This is a story of friendship, commitment, love and trust. It is not a sex story. However, this story deals with love between male teenagers. If you are offended by stories involving love between two teenage boys, please do not read this story. There may be some sex scenes in this story; however, sex is not the main theme. If you are under age 18 or 21 or it is illegal to read this story where you live, don't read it. Reproducing this story for distribution without the owner's permission is a violation of that copyright.


Sam Lakes

samlakes86 at yahoo

M.a.i.n.e. Frame PC



by Sam Lakes

Copyright © 2006 All Rights Reserved

Chapter Eighteen

Colt lay on his bed starring at the ceiling. He hated life right now. It was like there was this big empty void in his life. The void was called Arbor Maine. He had known Arbor his whole life. He was two years younger to the day. They'd always been neighbors. They'd always been best friends. Since his mother died they'd been more like brothers.

He though of Keith. He remembered the day Keith died. He missed Keith. His thoughts wandered to a few weeks ago when he and Arbor had been engrossed in some hacking via the university's Internet access using MaineFrame PC II or ‘Mother II' as they called it. Again his thoughts wandered to Keith, who had been his dad's best friend since junior high, sort of like Arbor and him.

The first week after Arbor's accident he refused to go anywhere, because all anyone had to do was to mention Arbor, and he'd burst into tears. He'd never experienced such loneliness, ever. His dad had spent part of that week at home with him. They talked about all sorts of things, but then his Dad had to go back on the road. The second week he called Colt twice, and in the last call, he said he'd be back in 2-3 weeks from Japan and then he'd take a month off, and they'd hangout, maybe do some fishing and camping.

Colt had said to his dad that he knows Arbor is alive, sort of a sixth sense. His dad listened and then said well, knowing Arbor, he'd bet Colt was right, and they would take Arbor with them, to make up for his wandering around in the wilderness. Of course, in that case Arbor might not want to go camping, for a while. They both laughed about that, namely cause Arbor was too much of a city boy. Arbor hated bugs, hated getting dirty, and didn't have the patience to fish.

Colt's thoughts drifted to Arbor's accident. No body ever turned up. "I know you're still alive Arb. I just know it. I will find you, if you don't find me first." he said.
Why had Kevin asked him if he had Arb's laptop? He said he thought they found it at Alan's. He knew the laptop they found was not MotherII, but then like Arb, he never really liked Kevin Mitchell. How could Ruthie have ever married him!
Why didn't Arb take MotherII to Alan's? What really did happen to Alan? He knew Alan and more over he knew Arb, and what the papers had said was totally false. He knew that the suicide note was false, because Arb was gay, and would never have refuted any advances of Alan's.

Why couldn't the cops produce the name of the witness, when he had his dad call? They gave some cock and bull story, but Colt hacked into their system, and only found one report from a highway patrol cop, who said the guy had called in on a cell phone. No trace of who it was.

"It doesn't make fucking sense!" he said, "The answer is in MotherII, and god knows where you put it, Arbie! So, I guess I'm going to have to find you!"

With that, Colt got up out of bed, and ran next door, and rang the door bell. "Please don't be all drugged up, Ruthie," Colt said to himself. The door opened and Ruth Mitchell stood there and said groggily, "Colt. Come in. I'm sorry, the Doctors have been keeping me pretty drugged. I finally decided they can get screwed, but it's taking a while for it to wear off."

Colt closed the door, and hugged her saying, "He's alive. Ruthie, I know Arbie's alive," He looked up at her and she could see the sadness in his eyes.

"Look, when Keith died you told me you knew. You felt him die. I haven't felt Arbie die. Have you?"

"No , Not like with Keith, however, Keith and I were always very close. We always had a sixth sense about each other."

"Well, I have a sixth sense about Arbor. I just know he's alive!" Colt said with total conviction. "Look, I've been doing some investigating, and things don't add up, too many illogic's! MotherII has the key, I'm sure. He didn't take it to Alan's. Why? No body. Why? A slanderous story about Alan, you know that, right? Why?"

Colt continued, "I've come over, because I want you to use the U's Cray, to run some simulations. It's gonna take me about four hours to set up the program, and data, but once that's done, we can upload to ‘Biggie', and he'll run it in about five minutes, and then we'll know the most probable locations to find Arb!"

