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DISCOVERING REG <Chapter 6>
We sat in our room before supper and began going through them. We knew after the first fifteen minutes that the findings were definitely not for general release. To say that their story was sad, was a gross understatement.
The boys' names were Robert, David, and Arnold. They were not related in any way, simply friends. They'd been inseparable since junior high school. During their freshman year in high school, they'd met Preston Reese. He was an outgoing boy who'd flattered the boys outrageously for several months, gaining their trust and willing cooperation in some of his less nefarious stunts.
It had all been great fun.
It all began to fall apart for the three boys halfway through the school year. Preston had invited Robert to his house for a sleep over. Robert had been thrilled. He'd gone expecting a marvelous time. What he got was a nightmare.
After the household had gone to bed and were fast asleep, Preston had gotten Robert down to the basement, two floors below the bedrooms, on the pretense of a bit of booze from the bar. But when they got down there, Preston had produced a large hunting knife and threatened Robert. He'd forced Robert to give him a blowjob for starters. Robert had no choice but to cooperate, thinking that it would be a simple task and he could avoid Preston after that. But Preston had then forced Robert to strip and had then brutally raped the boy, several times. When it was all over, he'd threatened to tell the whole school that Robert was a queer.
The other two boys experienced the same thing over the next few days. Then it was a simple matter for Preston to have his way with them any time he chose. That was when the bullying of school mates had started.
Reg and I simply sat and stared at one another for quite some time, shocked by what we'd read. I took the time to call down and asked if Reg and I could be excused from supper; neither of us felt hungry. We spent the time discussing the situation and what, if anything we could do about it.
As expected, father came to my room after supper. He was concerned by the haggard looks on our faces when he entered.
"What's the matter, boys?"
"Please sit, dad." He did, but his concern only became more intense. "Were you aware that Herb delivered a package of documents to us when he stopped by today to see you?" He shook his head. "They were the results of the investigation into Preston and his accomplices."
"All right. So?"
"The three boys who helped Preston have been victims, too. Even more so than Reg and me."
"How do you mean?"
"Well, here's where we have a problem, dad. We can't tell you. Herb and the prosecuting attorney have sworn us to secrecy. The boys are minors and the information is very, very sensitive. We only got access to it because of our status of victims. And then, only because Herb assured the prosecutor of our discretion."
He sat silently for quite some time.
"There is obviously something on your minds," he said finally.
"Yes, sir," Reg answered. "Wayne and I have talked and we are going to talk to Herb and the prosecutor. We are going to ask them to drop the charges against the three boys, with provisions."
Dad simply looked at us for some time, gauging our resolve, I imagined.
"This is important to you?"
"It's more important than anything we've ever done, dad," I said. "After what we've read, we can't let them be victimized further by a system of justice that won't fully understand what's happened. As part of our request, though, we are going to offer to offset some of the cost of what we're proposing because we know that the families of the boys can't afford it. Reg says he has some understanding of the financial obligations we'll be taking on."
"But if you get Wayne a position like mine this summer, dad, we will be able to afford it and not take too big a bite out of our bank accounts."
"This is that important to you?"
"Yes, sir," we answered in unison.
"Will I ever know what this is about?" he asked, and we knew that he'd support us.
"At least in part," answered Reg. "But not until we've discussed it with Herb and the prosecutor."
"Well," he sighed, "I can see that you've given this considerable thought. You're also going to seek competent guidance from someone I trust, so I'm not going to interfere. This is one of those instances where you have made your decision and I'm going to support you as best I can."
We hugged him simultaneously. "Thank you, dad. This means a lot to us."
We immediately called Herb from dad's study and arranged to meet with him, the prosecutor, and the boys' attorneys first thing the next morning. Then we called Everett and told him we had to cancel school for tomorrow and why...sort of.
We spent some time with John and Michael before bed and heard about their day and the fun they'd had explaining their new family to their friends, especially the chauffeur and limo. Carter had even allowed them to give a few of their friends a tour of the car before he'd brought them home. Their first day as Fingers had been exciting for them, and hearing them talk about it helped Reg and me shake off the lethargy of our recent discoveries.
Of course, then we discovered that our hunger had returned full force. So we hiked up to the kitchen. On the large industrial fridge was a simple note informing Reg and me that if our hunger returned to call Kyndra. So we did. I was embarrassed to do it, but I'd learned that when the staff said they expected you to impose on them, then that's what you did. Otherwise, you got a lecture. She'd told us to grab a glass of milk and have a seat in the dinning room, that she'd be up directly and our supper would be served in fifteen minutes.
Kyndra served us supper just as if the entire family was present, including two small slices of the cake from the previous night. For her efforts, she got a kiss on the cheek from each of us. When we'd finished we `did' take our dirty dishes into the kitchen, for which she thanked us, but flatly refused to let us wash them. Oh well, we'd tried.
We were feeling better when we finally retired, but neither of us was much in the mood for loving. So we settled for a luxurious bubble bath and spooning in bed.
We arrived at nine in the morning at Herb's office to find the prosecutor and the boys' lawyers had just arrived and we immediately retired to the conference room. Reg and I presented our proposal and it took the better part of two hours to convince them of the justice of it and for them to make the arrangements. First we'd have to meet with the boys, because Reg and I made that a condition. We MUST be allowed to be the ones to present the idea to the boys.
