Don Hanratty
My Belovèd is mine, and I am his.
Song of Songs 2:16


The limousine lurched as the driver jerked the steering wheel in reaction to the gunfire.  Two of the three policemen on motorcycles in front of the car pulled to the side of the road, dismounted and drew their weapons, leaving the limousine a clear path to escape behind a third motorcycle officer.  The officers on foot at the gate hit the ground and begun firing into a copse of trees across the road from the cemetery entrance.  At first there was return fire, but that stopped after a few shots.  The policemen kept firing into the trees for at least five minutes.  When they stopped, all was quiet.  One of their number got on his shoulder radio and reported what had happened, and in the distance sirens could be heard as squad cars began speeding toward the cemetery.

Inside the limousine, everyone had sought the floor after the first shock wore off.  Mary Carson crawled over to Mark and turned him face up in her lap, cradling his head.  There was an ugly crease in the side of his head which was seeping blood.  It ran down Mark's face and fell on his mother's dress.  She held the unconscious boy in her lap, kissing his forehead and paying no attention to the mess.

"Anybody hurt badly?" Ian queried the crowd.  No one responded in the affirmative, although blood was still seeping from many faces from the glass cuts from the safety glass which had been forcefully propelled into the interior of the car.

"Mark is," Mary said.

Ian pushed the button to roll down the window separating the driver from the passenger compartment.  Miraculously, it was still working.

"Driver, head for San Francisco."

"Yes, sir."

"Are you all right?" Ian asked the man.

"I'm fine."

"Good," Ian said.  "Get us out of here fast.  We have a seriously wounded boy back here.  Is your radio still working?"

"I'll have to try it."

"If it is, call your dispatcher and have another car meet us at the city line," Ian said.  "Glass is still flying into the car from the wind."

"Yes, sir."  The man picked up his mike and clicked it, then said, "Dispatch?"

"Dispatch," a disembodied voice came back.  The driver gave Ian a thumbs up, and then relayed Ian's instructions.

"Driver, honk your horn and get the motorcycle officer to stop," Ian said.  "We need to give him directions."  They were still moving east down one of Monterey's main streets.

At the sound of the horn as the limo came to a stop, the officer pulled over. He dismounted and came back to the car. 

"How many are hurt?" the officer asked, peering through broken windows.

"All of us slightly, one seriously," Ian responded.

Ian had the officer get on his radio to the Monterey police headquarters, and they cleared the officer to continue the escort.  The Monterey department would arrange for a San Francisco police squad to meet them at the city line.

The car surged forward as Ian crouched down and pulled out his telephone, locating his old friend Dr. George Suthon's number in his phone address book.  Suthon was a senior physician on staff at San Francisco General who had helped treat Carl Emrick after he had been raped and beaten.  The physician answered his cell phone right away.

"Suthon." the doctor said.

"George, this is Ian Carson.  I'm in a car in Monterey with my son Mark, who's been shot in the head.  We're on our way into town to the hospital.  Will you meet us at the Emergency entrance?"

The man betrayed no surprise and asked no questions.  "Of course, Ian.  I just finished rounds.  But I want the EMT's to meet you and bring your boy in.  Where would be a good place to meet them?"

"I'm having our limo driver contact his dispatcher to send another car for us at the city line.   What about there?"

"That'll be good," Suthon said.  "I'll contact the police and fire departments."

"We should be there in about ten minutes.  We're still in Monterey and rolling behind a motorcycle cop."

"Good.  See you soon."

They rang off and Ian looked around.  It looked like a war zone.  No one seemed worried about himself.  All eyes were focused on Mark.  The boy was not moving except to breathe.  Ian moved over beside his wife and gave Mary a clean, folded handkerchief.  She pressed it down into Mark's wound, and it slowly turned red as it soaked up the oozing blood.  Tears were running silently down Mary's face, mingling with the blood which had already fallen on her dress.

Ian kissed the side of his wife's head.

Catherine got up from the floor of the car, and brushing glass off the back seat, sat down.  Retrieving her purse, she pulled out her cell phone and called San Rafael information for St. Andrew's Church.  Punching in the number she received, she called and asked for Fr. Jim Mason.

"Father Mason," the priest said.

"Father, this is Catherine MacKenzie."

"Hello, Dr. MacKenzie."

"Father, we need your help.  We're in Monterey heading for San Francisco General with a police escort.  Mark Carson has been shot and is unconscious.  Would it be possible for you to meet us at the hospital to anoint him?"

"The hospital's on Potrero, right?"


"I'm leaving now."  The telephone went dead.

"Thank you, Catherine," Ian said, nodding gratefully.

The boys followed Catherine's example, brushing glass off the leather seats around the perimeter of the limo and down on to the floor so they could sit down, except for William, who stayed down and crawled over to his mother, putting an arm around her.

"Mom, do you want me to hold Mark?" William asked.

"No, honey.  Thank you.  I'm fine.  Are you all right?"

"Yes.  Just a scratch."

"Good.  Go around and check the other boys for me, will you?"

"Yes, m'am."

The boys were mostly all right, as they had told Ian, but Berto had an especially large gash on his right cheek.  William pulled out his own clean handkerchief and pressed it to Berto's face.

"Here, dude, hold this," William said.


Without knowing what the others were doing, they all began to pray for Mark as the limousine surged forward and the wind whistled through the broken windows.  Mary continued to hold an unconscious Mark, rocking him gently and whispering to him.

