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What Else Is There?

by Al Norris

Chapter 6

I don't remember much of what happened after that freak grabbed me. Oh, I remember the pain alright. At first, my arm hurt, when the Principal grabbed me. When he jerked me out of the chair, my shoulder exploded in a fireball of pain. Man, that hurt so bad, I can't even begin to describe it.

It wasn't until later in the afternoon, when we got back home, that I found out what had happened at the school. That was only because Mr. Lundquist told us, but I'm getting ahead of myself. I guess I should back up a bit.

I regained consciousness after they fixed my arm and strapped it down to my side with a different kind of sling. They used staples this time, instead of stitches. It seems that when the jerk yanked me to my feet, he not only ripped all the stitches out, he aggravated the laceration, and another inch or so was ripped. The way he jerked me around while pulling me to a standing position, had dislocated my shoulder. The doc also said that when the Principal released me, I must have fallen just right, 'cause it popped my shoulder back in place. Double hurt!

The doc said that was better than if he had torn or stretched my rotator cuff. My arm needs to be immobilized for the next three or four days until the swelling goes down. So they put me in a new sling that has a strap that goes around my body to keep my arm from moving. Then I was to use the other sling for ten to fourteen days until the staples came out. I'll start physical therapy after that. Suffice it to say that I can go back to playing ball in four to six weeks. I hope Coach Anderson hasn't decided to replace me by then. I guess it all depends on how my physical therapy goes.

Getting out of the ER on Friday had been a piece of cake. Uncle George and I just walked out the door to the car and drove off. Today they insisted on taking me out to the car in a wheelchair. Of course, I insisted that I could walk, right up to the point where I stood up… The stuff they had given me for pain must have been really strong. I didn't feel foggy or anything like that, but man, I sure was wobbly. So the orderly and I waited in the hall while Uncle George brought the car around. Before he got there a security guy joined us.

"Young feller, I reckon you must be famous. There are a couple of news crews outside, waiting to get some more pictures of you. I'm gonna make sure they don't bother you while we get you into your dad's car."

"Um… that's my uncle, my guardian."

"Really? He sure acts like your dad! Ah! There he is. Let's go."

Once we were out of the parking lot without incident, Uncle George seemed to relax. "I think you should know that while you were getting worked on, what happened this morning made the mid-day news… and it will undoubtedly be on the evening news too."

I groaned, "Oh man. That's all I need."

Uncle George glanced at me and then back at the road. "Pete, I'm so sorry all of this is going on. I feel like I've failed you."

I tried to object but he cut me off.

"Hush, let me say this. I don't know how we could have foreseen what went down this morning or prevented it, but I swear I'm going to do everything I can to protect you… You do know I love you. Right?"

For no reason at all, not only were my eyes suddenly a little watery but my voice became too thick to talk, so I just nodded.

So we are back home. Uncle George set about the business of getting me settled down in the living room in front of the television. "You should be starving by now. You missed lunch. How about some soup to hold you over until dinner? I was thinking this would be a good night to order a pizza."

It's amazing how good Campbell's Tomato soup can taste. All you have to do is add some onion and bacon. It helps if there is a grilled cheese sandwich on the side, and being hungry makes everything taste even better. At first, the soup proved to be an unexpected problem. If you are right-handed like me, using a spoon with your left hand just isn't the same… and it's too dang slow! That's when I discovered that half a grilled cheese sandwich can sop up an amazing amount of soup. Problem solved. I inhaled everything in front of me and asked for seconds.

We had just finished our late lunch when there was a knock at the door. Why does everybody around here knock? There is a perfectly good doorbell right there. Maybe it is a Nevada thing? "I'll get it." Uncle George said.

From where I was sitting I couldn't see who was at the door, but I didn't have to wait long to find out who was there. Uncle George sounded happy when he said. "Hi, Kevin! It's good to see ya. I'll bet you're not here to see me though. Hell, You didn't need to bring the troops with you just to see Peter." I could hear Coach Anderson's quiet laugh. I think that meant that some of the team was here with the coach.

"Hi George, I hope it's alright, but we just wanted to stop by and see how your nephew is doing."

"Well, you can't do that standing out here. Come on in… All of you." Uncle George laughed and added, "If you can't find a place to sit, grab some chairs from the dining room."

Coach Anderson was the first to come through the door. The minute he spotted me he came right over. "Hey Pete, are ya up to some company for a bit?" He eyed my new wrappings but said nothing about them.

