masters' office to fill him in on the information. She then transferred the call to her boss. Mister Masters relayed the information to Jim and David.
Allen and Angel entered the office and were given an update on what was happening. They then sat down at their desks and began rapidly running their fingers across the keyboards, entering the known user ids and passwords to use Company servers to track and identify the maze of dedicated websites. Allen was utterly amazed that a general user could get into the bowels of the rogue compound database.
Most of the data was encrypted, but the good news was that the encryption was easily broken for it was internal.
Jim, looking over Allen's' shoulder quickly recognized several high ranking names belonging to dignitaries from all over the globe. Why those names would be in a site such as the ones they were researching was baffling.
On a hunch, he sat down at his computer and started entering advanced programming techniques. He searched for and found the system used by Burroughs West Baptist Church. Not only that, but he found graphic images entering the farmhouse in the Ozarks. He recognized the images for he had researched whereabouts and information on the boys who had been held captive there.
Angel exclaimed, loudly, clearly, amazingly, and with a trace of sickening realization in his voice, "Dad, look at this."
Jim turned to Angel's desk. What he saw sickened his stomach. Clear links to sexual activities perpetrated on a boy in a large office. The boy, naked, and in obvious pain, was sitting on a man's lap. The man was obviously having anal sexual intercourse with the youth. The boy was then thrown off his lap. The images showed the man's pleasure moment then his disdain. They then heard two men speaking about prices … Jim clearly recognized one of the voices. He performed a sophisticated voice print comparison which confirmed what he already knew - Ashwood. The other voice print belonged to one of his most infamous clients from Greece - Socrates. He scratched his head then whisked his attention to Allen.
Allen then gasped. He leant over a trash can and promptly and violently vomited into it. Jim put his hand on the boy's back and rubbed circles as his son cleared his windpipe from the exertions. At the same time, he looked at the screen which showed a large black tube being inserted into the anus of a Latin boy. He recognized the boy's picture. Jose Sanchez. And he saw a younger boy, perhaps twelve, maybe thirteen, ejaculate all over the victim's testicles and perineum. It slithered down into the boy's anus at the same time the tube was being inserted.
They then saw a man's erect penis poised. The man was masturbating.
Even more shocking, as if that wasn't enough, they saw a spattering of blood covering the child… the child was repeatedly stabbing the man with a shiny object.
At the same time, Angel said, "I have an open comm… Geezers… dad, this goes to a location in Washington, DC… the White House. It dies there."
"Okay, we've got our work cut out for us." Jim said then picked up the phone to relay bits and pieces of what they'd found thus far to Peter Granger.
Allen, now recovered, resumed his activities as though nothing had happened to cause his emotional upheaval, running his fingers over his keyboard searching for anything related to their investigation. He didn't have to look long or hard.
He found a bank of pictures of the boys, including the undesirable children with deformities, in various states of dress, mostly undressed in a pool setting. He made notes of the URL and contents. The source was a sophisticated digital camera uploaded from nowhere else other than the Resort. He saved them off and continued searching.
Not only did he locate those, but in another location, he found more pictures and videos of boys walking through hallways, a large room with other naked children in their rooms, some engaged in child-on-child sex. Most of those pictures and videos were enhanced … showing graphic detail in otherwise dark rooms. He catalogued them, noted their URL's, what they contained. He used a map of the Resort to determine where, what rooms the activities were taking place.
He matched the pictures to Luke and Jordan, Lawrence and Aaron, Michael and Eric, Christian and the boy, Muzi, having both a vagina and penis. All of the videos showed completely loving and consensual images of boys making love. Another video showed an older boy and girl, Bradley and Melissa, engaging in full out male-on-female intercourse. He continued to catalog and further identify the sources of the pictures and videos. From what he could tell, the information, though somewhat obscure, identified different yet the same sophisticated 'bugs'. He recognized the object descriptions and detailed designs as belonging to and purchased from Blake Enterprises…
Luke and Jordan returned to their room. Lawrence and Aaron were walking through the doorway out of their room. They exchanged hugs. Lawrence asked, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing. Why would you think that?" Jordan offered while putting his arm around Luke's back and lightly squeezing the muscle between his ribcage and hip. Jordan sent to Luke, "Now what?"
"He's seeing right through us. I can't lie to him by saying everything's okay even when it's not okay." Luke replied through their bond then to Lawrence he said audibly, "We've just got a lot on our minds right now… the adoption. I mean the adoptions. Us. Dale. You guys. John. The whole enchilada." Luke then put his arm around Jordan and lightly scratched his back.
"Okay. I understand." Lawrence replied knowing that his brothers were not being entirely truthful as they'd always been with him. His expression showed concern and even a little bit of hurt. Luke and Jordan both noticed.
It was Jordan's turn to ask the same question, "What's wrong? Aren't you happy? Are you still afraid of your dad?"
Lawrence nodded and said, "I'm more afraid of him now than ever. Even though he signed the affidavit, petition or whatever document … he's not going to let me go. There's too much at stake. He knows it. I know it. Aaron knows it, don't you, Babe?"
Aaron nodded, and added, "I'm pretty sure he'd be after me more than he would you. I'm the cause of your being gay. He said so. You heard him."
"Have you thought about going to the media? We don't know if your demands were met… probably not." Jordan asked, solemnly.
