A phone call in the night... anonymous... a warning... danger at home...
And things began to fall into place for the Dark...
Edward Jason Terrance stared out the window, absorbing the panoramic view of the terrain outside. He hadn't wanted to come, but there hadn't been much choice in the matter. Both of his parents were going on the trip, and they weren't going to leave him alone for the weekend, much less the full week their business could end up taking.
At thirteen years of age, you'd think they'd be willing to trust him at least a little bit, maybe cut him a little bit of slack, but that hadn't proven to be the case. And so he was stuck on a boring trip, without his friends, to go to the funeral of great grandparents he'd never met (thank God!), and a business deal he had no interest in, and his only consolation was a window seat on the airplane.
The least they could have done was gotten him the new PSP4 or something! He'd begged them to let him stay with Jer for the week, after all his father had volunteered to let him stay, but noooooo. They didn't want to 'impose' on Mr. Young's hospitality 'yet again'. And he should be at the funeral anyways since they were his great grandparents.
Great grandparents he'd never met, rarely heard from, and never -- never! -- wanted to know. Not given the way they treated his parents. It had taken him years, but eventually Eddie had convinced Dad to let him return, unopened, the birthday, Christmas, and Easter cards they sent him. The letters they'd never made him read, not after he'd brought them the first one when he was all of six. They'd had a long, ugly phone conversation after that, and his great grandparents had toned it down. But they hadn't quit, and the twenty dollars inside the cards had been outweighed by the sheer vitriol of the writing. As his father frequently said, he wasn't the one who needed God's salvation. Those Luddites, on the other hand, desperately needed something to shake them out of the dark ages.
At least now they be answering directly to Him for their attitudes... and Eddie didn't envy them their new position one bit. It was going to be a long, hot eternity for the two of them, and they'd brought it on themselves.
But he was still stuck attending the funeral. If only Pop hadn't had a business deal pop up at the same time, maybe he could have avoided it, but with both of them headed to the same place at the same time he was stuck going along for the ride.
Life sucks, he thought with a sigh.
"Why the great big sigh, son?" Dad asked.
"You have to ask, Tim?" Pop commented. "We dragged him from his friends to attend a funeral for people he didn't know, and didn't want to know, and a business meeting he has no interest in, and you have to ask 'why the sigh'?"
"We did everything we could, son. But-" Dad started.
"Yeah, but I should be here because they were family," Eddie sneered, "and we can't impose on Mr. Young's hospitality, and it'll be fun to attend the business meeting, and think of it as a giant vacation, and you guys fucking suck, did you know that?"
"If I weren't strapped in on the far side of you, I'd have..." Pop muttered angrily.
Dad remained silent, and Eddie glanced over to confirm his suspicions.
Crapola, he was in trouble. Pursed lips, half closed eyes, and staring dead ahead in thought. Eddie had clearly overstepped further than he would have thought.
"Young man," Dad finally began as the seat belt sign lit up. "We went over this before we left, but clearly we didn't make it sufficiently clear. At home I will tolerate a modicum of disrespect that represents you pushing the boundaries -- God only knows all teens do that -- but even then, there are limits. Limits you cross at your own peril."
Eddie shrank in his seat as Dad continued, in a cold, even, steady tone to chew him out. He didn't raise his voice, didn't curse or swear, but when Dad got angry, heaven help you because he didn't need to. He was, to quote Pop, capable of removing your skin from crown to toe with his voice alone... in one long, inch-wide strip.
Deliberately 'sassing' them, after he'd been warned to be on his best behavior for the trip, fell into 'foolish' category, and Dad had no patience for fools. A trait which he had long attributed to certain discussions with Jason of all people.
Edde was no fool, but sometimes he almost -- almost -- wondered if his father actually knew Jason and Ronan, like he and Pop claimed. Absurd, but...
"Are you listening to me, young man?" Dad asked sharply.
"I'm sorry about swearing at you," Eddie apologized. "And yes, I was listening. I was a little distracted, but I was listening."
"Distracted?" Dad probed.
"I was an idiot... I lost my temper..." Eddie hedged.
"Kicking yourself for your own stupidity, huh?" Pop asked. "Well, next time think through your words _before_hand."
"Yes, Pop," Eddie agreed hastily, then glanced over at Dad.
"I think I'll let it pass, this one time," Dad finally said. "But you pull that stunt again..."
