"Ma, I really don't want to go tonight."
"Jared, you know you can't stay home alone all weekend."
Jared grinned impudently. "Why not? The kid in Home Alone did and he was younger than I am!"
Sally McKendrick chuckled. "True, but this isn't the movies." Then she grew serious. "What's up with you anyway? The past few days you have been acting out like a little kid, not the young man you are."
"Jed went away, and I have no idea where!" Jared cried. In a smaller, defeated voice, he admitted, "I miss him, and I'm worried about him."
"I know you are, sweetheart. He was your best friend ...."
Sixteen-year-old Mickey interrupted, "I think they're in love."
Jared's face got red all the way to the tips of his ears. He glared at his brother and said, "Bite me, bro."
Mickey chuckled as Sally warned them, "Watch your language at the table." Then she continued, "You do know his parents died, don't you?"
"Duh. We were at the funeral, Ma. What I *don't* understand is why he had to go away. I don't even know where he is, so how can I write to him or anything?"
"Don't get smart! I'll explain as much as I know. Maureen McConnaghay told me part of the story the day after Mr. Scordo was arrested. There was something fishy about how they died, so Jeremiah and his brother were taken into protective custody."
Eight-year-old Raffy giggled. "Did you hear the way Jed told off ole Scordo? That was so-o-o cool!"
"Well, don't you be taking it into your head that that's appropriate behavior around adults, all right?"
Jared cut in scathingly, "Oh, and I suppose Scordo's behavior was 'appropriate'?"
"That will be enough, young man!" Sally snapped, her patience wearing thin. Then she pulled herself together, and in a gentler voice said, "I know it's sometimes hard when we lose a friend, but you're just going to have to accept the fact that he had to go, and get on with your own life."
"I *knew* you wouldn’t understand!" Jared stormed. He shoved back his chair, got up from the table and started to stalk away. "I WON'T accept it," he shot back, "and I'm not going to school today, and I'm not going tonight. It's not gonna be the same without Jed there."
John stepped in. "Let it go, Sal. I'll go talk to him."
The black-and silver SUV ate up the miles as they drove through the Maine countryside. Jared continued to sulk, despite his parents' and his brothers' attempts to draw him out. The terrain got rougher, the further they got into the mountains, but the Envoy's four-wheel drive handled it with ease, even the badly rutted dirt road that led to the campsite. John pulled to a stop as they reached it, and everyone got out and stretched, breathing in deep gulps of the fresh, crisp mountain air.
Jared went through the motions of doing what was expected of him, helping to set up the tent, gather firewood, and prepare the evening meal of camp stew, rolls and hot cider prepared from an instant mix. But his heart just wasn't in it.
I'm really sorry I've been such a brat, he thought to himself with tears in his eyes. But it just hurts so much that Jed had to go away and couldn't be here. But I just don't know how to tell them what it feels like. They don't understand, and I doubt if they even care. And that joke Mickey made -- whoo, that was close! If people figured out the truth, there’d be real trouble. He put more wood on the fire to make sure it was hot enough while his mother made up the packets for the stew. He could tell she was watching him with some kind of strange look in her eyes. But he ignored her as he continued thinking to himself, Because I do love Jed. And Ma and Dad would definitely have a fit if they knew. And I'd get laughed out of school by my other friends too. You know what people say about guys who love other guys *that* way. Then there's Jed. I can't let him know my true feelings either, because he might not like me any more if he knew. I'd rather keep him as a friend than lose him altogether by my tellin' him. Maybe it's just as well he did have to go away.
Mickey was bringing water to a boil for the cider, and Dad was getting the rolls out of the package and wrapping them in foil. Finally the fire was hot enough and Sally placed the stew packets among the coals, and they snacked on chips until it was ready.
