I was completely confused the next morning. Uncle Walter was calm, sort of upbeat when he woke us up. Did I dream everything? Or did I try to fight, even kick my uncle? Did he catch us sleeping together, in the nude? I asked myself. I kept waiting for him to lower the boom, to nail both of us to the cross then lock me into shackles, but once we were awake he just told me he had laid out the clothes I was to wear, kissed our foreheads and told us to hurry, that breakfast was almost ready.
After we got into the shower together I wanted to die and just melt down the drain when Roy confirmed my worst fears, everything had happened just as I remembered. What I couldn't believe was his attitude, that everything was 'chilled' and not to worry about it.
"But, I hit him and stuff!" I whined.
"Yeah, I'm glad I'm your friend, you nailed him really hard a couple of times!" he grinned, and kept scrubbing my body with his long fingers.
"But, he, he knows we didn't have any clothes on! Together!" I cried.
"Yeah, it's fun!" he giggled. He reached down and began lathering my stomach and groin before I could react, and after a couple of strokes I forgot what we were talking about.
That's it, that's what is going on. I decided as we finished toweling each other off. I was completely surprised when I walked into the Blue room and instead of my orange prison pajamas, there was a light gray suit laid out of me to wear.
Roy surprised me when we met in the bathroom. He was wearing white button up shirt with a really fancy gold crest sewn onto the breast pocket, along with a bright red tie. The lime, maybe cabbage green shorts he was wearing looked totally weird, they went about halfway down his thighs and fit about like the walking shorts he wore often, but besides being one of the ugliest colors I had ever seen they had pressed creases and belt loops like my dress pants, sat off by the red belt stuffed inside them. What really caught my eye were the knee socks he had on, they were exactly the same color as his shorts, and had a pair of red and gold stripes at the top of them.
I guess my curious face made him say, "It's our school uniform." he began. He pointed at his tie and continued, "I'm going with you, to court.
"Dad doesn't know it yet, but I am." he proclaimed as he knotted my tie for me.
Maybe prison pajamas ain't too bad after all! I told myself when he picked up a suit coat that matched his shorts.
Aunt Marge spent her usual five minutes primming my hair and shirttail as soon a we walked into the kitchen. My stomach suggested I bite her when Alexis sat a mountain of pancakes on the table, but I convinced it we were already in enough trouble.
"I didn't know you had a field trip today." Uncle Walter said when he joined us a minute later.
His son nervously shifted his feet and answer,"Uh, we don't. Sir."
"Why the class A's?" his dad asked.
"Um, well, because I want to go with you. To court. I mean, I am going to go with you. Sir."
"No, I'm sorry Son, but you already missed half a day of school Friday. Besides, it's a closed hearing, you couldn't get in anyway."
"You can get me in! I have to go Dad, I do."
"I'm sorry, but you heard my answer, which is..."
"I don't care what you do to me, I'm GOING to go!" Roy yelled. "If you wont take me I'll..."
"ROY!" Uncle Walter roared. I knew we both were about to die when the fire-hoses began to bulge out of his forehead. "You ARE going to school today, end of statement. If you want to wear class A's that's up to you, but if you get a tardy this morning it will cost you dearly. I suggest you go change if you are going to."
"Dad! That totally..."
"Choose your next words carefully young man, you are about a heartbeat away from a week of room restriction." Uncle Walter cut him off. They stared at each other for what seemed like forever.
"Yes Sir." Roy groaned. He fired his dad another dirty look, jerked his coat up and stormed upstairs.
We had just started breakfast when he came back into the kitchen, this time wearing the same shorts and strange socks, but a short sleeve white shirt complete with the same gold crest on it, but no tie. He kept his eyes glued to his plate as he ate. I tried to think of something to say when we went upstairs to brush his teeth, but his face told me he wanted to be left alone. He did give me a long hug before he started toward the garage.
He had just reached for the door handle when his dad stopped him. "I don't get my hug?" he asked. His son shrugged his shoulders and shuffled over. "I know you are worried about Tommy, and I'm very impressed that you feel so strongly about wanting to support him.
"I promise everything will work out, and I will keep you posted." his dad added before he kissed his son's forehead. "I love you Son." Roy hugged his dad back for a second or so, I would have sworn he had a hint of a smile on his face when he turned toward the garage.
* * *
The car was uncomfortably quiet for most of the drive into town. My uncle tried a couple of attempts at small talk, but didn't push when I gave him one word answers. What the heck, I don't got nothing to loose, and it's probably my last chance. I decided.
"I'm sorry for what I did last night, I really am." I began. I groaned when it came out as a whimper. "Please sir, maybe if I can have one more chance?"
"Tommy you don't need another chance, you had a bad dream you didn't do anything wrong." He took a deep breath before continuing, "I am very sorry that you had to witness what happened between Roy and I this morning, especially today."
"But, well I kicked you! I'm sorry! I didn't wanta!"
"No, you didn't kick me, your dream did," he answered. "But, for such a little squirt you have got one mean swing!" he chuckled.
"Well, but, you caught us naked and stuff! I made Roy do it sir, I did."
"Of course you did!" he snickered. "What, you are in trouble because you sleep in the nude?" he grinned. "So do Margie and I!"
At first I was sure he was teasing, or toying with me, but his face told me otherwise. I was trying to think of an answer when the true reality of his statement sunk in. Aunt Marge, naked? I asked myself. Over the past two days I had developed a lot of respect for him, but I was sure that the sight of my aunt naked would turn even the strongest of super-heros to stone, and he had survived it? A mere glance at such a horrible thing would blind God himself, and Uncle Walter is alive to tell the tale? I asked myself. The thought was too much and I felt my brain going into overload, afraid to even consider such a horror sight as he had survived.
I was still somewhat in overload when he parked and led me into this huge building. The few glances I risked told me it was a cold, uncomfortable place to be in with its marble floors and stark looking halls.
He stopped outside a heavy pair of double doors and turned to face me. "I know you are nervous, but there is nothing to be scared of." he began as he adjusted my tie. "But, it is important that you do a couple of things for me while we are in there.
"I want you to listen very carefully to everything that is said during the hearing. You might not understand what is going on, or some of what we are saying, but pay close attention. Don't drift off, because if the judge asks you a question you have to be able to answer it without him having to repeat it. Do you understand?" All I could manage was a weak head nod.
