Castle Roland

Family Values

by Rilbur


Chapter 5

Published: 8 Apr 14

Family Values

Copyright © 2012 - 2014 by Rilbur and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.

All Rights Reserved

Family Values LogoTim and Tom grumbled as they made their way out of detention. "Joel is so dense he can't even figure out that you cancel multiplication via division," Tom complained.

"Yeah, well, at least you don't have to deal with Tony," Tim countered. "I had to walk him through his entire essay. Twice, because after the first try the teacher watching over us told me I couldn't write it for him. What's so hard about a simple five-paragraph essay?"

"I gotta take a leak," Tom said, veering off to the restroom at the end of the hall.

"Might as well join you," Tim agreed. They'd barely finished taking care of business when the sound of people running by filled the corridor.

"I wonder what's up," Tom asked as they washed their hands.

"Dunno," Tim shrugged.

"Those brats can't just vanish into thin air!" someone shouted. "Find them!"

"Maybe they dropped by the library on their way out of school?" someone suggested.

"The twins? Hardly," someone else snorted. "I'll go check the bike racks, see if they took off already."

"I'll join you," the second person agreed.

"Find those brats!" the first voice ordered, grumbling. "I'll go check the library since you idiots aren't."

Tim and Tom shared a look. "There are other twins in the world," Tom suggested after a moment.

"Absolutely nothing to confirm they're looking for us," Tim agreed. Just then, their phones began to go off. "What the hell?" Tim grumbled, pulling the vibrating device out of his pocket.

"Mine too," Tom added, pulling his own out. The message he found there made him blink. GET OUT OF SCHOOL. STAY AWAY FROM TEACHERS AND COPS. HIDE. NOW. CAUSE HOLY HELL IF NEEDED. TURN PHONE OFF ASAP. He looked up at his twin, who'd already answered his phone.

"Hey Mom. What? You said… Holy shit!" Tim pulled his phone away to look at it. "I heard you loud and clear Mom, but just to check, you're telling me to get out of school, ignoring any instructions I get from teachers or cops, and hide?" Tim shook his head at his twin in disbelief. "Alright, you got it. Where should we- Oh. They can? Wow. Alright. In that case, tell Joe we're going for a weekend getaway at the fort. He can find us."

Tom felt his face go slack. Holy shit. That was grade-A nuclear material Tim had just given away. Joe's knowledge of their fort in the woods was as secret as the fort itself. Their Moms didn't know where the fort was, and thought no one at all did. For Tim to give that away…

"The cops are trying to take us away from the Moms," Tim said, folding up his phone. "That's probably what that was about in the corridor." Tom felt his own face grow hard. No. Fucking. Way. No one was doing that to them. "The Moms want our phones off so we can't be tracked. Oh, and she told me to cause all the trouble I wanted."

Both twins grinned. If the Moms had just given them approval… "Let's give 'em hell," Tom said.

"Man after my own heart," Tim nodded. "Bikes?"

"No," Tom dropped into twin-speak. Being overheard would be bad enough, but at least this way no one would understand whatever they overhead. "Badguys are looking there."

"Badguys not find there. Not find TimTom there, badguys look not there, TimTom go there," Tim countered. Tom winced a little, wishing twin speak were a bit more developed, but he figured out what Tim meant.

"Smart-smart," he agreed. "Go quiet."

Tim nodded sharply, then turned and quietly pushed the restroom door open. Looking down the hall, he slowly pushed it open enough to let him look the other way.

Meanwhile, Tom undid his sneakers. Sneakers were too loud. In seconds he was barefoot. "Feet bare," he hissed. Tim quickly kicked his shoes off, not even bothering to unlace them. Snatching them up, he shot out into the corridor. Tom followed quick on his heels, their feet slapping quietly against the floor. Reaching the end of the corridor, they cautiously looked out the door. Both teachers were at the bike rack, looking at their bikes. Not finding anything of interest, they started arguing. "Hide," Tom ordered, pulling to one side of the doorway so he couldn't be seen from outside.