"I understand," Eddie agreed.
"Now, I'm sorry we had to bring you, and we've been over why, so lets just drop it." Dad continued. "Just remember, this is the Deep South we're going into -- we're going to have enough trouble as it is without you making it worse. We'll have to be really discreet to avoid antagonizing people unnecessarily."
"Wouldn't want to do that..." Eddie muttered.
"No, you don't," Pop warned. "There are a thousand and one little things they can do to make this trip miserable, and you do not want to give them an excuse."
The seatbelt light turned off as the pilot announced that they were landed, interrupting their conversation. "Well, get up guys, we've arrived," Pop ordered.
Eddie did as he was ordered, still fuming. Why, oh why, was he stuck on this trip! It took forever, but eventually the crowd cleared out enough that they could reach the exit without being trampled by the 'mob'.
The reaction of the baggage clerk at the security terminal shook Eddie deeply. The knowledge that his great grandparents were such Luddites as to have issues with his parents union was one thing; an entire group of people, a culture, based on the same principles was unthinkable. Now he understood that nonsense about the Deep South, intolerable and unthinkable as it was.
"Last name?" the clerk asked Dad.
"Terrance," Dad answered.
"I've got three gentlemen by that name in the system, first?"
"Timothy, Frank and Edward," Dad informed him.
The clerk looked up and frowned. "All parties are required to be present to pick up their bags, Sir."
"We are all here," Pop complained.
"What?" the clerk asked, confused.
"Timothy, Frank, and Edward Terrance," Dad explained, pointing to each of them in turn.
"ID's please," the clerk demanded. They each handed them over in turn, the clerk carefully comparing the face to the photo.
Finally the clerk looked over at Dad and smiled, "Sorry Sir, but I'm required to check whenever anything seems strange."
"I understand perfectly," Dad reassured him with a false smile.
"I don't," Eddie muttered, not intending to be heard.
"Well, young man, it may be different up North, but 'roundabout here most people don't adopt blacks," the clerk explained a little snootily.
"Huh? Whatcha' talkin about Mister?" Eddie asked, missing Pop's frantic 'drop it' gesture.
"Your uncle here, of course," the clerk replied, slightly confused.
"Uncle? Do you mean Pop?" Eddie asked, thoroughly confused.
"Pop? Isn't he your uncle?" the clerk asked, suddenly concerned.
"Eddie, shut up," Dad hissed in his ear, dropping a hand on his shoulder.
Eddie tried to shift away automatically, but the hand on his shoulder stopped him before he even tried. "Yes Dad," Eddie ground out, upset.
"Wait a second, Dad? You just said..." The clerk's eyes shot wide open as he connected the dots and in a thick drawl exclaimed, "You ain't brothers, you're lovers!" He spat in disgust and pressed a few buttons on his computer. "I'm sorry, you have been randomly selected for an enhanced security screening, please don't leave the area..."
"Oh Heavenly Father, we pray that you find favor in our actions here tonight. May our plans serve your will and bring forth Your kingdom on Earth. May Your wisdom guide us in Your service and aid us in all the many facets of our lives, which we devote whole-heartedly to You. Forgive us our lies and deceptions, oh Lord, as we fail to be true, for we live in a world dominated by heathens and false believers, who would hinder our service to You. In Your glorious name we Pray, to The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost, Amen."
"Amen," everyone chorused after Pastor Riddle. The basement was relatively large, but there were more than enough people in it to leave it feeling cramped and hot.
"Alright gentlemen, another week of the Lord's service has passed. I've received reports from several other chapters, and things are going very well elsewhere," Pastor Riddle grinned. "Our mortal resources are slight, but with the Lord on our side we cannot fail! Now, what successes can I send word of to other groups?"
Several men raised their hands in response. "James, you first," the pastor chose.
James Beloof stood and grinned. "I've been talkin' to some folks in other towns, sending God's Word forth to enlighten those willing to hear," he announced. He waved down various congratulations and acknowledgements rumbled from the group, and added with a wider grin, "Just this week the Lord has moved several of those I've spoken to out to the east of town, and their minds have been changed by the revelation of truth!" The expectant hush of the room held for several long moments before he finished, "I'm glad to announce that not one, but four new groups of the Reformed Evangelical Church of Christ, with nearly twenty members spread amongst them, have now been formed!"
