The road we were dashing down headed directly into the center of the main compound. When Hank realized that, he stopped as soon as we had put some distance between us and the cave. "Unless things have really changed, driving into the compound will be driving into a hornets' nest. Clearly that doesn't seem advisable," Hank said, grabbing a pair of binoculars hanging from the rear view mirror. He stepped out of the Humvee and looked over the gathering at the front gate. "They are just milling around," he said. "I have no idea what's up."
When Hank had stopped the Humvee, Wes got on the radio to check in. When he heard Hank's remark, he asked, "Tim, what's going on? We can see your troops at the gate, but nothing happening."
"We're remembering Waco. We still don't have a warrant. You don't want to drive into that compound," Tim responded. "There have been some random shots fired--maybe at us, maybe in the air, but there is definitely a welcoming committee you don't want to meet."
Wes acknowledged Tim's warning then said, "Tim, get an ambulance ready to take Jonathan, Stone and Wesley to the hospital. Stone and Wesley have minor--not life-threatening, anyway--gunshot wounds and need to go to the emergency room. Their wounds are NOT serious, but they do need attention. Jonathan is another question altogether. He's completely out of it, but that's all I can tell now."
Tim told him two ambulances were standing by already, then asked, "What's the situation in the cave? Any idea?"
"There's at least seven, maybe eight, nine, men in the cave. We disarmed six, but that doesn't mean they are unarmed now. They have tons of ammo so I suspect there are weapons we didn't see, so be careful with any move you decide to make. By the way, at least two or three of them are wounded."
"We'll wait until you all get here before we make any further move," Tim said. "You're sure Stone's wounds are not serious? Well, and the others too, I mean."
There was no question Tim was kinda rattled."
They'll all live," Wes replied, with a chuckle. "Well, we're on our way." Wes put down the radio and called out his window, "Hank, think you can drive this thing cross-country?"
"I can try," Hank replied as he got back in the Humvee, hung the binoculars on the mirror and seated himself, pulling his seatbelt tight. Firmly buckled in, he turned off the road, across a roadside ditch and headed for the meadow.
The ride was not smooth and a couple times I thought, "This is it, we're stuck," but each time Hank was able to manoeuvre his way out of a bad situation.
The compound's outer fence loomed ahead when Wes said, "Hank, hold up here a minute." Hank stopped the Humvee and turned to look at Wes."Hank, there's an electric fence atop the chain-link around this side of the compound. It carries a pretty hefty voltage--I've seen animals killed by it. So long as we are inside the vehicle it shouldn't harm us. If you hit the fence at an angle and keep just bumping it, maybe you can get the chain-link and electric fence together, shorting out the electric one. We can't cut the chain-link or wrench it aside without unnecessary risk. We'll just have to push our way through carefully. Go to it!"
Hank drove toward the fence, stopping a couple yards before he reached it, put the Humvee in its lowest gear--it was already in four wheel drive--and inched forward. When he reached the fence, he pushed forward on the chain-link. When the fence was stretched tight, he stopped, put the vehicle in reverse and floor-boarded it. The chain-link snapped back, but the electric fence was still intact. Hank drove forward until the Humvee's bumper was against a fence post and started bumping it, vibrating the whole fence. Suddenly there was bright flash and sparks flew everywhere, then stopped suddenly.
Taking no chances, Hank backed away from the fence, then inched forward until the front of the vehicle was against a fence post and pushed. The post started over, but the vehicle lost traction in the grass and damp earth. Hank backed away, changed the angle of the vehicle to the post and pushed again. Apparently the electric fence was grounded out or had blown a fuse, because there was no indication it was still alive after the initial fireworks. It took several more attempts, but gradually the chain-link was pushed to the ground and we headed down the road toward the troops.
Minutes later, we rolled into the area where the law enforcement officials had set up shop. Almost before Hank had stopped the vehicle, he shot out of it, yanked open the door and lifted Jonathan from Wesley's and Wes's laps. Holding him close, he practically ran to the ambulance where two of the EMS techs took Jonathan from him and put the young victim on a stretcher. Immediately a third tech started giving him a good going over, checking him very throughly. I watched carefully, trying to discover what she was finding.