"Not safe here," Tim grunted. "No hide badguys come door."

"Not risk, not win," Tom shrugged. Tim sighed. "Shoe on, run bike when badguys move?" Tom asked.

Tim thought about it, then nodded. Slipping back into their shoes, they didn't bother to tie them, just shoved the laces down around their feet. They'd worry about lacing later. Tim pulled his back around and pulled out his bag of tricks. Most of the tools wouldn't be too helpful right now, he'd found a small mirror on a telescoping rod beside the trash at a local auto shop a while back. The mirror was cracked, but otherwise sound — the perfect tool for looking around corners. Snapping it out, he carefully stuck it out into the open doorway. "Adults still there," he whispered in clear English. "Wait," he added. "One headed our way, but I don't think he's coming for the door. Looks like he's headed for the office. Other one went around building the other way"

Tom nodded. "Your call. Stand firm or move?"

Tim didn't hesitate. "Stand firm. Best chance."

Tom, unable to watch the movement, pulled his own pack open and found his own goodie bag. He'd had to hide it better than Tim's. Tim's tools weren't exactly good things to be caught with, but at least it didn't actively break the rules. Tom's wasn't exactly loaded for this mission, but he quickly prepared a few surprises that might help. After a long, nerve-wracking minute Tim snapped his telescoping mirror to the sit position. "Clear," he said.

"One second," Tom hissed, pulling out an equally illegal lighter and gesturing towards an air vent. "Help me up." With Tim's help, he quickly had the present wired to the intake grill near the door. Lighting it, he dropped to the ground and they sprinted for their bikes. Their fingers span over the combinations, then finally the locks came undone, just in time for the school's alarms to begin blaring.

Tim pulled Tom down behind some pushes and waited as people ran out of the school office, then quickly ran the wrong way. Snickering, the boys hopped on their bikes and pedaled away, completely unseen. "I sure hope we don't have to go to school tomorrow," Tim laughed. "It's gonna stink for days!" The two pedaled a little closer together and did a high-five. They'd intended to use the stink bomb on Mr. Gray's office, but this was a way bigger prank. Neither one was really in line with their usual 'public service' pranks, but they'd both decided that making Mr. Gray's life miserable counted as a public service no matter how you counted it. And shutting the entire school down… Well, the Moms had ordered them to cause trouble!

"Wait," Tom slowed his pedaling. "They're going to notice our bikes missing. First thing they'll do is… Oh shit! Follow me!" Tom swerved across the street and took the first turn he could find.

"This isn't the way home," Tim protested once he caught up.

"If they can't find us at the school, where are they going to look next?" Tom pointed out.

"Fuck," Tim swore in understanding. "What are you planning?"

"First, I want to get off the major roads," Tom said. "We'll use back roads as best we can, neighborhood streets. That way they can't just use a car to run us down. Then we need to start making our way home, but we'll circle around and come at it from behind. Stay far enough apart that we aren't obviously a pair of twins. Use the park a few blocks away to lock up our bikes, then go through the woods."

It took them nearly an hour, but they matched word to deed. Sneaking up from the woods, they slipped under the back fence and crawled for the back door. Tim used his mirror to check around the corner of the house. "One car that doesn't belong," he whispered, "across the street."

"Stay low, don't turn lights on," Tom ordered, slipping his key into the lock. Carefully plotting their route, he guided Tim upstairs without letting anyone outside the house see them. "Let me borrow your mirror," he asked, then checked outside their window. "Some people watching the house, don't think they're looking up," he said after a minute. "We can get in the closet, but open it slowly."

A few minutes later they slunk out the back door, pushing their camping backpacks ahead of them.

"One call," Joe sneered at himself. "I have the right to make a call," he snorted. "Idiot." His grand stand had achieved virtually nothing. Well, not nothing. Afterward, both girls had clung to him so hard the police had finally chosen to ignore Dixon's orders and leave them with him on the ride to the police station. Unfortunately, eventually the girls had relaxed enough that the police had been able to whisk them away. Joe wasn't happy with that, but the handcuffs really did prevent him from doing much of anything about it. And Dixon had decided that his efforts to call his mothers counted as his one call. Joe wasn't certain if that was legal, but he wasn't in much of a position to do anything about it. Yet.

