At breakfast, I asked, "Clarisa, you have any plans for Mom's car today? I need transportation."
Clarisa laughed and said, "I had thought you'd probably need your Mom's car today, but as I thought about it last night, I said to myself, 'Girl, the money Patterson Motors has raked in over the years from the Porchers should earn some kind of consideration.' So I called Jim Patterson, Patterson Motors, at the club..."
Justin and I started laughing. Everyone in Elizabethton has, at one time or another, commented on Jim Patterson who always introduces himself with "Jim Patterson, Patterson Motors" and immediately followed with a sales pitch.
"...and I told him we needed a car delivered and he got real excited. 'You have a WRX in the stock?' I asked and I'm sure he 'most peed his pants he was so excited at the prospects of a sale. 'Well, now, Miss Clarisa, I don't at the moment. Not a lot of them available, but I could find one in a couple days, I'm sure. Yeah, I'm sure I can have one here, three days max. What color you have in mind? Can I call you back from the dealership in a few?' I assured him I'd be right here.
"Less than twenty minutes later, he called back. 'Clarisa, I'm looking at the southeast Subaru dealerships and I see a couple of WRXs. One of them might suit you, and there's a blue and a red one, both loaded.'
"'Blue like Marc's?' I asked. 'Yes, ma'am, Miss Clarisa and I could have it here, prepped and ready say, let's see, Thursday at the very latest, more likely before that. I'll do my best for you, Miss Clarisa.'
"'Fine, I might buy it, but right now Marc's without a car. His is at your place, I guess you know.' He laughed that pompous jackass laugh of his and said, 'Yes, I believe I smelled it coming in.' I laughed and then asked, 'So since you don't have a WRX he can drive until you get his car back, what do you have?' He, of course, started back-pedaling real fast. Told me their insurance wouldn't permit them to give someone a loaner. 'Now, Jim,' I said, 'it's going to be a while before Marc's WRX will be cleaned, if it ever is. In case it can't be cleaned up to his -- and my -- satisfaction he'll be buying another one, but right now the boy needs a car. Guess I'll just call Skip Sanders about a car.'"
Skip Sanders, owned the other car dealership the country club set bought from, and right now the two dealerships were vying for their graduation gift car business. Patterson couldn't afford to let word get out he wasn't treating a customer right, and he sure didn't want a sale to go to Sanders. "Good old boy Jim had been outfoxed and he knew it. Give him credit, he took it like a man," Clarisa laughed. "'I have an Impreza Outback Sport, an executive car. It's blue, the same blue as Marc's WRX. It's got less than 5,000 miles on it and it's loaded,' he said. I assured him that would do and I expected it delivered last night. He said it had to be cleaned and all. 'Well, so long as it's here by 7:30 in the morning. Have a nice evening, Jim,' I said and hung up. Bet he's still cussing, but the car arrived ten minutes ago."
"Reminder," Justin said, "never cross Clarisa."
"I don't need reminding," I laughed. "I learned that a long ago, on the wrong side of a spatula!"
The Impreza wasn't bad at all. In fact, it was very nice. On the way to school, Justin played with the remote control for the Sirius radio, something the WRX didn't have and which we would learn to enjoy very much.
When we drove into the parking lot and got out, Kev Jenkins yelled, "What happened to the fancy car, pansy boy?" and all his jock buddies laughed -- except Adam, who was looking more than a little sheepish. I guess he had heard about Sandy.
"Just exactly how did he know about the car?" Justin asked. The Impreza and the WRX do look so much alike there's hardly enough difference to notice. "He knew you weren't driving your WRX because he knew it had been trashed." Beyond that comment, we ignored them and waited for John and the girls to arrive.
When John and Bobbie pulled into the lot, Susan wasn't with them. "Where's Susan?" Justin asked as the two got out of the car.
"Three guesses and the first two don't count," Bobbie replied. "She's at the hospital. She called on our way over and said the four of us were to check-in, then check-out and meet her there. 'I have news,' was all she said. Well, she did add that Sheriff Anderson would be joining us."
We had all laughed about the tight rope the school kept on seniors who would be in college or working next year without 'adult' supervision. I expected a lot of hassle when we got to the office, but when we walked in, Cowboy Swartz, without missing a chew of her gum, waved her nail file in the general direction of the counter where sign out slips were waiting, authorized by Sheriff Anderson.
As we walked out of the office, John said, "How can that woman file on her nails all the time? You'd think she would have filed all the way to her elbow by now."
"False nails," Bobbie said. "She spends a fortune at the nail place."
When we arrived at the hospital, John said, "Susan said Sandy's in room 216 and we could just come on up."
When we reached the room, Sheriff Anderson was waiting outside. "Morning. Hope you had a good night after your adventure."