"Yes Sir!" My grin probably said more than the words did.

The next few minutes were a flurry of activity as the guys either found a place to sit or drug in chairs from the dining room. There were greetings and a few fist bumps. Everyone did their best to ignore the fact that I was trussed up like a turkey ready for the oven.

All except one that is. Mitch walked up to me and openly stared at my immobilized arm, then locked eyes with me. Just being in the same room with him made the day brighter somehow. Then he opened his mouth, "OK, what the fuck happened?" The room suddenly went quiet.

Uncle George quickly stepped in. "Hey, Mitch. It's good to see ya again. Tell you what. Why don't you find a seat, and if Pete doesn't mind, I'll try to bring you all up to date at the same time."

Mitch blushed a bit at his outburst. "OK. Um… sorry for the language George." He turned to look for a seat.

"Don't worry about it son. We're all a little stressed today."

"A bit of information sounds like a really good idea George. That's why we're here. With all the wild rumors flying around school today, none of these guys could concentrate on what they were doing at practice." He looked around the room with a smirk. "They were pathetic." A few chuckles could be heard. "So I finally threw in the towel, and called it quits for the day."

That's when the doorbell rang… Wait a minute… The doorbell rang? You mean to tell me it actually works, and someone knows how to use it?

Uncle George opened the door and a moment later Mr. Lundquist followed him in. He quickly surveyed the room with a hint of surprise in his eyes. Uncle George was the first to speak.

"Larry, these guys are Pete's teammates, and their coach Kevin Anderson." Coach Anderson moved to shake hands with the lawyer, while Uncle George continued, "Guys, this is Larry Lundquist, one of my attorneys. He is looking out for Pete's interest in all of this mess."

Mr. Lundquist shook hands with the Coach, looked around the room again, and nodded. I thought to myself that this guy really knew how to work a room, just like you see in the movies.

Then he turned back to Uncle George. "George, I was on my way home and wanted to stop by here to let you know about some developments that happened earlier today. I knew Peter would like to know about it too."

"Is there any reason that everyone here shouldn't hear what you have to say?

Lundquist thought for a moment then said, "If I understand correctly, you are the gentlemen that are watching out for Peter at school?" Everyone nodded. "Then I think they should know the facts as they now stand." He looked directly at me. "Peter, do I have your permission to do as George suggests?"

Suddenly I felt like the deer caught in the headlights, but I did manage to say "Yes Sir." I mean, why was he asking me for permission?

"Excellent." He paused and seemed to gather his thoughts.

"Let's start at the beginning so that I have a clear idea of what you may already know. First, am I correct to assume that all of you were in the locker room on Friday when Peter was initially injured and witnessed all or part of the events that transpired there?" He looked around the room as everyone nodded, including Coach. "Second, am I correct to assume that all of you were present on Saturday morning when Peter told those present that he was gay, and offered to withdraw from the team if that posed a problem?" Again he looked at everyone as they nodded. "Third, am I correct to assume that on Sunday you were advised that further threats to Peter's safety and well-being had been made?" Once more everyone nodded. "Finally, just to confirm my understanding, I have been informed that, as Peter's teammates, you have committed yourselves to watch out for him, as you would do for any other teammate?" There was another round of nods. Once again Mr. Lundquist met everyone's gaze. Satisfied, he nodded to himself. "Thank you."

I was fascinated by how easily he summarized three of the most challenging days of my life. I couldn't help but glance at Mitch, who was staring at me with an unreadable expression. 'Thank god the lawyer didn't know about Saturday night' I thought… and I'm sure I blushed. Mr. Lundquist interrupted my reverie, bringing me back to the present.

"Now we come to today's events. There are only three people in this room that I am aware of, that have a clear picture of what has happened. Peter of course is one. His uncle, George, is another, and I am the third. However, each one of us only experienced, or has a clear memory of, a part of these events.

"Peter, let's start with you. Could you tell us about this morning? I'm going to stop you at a certain point because your mind became clouded with pain… OK?"

I nodded and told everyone what I remembered up to being jerked out of the chair by the Principal.

"That's fine Peter, you can stop there because I know when he yanked you out of the chair the pain clouded your thinking.

"George, if you don't mind I'll speak for both of us since we were together for the first part of the morning." He didn't wait for an answer.