The cheering echoed through the underground room as the men there celebrated. "Please, gentlemen," the pastor tried to regain control, "allow him to finish before you make a joyous nose before the Lord"
James grinned and announced further, "Three of them approached me asking about how to do the Lord's Will, and agreed to create an action cell of their own!"
The room fell silent for a few moments before the pastor grinned. "I knew of this the day it happened, gentlemen. The three in question proved their worth the day they asked, as they came forward to ask for advice in dealing with a monster in their midst. James?"
"They came to me and asked of the Lord's Will with regards to fags, and as I led them they followed to the very end. Rudolf Brown, with the help of the others, brought before me his brother Jacob Brown, and the three did cast out the devil from him! First by fist, then metal, and when both failed, by fire. They made sure nothing remained to call the police upon them."
"Praise be to the Lord!" the pastor intoned.
"Praise be!" the rest chorused.
Hector, for his own part, wondered why James had bothered with the description of how. Beating, to the best of his knowledge, had never worked, and the cutting, pinching, and agony of metal seemed to produce successes that never withstood further testing. Only the most severe of the three, fire, seemed effective, and it was, naturally, fatal. It just seemed... unnecessarily cruel. But such was God's Word, all too often. It was beyond mortal understanding, just like God.
In comparison to the success James had managed, no one else had anything of real interest to report. A few people's ears opened to God's word, but no true converts, a few minor successes in bringing forth God's Will, but no major breakthroughs. Until, that is, Dad stood and smiled. "Gentlemen, while my own minor successes are not anywhere near as great as what the Lord has allowed James this week, my own plans proceed apace," he announced smugly. "As several of you know, the Rikers passed away last week, God rest their souls. They are survived only by their grandson Thomas and their great grandson Edward. Thomas will be attending their funeral, as a grandson should, though his original plans were to attend alone. I used one of the dummy corporations I've created to help hide our money transfers from ungodly eyes to provide a false business opportunity for Thomas's lover, in the hopes of bringing them both to God's justice in one fell blow."
"God has smiled upon my plans, however, and I have achieved more than I dreamed possible! Normally these godless fools would leave Edward at home with a friend, rather than insuring, as they should have, that he remained with family. This time, they did not!"
Dad's grin grew even wider as the revelation sank in. "Gentlemen, with Pastor's permission I have already contacted Emma and begun arrangements. Not only shall we bring these abominations before God's righteous judgment, but we shall save their 'son' before then, that he might be the hand that does God's Will!"
His grin was matched by the congratulations and grins of those around him, though a few had reservations. "Pastor, I'm concerned about using Emma, again, we're already using her with the Torrelli brat, and trying to use her in both plans at the same time..."
"And let's not forget her... issues; she's using us as much as we're use her!" someone else added. "What happens if one of her plans backfires? It's bad enough when we control our own risks, but involving her means we take whatever risks she wants to!"
"Gentlemen, gentlemen!" the pastor reassured them, "we've already discussed matters with her and come to a very reasonable arrangement. She knows that her own personal... vendetta is lost; racism is dead in America even if she would like it otherwise. In return for the occasional chance to 'do some good' for her cause, she's willing to subordinate herself to ours. After all, without some kind of support she isn't going to get much of anywhere. And her cause is now completely subordinated to the Lord's."
"And whatever we may think of her priorities, she's good at what she does," someone else commented. "If she says she can do it, she can, and will if we ask. We need her as badly as she needs us."
"Gentlemen, the decision is made," Paster ordered. "She hasn't discussed exact details with us yet, I suspect she's still working them out, but she's managed to process the paperwork to make both me and Ricardo emergency foster parents. Better yet, we're completely one hundred percent legal in that regards, she didn't bend or break a single rule to do it, leaving us above suspicion even if someone does decide to investigate her. In fact, our plans work out so we can never accidentally implicate one another: she must deliberately turn on us for that to happen, and she won't."
"The Lord is wise to have guided us to such a brilliant plan," Dad agreed, "and I have great hopes that it is an effective plan as well."
"Praise be to the Lord!" the pastor intoned.
"Praise be!" the congregation responded.
"Praise be!" the pastor spoke louder, more forcefully, an the congregation matched him as they chorused back.
Hector carefully hid a sigh. This... again. For a moment Hector wondered if he could avoid mentioning that thought to Dad... after all, he'd already said it last week...