"Also, you are not to talk to anyone but the judge or I, even if anyone, anyone else asks you a question. If you're not sure what to do, look at me BEFORE you open your mouth, okay?" My neck refused to move, but I guess he accepted my facial expression or eyes answer, and guided me into the courtroom.
My nervousness quickly changed to full-fledged fear as I looked around. There were three uniformed cops staring directly at me, one of them just inside the doors clearly to block my escape. Three men in dark suites were sitting at one of the two tables facing the judge's high desk, and turned around and cast me very nasty glares, as did a couple of old ladies sitting at small desks beside the judge's. Uncle Walter and me for me, the rest of the world anxious to kill me, Well maybe they will quickly anyway. I thought.
The judge walked in about five minutes after we sat down at the other table. After everyone jumped up and waited for him to climb up to his desk the old man, complete with death black robes draped over him, fired an angry scowl at me and rifled through some papers for several seconds.
"I've read each of your briefs, and the psychiatric evaluation filed with the court earlier this morning. Unless either counsel has anything to add, I am prepared to rule on the motions before me." he began.
He didn't wait long enough for anyone to get a word in and continued, "I am denying petitioner's motion for..." he stopped in mid-sentence and stared wide eyed at the back of the room.
When he didn't continue for a couple of seconds I started to look around, but when my uncle's distraught face came into view my eyes locked on it. Clearly whatever the judge had said was not good news.
"Good morning Madam Lieutenant Governor, it is an honor to have you visit my courtroom," the judge said. The nervous tension in his voice made me look back at him. "If there is a way this court may serve you, we can recess these proceedings Ma'am."
"Thank you your honor. I have heard much about you and your good work, it is my honor to be in your court." My mouth fell agape when I realized it was Miss Piggy's voice. I just had time to jerk my head around and focus on her huge body, and the two mean looking plain clothes cops flanking her when she continued, "The Governor and I are very interested this case, and how the judiciary deals with it. The Governor and I are also very concerned regarding what is to be done to help this young man recover from the horrible abuses he suffered at the hands of ADJC. May I sit in on these proceedings, as an observer?"
She sat down without waiting for an answer. I was gawking at how far the wooden bench sagged, I guess waiting for it collapse when Uncle Walter touched my arm. His face told me to pay attention to the judge. As much as I wanted to see what happened, if the bench was going to give way under her tons of weight and crash through the floor, a look at the judge's face made it worthwhile to miss the show. His normally pale, wrinkled face was as white as a ghost's I couldn't help but wondering if he had died and returned as a spook.
He opened his mouth, but just cleared his throat a couple of times, then glanced around. "Of course you may, Ma'am. Thank you for your interest in this case." he groaned. He shuffled the papers on his desk, took a drink of water and glanced around again, if I didn't know better I would have sworn he was looking for someone to help him.
"I am..." he tried, but cleared his throat and took another sip of water. "I am denying petitioner's motion for motion for a new trial."
I wasn't too sure what he said, but my uncle gently squeezing my forearm told me it wasn't good. "As this is a juvenile case, coupled with the minor's confessions, and that when he reaches majority his records will be sealed and will not effect his future, it was not worthy of my consideration." he took a deep breath and looked down at some papers for a second.
"Senator Benton, I am rather disappointed an attorney of your reputation would waste this court's time with such a motion, especially filed requesting an expedited hearing." Uncle Walter's sinking face as he slowly crawled to his feet told me whatever the old man said was not good, that I was history.
"My apologies to the court, but..." Uncle Walter began.
"Please sit down counselor." the judge asked. I'm SO dead! I decided as my uncle slithered back into his chair and put his arm around the back of mine. I gave up any remote hope when I saw the veins begin to grow out of his forehead.
I barely heard the judge continue, "Regarding the motion to modify the minor's custody status, as written I cannot rule on it as it addresses same status pending a new trial." I understood enough of his statement to realize I was indeed history, next stop D Wing and my old cell. When the judge glanced back at Miss Piggy I was sure he was going to ask to borrow her cops to help pack me off.
"However, before I order this motion modified and grant it, does the State of Arizona have a reply to Senator Benton's brief regarding the conditions under which the minor was incarcerated?" He seemed to be recovering a little, and was staring at the men at the other table, his face now showing an little anger.
"We have begun an investigation." one of the men all but moaned. He nervously glanced at the others sitting next to him, then over his shoulder at Miss Piggy before adding, "Until our investigation is complete we..."
"I have ordered the State Police to seize the original records and documents regarding this ward, along with all the others being held in his wing. Copies are being faxed to my clerk as we speak." the judge cut him off. "Are you prepared to deny the Senator's accusations?" He fired a death glare at the men that made Aunt Marge's dirtiest ones look like a happy smile from the Tooth Fairy.
"I'm waiting, Counselor!" he barked so loud it echoed around the room. Oh God, I hope he don't think I did it! I silently groaned.
"Not at this time your honor." the man moaned. "But, as..."
"I am staying this court's order incarcerating this minor to ADJC pending receipt of Senator Benton's modified motion, and order the child transferred to Community Supervision, and placed in the care of Senator Walter Benton. I further approve Senator Benton and Doctor Frost's treatment and monitoring plan as out lined in their filings. Clerk will draft and schedule a hearing sixty days hence." I was completely lost, and Uncle Walter's face offered no hint of what was going on. The old judge had raised his wooden hammer when a man at the other table stood up.
"We object your honor!" he boomed. "That boy is a violent offender, a threat to the community and belongs..."
"In one of your little steel boxes?" the judge cut him off. The veins in his neck were even bigger than the ones in Uncle Walter's forehead. "I have an educational, emotional and re-socialization Plan of Service before me that would help the child, maybe even heal him from what you have put him through, and you want to stuff him back into conditions Iraq would consider inhumane? I..."
"The State demands a stay of your order pending appeal." the other man snapped back.
"We do?" thundered through the room. At first I was sure it was God, but as the echo subsided I snapped it was Miss Piggy. "Excuse me your honor for interrupting." she added in a more gentle voice.
I had no idea what was going on when the judge paled again and downed a couple of glasses of water, except that it was about me, that I had started World War III and that I would get blamed for it. When he seemed to recover the fire in the judge's eye as he looked around the room made me sink down in my chair, I was sure if he found me I'd be turned to ashes on the spot.
