Castle Roland

Chapter 19

Published: 18 Aug 16

Tales from Bentonville

By David Lee
Copyright © 2005, 2016

The in-service day on that Friday was eventful for other kids in Bentonville too. John Tracewell was off on a mission that he had kept secret from everyone -- even his younger brother. Dan would not approve of what he was about to do. While Dan was off at a basketball clinic, John was helping an older guy that his dealer had hooked him up with. The older guy had promised John some good drugs in return for learning how to make meth. Because of the cough medicine law that had been passed in Iowa, it was more difficult to get supplies, but Nate Black was going to get a delivery in a week or so from another state that hadn't enacted such legislation. John wasn't going to try meth because he had seen too many pictures of what it did to people who were on it. He didn't want to end up wizened up with no teeth by the time he was 21. But he was eager to have the marijuana he had been promised.

The shed on the old farmstead was dirty and draughty, but it was a perfect place for an illegal operation. Since the weather was unseasonably warm, the cracks in the wooden wall presented no problem that day. The place was pretty far from civilization and the road to it was not well maintained.

John spent part of the afternoon learning how to put the ingredients together so that he could help when Nate got all of the supplies. Nate complimented him on being a fast learner. At the end of the time, he gave John a small bag of prime grass. John rolled a joint to test its potency before he left for Bentonville. It was good shit!

Dan was no Michael Jordon, but he was a fair basketball player. Unfortunately, his ribs were not healed enough for him to fully participate in the sessions. He had felt that he had to go because his parents had already laid out the money, and he didn't want to have to explain about his injury. He did learn a lot by watching the other guys play and by seeing the films and demonstrations. He even practiced a few three-point shots which he made with surprising ease despite the pain.

Best of all, participation in the clinic helped take his mind off of the things he disliked about his life. He felt guilty about harassing Jerry. He knew that it was wrong to debase a kid who had never done anything to him or his brother. In a way he felt empathy with Jerry after the experience he had had at the Adult Shop. He hoped that John wouldn't want to go back there anytime soon. He didn't think that he could face that scene again.

Jerry Sucksdorf was out running some errands. He had been stuck in the house most of the day because he had to watch his younger siblings. Sometimes he wished that his mother didn't have to work because he felt trapped by his babysitting responsibilities. Yet, he loved his younger brother and sister and the family benefited greatly from his mother's income.

Since his father had come home early, he was able to take the moped out for a spin with the excuse of going to the hardware store for some glue for a project. He was riding along near a large old Victorian house at the edge of town when he felt the impact a split second before the blackness closed in.

Lottie Webber was enjoying the afternoon sun that streamed through the windows of the "widow's watch" tower of her ancient home. She loved that room. It was where she did her best artwork. She had it equipped with a "dorm fridge" and a microwave so that she didn't need to go downstairs at all on some days if she didn't want to.

Some of the town's people thought that Miss Charlotte was eccentric. Others thought she might have some mystical powers. If they had dwelt on the subject, they might have pondered whether she would have been considered a witch if she had lived in colonial Salem, Massachusetts.

Her daughter had fussed for years about her living all alone in the huge house, but for Lottie the house was too much a part of her for her to abandon it. She had laughed, calling her offspring an old worry-wart. Her daughter WAS getting old; she was nearing 70. That made Lottie smile when she thought of it. She didn't feel like she was 90. The same young woman who had spent her career as an emergency room nurse was still alive and well somewhere deep inside.

The elevator she had had installed at great expense made it possible for her to get around without too much difficulty. She still had her mind and her sight. She could still drive her small car well enough to pass the road test. There was no need for her to be in some assisted living situation!

Besides spending her time on her art in this room, she was able to exercise another hobby -- that of checking on everything that happened in the neighborhood. It wasn't that she gossiped about what she observed; it was that she liked to know what was going on. The position of the tower gave her a commanding view for several blocks. Aided by binoculars, she had witnessed a number of interesting scenes. She had even watched two boys kissing behind some bushes where they thought they were safe from the eyes of the world. She had silently wished them well knowing that small towns aren't usually as open to people who don't fit the "norm" like poor Robbie.