"Colt, make me some coffee. I'm going to take a shower and then I'll take you to the lab, and we'll get this setup" she said.
She turned and ran upstairs. She turned on the shower then made a phone call. "Look, he wants to use the Cray, to find Arb. I hate this, Paul. I hate not telling him!"

Colt ran to the kitchen. He knew he was right, and for the first time since the accident, he felt happy.

Twenty minutes later, Ruthie was in the kitchen. Her brown hair, still wet, was pulled back into a pony tail. She was dressed in jeans and a university sweatshirt.

Colt smiled at her. She smiled back, walking over to him, and giving him a big hug. "I haven't told you lately, but…" and together they both said "I really wuv you!" Then they laughed.

"Damn those drugs they really fuzzy your thinking" she said, and took a big sip of coffee.

"You shouldn't take them," Colt scolded, "Keith, would not have approved." Ruth smiled faintly. She realized he still missed Keith, and so did she.

When they got to the lab, she told Colt that ‘Biggie', the super computer was booked until six p.m. the next day. She booked half an hour.

Colt looked a little disappointed, but then said, "Well, I got a lot to do, to set this up I'd better get started," he said, sitting down at a terminal and starting to hack away at code.

Ruthie decided to dump the security access logs for the day of the accident. She saw that Arbor had entered the lab before going over to Alan's and he had checked out a laptop, the one the police had found, at the apartment. Its hard drive had been wiped clean, using a strong magnet. Why had Arbor taken the laptop to Alan's, and what was on it, that somebody had to ruin the hard drive?

"Colt, do you know what Arb and Alan were working on?" she asked.

"All I know is Arb had been working on his thesis. Why?"

"Well, before he went to Alan's he came here, and checked out a laptop. Why would he check out a laptop? Wasn't he he working on Mother?" she asked.

"Yes. Arb always used Mother, when he was doing research - it's the best, you know light years ahead of even ‘Biggie'," Colt said.

"You know, Mother was always Keith and you boys project. I really have no idea about its capabilities." she said.

"Mother has some chips in it that Keith said would make ‘Biggie' look like a ten cent calculator, and it does. Arb and I tested it and a simulation that took four hours on ‘Biggie' took fifteen minutes on Mother I. Keith's Mother II runs the same simulation even better." Colt wanted to tell her the truth but, it would have been incomprehensible to her, to say that Mother II ran the same simulation in under fifteen seconds. "We try to keep making improvements to her, and recently, Arb and I were about to challenge everyone on the Internet, to a game of chess. We were just improving the code a bit, but we figured we could play ten thousand games of chess simultaneously, and win each one. Our biggest problem was the pipeline" Colt said in a not big deal tone of voice.

"I think Mother holds the key to this whole sordid tale, and if not it could sure give us some answers. Arb must have hidden it for some reason, but right now, I don't care about that stupid PC, I only care about finding Arb." Colt said as he returned to his work, his hands gliding across the keyboard and lines of code scrolling up the screen.

"Where could he have put it?" she asked.

"I don't know. If I knew I wouldn't be doing this on this piece of shit." Colt hated being interrupted when he worked.

"I think I'll check around" she said.

Colt started laughing. "God! Now I know where Arb gets his annoying ways. I swear, we got in more fights, because he'd keep interrupting me, while I was trying to work. He's a lot like you, that way. He's a lot like Keith too. Arbor is much smarter than he leads you to believe, than he leads anyone to believe, and in a lot of ways, he's much, much smarter than me! He's lousy on details, but, he is incredible on conceptual ideas, light years ahead of everybody else. I used to piss him off by making him explain some concept, over and over and over, pretending I didn't understand. Then he'd realize I was teasing him, and we'd start wrestling around. By-the-way, MotherII is not in the lab. I searched for it already."

She smiled at Colt. Over the years she had basically adopted him, and thought of him as her own son. She knew he was gifted, and Keith had told her that he was so far ahead of anyone, it would take them a millennium to catch up to where he is now, but then he'd be another millennium ahead of them by then. Colt had never shown her that side of himself. It was sort of like Dr. Jekell and Mr. Hyde except the Mr. Hyde part of Colt was loving and kind and empathetic. Only occasionally, had she seen the Dr. Jekyll side of Colt. Since Keith's death only Arbor knew Colt's true talents and knew both aspects.