Justin patted my butt and said, "A very good night, thank you," and I blushed. Sheriff Anderson seemed not to notice, but John certainly did.
"Your friend is one neat lady. She's had done a good job with Sandy," the sheriff said as he paused with his hand on the door.
"You noticed," John said with a grin, and Justin and I exchanged a glance with Bobbie, who just gave a shrug.
"Indeed. She hasn't been too pushy, but has never stopped trying to find out what happened. I suspected Sandy had been thrown out of his house last night, I assumed by his old man, and Susan finally confirmed that. We've had some trouble with old Kevin Jenkins before. He's a mean drunk and Kev or Sandy has called the police more than once when he was abusing his wife."
"They live way out in the country. Why would anyone call the police?" John asked.
"The Chief and old Mr. Jenkins are old hunting buddies, so they call the police and the Chief goes out and gets Jenkins in bed and all is well. No charges. Nothing we can do since technically we never know anything about it. Anyway, all Sandy has said is that his Pa threw him out and he doesn't know what's going to happen to him. Thoughts?"
I thought Justin and I could take him in, but before I could say anything, Justin said, "I'm sure among the five of us, we can take care of that, but you don't know what happened to get him thrown out?"
"Well, the reason I asked you all to come down is because Susan said Sandy wanted to talk to all of you about that. Maybe we'll find out something soon."
I was not prepared for what I saw when we went in. Sure, I had seen Sandy last night and had seen he was pretty banged up, but this morning he was, literally, black and blue. One eye was completely swollen shut and the other only half open. His nose was swollen and both cheeks were bruised. His story which followed came out in bits and pieces since speaking had to be painful.
"Marc, I need to tell you that the drawing you asked me about -- not the whole thing, just the two guys -- was mine as Susan told you. I'm queer. Know that's wicked and evil and I'll burn in hell, but I can't help it. I sometimes think about things like that," Sandy paused, "I mean, men kissing and you know..." I suspect he paused to see what our reaction would be as well as taking time to get himself together so he could continue.
All of us had come to the conclusion he was gay -- I mean his drawings were practically announcements that he was -- and as to his feeling he was wicked, evil and hell-bound, this was certainly not the time for a theological discussion!
"Well, Kev is all the time going through my things and he found that drawing and used it to blackmail me in to doing a lot of his work, get any money I earned, make me do what he wanted. He even made me suck..." Sandy skidded to a verbal stop and, had his face not been so bruised, would have, I'm sure, blushed. "Anyway, I figured it was him and the others causing all the trouble for you guys and told him he better quit or I'd do something about it, then he used my drawing.
"Sheriff Anderson came out yesterday and told Pa he needed to talk to me about something going on at school and told Pa he needed to be present since I was a minor. I didn't want him to hear whatever the sheriff had to say 'cause I was pretty sure what it was about. But Sheriff Anderson, you said it had to be that way. Anyway, when you showed Pa the drawing, I got really scared. Pa asked me did I draw it and I said I didn't because I knew he'd beat the shi... he'd just about kill me. Then, Sheriff Anderson, you told me I could go and you went on talking to Pa. I knew he knew the drawing was mine and I didn't know what to do.
"I decided I'd run away. I'd thought about that a lot of times before, but was too scared of what might happen to me and I had no place to go but this time was different. I mean, I knew Pa would give me a real beatin', worse than ever before. When I went to get some of my things, Kev was waiting for me. He had been listening and he knew he was in trouble if I told the sheriff about the drawing, so he punched me up pretty good and kept punching until I fell in the floor, then he started kicking me. He kept saying, 'You little shit' -- that what he's always callin' me -- 'you little shit, you better take the rap for that drawing because you did it. You better not get my ass involved if you want to live, you cocksucking queer little shit.' I was curled up on the floor and he kicked me some more, a whole lot more.
"When you left, Sheriff, Pa came to where we were and asked me did I make the picture and before I could answer, Kev said, 'He sure as fuck did. The little shit is a queer as a three-dollar bill, Pa. Last year that Frank Allan fucked the little shit, he fucked my little pansy ass brother -- more than once. When we drove them out of town, I thought his queen ass would straighten up, but little shit is still queer.'
"Pa went nuts. I tried to make him listen and tell him nobody had fucked me and I hadn't fucked nobody. Didn't tell Pa we had kissed -- once, but that's all, I swear. Anyway, Pa got the strop and he ripped off my clothes and started stropping me. He'd used the strop on me before, of course, but it was when he was drunk, but he wasn't drunk yesterday. When he was drunk and stropped me, he usually gave out before he hurt me too much, but he was sober yesterday and just kept beating me.