Today, Lottie felt restless. She couldn't settle down to work. Something Seemed to draw her to look out of the window. She had experienced those feelings many times over the years. Somehow there was always a reason for them. She had to obey the "call" as she thought of it. She didn't usually discuss this with anyone lest it add to the rumors about her.

It was a good thing that Lottie did respond to the feeling that day. Soon after she settled herself on the stool by the window, she saw an older black sedan speeding by. To her horror, it struck a red moped sending the bike and its rider flying into the ditch. Lottie's mind shifted into the nurse mode. Without any panic, she quickly wrote down the few letters of the license plate that she had managed to see while the car was stopped - before it sped away. Next, she called the rescue squad number on her cordless phone as she was descending in the elevator. From the hall closet, she grabbed the first-aid kit and made her way toward the boy in the ditch.

When she got to the ditch, it occurred to her that she wasn't going to be able to go down its steep slope without falling. So, she threw the kit to the bottom, lay on her side, and rolled down. Brushing her clothes off a bit, she proceeded to the boy.

His leg was bleeding profusely and he was obviously in shock. Lottie used his belt to tie around the upper part of his leg to stem the flow of blood. She took off her sweatshirt and covered his upper body with it. Then she stroked his hair and talked to him comfortingly telling him that he would be okay and that more help was on the way. The only thing in her kit that was of use to her was the smelling-salts.

At one point, Jerry's eyelids fluttered open to see the kind old face surrounded by a wreath of white hair. He wondered if he were dying. He had seen scenes in movies like this when people were passing to the other side. It wasn't scary at all. It didn't even hurt that much. Maybe God was taking him to a place where he wouldn't be hurt anymore. Then things went dark again.

Jerry missed the scene that followed. He didn't get to experience the men slipping his limp body onto a stretcher or the medics swearing when one of them lost his footing on the way out of the ditch. He didn't hear the siren screaming as the ambulance rushed him to Cosgrove General Hospital.

As the vehicle left, one paramedic stayed behind to tend to Lottie and help her from the ditch to her house.

"Nonsense!" she had uttered. "I'm fine. I can crawl up this bank and get home without help."

The young man stood behind her and allowed her to make the climb without aid. He knew that she was a proud lady and he was going to let her preserve her dignity if at all possible. He stayed a few steps behind so that he could catch her if she slipped. But he made no attempt to assist her other than by carrying the first-aid kit.

Once inside her kitchen, Lottie insisted on making tea for the both of them. She pulled a couple of muffins out of the freezer and popped them into the toaster oven. A few minutes later as they conversed, Darrin Holmes felt like he was having high tea with the Queen.

"Miss Charlotte, you likely saved a life today. If you hadn't found that boy and applied a tourniquet, he might have bled to death."

Lottie smiled.

"I'm sure you're exaggerating, young man. But I thank you for making me feel like I still have a purpose in life."

"No, Ma'am, I'm not stretching the truth at all. I've seen enough of this kind of thing to know, and I suspect that you've seen a lot more than I have. You know he would have lost a LOT of blood at the very least."

"Yes, I suppose you are right. Could you call me and let me know his name and his condition when you find out? I want to pray for him by name. I suppose that God doesn't care, but it helps me concentrate."

"Of course I will!"

"I guess that I should pray for the person who hit him as well. I can't imagine how anyone could leave a precious boy like that dying and offer no help!"

In his room, John Tracewell felt cold. He was shaking and he couldn't stop. Lots of thoughts were chasing each other through his head: The day had gone so well up to the point of hitting that moped. Why hadn't he seen it? Maybe the kid would be okay. Maybe he was only scratched up. Hopefully no one saw it happen.

But what if the kid wasn't okay? What could John do to keep from going to jail? Shit! He'd better call someone to tell them, but how? He couldn't use the phone at home because the sheriff probably had caller-ID. He finally remembered a payphone in the middle of town. He could drive to it. As he was sitting in his car making up his mind, an ambulance sped by on the next block. So, instead of heading for the center of town, John drove past the site of the accident. Only the moped was there. Well, at least the kid wasn't dying, he hoped.