After her call to Father Mason, Catherine returned to the spacious, glass covered floor of the limousine beside Mary, and took one of Mark's hands in hers and held it.  The boy's hands and feet were big, like a puppy's paws just before a growth spurt.  Mark would be a big boy when he finishes growing, Catherine thought to herself as she stared at his pale, handsome face.  His young face.  It broke her heart to see him like this.

Ian rejoined Catherine down on the floor, putting an arm around Mary as she continued to weep, holding her son.  Soon all the boys, along with Rosa and Yolanda, had forsaken their seats again and joined the adults in the glass strewn center of the car, circled around young Mark as if they could heal him, or at least protect him, by their presence.

Ian felt a stab of guilt as he contemplated his wounded son.  Why had he let his own penchant for living life on the edge overrule reason, and decide to let the boys come to the funeral?  Never had he been more conscious of his responsibilities for these young lives than now, the boys in this car sitting around the adults, blood on their faces.  They might never blame him.  And Mark, if he recovered, might never blame him.  And Mary might never blame him.  But he would most certainly blame himself.  Ian's pain about what had happened reminded him anew of how hard it is to be a good parent, balancing young people's needs for new experiences and adventure with their need to be protected against the unspeakable evil in the world.  Had a good example of fortitude not been required right then, he would have broken into tears.

Not many minutes later, the motorcycle siren went silent, and the limousine slowed and pulled over to the side of the road at the San Francisco line.  Even sitting on the floor, occupants of the limo could see the reflection of flashing mars lights from outside the vehicle.  Ian slid back from the group, opened a door and exited the car.  A lady EMT was standing there holding her medical bag.

"Thank you for coming so quickly," Ian said.

"Yes, sir.  Where's the patient?"

"We're all slightly hurt from flying glass, but one boy has taken a bullet to the head," Ian said.

The woman nodded.  "Let me get in there," she said, and Mark's crowd of protectors moved back away from the boy.  The EMT checked the boy's vitals and visually checked his head wound before gently affixing a brace around Mark's neck.  She spoke to two other EMT's standing with a rolling stretcher at the back door of the limo.

"Give me the board."

She slid the board under Mark with Mary's help, and laid the boy down on it, affixing velcro straps to hold his body as they maneuvered him out of the vehicle and onto the stretcher.  Ian and Mary followed the stretcher to the ambulance.

"You're the parents?" one of the men asked.

"Yes," Mary said.

"One of you can come with us," the senior EMT said.  "I'm calling for another unit to come and treat the rest of you."

Ian and Mary looked at each other silently, and then Mary got in the ambulance.  Ian wept for a moment as the unit pulled away, lights flashing and siren screaming, preceded by a San Francisco police car all lit up.  Ian walked over and thanked the motorcycle officer who had led them out of Monterey.  The officer said he would stay with them until everyone left.  Catherine got out of the car and went to Ian, embracing him and holding him without a word.

A second EMT ambulance arrived, and the three medics began giving those who were bleeding emergency treatment.  Ian had a scalp wound that he wasn't even aware of on the back of his head, and they bandaged  it up.  The cut on Berto's cheek was the most serious of any of the minor wounds.

Another stretch limo arrived within minutes, and Ian, Catherine, Yolanda and Rosa and the boys transferred into the new vehicle.  The driver of the second limo gaped at his colleague's bullet riddled car as the newly arrived limousine pulled into traffic and moved toward San Francisco General Hospital.

The new driver couldn't help thinking that he wasn't being paid enough for this job.  "It's amazing any of you is alive," he told his passengers over his shoulder.

"You're right," Ian said, but not wanting to discuss the obvious, closed the window between the front seat and passenger compartment, leaving the man to his driving.

Catherine sat beside Berto and gently put her arm around him.

"We'll all get through this day," she told the boy quietly.

Berto turned and looked at her solemnly.  He nodded, and took her hand.  It was the first sign of overt affection for her that he had ever initiated.

"I hope so," the boy said.

*  *  *

Kevin woke up first from his and Cam's little nap.  Casey was still sleeping quietly in his crib nearby, and Cam by his side.

Oh, he loved these two boys, Kevin thought to himself.  One was cute and helpless and needed constant attention and nurture to become the human being he was meant to be.  The other was strong and vital, someone to lean on in life.  Cam was steadfast in his love for the people he cared about, beautiful and strong in his physical presence, and focused on those he loved.  And yet, with all that strength, there was a sweetness to the boy that was both beguiling and comforting.  A very special person, Kevin knew.  As he had done many times, Kevin counted his blessings right then and there.

Moving carefully so as not to startle his partner awake, Kevin rolled on to his side and gently embraced Cam's naked chest with his left hand and arm.  Cam's pecs had a healthy prominence to them, much more pronounced as time had passed thanks to the exercises that Kevin demanded from all the boys in the house, including his partner.  Looking good, Kevin thought to himself, as he admired Cam's physique.

Kevin put his face close to Cam's chest and smelled the boy's skin.  As usual, an odor of masculinity and virility filled his nostrils.  Kevin's dick lurched in his boxers when he was "up close and personal" with Cam like this.  Moving his head closer, Kevin kissed Cam's nearest nipple, and then licked it.

Cam's eyes stayed closed, but his lips formed a smile as he awakened slowly.

"Teri, that feels so good," he whispered.

Kevin reapplied his mouth to Cam's nipple, this time giving him a gentle bite.  Cam jumped.

