Castle Roland

Chapter 21

Published: 22 Aug 16

Tales from Bentonville

By David Lee
Copyright © 2005, 2016

By Monday, John Tracewell's disappearance had his family upset. Dan was concerned about his brother's wellbeing. It wasn't like John not to confide in Dan. There must be foul-play; but, what?

He knew that his brother wasn't perfect, but the two of them were close. John had always looked out for him; almost like a parent. Dan missed John and he had no idea where to begin looking. He couldn't report his absence to the sheriff.

His parents were worried about losing the bail money even though it hadn't been that big an outlay. They insisted that Dan keep quiet and go on as if nothing unusual were happening.

It was going to be hard for Dan to concentrate on school while fretting over his brother's whereabouts. He had no one in whom to confide. His stomach felt queasy.

When he got to school, the first person he ran into (almost literally) was Jerry Sucksdorf. Jerry stopped in his tracks as if stunned. Dan looked at him in wonder and then figured that Jerry was probably frightened to see him.

"Hey, Dude," Dan said. "I'm not gonna hurt you. I'm not gonna do anything to you but leave you alone. Okay?"

It took Jerry a couple of seconds to process what Dan was saying because he seemed to be almost in a trance.

"No, Dan, it's not that. It's you. It's almost like you're bleeding inside. Why are you hurting? What's wrong?"

Now it was Dan's turn to be stunned. He had supposed that Jerry would hate him or fear him at the very least, but the kid was open to him and seemed to be looking into his very soul. He bit his lip to keep from showing any emotion. Jerry could tell that Dan was trying to keep up a macho image just like his older brother would.

"Let's sit over in the corner of the cafeteria and talk. Maybe I can help."

"Why the fuck would you want to help me? I've been a real asshole to you. I am actually sorry, but I don't know of any way to prove that I am."

"You don't have to prove it. You've just said it! Pastor Swenson and Miss Charlotte both said that I have to forgive you and John or it will eat me up inside. I really don't think that you're evil. The jury's still out about your brother."

Dan smiled slightly as Jerry's honest assessment. The kid had more mettle than he would have expected.

"It's about your brother isn't it?" Jerry frowned.

By this time, it was Dan who was feeling afraid. He could sense the hair on the back of his neck standing up. What in Hell was going on here? It was like being transported into a Stephen King movie.

After they were seated in a spot away from the others, who were having a quick breakfast, Jerry looked into Dan's eyes until the latter had to drop his gaze.

"Dan, please tell me what's wrong. Maybe I can help."

"Okay, but I'm not sure what you can do or why you'd want to."

Dan began by cautioning Jerry that he had to swear not to tell anyone what he was about to hear. Jerry did so, reluctantly. After a couple of guarded starts, Dan poured his heart out, admitting that he missed his brother very much and was worried that he might be hurt or possibly dead.

Then Jerry made Dan swear, in turn, that he wouldn't tell anyone what Jerry was going to say to him. Dan did so, but wondered why he needed to. Jerry proceeded to explain to Dan about the sixth sense that he sometimes had.

"You're only the second person I've ever told and I'm not sure why I'm telling you. I hope you keep your promise not to tell," Jerry continued. "I honestly had a kind of vision when I saw you this morning. It was almost like one of those gory crucifixion scenes from a German painting I saw in a Bible - excruciating pain..."

"Wow! That's how it felt. How do you do that?"

"I have no idea; it just happens sometimes. Anyway, I have a feeling that John is still alive. I have no proof, it's just a feeling. I think that he is hurt, but that he will survive. I don't know if it's true or not, but that's as much as I can feel at the moment."

It was at that point in the conversation that Alex and Joel came sprinting across the cafeteria toward the two.

"Are you okay, Jerry?" Alex asked. "Is this jerk harassing you?"

"I'm fine. I asked Dan to sit with me. We've discussed a number of things. He says he is sorry and doesn't want to screw me over anymore."

"Is this for real?" Alex demanded.

Dan looked him in the eye and nodded before dropping his gaze.

"Well, maybe there's hope for you with your asshole brother out of the way."

"What do you mean, out of the way?" Dan asked in panic. "What did you do to him?"

"I haven't even seen butt-head since before he nearly killed Jerry; much less laid a hand on him." Alex responded. "I'll admit that I wouldn't have minded beating the shit out of him."