Who would have thought everything would go so bad so quickly, some part of his mind complained. The sound of a lock opening caused Joe to twist around to face the door. "Thank you officer," a man in a suit and tie said, stepping through the opened door. "That will be all for now."

"Hello Joe," the man smiled, stepping around the table. "My name is Anthony Cochran. I'm your attorney."

"Hello," Joe said sullenly as the man placed his briefcase on the table. "I'm surprised Dixon is allowing me an attorney at all."

"Now now," the man chided him, carefully adjusting the position of the briefcase before opening it. "Ms. Dixon has your best interests at heart."

Joe groaned. Of course. "So I take it you don't have any interest in re-uniting me with my parents?"

"Actually, I have every interest in re-uniting you with your parent," Anthony replied, pulling a legal pad and a pen out, and causing Joe to look up with surprise. Hope blossomed in his heart for a moment, until he picked apart the sentence enough to notice the lack of an 's' on 'parent'.

"I don't call Mrs. B mother, but she's still a parent," Joe threw out, testing the waters. The lawyer, instead of responding, frowned at Joe.

"I'm referring to your father, of course," he said.

Joe resisted the urge to snarl, instead taking a nice, deep, calming breath. And then another. And a third, for good measure. "The individual you refer to is no relation of mine," he said finally. "I disown him just as much as he disowns me."

"Actually, he's been trying to contact you for nearly six months now," Anthony disagreed. "He's quite eager to see you again."

"The feeling is not mutual," Joe said flatly. "I want nothing to do with him, and if you're my lawyer you're instructed to make that happen."

"Sorry," Anthony shook his head. "You're a minor. You don't get to give me orders. Your guardian, which is currently the state, gives the orders. And the state sees no reason to deny your loving father access to you. In fact, he's already called and informed us that he's less than half an hour away."

Oh joy. Daddy was coming to the 'rescue'. Bleh. The thought was enough to make Joe feel nauseous. The bastard had dumped him when it was convenient, then expected to come riding in and picking up the pieces? The best the idiot could hope for was that Joe would deck him instead of finding a knife.

Actually, that was a nice thought. Decking him would be pleasant. And appropriate.

A disturbance outside the door interrupted their conversation. "What is it now?" Anthony complained.

"Trouble, I'm sure," Joe said hopefully. "Probably my mothers, busting their way in here."

"Unlikely," Anthony snorted. "The officers would arrest them for violating the law."

"You don't know the first thing about my mothers," Joe laughed. "If you think that would even slow them down, you don't know the first thing about mothers in general."

Anthony's suddenly worried look suggested that he did, in fact, know something about how far mothers would go to protect their children. Phrases like 'too far' and 'mother bear' hopefully featured prominently in his thoughts. What came through the door was decidedly anticlimactic, however.

"Hello Joe, I'm your lawyer," Edwin Chase, Attorney at Law announced. "Your mother sent me."

"I'm his lawyer!" Anthony protested as the door closed behind Mr. Chase.

"You are a court appointed hack, doing the work of social services," Mr. Chase told him, smiling. "I, on the other hand, am a professional, accredited lawyer hired explicitly to represent his interests, whatever he decides they happen to be."

Anthony swelled up. "Conflict of interest, if those dikes are paying you-"

"That argument would only hold water if Joe decided he didn't wish to remain with them," Mr. Chase cut him off. "Additionally, be warned that such language is actionable and I am quite certain the women in question are capable of finding civil attorneys willing to handle the case. Joe, if you would prefer a different lawyer, please let me know. I can imagine it might not be easy for you to deal with me."

"The breakup was mutual," Joe shook his head. "Clarissa and I… Didn't work, but it wasn't acrimonious."

"Good, that's what she told me," Mr. Chase smiled. "Now, first order of business. Do you want him, or me, as your representative? I need a verbal confirmation, please."

"You," Joe chose instantly.