"Thank you for your input, Madam Governor." he began. His eyes seemed to catch on fire as he turned to the other table. "Counselor, if you EVER interrupt me again, I'll not only find you in contempt, but see to it you spend thirty days at Spring Ridge, in young Watkins' cell." he roared.
Oh shit, I knew I was gonna get sent back there! I gasp. I didn't realize I had crawled up into a little ball in my chair, my arms wrapped around my knees until I felt everyone's eyes drilling into me.
"Senator, does your client need a moment to compose himself?" I barely heard the judge's voice.
Uncle Walter brushed my hair for a second before prying my arms away from my knees and whispered for me to sit up straight.
"The offender is still in our custody until we out-process him. We have to complete out-take evaluations and tests before we can release him." a voice echoed into the back of my mind, I was fairly sure it came from the other table.
"The CHILD is in MY custody!" the old man snarled. A glance at his red face and black robes told me the end was near. As the word custody sunk in I knew all hope was lost.
"I am modifying my order, still again." he boomed, just a little calmer. "I am staying the incarceration order for six months, and ordering ADJC have no contact with the child during that time. Any ADJC exit examinations or evaluations are to be conducted by Doctor Frost at ADJC expense, and without ADJC presence.
"Senator Benton, please take your... client, nephew, whatever home." He slammed his hammer down so hard I was sure he broke it.
"Your honor." one of the men at the other table groaned. I didn't have the nerve to look over at him, but from the glare he was getting from the judge I was glad I wasn't him. "The, the child is wearing one of our monitors, and the only equipment that can remove it is at our local facility." the nasty look the old man gave him told me someone was about to die, I was fairly sure it was me.
"Senator, would you have time to take your client to their facility so they can remove the device? Sometime this week?"
"Yes sir." Uncle Walter answered.
"ADJC is authorized to have contact with the minor child one time, and only for the of retrieval State owned property. Any detention, use of ANY form of physical restraint or delays on ADJC's part will not only be viewed as contempt of this court, but an act of false imprisonment. This court is in recess." He pounded his hammer down so hard I was sure he knocked a hole in his desk and started to stand up.
"By your leave your honor." Miss Piggy's voice rang into my overloaded brain.
"Yes Ma'am, of course Ma'am!" the old man moaned.
"If I may, I would like to accompany Thomas, that is the minor child, during his visit to the Juvenile Center. As an observer." I wasn't too sure what she asked, but hearing my name and Juvi in the same sentence told me it was not good.
"Ah, your honor, Madam Governor. As honored as we would be to have the Lieutenant Governor visit, ADJC regulations regarding a ward's privacy pro..." someone began.
"Mrs Clarke, would you mind doing so as this court's observer?" the judge cut him off. Miss Piggy said something I couldn't understand. "So ordered." the old man barked, and stormed out of the room before anyone could even begin to stand up.
Well, I guess it's time. I told myself as my uncle led me toward Miss Piggy's cops. Without realizing it I tucked myself under his coat tail and grabbed the back of his belt.
"Thanks for your support Wanda." I heard Uncle Walter's voice. I should have known, he's in on it. I thought.
"Oh, I haven't even begun! Someone is going to pay dearly for this!" Miss Piggy's voice proclaimed. I felt my uncle's coat pull away from my head and she bubbled, "Come here Tommy, please?"
When I risk a glance she was smiling at me, but her cops were waiting to grab me. I let out a sob and buried my face into my uncle's stomach.
"Please wait for me in the hall." she snarled. "Now!" she barked a second later. On automatic I slipped out from under the shelter of my uncle's coat and started out of the room.
"Not you Tommy!" she bubbled. Before I knew it I was pulled into a massive wall of blubber. After a few tries I managed to squirm around enough to take a breath, but even though I was sure I was about to be absorbed into her flab I felt really comfortable, safe, whatever. I could hear the two of them talking but just tuned them out, and enjoyed her cuddle. I'm not sure how much longer I felt a pair of catcher's mitts pick me up by my armpits.
"I'll see you soon, okay?" she smiled into my face. She pecked a quick kiss onto what seemed like my entire face and sat me down.
"Do you gotta take me back right now?" I risked as my uncle escorted me next to his car.
"You don't have to..." he began. Instead of finishing he picked me up and perched me on his front fender. "Tommy, you aren't going back to ADJC, except to have your monitor removed." he said as he removed my tie and released the collar of my shirt. Yeah, sure. I thought, but didn't resist when he slid my coat off and rolled up my shirt sleeves.
"Come on Son, we have to make a couple of stops first." he said as he perched me into the passenger seat of his car.
* * *
I risked a glance out the window when I felt the car slow and turn. I was a little surprised, but very relieved that Uncle Walter had turned into the parking lot of what a big stone building instead of the lockup I expected to see.
"Come on, we wont be long." he told me as he climbed out of his door. I just looked back down at the floorboard until he opened the passenger door and released my seatbelt, but didn't resist when he cupped my elbow and guided me out of the car and ushered me under his arm.
Saint Luke's Academy - Established 1892 was carved into the stoic stone building above the entry doors. Once inside I couldn't help but notice that the place just smelled of money and class. The wooden floors were polished like mirrors, the few pieces of furniture scattered around the entry foyer looked like they were out of an art museum. It was exactly the kind of place Aunt Marge would be at home in, the kind of place I definitely didn't belong in. I began to wonder what was going on when I saw a few boys in the halls, all of them wearing the same weird knee socks, shorts and shirts Roy left the house wearing this morning.
As I followed my uncle into an office one of the heavy oak chairs in it was it was indeed a wonderful sight - it was occupied by Roy, nervously swinging his smooth tanned legs as he stared at the floor.
His eyes almost popped out of his head when he saw us. He jumped out of the chair and sprinted a couple of steps toward us before his face reddened and he slowed to a walk. "Dad! Tommy!" he hooted, then covered his mouth and nervously looked around.
The color seemed to drain out of his face, and he groaned, "Is anything wrong? Did you, well they didn't..."
"Nothing is wrong, I called ahead as asked that the call you from class. I thought you'd like to join us for lunch." his dad cut him off. "Then we have to run a quick errand." Roy flashed me a wide grin and tucked himself next to my side. I felt him slip his hand into mine as we started out of the building.
Uncle Walter dodged his son's thousand questions during the short drive to a nearby diner, that turned out to be a somewhat upscale hamburger shop. When he cut me off and up sized the burger I ordered to their Supreme, and insisted we each get a large malted milk I realized it was my Last Supper, he was trying to make the last meal I would eat before being locked up until I was 18 a little special. I lost my appetite, but didn't bother to argue with him.