Then Alex's eyes widened as he began to understand what this was about.

"He's missing isn't he? I'll bet he's jumped bail and headed for Mexico or something."

Dan shook his head. He explained that John hadn't taken any clothes or extra cash. Dan had found John's money stashed in its usual hiding place.

The four guys sat in silence not knowing what else to say. Alex tried to lighten the mood.

"Hey, I hear that you can really sink three-pointers." Alex said to Dan, changing the subject. If you're serious about not being an "ass-hole," you'll be a good "ass-et" to the team - unless your ass sets on the bench too much."

Dan's face broke into a genuine grin at Alex's play on words. The football star who was ready to punch him a few minutes earlier was now joking with him. What was going on today?

Dane and Colt raced home from school at the end of the day on Monday. They needed to get their homework all caught up because it was one of the nights that everyone ate with DJ and Ellen. Since they lived so close, Ellen and Greta were getting into the habit of preparing a big meal for the extended family rather than having each household cook smaller ones. More often than not, Greta got the boys to do most of the cooking when it was her turn. She felt that it was good for them to know their way around the kitchen and it took stress out of her life. For their part, the boys rather liked experimenting with new recipes. They always received lots of praise from the family which kept them motivated.

"Whoa, look what came in the mail!" Colt exclaimed as he extracted it from the box.

The boys both ripped open the thick envelopes with their names on them. They looked at their passports with a critical eye to see if the pictures were okay.

"I think you look really fine," Dane commented. "But the picture is too small to include your best feature," he smirked as he grabbed at Colton's crotch.

Colt grabbed back and the two had to share some tongue before continuing the conversation.

"Why do you think Dad was in such a hurry for us to get them? We won't get a chance to use them until summer." Colt frowned in thought.

"Well, you know he said that your name change might foul things up, but this is a lot quicker than I expected."

The two young men put their passports on the kitchen table with the rest of the mail for Greta to see when she got home. Then they went into the family room to work on their studies. Despite a couple of make-out breaks, they managed to get everything done by the time Greta arrived.

Later, DJ and Ellen remarked at how good the boys looked in their pictures as the family sat around the table after dinner. They did look rather better than passport pictures usually did. Maybe it was the subject matter!

Greta discussed the plans for Thanksgiving. She was eager to have the big dinner at the lake cottage. It would be like a mini vacation for everyone. After talking for a while, DJ called Wade to update him on the schedule. Using the speaker phone, the family all got to visit. Wade asked about the passports and was delighted to hear that they had arrived.

As soon as they had finished talking to the Minnesota group, Greta called Colt's mother to make sure that she and her boyfriend were informed about the plans. Colt brought Sharon up to date about grades and activities.

Back in their room at 9:00, Dane and Colt stripped and jumped into bed. The weather was beginning to cool. Grandma didn't like to keep the house too warm at night, so cuddling was definitely in order. (It was definitely in order on the hottest night in July as well, but hey, they were in love.)

That night, they fell asleep snuggled together and holding each other's pride and joy. The dance and other activities on the weekend had taken more out of them than they would like to have admitted.

Early on Tuesday morning, some hunters found the body of a man in rubble of what had been an old shed on a deserted farm. He looked fairly young as far as they could tell. He had evidently been killed by an explosion. He was burned, but not beyond identification.

One of the hunters had a cell phone which he used to contact Sheriff Larkin. No need to send an ambulance. This guy was long gone.

When Larkin and Anders arrived, they called the station to have the dispatcher request the state for some drug investigators as well. The scene was obviously that of a drug-making lab. From the paraphernalia, the men were certain that meth had been produced here. They began a search of the other buildings. There was an outhouse, a corn crib, and an old barn that looked like a good stiff breeze could take it down. The search turned up no other persons.

They were still awaiting the arrival of the county medical examiner when they got a call from their dispatcher. A farmer living about two miles from the explosion scene had discovered a body in his barn. This one had two bullet holes in the back, but was still clinging to life. This time, an ambulance was needed.