"Thank you," Mr. Chase smiled, then banged on the door.

"Yes?" an officer asked, opening it enough to speak.

"I want my client out of those handcuffs, first, and then this other individual is leaving," Mr. Chase's voice was almost conversational, but there was no doubt he expected each and every one of his requests to be acceded to. "And then you are turning off all surveillance devices and giving me a moment alone with my client."

"I-" Anthony began to protest.

"Am leaving, we know," Mr. Chase cut him off.

The officer silently walked in and took the handcuffs off Joe. Rubbing his wrists, Joe watched the silent byplay between the two lawyers.

Eventually Anthony realized he was over matched, and began packing up. "I will discuss this matter with Social Services, and have it corrected shortly," he told Joe. "Until then, as your proper lawyer-"

"You can take your advice and shove it up your ass, sideways," Joe cut him off. "I know exactly who I want as my lawyer, and you aren't it. Go to hell. Go directly to hell. Do not pass go, and do not collect two hundred dollars." Mr. Chase snickered as Anthony stiffened, offended. "Oh, wait," Joe added when Anthony was halfway to the door. The lawyer half turned to look at Joe, one eyebrow raised. Do your really think I'm going to help you now, kid? the look said clearly. "My sincere apologies for what I said," Joe added. "I should have said fifty dollars. You are a cut-rate lawyer, after all. Can't pay you what a real lawyer earns. Sorry to raise your hopes." Mr. Chase outright laughed at this, and Anthony just stalked out of the room.

"Why couldn't you have shown that wit while you were still dating my daughter?" Mr. Chase complained. "You were always so polite."

Joe shrugged. "Trying to make a good impression."

"Well, you just made one hell of an impression, I'll grant you that," Mr. Chase looked at the door. "Not necessarily a good one, but an impression that won't be quickly forgotten."

"So, you're my lawyer," Joe leaned back. "Tell it to me straight, doc, am I gonna live?"

Mr. Chase laughed, sitting down across from Joe. "Your moms are already on the warpath. In addition to sending me, they managed to get together with a half-dozen other local couples and hire a lawyer to fight Social Services. They've already got a judge holding an emergency hearing, requesting an emergency injunction against this crap."

"Good," Joe nodded. "So all you have to worry about is my arrest?"

"In a word, no," Mr. Chase sighed. "Apparently your father wants your trust fund."

"Trust fund?" Joe asked, confused. "Oh!"

"The trust fund your grandfather left you," Mr. Chase nodded. "You and your moms can't touch it until college. But your father, and his lawyers, think that if they can get you into his custody, then they can have standing to challenge that decision. At the moment, he's paying a hefty bit of child support for you. It wasn't too bad a few years ago, but it automatically increases as he his pay goes up. He wants that money back, and he thinks he can convince the courts to allow him to draw on that trust to help provide you with a few amenities when you move into his household. After all, things like bedding and clothes cost money, and why should he pay when there's a trust fund to help."

Joe groaned. "Bastard," he complained. "How can I help you fuck him over?"

Mr. Chase grinned. "I don't need any help, just your say-so."

"Great," Joe shook his head. "I don't even know how much is in the trust fund, but I don't think it can be that much. Especially since each of my sisters got one too. Does he really think-"

"Joe," Mr. Chase cut him off, "your grandfather lived like a miser because, well, he was a scrooge. Not because he couldn't afford better."

"Oh," Joe frowned. "Still, the amount is sealed until the trust fund is opened. That was a stipulation in the will."

"Your father cheated," Mr. Chase shrugged. "Not sure how he found out, but he knows how much is in there."

"Stop right there," Joe cut Mr. Chase off. "Grandpa didn't want me to know how much money was in there until it was time. I'm going to respect his wishes."

Mr. Chase smiled. "I can understand your reasoning, but I don't think your father is going to let it rest."

Joe groaned, dropping his face into his hands. "Okay, you're a lawyer. So lawyer me. Where do we start?"

"I am assuming from your word choice you want to remain with your mothers," Mr. Chase started. "As your lawyer, explicitly and specifically yours, I'd appreciate it if you confirmed that."