"This morning, I and two others were in Mr. Williams' office discussing various aspects of what had happened to Peter up to that point, and what we could do. The two other people present were the Nevada State Attorney General and a Captain of the Nevada State Police. Shortly after our meeting started Mr. Williams received a call from Peter, who had been summoned to the Principal's Office. Mr. Williams advised Peter to delay going to the office, and once at the office to remain there until we arrived. Peter was also told that he was not to speak with anyone. We departed for the high school immediately after the call ended.

"When we arrived at the school and were approaching the school office, we heard a child's scream that sounded like it came from inside that room. On hearing the scream Mr. Williams burst through the doors…"

Mr. Lundquist paused when he saw a hand go up. "Yes? Is there something you want to add?"

"Well sir, my name is Robert, um, Robert Pierce. Jesse and I escorted Pete to school this morning and were with him up to the time we had to go to our homerooms. I also heard the PA announcement. Shortly after that, the bell rang, and I was on my way to my first-period class, which takes me past the office. The hall was full of kids, but I did see you, Mr. Williams, and the other two men walking toward the office when there was a scream. I saw Mr. Williams go through those doors like they didn't exist… I looked through the glass partition because I could still hear the screaming. I saw our Principal, Dr. Danbury, trying to drag Pete by his injured arm. I don't know if that is important or not, but I thought I should tell you."

As I listened to Robert, I realized that I must have really been distracted. Geez! I don't even remember the bell going off!

"Thank you, Robert. I stand corrected, we now have four credible witnesses, in this room, who can corroborate key points in today's events." I could see Mr. Lundquist regain his train of thought as if there had been no interruption. "As I was about to say, Mr. Williams burst through the doors into the office, with the rest of us right behind him. He saw Peter, his nephew, being physically abused by a man who was later identified as Dr. Danbury, the school's Principal. Mr. Williams immediately rushed to his nephew's aid and used the force necessary to stop the abuse.

"Having witnessed the assault on Peter, the Attorney General ordered the arrest of the Principal for felony abuse of a child. The State Police Captain took the man into custody, read the Principal his Miranda Rights, and escorted him to the County Jail for processing and detention.

"Peter of course was taken for medical treatment, and I'm sure that Coach Anderson will need to be advised on that situation. Peter, do you want everyone here to know what your latest injuries are?"

"Guys, when Danbury grabbed me, he grabbed my injured arm. When he yanked me to my feet, three things happened. He grabbed hard enough that he ripped all the stitches out. When I was pulled out of my seat, he dislocated my shoulder. They tell me that when he let go of me, I must have been pulling against him and fell to the floor, which popped my shoulder back into place. Somehow between being yanked or being dragged by him, that wound was ripped another inch or so in length.

"OK, so what would have been a simple matter of letting the wound heal for a week has now been rather complicated." I nodded to Mr. Lunquist so he could continue.

"There are a few details that I think you should all be aware of for future reference." He paused just long enough to scan the room again making sure he had everyone's attention, then continued.

"First, the Attorney General was here to investigate the Police Chief's Office on the arrest and subsequent release of a suspected felon without charging the suspect.

"Second, the State Police were here with an arrest warrant for Carlton Turner. I have been informed that the warrant has been served and that he is now in the custody of the State Police at the County Juvenile Home. That is one of the reasons that brought me here this afternoon. I thought Peter and George would like to know.

"Third, The School Board held an emergency meeting shortly after noon today. As a result of that meeting, Carlton Turner has been expelled. Principal Danbury has been summarily dismissed. In addition to temporary personnel changes to accommodate the situation, several new policies and protocols are now in place to deal with similar situations, should they occur in the future."

I was having an OMG moment! I know my mouth must have been hanging open at the very least. The thought of the Principal being unemployed and in jail, was sorta satisfying. Now if someone would just dislocate his shoulder for me… The news about Carl was good, but his groupies were still out there. I looked around and was glad to see that I wasn't the only one sitting there slack-jawed.

"Gentlemen, while I have your attention. Now that you have the facts, as we know them, I want to urge you to keep to those facts should you speak with anyone about these matters. Please, do not listen to any rumors. Do not repeat any rumors you may hear. Do not elaborate on the facts I've just given to you. You may or may not be called to testify in the criminal or civil trials that are sure to come. So I would suggest that each of you write down exactly what you saw or heard, starting with last Friday in the locker room as soon as possible.

"I should also mention that my paralegal informs me that there are quite a few videos floating around social media sites. Not to mention actual news footage! For the time being, you should treat all of these as rumors and pure speculation. Not all the videos on social media have all these facts. The News Media, however, does have these facts but we can not control how they might spin them.