At one o'clock, all the interested parties arrived at the jail and we marched into the section reserved for attorney visits. Reg and I were the only ones to enter the room with the boys. Everyone else was relegated to the observation room behind the two way mirror.
I swear the boys nearly fainted when we entered into the room, unescorted. But Reg and I had put on our most friendly smiles. When that fact registered, all three of them started apologizing to Reg. It was a simple `I'm sorry', but it was obvious to us that they meant it.
"I accept you apologies, guys," said Reg. Then we shook hands and introduced ourselves formally.
After we'd all been seated, Robert raised his uncuffed hands. "How come? They always leave us cuffed in here."
I smiled. "Because we requested it. After what I did to you that Friday, do you really think you're much of a threat to us?" I chuckled.
"Not damn likely," answered Arnold. "Christ, I've never seen anyone move that fast."
Reg took up the conversation. "So, I'm sure you're wondering why you're here and what we have to do with it."
"Our lawyers just told us that someone absolutely had to talk to us, but wouldn't tell us who or why," said David. "All they said is that we had better be up front and honest."
"All right, we're the some ones, and the reason for this little get together is because we have a proposal for the three of you. I promise you that whatever we discuss in here will be absolutely confidential. The only people that will learn of the results are your lawyers, our lawyer, and the prosecutor. Even your parents are going to be left in the dark until your sentencing."
"Yeh, right," said Robert, looking at the mirror.
"Nope," said Reg, "Not this time. All the people we just mentioned ARE there, as are our parents. But my father and all the lawyers have promised to turn off the microphones. And I can assure you, that when my dad makes a promise, he will carry it out. The only reason they're there is so that they can observe us and assure themselves that we've acted in good faith and that you've given no sign of being coerced."
"This sounds spooky," said Arnold.
"It's not meant to, really," I answered. "Now, Reg and I have some information to give you before we get to the proposal. I'm going to ask you to please not respond during it. We DO NOT mean you any harm. But you have to understand what it is that has brought the two of us here. Can you manage that?"
They agreed that they could.
Between us, Reg and I took turns explaining that we'd read their complete files and knew what had led to their following Preston. That had shocked them, and there was definitely some fear that we intended to blackmail them in some way. We reassured them as best we could. Then we outlined what we were prepared to offer them and what they had to agree to in return.
They were stunned at first. Then suspicious. But finally were able to accept that we were being honest with them.
"Why would you do this?" asked David. "We've always treated you like pricks."
"Did you really? Or were you just spouting off what Preston had told you to say?"
"Well..." answered Robert.
"Exactly," I answered. "Look guys, it's simple. Reg and I are devastated by what we've learned. You don't deserve to take this fall after the way you've been forced into it. Reg and I are great believers in second chances. So we're offering you one. But I promise that we will be receiving updates on your progress. Nothing specific, that will always remain privileged information. Just general progress, assuring us that you're taking this opportunity seriously."
David broke down at that point. But Robert and Arnold each put an arm around him. "It's all right, Dave," said Arnold. "Robert and I'd be joining you, but I think we cried ourselves out that first night here."
That was certainly encouraging. It took a few moments, but David finally regained his composure. It was Robert that asked the one question I'd been expecting.
"What about Preston? Is he getting this same offer?" There was definite anger in his voice.
"Not only no," said Reg with heat, "but hell no. If we have our way about it he will rot in hell for what he's done to us, but mostly because of what he's done to the three of you."
"Good," said Robert. "Now, could you please tell us who you two really are and what you've done with the real Wayne and Regi?"
We all laughed at that. Hard.
"May I ask a personal question?" asked David when we'd all calmed down.
"You may," Reg and I answer together.
"Are...are you boyfriends?"
We could see that they were all anxious for the answer. "Yes," I answered. "In fact, we're more than just boyfriends."
"Does that offend you?" asked Reg.
Their response was immediate and simultaneous. "No!"
"You look happy," observed Arnold. "It's kind of nice, actually."
"We're glad you feel that way," I said. "But it's not something that is general knowledge. It's still not all that acceptable out there. There're only a few select, trusted people who know the whole truth."
"Thanks for that," said Robert. "You can trust us."
"We know," said Reg with a smile. "We wouldn't have told you if we didn't think we could trust you. Now remember, no matter what, you can't tell anyone about what we've discussed, not even your parents. Your lawyer will only ask you if you've agreed to our proposal. He's not entitled to any information beyond that, no matter what he might tell you."
With that the conference ended. We shared a hug each and a handshake. When we entered the observation room we simply said, "They've agreed." Their parents wanted to know what they'd agreed to, demanded, in fact, that they had the right to know. They're lawyers told them to shut up, it was to protect the boys from loose lips. They sputtered a bit, but got the message.
On our way home we talked a bit.
"That seemed to go well," said mother.
"It did," answered Reg. "They're nice guys. They've just had their good nature taken advantage of. We're going to try and correct that."
"Well, whatever you're doing, I'm proud of you," said dad. "You seem to have done everything right. I've never seen so many lawyers in one place agreeing on any given course of action. Those five men were positively giddy about whatever you're doing. So, whatever this is about, I'm proud."