"I am going to explain to both of you what was decided this morning, and what is going to happen now." my uncle began after we sat down. " Tommy still doesn't believe me, and I am hoping he might believe you Son." "No interrupting, no questions until I am finished, then I will answer anything you ask." he said directly toward me. "Agreed?" I guess my nod was enough of an answer.
"First of all, the million dollar question." he paused for a second, almost as if for effect. "Yes, Tommy is going to live with us. Right now for..."
"Yea! Yeah too cool!" Roy screamed. He threw his arms around my neck and planted a kiss on my cheek before I realized it. "Excuse me Sir." he blushed.
His dad opened his mouth, but instead of continuing looked away and chuckled for a couple of seconds. "For now, he is going to be here, the judge has granted a trial period for the next six months, but unless something terrible happens, he will be here until he grows up."
I found myself wondering if I could believe him, or my ears, until he continued, "But, there are some things that have to happen, sort of like rules for this to work." Oh well, I groaned.
"I want you to start seeing Doctor Frost, he is going to help you understand everything that has happened to you, and adjust to living here. Roy, you will continue seeing him like you are now. Tommy, he wants to meet with you every week for now, and he wants to meet with both of you together also.
"Of course we have to get you back in school. For now I'm going to hire a private tutor, to help you get caught up. As soon as you are ready you will begin attending Saint Luke's Academy with Roy." "And Val." he tittered. Roy's bright face and wide smile told me I wasn't hearing things.
He paused while the waiter sat our food out. I was still somewhat hoping I heard what I thought I did, that this wasn't my last real meal before returning to a diet of cold oatmeal and meat pulp sandwiches. But as soon as the wonderful aroma of the huge burger sitting in front of me reached my nose my stomach informed me it didn't matter, it was time to get down to business. I had just taken the third or fourth bite of the scrumptious masterpiece when my uncle continued.
"There is one more thing. I'm not very happy with it, but I had to agree to it in order for the judge to approve our plan." I froze in mid-bite, until my stomach demanded I continue its feast.
"This is a watch, but a special watch." he told me as he took a small box out of his coat pocket and opened it. "Beside being a time-piece, it has a GPS locator, a way, well we can find out where you are if we need to."
I didn't understand much of what he said, but the watch was beautiful. Since I had never owned a watch before anything would be, but it almost exactly the color of the bike they had let me borrow several times. It had a digital display, some neat graphics on its face, and several buttons that looked like they would be fun to explore. After an extra large bite of my moister burger I couldn't resist picking it up and looking a it closer.
"You have to wear it anytime you leave the house." I barely heard him continue.
"It's really for me?" I begged.
"Actually once you put it on you cant take it off without a, a special key, that has to stay at home."
"But, Dad, that sucks, I mean that's not fair!" Roy exclaimed. "Why does he have to..."
"I don't like it either Son, but it's either that or Tommy goes back into custody, and gets to come home for the weekend once every couple of months." his dad interrupted.
"Well, but I never had a watch before! Do I really geta wear it?" I asked.
"Dad!" Roy snarled. "That is sick! You cant..." when he didn't continue I glanced at his now sheepish face, then my uncle's angry glare. "Well, if he's got to wear one, I want to too." Roy proclaimed in a demanding voice that I was sure would get him killed.
They stared at each other for what seemed like forever. Just when I was sure my uncle was going to reach across the table and slap my best friend across the room he lowered his eyes, and took a drink of his milk shake. "I'm very impressed with your loyalty to your cousin Son. But understand, if you do, it is under the same rules."
Roy took the watch our of my hand and gave it a dirty look for a couple of seconds. "Okay, Sir." he groaned. He gave it a final glare and slipped it onto my wrist.
"Very well, finish your lunch and let's go shopping!" his dad responded. I quickly gave in to my stomach's demand for more burger, but I felt it knot up as my uncle added, "One more rule, Tommy." Here it comes, I told myself, but stuffed the last of my sandwich in my mouth.
"You have to accept the new bicycle as your own. It is a gift from Margie and I, and I expect you to accept it, and enjoy it."
"Her!" Roy snickered and poked me in my ribs.
"Oh, does she have a name yet?" my uncle quipped.
"What about, maybe Sweetie? Or Pretty Bike?" Roy giggled.
I turned to my friend trying to think of something to say, or even if I should hit him, but Uncle Walter's loud belly laugh told me I was hopelessly out numbered.
* * *
After we got back into the car Uncle Walter again explained that we had to go to Juvi, and I at least somewhat believed him this time that it was just to have my ankle monitor removed. None the less I was so relieved when he parked in front of a large sporting goods store it felt like a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders.
We all walked to a sales counter, and I saw my friend's face melt when the salesman produced a couple of watches like my new one, but after a couple of groans and moans he chose a blue one. When his dad began filling out some paperwork that they needed to get the watch connected Roy drifted away, and I followed.
"Hey, it's a neat looking watch!" I told his huge frown. He shrugged his shoulders as his only response. "Hey, let's go look at the bikes!" I tried.
We wandered through the extensive display area for a minute or so until I saw what I was sure was one like mine. "Wow, it cost that much?" I gasp when I saw its three-hundred dollar price tag.
"No, this one is like your's, an ML-7." Roy told me.
I almost fainted when I saw that it cost seventeen-hundred bucks. "I, I cant ride something like that!" I gasp. "What if I, well I crash it or stuff?"
"I'll ride it for you!" my friend grinned. I guess my face gave away my indignation and he poked my ribs and let out a giggle.
* * *
I felt a surge of panic rush through my body when Uncle Walter turned into the Detention Center's parking lot. A quick glance at its high barbed wire topped fences made me shudder, if I hadn't of been wearing my seat belt I'm sure I would have crawled under the car seat. The sight of Miss Piggy's big limo, and the two plain clothes cops standing next to it all but put me over the edge, and made my head spin.
When my uncle parked right behind the limo and the cops shot a dirty look I was sure at me I closed my eye and realized it was all over, I was on my way back to D Wing.
"Come on Tommy, this wont take long." my uncle's voice seemed to fade into the back of my mind. "It's okay Son, no one is going to hurt you." he tried I'm not sure how long later.