Even now, if she stood over him to see what he was doing, he'd stop working and complain that she was making him nervous and ruining his concentration. She gave up the idea of looking for the computer and began working on three weeks backlogged e-mail.

About noon she got a call from Kevin, asking when she was going to be home. "Colt, how much longer?"

"Done!" said Colt as he saved the program.

"We'll be home soon." she said to Kevin.

"How's your Dad doing?" she asked.

"He's fine I talked with him yesterday. He said he'll be in Japan for two or three more weeks, then he's going to take some time off and hangout with us, and if Arbor's back, maybe we'll go camping." Colt laughed. "Well, maybe not! Sometimes I wished he'd get married again. When Keith died, Arbor and I were hoping you and he would get married, cause then we'd be real brothers and maybe you guys would have a baby. I would have made a good baby-sitter." his smile vanished and he continued "But then you married Kevin."

"I can't imagine your dad ever getting remarried. He really loved your mother. I can't picture him with anyone else. Your mother was so terrific. She had beauty, brains and the best sense of humor. As for your dad and me, well, we'll always be best friends, but we just aren't compatible, and neither of us want it to be any other way than it is. Believe me, it was obvious, what you two were doing. Your Dad and I had a long talk about it. I know neither you nor Arbor liked Kevin, but he was really very nice to me after Keith died, and very helpful." she said, then kissed Colt on the forehead.

"Do you want to sleep over?" She asked.

"No, thanks. I'll be fine. I'm just next door if you need me" he said smiling, then he hugged her, and said, "Have I told you lately…"

They both said "I wuv you".

The next day he woke up late, and decided to go to the University library to hang out. It wasn't until late afternoon that he checked his e-mail using the library's computer terminal. There was an encrypted message which he decrypted. It read :
"Need Mom. She's at 135 Locker. Be careful your life could be in danger. Make sure you're not followed. Destroy this message and encrypt and key. - Meet 5:30 TODAY Men's Rest Room Mall. Sorry about your friend Arbor Maine's death. Phoenix Starr"

He destroyed the message, and rushed off to the Computer Science Building. Mother II was in locker 135. He took it out making sure no one was watching, and slipped the whole case into his backpack. Then left for the mall on the most round about route, making sure no one was following him. He knew who Phoenix was. "God Arb, you could have come up with a better alias!" he said, smiling to himself. He arrived at the Mall at 5:25 and ran to the Men's room.

Colt checked the stalls they were empty. The door opened and a blond haired dude walked in and walked over to the urinal and stood there. Then he turned his head and said "What you lookin' at? You a fag?"

"Hey, I'm not the one wearing an earring! Asshole!" Colt replied.

"Yeah right!" he said sarcastically then smiled slightly.

Colt continued to look at the guy then he said almost at a whisper "Arb?"
"You talkin' to me?" Arb said. He zipped up his pants, took out a cigarette and stuck it in his mouth and said "Gotta light, geekoid?" and smiled "The name is Phoenix. Phoenix Starr. You got the stuff I asked for."

It was the smile. Only Arb had that smile, and only Arb, ever called him ‘geekoid'. Colt ran over to Phoenix, and hugged him. "I knew you were alive!" Arb hugged him back.

"You know you can get into trouble hugging guys in the rest room" Arb laughed as he broke the hug.

"I really don't care" said Colt, as he broke his hug. "Arb…"

"You don't listen very good. The name is Phoenix…" he said angrily as he shoved Colt against the wall "Phoenix Starr. Arbor Maine died three weeks ago! Don't ever call me Arb or Arbie or Arbor…the name is Phoenix."

"Okay! Okay! Phoenix! It's a stupid name!" Colt said angrily.

"Yeah well, maybe you'd like someone to shove a 9mm Ruger down your throat and pull the fucking' trigger!" Phoenix said then closed his eyes to get control. "Gimme the package and I'll be on my way. And you forget you ever saw me!"

"FUCK off, Ar…Phoenix. You can just fuck yourself if you think I'm walking out of here without you. We are a team! You need me, to find out the answers. I know what happened to Alan! I have just as much right to avenge his death as you!" Colt said in quiet anger and determinism.