Eventually the meal was over, and the family was lounging on lawn chairs, replete with a good meal and fresh country air. Jared dutifully helped with the cleaning up, then went off a short distance by himself to think. In spite of himself, he was beginning to respond to the air, the wind playing through the pines, the rustle of dry leaves underfoot, and the myriad stars beginning to wink into existence. Somehow, it all made it easier to sort out his feelings. With tears in his eyes he looked up. "Jed," he whispered brokenly to the night, "I remember how we promised each other we'd lay in our sleeping bags and stay awake all night trying to see who could count the most stars. But now you're gone." Suddenly he got on his knees and folded his hands. "Dear Father," he prayed, "I know You had to take Jed away for his own good, but I miss him SO much! Please watch over him, and his little brother Ceej, too. And please make it stop hurting so much that he's gone, and if You can, let him know that I'm thinking of him, and hope he's all right. And Father, if it's not against Your will, let us be together again someday. In Jesus' name, amen."
His heart still heavy, but feeling somewhat better, Jared walked back to the clearing where the campsite was set up.
"Feeling better, Son?" his father asked gently.
Jared shrugged. "A little, I guess."
"Do you think maybe now you can get on with your life and do what you're supposed to?" Sally asked with some little concern. "You've got the whole school year ahead of you, and you've always been such a good student."
Jared glared at his mother. "Y'see, Ma, that's part of the problem. You seem more concerned about how I *behave* than how I *feel*. No disrespect meant, but that just doesn't seem fair somehow."
"Well, 'feelings,' as you call them, aren't what’s going to get you anywhere in this world. It wasn't built on feelings, it grew on the basis of peoples' behavior toward one another. And that's the bottom line, Jared. I've taught you the Golden Rule 'do unto others,' and so forth. When you understand that, you'll go far."
"I think you're wrong, Ma," Jared said quietly, but he wouldn't say any more. "I'm gonna go sack out. Talk to you guys in the morning."
As he tucked himself into his sleeping bag, Jared decided he didn't really feel all that much better, but he realized in himself that his mother was right in one respect - he did need to move on. He'd miss Jed, but maybe someday he'd find himself another friend with whom he could share hopes and dreams, and who knew? He might even someday find out where Jed was and be able to get a hold of him somehow, and know for sure that he was OK. As he closed his eyes to go to sleep, he became aware of a warm weight on the ground beside him. Startled, and fearing that some kind of wild animal had gotten into the clearing, he looked up to see Raffy cuddled up next to him outside his sleeping bag.
"Hey, wazzup, li'l bro?" Jared whispered.
"Jare, what's 'feelings'?"
Jared sat up so he could think more clearly. "Well," he began, "you know how when you cut yourself, it hurts, right?"
Raffy nodded solemnly.
"Okay, that's one kind of feeling. That's on the outside. There's other kinds of feelings, but they're on the inside, more or less where your heart is. Remember times when Ma chewed your ah - uh butt about something, and you felt like crying?"
"Oh yeah, that's happened lotsa times."
"Well, that's sort of like the feelings I'm talking about. Then there's the hurting kind when you lose something."
Raffy brightened. "Oh, I know what you mean! One time I lost one of my GI Joe men, and I felt so bad, I cried and cried. Nobody could find him, so I made up a story about how he went to fight in Iraq and got missing in action. I still missed him, but at least I had a reason for him to be gone, and I could play with the others without feeling like the set was broke."
"Attaboy, li'l bro, you've got the idea. That's kind of like how I feel about Jed going away. Only I don't know how to go on, because I can't think of a story to make up to explain why the set got broke."
Raffy reached out and gently touched Jared's face. "I'll help you figure something out, Jare. I promise. C'n I get in your sleeping bag with you?"
"Sure. Climb in." Jared opened his sleeping bag enough so the small form of his brother could slide in, and soon the two of them were snuggled together fast asleep.
The family had finished their breakfast of reconstituted scrambled eggs, fresh bacon cooked over the campfire, and reheated biscuits. There was coffee for the grownups, and reconstituted Tang for the kids. After breakfast, and cleaning up, Jared and Raffy went off to play a short distance from the campsite. They didn't have anything particular in mind, just to get away by themselves for a while to continue the camaraderie that had taken shape the night before. Eventually they came to a low place where the ground was kind of damp and spongy, and a profusion of strange plants grew all around. Jared knelt down and pointed to a funny-looking plant that grew from a base of long, pointy leaves laying flat to the ground and looked like a long tube with a mouth at the end. "C'mere, Raffy, look at this. See that funny-looking plant there - the one that looks like a tall, narrow pitcher?"