I felt my seatbelt being unbuckled, at the same time Roy's voice told me, "It's cool, Dad wont let them do anything."
"Roy and I will be with you, so will Mrs Clarke." his dad's voice chimed in. I stiffened when I felt a pair of hands grab me under my arms, but was hoisted out of the car before I could react.
"Come here, Tommy, you just stay next to me. Do you think anyone is going to mess with me?" Miss Piggy's voice injected.
I risk a glance around when I felt a huge hand cup my hand and wrist. Miss Piggy was standing next to me on one side, and Roy on the other. I managed to take a shallow breath when I realized there were no cops around, not even her's. Oh well, I cant escape, whatever. I decided as Roy wrapped his arm around my waist.
"Where's your security detail?" I heard my uncle ask in a soft voice.
"I ordered them to wait in the car." she answered. "They're madder than hell, I thought I'd have to sit on them to make them comply, but I know someone feels uncomfortable with them." Oh God! I thought as what she said sank in. I'll go where ever she says, just PLEASE don't let her sit on me!
Even though the lobby was packed with people we didn't even stop walking as we passed through it to a door someone was holding open for us. Another surge of panic flushed through me as I was led into a fairly large room. There were two uniformed guards waiting for us, and also eight or ten men in suits.
"Good day Madam Governor, Senator. It is an honor to have you visit our facility." one of the men said.
"Mister Director." Miss Piggy snarled. Her tone told me not to piss her off.
"Come over here and sit down Watkins." one of the guards ordered.
"TOMMY is going to stay right next to me." Miss Piggy barked. I didn't care where she was taking me I knew better than to resist as she walked me to the chair.
I started to believe what my uncle told was real when the guard dropped to one knee, pulled my pants leg up, my sock down and used a pair of wire cutters to cut my monitor off my ankle. That was short-lived, when I looked up I saw a pair of orange pajamas being set on a table nearby.
"I'll need a property receipt for all this." I heard my uncle say.
"Please straighten his stocking." Miss Piggy's still angry voice distracted me. The guard dropped back down on his knee, carefully pulled my sock up then smoothed my pants leg with his hands. "Unless our presence is still required, Tommy and I will wait outside." she added.
Before anyone could answer her big hand guided me to my feet and turned me toward the door.
"Thank you for visiting, it was a pleasure to see you Madam Governor." one of the men said.
"Rest assured we will see each other again, and very soon Mister Director." she barked. "And this time I doubt you will consider it a pleasure." she said under her breath as we walked through the lobby.
* * *
It wasn't until Uncle Walter turned into his driveway that a sense of reality began to sink in, that I was really free, at least until I screwed up again. As soon as he parked in the garage he climbed out of the car and started inside, but turned back and reminded me to bring my coat in with me. Although my eyes were fixed on the seventeen-hundred dollar bicycle that supposedly was mine, I managed a grunt before he closed his car door. Roy and I had taken a couple of steps toward the door when a noise behind us made us both turn around.
"Pssst, Roy, Tommy." a hushed voice rang from the shadows. Val, then Regan appeared an instant later, both of them wearing the same weird school uniforms as Roy, along with green backpacks. "What happened? With Tommy?" Val hissed.
"He's free! He's going to live here forever!" Roy proclaimed.
"Cool!" both of them hooted. The next thing I knew I was being squished into a three-way hug, everyone rubbing my back and arms and cheering.
"Boys, invite your guests inside, we don't entertain company in the garage." Uncle Walter's voice interrupted our celebration. "And I'm sure you two would like to get into some more comfortable clothes."
I quickly decided that was the best suggestion I had heard all day, but everyone else's faces looked like they were facing their doom. Roy managed a weak 'Yes Sir'. The four of us were about halfway across the den Uncle Walter stepped out of the kitchen.
"You guys sure got here quickly." Uncle Walter began. He made a bit of a show out of looking at his watch then continued, "I didn't think school dismissed for another forty-five minutes. Am I wrong?" brought the deadly silence into the room.
"Um, well yes Sir, well but sorta, sort of Sir..." Regan tried, his ashen white face, and his high cheek bones hanging down below his chin told everyone he wasn't going to continue.
"Well, they brought my bike home for me!" Roy announced. "Maybe they got out early!" he tried. Everyone's face told me that too failed.
"We only missed last period, Mister Benton, uh Senator Benton, Sir." Val whimpered. He took a deep breath and flashed a frightened glance toward Roy and I. "We were, well we were worried about Tommy! Well, Tommy and Roy, we were scared, uh worried if they were okay!" he exclaimed, his voice cracking through every octave in the music scale.
The expression on my uncle's face told me we were all dead, not only was my new freedom going to last only ten or fifteen minutes longer until the cops arrived, but I had managed to take down the only friends I had ever had too. Uncle Walter's silence stirred even more tension into the room as he slowly surveyed each of us.
"And you consider that a defense for playing hooky from school?" he asked.
We all exchanged frightened glances, I guess trying to think of an answer. Val stiffened so straight he looked like he was six-foot tall and whimpered, "Yes Sir." he cleared his throat and his second attempt wasn't quiet so ear piercingly high pitch.
"Yes Sir!" Regan proclaimed, his voice stronger than I expected.
"Yes Sir!" Roy chimed in. I did the same right after him.
Uncle Walter surveyed us again before putting his hand over his mouth. "I don't expect anything like to every happen ag..." he stopped short as his belly began to jiggle under his shirt. "I didn't see anything, anyone, now shoo before I change my mind!" he snickered, and disappeared into his bedroom.
Somehow I wasn't too surprised when Val and Regan tossed their backpacks on Roy's bed, and dug out their speedos. I didn't bother asking any questions and darted into the Blue room, and to my chest of drawers. I thought my body was really enjoying itself, with its newfound freedom from the dress clothes it had been locked in all day until I stepped back into Roy's room. The eye candy of my friends bouncing around in their skintight suits made me completely forget how good my body felt.
Alexis stepped out the patio door right behind us with a big tray loaded with drinks and a big bowl of fruit. I almost made it to the table so I could investigate the treat before a pair of hands grabbed my shoulders and turned me around. I was still trying to figure out what was going on when Alexis pulled me into a hug.
"It's so wonderful you will live here now!" she bubbled. I was trying to think of something to say when she disappeared into the house.
Aunt Marge came out right behind her. By the time she finished hugging and congratulating me, and fussing with my hair everyone else was in the pool.