"Consider it confirmed," Joe agreed. "I want nothing to do with my bastard of a father."

"Good, that'll make life easier," Mr. Chase nodded. "At your age, a court is likely to side with your wishes. They probably won't even force visitation rights on you."

"Works for me," Joe nodded.

"Moving on, while we were able to get definitive word on the fact of your arrest, the details were somewhere between scanty and nonexistent," Mr. Chase continued. "I'm primarily a civil attorney, but started as a criminal attorney. I can cover both cases, but I need to know what the charges are."

"Beats me," Joe shrugged. "The social worker ordered it after discovering that I'd called the Moms. Said she'd get back to me on the exact charges later."

Mr. Chase's face darkened. "I see," he growled. "That's going to make life difficult."

"In case it's relevant, they also refused to let me call anyone after they arrested me," Joe added.

Mr. Chase frowned. "Now that is definitely illegal," he commented. "I suppose they could argue that your prior call counted, but you did say the arrest came after?"

"Yup," Joe nodded.

Mr. Chase pulled out his phone. "Hey Billy-boy, how goes it? Oh really? Glad I caught you then. Listen, the minor I'm representing definitely wants back with his parents. No charges have been provided yet, but apparently he was arrested for letting his parents know about what Social Services was up to. And after arresting him, they decided not to let him call anyone. Yeah, that's what I figured. Get it all out at once. Good luck. Later." Mr. Chase put his phone away. "With any luck, my colleague will have you out of here shortly," he told Joe. "He's about to head into his hearing, and apparently the judge is in an uproar already."

"Good uproar, or bad uproar?" Joe asked.

"To quote my colleague, 'the judge is having the hissy-fit to end all hissy-fits that anyone even thinks that order is enforceable'," Mr. Chase smiled. "Add in the way they've treated you, and 'Hang-Them Haran' is likely to start issuing arrest warrants and ordering the local district attorney to prosecute."

Joe smiled. "Oh goodie. So sit and wait?"

"Sit and wait," Mr. Chase nodded.

"Can you do something for my sisters?" Joe asked. "The cops are holding them somewhere around here."

"What?" Mr. Chase frowned. "They're supposed to be at Social Services, with all the other children."

Joe shrugged. "Until about thirty minutes ago, they were still here. The cops couldn't get them to let go of me."

"I'll look into it," Mr. Chase told him. "Stay here, and don't do anything. For now, obey any orders the cops give you."

"Yes sir," Joe leaned back in his chair as Mr. Chase departed.

A few minutes later, a cop came into the room. "Come with me, Mr. Peters," she ordered tersely.

Sighing, Joe obeyed, letting himself be lead out into the maze of corridors.

"Joe!" a familiar voice squealed.

"Get back here!" someone else snapped angrily.

"Abi!" Joe shouted, falling to one knee and embracing the girl in a big hug. "How's my beautiful little sister doing?"

"They said we'd never see you again!" she sobbed.

"The Moms are on it," Joe reassured her. "They're getting a judge to fix things right now. With luck, we'll all be home tomorrow."

"You promise?" Abigail asked, just in time to be ripped out of Joe's arms. Her scream started out as one of fright, then rapidly turned to pain. Her legs fell out from under her and she clutched at her shoulder. The man dragging her by her arm didn't even notice that shoulders just don't bend that way.

"Let her go!" Joe ordered, seeing red. "You're hurting her!"

"Fuck you," the man laughed. "Fag-boy."

Warning given. Warning ignored. Joe didn't bother with a second warning. With a single, explosive leap he was at a full run, then with another leap he jumped over his sister, impacting on the back of the bastard trying to rip her arm off. Joe didn't give him time to regain his bearings. As they fell to the ground, Joe grabbed the fuckers head and made sure to slam it against the ground, twice, good and hard. Minor details taken care off, Joe turned and cradled his sister in his arms. "Abi, you OK?" he asked.

"My arm!" she howled, still clutching was what probably a dislocated shoulder.