"I don't remember anything after he told Kev to dump my queer ass in the swamp. Well, I do remember Kev dumping me in the road and kicking me until I rolled in the swamp. He laughed and said, 'We'll see how 'gators like queer meat,' and drove off. I guess I dragged myself out of the swamp and back on the road since that's where you guys found me, but I don't remember that. Next thing I know, I heard Susan. I liked Susan because she never said anything about my drawings, I mean about them being queer pictures."
Sandy had been doing a fair job of staying in control, but now the floodgates opened and the tears flowed. Susan reached out and took his hand, assuring him in a soft voice that he was safe now and he needn't worry. While she was doing so, Dr. Macon came in and said, "Sandy, I think you're fine for the shape you're in and could possibly be discharged, but I'm not happy about that and I do want to be on the safe side. What say I keep you here a while longer?" He turned to us and said, "Check by after school because he might be ready to go. Try to make it around 4:30 since that's when I do my afternoon rounds. Ok? What he needs most is time to heal, but I'd like to keep him at least until this afternoon."
When the doctor left, Sandy asked, "But where can I go?"
"Don't worry about it. We'll get that all figured out," Susan said. "Now just take it easy and we'll see you after school, ok?"
As we stepped outside the door, John said, "Clan conference. Sandy's going to need clothes if he can leave this afternoon. He's close to your size, don't you think, Justin?"
"I think so. Sheriff, can someone go by my place -- Marc's place -- and have Clarisa get clothes for Sandy before 4:30?"
"No problem, but where can the lad go? He can't go back out to Grandview, not that the old man would do him any more harm because I'm having him picked up on child abuse charges, but he won't be in the slammer forever. Likely he'll be out on bond shortly after he's arrested. Getting Kev for assault, maybe more, but still, this kid doesn't need to be out there."
"Give me a few," John said. He stepped down the hall and took out his cell phone. A few minutes later he was back. "Couldn't get her, but Lacy will probably be perfectly happy to have him come to our place. Plan on it, anyway. If he can't, we'll come up with a solution. By the way, Bobbie, your date's arrived."
"Let us know if there's a problem with his coming to your place, John, and we'll work out something," I said.
We went back inside, told Sandy we would have everything worked out by the time he was ready to leave, then told him goodbye and were on our way. As we stepped on the elevator, Sheriff Anderson said, "I sent Deputies Johnson and Murray to school to question Kev and the three others. A couple deputies have gone out to Grandview to arrest old man Jenkins and pick up Mrs. Jenkins and the Blakes to be present when their sons are questioned. I'm going by the Gordons' and Sanfords' and tell them they need to be present for their sons. The four are facing intimidation charges -- at least. Frankly, I think we have enough to make arrests, but I'd like to handle this some other way, if possible. High school seniors don't need a mark on their record which will haunt them all their life, but they need to know there are laws and you play by them or you get burnt."
"I must say we were impressed by Deputy Johnson," Justin said. We were standing side-by-side holding hands. "Clarisa's kin so I should have known as much."
Sheriff Anderson laughed, "Know what you mean. She's one of the best. Well, I'll likely talk to you before the day is over," he added as we stepped off the elevator.
To say the school was all in a dither when we arrived would be putting it mildly. One of the ER nurses' assistants had a daughter in the ninth grade and I guess she had been careless about patient confidentiality. As a result, her ninth grade daughter had her moment of glory telling everyone about Sandy. She had embellished the tale but, even at that, it hardly matched what had actually been done to the kid. Of course all sorts of tales were out and Mr. Agnue finally came on the intercom and reminded the students that people were innocent until proven guilty and they needed facts before they started spreading rumors. But high school students are a lot like adults and enjoy embroidering a tale, which they did. Before lunch, one of the tamer tales was that Kev had stolen my car and thrown Sandy out of it when he crashed trying to escape the sheriff.
At lunch the four were nowhere in sight and I noticed three sheriff's cars were still in the visitors' parking lot. As the Clan were leaving the cafeteria, I saw Sheriff Anderson coming down the hall. When he saw us, he said, "Hold up a minute." He went on into the cafeteria and said in a loud voice, "I believe lunch is over, high-tail it to your classes." Unlike Papa Smurf, his voice got results... the cafeteria and halls were vacated in minutes. He came back to where we were standing and spoke into his shoulder mike, telling deputies to bring the people down for lunch. "We're not making any great progress, but I have enough to lock up the four and I've had old man Jenkins picked up. As soon as we finished questioning Kev, he'll be locked up. Actually, before that if he gives me any lip. Kev is nineteen and no longer a minor so his parents don't have to be present. Or his mom can be there. Anyway, Sandy can leave the hospital as soon as he is released without fear of his old man."
The four and their parents came down the hall and as they passed us, only Mr. Sanford looked our way. He stopped and come over to us and asked, "Justin, why didn't you tell me Adam was involved in this nonsense?"