"Don't mess up your hair, Sweetie!" Roy jeered when she had gone inside. I tried to catch him but was no match for his swimming skills.
Val and Regan got their share of teasing in when they noticed or new watches. Roy turned a little red when the first mentioned them, but after giving his another dirty look he recovered a little when our friends picked on us for wearing the same jewelry and trying to be twins, but he changed the subject quickly.
All too soon Alexis came back outside and informed us supper would be ready soon, and that Roy and I should dress. My friend's faces told me that also meant it was time for them to go home.
We were drying each other off when Val developed an evil grin. "Oh, yeah, Don wasn't in school today." he announced. "I wonder why?" he snickered.
"Because he knows I'm going to kill him!" Roy barked. I guess he saw my concerned look and added, "Well, not really kill him, but..."
"Yeah, but he has to come tomorrow, it's swim team practice. Coach will kill him if he misses!" Val announced. "Hey, why don't you come watch us!" He flashed me a blinding grin.
"Yeah, that would be cool!" Regan hooted. "And I want to see Don's face when he sees you!"
"Uh, I cant go places or stuff." Smooth move, I chastised myself as when I realized what I had said.
"Yes you can!" Roy countered. "Dad will say it's okay!" Everyone took off inside before I could answer.
* * *
Our evening was relaxingly quiet. We only had to wear running shorts, sleeveless tee-shirts and sandals for supper, which was delicious as usual. Aunt Marge almost made me loose my appetite when she announced that she was going to take to Doctor Frost's in the morning, then to a couple of other doctors in the afternoon, but Alexis' cooking was too wonderful to turn away from.
Everyone (but me!) thought it was a wonderful idea that I attend Roy practice provided we got home from my doctor visits early enough, and for the first time in my life I found myself hoping I would have to spend a long time seeing a Doc.
After supper Uncle Walter spent a few minutes showing Roy and I how to work our new watches. Roy let out a groan when his dad got on the computer, punched in a few lines and a screen came up that showed a street map and that we were together at what is was sure was their house. His face tightened a little more when one then the other of our watches began beeping and his dad explained the watch was also a pager, and that we were to call whatever phone number the watch displayed. My friend gave his dad a dirty look when he produced what he called a 'key fob', and showed each of how to unlock the wristband and remove the watch.
"It needs to be unlocked and plugged into its battery charger every night at bedtime." His dad explained. He showed us where to plug the charger in, then continued, "Now, I want you to take your key fobs and chargers up to your bedrooms, plug them in, and keep your key where you can find it." He handed a little box with a wire on it, and a key to each of us and added, "And, I want you to promise never to take your key out of your bedroom."
I answered Yes Sir and gathered everything up so I could carry it all, but Roy just stared at his dad. "You mean, uh, we, we get to keep the key?" he whimpered.
"Of course you do, it's your watch!" his dad exclaimed. "I've a spare, in case you loose it, which BETTER not happen." I tried to understand what was going on when Roy stared open-mouthed at his dad.
"Thanks Dad!" he hooted. He turned and ran a couple of steps away, but turned and rushed back, dropped his cargo and threw his arms around his dad's neck. "Your cool Dad, I love you!" he proclaimed. An instant later he pulled away, flashed one of his best imp grins and added, "Well, for a dad your kind of cool anyway." Somehow he gathered everything up and darted out of range before Uncle Walter could swat him, and survival instinct told my legs to follow him.
* * *
I felt really upbeat the next morning as I started down the stairs behind Roy, I even felt a little bounce in my step. After another of our wonderful showers together and I got dressed I couldn't help but spending a little extra time in front of the mirror. I wasn't completely thrilled with the dark blue walking shorts Roy had picked out for me to wear, they fit a little tighter than I wished, and only covered about the top inch of my thighs but they felt a lot better than the dress pants I had been stuffed into yesterday. The sky blue polo shirt and ankle socks, along with the leather sandals he had chosen, and my new watch did look great on me. If everyone didn't know better I was sure I could have passed for one of his preppie friends. Well, and better than green shorts and knee socks! I told myself as I surveyed Roy's round little biscuit butt.
My elated spirit quickly melted when I started into the kitchen and felt Aunt Marge's irate eyes drilling into my body. Just when I was about to bolt back upstairs and put on a suit she called me to her. Oh well, I groaned, but slithered toward her.
"Tommy, you look absolutely beautify!" she declared. "Roy, perhaps you should begin noting your cousin's attire when you choose yours."
He turned his face away from us before muttering, "Yes Ma'am." I was sure I heard a soft snicker in his voice.
"Finish your breakfast quickly," she instructed. "Roy, as soon as you finish eating please place your bicycle in the back of my car. We have to obtain a visitor's pass for Tommy before you report to your lessons, so he can attend your swim event."
I took a deep breath, and decided I had enough nerve to tell her, and Roy, I didn't want to go, but she had disappeared when I looked up. A glance at Roy's excited face shot down any bravado I had built up. Well, maybe the docs will take a long time. I groaned.
When Aunt Marge turned into the parking lot I was sure she had called ahead, and all the kids that attended Saint Luke's sent outside so they could get a good look at me, the visiting convict. After a few death glares from my aunt I took a couple of deep breaths and climbed down out of her big SUV. Roy latched on to me before I could get my balance, and before I knew it I was being led up a wide sidewalk toward a zillion sets of white and green uniforms, each of their eyes drilling holes in my skull.
We had walked a few feet when something slammed into my side. I groaned, knowing their assault had begun, but when no one hit me for a second or so I risked a glance - instead of an attacker Regan was lining up next to me, flashing a wide grin that made my eyes jerk away from his face. We were about half way to the building when a bike, aand white and green clad rider skidded to a stop near the entrance. Val tossed his ride, then his helmet into the crowd and rushed to join us. I wonder if Aunt Marge will spring for some cheep sunglasses! I asked myself when I finally risk a glance at my audience.
Once we made our way inside and to the office everything began to happen much quicker than I could have imagined. One of the office ladies handed Aunt Marge a couple of papers while Val, Regan and Roy ushered me behind another lady into a small room. I started to freak when I saw a mug shot camera in the room but thought, What the hell, everyone else has one! and stood in front of their little white screen.
My eyes were still trying to adjust from the flash a few seconds later when the lady handed me a little plastic card about the size or one of the credit cards I had seem my uncle use. "Be sure you wear it anytime you are on campus, or security will detain you." she said. I didn't have time to look at it until my entourage had escorted me out of building, but it was an ID card sort of thing, it even had my picture burned into the plastic.