"You weren't there. You didn't see it. Now give me Mother. I don't need you and I'm not going to watch you get killed too!"

"NO! I WON'T!" yelled Colt as he shoved Phoenix. "You do need me. You know I'm better at hacking, I'm faster. Who wrote the security program for Mother? Who knows how she works inside out? Come on answer me, Asshole!"

Phoenix closed his eyes and turned away. He was losing it. He was so scared. He knew he needed Colt's talents. He knew if he slipped up they'd kill him, and if the two of them slipped up, they'd kill his very best friend. He didn't know what to do. He felt responsible for Alan's death. If only he hadn't gone to Alan so soon. He remembered the dream about Colt. He couldn't let that happen, but he also knew that he needed Colt.

"Answer me, Phoenix Starr! Who wrote the security program?!" Colt repeated.

"You." answered Phoenix. He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand then turned around and forced a smile "You did , but we work as a team. If we screw-up we're dead, you've got to understand that."

"Phoenix, I understand. And I know you're scared shitless. Why else would you become a blond with an earring?" Colt said then smiled and added "Bitch Fucker!"

"Hey! Even with five cracked ribs I could beat you to a pulp!" Phoenix smiled.

"In your dreams!" Colt laughed "Come on, let's go home - Dad's in Japan. Oh Shit! Damn! Fucking hell!"


"I was supposed to run some simulations on ‘Biggie' at six. Ruthie set it up. Oh, shoot! She'll be pissed! She's gonna also wonder I why I forgot them! I'm screwed. We're going to have to tell her." Colt said.

"NO! NO WAY! Are you crazy?" Arb exclaimed "Get it through your fucking pea brain! These people kill! They kill!"

"She's your mom. She knows you're alive. I think you lost a few too many brain cells!" Colt said "Besides, she can read me like a book. She'll know something's up. And she'll keep on and on and on until I break. We've got to tell her."

"Kevin can't know. I don't trust him." Arb said "Just tell her you're sick, the flu or something and you fell asleep."

"She'll definitely be over" Colt said.

"Yeah, but Kevin won't" stated Arb.
Colt called Ruth at the CSL from the mall. "Hi, Ruth. It's me Colt. I'm feeling really sick. Sort of flu like" Colt said in a weak and raspy voice.

"I just phoned you why didn't you answer?"

"I was in the bathroom throwing up. I heard the phone ring and I figured it was you. I was at the CSL earlier, but then I started feeling sick. I know I should have just come to your office, but I…I…I think I'm going to be sick again." Colt made a vomiting sound trying not to laugh.

"Sorry, I'm okay now." Colt covered the mouthpiece of the phone with his hand and started laughing.

"All right I'll rebook the time for Friday."

"Okay" said Colt "Bye."

The two stealthily made their way to Colt's home.

Chapter Nineteen

The first thing Arb did was start up Mother. "Psst!" he said to Colt and signaled for him to not say anything and to come over. Mother, was picking up a stray signal which meant there was a radio transmitter in the area. In other words, the place was bugged! They set to work covering each mike with something to muffle any sound effectively making it safe to communicate quietly. They could have easily smashed each bug be then whoever was bugging then would have known they had found them.

No sooner had they finished then the front door opened. Colt dashed to see who was there. It was Ruth.

"Hi. Ruthie" he said cheerfully.

"You don't look very sick to me. Colt what's going on? I get charged for that computer time unless someone jumps in" she said very disgruntled.

"I know, but…well, I need you to meet someone" Colt said almost at a whisper. "The place is bugged!" he pointed to one of the bugs.

"Just keep your voice low and come in here" he said then turned and walked into the study.

Arb ha d closed the blinds and triple checked the room and removed the telephone.
Colt entered the room with Ruth. Arb had his back to them.

"Ruth Mitchell meet Phoenix Starr" said Colt.

Arb turned around. His bottom lip quivered.

"Arbie!" she ran over to him and hugged him and kissed him and started crying.

"The name is Phoenix. Phoenix Starr. Don't call me Arb or Arbie or Arbor. I'm Phoenix Starr, Arbor Maine died three weeks ago."
She looked at him. He was quite serious. Just like his dad when his dad was trying to get an important point across.

