Bryce and Cheryl dropped into seats at the table where Travis was sitting. Cheryl fanned herself a little. Both of their faces were a little sweaty.
"Hey Trav, how’s it going," Bryce asked.
"Good," Travis replied.
Bryce looked around, "Where’s Chris. He out on the floor with someone?" he asked.
Travis shook his head, "Nah, he had to use the bathroom."
Bryce got up, "Good idea. I’ll be right back," he said.
Bryce bent down, gave Cheryl a quick kiss and left the hall.
Travis and Cheryl made small talk while they waited for the two guys to return. Bryce returned a few minutes later and stopped for a few moments as he neared the table. He started looking around the room, when he headed toward the table he had a slightly confused frown on his face.
"Chris isn’t back?" he asked.
"No, did you see him?" Travis asked.
"No, he wasn’t in the restroom," Bryce replied.
"Maybe, he went to a different one," Travis offered.
Bryce nodded, "Yeah, probably. Maybe he didn’t know which one was open and went to one of the others. He’ll probably be back in soon," Bryce said.
"You want something to drink Cheryl, Trav?" he asked them.
"Sure thanks," they both answered with a nod.
Bryce went over to where the drinks were and picked up four small water bottles, figuring that Chris might want one as well when he returned. He handed them out before he sat down. He put one in front of the empty chair next to Travis for Chris. They drank the water and talked for a few minutes. Every few moments, Travis would look around to see if he could catch a glimpse of Chris returning to the dance. Travis began to get concerned when it appeared that Chris had been gone more than long enough to have been able to return from the restroom. He looked at Bryce and saw the concern that he felt reflected in Bryce’s face.
"Bry, I don’t like this. He should have been back long ago. I gotta go look for him," he said with worry filling his voice.
"Yeah I don’t like this either. Cheryl and I will help look," Bryce agreed with him.
The three got up and left the hall. Once outside they stood for a moment considering their options.
"Bry, you and Cheryl go check the ones by the social studies classrooms. I’ll go to the one near the gym," Travis directed them.
"That was where I went and he wasn’t there when I was there," Bryce told him.
"I’ll just double check and then I’ll head over and meet you guys. If we don’t find him, we’ll go get some of the guys from the club and fan out," Travis said.
"Kay. Good luck," Bryce said.
"Yeah, you too," said Travis.
They split up. Travis hustled over to the restrooms near the gym. He went in, "Chris! Hey bro, you in here!?" he called out.
There was no answer, so he started checking the place out. He cautiously knocked on the doors of each stall before opening it and checking to see if Chris was inside. With no sign of Chris anywhere, he left the room, and just as he was about to hurry off in the direction of Bryce and Cheryl he was suddenly grabbed in an iron grip. He started to struggle, but found that it was like someone had clamped a vice around his chest. He was not able to get free at all. He started trying to kick backward at whoever was holding him. He took in a breath to yell for help, when a hand clamped over his mouth and held it over his mouth in another vice like grip.
A low young sounding voice hissed in his ear, "Quit fighting me. I’m a friend. Now chill," the voice said.
Travis quit struggling. The person still held him firmly. "I’m going to let you go now, but I’m asking you to trust me and not yell or anything. I know where Chris is and I’m going to take care of it, but you have to trust me. I swear, I mean you no harm. Nod if you understand," the voice said.
The grip on his mouth was loosened a little bit and Travis was able to nod his head. Slowly the hand was moved away from his mouth and the grip across his chest was loosened until the unknown person dropped his arm, completely freeing Travis. Travis stepped back and quickly turned around. He saw, standing before him, someone who was a few inches taller and bigger than Travis. He was dressed in black jeans, and a black hooded sweatshirt. The person was turned partly away so that his face was well hidden in the hood of the sweatshirt. Travis tried to move so he could see the guy’s face, Travis could see a reflection of something from under the hood, but the guy put out his hand to keep Travis from moving closer, and kept his head turned partly away. The hand against Travis’ chest seemed as unmovable as the grip had been. Travis relaxed and stepped back. The head turned slightly toward Travis.
"Who are you?" Travis asked.
"Like I said, I’m a friend. You’ll have to trust me on that," the person replied.
"A friend to who?" Travis queried suspiciously.
"Chris…and you," the person replied.
"Do I know you?" Travis continued.
"I don’t know, do you?" the person answered the question with a question.
"Wait, you said you know where Chris is? Where is he?" Travis asked anxiously.
"He is nearby, but we are running out of time. Wait here and I’ll bring him here to you," The person ordered.
"Wait, I’m coming with you," Travis objected.
"It would be better if you didn’t…trust me. I will take care of Chris," the person promised.
