By Julien Gregg
Copyright 2005 - 2007 Julien Gregg
All rights reserved.
No part of this story may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author. This story is almost all fiction. Almost all of the characters depicted in this story exist exclusively in the imagination of the author. Any resemblance to an actual person, living or dead, is, sometimes purely coincidental.
"So what happened after the detective got there?" Peter asked as we sat in the living room to wait for Steve to finish his shower.
Steve had been ordered to take it easy by Dr. Rizetti, and that meant staying either in bed or on the couch. Steve expressed the desire to shower, though and I couldn't really deny him. I knew what it was like to only have bed-baths for a few days and then come home wanting a shower. Even Vince didn't object for once. He made himself busy in the kitchen, making lunch for us. He'd let Peter in when he knocked on the side door.
"He took Leo into another room so they could talk privately," I replied. "Then he came back and thanked Shirley and Meg for calling him. He told me and Steve that he'd call us when he was free to talk to us, and then he took Leo and left the hospital. I don't really know any more than that."
"That's so out there," said Peter. "I mean I don't know Leo that well, and what I do know of him is only the way he treated you and Steve. Then he did this big turn around and now we find out that his parents are abusive."
"Tell me about it," I sighed. "This whole thing just keeps getting bigger and bigger."
"I saw the preacher on television today," he chuckled. "The whole school was talking about it."
"So how are things going at Storyville High?" I asked, thinking about how much I missed school.
"Oh you know, same old crap," he replied. "I'm glad vacation started today. The half day was a surprise for all of us, but no one complained as I'm sure you can understand."
"Oh I understand," I laughed.
"So I understand you've decided not to graduate early," he said after a brief silence. "Everyone is still talking about you guys quitting."
"Well, I didn't quit," I corrected. "But yeah I'm coming back."
"What about Steve?"
"He's coming back, too," I replied. "I can't speak for Mark and Rick, though. I haven't really had a chance to talk to either of them. I know they were at the hospital quite a bit, but I was kind of out of it for a while."
"That's the other big topic at school," he said slowly. "You should know that there are quite a few students with parents that are members of the church. Tension is high at school over what happened. Some of those students were starting to voice their approval until the football team started making threats."
"I'm sure Mitch is loving that," I said with another sigh.
"He made an announcement this morning about the church not being part of the school," said Peter. "He said that students should keep their opinions to themselves unless they wanted to discuss it in his office."
"Well I'm sure a lot of them will have something to say once school starts again and we show up again," I said bitterly.
"At least you have two more weeks before you have to really worry about that," said Peter, smiling.
Shirley and Meg showed up right after Peter left. They busied themselves in the kitchen, making supper. When I told them it was my night to cook, they shushed me and told me to go to the living room. Cooking was never my favorite thing in the world to do, so I didn't argue. I went back to the living room and sat with Steve and Vince. Andy was with Gage somewhere.
"The police arrested Leo's parents," said Steve. "It was just on the news."
"I don't even want to know what was going on in his family," I sighed. "We have enough to deal with. I am sorry for him, though."
"Yeah," said Steve. "I agree that we have enough to worry about, though. When is the detective going to call us?"
"He called this afternoon," said Vince. "He's coming over tomorrow morning to talk to both of you. Shirley, Meg and Tom will be here for that."
"Then it looks like the reverend will be in the news some more soon," I said with a sigh.
"Have you decided to press charges?" Vince asked.
"Of course," I replied. "I can't just let him get away with what he did. Then there's the restraining order I'm going to ask for."
"Let them have it, Tommy," said Vince, and I could see the malice in his eyes. I'd rarely ever seen such a look from him. "No one has the right to use God against anyone, and Reverend Hartman has no business judging anyone. I hope that you and Steve take this all the way, and I just want you to know that I'll stand with you on whatever you decide to do."
"Thank you, Vince," I said unable to think of anything else to say. He'd surprised me yet again. I suppose I should have gotten used to Vince surprising me.
"All right boys," called Meg from the kitchen. "Come and eat."
We discussed what we were going to say to the detective over supper. Shirley thought we should remind him about the bombing of our lockers, and I agreed. It was just that we still didn't know who had done it. It was easy to believe that someone from the church had done it, but we didn't know for sure. That still worried me. It also still pissed me off. I had decided to return to school after the winter break, but I was still going to be looking over my shoulder. It really sucked. At least there was only half a school year to go. Four months wouldn't be that long.