"I hoped we could have settled it ourselves. Wish we could have."
"So do I, but I can tell you, this is one time Adam's mom is going to have to pay attention to his behavior. Marc, could you come by the store this afternoon?"
"After I check by the hospital," I replied and Mr. Sanford nodded.
After he had gone, Justin said, "Facing Mr. Sanford was something I really hated to do. Maybe I should have told him."
"Maybe. Who knows?" Bobbie asked.
"Speaking of people, have you met your date yet?" I asked Bobbie.
"He's getting some beauty sleep," John answered for her. "He was partying night before last and was pretty beat when he got here, so I told him to sleep in. He'll meet us after school."
Just before last period, I saw Sheriff Anderson storming out of the counselor's office. I didn't have to ask to know he was really angry. I guess things were not going well.
Before the last bell, I got a note from the front office asking that I come by the furniture store after school.
I think I would have done it some other way, but when the final bell rang and we were all leaving, the three deputies and Sheriff Anderson came walking out of the school and across the parking lot, each of them leading a guy in handcuffs. Bear and Kev were trying to pull off a tough guy act, but it's kinda hard to do when you're eighteen or nineteen and being led out of school in handcuffs. Arnold and Adam were walking, heads down, obviously shamed and defeated. I really felt pity for all of them, especially Arnold and Adam, since they clearly had grasped the significance of their irresponsible and despicable actions and stood to ruin the rest of their lives. When I turned to look for my car, I remembered what had happened to it and that definitely tempered my pity.
Clearly, anyone who had not known of Justin's and my relationship was well aware of it now and there was certainly no need to pretend otherwise, in fact, I was ready to flaunt it. I guess Justin was too, since before he got in the Impreza he gave me an open-mouth, full-tongue, toe-curling kiss, which I returned. When I reminded him I was going to Sanford's Furniture as well, he just grinned.
I dropped Justin off at the downtown store and went out to the new one. When I got to the store, Mr. Sanford looked ten years older than he did the day before. "Marc, if you don't mind, could I talk with you a minute?"
I followed him into the office and, after he closed the door, tears started running down his face. He apologized for Adam and I assured him that so far as Justin and I were concerned, Adam was an adult and he was the one responsible. We talked at least half an hour and before we finished, I said, "Mr. Sanford, Adam needs to come clean. He was involved to one extent or another. We knew he was really angry about me and Justin while we were in Florida, but I never expected him to go against what I know he has been taught. I don't really understand it."
"The sheriff left him with me and Mrs. Sanford today and I guess the only thing he said which made sense was that you and Justin had been his best friends and he depended on you and he felt he had lost your friendship because you two had become, well..."
"Lovers, we're lovers, Mr. Sanford."
"Right. Then when Bobbie dropped him for whatever reason, and he gave none which made any sense to me. He blamed that on you two. Two best friends and girlfriend gone so far as he was concerned. He blamed you and Justin for both. He really felt like the bottom had fallen out of his world. I reminded him I had tried to tell him time and time again Bobbie was different from his mother who, bless her heart, even now is a very dependent person. I could see Bobbie was chafing under the 'little woman' role, if you know what I mean." I nodded. "But he is Adam and had to place blame other than where it belonged." Mr. Sanford was silent, tears started again and he asked, "What am I going to do?"
"I don't know. I mean, I do know Sheriff Anderson is very, very angry, but still doesn't want this to end up with the four arrested and tried. They are facing at least one felony charge and, if tried and convicted, serious jail time and a blot on their records for the rest of their lives. Sheriff Anderson wants to avoid that, but don't think he won't go through with it if there is not cooperation from the four. He will. He is still angry about what happened to the Allans last year and especially the fact that between the police chief and the school authorities, nothing was done. That will not happen this time, I can assure you of that! If you saw Sandy, you'd understand the sheriff's determination and anger, I think."
"I think," I replied.
"Thanks for talking, Marc. Why don't you go on home? Nothing pushing today."
I thought that kinda strange since Mr. Sanford had asked me to come in, then decided I wasn't needed, especially since he had said I would start work next week. I guess he just wanted to talk.
I thanked Mr. Sanford and turned to leave when I remembered I didn't have a car. While I was deciding what to do, Mr. Sanford came out of the office, called to his new assistant manager for the new store and said, "Carol, I'm gone for the day. Come on, Marc, you don't have a car."
Mr. Sanford was on his cell phone as we walked to his truck. He handed me the keys and indicated that I should drive and as he did, said into his cell phone, "That's right, Sheriff, I'd like to have him for an hour or so. I'll take full responsibility." Mr. Sanford, chuckled and said, "Yes, Sir, I promise he'll be in nearly as good shape when I return him as when I get him. I'll make sure I don't leave any marks." He closed his phone and said, "Swing by the jail, Marc."