A shiver went up and down Lawrence's back. Aaron felt the love of his life quiver. It passed into him through their bond.
Lawrence quietly thought about what possible ramifications could come about should he go to the media with their stories. On one hand, he wanted his father to face justice. On the other hand, he was afraid of the man for he knew he would stop at nothing. Family meant nothing. Friends, what few of them there were, meant nothing. Cabinet members meant nothing. In the end nobody but his father mattered. He took a deep breath and slowly exhaled, saying, "I have to trust John. I'll talk to him. My conditions were not idle threats, yet everyone's safety is more important than being right – even though being right is proven. Have you guys seen him around?"
Jordan replied, "Yes. He's way busy though." Jordan thought really hard before saying, "He's checking on the new kids. It's about time for Zander's medication, I think."
Aaron muttered, "Oh." He then turned away and walked into his room with a sad expression on his face.
Lawrence, looking directly into Jordan's then Luke's eyes said, sharply, "We just came from the pool. I worked with Zander to help loosen his tight muscles." He then turned to face away. He stopped in the doorway, turned to Jordan and said, "You lied to us." With that said, Lawrence walked into his room and moved the door to close it, but Luke placed his arm between the frame and door which stopped progress. He looked at Jordan.
The two boys entered. Lawrence joined Aaron at the kitchen sink. Their backs were facing Jordan and Luke.
"I'm sorry. Yes, we lied. Look, if we tell you what we know – it will hurt you. You know we don't want to hurt you." Luke said, apologetically. His throat was constricting. His breathing was labored.
Lawrence spun around and snarled, "And lying doesn't hurt me? Brothers don't lie to one another, do they? I don't know. I never had a brother until you guys came along."
The words hit Jordan and Luke as though a Mac truck had run them over. Jordan's eyes filled with tears. One dropped down his cheek. The rest he wiped away with his fingers as though they were squeegees.
Luke cleared his throat. "Lawrence, we love you. I love you beyond words. I'm sorry I lied. But you have to understand that I don't want to hurt you. It would be devastating to you."
"Nothing is more devastating than being lied to. We talked about this … when we first met … down on the creek bank. Don't you remember?"
Both boys solemnly nodded. Then they walked to their brother and the love of his life, Aaron. Luke said after wiping away a tear, "John needs to be with us. He's going to be your dad. You'll need him to lean on."
Lawrence's shoulders sunk a couple of inches, as though he was once again carrying the weight of the world on them. His jaw set. In the next second, he relaxed and said, "After everything that has happened over the past year, I can take anything you need to tell me… except lying. Lying rips my guts out, makes my heart want to explode, and to cry uncontrollably. I trust you guys with my heart and soul. If you don't want me to say anything, then I won't tell anyone."
"The same goes for me." Aaron said then embraced his mate and held him as Lawrence's emotions leveled out somewhat. "We've all been through a lot. From the moment I met you guys, I knew I could trust you, and I do now, too. I know you'll do the right thing."
"We promised John that we would not tell you. Then again, he doesn't know every little thing about us."
"This is big. It's way big. Jordan?" Luke asked.
A loud knock on the door caused the boys to jump startled in unison. All four boys, even though it would have only required one boy to answer the door, headed toward it. They reached for the handle, but Aaron's hand won. He opened it. John and Dale stood. Immediately he saw that the boys were upset about something… the tear stains and their sad expressions told it all. "Can we come in?" John asked, concernedly.
The boys moved out of the way to permit their entry. Luke closed the door then took Jordan's hand in his. They felt like they were going to the gallows.
John said, "We just came to check on you guys. Is everything okay?"
Jordan, in an instant, said, "No. We lied to Lawrence. He needs to know."
"John, Dad, sorry, I told them that after all Aaron and I've experienced… we can handle just about anything. I can't handle lies, though."
Aaron added, "The same goes for me. If it has anything to do with our captivity… just remember that we lived through it. And, now, we're here. Right now – we're here. And, we're grateful to be alive and out of that mess."
Everybody held their breath for a few seconds. The tension in the room was palpable. It was stifling. And, it was getting worse as each second passed.
Dale said, softly, "You boys are strong, very strong. Although you have told me what happened to you, sometimes I have a problem with seeing just how strong you are. This is not said in a bad way. Your strength shows me what you are made of. At the same time, though, each one of you, is a boy. You have grown up way too fast. I can't change it, although I would if it was possible."
John added, "Let's sit down. We are not living our lives on untruths. Luke and Jordan didn't necessarily lie to you. We came to the agreement that what we know, we believe, would hurt you. Sometimes a parent has to protect their children from hurt and harm… this was one of those times."
Luke and Jordan sat on the coffee table while John, Dale, Lawrence and Aaron sat on the sofa. Lawrence and Aaron joined hands then looked at John and waited for the disclosures.
"Lawrence, were you, during your captivity, aware of photographers or photographic equipment?"
"Yes."John turned to Aaron. Aaron nodded, and said, "Yes. There were times when I didn't know what was causing the flashing lights against the ceiling. Sometimes, quite often, actually, they shined bright lights in my eyes…"
That disclosure prompted Jordan to say, "They did that to us, too. They shined them right into my eyes. I tried to close them. She tried to hold them open, but, in that regard, I won."
"Those pictures and videos were put onto a website, or a series of websites. According to everything we know at this time, and our friends in Hawaii are investigating further, the pictures are for a paying 'audience'. This simply means that… sick people paid to see children engaged in sexual situations with adults."