"Shh, we'll get you to a doctor," Joe reassured her, looking up for the officer that had escorted him. He could clearly make out her angry face, and the shocked face of Mr. Chase just a few feet away, exiting an office. And most importantly, the nightstick descending to impact with the crown of his skull.

Then he didn't see much of anything.

"How long do you think we'll need to stay out here?" Tim asked.

Tom sighed. "I dunno," he shrugged.

In their haste to get out of the house without being seen, neither of them had paused to consider anything other than the bare essentials. It was the right decision, but Tom was already regretting it. They had clothes, tools, cooking materials, and their rifles. They should survive in the woods for a week or two without any real hardship, but that wasn't the same thing as enjoying the trip. They hadn't grabbed anything to do with their time. And the one time they'd turned a phone on to call the Moms, they'd about gotten their ears scorched off. Mom had all but threatened them with a belt if they did it again before tomorrow.

If nothing else, that threat had driven home how deadly serious the current situation was. In an effort to make it impossible to find them, they'd forted up completely. Hunting would be kept to the bare minimum necessary to eat. Trips out of the fort to piss were limited through the handy expedient of storing the liquid in a couple of spare containers they'd kept around. Even talking was kept to a minimum, just in case someone might be in the area they couldn't see.

"I can't take it," Tim said a few minutes later. "I'm too bored. I'm at least going to pretend to hunt."

"The Moms-" Tom began.

"Aren't here!" Tim cut him off. "Besides, whose going to find us out here?"

"If we leave our orange vests, off, other hunters-" Tom started, only to be cut off by Tim's snort.

"It isn't hunting season," Tim pointed out. "Nobody out there is hunting, except us. And nobody has ever caught us before."

Tom hesitated. Tim had a point. Nobody, but nobody, was as good in the woods as the two of them. Their fort was enough to prove that. Other than a couple of wild animals, there was no sign anyone else had ever been in here, ever. And given their current desire to hide that was no small advantage. And if they were found, well, getting them out of here against their will would be an uphill battle. Odds were pretty damned good most adults couldn't even get into the fort, which would make getting them out against their will difficult even if they weren't armed. Add in a pair of hunting rifles, and a complete willingness to use them, and their use of the word 'fort' took on a new meaning.

"Oh fine," Tom sighed. "But let's do something helpful. We built those blinds the other week to keep an eye on the road. Lets use them." Tom snapped off his light, leaving them in pitch blackness as they crawled their way towards the exit.

Tom managed to slam headfirst into Tim's foot before realizing something was wrong. Rubbing his head, he was about to ask what the deal was when he heard it.

"Really think we can find them?" a man asked.

"I don't," a woman laughed. "They managed to walk right past the officers who were waiting for them at their house. Word is, they dropped their school bags off and walked right out, and nobody saw them. Just ghosted in and out with a trace."

"That's just not possible," the man disagreed. "I mean, maybe the unit watching their place took a break?"

"Nope, my friend Jane was there. They carefully split their breaks. Somebody had their eye on the house at all times."

"Then maybe they used the backdoor," the man suggested.

"Possible, but if they'd just walked up to it, they would have been spotted by the units keeping an eye on the approach road," the woman disagreed. "They would have had to low-crawl to the back door, and then pick exactly the right moment to open it. And even then, they should have been seen."

"Don't make them sound so super-human," the man laughed at her. "They're just boys."

"Boys who spend more time in these woods, presumably hunting, than most of the men in the area combined," the woman pointed out. "No one has ever caught them, but they're out here. Could be listening to us right now and we'd never know it."

"Next thing you know, you're going to claim they have a rifle pointed at us," the man protested.

"Command has already gotten the text of the message their parents sent them. Hide, and if need be fight. If they are out here, they have their rifles. And they'll have them ready to use," the woman said darkly. "So please, kindly, don't give them any ideas. They're smart enough to use a combination of smoke and stink bombs to get clean away from their school, while also giving the administrators a parting gift. They actually used the smoke bomb to get every last adult in the school to converge in one location, just in time to get a great big nose full of stink."