Slowly the pastor worked them upwards to a fever pitch, gradually building the moment up.
"Praise be unto the Lord," the pastor shouted.
"Praise be!" the congregation shouted back as he paused for a moment.
"Whose Hand is ever upon us-" the pastor continued, pausing for constant 'praise be's. "Who guides us from above, Who shelters us from the ungodly, Who has promised us succor and aid should we need it, Whose victory is certain, and Who shall rescue us come the End of Days! Praise be!"
"Praise be!" the group thundered one last time.
"Thank you all for coming," the pastor said, "and I hope to see all of you next week. Remember, simply because the Lord has not blessed you with success this week does not mean he will not do so in the coming week. Go with the Lord, and good day."
The pastor remained by the basement door as people filed out, talking to each of them in turn. A few words of encouragement or acceptance to each man who left, until only Hector and his Dad were left.
"Hector, Ricardo, it was nice to have you over," Pastor Riddle greeted them. "Do you have a few moments to talk, today?"
"In the Lord's service, all men find time," Dad answered, nodding his head.
"Good, and Hector?"
Hector blinked, surprised for a moment before bowing his head, "As my father wills, sir."
"I was asking you what you wanted, Hector, not what your father tells you to want," the pastor scolded. Hector didn't have to look to see his Dad straightening up in anger.
"What are you trying to say, Pastor?" Dad growled.
"The boy is thirteen years old, Ricardo, he should be able to make at least some decisions for himself," the pastor answered evenly. "Yet he always defers them to you without so much as stating a preference."
"He honors his Father and his Mother, as commanded by-" Dad began.
"Fool!" the Pastor said coldly. "I have let this obscenity go on too long, clearly, if you truly think-" Pastor Riddle broke off and sighed. "Your son should mind you, yes, but he is not your servant, not your slave. He should be thinking for himself, making his own decisions on at least a few subjects. Sure, he'll make mistakes, but he'll learn from them. You won't always be around, and he needs to know how to stand on his own two feet."
"He is learning! I teach him every day how to be a good and Godly man! I bring him to church, I oversee his prayers, I-"
"You decide every facet of his life, giving him no experience in choosing for himself!" Pastor interrupted the tirade. "He must learn not only what is right and wrong, but how to choose between them himself!"
"He is just a boy, Pastor" Dad objected.
"He will never become more if he is not given the chance to do so," Pastor scolded.
"But he'll make mistakes, mistakes-"
Pastor interrupted, shaking his head angrily. "Yes, he'll make mistakes. Mistakes that will help him grow and become more. Think back on your own childhood, what did you learn the most from? Was it the lectures your father gave you, or the opportunity to put that knowledge to use, and grow from the proper and improper use of it?"
"But what if-" Dad began, voice breaking. "Can we continue this discussion privately, sir?"
"We are private, Ricardo," the pastor answered testily.
"No sir, privately," Dad flicked his eyes to Hector for a few moments.
"As you wish," Pastor decided. "Hector, please wait for us in the kitchen," he ordered. As Hector ascended the stairs, the Pastor added, "And feel free to help yourself to the soda in the fridge, but the cookies are off-limits unless the Missus offers!"
Closing the door behind him, Hector wandered over to the kitchen table and sat down.
"Hello there, dear!" Mrs. Riddle greeted him when she came into the room. "How are you today?"
"Fine ma'am," Hector answered.
"Fine? Is that all?" she asked cheerfully.
"Yes ma'am. The meeting is finished, I'm just waiting for my Dad to finish talking to Pastor," he informed her. Politely.
"You are always such a proper young man," she said, "it would hardly hurt you to let your hair down a little! I know I'm hardly the type you'd normally confide in, but still!"
"Sorry ma'am," he said, "what would you have me do?"
"Well, I have a name, use it! Call me Monica, or Mrs. Riddle, or anything other than ma'aming me constantly!" she asked in exasperation.
"Yes ma- um, yes Mrs. Riddle," Hector answered.
"Good! Now, would you like some chocolate chip cookies?" she grabbed a plate off the counter and waved it under his nose.
He licked his lips reflexively as the smell hit his nose, "Sorry, no thanks ma'am."
"What did I say about calling me ma'am?" she scolded him.
"Sorry, Mrs. Riddle," he apologized.
"Now, we both know you want some, so take three cookies as punishment," she ordered.