Travis protested, "But…"
The person quickly interrupted him, "I know what he means to you, trust me to take care of it," he said.
Travis got a look of comprehension, "Wait a minute…Jack?" he asked hesitantly.
"Who’s Jack?" the person asked.
"Never mind," Travis dismissed the comment.
The guy put his hand up in a halt gesture, "Stay here, I’ll be back in a few minutes. Got it?"
Travis nodded reluctantly. The guy stood there for a moment more as he looked at Travis, before he turned and made his way toward the gym. Travis watched him until he was out of sight and then muttered to himself, "Like hell I will."
He started in the direction that the guy had disappeared. The route was around the front of the gym. He hurried to the corner of the gym, but when he got there he couldn’t see the guy anywhere. He looked around. North of him was the weight room and boys locker room. To the west were some classrooms with the tennis courts behind them. It was fairly open ground, so he didn’t think the guy went that way. Travis headed to the corner of the weight room and carefully peered around it, to see if he could see the guy. He could see down the side of the weight room and the boy’s locker room, no one was in sight. He could now see into the tennis courts more easily and they were clear, plus he could see along the back of the classrooms that were located near the tennis courts. There was no one in sight in that direction either.
Travis chose to head north along the side of the locker room. There weren’t too many buildings left. Maybe Chris was somewhere out in the athletic fields. Travis made his way as quick as he could without making too much noise to the corner of the locker room. He peeked around the corner, but again he couldn’t see anything, but the pool area and a couple of buildings outside of the fence that was around the pool. There was no one in sight, so after making sure that there was no one around, he hurried across the open space between the buildings next to the pool and the locker room until he reached the corner of the buildings. He looked around again, still no one in sight.
"Where the hell did that guy go. Maybe somewhere out in the fields. Who is he anyway?" he asked himself.
Travis crept around the corner and moved carefully along the building in the direction of the athletic fields. When he got to the end, he crossed the space until he was at the corner of the tennis courts as he looked out toward the athletic fields. A large bang behind him, near the pool, caused him to whirl around, and then the muffled yelling started.
After he left Travis behind, the guy moved fast but silent as he made his way around the gym, weight room and boy’s locker room. He came to the gate that led into the pool area. He saw the chain used to fasten the gate lying on the ground. The lock was still attached and locked, but the chain had been cut, probably with bolt cutters. He looked at the gate for a moment and stopped before he pushed it open. He moved to the side of the gate and quietly made his way over the fence. He dropped lightly on the other side and started moving toward the pool equipment room. As he neared the room, he could hear voices on the inside.
"Bring the little bitch over to the table and bend him over. Take the bitch’s pants down. I’m gonna show him how to take it like the fag he is," he heard one of the voices say venomously.
The guy growled very low in his throat before quickly moving to the door and wrenching it open. Before him he saw two guys on either side of Chris. They had just laid him across the desk, face down, and were holding him in place. Chris appeared to be unconscious. He couldn’t see his face, but the shirt he was wearing was almost completely ripped off his body and was hanging off one of Chris’ arms; other than that, he was only wearing his pants and shoes. One of the guys was standing behind Chris and had just hooked his hands in the sides of Chris’ pants to pull the pants off. The leader was standing behind him, waiting.
When the door was wrenched open, all of them turned and saw the guy standing in the open doorway. He lowered his hood and his blue eyes blazed with anger. His black hair seemed to be almost standing out as if affected with static electricity. The leader was the first to recover.
"Who the fuck are you. This is none of your concern, get the fuck out of here if you don’t want to get fucked up too," the leader warned the intruder.
The guy stood there silently, the anger clearly seen on his face in the light of the room. The leader turned to the others, "Take this fucker out."
The other three let go of Chris and he slithered as if boneless, off the desk and to the floor. They charged the guy. He ducked to the side and grabbed one of them around the waist and threw him against the pool cleaning equipment, causing a loud bang followed by a loud yelp of pain. The other two grabbed him from behind and slammed him against the wall. They started to punch him in the gut and face. He grabbed one of them and threw him across the room to land on top of the desk. The other one ducked low and punched him. The third attacker brought his arm up and slammed his elbow into the black haired guy’s back, knocking him to the floor.
He started to get up, but out of the corner of his eye he saw something as it descended toward his head. He put his arm up to block the bolt cutters, that were in the hand of the leader, as the leader attempted to bring them down on his head. The bolt cutters hit is arm solidly and he let out a grunt of pain, but he moved fast and grabbed the bolt cutters, wrenched them out of the leader’s hand and threw them across the room.