"I'll give you a 'Teri,' you little shit," Kevin said softly, grinning as he hovered over his lover's chest.

"Oh, it's you, Kevin," Cam said quietly, still smiling.  "Sorry, it was a case of mistaken identity."

Kevin chuckled.  "Yeah, right!" he whispered.  "You'll pay for that."

"I pay every day I'm with you," Cam responded.  He turned his head and looked over at the crib.  "Casey's still down," he said, stating the obvious.


"For how long, I wonder?"

"I don't know."  Kevin ran his hand over Cam's abs and down the outside of his boxers, cupping Cam's package.  There was an immediate reaction down there.

"Oh."  Cam's eyes widened.

Kevin's hand fumbled at the fly, moving in to grasp Cam's penis with his hand, and gave it a little stroke.

"You're awfully bold, doncha think?"  Cam rolled over on top of Kevin, pushing him down flat on his back in the bed.

"Well, yeah!  That's my job.  You know that."

"I do know that."  Cam lowered his face and gently pressed his lips to Kevin's lips, holding perfectly still, smelling Kevin's clean, healthy breath streaming in and out of his nose.  Lying on Kevin, Cam raised his hips and shed his own boxers, pushing them down and then kicking them off on the floor.

"You're naked!" Kevin gasped as if he were surprised.  "Is this a seduction?"

"Affirmative.  One of thousands."

Kevin put his hands on Cam's face and held his head still, looking deeply into his eyes.  "This is love, man.  If I'd known it could be like this, I'd have seduced you when we were thirteen."

"You'd have scared the living shit out of me," Cam said.  "We weren't ready 'til we were ready."

"I know.  I'm kidding.  But you make me so happy now, it's scary."

Cam put his lips back on Kevin's without replying as he felt Kevin's own arousal poking him in the crotch.  Kneeling up, Cam grasped Kevin's boxers and peeled them off.  They joined Cam's underwear on the floor.  Cam looked down and took Kevin's now-hard penis in his hand, pulling it away from his abs where it was throbbing a bit with each heartbeat.  Leaning down, he licked the head of it and then plunged down on it all the way.  Kevin squeaked and scrunched up his face from the sudden onslaught of pleasure.

Cam pulled off.  "Hold down the noise, now, or we'll wake up the baby," he said.  The he went down on his partner again, holding Kevin's balls in his hand and gently rolling them around.

"Have mercy," Kevin said, his body flooded with ecstasy at the hands of a boy who knew what he himself liked and therefore knew exactly what to do.

Cam alternated between slowly mouth stroking his partner, taking him deep into his throat, and then pulling off to hold just the head of Kevin's cock in his mouth and running his tongue around the corona of it.  He tasted sweet precum.

"Wait, man," Kevin gasped at that point.  "Turn around on the bed so I can do you."

No sooner said than done.  Kevin took his partner's cock in his mouth, and worked it until Cam was well aroused and leaking sweetness.

Wordlessly the two boys took one another to the edge, and then backed off, only to go to the heights again.  Fifteen minutes later, both panting as they pleased each other, they took one another to heaven, coming almost simultaneously.  They lay there with the heads of their dicks still in each other's mouth, unable to move, for at least five minutes.  Then Cam moved, cleaning off Kevin's instrument of pleasure.  Kevin squirmed because his dickhead was sensitive by then, but followed suit on Cam a moment later.

Cam turned himself around on the bed and hugged Kevin to him, giving him a soul kiss.  They slept for ten minutes.

Kevin kissed Cam's cheek when he woke up.  "Outstanding," he told his partner, well satisfied with how they had given each other such pleasure.  "You're definitely my green-eyed boy," he said softly.

"I know it."  Cam paused, grinning at Kevin.  "When I swallowed, I think you made me pregnant.  I felt it."

"Uh huh," Kevin said, pretending to be taken aback at the unexpected news.

"I mean it," Cam insisted.  "Twins.  One will look like me, and one will look like you."

"I think you're a little mixed up.  Where were you when we had anatomy class?"

"I was there.  Sitting right behind you thinking about your anatomy."

"You're talking like an idiot," Kevin said.

"That's harsh, doncha think?"

"But you're an idiot with great powers of observation, I'll give you that.  I hafta love ya for that, man!"

"Yep."  Cam's grin faded.  "Can we talk about Teri and the prom for a minute?"

Kevin sighed.  "Yeah.  But I hope this has nothing to do with pregnancy."

"No.  But I've been thinking about what Teri and I are going to do after the dance."

"I bet you have."

"The soccer team reserved a block of rooms at the hotel," Cam said.

"I know."

"I can do one of three things," Cam said slowly.


"One, I can put some rubbers in the sporran (pouch) I'm wearing with my kilt, and use them to do Teri.  Maybe not just once, but a couple times.  She wouldn't say 'no'."

"I know she wouldn't."

"Or two, we can strip down when we get to the room and do everything but the real deed.  I could probably get her to come without ever putting it in.  Like I do with you sometimes, y'know," he said, looking at the middle finger of his right hand and wiggling it.

"Uh huh," Kevin said.  "You are pretty sexy.  Sometimes I almost come in my pants just lookin' atcha."

Cam grinned and moved on.

"Or, three, I could just refuse to go to the hotel room with her at all, and tell her that I'm in love with someone else.  And that's no lie."  Cam paused.  "And maybe that's the fairest thing to Teri.  I don't want to give her the wrong idea by getting her all horned up, so she'll think there's hope that we may be a couple.  You and I know that's not gonna happen.  I like her a lot, but I don't love her."