"Ruth, you've got to understand this. It's a matter of life and death. I won't go into it here. We need to go to someplace that's totally secure. No cameras, no mikes, no access controls, lots of people and noise." Arb said.

"I know a place. It's," she said stopping mid-sentence as Arb gently covered her mouth with his hand.

"Drive to here" he said scribbling out a map "Stop before the intersection and I'll meet you there. Colt you go with her. Tell Kevin you're taking Colt to a walk-in clinic. And don't say anything else." He looked at Colt then back at Ruth "I'm sorry, Ruth, I'm a little paranoid right now, and right now, I don't trust Kevin. I barely trust you. I'm begging you not to tell anybody about this meeting. Colt if she as much as blinks the wrong way, you walk away. Go to where we met earlier and go the same route."

She looked at her son. He was different. He seemed totally cold and devoid of any emotions. She could see he was on the edge, and in total fear of his life and probably hers. It wasn't fair that he should have to have experienced all this. She kissed him gently on the cheek.

"Don't worry, Phoenix, I'll keep it a secret. I want my son back, he's the most important thing in my life." She said quietly, then she gave him another kiss on the cheek and noticed a single tear roll down it. She turned away and she said to Colt "I better get you to the doctor, and you better look miserable when I walk in and tell Kev."

As soon as they left, Arb snuck out of the house, and headed off to the rendezvous.
Arb looked up and down the street, and counted the cars only one new one, his mom's. He approached the car, opened the back door, and got in.

"Let's go." He said.

No one talked until they went into the roller rink. It was noisy, no cameras, and only a PA system mike. They walked over to a secluded table.

"You two hungry?" she asked.

"Starved!" they both said.

She took out a twenty and gave it to Colt "You get the food, I need to talk with Phoenix." she said. She put her arm around her boy and gave him a kiss. He buried his face in her shoulder and started sobbing.

"It's okay, sweetheart, you're home now, I won't let anybody hurt you. Come on, I'm with you now, Colt's here, we can both help you. It's okay," she said, trying to comfort him.

"It's not okay! They killed him, mom! They blew his brains out and it was my fault! It was my damn fault!" Arb sobbed.

"Phoenix! Look at me. It wasn't your fault. I know you've been through hell and back, and you're right. We are all in danger. You more than us. Right now we have to work as a team, if we want to live. Alan was my protégé his death was senseless and we all lost someone we loved dearly, but these people, whoever they are, don't care about life, or people, or families, or friends. We have to work as one. I know it's hard. If it hadn't been for you and Colt, I would never have survived your dad's death. "

Colt sat down quietly, with the tray of food. It always upset him to see his friend cry. He reached across the table and gently squeezed Arb's arm. Arb looked at him. Colt looked back at him with crossed eyes and a goofy look on his face. Ruthie laughed an infectious laugh, and Arb started smiling.

"Food's up!" said Colt.

Ruth looked at her son and continued, "We need to know everything that happened. Together, I know we can solve this."

"Yeah! I mean sitting at this table we've got the combined IQ of, what…80?" Colt said looking particularly retarded as he stuck a French fry up his nose.

Arb laughed and threw a fry at Colt.
Colt picked up a limp fry saying ‘touché', then realized the fry was limp and said "Oh, Fuck!"

"Colt!" said Ruth.

"OOPS! I mean darn!" he responded.

Arb laughed then said "I love you both! Let's eat then I'll tell you everything I know."

"Well, that should take about three seconds…" Colt said, laughing then dodged another fry.

"Boys, behave yourselves!" said Ruth.

They ate.

"I was hacking away on an e-mail server. I was running a program which fed Mother with all the clear text messages which, as you know, 95% of the e-mail traveling around the net is in clear text. I was using the T3 at the University, cause I needed a big pipe and searching each message for a list of key words like nuclear, atom bomb, bomb, chemical warhead, I really didn't know if I'd find anything. Mother did, and the program then did a trace route on the message, then a table lookup. Anyway, the message was from an Iraq supported terrorist group, detailing a planned attack of a chemical warhead bomb against Manhattan. It scared me. I mean close to ten million people dead. I knew Alan had a friend at the CIA so I called him and sent him the file. He said he would forward it to his friend."

