Castle Roland

Chapter 52

Published: 13 Oct 16

Tales from Bentonville

By David Lee
Copyright © 2005, 2016

At football practice the next afternoon, both Alex and Allen had an eerie feeling of being watched. Of course, there were a few spectators sitting on the hillside watching the guys scrimmage. It was a tradition for some of the older men (and a few women) in town to try to predict the team's success on the basis of their early practices. It looked like there were some parents in the small crowd today and a couple of younger men as well.

In the locker room, Kevin Hames surprised the twins by asking about their weekend plans.

"I haven't seen you guys around much in the past few days. Have you got a new place to go? What are you doing this weekend?" Kevin asked.

"Uh, we're probably going to lie around the house to recover from all this exercise in the heat. Coach Heitz is really working our asses off! And, I suppose the 'rents will want us to go to church on Sunday. I guess that can't hurt."

"Yeah, it's always good to be in with the Big Guy 'cause you never know when you might meet him for real." Kevin commented. "I'm guessing Crouser had a few un-confessed sins on his soul."

The twins glanced at each other in a momentary, non-verbal, communication. They would discuss that last remark when they were out of there.

The football squad was dressing as the cross-country team came in to shower. The twins sat down on a bench to wait for their buddies to get cleaned up. Alex went out looking for Dave to see if the marching band was done for the day. He brought Dave into the locker room with him.

"Why don't you shower here to save time?" he asked.

"Well, except for a towel and fresh clothes, I probably could," Dave said.

"I've got a spare towel in my bag and you could go commando till you get over to Dane and Colt's."

Dave blushed, but quickly stripped to join the others in the shower. Most of the guys were getting out, but Dustin and the Johnson boys took their time so they could talk to Dave.

As the guys were piling into their vehicles a few minutes later, Alex thought he saw Kevin talking to a middle-aged man by a car at the other end of the parking lot. It made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

Once underway to the Albers' house, Alex and Allen discussed Kevin's comments and asked Joel what he thought. Joel agreed with them that it seemed rather strange, but it might not mean anything. All of them were probably over-analyzing everything.

They had barely gotten settled at the kitchen table with some cans of soft drinks when there was a loud crash in the living room followed by the squeal of tires. Allen reached the room first and put out his hand to caution the other two. In the middle of the floor, surrounded by shards of glass, was a paving brick with a note tied around it. Needless to say, the boys were too savvy to touch anything. Alex had his cell out calling the sheriff's office before the dust settled.

Two men, whom the boys had never seen before, arrived shortly in a nondescript, white car. They flashed their badges before entering the house. It seemed that the sheriff had a couple of state crime investigators on call because he'd feared things might escalate and he was not about to have any kids in his town be in jeopardy if he could help it.

The men took many digital photographs from various angles. They put on rubber gloves before bagging the evidence. All the while, they were asking questions of the boys. When the interior of the living room had been thoroughly investigated, the men went outside to photograph the tire tracks. The vehicle had evidently gone over the curb at one point, leaving an impression in the parkway grass. The investigators used some kind of plaster substance to make models of the tracks.

Before they left, the state cops went to several houses in the neighborhood to find out who might have seen something. (This, on top of the 'copter a few days before would likely blow the lid off of the cloak of secrecy the sheriff was attempting to maintain.) As they left, they told the boys it was okay to vacuum up the glass and have the window repaired.

Allen called Window World to have them bring a replacement sash as quickly as possible. Joel and Alex were already hard at work making sure they got all the glass cleaned up. Alex had brought in a powerful shop vacuum from the garage. After several minutes, they declared the area safe for habitation. Then they taped a piece of cardboard over the opening to keep the heat and bugs out.

While this was taking place, Sheriff Larkin was interviewing "a person of interest." Robby Crouser was pushing 30 and hadn't been seen in the area much since he had left for college at 18. He had stuck around after the funeral because he felt his mother needed someone to lean on. The manner in which his father had died left a dark cloud over an already unhappy experience.

"I'm only interested in some of the details that led to my father's death," he was explaining. "I'm not blaming your deputy or the guys who got him fired. I know he could be a pain to live with. My mom is taking it pretty hard, but it's mostly because she feels lost without someone to tell her what to do. He always controlled her just like he tried to do with everyone else. She's really at loose ends. Sometimes she goes off by herself at odd times to think."

"So," said the sheriff, "You have no grudge against the Albers twins and I have no reason to suspect that you're behind any real or implied threats against them and their friends?"

"That's correct, Mr. Larkin, I would like to know where to find them so I can explain that to them. I watched some of the scrimmage today, but didn't get a chance to talk to them."

The sheriff nodded absentmindedly. He wondered just how sincere the man was. He seemed nice and polite, but so did any number of criminal nut-cases he'd read about. The young Mr. Crouser might bear watching.

At Greta's house, Dave and Dustin were preparing to go home for the weekend. Dustin really didn't want to, but felt he owed it to his dad to be there when his dad had time off from work.