"Yeah, what is it?"
"It's called a pitcher plant, and they’re carnivorous."
"What's 'carnivorous' mean?"
"It means they eat meat. See, they catch bugs. They give off a sweet smell that attracts bugs, and the bugs crawl in to see if the sweet smell is something good to eat, then the plant eats them. I saw some of these on a field trip our class took last year. It was so cool. The teacher dug up one to take back to the classroom, even though you're not supposed to do that. He said he wanted to see if he could make it grow in the classroom."
"I don't know; it was late in the year, and I didn’t get that teacher again this year. It was still alive when school got out."
"We've got a Venus fly-trap in our room. The teacher once brought in some raw hamburger to feed it. She stuck a tiny bit on a tweezer and poked it between the leaves and they just snapped right shut." Raffy giggled. "That was funny."
"It's the same idea. But it just goes to show you that some plants can be dangerous."
"What're those white ones way over there?"
"Let's go check 'em out. Be careful; the ground's kind of wet here."
Together the two boys walked over to where a profusion of plants were growing. They had glossy green leaves and three "slim, white petals. "Oh, these are called 'trilliums,'" Jared explained. "See how each plant has three white petals?”
"Uh-huh. How do you know so much?"
"One of the classes I had to take last year was introductory biology. One part we spent learning all about plants and stuff."
"Let's pick a few to take back to Mom and Dad."
"Nuh-uh, we can’t do that."
"Why not," Raffy demanded petulantly. "They’re pretty; Mom and Dad'll love them."
"Yeah, but they're protected."
"What does that mean?"
"It means that the Government has decided that there aren't enough of them, so they made it a law that you can't pick them, 'cause if you do, they'll all die and there won't be any more, ever."
Jared chuckled. "Maybe from your point of view, but what if these flowers did go away forever? That'd *really* suck, 'cause nobody would be able to enjoy them."
"I suppose you’ve got a point there."
"C'mon, let's get back to camp; Ma and Dad will be starting to wonder where we are."
As Jared and Raffy went off to explore, Mickey looked at his father worriedly and said, "Do you think Jare'll be all right, Dad?"
"I think so, Son," John replied with a tone implying more confidence than he actually felt. "I don't think any of us realized how close he actually was to Jeremiah."
Mickey said nothing to that. His comment at the breakfast table yesterday had been taken as a joke, but he'd had his suspicions for some time. Yeah, he'd seen Jare making moon-eyes at Nina Colson, but he also guessed it meant nothing to the younger boy - nothing, that is, compared to the relationship that seemed to be developing between Jare and that kid, Jeremiah Templeton. Mickey would have sworn, sometimes those two acted like a couple of lovebirds. It was fine with him. His brother could love anybody he wanted to. He recalled that song from when he was about ten years old. His parents had taken him and Jare to see The Lion King. There was a song whose lyrics stayed with him to this day:
Some say, Eat, or be eaten
Some say, Live and let live,
But all are agreed
That to join the stampede,
You should never take more than you give
In the circle of life;
It's the wheel of fortune,
It's the leap of faith,
It's the band of hope;
Till we find our way
On the path unwindin’, yeah
In the circle
The circle of life.
Mickey had taken that part about "live and let live" to heart. What did it matter, how a person behaved, or ate, or loved, so long as they didn't take more from this world than they gave? Too many times people thought the other one was wrong because he was black, Chinese, gay, or dressed funny, or ate collard greens and hog jowls. So what? *Live and let live.*
Ma seemed to think that proper behavior counted for a lot in this world. He disagreed, but he kept his mouth shut in the interest of keeping peace in the family. He wasn’t considered "old enough" yet to express opinions on opinions adults held sacred.