"What?" Hector exclaimed. "I mean, I'm sorry ma- er, Mrs. Riddle, I don't think I heard you correctly."
"I'm ordering you to eat three of these cookies as punishment. Now take them," she grinned. "Your father will hardly fault you for failing to obey my orders, now will he?"
Hector looked down at the plate and felt his teenage hunger rise. One or two cookies couldn't hurt... even if he wasn't supposed to go eating without permission, he did have her permission, so... He quickly grabbed a trio of cookies off the plate, and started nibbling. He didn't get them very often, his mother frowned on most sweets, but there was nothing in the world like fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. They were gone almost too quickly, despite his efforts to savor them.
"Well, I see somebody likes my cooking!" Mrs. Riddle grinned over at him, setting a root beer down on the table beside him. "Drink up, you must be thirsty darling."
"I don't think my Dad-" Hector began.
"Your father is currently getting his ass chewed out by my husband, and we both know it," she told him. "Now, unless you'd prefer another drink..."
Hector, caught in the conflicting grip of contradictory rules, gave in to the inevitable and started drinking. Root beer was one of his favorites, after all, and it would be rude to refuse it. Even if he wasn't really supposed to be eating and drinking except at mealtimes.
The wait wasn't long, and soon Dad and Pastor came storming up from the basement. "Come along, Hector, we're leaving. Now," Dad ground out from between clenched teeth.
"We will finish this discussion another day, Ricardo," Pastor promised. "Just remember, and please... think about what I said!"
"I will think about it, Pastor," Dad promised as he stormed out the door, Hector following closely.
"Alright, gentlemen, you have my apologies," the security manager told them. "It was unreasonable of Samuel to detain you for an in-depth security check like that."
"Unreasonable?" Eddie snarled. "Those guards were going to... they... I can't even say it!"
The manager frowned angrily. "I'm well aware of what they were preparing to do, and I assure you, they are going to be dealt with even more harshly than Samuel was."
"Wait, wait a second, what happened to Eddie?" Dad demanded angrily.
"The guards were ordered to perform a full security check of all three of you, Sir. I got to him before they began the more..." the security manager hesitated, trying to find the right words.
"You mean they did to him, just like they did to us?" Pop asked, outraged. "They did a full cavity search on me! Including... God, to a twelve year old?!"
"I can't fire them myself, Sir, but I strongly expect that's exactly what's going to happen to them," the manager assured him. "Without some evidence, performing an anal cavity check on a child is... even on an adult, it's outrageous!"
"Can you guys please drop it?" Eddie asked testily. "I'd really rather just forget about it at this point."
"The airport is prepared to pick up the tab for your flight home, that much I can do on my own authority," the manager added. "I'm going to contact my superiors to see what more can be done to... offset this situation."
"To avoid us suing, you mean," Pop stated flatly.
"There is that, yes," the manager agreed. "But above and beyond that, I'm just as incensed over this situation as you are."
"We're going to be here a week or so," Dad said slowly. "I trust you'll have the individuals in question... suitably dealt with by then?"
The manager nodded slowly. "That's my plan. Samuel's actions put us in federal jeopardy, and the guards themselves... what they did to you two was excessive, but to your son? No way my bosses will tolerate that kind of behavior. None."
"I'll want evidence to back that up. But I imagine picking up the tab for our flight home will suffice -- so long as you remember to back it up with an apology. A public apology," Dad said.
"A public apology might take some doing," the manager hedged.
"If we receive it, we'll agree to hold the airport blameless for the illegal actions taken by it's employees without it's knowledge or consent, and in direct violation of it's standing rules and procedures," Pop added. "That sound like the right legalese?"
"I'll need to check with higher, and I imagine they'll want lawyers to check off on it, but... yeah," the manager agreed. "Sounds within reason."
"One more thing," Dad asked. "When I receive an apology, I expect an explanation on what went wrong, how, why, and what's being done to fix the problem."
"That much, you will get -- standard company policy, set down by our PR people," the manager agreed. "Now, if that's all gentlemen, I've arranged for a taxi to take you to your hotel -- and before you ask, we've arranged alternative lodgings for you, to cover the duration of your stay. I imagine you will find them quite suitable."
"Oh?" Dad asked.