"I wish we could simply live with you guys. It would be so cool! We all get along well and we like the same food and stuff."

"That would be cool," Colt agreed. "We can pray for lots of bad weather this winter so you'll have a good excuse not to drive in from your house. I'm sure that taking the bus won't be an option during sports season - and with wrestling following soon after cross-country and then track in the spring, we could milk it for all it's worth!"

Dane got close to Colton and whispered in his ear:

"Speaking of milking something for all it's worth makes me horny."

"Damn! Everything makes you horny!" Colt exclaimed loudly.

Of course the other two had to be filled in and all had a good laugh.

Before Dave and Dustin departed, the phone rang. It was Alex telling them about what had happened, and asking them to keep a sharp eye out for any unusual events or behavior. He filled them in on his suspicions about Kevin in light of Kevin's remark about meeting one's Maker.

After their guests left, Colt took Dane by the hand and led him up to their room. He slowly stripped his boyfriend while kissing each newly revealed body part. Dane was obviously pleased - if the angle of the tent in his underwear was any indication.

When Colt finished, he got the same treatment from Dane. A few minutes later, they proved that neither of them had forgotten how to "milk something for all it was worth." There would have been ample amount of supporting evidence, had they not swallowed it.

They were considering a short nap, when the sound of Dane's cell phone kept them from drifting off.

"I don't like this one bit," Lori Albers was saying to Sheriff Larkin on another phone. "It's escalating. Now there's property damage. The next step is usually physical injury. I'm truly afraid for my sons and for Joel. I'm not suggesting that you aren't doing everything that can be done. Your getting the state cops here in minutes shows just how seriously you're taking all of this.

"Well, you've heard our news about that boy at practice and I'm glad you are watching the coach's son. - Yes, I do too. - I'm thinking of sending them out of town for the weekend. - Yeah, I'm not sure. What do you think is the best plan?"

After she hung up the receiver, the twins' mother turned to face the three boys to fill them in on the other side of her conversation.

"The sheriff agrees that you might be safer going somewhere out of town until Monday. He says whoever is doing this must have followed you home to know you'd be here. You could be followed to the lake. Even if there are guards, someone with a rifle could hurt one of you. I couldn't bear that. Do you have any ideas?"

"We have a plan that we put together with Colt and Dane while you were talking to the sheriff. They came up with it and we said we didn't want to put them in harm's way, but they're insistent. They're going to run it by Dane's parents and their grandmother." Alex explained.

"I'll call DJ to make sure he and Greta are okay with whatever it is. Would you kindly bring me up to date before I do that?" Lori asked.

The scheme the boys had cooked up involved the five of them go camping in Wisconsin over the weekend. DJ had a big family-sized tent and other equipment they could use. Joel and the twins would go to Greta's house with their sleeping bags. They would enter through the front door so that anyone watching would assume they were sleeping over.

Then, they would sneak out the back service door of her attached garage and across the backyard to DJ's house. They would load everything into DJ's minivan for camping. Everyone but Dane would crouch down out of sight when he pulled out of the garage. It would appear to the neighbors that his mother was sending him to the store for something. The rest of the guys would stay hidden until they were out on the main highway.

Lori thought it sounded a bit over-dramatic, like a scene from some grade "B" murder mystery, but she agreed that it might be a sensible thing to do.

"If you go, I'm going to worry all the time you're away," she admitted. "Please make sure at least one of you has a cell phone turned on all of the time. You can alternate so that you don't run any of them down. I hope the sheriff gets to the bottom of this soon!"

In conversation with Mrs. Albers a few minutes later, DJ agreed that he was concerned about all of the guys involved.

"I was hesitant to give my permission, but I know my son and my nephew. They've got a thing about not deserting friends in need. They remind me of some of the best young men who served under my command in Iraq. I can't tell them not to intervene on behalf of their buddies. So, they'll go with my blessing. I've put one more twist into the plot. I'll pull the minivan into Mom's garage to load it up with the guys and their equipment. Then, I'm going to drive the van out of town with ALL of them hiding. Mom will meet me at a designated spot and she will bring me back to Bentonville. That way, if anyone is watching, they won't see any of the boys leave."

With the arrangements made, everyone ate a hasty dinner and put the plan into action. An hour later, five guys were heading out of state for the next couple of days. They were excited about the trip but anxious over the necessity for it at the same time.

"So, tell me about this place you are taking us," Joel said to Dane.

"It's a really nice campground not far from a cool nude beach that Colt's dads took us to early in the summer. We can be lazy in the morning and spend the afternoon naked in the sun and have a relaxing time."

"Naked beach!" Allen exclaimed. "Does that mean I have to look at a bunch of hardons all weekend?"

"Only if that's your taste," Colt snickered. "It's a public place and there are couples and families and possibly some single girls too if you hang around toward the right side. If you go to the left, it's all guys."

"Oh, man, I've never bared it all in front of any females!" Allen blushed.

"Hey, get over it. You'll know what it feels like for us to be naked with a bunch of guys," Joel giggled.