* * *
Here we go, the fun begins. I groaned a few minutes later when Doctor Frost stepped into his waiting room and greeted us. Although I had mixed emotions, who was the worse of the two evils, I silently groaned a second time when Aunt Marge announced she was leaving, and would pick me up in 'two or three hours'.
Doctor Frost escorted me into his office, and was pretty nice while we talked for the first few minutes. I kept wishing he'd start his Shrink stuff and get it over with, but all he wanted to do was chat, sort of joke about my weekend, and my trip to court - if I didn't know better it felt sort of like Roy and I talking and joking around about it while we were in the pool, but I knew he was going to drop the boom soon.
Here it comes! I decided when a middle-aged lady stepped into his office. "Tommy, this is Suzanne, she is going to help you work on a few computer programs I'd like you to try." the doctor informed me. "We will talk again when your aunt comes to pick you up."
I just shrugged knowing their drain of my brains was about to begin, and barely noticed the lady lean over and whisper something to the doc. "Oh." he grunted. "I'm sorry, there has been a change." made me freeze in place, and pray I wouldn't loose it and piss myself. "Walt, your Uncle Walter is going to be picking you up. I'll see you soon!" he smiled.
Uncle Walter? Yeah, YEAH I knew he'd come and save me! I cheered: silently, but still loud enough to make my ears ring.
Most of the things I had to do on the computer were games. A lot of them were kind of corny, but some them made me think really hard. I couldn't help wonder if some of them were tests like I had been given in Spring Ridge and the brief periods I had spent in school, but they were still more entertaining than the pages of numbers I had experienced before.
I didn't argue when Suzanne told me I had finished, and Uncle Walter was a really welcome sight when I was ushered back into Doctor Frost's office. I couldn't resist pushing my waist under his arm and leaning against the side of his chair.
I was a little confused a minute or so later when my uncle stood up and guided me toward the door. Wow, maybe they forgot, let's get out of here before they remember! I thought. Yeah, but what if they remember? You don't even want to come back here any sooner than you gotta! the more reasonable side of my brain added.
I took a deep breath and turned around. "Um, well, everyone said you were going to, well Roy said I gotta get a session with you. Talk to me about Shrink stuff." My stomach fell into my leg when I realized what I had said. "I mean, uh psychology stuff, sir." I groaned.
Doctor Frost's face changed expressions over and over again so fast I couldn't read any of them. When he looked away for a second and took a couple of deep breaths I knew I was dead meat.
"That is, that is what we did when you first arrived." he said in an unsteady voice. "We'll, we will talk again, in a few days." he seemed to snicker, then rushed out of his office through a side door.
Uncle Walter draped his arm over my shoulder and pulled me against his side as soon as we stepped into the building's hallway. "Shrink stuff?" he chuckled. He paused for a couple of seconds, I'm sure to let me suffer, then added, "I hope you know I'm never going to let you live that down!"
* * *
Most of the rest of the day went better than I expected. After a really good lunch on the same building's top floor my uncle excused himself and Aunt Marge escorted me from one office to the next.
The first Doctor spent a while looking in my eyes and making me read some charts through what had to be the eyeglasses from Hell, it they dozens of dials and knobs on them, and was even mounted on a big frame. A quick walk down the hall later this lady spent forever looking in my ears then locked me in this little box and made me listen for beeps in a set of headphones, but nothing else.
The next stop wasn't quiet as easy, but nothing too terrible. They stabbed me in the arm and sucked a gallon or so of blood out, hooked me up to a bunch of wires, even made me pee in a cup.
When they finished all that they showed us into a little room with a high cot in it, and a couple of minutes later this old man came in and spent a few minutes listening to my chest, looked down my throat, then my ears and eyes, again. I was a little relieved when he asked my aunt to wait outside, well until I found out it was a strip search. At least he didn't play with my butt and stuff like the guards loved to do, he didn't even search my clothes before he let me put them back on! I got a little worried when he sent me to the waiting room and called my aunt back, but he didn't find anything when he searched me, so I didn't think I was in too much trouble.
It didn't take me long to figure out the blood-letting and such was just to prepare me for what turned out to be our last visit of the day. As soon as we got there a couple of ladies led me back to this little room, perched me in this totally weird looking chair and stuck a huge frame into my ears. The next thing I knew the chair started vibrating and this huge metal box swooped in front of my face. Just as I began to recover from that the ladies stuffed some small pieces of cardboard inside my mouth and made me bite down on them while they pointed this weird looking machine that looked like it came from a Si-Fi movie at my mouth.
The reclining chair they stuffed me into next looked pretty strange, but it was really comfortable. That was until this man showed up, made me open my mouth wide and began poking my teeth and gums with something. Just when was convinced that had to be the worst they could dream up another lady to his place, and attacked my teeth with what felt like a small grinding wheel.
Oh God, what now? I groaned when a different man started poking around inside my mouth. It didn't take me long to find out, a minute after he finished one of the ladies crammed a tray of really nasty tasting over my teeth and told me to pant like a dog. I panted, but to try and fight off the urge to puke all over her.
After they took a set of mug shots of my face, then my teeth they finally told me they were done. I never would have thought it was possible, but my aunt was almost a welcome sight when I stepped into the waiting room.
* * *
The tall ice cream Alexis sat in front of me right after we arrived was one of the most wonderful sights I had seen in a long time, after inhaling about half of it my teeth even hinted they might forgive me for what I put them through earlier.
Wow, I wonder if I maybe I can get to? I thought as I stared out the patio door, and the pools inviting water. No, she'd never let me. That's for her son and stuff. I decided when I glanced at Aunt Marge's natural snarl. Well, she cant kill me too bad just for asking. I told myself.
"Maybe can I go swimming, please?" I tried.
"I'm afraid you don't have time to Sweetie. You must leave in a few minutes if you are to meet Roy on time." I think she misinterpreted my melting face and added, "At his swim team practice, remember?"
"Well, I, uh, well I was wondering if maybe I could go next time or stuff." My mind shifted into high gear, there was no way I was going to go there and let everyone make fun of me. "I'm sorta tired and stuff, maybe if I..."