"Okay, that makes sense." Lawrence said, evenly. "I knew there was a price on my head. That Imir sheik paid a lot of money for me. As near as I can remember, the price on my butt was worth several hundred thousand dollars. Until it wasn't. After I got hurt and had surgery in Iran, I was shipped back to the states. Patriarch was there to greet me. He was not a happy man. Jordan, I do not mean anything hurtful, but when you came along, Patriarch found favor in you. I've told you before, so this is not new. I was to train you… I'd been taught how to perform Initiation, but wasn't given the chance until you came along."
Aaron added, "Brother taught me how to use The Great Neutralizer. He used it on me. I was supposed to use it on a New Initiate the following day, but we escaped before it could happen. I figured that they were photographing me, too, so it is no big surprise. I'm not hurt."
John said, "We're not going to show the pictures and videos to you. There is no purpose in doing so."
"I understand. Thank you. I appreciate that you are protecting Aaron and me. I'm just sorry that you had to see it." Lawrence turned to Jordan, and said, "I understand why you had to sidestep the truth. I would have done the same thing for you. I have no hard feelings. I love you." He leant in and meaningfully touched Jordan's lips with his. While the kiss was short-lived, it was powerful.
Dale observed their interaction as though he'd never before experienced a brother's love shared.
Next, Lawrence turned to Luke, "I understand. I'm sorry you had to see what you saw. I know it was hard for you. We're cool, okay?"
"Yeah, we're cool." Luke said. He and Lawrence touched their lips together to solidify their brotherhood, once again.
Lawrence then turned to John, "Dad, I'm sorry you had to see me that way. I had no choice. All choices were taken away. I know that now."
John took his son into his arms and held onto him very firmly. Lawrence was in a moment where he couldn't decide to cry or to just enjoy the feeling of strength he was receiving from John, his soon-to-be-worthy-loving-dad. He decided on the latter.
"The same goes for me." Aaron said, then the man reached out and pulled his soon-to-be-son into his arms and squeezed firmly. Jordan and Luke joined in.
If there was any doubt in Dale's mind about what would be best for the boys, he saw the answer right then and there. Very quietly, he got up and stole out of the suite knowing the decision was the right one. He then headed for Tony's office. Tony welcomed him in and said, "The adoption decrees are signed, sealed and dated for today. Congratulations."
Dale took in a deep breath and said, confidently, "There are changes to make…"
2:30PM, CST, Breckenridge, Texas
After the memorial service was completed, Fox and Jimmy took off for the farm in Jimmy's truck. The men knew the boys had a lot to talk about. They were very pleased the boys appeared to have mended their fences and were back on track.
Matt and James quickly assisted with folding and placing the chairs and tables, all borrowed from a neighboring town hall. The Lackey twins were solicited to accompany the rig and unload the objects. This readily met with Matt and James's approval as they didn't want to be around the most hated kids in the entire town of Breckenridge. They were nothing but trouble. The clincher came when they'd taken down their friends in a fit of rage, accusing their friends of being gay. They had no proof. And, even if they did have proof, there was absolutely no need to wail on them.
They walked to where Matt had parked the old rickety truck. Of course it was there. Nobody would even think of stealing it. Matt thought this, not James. James thought it was pretty danged neat.
"Let's head to my house. I need to change clothes. Got some for you, too."
"Plan!" Matt replied happily as he fired up the truck and listened to it backfire and then took off for James' house.
James' comment about gays continued to weigh on Matt's mind. So much so that he stopped the truck at the truck service station on the east end of town, pulled into the parking lot, put the truck in neutral then looked at his best friend for a moment before saying, "James. James nodded. Matt continued, "Do you remember when we were little boys… we said we'd be friends forever, forever plus a million gazillion days, no matter what?"
"Of course. Why would you even bring that up? Dude, we're friends. Period. Next paragraph."
Matt swallowed hard. He looked straight ahead, asking himself if he wanted to test their friendship, and, James, staring straight ahead, too, asked himself the same question. Unable to stop himself, James said, "Matt, the real reason Kimberly and I broke up, and I knew it was coming, and I'm thankful it did is because … well… she wasn't the only one messing around under the bleachers… uhmm, well, I guess I was messing around with Jeff Stoddard. You know… sucking face, feeling one another up… that kind of stuff."
Matt's head swiveled to the right to gauge James, to see if he was shitting him. The only expression James wore was – fear.
He knew the feeling. But, it was quickly dissipating. "We're friends for life, James. Does your Pa know?"
"More or less. I just haven't said the word. But he and Mom knew. Mom kept asking me if everything was okay. I kept telling her that I was fine. She told me that I could talk to her anytime, that she'd understand, and that she understood kids my age were hesitant to talk about important things. She knew."
"My Mom knew it, too. Pa said she told him that there was something special about me."
It was James' turn to swivel toward his friend. "Are you like me, Matt?"
"Probably more than you know. I had a boyfriend."
"Yeah. How did you know?"
"Talk at school."
"But I didn't say anything to anyone."
"I don't know where it came from. I just heard it around school. You know how that goes."
"I never heard anyone say anything to me."