Wendy called right after we had cleared the table to remind me that we were going Christmas shopping together in the morning. I informed her that the detective was coming at nine, but we could still go shopping. I agreed to call her after the detective left. I was actually eager to go shopping with her. She was still my favorite shopping partner.
"Do you think they'll arrest the reverend tomorrow?" Steve asked as we were getting ready for bed that night. "I mean if we press charges they should arrest him, right?"
"I'm sure," I replied, getting under the comforter and scooting over to let him in bed. "I'm not sure how many members of his flock will be arrested, though."
"Meg said that they arrested twelve people the day they attacked us," he said.
I hadn't thought of it as an attack until that moment, and I couldn't figure out why. That's what they'd done. They'd attacked us, but until he said it out loud I just thought of it as "the incident". That was strange. I guess I was just too wrapped up in my thoughts of making sure the reverend got what was coming to him.
The next morning Meg, Shirley, Tom and Andy were sitting at the dining room table when we came down the stairs. It had already been agreed that we wouldn't work out or run so soon after being released from the hospital, so it wasn't so strange to find them waiting for us when we came down.
"Morning," I said as I passed them and went to the kitchen to grab a bagel for me and one for Steve.
"Detective Orsini will be here in about an hour," said Shirley when I came back to the dining room and sat beside Steve.
"I have to call Wendy when the detective leaves," I told them. "We're going Christmas shopping today."
"Please don't be gone too long," said Shirley carefully. "And don't overdo it."
"I promise," I said, smiling.
"More dividends have been deposited into your account, Tommy," said Tom. "You have your checkbook?"
"I do," I replied. I pulled it out of my back pocket and grabbed the pen from the center of the table. "How much was added?"
"Forty-five hundred even this time," Tom said.
I thought about that for a moment after I added the notation in my checkbook register. Forty-five hundred was enough to get my car fixed and buy presents if I didn't try to buy outrageous gifts. I usually reinvested at least half of the what was deposited, but this time I didn't want to do that. I was sure that Tom would agree with my thinking, but as I was about to tell him what I was planning the doorbell chimed.
Shirley went to let Detective Orsini in while Meg refilled my cup of coffee along with Steve's. I'd thought I would be nervous about talking to the detective, but I wasn't. I was eager to get it over with. I also wanted to get the restraining order out of the way as quickly as possible, too.
We sat around the dining room table to talk about everything that had happened. Steve and I told him about the messages appearing on our lockers as that was what started it all. We told him about Mrs. Tull and the way she treated us, and I told him about Leo's attitude at the beginning of the school year. He was most interested in knowing if we would recognize any of the people that were with Reverend Hartman when he'd come to our house that evening. He showed us pictures of several people, and we were able to positively identify seven of them. I could tell that he had been hoping for more, but he seemed pleased that we could even identify seven.
Then he talked to us about the charges that the district attorney wanted to file. I almost gasped when he said attempted murder, but I wasn't shocked to hear him say hate crime at all. I suppose that the reverend's intention probably wasn't murder, but "Fornicator! Burn in Hell!" made the case for attempted murder as well as a hate crime completely valid. In the end we both decided to cooperate with the district attorney's plans for charges. Detective Orsini told us that a restraining order had already been issued when they had been arrested, but he would seek to have it extended throughout the trial and penalty phase, if the verdict came back in our favor.
By the time he left, Steve and I felt at least a little better. Arrest warrants were about to be issued for the reverend and seven members of his flock. Detective Orsini told us that neighbors had already told him about more members of the congregation that had been at the house, so that was enough to make even more arrests. In total, fifteen people as well as the reverend were about to be arrested for attempted murder and the perpetration of a hate crime. He said that the district attorney was going to try to hold them all without bail.
The mood in the house was quiet after the detective left. I called Wendy, and she said she'd be there in a few minutes to get me. Tom agreed with my reasoning about the dividends when I explained what I had in mind while I waited for Wendy to arrive. He said that I could even take more money out of the trust and buy a new car if I wanted to. I told him I'd think that over while I was with Wendy.
"You ready to shop?" Wendy asked when I got into the passenger seat of her car.
"Ready," I replied, fastening my seat-belt. "I have something to think about while we shop, too."