"I want you to experience having sex with a girl if you want to," Kevin said.  "I won't be pissed off about it."

"I know.  And I love you for it.  It's tempting.  But I'm not gonna feel good afterward if I do her just because I want to have an experience that I may not otherwise have in my life.  That's not right.  And that's the bottom line."

"You don't want her to lose face with her friends though, either," Kevin said.  "You know, by not taking her to your room at all."

Cam thought that over.  "You're right.  I'll probably have to take her to my room.  But I give you my word, I'm not gonna do her."

The two boys looked at each other in silence for a minute.

"You're a much better person than I am, Cameron," Kevin said, putting his hand on his partner's forehead and gently stroking back his crewcut.  "Seriously.  I've always known that."

"Not necessarily.  But I've decided on Plan Number 2-B."

"What's that?"

"I'll take her to my room, but I won't do anything sexual with her.  Not even with my finger.  Maybe just get drunk with her."

"I'll back you up whatever you do, you know that," Kevin said, snuggling up to his boy again and kissing him.

That didn't last long, as Casey awakened and began moving his arms and legs in the crib.

Getting up after giving Cam a final kiss to end their discussion about prom night, at least for the moment, Kevin went over to the crib and peered down at their son.  Gently scooping the child up into his arms, he took him to Cam in the bed.

"I'll be right back," he said.

Kevin went into the bathroom and splashed water on his face and wiped his crotch with a damp wash cloth.  Then, retrieving his boxers from the floor in the bedroom, he put them on and went to the little refrigerator.  Taking out a bottle of formula, he put it into a pan of water on the hot plate and powered the hot plate up.  The coils turned red as they began to heat the pan.

Cam watched from the bed holding Casey, saying nothing, feeling his love for Kevin and for the little boy in his arms welling up yet again inside him.

Kevin went over to the bed.  "Hey, sweet boy," he crooned to Casey, telling the little guy that food was on the way.  The child looked up at his father, probably still unable to focus on him, but hearing a familiar voice that had always meant good things were on the way.

Cam continued to cradle the little boy, looking down on him, fascinated as always by the child's perfect features.

"Hey, little guy," Cam said, taking a finger and gently rubbing the baby's nose and cheeks.  "We love you," he said.

"Arglussh," Casey responded, kicking his legs and moving his arms.

"I agree," Cam said.  "I tell Daddy that all the time."

Kevin laughed and shook his head, still waiting for the pan of water to start steaming.

"Well, I do," Cam told Kevin.  "But you only listen to half of what I say."

"No, I listen to all of it.  What choice do I have?"

"You might learn something if you did."

Kevin ignored him, watching the water with the bottle in it.

Cam turned his attention back to Casey.  "We have to start thinking about your career," Cam told the infant.  "It's never too early to get ready.  I want you to be good at the arts, not at physics and mathematics like your Daddy.  You need to stay in touch with your inner self."

Kevin started to laugh.  "You're such a dipstick, dude.  I don't think you're gonna be a very good influence on Casey."

"The best," Cam contradicted.  "All the physics and mathematics jobs will be in India and China by the time you're finished with school, so you'll have to go over there.  But Casey and I will be going strong in the arts right here in the good ol' US of A.  Too bad for you."

"If I weren't busy at the moment, I'd come over there!" Kevin said threateningly.

"Don't worry, he'll be a jock, too, even if he's in the arts.  Casey knows I'm not lying," Cam crooned to the baby.

"Shutup," Kevin said.  The hot water bubbled at last.  After a few minutes, Kevin tested the temperature of the formula on his wrist.

"Perfect," he said.  He went over and took the baby from Cam, and sat down in a rocking chair that Catherine had bought for them.  Cam sat on the side of the bed watching Kevin do his thing.  Life can be so good, Cam thought to himself.

When Casey finished the bottle, Kevin put it on the floor and began rocking the child, who clearly liked it, holding the baby upright and patting his back.  The little boy burped, and then his eyes began to close after a few minutes.

The telephone rang.

"Hello," Cam said cheerfully.

"Sweetheart," Catherine's voice said, "I have some bad news."

*  *  *

The police officers at the cemetery gate left one of their number in position in front of the copse of trees from which the gunshots had come, and the rest of them, using broken field running tactics, flanked the trees on the right and left.  When the two contingents met on the other side, they found a large rock there on which the gunman may have rested his automatic rifle, but the gunman himself was long gone.  The only signs remaining were some blood spatters on the rock and drops of blood leading to tire tracks in the dirt of a service road down which the person had escaped.

A sergeant called in what they had found, and his lieutenant told him to cordon off the scene and that he was sending out forensics people to obtain blood samples and do plaster casts of the tire prints for future reference.  Squad cars were also dispatched to the head of the cemetery service road to block any escape, but they were too late.

*  *  *

The EMT ambulance was immediately surrounded by medical personnel when it arrived at the entrance to Emergency, and Mark Carson, still unconscious, was whisked away inside with his mother following closely behind.  She was diverted from Mark's examination room, however, and was taken to her own treatment room to have her own head wound looked at by the time Ian, Catherine, Rosa, Yolanda, and the other boys had arrived.