"Then there's Paul Manning. He knows everything about everybody. The thing is that… well, you know how quiet he is. He really doesn't talk to anyone… one day, at lunch, he said that if I ever needed a friend then he was available. Sometimes we hung out, but I never really got to know him."
After a pregnant pause, Matt continued, "George and I got married." James' eyes opened widely. He was about to say 'no way!', but Matt added, "I know. You can't do it in Texas. There was a hospital priest who thought two people in love, gay or straight, should be able to commit to anyone they wish – so long as love was on top of the ladder." Matt's eyes filled with tears as yet another pang of loneliness and despair threatened to take over. At the same time, he felt a rush of peace and serenity wash through his psyche and course through his veins. James reached his arm across and used his fingers to gently brush away the unshed tear threatening to fall. Matt finished, snorted the phlegm deep into his throat and swallowed it hard then moved onward, "Thanks. You're a good friend, James. Let's not lose touch again."
"Yeah. I'm sorry. I was trying so hard to be somebody I wasn't. It's easy to lose yourself."
"I know how that goes."
Matt put the truck into the gear and took off for James' house. They arrived shortly thereafter. As expected, nobody was home. James led them into his room. He grabbed a pair of jeans he thought Matt could wear then extracted a pair he knew would fit him. He then grabbed a couple of t-shirts, a black one for Matt and a red one for him. He turned to hand them to Matt. Matt was disrobing. James handed him a hanger for his dress pants and grabbed another one for his light blue shirt, which Matt used.
James disrobed and hung up his dress pants and shirt, turned to Matt, and then walked to his friend. "Where's George?"
"He hurt his leg and was in the hospital getting it treated. Some people came in and shot up the place. George… George was killed."
"Oh God. Matt. I can't think of the right words to say. I'm hurting for you, Bro."
Matt nodded. He realized he wouldn't' know what to say to someone who had lost their – husband. The two boys came together. They touched their foreheads just like they had always done through the years when one of them had something on their mind. James, not knowing what else to do for his friend, gently put his arms around Matt's shoulders and, using his body language, urged Matt into a cocoon he offered. Matt accepted. Matt wrapped his arms around his friend's waist, and buried his head into James' neck. They stayed silent as they let their friendship and love, as they knew it, wash through them.
One hour ten minutes later, first James, then Matt, awakened in James' bed with their arms and legs intertwined with one another. At the same time they opened their eyes to get a full idea of where they were and why they were lying so close together.
Instead of being afraid, they both felt calm, collected, peaceful, filled with serenity, and together. Matt, now completely awake and aware and feeling a cold wetness between his south of the border cheeks, and a soreness deep within his back door, realized and didn't care, in a bad way, that James and he had joined together in the most intimate way possible for two humans to join. Even though he didn't feel any shame, guilt or remorse, he looked into James' eyes and searched for any signs of those attributes. There were none; not one trace.
For some reason, they both felt safe and protected, and would have liked to stay locked together for the immediate future and perhaps even the beyond, but their bodily needs needed attention right then and there. Almost as one, they got up and walked into the bathroom. James, nearly unable to contain himself any longer, plopped down on the toilet. Matt entered the shower, closed the curtain, turned on the spigots to get the temperature just right, and then peed into the drain while knowing the other elimination needs could wait. He put his head under the shower head to let the water cascade over his sensitive yet satiated body.
A few minutes later, and he could not tell you how long it was, he felt a pair of arms encircle his waist. Those same hands went up his belly and onto his chest. He grabbed them and held them firmly. "Hey."
James replied, "Hey yourself. Don't use all the hot water."
Two hours after entering James' house they took off to check on their Finnegan friends from school.
Pieces of processed wood, bricks, and fallen trees prevented Matt parking any closer than a quarter of a mile away. They got out of the truck and started walking. They walked around a huge mangled box like thing of metal and wires sticking out of it. James said, "That's a generator, or what's left of one."
They took off on a sprint toward the Finnegan home. A driveway was there, but nothing else. The house had been leveled. Even the concrete basement was shattered and driven into the dirt. There was absolutely nothing left that one would expect to see in a house. Several articles of torn clothing lay scattered about the periphery of the property. A small teddy bear was plastered against a tree. Attempts to free it were useless.
Neither boy said anything for several minutes. They then walked to the tree line. The further they walked the less collateral damage was seen. They jumped down onto the creek bank then walked its length toward the fork, hoping to find signs of human habitation… or remains. There were none of either. They felt relief. James said, "I've never seen anything like this in all of my life."
"Pa used some dynamite to blow that big ole tree stump out of the ground, but you're right, I've never seen anything like this before. I hope they're okay."
They sat down on the creek bank, looked into one another's eyes and smiled contentedly at realizing the Finnegan's did not appear to have been home at the time of the explosion. Matt put his arms around James' shoulders while James' wrapped around Matt's waist. They sat there for a few moments before James said very quietly, "I didn't know what making love was all about. Jeff and I never went that far; not even close. Are you okay? You know… George…"
Matt contemplated James statement for a moment before saying, "I'm okay. I'm really okay. Yesterday… well, yesterday George told me, or he gave me feelings, really strong feelings, that I shouldn't hold back. I sure didn't plan on doing what we did… but I felt okay, that I wasn't hurting or harming George in any way. In fact, I felt him helping me… I know this sounds weird… he left me. Everything you experienced was just me. I really don't know how to explain it any further. One thing I have to ask you." Matt said while turning to look into James' eyes.