During the first class after lunch, Dan Tracewell got a call from his mother saying that John was found wounded, but alive, and had been airlifted to University of Iowa Hospital. She had seen him, but since he was unconscious, she had returned to work. She would stay in touch with the hospital by phone for the next couple of days. What else could she do? John had gotten himself into this mess; he could get himself out of it! No, she wouldn't be driving Dan down to the hospital after school.

Dan thought that her decision to go back to work when her older son was at death's door was rather heartless, but he had come to accept that that was how his parents operated. He would find some way to see his brother. Someone had to be there to talk to him and make sure he was taken care of.

When he saw Jerry after school, he spilled his guts as if Jerry were his long-time friend. Jerry nodded as if he weren't surprised.

"Are you going to see him tonight?" Jerry asked.

"Not unless I can get there by myself. I don't know how that will happen. John's car is still impounded and I don't have a license yet, anyway. I don't know what to do."

"Let me call Miss Charlotte. She'll know."

After a couple of calls back and forth, it was arranged that Darrin Holmes would come to pick Dan up. Dan went home and hastily threw a few clothes and his toiletries into a gym bag and waited for Darrin's arrival. He went to his hiding place and retrieved his last $50 which he put into his billfold. He would need money for food and to pay Darrin for gas. Then he wrote a note for his parents. He wondered if they would be pissed at him. Probably they would. Well, he had to do what he had to do.

Jerry rested better that night than he had in weeks. He was at peace with himself. He had gone the second mile with Dan as Lottie had asked him to and had found that Dan wasn't as evil as he originally seemed. He had also forgiven Dan and was working on trying to do the same with John.

His parents were going to change the family name back to its original spelling and he would be content with being called "Saxdorf." In doing some research, they had discovered a coat of arms; a replica of which they were ordering from some company in New York. Even though it would be a hassle to change their name on property, automobiles, and bank accounts, they were willing to do it. Jerry felt loved.

Carrie had sat next to him at lunch again. They had held hands briefly under the table. It had given him a glow and a sense of desire all afternoon. Now in the privacy of his bedroom, he couldn't hold back any longer.

Jerry stripped in front of the mirror on his dresser. He ran his hands over his thin, young body. His nipples stood up erect as did his cock. He ran his palms over his nipples and thrilled at the sensation. The fact that his hands were cold added to the pleasure.

Soon, the chill of the room got to him and he quickly turned off his light and climbed under the covers naked. He reached for some Kleenex from the nightstand in preparation for what was bound to happen.

Slowly, he stroked his boyhood with his right hand while running his left over his chest and down his abs. After a couple of minutes of that action, he caressed his balls while continuing his massaging motions. The familiar feeling began to creep up into his groin. The results soaked through two tissues.

Accompanied by Darrin, Dan made his way through the maze of halls in the large university medical center. It was intimidating to say the least. If it hadn't been for Darrin, who had been there before, Dan would have been lost several times.

"Thanks, Darrin," Dan exclaimed as they neared the nurses' station on the floor where John was located. "I'm not sure why you are doing this for me. I'm not a very nice guy sometimes."

"I'm doing this because Miss Charlotte asked me to," Darrin responded. "That and the fact that Jerry seems to think I should. He said you were worth 'saving' or something like that."

Dan felt like he wanted to cry. He was way too emotional lately. This wasn't like him at all. He hadn't cried since he was a little boy. He was usually in control. He didn't let his emotions show. Shit! That didn't seem to be working very well now.

The nurse at the station informed the two young men that John could have no visitors except for family and that they had to be over 16 year of age. Darrin didn't draw a breath as he looked her in the eye and told a bald-faced lie.

"I'm his cousin, Darrin, and this is his brother. Dan, here, is 17 and I am 23. I would appreciate it if you would show us to his room immediately."

Whether the nurse was feeling compassionate or whether it was Darrin's "take-charge" attitude that did the trick, the guys were soon sitting by John's bedside.

John was pale and still. He was hooked up to an IV and a number of monitoring devices. His breathing appeared to be normal, but he was unconscious.

Dan took John's hand and talked to him. John didn't respond, but there was some change on one of the monitors. Darrin told Dan that John was evidently aware of his presence.

"I've seen this before. Even people in deep comas are sometimes aware of people they care about. I'm thinking that you're the best medicine he could have at the moment. I'm sure that Lottie was right in having me bring you here.