"You sound almost like you admire them," the man complained, voice fading as the two walked away.

"Don't be absurd," the woman told him before they faded completely out of earshot.

"Maybe we should stay here," Tim said hesitantly.

Tom considered it for a moment, then shook his head. "No, we need to find out how thorough they're being. We can't stay in the cave forever, and all it would take is one cop in the wrong place to see us coming out. Right now, we have a fairly good clue that there aren't any cops in a position to see anything, but if we wait…" Tom let the sentence trail off.

"Fuck," Tim swore. "Fine. I'll go out first, you grab our bags."

"Done," Tom agreed, already crawling backwards. It was the work of mere moments to pack their bags and seal the piss containers. Roping the bags to his waist, he pushed the piss ahead of himself as he crawled back to the entrance. Reaching it, he carefully shifted the rocks aside until he could get a view of the surroundings. Tim was crouched in a bush nearly thirty feet away, a hand held out in warning. Tom froze, waiting. After a few seconds, Tim started dropping fingers in a countdown. The second it reached zero, Tom shifted the remaining rocks blocking the entrance and continued to wriggle out. With the ease of long practice, he had himself and both bags out and the rocks back in place in less than a minute. A quick stride brought him to Tim's side seconds later. In moments, they had their packs fastened and were ready to move.

Thankfully, they'd avoided most of the afternoon in their underground hideaway, leaving plenty of shadows to move in. It wasn't night, but the darkness was closing in around them, the shadow of the woods concealing them. Of course, it also concealed the searchers, but that wasn't a problem for the twins. They were just that little bit better at hiding than the cops were.

What was dismaying was the sheer number of cops. From the few conversations Tim and Tom overheard, it quickly became apparent that the cops weren't out here to be helpful, but rather because they had blood in their eyes. Tim and Tom had not only escaped the school, they'd then turned around and snuck right past the cops watching over their house, slipping through the police's hands like smoke. These cops, at least, were less interested in enforcing a stupid Presidential Order, and much, much more interested in showing to all and sundry that they were better than the twins.

Which was enough to give both of the twins a giggle fit several times over the course of the evening, usually one they had to desperately muffle as cops passed within feet of them without noticing a thing. Idiots. They couldn't even stop talking long enough to actually listen!

Still, the sheer number of cops meant that sometimes, Tim and Tom were forced to go out of their way to avoid them. That's how they found themselves on the edge of the woods, near the blinds they'd planned to use earlier. Slipping into one of the hunting blinds, they amused themselves by watching traffic on the road. "Hey, that's Ami!" Tim said softly. "Black sedan, following the white van. Backseat. See her?"

Tom peered through his binoculars until he found the right car. "Yup," he nodded. "Hey, I recognize the driver. What's that fatso doing with our sister?"

"And where's Abi?" Tim added. "This stinks. Sis wouldn't be with that fatso willingly." Tom agreed. The idiot had insulted their mothers to their face, and hadn't particularly cared for the response they'd given him. He and his idiotic church were trying to get more people involved, but their homophobic attitude was backfiring, badly. For every recruit they got to attend services regularly, two more people decided that the church needed redecorating in egg shell and yolk. Or in toilet paper. Or in the twin's case, opening up the air conditioning unit and flipping the wired for heat and cold, so the lower they turned the temperature, the hotter it got in the building.

"Yeah, well, we need someplace to hole up," Tom said thoughtfully. "They're still combing the woods, and those flashlights are going to hurt us. Sure, we'll see them coming a mile away, but the shadows won't be helping us hide anymore. Everything will be just as dark, so if they shine a light on us, it's game over."

Tim shrugged. "Yeah, well, what else can we do?"

"Move forward," Tom said triumphantly. "They razed this section of the woods to put in more houses, but I don't think anyone has moved in yet. With luck, we'll find an open window. The electricity is probably off, but the water at least should be running. And we have enough food to last us a day or two, even if we can't cook."

"Works for me," Tim agreed, smiling. "Let's just wait for night to fully set in before we start moving."

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