"Did it hurt you? Are you hurting, now?"
"I'm just a little sore back there. Nothing to write home about. Are you okay?"
"Same here." Matt contemplated for a moment and tried to bring George back into his feelings, but it was unsuccessful, so he asked, "James, do you want to do it again? Not now, but would you be opposed?"
"Hell yeah I'll do it again. When my dad had the birds and bees discussion, he told me that love is love and that I shouldn't hold back. I just give everything I have to that person. If it was meant to be then my mate would give me everything they had … and all would be okay." James lowered his head and said into his lap, "Did… did it feel good to you? Did I do okay?"
Both boys stopped wondering how it felt… because they didn't know, they weren't aware, then they broke out laughing. Matt admitted, "I don't know what happened. It was like I wasn't even there."
"Ah, but you were there. At least my butthole feels like a tree trunk went inside."
Matt squeezed his sphincter and admitted, "Yeah, I'm sore there, too. What do you want to do now?"
"Well, let's go check on the Samson's and Manning's." Matt offered.
Both homes, they found, appeared abandoned. There were no bodies, no bullet holes, and no evidence of fire. It was eerie though.
The Samson home belonged to two beautiful people, a man and his wife, and eight kids. They quickly went inside and looked around. The family hadn't taken much with them, if anything at all.
The Manning home gave a completely different story. The house was riddled with large caliber gun blasts. The windows on the west side of the house were shattered inward, as were the south and east sides. The garage was wide open. It had been pilfered through. They tried the back door to see if it was unlocked. It was. Inside of the kitchen was a woman in her thirties, dead. She'd obviously met her maker by being shot to death. The husband, a strange man, was in the bathtub, holding their two children beneath his body. The man was shot with a large caliber weapon.
They thought that maybe their school mate, Paul, was still alive because they thought they saw movement. When they lifted the man a couple of inches, the wound on the father was through and through and the weapon had pierced the son then the daughter. All three were dead.
"They had a little kid, a toddler. Come on." James said, urgently.
Matt replied, "I'll check upstairs." James nodded.
As Matt ran up the stairs, he thought that there could not possibly be anyone left alive, much less a little kid, but he forged on. He quickly went through three bedrooms. They were devoid of furniture. A quick search of the closets revealed only clothes hanging on racks, and there were no signs of life.
A fourth bedroom was obviously a boy's room what with posters of famous singers, dark blue sheets, a light blue comforter, a bottle of lube sitting on the headboard, and black carpeting. The clothes closet had lots of clothes stacked on top of one another on the floor. The racks were filled with clean unworn clothing. He pilfered through the dirty clothes. Nothing.
The fifth bedroom, a girls' room that had frilly sheets and a pink comforter, posters of famous male singers was neat and tidy. The closet was orderly. A quick search through the dresser drawers revealed the usual underwear, socks, shirts. One drawer had keepsakes, none of which were concerning. A quick look under the bed revealed nothing out of the ordinary.
The final bedroom on the top floor was a small affair, no larger than ten feet by twelve feet. It was a youth room. The bed was made. There were no dirty or clean clothes lying around. A quick check of the closet revealed nothing out of the ordinary and was neat and tidy.
As he turned around the give one last survey, a small foot resting on the floor at the head of the bed caused his heartbeat to raise a million beats per second. The toes moved. He heard a very quiet, weak whimper. Matt went into the hallway and screamed, "JAMES! UP HERE. GO LEFT!"
He quickly ran back into the room, dropped to the floor and slithered his body beneath the bed and came face to face with a three year old who had nothing but terror coming from his eyes. Matt reached his hand up and touched the boy's cheek then leant in and kissed it very gently, and said, "It is okay, now. You're safe. I'm here to take you. My name's Matt. I'm a really good friend of your big brother, Paul."
They heard footsteps rapidly approaching. Matt further allayed the kid's fears by saying, "That's my friend, James. He's Paul's friend, too."
Matt could tell that the little boy was severely dehydrated. He was trying to cry but there were no tears. His lips were very chapped.
"James, lift this bed off of us. I'm sorry, what's your name?"
"Tye. Where's my daddy?" The boy asked while reaching his little arm toward Matt's face. Matt took the little kid's arm.
Matt said, "I'm going to hold you. James is going to lift the bed off of us so that we can get out of here. I'll keep you safe, trust me. Just trust me for a little while. I'm here to help you."
"Bangs. Big bangs. Lots."
James easily lifted the bed and pushed it off to a side next to a wall. He said, "Hi, I'm James. We're going to get you out of here. I'm going to carry you. Is that okay?"
The child nodded then reached his arms out to James. Matt got up then urged them into the master bedroom bathroom to bathe and change Tye because, they figured, he'd been under the bed since the attack, and was soiled.
James quickly undressed and started running a tub of water while Matt undressed the little boy, Tye. The kid's underwear was plastered to his butt. Matt quickly found a wash cloth, wetted it and then applied it to the fabric hoping against all hope that it would moisten and come free. The boy would scream when Matt would gently attempt to lift away the garment. James said, "Let me try something."
Because what Matt was doing was hurting him, Tye reached for James' arms. James sat down in the tub of very warm water and lowered the child down and sat him between his legs. The child calmed down and relief filled his expression. Five to ten minutes later, James easily peeled Tye's briefs and removed them. James, noting the condition of the water, stood while Matt let the water out, scrubbed the bottom and began filling it with water.