All of them, with injuries of varying seriousness from flying glass, were taken to separate treatment rooms to have the wounds which had been dressed by the EMT personnel looked at again.  Ian signed permission forms for all the boys to be treated before being taken to a room to have his own scalp wound looked at a second time and bandaged.  He went out to the waiting room when they were finished with him, where one by one the boys and Yolanda, Rosa, Mary and Catherine joined him except for Berto.

The wound in Berto's right cheek was deep, the most serious of any of the wounds sustained by those in the car except for Mark.  Dr. Suthon paged the head of plastic surgery, who was on the premises, and he came down to the Emergency department right away.  The surgeon numbed up the right side of Berto's face completely, and then spreading the deep cut wide, put several sutures which would dissolve in time deep inside the wound.  That done, he used a new tape which had been developed on the battlefields of Iraq to hold the surface edges of the cut together.

"We'll see how this heals," the surgeon, Dr. Merlo, told Berto and Dr. Suthon.

The two of them thanked the surgeon, and Berto went back out to the waiting room.  The right side of his face was so numb that without knowing it, he began to drool from the corner of his mouth.  Catherine saw it, and retrieving some kleenex from her purse, folded several sheets over to make a pad and gave it to the boy.

"Sweetheart, hold this at the corner of your mouth until the numbness wears off."

Berto, seeing the saliva on his shirt, flashed her an appreciative look, and did as she said.

Ten minutes later, Father Jim Mason arrived, moving fast as he came in.  The adults and boys surrounded him when they saw him.

"Thank you for coming so quickly, Father," Catherine said.

"What's the news?" the priest asked.

"Nothing yet," Ian said.  "We've all been treated for our cuts, and we're just waiting."  Ian looked sad and upset.

"Well, let's have a prayer for Mark right now," Mason said.

They expanded their circle to include the priest, and they all held hands.

"Heavenly Father," the priest said, "we ask you to look upon us, your children, who are gathered here in sorrow and pain, but also in faith.  We know that you are the great healer.  This is your world, and your Spirit is at work to save and bless us all.  We especially ask you, Lord, to let your Holy Spirit rest upon and comfort your servant Mark.  Save him from the evil that has been visited upon him.  Confirm our faith in you and your love, and surround Mark with your angels to comfort him and heal him and bear him up in his hour of need.  Keep him safe in your heart, Lord.  Restore him whole to us who love him, Father, as you love him and love us.  We ask all these things through Jesus Christ our Lord."


When Father Mason opened his eyes and looked around, everyone's face looked a little brighter, a little less sad and fearful.

"Thank you, Father," Ian said.

"I'm glad I'm here with you," Mason said.  He looked at Ian.

"Do you think I could see Mark for a minute and anoint him for healing?"

"Come on, let's find out."

The two of them walked back toward the treatment rooms as Mary, Catherine, Rosa and Yolanda and the boys sat down.

Dr. Suthon was coming out of Mark's treatment room as Ian and Father Mason came down the corridor.  Through the window they could see a crowd of doctors, nurses and technicians working on the boy.  Suthon motioned them into an empty treatment room across the hall to talk.

Ian introduced Suthon to the priest, and they looked at the doctor.

"Well?" Ian said.

"Here's the deal," George Suthon said.  "There was a shallow penetration of the right temporal lobe of Mark's brain, just above his right ear.  But what was presumably a bullet didn't lodge there, it exited.  There's not a lot of trauma, but fortunately, even if there had been, a right temporal lobe injury tends to be less severe than trauma to the left lobe, for a number of reasons.  Anyway, there appears to be minimal damage, and he's a lucky boy."

"Thank God!" Ian said, and overcome with emotion, he embraced the priest.

"Why isn't he awake?" Ian asked when he stepped back from Father Mason.

"He'll wake up, but he's still in shock," Dr. Suthon said.  "We're going to send him upstairs for MRI and CT scans right now to make sure we haven't missed anything, and then minor surgery just to make sure we clean the wound properly.  I'm not sure the dura was even penetrated.  I'm reasonably confident that the scans will confirm what the x-rays tell us and what we've already observed."

"Thank you, George," Ian said.

"I'm going to need you or Mary to sign papers giving us permission to operate," Suthon said.  "Just to clean up the wound," he added.

"Who's going to operate?" Ian asked.

"I have a call in to the chief of neurosurgery here, Dr. Anson.  He ranks right up there with the best neurosurgeons in the country.  Even though this is a relatively minor wound, I want you to have the best.  When he gets here, he'll look at the x-rays and scans."

"All right," Ian said.  "Will you get Father Mason into the treatment room to anoint Mark before he goes upstairs?"

"Absolutely.  Let me have a nurse bring in the papers you need to sign, Ian.  Father, hang tight here for a minute, and then you can go in."

"Thank you," the priest said.  He looked at Ian.  "This is wonderful news, Ian.  A well deserved blessing."

"I'm thankful," Ian said, and then fell silent.

A nurse came in with the papers to authorize surgery, and Ian signed them.  Then they all went back into the corridor, and the nurse took the priest into the treatment room after putting a gown on him.  Ian watched through the window as the medical team stepped back from their patient to give the priest room to work.

Mark lay unmoving on the table under bright lights and a blue sheet, his face white under his tan.  He was breathing regularly, but a dressing on the right side of his head was bloodstained.  Jim Mason put a short purple stole around his own neck, pulling his holy oil stock and a priest's handbook out of his suit coat.  
One of Mark's arms was exposed.  Mason took Mark's hand in his own and just held it as he began the prayers.