But Jared's feelings about Jed were going to really piss Ma off, if she got a clue what those feelings really were. Because Mickey was more and more certain that his younger brother was gay. If that was true, Jared was going to have a rough time making his way along "the path unwindin'," because being gay was just not an accepted thing.
He came out of his reverie long enough to hear Sally comment, "I think coming on this trip has done Jared a world of good. His behavior seems to have improved markedly already. See how he's paying more attention to his brother?" She sat there in her camp chair, smiling fondly.
Yeah, right, Ma, Mickey thought to himself. That's only because Raffy is the only one that even *tried* to understand how he felt. I heard them talking last night, before we all went to sleep. Even I didn't realize what his true feelings were, but Raffy seemed to get right to the heart of the matter. I'm glad, because somebody's gonna have to give him moral support. I'll do what I can. He won't get any hassle from me about the paths he chooses; I don’t give a damn how he behaves, as long as he gives as much credit to the next guy.
Rina sat up abruptly in bed, her sleep disturbed by the scream from down the hall. She tossed on a robe and ran to the boys' room. "What's wrong? Was it another dream about your parents' murder?" she asked in deep concern?
"No," Jed said, "it's feels like another one of those precognitation dreams. It's Jared, and he's gonna be hurt - bad!" He began crying.
Rina held him and tried to calm him. C.J. climbed out of his own bed and joined her. "C'mere, brother. You protected me when Mom and Dad got killed. Now let me help you." He wrapped his arms around his big brother and did his best to comfort him.
Rina sat there holding them both, trying to soothe Jed's tears, until he seemed to be calming down. "D'you think you can get back to sleep?"
"I guess," Jed answered. "Can I talk to Dan and Kyle about this tomorrow?"
"Of course, baby," she answered. She kissed his forehead, ran her hand across his hair, and turned to go to her own room.
"I'm gonna stay here and hold Jed," C.J. said. "Is that OK?" She gave him a thumbs-up and a smile.
The camping trip had been sorta fun after all, Jared thought. They were on their way back home, and everyone seemed to be feeling pretty good. The sun was beginning to sink behind the mountains as they headed south toward Arkham, seeming to turn the very air around them a rosy gold color. It still hadn't been the same without Jared there, but he know that somehow he'd have to figure out a way to go on. Maybe he could take a leaf from Raffy's "M.I.A." scenario, and pretend that Jed had been recruited by the CIA or something, and he was on a top-secret mission, that he couldn't tell anybody about.
Suddenly Sally screamed, "JOHN, LOOK OUT!!!"
Pain. Oh, the awful pain. Jared groaned, wondering, Where am I? Have I gone to hell?
Flashing lights. Huh, he wondered muzzily, whatinhell's goin' on?
"It's all right, li'l buddy, we're gonna getcha outa there real soon now."
Was that voice talking to him? Jared wondered. He groaned.
"Just hang on there, Jare, help's coming." That seemed to be a different voice, but none of it made any sense. What is happening, he desperately wondered.
"I still think it sucks," said Bobby petulantly as the EMT mobile unit swung smoothly down the curving slope from the mountains.
"That's strange," Skipper responded from behind the wheel with a grin. "I would have sworn that sucking was one of the things you *wanted* to have happen."
"Well, yeah, of course," Bobby said with a smirk. "And that we can't is, you know, what sucks."
"I don't think you realize how absolutely lucky we are," Skipper said.
"Hey, I sure do. Nobody could ask for a more awesome boyfriend - even if he won't have sex with me."
"Look, I think the law is as stupid as you do," Skipper answered. "But the fact is, I'm 20 and you're 14, and most of the world is going to call it child molesting. We're just super lucky that your mother knows better - and she and I agreed, we're not going to risk anything that could make legal trouble, not until you reach the legal age of consent. I love you too much to put you through the shit that would happen - not to mention that I'd be in jail. It's only a year and a half to wait, and when you turn 16, I don't plan on letting you out of bed for three days straight."
"There won't be anything straight about it," Bobby rejoined, grinning, his mood somewhat improved.