He thought that the kid looked like that Sucksdorf boy. God, if it was, everyone would think that John tried to kill him. He really hadn't. That stuff he had scored from Nate was stronger than any he had ever smoked. Maybe he'd better have another one to calm his nerves.

John had barely finished smoking his second joint of the day when he saw a patrol car pull into the drive behind his car. The deputy got out and walked around to the passenger side. He was looking at the right front fender. He squatted down to examine it more closely. Then, he took out a camera and began to take pictures.

Inside the house, John was cowering in the living room. The doorbell rang. He didn't want to answer the door. He would hide and pretend that he wasn't home.

"Open up, John, I know you're in there," Deputy Anders called.

John didn't move. The deputy went back to his car and was evidently calling someone. John felt like his plan to stay out of sight had worked. No one could arrest him if they couldn't find him. Then, it occurred to John that the deputy was alone. Obviously the man couldn't watch the front and back of the house at the same time. John could make a run for it.

In its numbed condition, his brain couldn't compute that someone might see him fleeing or possibly anticipate that he would make a break for it. As he stumbled out of the back door, the sheriff grabbed him. John had remained indecisive long enough for the back-up help to arrive.

John's first words were: "I didn't do it!"

"Do what?" Sheriff Larkin asked.

"Hit that kid." John replied before the rational part of his brain kicked in.

Sheriff Larkin quickly called Judge Gerick to ask for a search warrant to cover John's car and the house. He stressed the need to expedite the matter because of the possibility of having evidence destroyed. Gerick said that he would get on it immediately.

By the time John's parents were reached, John's car and room had been searched. If there was enough marijuana in the bag that they found, John could be charged with possession with the intent to deliver. That was in addition to a pending charge for hit and run. John was sobering up quickly from the realization of what he was facing.

John's parents had to post a moderate bond to spring him from the county lock-up. It could have been higher, but the judge thought it unlikely that John would run since his car had been impounded and he was probably too young to have much in the way of financial resources of his own.

His parents were pissed at John and the authorities all at the same time. They weren't sure who deserved the most blame - everyone but themselves!

On Saturday morning, Lottie Webber got the call she had been waiting for. Darrin Holmes, the young paramedic was on the line telling her that the boy she had helped was named "Jerry" and that he was doing well, but would be in the hospital until Monday morning. He asked if Lottie would like to accompany him to Cosgrove to visit the kid. Of course she assured him that she would be ready whenever he was.

Mrs. Webber was surprised and appreciative to find that she was welcomed like a family member when she entered Jerry's hospital room. His parents, Don and Judy Sucksdorf both hugged her. Jerry's face lit up when she came near to his bed. He looked at her with love in his eyes.

"You are my angel," he announced. "At first, I thought that you were the angel of death, but you turned out to be the angel of life. The doctors here told Mom and Dad that I might not have made it if you hadn't been there. Something on my bike or in the ditch severed a major artery. I was bleeding out fast! Thanks for being there."

He could hardly finish because of the lump in his throat when he thought of how close he had come to making that "final journey" that he had, at one time, contemplated embarking on intentionally.

The older woman smiled back at Jerry with mist in her pale blue eyes. She wondered what would have happened if she had taken her daughter's advice and gone to live in a condo in Cosgrove. This precious young life might have been lost. She had had the feeling at the time that she was supposed to stay in that house. Now, the feeling that she must remain there was weakening, but not gone altogether.

"You are the angel, son," she replied. "I think that you and I were destined to meet. I hope that you will come to see me sometimes when you are well and active again."

"I WILL come to see you. I could go home tomorrow, but there won't be a doctor around to release me on Sunday. I think it's a dumb rule!"

"Don't be in such a hurry. Enjoy the rest and the wonderful hospital cuisine," she laughed.

Jerry enjoyed her sense of humor. He felt like there was a bond between them. Perhaps it had to do with his gratitude for her saving his life, but he suspected that it was more - something intangible that hovered at the edge of his consciousness. He knew that he had to make good on his promise to visit her.

Lottie didn't want to monopolize his time. She introduced Darrin to him and the two hit it off immediately. Jerry was delighted to have a twenty-something male treat him like a peer. Lottie spent most of the rest of the time getting acquainted with Judy and Don.