"I took the liberty of checking your tickets, and you were staying at one of the smaller motels in the area," the manager explained. "I've... upgraded you, for the week originally specified, to a slightly more up-scale location."
"I see," Dad smiled. "That sounds... quite satisfactory."
"Good. Please, until I get this straightened out with higher, can we keep this between us?" the manager almost begged.
"I'll consider it," Dad said flatly. "The sooner 'higher' gets their asses in gear, however..."
"I'll be sure to relay that as well," the manager assured him.
"Good," Dad said, and let the manager guide them to the waiting taxi.
"Ricardo! You're home!" Mom exclaimed.
"Yes dear," Dad smiled back at her.
Hector stood, waiting.
"Hector, go set the table," Mom ordered. "Quickly, now. So, Rick, how did the meeting go?" she asked his dad as Hector left the room. He couldn't quite make out the words of his Dad's reply, but the anger in his tone suggested that he was starting with the confrontation he'd had with Pastor.
Dinner smelled heavenly to him as he washed his hands at the sink, and Hector forced his stomach not to growl as he set the plates out and arranged the silverware. Heading to the fridge, he grabbed the margarine tub and Parmesan cheese, and set them out along with the butter dish that was waiting on the counter. Grabbing some napkins, he set them carefully under the silverware before backing up and checking that he had everything. Looked like he had the table set!
He wandered over to the stove to check that he was right about the meal, and saw the sauce merrily bubbling away on low under the glass lid, with the noodles looking just about done. And ducking down, he saw the garlic bread in the oven looking pretty close to done as well.
"What do you think you're doing?" Mom demanded.
Hector straightened with a yelp. "Mom!" he exclaimed in surprise. "I was just checking what was for dinner to make sure I had everything out!"
Mom slapped him angrily. "Don't lie to me young man! You were going to try and sneak some food before dinner, weren't you?"
"As God is my witness ma'am, no! I just wanted to check what was for supper, and how close to done it was!" Hector said quickly.
Mom frowned for a few moments at him then jerked her head over her shoulder. "Sit down and wait, it'll be ready shortly."
"Yes ma'am," Hector answered as he obeyed.
"Hector." Mom added.
"Yes ma'am?" Hector replied fearfully.
"Come back here." Hector obeyed silently, and stood before his mother, who sniffed the air. "Breath out," she ordered.
"Have you been stealing food?" she asked angrily. "I can smell chocolate on your breath! You know how that rots your teeth young man, and I will not have it!"
"Mrs. Riddle insisted I have some of her cookies, Mom, it would have been rude to refuse!" Hector defended himself.
"She did, did she?" Mom asked testily. "And where was your father while this happened?"
"He was talking to Pastor," Hector explained.
"I see. Sit."
"Yes ma'am," Hector answered quickly.
Dad came in and sat down at the head of the table and smiled over at his wife. "It smells delicious, honey," he told her.
"I'm sure it does," she answered meekly. "Hector, did you remember to wash your hands?" she asked sharply.
"Yes ma'am," Hector answered.
"Wash them again!" she snapped angrily, as she strained the spaghetti noodles. Hector moved over to the sink beside her and dipped his hands into the hot, soapy water on the side of the sink she wasn't using and started scrubbing. When he finished, he waited, hands dripping, for her to finish with the faucet. Frowning at him, she turned the faucet over to his side of the sink. Grimacing, he thrust his hands into the steaming water and rinsed off as quickly as he could.
"And what exactly what that about young man?" she demanded harshly.
"The water was a little hot, ma'am," Hector answered.
"It's supposed to be hot, that's how you get clean," she told him.
"I know ma'am, it just hurt a little."
"Get over it," she told him snidely as she moved the noodles to the table.
"Yes ma'am," Hector answered. "May I sit back down please?" he asked.
"Go, go!" she snapped.
Hector sat back down and waited as his mother finished setting things out to eat. "Lord, bless this meal," Dad prayed over it, "may it nourish our bodies as your holy spirit nourishes our souls. It comes from your bounty and we are grateful for all you grant us, Lord. May Your wisdom guide us, and Your patience be with us as we go about our daily tasks. I thank you Lord, for all the blessings of this day, and for the wisdom of your Church in my daily life. I ask, Lord, that you strengthen me as I try to fulfill my obligations to my family, and that you guide me to wisdom, Lord, in those same duties. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, amen."
"Amen," Hector added quietly with his mother.