At the same time, Matt saw how so severely chapped Tye's little butt was. It was so bad that there were red angry blisters between his cheeks. Tears filled Matt's eyes at realizing the little boy had no parents, a brother nor a sister… he was alone in the world – an orphan.
Matt stripped and got into the half-full tub of fresh warm water. James handed Tye into his arms. Matt had the boy sit and then began washing him with soap and water. James sat down and began washing Tye's back and legs while Matt gently washed the child's hair.
They used large fluffy towels to dry Tye and themselves. Tye got off of the closed toilet seat, opened it, then sat back down and relieved himself, saying he'd waited as long as he could, and was sorry.
While James attended to Tye, Matt started rummaging through the medicine cabinet searching for any kind of cream he could put on Tye's raw butt. He pulled a tube of A&D ointment and showed it to James. James nodded. When Tye was finished with his business, James gently, delicately, using tissue paper cleaned away all remnants. He then used a clean warm, wet, washcloth with soap to gently wash the affected area. Matt then applied a healthy film of the ointment which considerably settled Tye's sniffling and whimpers.
After dressing the boy, Matt and James decided that they needed to go a different way so that they wouldn't have to see Tye's dead mother on the kitchen floor. There was no way they wanted Tye to see that.
At the same time they knew Tye needed fluids so Matt took off downstairs to see what was in the refrigerator. Intentionally, as he entered the kitchen, he avoided looking toward where the woman lay dead. The contents in the refrigerator were cold. Two cartons, one orange juice and the other apple juice, were pulled out. He retrieved a child's glass from the dish strainer, filled it with apple juice then took it to Tye. The boy drank the glass dry then held it out for more. Matt retrieved another glass while James helped Tye into a coat.
When Matt returned, James said, "There's a priest at the old Walmart building. He'll know what to do."
Matt nodded. When James picked Tye up to carry him outside, Matt started laughing, and said, "Uhmm, we may want to get dressed, ya think?"
James looked down. He rolled his eyes up at seeing he was naked then snickered to Matt. Matt looked down. He said, "Oaf."
They headed into town. When Matt turned into the old Walmart parking lot, he got to thinking and knew that Father Mott, had he been alive, would indeed know what to do with this little kid. He quickly dismissed the thought and turned his attentions to hoping whoever James referred to was as good as the man who stated love conquers all.
Matt parked the truck close to the building, looked to James to see him smiling and Tye's arms wrapped around James' neck, sound asleep. Matt would forever remember that image for as long as he lived. Matt walked around and opened the door for James to exit. The little one never stirred as they walked inside the building to find the priest James had talked about.
James led them into the back of the building, in the general area where the electronics department would be located. The area was cordoned off using display shelves. A sheet was the doorway. James grinned and knocked on the sheet just as he would to a wood door. Matt shook his head, but smiled at realizing how James was messing with his head.
A man sat in a large overstuffed chair. The only thing one could see was the white haired crown of his head. The man's hair was sticking out in all different directions.
James approached the elderly man who had children all around him, listening to him read a story from an old dilapidated book resting on his lap. He looked up to see James holding the little child. James said, "Father, his name is Tye, and he's going to need your help and blessings. His family is…"
Matt, approaching from the opposite direction, watching James interact with a man he vaguely recognized, broke the plane so that he could fully see the man. His eyes filled with tears and his heart began beating a million beats per second as he saw the man he had written off as dead. The priest, hearing sniffles from close by his side turned and saw Matt. He smiled warmly, reached out his arm and motioned for Matt to come to him.
Matt said, "I'm sorry. I thought you were dead. I should have…"
"Matt. There's no need to cry about what didn't happen. We're here. I don't know why. I'm an old man. But He who looks out after all of us had other plans – for both you and me. Who knows what those plans are? It's not for us to be concerned about as today … we are alive."
Matt nodded then used his shirt tail to wipe away the tears and a string of snot threatening to slither down his lips.James kissed Tye's cheek and sat him on the floor with another little girl about his age. Tye smiled then brazenly leant toward the girl and kissed her cheek. She smiled then kissed Tye's lips. Both little kids giggled, seemingly oblivious to their dire circumstances.
James walked to Matt and stood beside him and putting his arm around Matt's waist. Father Mott smiled and nodded in understanding and approval. He started to say something, but a loud voice in his head said, "BE QUIET."
John had made sure the boys were settled into having some fun for a change. He'd even got into the water and played with them for a while. He found that the tensions dogging his head were slowly dissipating. As he watched Jordan, Luke, Lawrence and Aaron playing and interacting with the other boys – he was assured that the decision he and Dale had come up with was solid and correct.
Meanwhile, Dale, took a short nap and then went to the pool to get John and the boys for a discussion and to get their thoughts before moving forward with the adoption hearing.
Dale entered the pool area, undressed to his boxers and then got into the water and approached the group. Carl dove for his grandfather and came up in front of him. After a few dunks, Robbie, appearing left out, soon found himself being dunked as well.
John said, "We need to talk about something serious. Let's take the new kids to the side of the pool, or out if that's what they want to do, then we'll have our talk."