Before the leader could do anything, the black haired guy grabbed his arm and twisted. There was a loud crack from the leader’s arm, followed by his scream of pain as his forearm was broken. The guy then followed that up by kicking the leader low on the right shin, this brought another scream from the leader as his leg broke. The black haired guy dropped the leader and went after the others.
Two of them charged him while the other looked for something to use as a weapon. The black haired guy skipped to the side and pushed one of the guys down while he blocked a blow from the other. The guy grabbed the one whose blow he had blocked and threw him over toward the door. His head hit the door frame and he was unconscious before he hit the ground. When he turned around to find the other attacker, he received a blow from the end of metal pole used to skim the pool. He turned quickly and grabbed the pole, jerking it out of the attacker’s hands, then jabbing it into his gut three times in quick succession, followed by a blow to the side of the head, which caused the attacker with the pole to hit the wall and slump down unconscious. That left only one of the attackers still standing.
The attacker looked around the room, two of his friends were out cold and the leader was lying on the floor moaning in pain from the two broken limbs. He decided that, discretion being the better part of valor, it was time to go. So he turned and ran.
The black haired guy was having none of that, he chased him and gave him a powerful push which sent the runner flying into the water. He then followed him in, grabbed him and brought him to the edge of the pool. The guy pushed him out of the water and onto the deck. As soon as he jumped out of the pool, he grabbed the last of Chris’ attackers, hauled him over to the open door to the equipment room by the front of his shirt and then struck him hard on the jaw; which caused the runner to collapse on the ground.
The guy then walked into the room where the leader was lying on the floor, he grabbed him by his uninjured arm and pulled him up, causing him to sit up. The movement jolted both broken limbs causing him to scream out. The guy ripped the ski mask off, revealing Jerry Latham underneath, tears of pain streaming down his face. He grabbed Jerry’s hair and jerked it back until Jerry opened his eyes. The guy leaned his face close to Jerry’s until they were mere inches apart.
"Look at me you little prick. I would so like to rip out your guts, for what you were about to do, but you’re still a stupid punk kid and perhaps you’re young enough still to learn your lesson from this. I expect that you will soon be having some very bad experiences. Learn from them. If you don’t, it is very possible that what you are about to experience will pale next to what you will eventually experience. You are done here. And just so there is no mistake, I was not here. You have no idea who jumped you to stop your malicious attack on that kid over there. It was dark and the guy who jumped you completely surprised you and your little gang. Remember that and now…go to sleep."
As the guy spoke to Jerry, fear began to fill Jerry to his innermost being. He could feel the anger rolling off the guy who knelt next to him. There was a cold menacing feeling that seemed to grow as he looked into the almost glowing eyes of his attacker. The fear seemed to build until it almost overwhelmed him. At that moment, his mind just shut down from the fear and he passed out.
The guy was not gentle when he dropped Jerry back to the ground. The guy stood up and looked around the room. Everyone was out cold. He walked over and knelt next to Chris. Chris was lying on his side. There was blood from his nose and mouth along with other cuts on his face. The guy gently smoothed Chris’ hair back and stroked his cheek. Using his thumb he wiped some of the blood from Chris’ split lip and then he got up and walked out of the room. At the door he turned back and looked at Chris once more. He stopped for a moment and raised the hood of his sweatshirt so that his face was once again in shadow. He moved to the gate with the cut chain, and pulled it open. He looked to the buildings to his right and spoke to the shadows.
"Chris is in the pool equipment room, Travis. I think he will be alright, but you better get some help. There are some injured scumbags in there," he said calmly.
He turned away for a moment and then stopped to look over his shoulder, "Travis, do me a favor and forget I was here."
Travis whirled around at the sounds from the pool area. He ran back toward the corner of the building that was nearest to the gate that led into the pool area. As he drew nearer, he heard more banging and yelling. Then he heard a couple of screams. He flinched at them. He wanted to run in and see what was going on, but for some reason he was rooted to the spot, unable to move. He couldn’t even look around the corner for some reason. Slowly the sounds started to lessen, and then he heard the sound of someone running a few steps and then a couple of big splashes in the pool. There was the sound of splashing in the pool like someone was swimming or struggling in the water. Then it got quiet. He could still hear movement, but it was faint. After what seemed like a long time, he heard the faint creak of the pool gate opening and he was finally able to look around the corner of the building. He saw the guy in the hooded sweatshirt with water dripping from his clothes, standing just outside the gate, looking in his direction.
"Chris is in the pool equipment room, Travis. I think he’ll be alright, but you better get some help. There are some injured scumbags in there," the person said to him.
He turned away for a moment and then stopped to look over his shoulder, "Travis, do me a favor and forget I was here," the person asked.