"Are there any questions?" The room was quiet. If anyone had a question, they held back. "Well if there are none. I need to get going or my wife will kill me. That's one homicide I'd prefer the Police Chief not to be involved with." Mr. Lundquist smiled at his own joke and turned to my uncle. "George, a quick word in private before I go?" Uncle George nodded and went outside with him.

Coach stood up. "OK guys. I think we should be going now also. Put your chairs back where you found them, please." Just then Uncle George came back in. "George, thanks for bringing us up to speed. I'm going to need a note from Pete's doctor at some point. School bureaucracy can't be escaped." He laughed and turned to me.

"Pete, I just can't tell you how bad I feel about all of this, but it looks like there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Come to PE tomorrow. You won't be suiting up, but we can talk about things going forward, and come up with a plan of action. OK?"

"Sounds good to me, Coach. I'll be there!"

Most everyone wished me well and left. Uncle George shook hands with the Coach and my teammates, as they left.

The only people that were left were Jesse, his brother Bobby, Robert, and Mitch.

Before anyone could say or do anything else, Mitch sat down next to me and gently held my hand, and kissed my forehead. "Damn Mitch!" Bobby said.

"Oops!" Jesse snickered. "I'm not entirely sure, but I think that cats' outta the bag… Waddaya think, George?"

"I don't think it matters to anyone except maybe Robert." Everyone looked at him. "Who, me?" I looked at Mitch who was still holding my hand. He was as white as a ghost, realizing what he had just done.

Robert walked over and stood in front of Mitch. "I think I can guess, but I wanna hear it from you, Mitch. You wanna tell me what's going on?"

Mitch was looking down and almost trembling, "Um, Robert…"

"No! Stand up and look me in the eye like a man."

Mitch stood up, cleared his throat, and looked directly at Robert, "Robert, I've known that I'm gay for several years now. Bobby has been my best friend and until a few days ago, he and Jessie have been the only people who knew about me, other than my parents.

"Anyway, I liked what I saw about Pete ever since he started school here. With all the crap that Carl was throwing at him, I noticed no one bothered to actually ask Pete if he was gay. Most people just heard what Carl was saying and took it from there. I think after Saturday, we all know how honest Pete is. So anyway, a few days ago I took a big chance and told him I was gay and how much I liked him. I then asked Pete if he was gay. We've ah… We've become more than just friends."

"Thank you, Mitch. So… You gonna stay in the closet or you gonna come out?" There was no rancor in Robert's voice. Just concern.

"I don't… I don't have Pete's courage…" Mitch started to answer, but Uncle George interrupted him.

"Before you answer that Mitch, let's everyone sit down for a bit." Uncle George paused while everyone settled in. "Besides what my attorney has told you, I'm thinking some other things are going on here that I need to let you in on. If only because you already know a few of the secrets in this drama. Some shit may have already hit the fan, but not all the shit has been found. Do any of you need to get home right away?"

Everyone had taken a seat and no one said they needed to get home. "OK. I want you all to know that I don't give a rat's ass if Peter, Mitch, or anyone else is gay. Who you are attracted to is just one small part of who you are. It's like being left-handed or having blue eyes. So being gay means almost nothing to me.

What I do care about is that every one of us lives the life we are supposed to live, with honesty and integrity. That Peter and Mitch seem to have a mutual attraction is just fine with me." He chuckled, "The only real difference, from any other high school romance, is that they can't get pregnant." He looked hard at both of us. "That doesn't mean I condone you guys going that far!"

While there were groans, chuckles and distasteful sounds heard from the guys, I just burst out laughing. I couldn't help myself, 'cause I remembered the Sex Ed lesson from the other night. The laughter felt good. I haven't had much to laugh about over the past few days, well… except for Saturday. Even though I was laughing I noticed that Mitch had turned a wonderful shade of crimson. Dang, he was cute… he looked really good in any color.

"OK, somethings goin' on here." Bobby blurted out. "Pete you just busted a gut over what George said and Mitch is all embarrassed over it. Clue us in, even if this is an inside joke, we want the laugh, too."

Before I could stop and breathe, Mitch, still red-faced, explained, "Last Saturday night, George gave us the gay sex talk… Complete with condoms and lube." I just cracked up again.

It took a second or two, but when the realization hit everyone else, they all started guffawing and wooting!