All the time I had been holding Jonathan, he hadn't moved. So far as I could tell, he wasn't breathing. He had not moved as Hank carried him toward the ambulance, and looked like a rag doll as he was put on the stretcher. I couldn't help but think he was probably dead.
Meanwhile, Tim had the door open and picked up Stone. "You're wounded?" he asked, then without giving Stone time to answer, asked, "Is it bad? Are you in pain? Are you bleeding?"
Stone may have been in pain, but he started laughing. "Tim, I got shot in the leg. Nothing important was damaged. It's nothing serious. I'll be like new shortly. You can calm down." Tim was standing beside the Humvee, still holding Stone in his arms. Stone patted him on the cheek and said, "You can put me down now and I'll prove how fine I am later."
Tim turned bright red and then helped Stone walk toward the waiting EMS tech, who quickly checked his vitals and helped him into the waiting ambulance.
Wes helped Wesley get to a waiting EMS tech who checked him out and got him aboard. When he was inside, all the wounded were ready and the EMS ambulance raced away, its siren screaming.
As the ambulance's siren went out of hearing, the crew from the second EMS ambulance brought us blankets which were very welcome. The outer "shells" of the wind suits we were wearing were dry, but the linings were still damp. Since the night was more than a little chilly, the suits had become very uncomfortable.I finally screwed up enough courage to ask one of the EMS team members a question which had really worried me, fearing her answer. "Jonathan," I asked, expecting the worse, "he is alive, he will be all right, won't he?"
"Sure, he's alive. Was there any doubt?" the woman responded.
"Well yes, there was. At least in my mind. He never moved when I was holding him and I couldn't tell he was breathing."
"I'm not surprised. He was very heavily drugged, I'm sure. Anyway, the doctors will be working on him shortly, bringing him around. He'll be ok. He'll be just fine in a day or two," she assured me.
After she left, Jason stood looking at Wes who, as Jason, was clutching a blanket around his shoulders. "You look like heapum bad movie Indian, ugh," Jason grinned.
"Could sayum same for you, Boy Injun," Wes responded and we all chuckled, more a release of tension than anything else, I suspect.
"I guess Jonathan being drugged won't hurt him. I mean, there won't be any permanent damage, I hope," I said, not at all convinced.
"I doubt it will do any real harm. He's young and in good shape," Wes said. "And there's one good thing about it, he probably won't remember anything about his ordeal. I guess he was drugged to keep him quiet when he was abducted. Hope that's true. He doesn't need to remember what was done to him.""
What do you mean?" Hank asked.
"From what I saw when I looked into the room where he was, I suspect he has been raped. If he hasn't, it would have been only a matter of time. Abel Mitchell and Noah Holland didn't have their pants off for nothing."
As I listened to Wes, I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I remembered the scene as we rushed into the room to rescue Jonathan.
Sheriff Hall and a uniformed deputy brought us cups of steaming coffee, which we accepted eagerly. As we took the cups, Wes pointed to a group of men walking toward the Humvee. "Where're they heading?" he asked the sheriff.
"They are going to finish cleaning up the cave as soon as the SBI gives the word, as soon as the State Bureau gets the search warrant we haven't been able to get," the sheriff replied.
"They need to be careful," Wes said. "Not only was someone shooting at us as we were leaving, the ones we disarmed and tied up may have been freed and rearmed by now. There is no doubt we didn't get all their weapons. There was too much ammo for so few weapons."
The sheriff said, "Thanks," and he and Wes went over to the Humvee and stood talking to a group of heavily armed law officers. While they were talking, a state trooper's car, siren wailing, skidded to a stop and a trooper got out and handed the SBI agent a paper. He gave the sheriff a nod. The sheriff patted one of the officers on the back and the group turned and climbed inside the Humvee and started back up the trail Hank had blazed.
As soon as the Humvee left, the sheriff walked over to a tall African-American who was wearing a jacket with "SBI" on the back. The two were joined by Chief Whisnant. After the three had talked for several minutes, the sheriff called out, "If y'all will gather round, we'll get on with the night's operation."
Still wrapped in blankets, we joined the group surrounding the three law officers. When everyone was within earshot, the sheriff said, "Agent Jackson of the SBI has gotten the search warrant which we were unable to obtain. We have seen nothing, heard nothing--no action or anything from the compound other than the few random shots fired just as we created the diversion for Wes and his team. That could mean just about anything. We don't want anyone else to be hurt, so we've decided to send in the SBI SWAT team."