By Sunday morning, most of Bentonville knew that Jerry had nearly been killed in a hit and run accident and that John Tracewell had been arrested. When Dane and Colt got home from their days at the lake, Greta told them to call Trent immediately. Colt got a hold of Trent who had all of the details and a plan in mind.

"Sara's mom has offered to drive all of us to Cosgrove in her minivan to see Jerry this afternoon. Carrie, Sara, and I are going. If you and Dane go with us, that will make a carload. We're going to get him some Mylar balloons from the hospital gift shop instead of flowers. I think flowers for a guy are gay."

"Watch it, with the 'gay' slurs," Colt snickered.

"Oops, I'm sorry," Trent responded with sincerity.

A couple of hours later, Jerry's cafeteria tablemates were heading into his room. He already had visitors when they arrived. Dane stiffened when he saw Joel there. What the Hell was this kid doing here?

The answer was soon evident. Alex and Allen had asked him to come with them since Alex insisted that he had to see his little buddy. Initially, Joel had been jealous of Jerry, but he began to figure out that Jerry was like a little brother to both of the Albers boys. Once Carrie was by his bedside, Jerry had eyes for no one else. Joel smiled inwardly. At least he didn't have any competition from this kid - if indeed Alex WAS interested in boys.

Meeting Joel at close range was uncomfortable for both Dane and Colt, but more so for Dane. However, it might have been for the best. Since they were all in a public place and couldn't raise a fuss, it forced them to be polite. Joel didn't seem to be the monster that Dane had mentally pictured him to be. He might have become a friend if he hadn't hit on Colt.

Colt noticed the looks that Joel was giving Alex and the looks that were being returned. He suspected that there was some mutual attraction. He felt like his gaydar was beginning to develop. He would have to check with Dane later to see if he got the same readings. Of course, Dane might be feeling too hostile to be that observant.

Joel and the twins left about 15 minutes after the rest arrived. They didn't want to overstay their welcome and they wanted to check out a couple of the stores at the mall before going back to "Hicksville" as they liked to call it.

The other kids stayed for about an hour. Sara's mother hated to break up the group, but she had some things to take care of before Monday. She was pleased to get to know the Sucksdorf family better. She wished it had been under happier circumstances, but still it was pleasant.

Before they left, Carrie went to the kitchenette down the hall to get more ice and a can of Sprite for Jerry. Of course, his mother or a nurse could have performed that duty, but Carrie wanted to do something for him. It was very sweet and didn't go unnoticed by Jerry or his parents. He was bound to get some teasing later.

Despite the joy that Jerry felt in the attention he had received from his schoolmates, he was very tired by the time his supper arrived on Sunday night. His parents left shortly after he had eaten and he napped for about an hour.

When he awakened, he felt refreshed although he was still weak from the trauma and loss of blood. His doctor had teased him about being a quart low on the dipstick, but that didn't seem to be enough to keep HIS dipstick from rising. In his relaxed state, he daydreamed about Carrie. Their hands had brushed "accidentally" when she had brought him the soda. He had felt an electrical charge when they did. Now that buzz was making its way to his groin. He couldn't ignore the urges he was feeling. His hand found its way under the hospital gown. He wondered if he would dare to pleasure himself in this non-private place.

He dared! With visions of the pretty sophomore playing in his mind, he stroked like a man on a mission. In the nick of time, he grabbed a few tissues from the nightstand to cover his spewing tool. It was so good that he passed out for a moment. That may have partially been caused by his loss of blood, but whatever the reason, he felt like he had died and gone to heaven. Now he had to get up the nerve to ask her out!

Half an hour later, the night duty nurse came in to check on Jerry. She found a boy sleeping with a smile on his face and Kleenex clutched in his hand. Since she had raised a couple of sons of her own, she had an idea of why he looked so relaxed. She grinned as she extricated the sticky tissues and threw them into the wastebasket.

Jerry slept peacefully through the whole night. He was unaware of sounds of sirens and the movements in the hall outside of his room. He would awaken in the morning chomping at the bit to be released so that he could return to school.

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