Opening the oil stock, Mason dipped his thumb in it and anointed the boy's forehead with oil, offered a prayer for healing, and concluded with the Our Father and Hail Mary in which several members of the medical team joined.  He concluded with a blessing.

When he was finished, the priest thanked the medical personnel and went back into the corridor, removing his sterile gown and placing it into a receptacle.   He and Ian walked back into the waiting room with big smiles on their faces.  They were immediately surrounded by the adults and the boys.

"Good news!" Ian told them.  "Shallow wound, no significant damage.  They're taking him upstairs for some scans before cleaning up the wound some more.   But Dr. Suthon thinks he's going to be all right."

Yolanda and Rosa clasped each other as Mary and Catherine began crying in relief, and Ian hugged them to himself.  Normally Mr. Cool, tears began running down William Carson's face as the boys high fived him and one another joyfully.

When things had calmed down a little, Catherine used her cell phone to call Cam and Kevin.  They were ecstatic, so much so that they woke up Casey when they whooped and jumped around.

"Let's decide where we're going to spend the night," Ian said, looking at the group.  "I know Mark is going to have to stay here, probably for several days at least."

"I want these boys back out of town," Mary said firmly.  "We don't know where that maniac may strike next."

"I'll ask for a police guard on Mark here at the hospital," Ian was quick to say.

"Let me take Rosa and the boys back to San Rafael," Catherine suggested to Mary.  "I know you and Ian will want to stay in town to be near Mark.  And Yolanda, if you want to, you should certainly stay and take care of them at the condo."

Yolanda looked at Rosa.  "Is all right?" she asked.  "You be too busy again at the house."

"Si, you stay," Rosa agreed immediately.  She smiled.  "I make these boys work now!"

"Can I stay?" William asked his mother and father.

Ian and Mary looked at each other.

"No, honey, you have to go back to San Rafael," Mary said.  "We'll be on the phone with you about Mark every chance we get, I promise."

So it was arranged.  The good-byes were restrained from all appearances, but all of them were conscious of the deepened bond among them resulting from a shared terrible experience.  An experience that fortunately was turning out well.  Father Mason, who would be leaving soon for San Rafael himself, went to every member of the family and traced a cross on each forehead.  Catherine, Rosa and all the boys headed for the limousine.  Ian accompanied the group to the car while Mary and Yolanda sat down again in the waiting room.

Ian retraced his steps back into the hospital after the car left, stopping to stare at an extra edition of the San Francisco Chronicle in a newspaper box.  A huge, black headline screamed:  AMBUSH.  The article went on to tell the story that the family knew all too well, having just lived through it.  Ian bought a paper and took it inside for Mary and Yolanda.

After an hour had passed, a nurse's assistant came out and said that Mark had been taken upstairs for scans and then surgery, and that Ian, Mary and Yolanda should move upstairs to the waiting room for families of surgical patients.  They did so.

Mark was out of surgery within an hour, and Dr. Anson, the surgeon, came out to see them.

"Things were pretty much as we had thought with Mark," he told them.  "There was no significant damage, and he'll heal up well.  Had the projectile entered his head another milimeter or so to the left, we'd have had some problems.  I want to keep him here for observation for a couple of days, but then he'll be good to go."

Ian and Mary thanked the doctor profusely, and then Ian, Mary and Yolanda were allowed to go to the post-surgical ward to see him.  The boy was awake but groggy, and was awfully glad to see three familiar faces.

"What happened?" Mark asked after they had all kissed the portion of his face which was not bandaged.  Mary wept.

"Berto's uncle shot up the car," Ian said succinctly.  "Everybody was wounded.  But everybody's going to be fine.  Especially you.  You got the worst of it."  Ian smiled.  "Didn't I teach you how to duck, buddy?"

"I guess not," Mark said, trying hard to smile with so much of his face encased in bandages.

"How do you feel, sweetheart?" Mary asked.

"Tired," Mark admitted.  "But I'm not hurting.  Honest.  I wanna go home!"

"Maybe in a few days," Ian said.

"Where is everybody?"

"Everyone except for us just left for San Rafael," Mary said.  "They didn't want to, but it's safest for them.  The hospital wouldn't let all them up here anyway.  But we're going to take turns staying with you until you're ready to leave for Catherine's house."

They continued to talk until a nurse came in and kicked them out so Mark could rest.

Between them, Ian and Mary decided that Mary would take the first shift at the hospital, and that Ian and Yolanda should go to the condo and rest.  That being agreed, the two of them caught a cab outside the hospital.

Yolanda went to her little apartment at the condo to lie down for a few minutes, but Ian went to his study.  He fired up the computer
, googling "temporal lobe injuries."  Many medical sites popped up, and picking one, he began studying problems resulting from such an injury.  He read:

"Trauma to Temporal Lobes: side of head above ears
  • Difficulty in recognizing faces (Prosopagnosia).
  • Difficulty in understanding spoken words (Wernicke's Aphasia).
  • Disturbance with selective attention to what we see and hear.
  • Difficulty with identification of, and verbalization about objects.
  • Short term memory loss.
  • Interference with long term memory.
  • Increased and decreased interest in sexual behavior.
  • Inability to categorize objects (Categorization).
  • Right lobe damage can cause persistent talking.
  • Increased aggressive behavior."
When he was finished, Ian put his hands over his face and began to weep in relief that Mark had not been more severely injured.  Ian knew that he was widely viewed in the legal community as "king of the hill."  He was tough, focused, self-confident, well educated, and dedicated.  When it came to his family, he was fiercely protective.  The injury to Mark had reminded him in no uncertain terms that, despite a person's gifts and abilities, sometimes we don't control our own fate.