"Tommy, it would be completely rude to decline such an invitation!" she barked. "And, your cousin is very excited about having you meet the rest of his friends, he would be heartbroken of you disappointed him." she said in a softer voice. "Besides, your Pediatrician said you need to get more exercise, the bike ride will be good for you."
My head spun slightly as her statement sunk in. I would love to go ride their bike, we sort of my bike, but not to Saint Luke's! Well, Roy will understand. I assured myself. "Well, but I don't know how to get there." I tried.
"I've drawn you a map, and it is very easy to follow. You must leave shortly, please go brush your teeth." she countered.
"Please do as I asked you, immediately." she growled. "I must have time to fix your hair." The look on her face seemed to push me off my stool.
My brain was overdrive as I shuffled upstairs, there had to be a way out of this. I was rinsing my teeth, wondering if I had enough water in my mouth to drown myself when an inspiration struck. Yeah! I told the mirror. I can go see the little fishies instead! Roy wont tell on me or nothing! I felt my throat tighten when I realized I didn't really know where to find them, but it was worth a try. If I got lost Roy would come find me.
My plot seemed to be coming together better than I ever could have imagined when I went back downstairs. My aunt handed me a map before starting on my hair, then told me what to look for regarding the two turns I had to make, she had no idea where I was really going! After she turned me around, picked at my shirttail for a few seconds she flashed me one of her very rare smiles.
"Don't be nervous Tommy, you will do fine," she reassured me. "I'm going to check the computer every minute or so until I know you are with Roy, and your new watch will tell me if you get lost, and where to come find you!" she beamed.
Oh God, oh shit, can she really do that? I asked I guess the watch as I slithered across the garage floor. Hey, what if it just sorta, fell off! She couldn't find me then! A couple of tugs on the wristband seemed to attract my eyes to the little keyhole in it. I'm dead, so dead, I decided as a vision of the key, upstairs in the Blue room flashed into my mind.
"Tommy, scoot, you mustn't be late!" Aunt Marge's voice echoing through the garage told me the end was very near.
* * *
Her directions were easy to follow, and even though I rode at a snails pace Saint Luke's stoic building came into sight sooner than I wanted. I was checking traffic, waiting to cross the street into the parking lot, when I saw two cop cars coming at me. At first I panicked, but then decided it might be an easy way out when I felt the cops glare drilling into me. Oh well, I groaned when they kept going and disappeared around the next corner.
Thankfully there was an open space in the bike rack next to Roy's bike. I hesitated, took a couple of deep breaths and decided I had to go through with it. "Stay awake girl, we might have to make quick getaway." I told my purple steed as I parked her. After taking a minute to give her frame a couple of extra pets I slipped my helmet off and shuffled toward my fate.
I was a few feet from the "Aquatics Building' Aunt Marge's map directed me to when a loud bell I was sure was an intruder alarm made me all but jump out of my skin. An instant later what at first I thought were the cops, but turned out to be twenty or so green and white clad kids burst out the door of a nearby building.
"Tommy! Yea!" Val's cracking voice screeched. "Cool, you really did come!" he hooted, and wrapped his lanky arms around me for a quick hug.
Before I could answer what looked like a sea of ugly green shorts and white shirts flooded the walkway, and he hustled me next to the Aquatics Center's door. Roy, Regan and a couple of boys I somewhat recognized from Roy's skinny dip party joined us, and I found myself traveling into the building without having to move my feet. The next thing I knew we were standing next to a long set of bleachers facing a huge indoor pool.
"Wow! You really came! Thanks, I don't believe it!" Roy exclaimed and pulled me into a long hug.
"Yeah, now pay up!" Val demanded.
Roy held me for another instant before turning to our tall friend. "Oh well, it's worth it, he really came." he sighed.
He pulled some money of his shorts pocket and slapped a ten dollar bill into Val's waiting hand. Regan matched Roy's sigh and pulled out a wad of bills as fat as the one Uncle Walter carries and peeled of another ten for Val: two more hands thrust their money out a second later.
I guess my face betrayed my curiosity, and Val beamed, "We bet if you were going to come or not, and I won! Everyone else bet you wouldn't!"
Several boys clad only in skin-tight speedos rushing past us to the pool's edge distracted me.
"Well, uh, I heard Dad tell Mom not to make you come if you didn't want to, and well, you didn't or nothing." Roy whined. I didn't have to! And Aunt Marge still made me! I thought. I'm, I'm gonna, well, I don't know, but I'm gonna!
"I'm sorry, I didn't really bet against you." Roy whimpered. "Well but you said..."
"Coach!" someone whispered.
"We have to go change we'll be right back." Roy hissed. They were gone before I could blink my eyes.
I stared after them for a second trying to figure what they were talking about, and somewhat where they got that kind of money, until some noise and snickering voices made me look back toward the pool. I was surprised that the snickers weren't aimed at me, but the line of firm, smooth bodies crammed into bright red speedos that seemed to be even tighter than the one's Roy had given me were having a good time grabbing each other's bodies. When I noticed most of them had pulled bright green stretch skull-caps over their hair that was probably an even uglier color than Roy's school shorts I forgot about what my friends and I had been talking about.
They didn't seem interested in me, more with joking and grabbing each other, and my eyes were enjoying snacking on most of the line when one then another of them froze all but motionless, and turned toward me. Shit, the caught me. I groaned when I realized the entire line of cute bodies had their eyes seemed to be glued on my face.
I blushed probably every color in the rainbow before I snapped enough to turn away from their stare, hoping to plan my escape route. I found the door, but I froze too when I saw what was between it and me. Don was standing about ten feet from me.
Although I felt the blood, and I'm sure the color drain from my face, and had to beg my knees not to buckle, he looked even worse than I was sure I did. He was completely motionless, even his chest didn't seem to move. The color seemed to have been drained out of his deep tan all over his body so much that except for his red speedos and little green piece of plastic in his hand, he was so ashen white I wondered if he hadn't been petrified to stone.
"Run Don," a voice whispered from the pool wall.
"Do you think that little guy can take Don?" another gasp.
"I heard he killed a couple of dudes in Juvi." someone muttered.
"And beat up some cops!" came another hushed voice. "My Dad said he did! Three or four of them, and all by himself!"
I am dead, so dead! I told myself. If Don did all that, he's gonna crunch me up like a paper cup! I realized.
"Just because he had to!" still another voice chimed in. "He's not a prick like Don is! He's gonna stomp Don like he needs to be!"
To Be Continued…