"The next day, Alan called me and said he needed to see me urgently and I had to bring the file. Then he said make sure I bring it on my special laptop the one with the apple and don't bring your mother. I said why I would bring my mom. Then he repeated what he said before and said tell Mother to stay at 135 Lockhart. Then I knew what he meant I said okay and I'd see him shortly. He hung up abruptly."

"I went to the lab and checked out a laptop, and copied the file to the laptop from Mother. Then put Mother in the locker. I couldn't understand why, until I got there.
"When I arrived, there were two guys and Alan was handcuffed sitting in his chair in front of his PC. He said his message was ricocheted. The big guy hit him in the face with his gun. It was a gun with a silencer. I think it was a 9mm Ruger"

"They took the laptop from me and asked if the file was on it. I said yes. Then they said for me to drink this bottle of whiskey or they'd kill Alan. So I did. After, I drank most of the bottle I vomited. I kept passing out, then coming back. They forced more of it down my throat. Then someone behind me said, ‘kill him' and this one ride him off the road. Make it look like an accident. Then the big guy grabbed Alan by the hair and put the gun in his mouth. Alan tried to fight it, he looked at me and closed his eyes and the guy pulled the trigger. There was a pop and the back of Alan's head blew off. And he went limp. I screamed then the person behind me hit me on the back of the head. The next thing I remember was being in a car getting pushed off the road. Then I was in cold water, somehow I got ashore, I kept thinking, I had to save Colt. That Colt was in danger."

"I wandered around the next day and eventually found an abandoned trailer. I was there a day I think and this old man Jessie Creamer found me and asked me my name. Well, I was scared to tell him my real name so I looked down and there was a newspaper with a headline about Phoenix, Arizona. The name of the paper was THE STAR so I told him I was Phoenix Starr.

"He saw all my bruises and thought I'd been abused, and was going to tell the authorities, however, I talked him out of it and so he said he'd take me home to his wife, Betsie. They nursed me back to health. Paid for my bus ticket and loaned me five hundred dollars. I got back this morning and changed my looks, thinking nobody would recognize me. And both of you did!"

She gave him a hug, and he let out a yelp.

"Careful of the ribs!" he said, still in a little pain.

"Ribs?" she said.

"I've got five cracked ribs. They haven't quite healed" he said, unbuttoning his shirt, and showing her the brace he was wearing.

"Oh, honey, I'm sorry" she said "What do you mean the message ricocheted?"

"What he means was it was bounced to another address" said Colt.

"Which means?" asked Arb.

"Which means, someone's got an interceptor program on the line. Whoever he sent the message to, has got someone filtering his messages. Who did he address it to?" asked Colt.

"Someone in the CIA. I don't know. He didn't tell me."

"Well, that's no Fuck…darn help!" Colt said.

"I'm sorry Colt! It's a little hard, to fucking remember everything. Alan just told me, that he'd send the message to a friend of his, in the CIA. He didn't say who and excuse me I forgot to be fucking nosy and ask!"

"Colt! Both of you! Knock it off!" said Ruth.

"Sorry" said Colt.

"Sorry" said Arb.

"Well, I think we should stay at a motel tonight. Your house is not safe, Colt." Arb said.

"I agree" said Colt "but what will you tell Kevin?" Colt asked.

"If he asks, which he probably won't, I'll tell him I took you to the Emergency Room at St. Mary's and they wanted to keep you over night" she replied.

"I wish you could stay with us tonight, mom. Could you?" asked Arb.

"Listen, I'll be all right. I've got Kevin to protect me. I know you've never liked him, much, but he likes you. He's just not a computer type person but, he's a good man though." She said, then continued after a moment "I'll call you, when he's in the shower, and let you know I'm okay."

They left the roller rink, and Ruth took them to a motel. They were on the third floor room 323. They got to the room and the people next door were noisy and sounded like they were drunk. It made Arb nervous, and irritated Colt. Finally, Arb called down to the office, and asked if they had a different room. The clerk said he could put the in a room on the first floor. His mom called as he was talking to the clerk. He told the clerk they'd be down after the call.

They moved to room 103. It was much quieter. Arb sat in a chair watching television, and was asleep in about ten minutes. Colt woke him up and got Arb to go lie down in his bed, then covered him up then la y down on his own bed, and watched TV until he fell asleep.