After she had fixed supper for the two of them, Yolanda went and found Ian, still in his study and asleep face down on his arms on his desk.

They ate, and then Ian freshened up, changed into casual clothes, and went to the hospital to relieve Mary.  He was looking forward to spending some time with Mark.

*  *  *

Kevin and Cam were watching TV downstairs.  Casey was asleep in Rosa's rocking cradle they had taken from the kitchen.  When the two boys heard the driveway gate open, they did a quick check on the baby to see that he was positioned properly in his crib and still asleep.  Then they ran through the house, out the back door and down the steps two at a time, and were waiting when the limo doors opened and the family began emerging.  Everyone getting out of the car had his or her face, or neck or head bandaged somewhere or other.

When Catherine emerged from the car, Cam and Kevin gently surrounded her with a joint hug and kissed her.

"Mom."  Kevin stopped talking and choked up a little.

"Mama, thank goodness you're all right," Cam breathed in her ear.  "I guess you were right to be afraid for all of us," he whispered.

Catherine kissed the two of them, saying nothing.

Then Cam and Kevin made the rounds of the boys with a sliding handshake and shoulder bump.

"What about Mark?" Kevin asked.

"Dad called us on the way home," William said.  "A bullet hit him here"--William pointed over his right ear--"and gouged pretty deep.  But he wasn't as seriously wounded as he could have been.  They took him to surgery to clean up the wound, and he's awake and back down in the post surgery ward.  They don't think there will be any lasting damage."

"Thank God," Kevin said.

Cam raised his hands silently and looked up.

Kevin touched Berto's chin and turned his head gently, looking at the bandage on his cheek.

"Is it bad?" Kevin asked, nodding at the wound.

"Not as bad as Mark's," Berto said.

"Was the service for your parents what you wanted?" Cam asked him.

"Yes," Berto said.  "It was good."  He handed Cam leaflets from the church and from the cemetery to look at.  Then he looked around at the group.  "I want to apologize to every one of you for what my uncle did.  I'm ashamed."

"That's such bullshit!" Kevin said vehemently, and then looked down at the ground.  "Sorry, ladies." he said to Rosa and Catherine.  "But you had nothing to do with what happened, Berto, and you should be ashamed--for thinking your family here would think you're to blame in any way."

Catherine hugged Berto.  "Kevin's right, sweetheart. 
Don't feel bad for us.  We love you so much, and there are no negative feelings on our part.  We're glad we were with you today."

At that point the weight of the day was too much for him, and Berto lowered his head and began to cry.

"You boys go in now and change clothes," Rosa told them softly.  "I see if I can get blood from them."

All of the funeral goers climbed the stairs to the back deck slowly, and went inside to shed their dressy clothes and begin to shed some awful memories of a terrible day.

*  *  *

The household spent the next day just taking it easy for the most part, although Mr. Montgomery, the boys' tutor, did come by for an hour mid-morning to finish up his review for the final exam he would administer to them the next morning.  When he saw his pupils' bandages and heard their story, he took it easy on them and left early.

Rosa's husband had been very unhappy when he had seen his wife's wound and heard the story of what had happened after the funeral.  He didn't want her to go to work at the MacKenzies' that day, but she just told him she was going, and that was that.

William or Catherine talked with Ian or Mary practically once every hour that Thursday.  The news was all good.  To maintain a constant vigil with Mark at San Francisco General, the Carsons had split up each 24 hour period into 8 hour shifts:  Mary was on in the morning, Yolanda (for all practical purposes, a member of the family) in the afternoon, and Ian in the evening.  Except when the staff was changing the bed or washing Mark, or the doctors were checking his condition, a family member was with him every minute.  A police officer was at the door around the clock.  Watching television, Mark and Mary and Yolanda learned more about the convoluted plots of the soaps than they had ever wanted to know.  Ian was spared that fate because he was on duty at night.

As long as he was stuck in town until Mark was released, Ian did go into the office for a few hours, met briefly with his partners, and made a stab at cleaning up his desk.  That made him feel a little better about having been away so much.

In San Rafael, Catherine and Rosa checked the boys' wounds just to see if everything looked all right, and they were.  Then Kevin checked Catherine's and Rosa's cuts.  None of them was a professional, but they didn't see anything to worry about.  Even Berto's more severe wound looked better.

After the cursory medical exam, the boys gravitated down to the pool house in the late morning, where they played foozball, pool, cards, and just generally heckled one another. They couldn't swim yet because of their cuts.

"So, Cam," Carl said as they sat at the card table.  "You have a prom date with Teri tomorrow night, is that right?"

Suspecting what was coming, Cam reluctantly said, "Yes."

"What's your schedule of activities going to be?" Carl asked.

"Whadda you care?" Cam asked.

"We're your brothers, dude," Carl said.  "We only have your best interests at heart."

"Yeah, right," Cam said skeptically.  They were playing poker.  "Give me your money and drop out right now.  That would really be in my best interests.  Yours, too, actually."

"That would be unsportsmanlike on my part, doncha think?"

"No, just an admission that I'm gonna kick your ass."

"Bullshit!" Carl said.  "Let's not stray from the topic, and you and Teri are the topic right now."