With a grin, Uncle George cleared his throat, "Settle down guys…" We all tried to put on straight faces, while he continued, "What we already know is that Carl is, or was, out for blood. I think Jesse can confirm that. Am I right?"

"Yeah. Right after church, I overheard Carl talking to two of his goons about how they were gonna make sure 'the little fairy' was never gonna play sports again." Jesse used air quotes when he said that.

"Right. Now as I understand it, your team was gonna be lookin' out for Peter. I think Jesse called all of you about this new threat?" Jesse and Robert nodded. "So, even if Carl is in jail, we still have a couple of knuckle draggers on the loose, right?" Everyone nodded this time. "It's gonna be hard enough in the next couple or three weeks to make sure Peter isn't caught alone by these goons. If Mitch goes public, do you think the goons will target him too? What if it comes out that these two are a couple? If so, are you guys gonna be able to watch two people instead of one? How much harder do you think it will be?"

George gave everyone a few seconds to think about those implications, before he continued, "Here's where it gets more complicated. I'm pretty sure that Jordan Turner is involved up to his eyebrows in all of this.

"We know that Carl called his dad as soon as he was taken to the police station. We also know that before he reached the booking stage, the Chief came in and released Carl with no charges being made.

"The implication is that Mr. Turner immediately called the Chief to get his kid released and the Chief complied. Everyone follows that bit of logic?" More nods. "OK, in legal circles, we call this a conspiracy. Because it involves releasing a person in custody who should have been charged with a felony, this makes it a criminal conspiracy." I could see eyes go wide and mouths drop. I know mine did.

"This is nothing more than political corruption. What we don't know is how deep this corruption runs. We know that Jordan Turner supports the Mayor and some of the city council with campaign contributions. We know that the Mayor, with the votes of three councilmen, appointed the Chief. The fact that there has been no call among the city council to question the actions of the Chief could be a coincidence or it could be the sign of people willing to do the bidding of Turner in exchange for continuing campaign funds. That's what the AG is doing here.

"Back to another point. Turner and I have a history. He doesn't exactly like me. That's only fair because I don't have any warm fuzzy feelings for him either. So I have to ask myself, with all that has happened, how far would Turner go to get back at me? Would he hurt Peter, knowing it would hurt me? If Mitch comes out, will Mitch also become a target of Turner's revenge?

"Mitch, I think you need to sit down with your parents and ask them these questions. They should remember what happened between Turner and me. Better you hear their take on all of this from them. I'm too biased for you to hear it from me.

"Now, Robert? How do you feel about all of this? You've just learned that not only is Mitch gay but that Peter and Mitch have a relationship. If necessary, can you keep Mitch's and Peter's relationship secret?" All eyes were now upon Robert. "I know all of this is rather sudden, Robert. I can only imagine what's going on in that head of yours. While I hate to put it this way, people's lives may be at stake and those lives are now in your hands. All I can ask is that you think long and hard about this before answering that question or doing anything about it."

At that moment, we heard a ringtone from Uncle George's cell. "Just a moment guys. I've gotta take this, it's my attorney," he said as he got up and walked into the kitchen.

"Whataya thinking, Robert?" Jesse asked.

"Well shit… for reals? If'n we weren't going through this shit, I'd swear this was one of mama's soaps!" Robert joked. "There's way too much crap goin' on under the surface of all this. Peter, did you know about any of this stuff?"

"Nah, man. It's all news to me."

"I don't know about you guys, but it seems to me that George knows a lot more than he's tellin' us. The fact that he wants Mitch to ask his parents, tells me he doesn't want to influence anyone's thinking. I think we all need to go home and ask our own folks about George and Turner. See what their take on all this is and if it is as dangerous as George thinks it is." Everyone nodded in agreement with Jesse.

"Yeah, and I'll see if Uncle George will fill me in too" I added, just before Uncle George walked back into the living room. "Come on guys. Let me take you all home." I started to get up, "No Peter. You stay put and rest up some. You've had a long day, and you will be goin' ta school in the morning. I'll pick up somethin' for dinner on my way back."

"Um… George, do we want to leave Pete by himself?" Mitch asked. "I mean, with all this stuff going on, could someone be watching your house?"

Uncle George rolled his eyes, "Just so you don't worry Mitch…" He walked back to his bedroom and came back a few moments later. He handed me a short double-barreled shotgun. "It's loaded with double-ought buck. Keep your finger off the trigger unless you're gonna shoot. Only point it at what you want to destroy… Then, just hold on tight, point it at your target, and pull the trigger. It's got a bit of a kick. I'll be back in a few."