Ruth arrived home.

"Well?" said Kevin.

"He's fine. Very scared, but okay. I wish this was over. I promised to call. They're in room 323 at the Days Inn."

"Okay. I'm going to shower." Kevin said and disappeared up stairs.

Kevin turned on the shower, then, dialed a number on his cell phone.

"Yeah?" said the voice on the phone.

"Days Inn room 323. Get over there now and take care of them. Make sure you're not seen and don't screw up!" Kevin said then hung up.

At 11:00, half an hour after Arb and Colt had changed rooms, Martin Oaks and his brother Tom Oaks checked into room 323. They had been driving for twelve hours and the party in 324 was over. By 12:30 the Oaks brothers were sound asleep. By 1:00 they were both dead.


Chapter Twenty

Colt woke up to hear the shower running and someone singing. It was Arb. He had a good voice, but Colt was too sleepy to care. He covered his head with a pillow and fell back asleep.

Arb got out of the shower, brushed his teeth, combed his hair in different styles until he was finally satisfied he looked cool. He decided he was going to let his hair grow a little longer because a pony tail would be neat. He put in the contacts.
The bruises on his body were barely visible. He pushed slightly on his ribs. They were still painful so he wrapped the brace around his chest, then slipped on his underwear and walked out of the bathroom and finished dressing.

He looked at Colt who was still sleeping.

It was nearly 9:30 when he heard some woman screaming outside. He opened the door and went out to see what was going on she was saying in Spanish "Help! The two men are dead!" She was in front of room 323.

Arb burst into the room.

"COLT! Get up NOW!"he yelled.

"What's up? I want to sleep." Colt said half asleep.

"Get up now we have to leave NOW! Two men in 323 are dead!" Arb said throwing Colt his jeans and shirt.

Colt slipped on his jeans and put on his shirt, slipped his bare feet into his high tops and stuffed his stocks in his pockets. They left the room.

There was a bus stopped at the bus stop, and they ran to it and got on just before it left. "Does this bus go to the university?" Arb asked.

"Yes" said the driver.

Arb pulled out a twenty and handed it to the driver and said, "Two fares".

"Sorry, exact change only. You'll have to get off" said the driver.

"Look, I'm late for class. I don't have exact change. You take it and later when you're on break you get the exact change and you can keep the rest for your trouble." Arb said quietly.

"Well, I'd hate to see you miss your class. Go on" said the driver.

In their rush to get on the bus neither boy saw the car across the street make a U-turn and start following the bus.

The driver pushed star 2. The phone rang.

"They're on the move. Probably, going to the University. Okay" the driver said then hung up.

Colt took his socks out of his pocket and took off his shoes to put them on. "Dead? 323" he said quietly.

"Yes." Arb answered.

"How did they know? It's a good thing we changed rooms…Your mom's phone must be bugged or possibly the car. Arb, I'm scared."

"Me, too. But we got to keep cool. I panicked. Look, mom said that the file was just a decoy. That she thinks they are after Mother. I'll go to the lab. It should be safe. I'll make a decoy like Mother and we'll transfer the security program to it and enough files to make it look real at first glance. You go home get Mother and meet me at the lab."

"Ruthie said we should stay together." Colt said.

"I know, but we'll lose time. Any minute they're going to find out that wasn't us in that room." Arb said.

"I suppose you're right. But be careful, please. And make sure nobody is following you. I'll do the same."
"You look like shit!" Arb said looking at Colt whose hair was all messed-up and his shirt half unbuttoned.

Two cute guys got on the bus "Say, did you hear about the murders at the Days Inn?" one of the guys asked the other.

"Really, a murder?" his friend responded.

"Yeah, some guy at the bus stop has a police scanner. Two guys, brothers killed. Police think it's drug related. Both of them shot through the heart. Really gross!" he said.

"Darn! Here's my stop. Phoenix, I'll meet you in an hour. And remember what I said earlier."

"You too." Arb said.

The bus stopped and Colt got off. The tailing car slowed. The driver pushed star 2.

"They split up. The older blond is still on the bus. Okay" he said and slowed down so the bus would overtake him.