After all of the new kids were arranged in Steve, Jeremy and Rachel's care, John and Dale took Jordan and Luke, Lawrence and Aaron, Michael and Eric, Stephen, Matthew, Jared, Dalton, Bradley and Melissa, Robbie and Carl, and Christian to a corner in the shallow end of the pool – it was far away enough so the new kids wouldn't hear, but close enough to intervene if they needed assistance with their needs.
John began the conversation, "Okay, guys. We have some good things to say. Dale and I have talked quite some time today about our families."
"That's right." Dale said looking to Luke then to Jordan. The boys tensed up at not knowing what this meeting was all about, and impatient enough to not wait for what was going to follow. Dale continued, knowing he had their attention, "Luke, Jordan, there are things in this life that are difficult. There are things that are incredibly good, and thankfully the goodness outweighs the other challenging stuff." Everybody nodded their understanding. "John and I have talked at length about your wellbeing. This is what we see – first and foremost… I now see that you are very much loved and cherished by John's family. Also, I only had an idea of how much you boys, Lawrence, and you, too, Aaron, have bonded… but now I have seen it with my own eyes and feel it with my own heart.
This is hard for me to say… I feel that you boys belong with John and his family. I hope you understand that I want only the best for you. Gosh this is hard…"
Both men noted how Luke and Jordan migrated, without them even knowing it, to Jared standing next to John. Their movement was automatic, natural. Dale noted it… and he felt relief that his decision was the right one.
John said, "Yes, Dale and I talked about it all afternoon, but here's the deal: Luke, Jordan, you have the final say so. If you do not feel our decision is correct, then say so. Let us know your feelings."
Jordan reached up to wipe away water that was trailing from what little bit of hair he had on top of his head to his eyes. He quickly wiped his eyes and nodded, "Dale, I'm sorry. We didn't even give you a chance. I don't know why… I can't explain it."
"Then don't try. Just follow your heart. I've been watching you, I've found many, many small hints that this is the correct decision. I'm sorry I wasn't there for you. I'm sorry that I trusted someone… who put you in harm's way. I would never have done that in a million billion years. I thought I knew her."
Luke said, "We don't blame you for it. Besides, the whole thing was much bigger than just her. And, I, too, am sorry for not getting to know you better. Uhmm, I don't know what I want to say… I feel something… but I can't put words to it."
Jordan continued, "We've been talking about going to Las Vegas or California or wherever. We had our dreams, but those dreams can't really come true, not now…"
Luke interjected, "We're kids. What do we know anyway? Not much."
"Oh, but you guys … give yourself credit. You are stronger than you realize. After all you've been through … and to come out on the other side … well, not every child can shine as you do right now." John said, seriously.
"That's right. I can't tear you guys away from those you love. I just can't do it." Dale said, meaningfully.
"Okay. I'm in." Jordan said, looking to Dale for approval.
Luke said, "For a while there we weren't wanted by anybody… now we're loved by two families. Both of them wanted us for their sons, Jordan. I'm in."
Bradley said, "I'm sorry, too. I know I haven't been much of a big brother. For that, I am truly sorry. But, Dad is correct. I know you guys are loved so much. This is what makes your decision soooo right."
Christian spoke up, "Father, I must return to my people. I love you. I always will. My Elders will take care of those less fortunate. I'd like for the new boys to come live with us. They will automatically fit in. There they will lose their fear and they will come to realize they are strong. Each of us have talents. They will be put to good use. And then they will become teachers – they'll use their talents and abilities to help others. Please."
Dale said, "Okay, Christian. I understand now more than ever. I've learned so much from you. Until you go home, then I'm your father… actually, I will always be your father. Sometimes… there are situations when being a daddy is more important than being a father. I hope you understand what I am saying."
"You are a good dad. I see and feel the bonds between Jeremy, Bradley and you. They're all interrelated. I feel close to you, too. I just cannot live here. Although my family is there I feel love and good feelings from here, too."
Mister Masters entered Tony's office. He gently knocked on the door. Tony turned to him. The administrator said, "I have found the documentation as to whom and when. I'm sorry to interrupt you."
"It's no problem." Tony said while getting up from the chair. They then walked into Mister Masters' office and closed the door behind them. The administrator urged Tony to sit at his desk while he walked around and sat down and brought up a computer screen and turned it so that Tony could observe footage of the person responsible for placing the cameras in each of the boy's rooms. Mister Masters said, "Through an error on our part – I take full responsibility – Adam was erroneously given the same authority I have, meaning he can enter any room in the facility. Since seeing this tape, I've revoked his privileges. Just a few moments ago, I reached for the phone to call the Sheriff, but received warning that someone was leaving our property. When I opened the official camera of the entrance… I'm sorry to say that your friend, Adam, was leaving the resort. I made the call."
Without saying a word, Tony tore out for the clinic. He knew that Adam would never leave Wayne out of his care and control because he loved that boy as though he was his own flesh and blood.
The clinic waiting area was dark. Bea was sitting at the receptionist desk. She looked up and saw the alarm in Tony's eyes. He asked, "How is Wayne?"
"He's fine. How about you come back and see for yourself? He's asked about you."
Tony walked around the desk and joined Bea as they traveled to the operatory to find Wayne busily pleasuring himself. Before Bea could turn and leave him to his business, Wayne groaned as he experienced a major climax. The boy didn't know they were there so they crept out and went into the waiting room.
The man said, "I thought he was going to be airlifted out several hours ago."