The sentencing hearing was scheduled for nine in the morning. We put on our best after we'd seen John and Michael off to school. Mom and dad sat in the gallery directly behind us, while Reg and I took seats with the prosecutor. The three boys arrived and then the judge entered. All the preliminaries were handled and then it was the prosecutor's job to present the sentencing recommendation.
"Your honor," said mister Davies as he stood. "The sentencing recommendation for the state is going to be presented by these two young men beside me. They have a vested interest in the case and have my full support and the approval of the prosecutor's office."
The judge looked over at the defense table. "And you gentlemen are agreeable to this?"
"We are, your honor," they answered simultaneously.
"Very well, who will begin?"
Reg and I stood together, but stayed behind the desk.
"Your honor, I we may," I began, "We come as a matched set. We are brothers and since this situation concerns us both equally we would like to be permitted to present the information as a team."
"Unusual, but I'll allow it. This entire situation is a bit off the norm."
"Thank you, your honor. For the record I am Wayne Lawrence Arthur Finger. But for the purposes of this hearing you will need to know that at the time of the incident in question, I was Wayne Lawrence Edwards."
The judge smiled. "I'm sure there's a story in there somewhere."
I smiled in return. "There is, your honor, but that story is not germane to this case, so if you'll permit I will continue and leave that story for outside the court."
"I, your honor, am Reginald Raleigh Fitzgerald Finger, the other victim sited in this case."
"We have come here, your honor, to request that the charges against these three boys be dropped, conditionally. I will discuss the condition we are requesting when my brother has outlined our reasons for requesting this."
"Your honor," continued Reg smoothly, "My brother and I have been privileged to be allowed access to the investigation report on this incident. All the necessary parties were aware of our access and approved it. Since you are undoubtedly familiar with the contents of that report I will not discuss it in open court. But I will say that after reading the report my brother and I were shocked and appalled. Once we got over the shock, we were sympathetic. These three teenagers are not inherently bad boys, your honor. They have been cruelly coerced and threatened in order to gain their cooperation. That being the case, Wayne and I believe that they deserve to be given a second chance. Just yesterday we had a monitored conference with the three of them. Their first words upon seeing us were of apology. Wayne and I fully believe that their regret is genuine. We do not wish these three boys, Robert, David, and Arnold to be punished for being forced to participate against their will."
"We come now to the condition, your honor," I inserted smoothly. "We have discussed this with them and they agree that it would be the best thing for them right now. The condition that they have agreed to is one year of intensive counseling with a therapist that comes highly recommended for cases such as this. The focus of that counseling will be the cruelty they were forced to endure, the continued threats, and their own self esteem issues. Now Reginald and I realize that their families would be hard pressed to afford such intensive treatment, so, because the boys are willing, Reg and I are willing to offset that expense by paying for three quarters of their treatment out of our own pockets. They realize that their continued freedom will be conditional on their good progress with their treatment. Reginald and I will be given periodic reports by their therapist. These reports will simply tell us if they are continuing in good faith. Nothing specific will ever be read by us. The doctor/patient confidentiality will be adhered to strictly. If at any time one of them fails to make progress because of an unwillingness to continue, they understand that the charges will be reinstated for that one and they will be sentenced in accordance with the guidelines for the original second degree assault charges."
"Thank you, your honor, for allowing Wayne and me to speak before you today."
With that we sat down.
The judge simply sat and stared at us for several moments. "Who wrote that speech for you, boys?"
Reg and I smiled. "There has been no speech, your honor," said Reg. "This plea has come from one place only, our hearts."
He then looked to the gallery. "Arthur?"
Dad stood. "Marcus, I knew nothing of this until they made this presentation to you. They would only tell me that they believed the boys deserved a better option than they were being offered. They asked my permission to proceed without giving me any details. I gave that permission because they assured me that they would be handling it through the proper legal channels. I believed they had considered all the options and formulated a plan of action that they believed would have a chance of success." He paused and looked right at us as he concluded. "And now that I have heard what they propose and the general reasons for it, I will only add that I'm very proud of them. It is an act of compassion that is worthy of their heritage."
"Damn Fingers are natural speech givers," chuckled the judge. Then he looked directly at the boys in question. "Please rise boys."
"You have been made aware of the penalties I could impose because of your actions against the two young misters Finger?"
"Yes, sir," they answered in unison.
"You also understand that what you are being offered is a rare and generous opportunity at a second chance?"
"And if I approve this unorthodox solution, do you intend to take full advantage of this opportunity to get the help you need?"
"Yes, sir." This last was said with more conviction.
"Would the parents of these boys please stand so I can see you?" They did. "What is your opinion of what the Finger boys are offering your sons?"
One of the fathers stepped forward. "I know I speak for all of us when I say that we are stunned. It is not the sort of thing you'd expect from teenagers these days."
"So you were not aware of what would transpire here today?"
"No, your honor, we were not." He chuckled. "In fact, we were told to quit asking so many damn fool questions. The matter was being handled in a way that would benefit our sons."
"I see. Are you willing to accept the limited financial responsibility for these counseling sessions?" All six parents nodded. "Very well, you may be seated."
"Well, boys, I have to tell you that my first instinct was the throw the book at you. This was an unprovoked, premeditated act of violence against a peer. But...I agree with the young misters Finger. You have been basely abused and coerced in this matter."