Colt jogged most of the way home. He took a quick shower. Then heard someone at the front door. It was the mail man. The mail fell on the floor and he picked it up and sorted through it. Telephone bill, credit card bills and junk mail. Nothing for him as usual. He threw the bills in a basket for his Dad.

Then he stopped and picked up the telephone bill. "I wonder how much the calls from Japan were?" He opened the envelope and looked through the bill. No calls from Japan. But there was one to Smithfield where Arbor had been and the call was dated the day after the accident and then three other calls to Smithfield. The calling card calls were from Virginia.

He picked up the phone and dialed the Smithfield number.

"Hello" a voice said.

"Jessie?" he said.

"Who is this?" said the man.


"Well, how you doing boy? How's those ribs?" he said.

"Fine. I just wanted to call and say hello" said Colt trying to sound like Arbor.

"Howja get this number?" the man said.

Colt hung up. The phone rang.

"Who the hell are you?" the man said.

"Oh sorry, I must have dialed the wrong number. Uh…Sorry… Bye!" Colt hung up then took the phone off the hook.

"Shit! I screwed that up!" he said.

Colt opened the credit card bills. Nothing from Japan. Restaurants in Virginia, and one in Smithfield.

Why had his Dad told him he was in Japan? Why did he call Jessie? Why when he went to Smithfield didn't he bring Arbor back? He had a sinking feeling in his stomach. Then he remembered the last conversation. How did he know Arb had been wandering around in the wilderness? Things just didn't make sense.
The front door opened. It was Ruth. Colt dropped the bills into the mail basket.

"Hi, Ruthie" he said.

"Colt, why didn't you stay at the motel? And why did you and Arbor split up?" she asked.

"We changed rooms last night after you called. This morning they found two dead guys in the room we vacated. We panicked. Then on the bus we realized that Mother was here, so I came here to get it and then decided to take a shower."

"Well, go get dressed and I'll drive you to the CSL. And please hurry" she said.
While he dressed he thought about the bills and the fact that he really didn't know anything about his Dad. They had been more like passing acquaintances ever since his mother had died eleven years ago. He'd lived with Ruth, Keith and Arbor most of his life. What bothered him the most now was that he didn't even know what his father did or what company he really worked for.

He came out of his room toting Mother in his backpack and solemnly said "Let's go."

"Okay. What's up?" Ruth asked.

"Nothing, just sort of pensive?" he replied which was his way of saying ‘I'm working on a problem, just leave me alone'.

She put her arm around his shoulders and said "Okay, my pensive boy. I wish you'd talk to me, but I know it's useless to try. Just remember I'm always here for you".

"Yeah, I know" he said and thought to himself "I wish my Dad thought as much of me as you." He slung his backpack over his shoulder and walked out ahead of her and got in the back seat of the car.

"Hi, Hotshot" said Kevin. Colt ignored Kevin and just stared out the window the whole way to the CSL.

"See you later, Ruth. And you too Hotshot!" said Kevin cheerfully.

"Later" said Ruth with a smile.

Colt ignored Kevin and started walking toward the CSL entrance by himself.

"Colt, I wish you would not be so obnoxious to Kevin. He's trying to be a friend. You could at least treat him civilly."

Colt gave her a ‘like I really care' look and continued on to the lab. Once in the lab Ruth went to her office and Colt went over to the workbench where Arbor was and gave him Mother saying "Here. See ya later" then turned and walked out of the lab unseen by Ruth.

Arbor began working on the three decoys.

After an hour Arbor walked into his mom's office asking "Mom did you and Colt have an argument or something?"

"No. He's in one of his pensive moods and I complained that he should be a little more polite to Kevin."

"Where did you send him? He was supposed to help me and besides I thought you said we had to stay together, especially because of what happened at the motel." Arbor questioned.

"You let him walk out of here after what I told you - I swear!" she exclaimed.

"I thought you sent him somewhere. He looked really sad. I started working and then I thought he'd been gone along time and so I came to tell you I was worried" Arbor said trying to defend himself.

"Okay, Arbor, where would he go?" she questioned.

"The library is his favorite place other than here" he answered.

She called the library and asked the person who answered if she knew Colt Smith. She replied that all the library staff knew Colt, but no one had seen him that day.