Cam laid down his hand at that point with a king high straight, and took the pot.

"Told ya," he said to Carl with satisfaction.

"What does Kevin think about you having a date with Teri?" Carl persisted.

"Why don't you ask him, and maybe he'll invite you to swim in the pool?  With your clothes on."

"Kevin knows I'm asking for all the right reasons," Carl insisted.

Kevin heard his name from the other side of the room, where he and Berto were playing foozball.

"Sup?" Kevin inquired, stopping the game for a moment.

"Carl's being nosy about my date tomorrow night," Cam said, shuffling the cards.

"Not nice!" Kevin said.  "I'm gonna have to kick his ass."

"Can I watch?" William said.

"Can you watch what?" Berto asked.  "Kevin kick ass, or whatever Cam is gonna do to his date tomorrow night?"

"What a bunch of pervs," Dan commented.  "But I've always known that."

"If you get to have Teri tomorrow night, can I have Kevin?" Carl asked Cam with a grin.

"That's for Kevin to say," Cam responded as he dealt the cards.

Kevin laughed.  "Kevin says 'Yes,' but it will only be to make Carl exercise on the machines until he's just a sweaty little pile of crap on the floor," he said.  "It won't take long."

Carl continued to hassle Cam for information until he had to go get dressed for his appointment with Dr. Smith, but he got nothing.

When he was dressed, Carl went downstairs to the kitchen.  Rosa was standing at the stove, breaking apart a huge mound of pork chops to thaw for the evening meal.  He walked up behind her and put his arms around the little woman.

"I'm going out.  Do you need anything from the store?"

"No, we all right until next shopping trip." Rosa said, turning around and giving Carl a hug.  "Gracias, Carl."

"Bye,  Rosa."

He went out and got in the Navigator, and drove off in a good mood.  He wasn't hating these sessions with Amanda Smith at all.  Far from it.

*  *  *

The following afternoon, late, the boys all gathered in Cam's room to watch him get dressed for dinner with Teri, to be followed by the Prom.  They were like a bullfighter's entourage in the dressing room watching their hero dress, garment by garment, before the main event.

In this case, the boys in the MacKenzie house wanted to see how Cam was going to look in Highlander garb, but most importantly, finally, they would know once and for all what was is worn under a kilt. 
Used to the locker room scene, Cam didn't kick the guys out of his and Kevin's room.  They watched Cam strip off his jeans, T-shirt and boxers, and put on his first item of apparel:  a jock strap. 

"You stopping off at the gym to get pumped before the dance?" William quipped when Cam put on the jock.
  "This is a good idea, though," William said, nodding approvingly at Cam in his jock.  "That way it won't be so awkward when Teri gropes you."

"Is that jock clean?" Dan asked.  "She won't want to have to wash her hands after she touches you down there."

"You pervs are hilarious," Cam observed.

Damn! Carl thought to himself, his eyes glued to Cam's bulge.   This boy is fine.  But Carl already knew that.  Cam was almost hairless above the waist, and other than a slight treasure trail, there wasn't a lot of body hair anywhere else except for head, armpits and groin.

Cam turned around and went to his dresser, bending over a drawer for an undershirt to put on.  Now Carl scoped out the boy's ass.  It was perfect, meaty and muscular, and without a blemish.  In the manner of a Helen of Troy, the beauty of this boy's ass could launch a thousand ships filled to capacity with gay sailors.

Cam straightened up, and his body was a V, his shoulders broad and sloping slightly, his back muscled, his waist narrow, and his legs, thanks to Kevin's merciless training in the gym, like shapely tree trunks.  Carl could feel himself getting hard.  He finally had to look away, but it was an effort.  All he could think was,
tonight, lucky Teri.  The rest of the nights, lucky Kevin.

"Don't you horny little shitballs have anything else to do?" Cam asked, putting on his undershirt and then his pleated, ruffled, fancy dress shirt that he wore with a bow tie.  The kilt, in the MacKenzie tartan, was next.  Sitting down on his desk chair, he pulled on knee length white stockings, followed by pumps with silver buckles.  He put the sporran on next, followed by a sash, also in the Mackenzie tartan, running from his left shoulder to his right waist,
decorated with a large silver medallion in the MacKenzie crest.  The final touch was a fake, rubber sgian dubh ("skeen doov," a knife similar to a dirk) which fit into a sheath hanging from the belt that also secured the sporran.

Cam also had a cap with a feather in it, but decided not to bother with that.

"You look great, man!" Kevin said, giving him a good hug and kissing his cheek.  He went over to their bedside table, opened the drawer, and took out two rubbers in their packages, rubbers they hadn't been using since their clean test results at the health department.  Going to Cam, he slid them into the sporran.

Cam frowned.  "What are those for?"

"Just so you have them," Kevin said.

Cam didn't say anything.  The guys had him turn in a circle in his finery, giving him lots of compliments.

Downstairs, Catherine and Rosa told him he looked magnificent, and Catherine took a lot of snapshots.  She had all the boys get in one shot with Cam.

When it was time, Cam walked down the stairs to the driveway with a corsage and a wrist corsage for Teri that the florist had delivered earlier.  The limousine to take him and Teri to dinner and then to the dance was waiting.  With a wave to the family on the deck, he was gone.

Kevin went back into the house looking pensive.

© 2006 Don Hanratty.

Many thanks to Craig K and Dan for proofing this chapter.