Dad quickly dished his food up, and so did Mom. As they talked, Hector waited patiently for his mother to ask for his plate and then handed it to her. She dumped a bunch of noodles onto it, and then not half as much sauce as that many noodles required, and handed it back to him, along with a piece of garlic bread.
Hector ate, carefully chewing his food every bite, and grabbing a new forkful the instant he swallowed, but not before. Soon he finished his plate, and his mother took it from him and dished him some more food, this time placing far too much sauce on top of the noodles. Again, he ate it quickly and carefully. This time, she told him to take his plate to the sink, and Dad excused him from the table.
"I'm going to talk to you before bedtime, Son," Dad warned him before sending him up to his room.
"Yes, Father," Hector responded, dreading their nightly talk.
After all, it was inevitably going to be followed by another beating for some offense or another.
Eddie yawned as Pop led him into their room for the night. Even with the events at the airport, it had been a long day, and having someone threaten to... well, it had been a rather exhausting experience. "I'm ready for bed!" he announced through a second yawn.
"Shower and brush your teeth first, Eddie," Dad ordered as he dropped the bags he'd been carrying. "Here, I think this one is yours..." Dad tossed one of the bags at Eddie, who barely managed to catch it. Suppressing a third yawn, he wandered towards the restroom door.
"Hey, Tim," Pop asked, "weren't there supposed to be two beds in here?"
"Yeah- What the hell?" Dad complained. "I can't believe-" Dad's complaint was broken off by a yawn of his own. Between the air trip and the drive here, all three of them were exhausted. "I can't believe I missed that!"
"I'm going to go drop by the office and see what hair-brained idiot..." Pop's voice trailed off as Eddie closed the restroom door behind himself. Sifting through his bag, he didn't notice when Dad opened the door.
"Hey, Eddie, don't take a shower just yet -- we're gonna move to a different room soon," Dad ordered before closing the door.
"Okay, whatever..." Eddie answered tiredly. Looking in his ditty bag for a moment, he decided not to bother tracking down his toiletries just yet. Instead, he dropped his pants and took care of other business, that didn't require anything not already stocked. Unfortunately, he didn't actually check that what should have been stocked was.
"Ah fuck..." he swore when he actually looked at the dispenser. "Bloody fucking..."
Getting up, he sought in the cabinets under the sink for the missing toilet paper, but found a couple of cleaning agents instead, nothing he could use to wipe with. "Dad!" he cracked the door open to complain, "They forgot to give us toilet paper of all things!"
"You're kidding," Dad answered. "What the hell is going on? This place got great reviews when we checked it out on the way over!"
"Well, it's gonna get a really bad one from me!" Eddie groused.
"One sec, I think I have some... Yeah, I do..." Dad pulled out a portable package of kleenex and held them up. "Not the best substitute, but unless you've got a really bad mess on your... well to keep off your hands, these should do."
"Tissue paper? I'm gonna use tissue paper to..." Eddie shook his head. "Whatever, toss 'em here," he stuck an arm through the door, still keeping his body behind it. If he hadn't jumped back when the door to the room was slammed open he would have caught the package. Unfortunately, the police barged into the room with the worst possible timing, and as he jumped back from the slamming door he got caught up in his pants and fell backwards, somehow pulling the door half open before getting it tangled up with his legs.
"Police! You're under arrest!" the officers were shouting as they stormed into the room in full tactical mode. Assault rifles and body armor make for a very intimidating entrance, and Eddie didn't particularly feel like arguing the point when he was ordered, "Get on the ground, hands behind your heads!"
Dad hesitated for a long moment before obeying. Not out of surprise, Eddie knew, but deliberation. These police officers were idiots, barging in like that and then failing to maintain any unit separation or distance from the 'perps' they were arresting. Had Dad wanted to, in all likelihood two or three of them would have been on the ground before they could have taken him down. Pop would have been worse, he was short tempered enough that he probably would have tried, and he was the martial arts nut that got Dad practicing in the first place. Eddie spared a few moments to thank God Pop wasn't here to make things worse.
After all, it was the police! As soon as they realized they had the wrong room, they'd let them go!
"Timothy Terrance, you are under arrest for child abuse..." the officer began to inform Dad as another told Eddie "Don't worry kid, you're going to be alright..." and started carrying him outside, still naked from the waist down and desperately needing to wipe.