He then looked at Reg and I. "I want to thank you, misters Finger. You have presented a well thought out alternative and presented it in a manner that, quite frankly, impresses me. Your father has every right to be proud."
He turned back to the table for the defense. "Boys, I'm going to grant this alternative. Just be sure that you remain worthy of it."
Mister Davies stepped up to the bench and handed a small collection of papers to the judge who signed them and handed them back, keeping one copy for the court. "This case is dismissed." A hit of the gavel and it was over.
The three boys were the first to reach us and express their gratitude. Then came the parents. Next were all the lawyers involved. But finally, all that remained in the courtroom was one bailiff and we four Fingers.
"That was well done, boys, well done," said father softly.
"How do you know they'll find a therapist that can help them?" asked mother.
"Simple, mother," said Reg, "We called my old therapist and presented him with a hypothetical situation and asked him who would be best suited to deal with it. And we specified that it had to be someone who'd be willing to keep Wayne and me in the loop. We've given that name to the lawyers."
"And before you ask," I continued, "We contacted that therapist and presented the same hypothetical situation and asked what fees he would charge. Reg is the math genius, and he's already worked up a budget and payment schedule and given that to the lawyers as well."
"Well, I'll say it again, I'm proud of you both. This has been well formulated and executed. And I know how I'm going to exploit it this summer."
Reg and I raised our eyebrows at this.
"You two are going to become my efficiency consultants. You will look into some matters that have concerned me over the past year and you will determine if there is a problem and come up with a solution to the problems you find. You will be on the payroll as independent consultants and paid accordingly. No more easy jobs, Regi. You two are going to earn your money this summer and I'm going to get a better organization."
We thought he was crazy, but chose to ponder his idea before objecting to it. It would, after all, earn us more than enough to cover the costs of the therapist and still leave us a tidy sum. Or it would according to Reg.
"So," asked father on the way home, "will we ever know what prompted this compassionate gesture?"
"Reg and I are going to have to testify at Preston's trial, so you'll hear all about it then. We are forbidden to talk about it until then. It's bad, dad, really bad."
"So I gathered. All right, I won't pry any further."
"You are going to have to explain to Everett, mom, dad. We're probably going to be at the courthouse most of next week. Preston's trial begins next Tuesday."
"Don't worry about it. Your schedule is flexible enough."
"Dad, Reg and I do need one thing from you that we just can not accomplish on our own. We really need more information about the Reese family. But we're too young to be able to hire a private investigator on our own. Whatever information he gathers will be accessible to you and mom, because it will be outside of the official investigation. I can't say why, because I don't know myself beyond a gut feeling, but I believe there may be a safety issue."
"Well, that's plain enough. I'll see to it as soon as we get home. What will you do if there is this `safety' issue?"
"I have some friends who might be able to help us. But even if they can't, I know that they'll be able to direct me to where I CAN get reliable help."
"That's good enough for me...for now."
"Dad, I hate having to play this so close to the vest."
"Son," he waived away my concern, "We all have our sources. They must be protected at all costs. It's enough for me to know that you have resources."
Dad and I each grabbed phones upon our arrival at home. When my call ended, I grabbed Reg and we headed out. It was like old home week when we entered the Special Forces barracks. I was grabbed and hugged and pounded. It'd been two weeks since they'd seen me. I was considerably surprised that they knew all about my adoption hearing and what happened there.
Master Sergeant Miller simply laughed. "What, you think we don't keep tabs on a member of the team? Rivers was there at your hearing, Wayne. His report was colorful." That got a laugh from everyone. "How are your brothers?"
"They are doing great, Master Sergeant!" answered Reg. "They've been adopted into the family and are loving being driven to school in the limo."
"I'll bet. So, what's so important that it couldn't wait until Saturday?"
I grew very serious. "Master Sergeant, I think we'll need to treat this visit as official business...or at least as official as it can be with a civilian doing the requesting."
We retired to his office and outlined what we could of the situation. His reaction when I mentioned Phillip Reese, Preston's father, surprised Reg and I out of our chairs. He jumped from his seat and yanked open the door.
"Rivers!" Sergeant Rivers ran in, all business. "As of now we are on level one alert for ops on Tuesday morning. We need full reconnaissance of the courthouse. Side arms inside, full kit outside. Briefing at zero seven hundred tomorrow. This will be covert; suspected hostiles. Dismissed."
"Boys, you've stepped into a pile of it. Phillip Reese is the leader of a radical fringe group that we've been trying to nail for two years. We've never been able to learn enough to take him in. You may have just given us our chance. Your situation has just been upgraded from a bully at school to a national security issue."
Within an hour, Reg and I were sitting at home in father's study listening to Master Sergeant Miller outlining all they knew and what they would be doing to counter anything that Reese tried.
"I'll say here that I don't believe this family is in any real danger. I really believe that Reese will simply try to force the release of his son. But we are not going to take a chance with this family or a member of our team. I suggest that John and Michael become ill until after Tuesday. I don't want anyone leaving this estate without protection."
"You've got my attention, Master Sergeant," said father when all was said. "But who is this team member? Surely you aren't referring to Wayne."