Mitch seemed to be mollified if not happy as everyone headed out to the car. Meanwhile, I took a look at the gun on my lap. I noticed that there were two triggers. One trigger for each barrel. As they were leaving, I heard Jesse quip, "Yup! The original point-and-click interface!"

I thought to myself, uncle and I were gonna have to talk about this. He wants to leave guns in my hands, umm… hand, I need to know how to use them.

I spent the time, while I was by myself, watching as many news channels as I could find. There was some commentary on how I was injured last Friday and how the city failed to hold my assailant accountable. Lots of footage of the school and the Elko Police Department. CNN and ABC had somehow gotten inside the school and had video of me when the EMTs were loading me onto the gurney and taking me away. They also had footage of Dr. Danbury being handcuffed and hauled off in a state police car. I don't know if I growled when I saw the pictures of him or not. I certainly felt like it.

Mr. Lundquist was right. Speculation as to what had happened in the school office was rampant. Many reporters were saying that this was another example of homophobia by the school officials.

Others had interviewed some of the students. Here the story was markedly different. While they had no idea why I was called into the office, they all knew that the Principal was an authoritarian prick. He was known to fly into a rage if you challenged him on just about anything. None of the students interviewed had ever heard of him assaulting a student, other than verbally, but more than one said they guessed there was always a first time.

When I saw all that was on the main media news sites and they began repeating the same stuff, I switched over to my laptop and began looking at the various social sites.

It was on YouTube that I found most of what I was looking for. There were dozens of short videos that captured what had happened to me at school that morning. There was one video in particular that caught the whole thing.

It started with Dr. Danbury coming out of his office, with Mr. McNaulty, my counselor, right behind him. Not only was the video clear, but so was the audio. McNaulty was arguing with Danbury saying that I was not to blame for the media being there and that there was no reason to call me to account. McNaulty could even be heard saying that had Danbury suspended Carl Turner, this likely wouldn't have happened at all. You could clearly hear Danbury as he snapped back saying it was nothing more than a typical locker room fight and that the coach should have taken charge and handled everything. McNaulty told Danbury that typical locker room fights don't result in a student having to be taken to the ER. Danbury just huffed.

This video even showed the interaction between me and the Principal while in the office. The audio was great! It captured everything, just like the video. As fast as Danbury yanked me out of the seat, it's a wonder I didn't have a more serious injury to my shoulder. When the doors flew open it was a good thing that no one was standing there. If they had been, they would've probably needed some medical attention too. Uncle George was like Batman or something in the way he flew in and lit into the Principal. Man! I'm glad that wasn't my jaw when Uncle George coldcocked him. You could see that I was still trying to pull away from Danbury when he let go of me. That's probably why I landed on my shoulder and popped it back in place. Shit! It hurt just watching that!

I texted Uncle George with the link and told him I thought Mr. Lundquist might want to see it too, even if he did tell us not to watch them. Then I put my laptop to sleep and waited.

A bit later, Uncle George came home carrying a couple of sacks from the Dairy Queen. "Let's eat in the kitchen, Peter. Bring your laptop and show me the video."

"Um, sure…" OK, how am I going to do this? I picked up the laptop with my left hand and put it in my right hand. Then I slid the shotgun under my armpit and began to stalk the sack that had my dinner in it. I walked into the kitchen where I placed the laptop on the table. "What about this?" I asked while jostling the gun awkwardly in my arm.

"Oh, just set it anywhere."

"What? I don't know much about guns, but I do know you don't just casually set loaded guns anywhere!"

"See that lever thingy on top, near the breech? Just on top, forward of the triggers?"


"Push the bottom of the lever clockwise."

I did and the gun broke open on a pivot point just forward of the triggers. As I looked at it, it was plain to see no shells were in the chambers. "Hell! You gave me an empty gun! You lied about it being loaded!"

"Damn right I did. Do you think I'm stupid enough to give a loaded weapon to someone who doesn't know a thing about them?"

"Then why bother with the charade at all, then?"

"Because Mitch was worried about you, you idiot!" He chuckled. "It set everyone's mind at ease with leaving you alone. This is bum-fuck Nevada. I handed you a shotgun and no one blinked an eye. Just about everyone owns them and expects everyone else here to know how to use shotguns and rifles. No big deal."