"We're starting to come back into populated area; move over so you're not glued to my hip, and flip the scanner on, OK?" Skipper replied, smiling at Bobby’s joke.
"All units alert," came over the scanner. "P.I. accident on Highway 27 zero point seven miles north of Carrabassett. Probable fatalities. All units able to respond please confirm."
Skipper switched on the emergency-band radio. "Arkham EMT Unit One."
"Go, Arkham One."
"About two miles north of accident site, proceeding to site Code 3."
"Roger that, Arkham One."
"Switch on the lights and sirens, Bobby, then call your mom on your cell and tell her we’ll be late."
Bobby did just that, wasting no motions, then slipped into the back, bracing himself against any sudden motions, and pulled Skipper's primary aid kit and his own First Aid kit. Skipper thought again how lucky he was, as he swung around another curve and saw it.
"Holy shit, there’s kids trapped in there!"
"Omigod, that’s Jared!"
Accident Report Narrative
This narrative report is intended to supplement Maine BMV Form 21, Vehicle Accident Report.
Deputy Oliver Winfield, being duly sworn, deposes and says:
At approximately 7:35 PM on October 10, 2004, I was on patrol on my normal shift when I was dispatched to investigate a report of an accident on Highway 27 at a location approximately three quarters of a mile north of Carrabassett. On arriving at the scene, I found a two vehicle accident. A northbound red Mack tractor-semitrailer combination was jackknifed and blocking both lanes of the highway. It had apparently collided with a southbound black 2004 Envoy in the course of jackknifing. The impact evidently happened in the southbound lane. Three logs from the trailer had been dislodged by the impact and had flown forward into the engine and passenger compartment of the Envoy.
A man, Emil Auguste Labordeau, 27, of Houlton, ME, was walking around the scene in an alcohol-induced stupor. He identified himself as the driver of the Mack truck. I ran a breathalyzer test of Mr. Labordeau, and he blew a 0.13. I then placed him under arrest for DUI and suspicion of vehicular homicide.
The operator of the Envoy, Mr. John Michael McKendrick, 40, had been struck by one of the logs passing through the windshield and impacting his head and chest area, killing him instantly. The impact of the log was sufficient to dislodge the driver's seat from its mounting and force it into the rear-seat area.
There were four passengers in the Envoy. The front passenger seat was occupied by Mr. McKendrick’s wife, Sally Erskine McKendrick, 39, who was also killed instantly by another log passing through the windshield and impacting her head and chest area. The left of the rear bench seat was occupied by Mickey Harmon McKendrick, 16; the center area by Raphael Erskine McKendrick, 10; and the right by Jared Scott McKendrick, 13. All three boys were injured. Based on initial findings by the EMT and at the hospital's Emergency Services facilities, Mickey appears to have spinal injuries, evidently resulting from the driver’s seat flying back into him. Jared's right femur is fractured, and Raphael evidences four broken ribs. All three boys also have miscellaneous bruises and contusions on head, torso, and limbs.
Assisting at the scene were state troopers from the Skowhegan station, members of the Farmington, Arkham, and Madison Fire Companies, and Arkham EMT James "Skipper" Hamilton. Mr. Hamilton stabilized the boys and ambulances transported them to Franklin County Regional Hospital. Mr. & Mrs. McKendrick's bodies were transported to the Franklin County Morgue.
I was not able to get a coherent account of the accident from any of the four survivors. My tentative reconstruction, subject to later review, suggests that Mr. Labordeau swerved into the southbound lane, i.e. the left lane for him, owing to intoxication, attempted to recover from this, and jackknifed, with the rear of his tractor unit and the front of the flatbed trailer impacting the front of the McKendrick vehicle. The impact dislodged the improperly secured logs, which then flew into the engine and passenger areas of that vehicle, causing the injuries as noted above.
I certify the above to be a valid statement of fact except for the paragraph designated as a probable reconstruction of events. I make this statement under penalty of perjury.
/s/ Oliver Winfield, Deputy
Franklin County Sheriff's Dept.