"I am. Arthur Finger, your son is as much a part of our team as we can make him, with him being openly gay. I promise you though that every member of my squad treats him as a full member and will respond to any threat to him with deadly force. But the real importance of this op is the threat posed to national security by this group. This is no longer just about Wayne. My colonel is already alerting and mobilizing four more units for this. And I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to learn that the Pentagon has been alerted to it."
"Master Sergeant, you frighten me."
"Good. A frightened man is a careful man." He smiled, of all things. "Your security is good, Arthur. I'm going to have my squad supplement it only slightly. All I ask is that you allow us to protect you."
"I assure you, you can count on my full cooperation."
"Thank you, sir." He then turned to me and tossed a small box at me. "Corporal Finger, you are the point man. You see anything out of the ordinary, you press that button. Jackson and his team will respond. They're already setting up camp inside the gardener's shed. Now, you and Regi see me out."
Once outside the closed front doors he stopped and looked at us. "You're afraid, Wayne, I can see it."
"This is all a bit more than I'd planned on when I came to see you, Master Sergeant."
"I know it is. But you've an important part to play in this, corporal. The entire unit is behind you. They're depending on you to hold it together." He then turned to Reg. "So that will be your assignment, Regi. Your importance in his life is going to be vital over the next week. Your job will be to do what gay partners do to relax. Don't allow him to dwell on things. Keep him busy and alert." He smiled at Reg's shocked look. "It's obvious, Regi. I've seen the commitment in others. Don't worry at it. Wayne has been one of ours for some time. Now, so are you. This is not a crisis, so don't let him make it into one. And it is definitely not a situation of his making. Don't allow him to take responsibility for a situation that's been around for two years or more. Think you can handle that?"
"Yes, Master Sergeant. And thanks."
The week went without any incidents. Reg kept me focused and relaxed with little trouble. The only night it got out of hand was the night before the trial. I just could not keep from imagining all sorts of different tragic scenarios. Reg had tried everything to get me out of my destructive loop, to no avail. Finally, he resorted to something I'd never thought him capable of. He damn near raped me.
I'd never been so dominated in all my life. I was scared the whole time. He'd begun by slapping me...hard...and then ripped my clothes off of me. But there was no passion in his actions, just brute force. He wasn't the least bit gentle. He threw me onto the floor and forced himself into me without the benefit of any lube. It hurt like nothing had ever hurt before. He was relentless. He slammed himself into me over and over. It felt like he'd grown three sizes. I stayed limp the entire time.
"I've had enough of you taking the responsibility for every wrong thing that's happened! You did not cause all this! You're being selfish, god damn it!!" On and on and on he went. When he finally came, he yanked himself out of me and pushed me to the floor. "You're not the only one who's afraid, damn it! But none of us is blaming you!" We were both in tears by this time. "Don't you ever force me to do that again!!" He ran from my room.
I bawled. I let out all my fear. He'd been right. I'd created this world where I was the cause of our current circumstances. I worried at failing the ones I loved and the men outside that were depending on me. Once again, I'd turned within myself for the strength I needed, and it wasn't enough. I'd shut out the one man that would gladly share all my burdens.
It took me half and hour to get the strength to get up. I went looking for him and found him under his running shower, curled up in a fetal position on the floor...crying. I simply laid beside him and pulled him to me.
"I've shut you out," I whispered into his ear. "The source of my strength, and I shut you out. I fall back on old habits and try to do it all myself. And it's not enough anymore. But I forget that. And when I find that I'm not strong enough, I fail. When I fail, I blame myself." I pulled him hard to me. "Gods, Reg, my darling, this isn't making any sense. How can you possibly love me so much that you'd do this to yourself? No one has ever been this unselfish, sacrificed this much for me. It's going to take the rest of my life to become worthy of the love you've given me tonight."
He finally wrapped his arms around me. "I felt so dirty. I kept seeing me as Preston."
"Don't ever think that, lover. What Preston did to the boys was done out of hate and a need for dominance. What you did was out of love. Yours was a last ditch effort to help me regain my focus and perspective."
He lifted his tear stained face. "I didn't know what else to do. I couldn't match you in a fight. I had to shock you into lowering your defenses."
I gently covered his mouth with my hand. "No more. Shh. I've never loved anyone as much as I love you at this moment. My mind keeps replaying a quote from the bible. I'm not big on Christianity these days, but their book still contains much wisdom. To you I say, `Greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for a friend'."
We squeezed each other...tight. I then spent the next two hours making love to this man. When I'd spent myself four times in and on him, then, and only then, did I allow him to enter me in gentle love, so that his memory of this night would not be his efforts to break my self-destructive loop, but of our return to gentle all consuming partnership and love.
The first day of the trial was suppose to be filled with preliminary posturing so I wasn't really expecting there to be anything of significance to take place. Jackson and our parents consulted and it was decided that only father would accompany us to the courthouse. John and Michael were upset when they'd first been told of their `illness' and the general reason for it. But they'd calmed down after meeting the Master Sergeant and Jackson.
"You going to be careful?" asked Michael as he and John sat and watched Reg and me prepare. There was no doubt that my brothers were worried.
I smiled reassuringly. "More careful than I've ever been in my life. I've got way too much to lose." And I held open my arms. They immediately fell into them for a big hug. "These men aren't going to let anything happen to me, boys. Remember, I've trained with them. I know some of what they're capable of and I pity anyone who crosses them. I promise to follow orders."