The banter continued as the miles passed. The Johnson boys had neglected to tell any of the parents about all of their plans. They had said they might do some hiking (it was a long walk from the car lot to the beach) and they had talked about cooking over the campfire and maybe going into the river for a swim, but nothing had been said about going bare-ass, of course.

There was still enough twilight to set up camp without using lights when the boys finally arrived. They had been lucky to get one of the few remaining campsites. It wasn't as private as they would have normally liked, but there was some comfort in being surrounded by other people when you felt someone might be intent of doing you harm.

After they pitched the tent, Colt and Dane went to a nearby store to buy a few supplies and more ice for the coolers. They returned in a short time and everyone decided to bed down early for the night. Allen felt it was his job to tease the others about not making too many suggestive noises after seeing them zip their bags together to sleep as couples. But other than a little kissing, nothing transpired among the lovers. The couples fell asleep holding each other while Allen remained awake. He finally drifted off after filling a sports-sock with his sticky essence.

The pine-scented air of the campground helped the guys to forget the cares that had brought them there. Everyone slept pretty soundly. The only one who got up in the night was Allen. The combination of the cola he had had before bedtime and the after-effects of his jack-off session made his bladder uncomfortable before dawn. He hurried to the toilet facilities and back before he was fully awake.

Deputy Anders was nearly asleep when the muffled noise of glass breaking infused his bloodstream with a dose of adrenalin. He was instantly alert as he stepped behind the door of the upstairs bathroom. He listened intently as he heard someone checking the downstairs rooms. A creaking noise on the stairs let him know that the person was coming his way. The deputy held his breath.

When the dark silhouette turned toward the bedroom where Dane and Colt normally slept, Anders turned on his powerful flashlight and called out.

"Drop the gun and turn around slowly."

He threw down the light and ducked in time to avoid the shots that were aimed in his general direction. His single shot caused a scream of pain as the figure sank to the floor.

Quickly, he turned on the hall light to make sure that his assailant wasn't going to fire again. Then, he applied the handcuffs and called for backup.

"Sheriff, we were all wrong. You really aren't going to believe this!"

The sheriff was there in a matter of minutes. He had been expecting a call from his deputy ever since they had put their scheme into motion. With DJ's help, they had smuggled Anders into Greta's house after dark. Given the way the boys had gone about their plan making it look like all the guys were there, the sheriff figured that someone might try to go after them at Greta's place.

"Damn it, Anders, you aren't some old-west lawman. You were supposed to call me before there was any gunfire. You could have been killed!"

"I'm sorry, sir, there wasn't time. I didn't dare use my phone or it would have alerted her."

Although her wound was a minor one, Doris Crouser was howling in pain from the moment she regained consciousness. She screamed at the deputy and cursed the "fags who had caused her husband's death." It wasn't until the paramedics arrived and Darrin had given her a sedating shot that she calmed down at all.

The sounds of gunfire, and the ambulance had awakened several neighbors. Chief among them was DJ who came across the backyard only partially dressed. As soon as he was brought up to date, he went back home to let Ellen know the details. They would both sleep better! He would let Greta know by 7:00 when she usually got up.

The two lawmen went back to the office to fill out the necessary forms and then went home to catch a few hours of sleep. Sheriff Larkin would be up in time to call the other boys' parents and grandparents as early as he could without frightening them. He would sleep a lot more soundly knowing the threat to the kids in his jurisdiction no longer existed.

The boys were cooking breakfast on the Coleman stove when Joel's phone vibrated and then rang. He answered it quickly. His smiling face let the others know the news was good.

"Thanks, Grandma, I'll tell the others. They are gonna go crazy! We'll have a great weekend now."

The moment he got off the phone, he told the others about what had transpired during the night.

"The sheriff told my grandparents that our plan was great and that we helped smoke out the person who wanted to hurt us. It turned out to be the coach's wife! Can you believe that? And we thought that Kevin was the one. Shit!"

The other boys all got on their cell phones to talk to their families. Everyone was elated that the dark cloud hanging over their heads was now gone.

"Well, do you guys want to come home or are you staying for the weekend?" DJ asked Dane.

"Uh, let me take a quick vote?" Then turning to his companions, Dane asked: "Do you want to go home or stay?"

"STAY!" the others yelled in chorus.

DJ was laughing on the other end.

"So, are you taking them to the beach where Wade took you?"

"Uh, what do you mean, Dad?"

"Oh come on, I wasn't born yesterday. You boys have fun and don't forget the sun-block because I'd hate to see you burn anything important. And, no, I'm not telling anyone else about my suspicions."

DJ was still snickering when they ended the call. That caused Dane to blush - big time.

"Dad figured out our destination and he's okay with it. He's really pretty cool!"

The other guys agreed that DJ was an okay dad.

Since the call had interrupted their cooking, the boys had to start over. At least it had come in before they had started cooking the pancakes. About 15 minutes later, they were digging into their meal with appetites that they hadn't had for several days. They were absolutely giddy with relief.

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