"Originally the personnel carrier from the armory in Clarksville was to have started out when we left the school to come out here, but apparently someone get the message screwed up and it only started a short time ago. As I am sure you are aware, it doesn't set any speed records, but we are in no rush. When it arrives, and the SWAT team has a chance to scope out the compound, we'll decide on our next move. Meanwhile, just be at ease."
While the sheriff was talking, Beth drove up in my Jeep, hopped out and grabbed Hank and gave him a toe-curling kiss. When she finally released him, she kissed me and Jason and as she did whispered, "You can pretend that's from your true-love.
When she had hugged Wes, he said, "Look, there's nothing more you can do here. Why don't y'all go home, get on dry clothes and check on the wounded. As soon as things are over here, I'll come by your place, Hank, with a final report. And, Douglas, if you can put me up for the night, I'd appreciate it. I'm about dead on my feet, and don't relish driving home after the show is over."
"Happy to have you. Anytime," I replied.
We got in the Jeep with Beth driving and went home. She dropped Jason and me off at our place and took Hank to his.
Jason suggested a hot shower might help get the chill out of our bones. I readily agreed. I hadn't realized just how cold I was until we got inside a warm house. Like I didn't realize how tired I was--we both were--until we showered without a great deal of playing around.
When we had showered and dressed, we waited for Beth and Hank to come back. When they arrived, we all piled in the Jeep again and drove to the hospital.
As we approached the hospital, I saw a TV news van in the parking lot. "I don't know whether the TV people will know who we are, or even if they have any idea we were involved in the Sadies Cove thing," I said, "but I don't think I'm in any mood for talking to reporters."
"Why not go around to the emergency room entrance?" Hank asked. "That's where the hospital personnel would expect us to enter anyway," he grinned.
As soon as we reached the emergency suite, we were greeted by Dr. Alexander. "Good to see you all are still in one piece. Getting your buddies patched up and ready to go home. No serious damage done."
"How's Jonathan than?" Hank asked. "Is he ok?"
"He's stabilized," she said. "His vital signs are still depressed by the drugs he was given, but that's to be expected. Specimens were rushed to Mission-St. Joseph's for a tox screen to see what we are dealing with, and the results are just back. He was very heavily drugged but he should be coming around before too long, now that we know what we are dealing with."
"Did you do a rape kit on him?" I asked.
"A rape kit?" Hank and Jason said together.
"Yes, we did," Dr. Alexander said. "I wasn't going to say anything about that but, since you asked, we did and Jonathan was raped. We'll get a full report later, including DNA matches to nail down exactly who was involved in his rape. Frankly, I was surprised there was evidence since I expected the rapist to have used a condom. Anyway, physically Jonathan will be in good shape soon, I think, but emotionally? We'll just have to see how we move on that."
"Say, Stone and Wesley are ok?" Jason asked.
"Well, as all right as you can be with a flesh wound. They are not in the feel-good class--well maybe they are, since they have been given some happy juice, but in any case there's no permanent damage done. The nurses are just finishing up on them now and as soon as they are properly bandaged, they'll come up to wait with the rest of Jonathan's fan club. I was just on my way up. Come along."
"Have there been others brought in from Sadies Cove? We know at least one of them in the cave where we were is wounded," Hank said.
"They will be taken to Mission-St. Joseph's. I'm the emergency room staff here and I have my hands full with your friends. At least as full as I want them to be." It was obvious to me Dr. Alexander didn't want to have to work on people who had victimized Jonathan and shot his rescuers. "Well, here we are," she said as we reached the second floor. "Actually, I think everyone is in the waiting area, except Mr. and Mrs. Dennison who are with Jonathan."
We stuck our heads into Jonathan's room just to let the Dennisons know we were around. Hank and Beth did go in and stayed with his parents. As we walked back to the waiting area, a nurse came with a covered meds tray and went into Jonathan's room, medicine to counteract the drugs he had been given, I guessed.
We had just gotten back to the waiting room when Stone and Wesley arrived. Stone was on crutches and Wesley's wounded arm was in a sling. There were hugs all around and Wesley and Stone asked about Jonathan and we told them all we knew.
"So how are you two doing?" Beth asked.