"You better," said John.
When we arrived at the courthouse, we didn't see anything out of the ordinary. But then, I hadn't expected to. It wasn't until we reached the courtroom that I got any hint as to the level of this operation. The first thing I noticed was that there seemed to be an unusual number of bailiffs present. I almost laughed when I finally registered what was happening. I knew half the bailiffs as men from my own unit, and I was sure that the rest were men from some of the other units the Master Sergeant had mentioned. Rivers and I exchanged a quick sign with each other that meant things were under control.
Reg and I sat behind the prosecutor beside Robert, David and Arnold. We exchanged smiles. Father took his place at the back of the courtroom along with the other parents.
The judge had barely taken his seat, the rest of courtroom still on their feet, when the rear doors opened. In walked the Master Sergeant and an Army officer, both in full dress uniform. It's amazing what you notice at times like this, because the first thought I had as they marched down the isle was that they each had so many ribbons on the left sides of their uniforms that it was a wonder they were able to walk upright.
Before the doors closed I saw men in field dress positioning themselves to guard the hall, while two men entered the room and positioned themselves on this side of the closed doors. If there was any initial doubt as to the nature of their presence, they dispelled that doubt by cocking their M-sixteens, chambering a round.
"Evade!!" With that one shouted word, the whole scene became surreal.
You see the effect in the movies and you hear about it happening in real life, but until you experience it you can't really believe in it. My perception of the world slowed. The movements around me happened with crystal clarity, and I was focused only on the area where I could have effect. The rest of the room seemed to fade into unfocused chaos and my mind ignored it.
I sensed an arm reaching around from my left and could feel an arm passing across my back. I marveled as I reacted, because my own actions seemed to have sped up and I was moving with inhuman speed as I responded to the achingly slow movements of my attacker. "Fingers down!" I heard myself scream as I grabbed the arm to my left. I spun to my left, forcing the arm over my head. This forced the man behind me to turn so his back was to me, his other hand flying wide, missing his attempt at grabbing the gun I could clearly see holstered under his arm. I pulled the arm in my hand, down and back, forcing the man to bend back over the bench I'd been sitting in. The minute his throat was exposed I brought my left fist down and slammed into the man's larynx. I then put the man out of my mind, although in a deep dark recess of my mind, I was appalled that I'd just killed.
"Civilian team!!" I heard from somewhere behind me. Another portion of my mind registered that someone was vouching for me to the army teams. I also heard one shot fired, but it sounded distant.
But I had no time to react to that realization because I saw David being grabbed from behind in the same way this man had tried to take me. Everyone between me and David had hit the floor, so I grabbed the back of the bench and leapt, feet first at David, who was looking at me and he was clearly sure that he was about to die. The precision of the blows as they landed was amazing. My left foot hit the hand with the gun, sending it upwards as my right foot landed exactly on the tip of his chin. He fell backwards as I landed on the bench beside him. I pushed David's head down, forcing him to the floor as I grabbed the man's still elevated hand just as the gun went off, twisted it so violently that I heard it the arm snap and he was forced to drop the gun. With my free hand I grabbed the falling weapon and tossed it toward the nearest man in army green. He automatically reached out and retrieved it from the air.
I stopped, sensing no further threat in the near vicinity and simply assumed a ready stance. Then and only then did time begin to resume its normal pace. There were eight men and women spread eagle against the walls, each with a rifle or hand gun pressed against the backs of their heads. The man whose arm I'd snapped was being hauled away by two soldiers. When I looked over my left shoulder, I saw Phillip Reese slumped in his seat, a hole in the middle of his forehead. And then I completed my turn and my eyes fell on the man I'd killed.
"Clear!" rang clearly through the room. The call was repeated several times as each member of the teams sounded out. "Corporal Finger!" was yelled almost in my ear. I was jolted from my shock and was the final person to sound out, "Clear!"
"Stay on the floor, ladies and gentlemen, until we can clear the premises." That was the Master Sergeant.
I stood up on the bench and remained there as the uniformed men dealt with the aftermath. I noted that Preston was spread on the defense table with a gun to his head. He was the last person to be removed from the room. As he passed me, I simply stepped down to the floor and sat heavily and stared into the empty space before me. I'd killed. I could still feel the crunch of the impact in my fist. I'd killed!
I could sense that the innocent witnesses were finally allowed to get up and were ushered from the room. But no one came near me. I didn't learn until later that everyone had been physically forced to leave me alone, and I'd been told that it had been particularly hard to get Reg out. But I registered none of it. Didn't see or hear anything for some time, until someone finally sat down cautiously next to me. There was no threat in the movement so I didn't react, except to slowly turn my head and look into the eyes of Sergeant Rivers. They were such compassionate eyes. He understood.
I broke down and cried. He pulled me to him and allowed me to release my anguish on his shoulder. How long I wept, I never knew. I only knew that there was complete understanding in the gesture. No condemnation at my response to the death I'd caused.
When I'd finally wept all I could, I looked into his eyes once again and I could read his sympathy. I could also tell, somehow, that he'd hear no words of apology from me for my crying. As I sat back up, I finally registered that the room was completely empty, except for the two of us and the officer and Master Sergeant who leaned patiently against the judges bench.