Maureen McConnaghay was worried. Not worried-worried, more like "things-going-bump-in-the-night" worried. First there was the Templeton murders, and their kids taken into protective custody, and not a week later, this - a major accident out on Route 27. As Frank had once said, there hasn't been this much excitement in town since McKinley ran for President. What *was* going on here, anyway? If she didn't know better, she would wonder if the Fairy Folk were offended by something, and getting ready to take out their wrath on mankind. In her worldview, it wasn't outside the realms of possibility.
She approached the scene with caution. She knew people had a low opinion of investigative reporters, so she wanted to be sensitive to that. But at the same time, there was a story here, and she was going to cover it with every ounce of skill and tact she possessed. She owed it to the Dispatch to cover the story the best she could.
She pulled to a stop on the fringe of the scene. There were emergency vehicles with flashing lights every which way, some on the highway, some pulled onto the shoulder, and a helicopter hovering overhead. A State Trooper came to her window. "Sorry ma''am, you're gonna have to find another way around. This road's been temporarily closed on account of the accident. You might wanna change whatever plans you've got, because it's gonna be a while cleaning this mess up."
She pulled out her 'press' badge and showed it to the trooper.
"Oh, God, a reporter!" he snarled. "You people get off on other peoples' misfortunes, don't you!"
"Officer, I'm just here to investigate the accident. I promise, I won't get in anybody's way.”
"You'd better not!"
"Do you have any idea at this point how it happened?"
"Looks like a logging truck swerved into the wrong lane and slammed into a brand-new SUV carrying a family of five. You can get details from the accident report at the station-house; it'll be a matter of public record. Now you're going to have to excuse me, I've got some *real* work to do."
"Yes, sir, Officer Sir," Maureen muttered. She didn't like cops any better than this one seemed to like reporters. She got out of the car and wandered around the scene, taking a few pictures. She came to what looked like the car of the family that had been hit. Technicians were operating a Jaws of Life to get it apart to free the victims inside. I don't see how anyone could have survived that! she thought to herself.
Just then, they pulled what looked like a kid from the wreckage, and he looked to be still alive! They placed him on a backboard and signaled the chopper to land nearby.
She snapped a picture as, in what seemed like moments, he was whisked efficiently into the chopper, which was immediately airborne again. Meanwhile the rescue crew was in the process of extracting two more people, again, what looked like kids, even younger than the first. She got more photographs as the other two were placed in ambulances and driven away to the sound of sirens wailing.
"Hello," she greeted an onlooker. "I'm Maureen McConnaghay, with the Arkham Dispatch. Looks like quite a mess here. Any thoughts you'd care to share?"
Flattered to have caught the attention of a real, honest-to-God reporter, the man cleared his throat and stuttered, "Well, um, I didn’t actually *see* the accident, you understand. I was on my way south, and by the time I got here, it had already happened. There was cops and ambulances and fire trucks sitting everywhere. And there was that big logging truck that seemed to be taking up both lanes of the road, and logs spilled everywhere. I got told by the troopers that I'd have to turn around and find a detour - on account of the road blockage and all. I work down in the village, and was on my way home. I figured I'd get home quicker if I just waited it out, because, you see, I'd have to backtrack all the way to Kingfield and take another road, which is the long way around. If I was lucky, I'd get home in time to get ready for work tomorrow morning."
Maureen smiled politely. "Thank ye kindly," she said, but she thought to herself, Sure an' I'm not gonna be gettin' anything useful here. But then, maybe I could include this man's story as a bit of human interest. She got back into her car, turned it around and headed back toward Arkham. As she drove along, she realized it was Sunday night, and she'd have to wait until tomorrow to get anything useful from the public records. Then another realization hit her. Tomorrow was Columbus Day 'observed,' and all the public offices would be closed. Damn Monday holidays anyway! Well, *she* didn’t get paid to take the day off, and she had a story to write. Ah well, maybe she and Jonas could take off for the day and do something together. That might not be a bad thing. Maybe she'd even invite Abbie and Harry to come along if they didn't have any plans.