I sat there for a few minutes eating my burger and fries and slurping my Blizzard. I could feel the grin coming to me as I asked, "So when are we gonna go shooting so you can teach me what everyone else knows?"

"We can't do much with rifles and shotguns until you get that sling off, and the Doc clears you to start using your right arm. That requires the use of both hands and arms. Thinking about that, we can start with basic gun safety. Then I think I will teach you both left and right-handed methods. We can start you with some small handguns… How about this next weekend?"

We talked a bit more about things and then I played the video after we had finished eating and stuff was cleared off the table.

This time, I paid real close attention to what was going on around Danbury and McNaulty as they made their way to the main office. You could hear the homeroom dismissal bell in the background and see and hear the growing number of students in the halls.

Red flags were going off in my head! I don't know why I hadn't thought of this in the first place. Someone was in the office hallways before everything went to pieces. How did this person know to be in this particular area and video all of this? Now that I was paying close attention, I also knew this wasn't videoed with a cellphone. It had to be a digital camera. I told Uncle George what I was thinking.

"That's a really good point, Peter, I don't have any answers, but we will be looking into it."

"Peter, can you play it again and capture the video stream? Is there anything else below the video that could provide a bit more information?"

"I have a plug-in in my browser that can do that, and I can take a screenshot too if that will help.."

"Good. Now if I remember, YouTube has several resolutions you can download… Do that, at the highest resolution you can. We have no idea how long this video will be online and I want the best copy we can get."

So I toggled the add-on, set the resolution for download, and replayed the video. This time I was watching Uncle George as he watched it. Not that watching him helped me at all. He had on, what I call his 'poker face.'

While it played, I went and grabbed a USB stick, so I could load the video and give it to him.

Later, we did spend some time while Uncle George told me about his dealings with Jordan Turner. Man, that guy holds a grudge!

One thing I found out about my arm, compared to before: Moving it hurt. Hurt a lot. I vaguely remember the doc saying that it would be very painful for the first three or four days. Later that night, when I went to bed, I found out that there was only one position that I could sleep in. On my left side. Sleeping any other way put too much pressure on my shoulder and it hurt like hell!

Oh, this was gonna be fun… NOT!

Tuesday morning, after a not-so-good sleep, I went through my morning routine. It took longer than usual since I couldn't use the shower until the gash on my arm was healed, and I didn't need a bandage any longer. The worst part should have been the simplest. My left hand had absolutely no idea how to hold a comb the right way, let alone how to rake the hair in the direction I wanted it to go. After a lot of mumbling, growling, and muttering, I gave up and called it good. Who knows, maybe I'll start a new fashion trend…

Once again, as I was leaving the house, my 'entourage' was there waiting for me. Robert didn't say anything, and I wasn't gonna ask. The last thing I wanted was more pressure on me, so I figured I could give him all the space he needed.

The talk on the way to school was about what had happened yesterday, the headlines in this morning's paper, and the local and national media news yesterday. The national media was spinning it as a further homophobic attack on an already injured kid.

We got to school and no news vans could be seen! I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when we got there without any fuss. I know I did. Homeroom was homeroom without the silent stares. Classes were classes except that my left-handed notes were all but illegible. All was well until…

At lunch, I was in line for my meal when someone ran into me. More to the point, they ran into my right shoulder.

I didn't scream, exactly, but I was swearing fairly loudly. It also brought me to my knees holding my shoulder with my left hand. A few feet away, Tom Clauson and Bobby Smith had a guy cornered against the wall. I looked at the guy and recognized him as being one of Carl's goons from the Maverik store. As I slowly got to my feet, a teacher came up, pulling Tom and Bobby away from the guy, demanding to know why Tom and Bobby had assaulted Greg and had him pushed up against the wall.

Bobby whirled on him, "Mr. Chilton, you know darn well what's going on. You watched Greg from the time he entered the cafeteria until he purposely shoulder-butted Pete. You even had a smile on your face when Pete went down!"

"I never…"

"Bull! There were four of us that were watching both you and Greg."

Before the teacher could say anything else, Mr. McNaulty was there. "Boys? Who all saw this?"

Bobby, Tom, Stan, and Roger all said they saw what happened. They told the same story.

"Greg, get your gear and go to the office." Mr. McNaulty turned to Mr. Chilton. "Arlin, I'm disappointed. That you would condone this sort of behavior, sickens me."

"You would take the word of these kids over me? This is an outrage!" His face was contorted into a snarl. "What's worse is that this school would put up with the likes of him," he pointed at me, "that sickens me."