Dan turned away so that Darrin couldn't see the tears in his eyes. Darrin sensed them though. He put his arm on Dan's shoulders only to feel them start to shake. He turned the boy around and hugged him tightly. Dan sobbed his heart out. He couldn't hold back any longer. Darrin held him for several minutes before the kid got hold of his emotions.

"I'm not usually like this," Dan commented when he could speak.

"It's okay," Darrin said. "You shouldn't try to hold everything in. It isn't healthy."

"Do you ever cry?" Dan demanded.

"Sure, and I'm not ashamed to admit it."

Dan smiled through his tears. God, he WAS changing. He had never been able to open up to anyone, much less a stranger. This man was tough and gentle at the same time. This was the kind of man he wanted to become. Maybe, just maybe, he could.

When visiting hours were over, Darrin said goodbye and headed for the door. A nurse came in to check on John. She took pity on Dan and told him that she would pull out the hide-a-bed in the big chair in the room so that he could get some sleep. She was pretty sure that he was too young to be there, but she also could sense that he needed to be there. Compassion won out over strict interpretation of the rules in this instance.

Sometime around 2:00 a.m., John cried out. It was probably a nightmare. Dan was wide awake in an instant. He was standing there in his briefs talking to John when another nurse came into the room. Dan didn't even blush because he was completely unaware of his nearly naked state. His only thought was that of helping his brother.

Dan stayed awake talking to John. The nurse found him a hospital robe to keep him warm and hide his loins while he sat holding John's hand.

"You gotta make it, John," Dan pleaded. "You're my bro. I need you. You've always looked out for me. Now I'm gonna look out for you."

Dan had been talking non-stop for 45 minutes telling John about trivial things from school. He even told him about how nice Jerry had been.

"I don't deserve to have him be nice to me. I can't believe what's happening. It's like everything is changing. It feels kinda good."

John's eyelids fluttered. Dan was so intent on talking that he didn't notice.

"Don't you ever stop yammering, little bro?" John rasped.

"Damn! You're awake and you're talking! What happened to you? What were you doing to end up in the hospital?"

"You probably won't believe this, little bro, but I can't remember much of anything. I know that I got shot and that I'm in deep shit.

The days leading up to Thanksgiving passed rather rapidly. There was big excitement when Bentonville's football team made it to the conference playoffs. It hadn't happened since the time that DJ was the school's quarterback. That team had become a legend.

At half-time in the first game, DJ and a couple of other men in the area who had been on that former championship team were honored in a ceremony. Dane and Colt sat proudly in the stands watching. DJ, unlike his old teammates, had kept his body in shape. He looked like a lean, mean, fighting machine. People in the stands who had witnessed that season years ago were transported back in time. Ellen and Greta were among them.

Joel was equally happy at being in the stands watching the home team winning. He sat in the second row by the 50 yard-line. He was elated to know that he had been at least a small part of this whole operation by keeping Alex's math grade up so he would remain eligible.

At the conclusion of the game, Bentonville had won by six points. The winning touchdown had been made by Alex who was his twin's favorite receiver. Since they could nearly read each other's minds, they could anticipate what the other was likely to do if the opposition thwarted their planned plays. It was like magic. The kid who kicked for the extra point had missed, but it didn't matter. The clock had run out before the opponents had a chance to make any serious yardage.

Their teammates were carrying the twins off of the field, when Alex and Allen insisted that they go toward the stands. They jumped down, grabbed Joel, and hoisted him on their shoulders. Joel was surprised and pleased. He had to duck to get through the opening of the tunnel. The brothers carried him all the way to the locker room with the team.

Everyone on the team was yelling: "Alex, Alex, Alex." When he got them quieted enough to be heard, he told them that there would have been no Alex if there hadn't been a Joel to help him get his grades up.

Allen started the chant: "Joel, Joel, Joel." Joel shook his head and said he didn't deserve all of that recognition, but Alex assured him that he did.

"This is your win too, Stud!"

Joel felt warm all over.

Unfortunately, Bentonville's luck didn't hold in the next game. They lost by one point, so it was kind of a heartbreaker, but it spoke well for the team that they had come that close. The coach praised them for a great season.

"This is the best football team in 16 years. You guys nearly beat the number one rated squad in the conference. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Hold your heads high. You're all winners in my book!"

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