"They've called to postpone. All available resources are tied up. I've been assured that we are on the waitlist. Meanwhile, Wayne has been and continues to be stable. He's had no further seizures. But, then again, I give him IV medicine every hour." Bea said professionally, yet friendly.
Tony knew that Wayne was legally a ward of the state of Kansas. Adam was a foster parent to the boy. He also knew that once the sheriff was fully involved, an arrest warrant would be put out for Adam.
"Okay. Thanks. I appreciate all you are doing for him. I'm going to go check on him. If you'll wait here, please."
Bea understood and nodded her understanding.
Tony returned to the operatory to find Wayne sleeping. He grabbed a small towel and wiped away the evidence of Wayne's forge into pleasure. He looked at the boy and wondered what would become of him. His heart filled with heaviness knowing the boy would likely be put into a group home for the mentally deficient. Doctor June Mauer, Wayne's original physician and surgeon had written that Wayne would likely remain in the eleven to thirteen year old maturity range for the rest of his life, that the damage was just too great to become a functioning member of society. He had no doubt that Wayne would regress to the shell of a boy he was when he first came to live with Adam after being freed to a rehab center from a hellhole existence thought to be a BWBC cell.
He knew that he was required to notify Kansas authorities. In fact they should have been notified within twenty four hours of his being moved out of the state. Maybe they were notified. Probably not, though.
Adam, driving erratically and uncaringly, drove the motorhome just as fast as he possibly could. He had no destination in mind, though prison was not even an option, not again, never, ever.
Twelve miles down the road from the resort he came around a corner, taking it very carefully as it was sharp and basically blind. When he entered the tunnel like thing, directly in front of him were two Missouri Highway Patrol cars and the Sheriff's car. The men were standing beside their doors with high powered weapons aimed directly toward him. There was nowhere to go. He would not be able to get up enough steam to aim the rig directly toward a rock facing to end it all. He stopped the rig, set the emergency break, slumped forward in the seat leaning against the steering wheel and contemplated what he was going to do if, or more correctly – when, he was sent back to confinement. The officers were continuously and constantly shouting for him to exit the vehicle with his hands up over his head.
He could reach for a weapon that he didn't have. That would end things very quickly – he would not go to prison, but would meet an undertaker. For a few moments he thought about not being able to live without the boy he loved so much, in all the right ways. Never, ever, had he even thought about doing anything wrong with Wayne… he was a good father. He loved him so much. And the boy loved him, too.
Then again, a vision of his natural born son killed in a traffic accident a number of years ago, came running into his mind. His wife, whom he loved so very much, had also been killed. He'd blamed himself all those years in prison, and remembered how Tony talked him through the whole healing process making him realize he'd not killed them at all, that there wasn't anything he could have done about a drunk person ramming their vehicle and taking every meaning of life away.
This was do or die time. Adam knew it. The officers were definitely saying so, too.
He raised up his head to see the officers angry faces, their weapons pointed directly at him… there was nothing left to except to give up. This was it. It was over. Done. He'd never see the light of day ever again.
The group exited the pool and assisted the new kids up and out of the water and helped them to the shower room where they washed the chlorine from their bodies.
Permission had been given for the boys to wear towels, or if there was time then clothes, otherwise any state of dress was not even an issue. The atmosphere was celebratory. Dale noticed a great big change for the better when he approved of Christian's return to his people. The boy was much more relaxed. He was seeing a side of his son that he'd never before seen nor experienced. He also saw him doting on the kids with disabilities… so much so that he thought they were brothers, or maybe more. He knew that his son and Muzi were close, very close, in fact he'd seen them sleeping together since the night they were rescued.
"Dad, are you okay?" Bradley's voice said softly.
Dale turned to his youngest son and replied, "I'm all good. Truly, I am. How about you? How are you?"
"Never better, Dad. I'm sorry that things didn't work out the way you wanted."
"No worries, Son. Some tough decisions were made but in my heart of hearts I know they are for the best."
"I love you, Dad."
"I love you, too, Son."
Just before the festivities were to begin, Mister Masters interrupted Tony in his office, "Tony. Mister Wright was taken into custody. My security people, under the authority of Sheriff Brougham, entered Adam's suite. They found an envelope with your name on it." Mister Masters pulled the envelope from the breast pocket of his suit jacket, handed it to Tony then left the room and closed the door behind him, knowing that Tony probably needed a few moments to himself.
Tony looked at the object for a couple of minutes before taking a deep breath. He opened the envelope. Inside was a neatly handwritten note on a sheet of lined notebook paper. It read:
I'm sorry it has come to this. I am sorry that I cannot be there for you to help you through Seth's death. I know what losing a son to death is about. It isn't easy, but is doable.
Tony, I've crossed the line. There is no going back. I couldn't even stay out of it for Wayne.
Please make sure he is put into a good facility. He deserves so much more than I could ever give him. He was such a joy.
At home, in my office, are all records related to my business. I sold myself, Tony. I needed the money. I was desperate. My username and password are:
Username: jamestalley Password: Jt06121998a
Author's note: Although Centennial has a 'The End' at the end of this chapter, an epilogue is forthcoming very soon. It will be set into the future a couple of weeks and will close a few loose ends. Other loose ends may be covered in future Revolutions Universe stories. As always, thank you for following along for without you readers there is no purpose for an author to write a few words to tell a tale.