"Fine," Wesley replied, "especially after getting the feel-good shots."
"Yea, fine," Stone said. "I guess. I know I FEEL good! Very good," he said with a goofy smile on his face.
Shortly after we got to the waiting room, Stone's cell phone rang. He managed to get it out of his pocket, but was feeling so good he couldn't do anything with it. I reached out and took the phone he was juggling, knowing he would drop it any minute."
Hello," I said into the phone. "This is Douglas."
"Douglas, this is Tim. How's Stone?"
"Right now he's kinda floating around, sailing high on some feel-good juice," I answered. "I have his phone because he was doing a juggling act with it."
"I can imagine. That joker can get high on a beer and an aspirin. I guess since he's high that means he's been put back together."
"So far as his wound goes, but he's really spaced out."
"Well, we are still stuck here. The personnel carrier has just arrived and the SWAT team is on its way into the compound. If you would, pour Stone into your vehicle and take him to your place. When I finish here, I'll come by."
"Sure thing, Tim," I answered. Just as I started to fold the phone, Stone kinda waved at me. I said, "Tim, hang on a minute here. Stone wants to say something."
Stone looked at me, got a really silly grin on his face, winked and said, "Tell old Timmy boy Stone is in fine shape and is still in love with him. Tell him that."
"Tim, Stone says..."
"I heard what Stone said," Tim said. "Man, he must really be shit-faced. Oops, sorry about that. Will you please get him to your place before he decides to make an announcement to the world about God only knows what."
"On the way, even as we speak," I replied, folded the phone and said, "We need to get you to my place, Stone." Stone didn't hear me as he had dropped onto a sofa and joined Wesley who was already sound asleep.
"He's ok for now," Jason said. "Let's check on the Dennisons before we leave."
We went to Jonathan's room. Dr. Alexander was just finishing checking Jonathan's vitals. "Hi, Guys," she said. Your boy Jonathan is stable now. Physically he's doing great, considering. I'm giving him a drip to counteract the drugs he had been given, but he will likely sleep for several more hours. I don't expect him to really be with us anytime soon. He was drugged to the point of it being very, very dangerous. He could easily have gone into cardiac arrest or respiratory failure. But he's on the way back now."
"You folks may as well go on home, get some rest and come back this afternoon. Let's see, it's mid-morning now, so I wouldn't think Jonathan would be coming around until, as I said, late afternoon, 4:00 or 5:00 at the earliest. If there is any change at all, I'll call.�
Mr. Dennison told Hank to go on and get some rest. "You, too, Mother," he said to Mrs. Dennison. After a bit of back and forth, Mr. Dennison said, "Hank, neither your mother nor I seem willing to leave our boy. You go on and we'll see you later."
"Dad, I'll be at Douglas' place. Wes Bushyhead is coming there when everything's over."
"Fine. Now go on and get some rest."
We had escaped the TV crew going in, but they were waiting for us when we left the hospital. With cameras pointing at us and mikes being pushed in our face, Jason took over and said, "We have no comment at this time. We are taking our wounded friends home to get some rest and would appreciate it if you would make way for us."
A very pushy woman shoved a mike in Hank's face and asked, "Are you the brother of the rescued boy?"
Before he could speak, Hank, who was holding Wesley up--I had Stone--pushed the mike back toward the reporter.
"Ma'am, you were told we had no comment. What is your name?" Jason asked.
"I'm Angie Router of WHNS, Fox News."
"If I could have your attention," Jason said in a loud voice, "we will be holding a news conference later, late afternoon after we have had time to get some sleep--we have been up for over twenty-four hours--Mr. Joseph Anderson, the deputy district attorney for Haynes County's office will announce the time and place of the news conference. You may call his office after 4:00 to learn when and where it will be held. At that news conference, we will be available to all of you except WHNS and Fox News who will not be welcome. Again, check with Mr. Anderson's office at 4:00. Thank you and if you'll make way, we want to get to bed."
By singling out the Fox team, Jason had made it pretty clear we were not to be bothered and the other reporters took note of that. It didn't mean, of course, they turned off their cameras. All the time Jason was dealing with the reporters, Wesley and Stone were being held up by Hank and me, the silly grins never leaving their faces.