"Deciding on charges to press?" she asked as she pulled into the street.
"No, we've already told the detective we'll cooperate on charges," I explained. "They're being charged with attempted murder and the perpetration of a hate crime."
"What about the restraining order?"
"That's already in place," I replied. "They're going to extend it for the trial as well."
"You don't think any of them will get out on bail, do you?" Wendy asked.
"He said that the district attorney wants to hold them without bail," I said. "We'll see."
When we reached Pine Falls Mall we found it extremely busy. Wendy drove around the parking lot until she found a place to park as we laughed at bumper stickers on the cars we passed. We made our way through the throng of shoppers in the mall, stopping to talk to various classmates along the way. I hit the pet store first to get new toys for Zeus along with a new kitty bed. His current one was getting very old.
Wendy spent a bit of time in one of the jewelry stores. She explained that she was searching for a bracelet for her mother. The sales lady was eager to help her, and after a few minutes of showing her different styles, Wendy chose a thin white gold chain with colored gems as charms that were connected to the links of the chain. I decided that I'd buy Meg and Shirley bracelets as well, but my choices were different. For Meg I selected a gold chain with one diamond charm. Shirley's was a thicker chain that was gold as well, but the chain looked like tiny leaves that ran together. A golden rose charm was suspended from the clasp of the bracelet.
We stopped into one of the candy store to buy stocking stuffers, and we laughed at the displays here and there. We purchased gum drops, miniature candy canes and lots of chocolate. We even got the stockings from the same store. Of course we bought a few things for ourselves while we were in the store, but we soon headed to the food court for lunch.
"My dad is really happy that you've decided not to graduate," she said as we sat at a table with slices of pizza and sodas. "He called Mark and told him that you and Steve would be coming back to school, and it wasn't long before Rick and Mark both called to say that they would be back as well."
"I was wondering about that," I admitted. "I haven't really had a chance to talk to either of them about school yet."
"They're doing something over the winter break because of the reverend and his friends," she said. "While we're all out of the way, they're erecting fences around the school with gates at each entry to the parking lots. The gates will be locked during school hours and after the last car leaves the lot. There will also be security guards driving through the lots."
"More security," I said, wiping my mouth with my napkin. "It's too bad that all of this had to happen for the board to allow this much security."
"The board is afraid that you, Mark, Rick or Steve will sue now," she explained. "I heard my parents talking about over at the supper table last night."
"Well I hadn't thought about suing the board," I admitted. The very idea seemed too out there for me.
"Ready for round two?" she asked with a chuckle.
"Let's do it," I said, getting up and grabbing my empty plate and cup.
We hit clothing stores, music stores, book stores and even appliance stores. I didn't buy anything in the latter, but I got Steve a really nice sweater from one of the clothing stores we bounced into. I also got him a leather jacket from one of the leather stores. By the time we were ready to leave I had at least one gift for just about everyone. I even bought Sharon a nice electronic organizer. They had gift wrapping in nearly all of the stores, so our purchases were boxed and wrapped when we left the mall. I joked that with all of the presents we'd both bought there would be no room for us in her car, but we got everything into the back seat, carefully making sure that my gifts were separate from hers.
When I got home I found out that Steve had taken Nick and Jeremy shopping just a few minutes before we got there. Vince and Maria were the only ones in the house as I took all of the presents I'd purchased up to my room and stowed them in the closet. Maria had hot chocolate waiting for me when I got back downstairs.
"I'm glad you're all right, Tommy," she said when I sat at the dining room table with her and Vince to drink the chocolate.
"Thanks," I replied. "For the chocolate and the sentiment. I'll be glad when all of this is over, though."
"I understand," she said. "Mark is very upset over all of this."
"They didn't do anything to him and Rick, did they?" I asked quickly, setting my cup down.
"No," she replied. "Nothing like this. Letters have been in the mail, but nothing violent."
"That's still bad," I insisted. "Hopefully it will stop once the trial begins."
I sat and thought about the trial itself for a few minutes. Of course we'd each have to testify. That was something that we couldn't avoid. The press would be there, too. That was another thing we couldn't avoid. I hoped that the judge closed the courtroom, though. I didn't want to have to face other churches while I was on the stand. I supposed there really wasn't anything I could do about it, though. This was going to happen no matter what I thought about it.