Rivers leaned to me and whispered. "They'd like to have a few words with you, Wayne."
I nodded. "Thanks Sarge."
His smile was sympathetic. "Wilkenson held me like that for almost an hour after the first time I'd had to do it. We've all been there, Wayne."
I nodded my understanding and stood. I took a deep breath and stepped into the aisle and assumed my best military bearing and marched to the front of the courtroom. I saluted. "Corporal Finger reporting, sir."
"At ease, corporal," replied the officer with a slight smile. "Feeling a bit better?"
"Yes, sir, thanks to Sergeant Rivers."
"All the best men have experienced the same reaction, corporal. We reject the ones that can't feel what you're feeling. Killing is never something that should be taken casually." He paused a moment. "I understand now why Master Sergeant Miller and his unit have been so taken with you. You are a natural for this type of duty. I wish we could recruit you." He grew sympathetic. "But we both know that can never happen, under the circumstances. But I want you to know that you've performed extraordinarily throughout this whole business."
"Thank you, sir."
"I am Colonel Kristianson, commanding officer of the Special Forces units stationed in Alaska." He held out his hand and I shook it. "I'm going to require you and your brother to attend the debriefings, Wayne. I'll need to have a full report to give the President."
"Yes, Wayne. The President has to have a complete report of any action that concerns national security. You and Reginald will learn exactly what you've accomplished for your country during the debriefing. I will personally be talking with your parents. I'll give them all the information I can so that they understand your contribution and the reason we had to have you and your brother's participation."
I could sense at that point that the atmosphere about us moved from official to personal. "Now, I've instructed the Master Sergeant to arrange for you and your brother to receive the same counseling we give to every man in our units. It's specialized stuff that only army therapists are trained to give. Since your actions have been in the service of your country, then your country is going to ensure you both reap the benefits and rewards that come with that service."
He stepped up and placed his hands on my shoulders. "Thank you, Wayne. You enabled us to accomplish this operation without the loss of a single non-combatant. And there are some people that would like to acknowledge your contribution." He then turned me around to see that the entire courtroom was filled with the Special Forces men. At the door stood dad, Reg and the three boys.
I returned their salute, a bit self-consciously, but also with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Here were seasoned Army professionals demonstrating their appreciation and admiration.
I expected Reg to race forward, but was surprised when everyone but David held back. He didn't run, but he moved quickly to me and immediately hugged me, long and hard.
"Careful, David," I said so everyone could hear, "People are going to start talking."
He chuckled as he held me at arms length. "First of all, my friends all call me Davie. And second of all, I don't give a crap. They can talk all they want. You saved my life when I knew I was a dead man." He then kissed me hard, on the lips. Not long, but definitely heartfelt. And then he hugged me again. "I asked Regi if I could," he whispered. "Thanks, Wayne."
I hugged him back. "You're welcome, Davie."
When Reg replaced Davie, I could see the concern in his eyes. "I'm better, Reg," I whispered as he hugged me hard. "It just hit me kind of hard. You better?"
"I am now," he said.
It took some time to extricate ourselves from the courthouse. It seems every man on the operation wanted to shake my hand. Though it was a lengthy process, it was actually very therapeutic. I saw in each of their eyes their sympathy for me, even though none of them addressed my distress specifically.
By the end of that day, life at the Finger house had returned to normal. John and Michael would be sent back to school the following day. Reg and I would be engaged until the end of the week with the official debriefing, so our schooling would not recommence until the following Monday. The only one who knew the particulars about what had happened at the courthouse was mother. Everyone else was simply informed that the people in question had been taken into custody and that the matter was closed.
* * *A few years ago, the whole incident got declassified and became a part of the public record, so I can now tell you what had occurred.* * *
When Reg and I arrived at the squad's barracks the following day, we were transported along with the rest of the squad to the base headquarters. We rode the elevator down quite a ways before the doors opened into a large theatre-like room. There was theatre seating for about a hundred and a large silver screen at the front of the room. Before the screen was a long table with seating for six, with a microphone before each chair. In front of the long table was a podium with microphone that, we were told, would be used by each person who would be asked to give their account of the events.
The atmosphere was very light and friendly as we milled about and chatted. Everyone took a seat when a chime sounded that indicated that the debriefing was about to begin, the immediately stood at attention as the members of the review board filed in from one side. Rivers whispered to me that there were two colonels and four generals on the board. It was one of these generals, the one with three stars on his shoulders, that opened the proceedings.
"At ease, you may be seated. Allow me to start this debriefing by stating that from the preliminary reports I've received, this was a very successful operation. Economical, with only two fatalities and no loss of civilian lives, despite their presence." Just at that moment a red light illuminated next to his microphone and the entire panel stood. "Atten-TION!" It sounded like a wave crashing as everyone rose to their feet. "Men, it is my privilege to introduce, via secure military satellite link, the President of the United States."
The screen cleared and there he was, Richard M. Nixon. He was seated behind his desk in the oval office. We knew it was the oval office because the camera had been pulled way back so that the presidential seal on the floor was clearly visible. The camera zoomed in slowly until only the top of the desk and his upper body filled the screen.