When we got home, Jason and I managed to get Stone undressed and in a pair of boxers before slipping him in the foldout bed in the den. That accomplished, we checked on Hank and found him trying to undress Wesley who was insisting on kissing Hank. Hank was actually laughing. In fact, he was laughing so hard he kept dropping Wesley back on the bed. The three of us managed to get Wesley undressed and in boxers. By the time we had managed that, he was sound asleep. We rolled him to the back of his bed. Hank stripped, pulled on a pair of boxers he took from Wesley's chest and managed a weak "Bye-bye" before falling into bed.
Minutes later, Jason and I were wrapped in each other's arms, sound asleep. Sometime later, I heard people downstairs, but did not get awake enough to go down or do anything. Seconds later I was sound asleep again.
At 3:30 the phone rang and Jason got out of bed and padded down the hall to answer it. He came back in a few minutes and said it was Gertrude, Tim's secretary. "She is trying to locate him to get him ready for the press conference I called," Jason chuckled. "She sounded as though I was guilty of a major crime. I told her to make a list of all the reporters who call before 4:00 and we'll not talk with them. She liked the idea. But we need to get everyone awake and talk about a news conference."
Jason threw on his robe and tossed me mine, and as soon as I had it on, we went downstairs. Tim had found the guest room and was passed out on one of the beds there, Wes was on the other. As soon as I had opened the door, both men started stirring and I assumed would be awake shortly.
Jason and I went to the kitchen where we started coffee and both grabbed a bowl for cereal and started wolfing down Cheerios. I guess the smell of fresh coffee drifted all the way upstairs because first Stone, then Hank and Wesley walked--staggered is more like it--into the kitchen. Jason poured coffee for the three and handed them bowls and the Cheerios box.Tim and Wes still had not appeared and Stone said he guessed he'd have to rouse Tim out of bed. "He's always reluctant to leave the arms of Morpheus.�
"Know about that," Jason said.
"Yeah, Douglas could sleep through the end of the world," Hank said.
"Better than being a neurotic like Hank who believes he's the rooster in charge of sunrise," I responded.
When we had finished eating, we all refilled our coffee cups and were sitting around the table when Wes and Tim finally appeared. Both spoke--barely--and got coffee and joined us at the table.
"We checked on Jonathan before we came in," Tim said, "and the doctor told us he was doing well considering what he had been through. When we checked he was still sleeping, but responded when called, though barely. Again, he's doing as well as can be expected."
"We all have to face reporters this afternoon and you need to know the end of the story with The Circle of God's Chosen."
"First, as you all suspected, the people in the cave had freed those you had tied up and they had rearmed themselves. The team who was charged with taking care of them were fired upon as soon as they got close enough for the remote unit on the Humvee to open the outside doors. The team immediately backed off to a safe distance and fired tear gas into the cave. It seemed to be doing little good they reported to the sheriff and Wes had him radio them about the ventilation system. The team dropped tear gas canisters into the ventilation system intakes and the crew inside soon had enough and came out, hands aloft. There were a dozen people in the cave, so you guys were lucky getting out since there were two or three more than you thought."
"Anyway, the cave was sealed off after a preliminary look which revealed, among other things, Mitchell, Holland and Grey had a booming child porn business going. Both bedrooms were equipped with a very sophisticated video setup, all operated by remote control. Stacks of tapes marked "Master Copy" were in locked cabinets carefully separated into categories--boy-boy, boy-girl, girl-girl, man-boy and man-girl. The cabinets were in a room housing the very best and latest DVD duplication equipment. Obviously, the three were operating a multi-million dollar business."
I suspect Hank spoke for all of us when he asked, "There were pictures of Jonathan?"
"Possibly, well probably, from the way you found him, and Dr. Alexander told me he had been raped, but the search isn't complete."
"Being raped is terrible, more than enough, but if there are tapes of it, it will kill him," Hank said in a whisper.
"If there are tapes of his rape, I can't see any reason why they should ever see light," Tim said. "There's plenty of evidence of the whole rotten bunch without any more. There's also the rape kit evidence, so there's no question he was raped, and the DNA evidence will certainly be enough to prove that and who was guilty. As to the porn business, there are other tapes. If tapes of Jonathan's rape exist, no-one will ever know it. I owe him and you all that much."
Tim was as good as his word and the tapes of Jonathan being raped, if they did exist, were never seen or mentioned so far as any of us knew.