"What a sanctimonious…"

"Shhh! Don't give him ammunition, Stan."

"After what happened last Friday, then yesterday's fiasco? Yes, I believe these boys. It's a shame, really. You were such a good teacher, Arlin. Who knew you were also such a bigot!" McNaulty shook his head. "You have until the end of this lunch period to collect your things and leave this campus."

"You don't have that authority, McNaulty."

"Did you even bother to read the Board's new directives? Every teacher and administrator had a copy placed in their box yesterday afternoon. If you failed to read it, or just ignored it, that's on you. Now get out of here before I call security and have you escorted off the premises."

There were suddenly cheers and claps from most of the people in the lunchroom. I hadn't noticed how many people were watching this drama. Mr. Chilton whirled around and I caught the look in his eyes. Time slowed, as I saw him draw back his fist…

Mr. McNaulty must have been watching also. He jumped at the teacher, pushing him off balance. Some other students drug him to the ground and I heard one of the lunch workers calling for security.

"Peter, are you all right? How badly did Gregory hurt you?"

"Yeah, that hurt, but I'm fine now Mr. McNaulty. Can I grab something to eat before the bell rings?"

Mr. McNaulty just shook his head, "In the midst of all this drama, a boy's stomach takes precedence!"

"Hey! I'm still a growing kid. I need my food!" I smiled.


I grabbed a sandwich, as everyone else sat back down at their various tables and Mr. Chilton was handcuffed by the school security officer and escorted out.

I thanked the guys who had helped me. It was hard for everyone to believe that a teacher would have been involved in the harassment. A few minutes later the bell rang and we all went to our next class.

The rest of the day went by with little more drama. Sure, there were lots of people asking about yesterday and what happened in the lunchroom. But for the most part, it was OK.

The last period was Gym. Coach Anderson was already aware of my physical limitations. We both agreed that on non-practice days I would be in study hall. On practice days, I would go out with the team and act as a junior coach for the infield. We also agreed that I would not suit up regardless of what day it was… At least until I had the staples removed and could start my physical therapy.

With that out of the way, I went to the Library/Study Hall and began doing some of my homework. It was my English Language Comp assignment (In five thousand words or less, compare and contrast the differences between Hobbes' and Locke's thoughts on Natural Rights and Natural Law.) that had me completely absorbed when the bell rang and interrupted my thoughts. Well, I had until Friday to complete and turn in my assignment.

I went to my locker and got the stuff I needed for tonight's homework and then went to the main school lobby. Robby, Jesse, and Bobby were there, waiting for me.

As we talked about what had happened in the lunchroom, Jesse applauded what Tom and Bobby did with Greg.

"Chilton set that up with Greg?" Robert asked.

"I don't know if he set it up, but he certainly approved of it. It looked like he was ready to take Tom and Bobby to the office for assaulting Greg. He ignored that Greg had intentionally run into me. It was like I wasn't even there!"

"Yeah, the way McNaulty showed up, it caught Chilton completely off guard," Bobby said. "Makes me wonder if McNaulty hadn't seen the whole thing."

"Um, guys? Not to change the subject, but… I talked to my folks yesterday. While I didn't mention names, I sorta told them that I knew of two gay guys and that they had what looked like a relationship going on between them. I didn't mention the team or anything. My dad wanted to know why I was telling them about this. He asked that if these guys weren't hitting on me, why would it matter to me? He asked if one of the guys was the kid in the news… I told him, no, but I was asking because I thought it was just plain wrong.

"Ya know what my mom said?" We shook our heads. "She said that society is often at odds with science. That homosexuality is part of the normal human spectrum of sexuality, even if it is not the norm."

I looked at Robert, "Does this mean you have come to a decision?"

"Yeah. See, I told my folks that it was an accident that I had found out about these guys. They wanted me to keep it a secret. I just didn't know if I was comfortable with that. Mom asked if these guys were friends. I said yes, they were. Dad said that if they were friends, then I should do as I was asked and keep the secret. Dad said that if I couldn't keep their secret, then what happened to that guy on our team could likely happen to the couple I discovered, or worse.

"So yeah, I can keep your secret, Pete. After thinking about it some more, you guys haven't changed any. It was me and my attitude. I just found out a little more about you."

"Thank you, Robert. Not so much for me, but for Mitch." I put my fist out to bump. "Have you talked to Mitch about this?"

"Yup. We talked about it during PE."

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