"I asked to speak to all of you directly so that I could personally express my gratitude for what you have done for your country. Your operation yesterday has resulted in the collapse of a highly dangerous militant organization that we've been worried about for some years. You will be given the details during this debriefing so that you will know just how important this event has been to your country and to me personally as your president. I have authorized a presidential citation for everyone involved. Well done, men."
"Now that will acknowledge the exemplary performance of the military men involved, but I have been informed that there are two young men present that are not a part of the military." He smiled at the camera. "It would seem unfair to me to leave their contribution unacknowledged. So I'll ask you military men directly: will you feel slighted if I were to give a more personal acknowledgement to Wayne and Reginald Finger."
The resounding "No sir!" was just a bit overwhelming.
The presiding general then said, "Wayne and Reginald Finger, please step to the podium."
No, he couldn't actually give us an order, I suppose, but it certainly sounded close enough for us. I know my knees were knocking as I made my way down the center aisle, and Reg told me later that his had been, too.
"Wayne and Reginald Finger, it is a privilege to meet you. My reports tell me that this operation could not have come about if you had not brought certain facts to the attention of the military. And even though you did not know of their significance at the time, that you had only been seeking guidance from a trusted group of men, does not lessen your importance in this operation. You willingly placed yourselves in danger to ensure the guilty parties would not be alerted to their danger. That courage and service can not go unacknowledged. You are both, therefore, going to receive a personal citation from your president." He smiled. "To received it, however, you and your family are going to have to come to the White House to receive it in person. General Whitegrade will be arranging a chartered flight to bring you to Washington. This will be a very private ceremony, attended by a very few of the Whitehouse staff and a few of the General Staff at the Pentagon. There will be no publicity, because I do not believe you'd appreciate certain facts about your personal lives becoming public. A Whitehouse limousine will pick you up and deliver you and your family to the Whitehouse where you will stay the night and dine with my wife and me."
The room erupted in cheers at that point. The president's smile grew at this accolade.
"Again, well done all." With that, the screen blanked and Reg and I made our way back to our seats, in a state of shock.
What we learned during the three days of debriefing was appalling, shocking, and sobering.
The group headed by Phillip Reese had been functioning for nearly twenty years. They had cells all over the United States. Phillip and his family moved frequently, usually spending no more than three years in any one place. They'd recruit like minded individuals for the local chapters. They'd also used their teenage children to coerce other teens, in exactly the way Preston had coerced Robert, David and Arnold. These unwilling members would be exploited to perform espionage and vandalism in the name of the organization. Robert, David and Arnold were, in fact, just about to be recruited to perform such a vandalism. Preston's unreasoning hatred for Reg and I had ruined an operation and really pissed his father off, and that was why his father didn't immediately arrange for his son's release from jail.
Under normal circumstances Phillip would have bailed his son out and they would have skipped town before the trial, thus eliminating any chance of their organization's discovery. The arrested members had immediately begun abandoning the sinking ship, giving up names and places in an effort to garner some leniency for themselves. The backlash from this initial set of arrests was expected to last for several years as the federal government continued to make arrests. The contents of the houses of those arrested had been invaluable. Documents, recorded conversations, even manuals on recruitment of willing and unwilling members.
I felt much better about the man I'd killed when I learned that he'd been responsible for the unwilling recruitment of several adults using Preston's methods. I also learned why Phillip Reese had been shot. It turns out that he was a bit quicker than his fellows and had his gun out and was in the process of aiming it at me. Corporal Larson of my squad had taken immediate and direct action to save my life. Something I thanked him for at the end of the day in which this had come to light.
That Friday afternoon, when we returned from the final debriefing day, Reg and I were surprised to find Richard, David and Arnold present. It seems dad had taken the liberty of inviting them to spend the weekend. The first few hours were a bit awkward as we worked to become better acquainted. But by the end of the weekend we were good friends and they visited many times over the next year.
The trip to the Whitehouse took place a week after school let out for the year. We actually spent a week there, visiting all the monuments and museums. Our first night was spent in the Whitehouse and it was truly an awesome night. Reg and I were given the Lincoln bedroom.
It really didn't take Reg and I long to put the events behind us and get on with our lives. It helped that father really did have work for us that summer that occupied most of our time. It also helped that the military therapist we were sent to see, really was extremely good and we were able to put everything that had happened into proper perspective.
That Friday night of the final debriefing, after everyone had gone off to their beds, Reg and I were laying in his bed when I remembered something.
"Do you realize that it's been three weeks since we laid here for the very first time?"
He was quiet for several moments. "It's hard to believe it's only been that long. It feels like a lifetime. We've gone through so much in three short weeks."
"I have an idea, why don't we celebrate by promising to live the rest of our lives without all the excitement."
He giggled. It was a marvelous sound that I hadn't heard in far too long. "You know, I like the way you think." He rose up onto one arm and looked down into my eyes. "Have I told you lately how much I love you?"
"Now that you mention it, I don't believe you have. It's been at least an hour."
"Oh horrors, that will never do." He giggled again, and then leaned down and kissed me most tenderly. "I love you, Wayne Lawrence Arthur Finger."
I lifted my head and kissed him. "And I love you Reginald Raleigh Fitzgerald Finger. And I intend to do so for the rest of my life."
* * * * * * * * * *
We're not quite done. The last installment will appear shortly.