Then he turned away, but before he did, Travis thought he saw the guy’s eyes glowing bright blue as he looked at him.
The guy was out of sight in no time and Travis was finally free of whatever had rooted him to the ground. He ran into the pool area and saw the open door. Just outside of the door he saw a guy wearing a ski mask, who was soaked lying there unconscious. Travis made his way to the doorway and looked inside. Just inside the door, was another ski mask clad guy, also unconscious. Another ski mask wearing guy was against the far wall, with the metal pole used to clean the pool lying beside him. In the middle of the room, he saw Jerry Latham, unmasked. There was a ski mask lying next to him and one of his arms and one of his legs didn’t look right.
On the floor by the desk he saw a sight that tore a little sob from him and brought tears to his eyes. Chris’ shirt was almost completely ripped off of his body and Travis could see the blood on his face from the beating he had taken, and bruises on his chest and stomach starting to form. He ran over to Chris and took his cell phone out as he gently lifted Chris’ head onto his lap as he dialed.
"Chris, Chris, wake up. He said you’d be alright…" he cried. He held the phone and silently prayed for someone to pick up quickly.
"911 operator, what’s your emergency?"
He was slightly startled when he heard the operator. "Uh…some guys attacked my b..…friend and beat him up pretty badly. I need an ambulance and the police. His attackers are also injured, there are four of them," he stammered as tears ran down his face.
"Are either of you in any danger right now from the attackers?" the operator asked.
"No, they’re all unconscious right now," Travis replied.
"Your location please," she asked.
"Los Al high school, we’re in the pool area," he told her.
"Okay, sit tight, help is on the way," she assured him.
"Thanks, hurry," he said before hanging up. Travis then made another call.
"Bry, it’s Travis. I….I found him. I found Chris," Travis told him.
"What’s wrong?" Bryce asked.
"He….he’s been hurt. Chris has been hurt. We….we’re in the pool area," he sobbed a little.
"On our way," Bryce told him.
Travis closed the phone and cradled Chris in his arms, rocking him a little. Tears were on his face. He felt movement a moment later and looked down. Chris was looking at him, a small wan smile on his face.
"Hey bro," Chris said.
"Chris. Oh my god. Are you okay? He said you’d be okay. I called the police and the ambulance. Are…" Travis was worried.
Chris lifted a hand up to cover Travis’ mouth to shut him up, "I think so, I’m a bit sore, but I think I know of a way to take some of the pain away. Could you kiss it and make it better?" he asked with a small smile.
Travis bent his head down and gently kissed him. Chris arms went around Travis and they increased the pressure of the kiss, but stopped when Chris stiffened up. Travis quickly broke the kiss and looked down at the wincing Chris, "Ow, I guess we’ll have to be a little gentler. My lip is a bit sore right now."
The two of them giggled a little. Chris reached up and brushed the tear tracks from Travis’ face.
"Thanks for finding me bro," Chris said. "It wasn’t me, it…." Travis started to say until they heard Bryce’s voice from the doorway interrupting what he was about to say.
"Well I guess Cheryl was right."
Chris and Travis turned toward the door where Bryce was, standing there leaning against the doorjamb, looking at two of them. Cheryl stood behind him.
"Oh, shit," they both said, worry in their voices.
Chris and Travis started to tense up and try to move apart, but a groan from Chris stopped them. They looked at each other nervously before they did a double take and looked back at Bryce. It hadn’t registered right away because of the fear that raced through them, thinking that now Bryce might not want to be friends any longer, but he had a smile on his face and the only other thing that they saw on his face, was the same friendly smile that they had always gotten from Bryce. They knew that he accepted them still as his friends. They exchanged a look and then gently kissed again.
"Hey, c’mon, give me a break. No PDA’s. Owww! Hey what was that for?" Bryce complained.
They both looked up and Cheryl was now standing next to Bryce and was scowling at him. He was rubbing his upper arm where she had obviously hit him. She turned back to the two of them and smiled as she unclenched her fist.
"You guys go ahead and perform as many PDA’s as you wish in front of us, or he won’t be getting any PDA’s either," she said.
"Oh, uh, yeah. I guess it's okay. I was just kidding, anyway. But what the hell happened here?" Bryce told them.
Chris looked around and his eyes widened when he saw the condition of his attackers.
"Uh, Travis, what happened. Remind me not to piss you off," Chris said as he looked around in wonder.
"It wasn’t me. It…I’ll tell you guys later," Travis protested.
"Sure Trav," Chris said mockingly.
They could hear sirens getting closer. Chris felt well enough to move and he shifted around until he was sitting up next to Travis. Bryce came over and together he and Travis helped Chris get up and sit on the desk. They could hear the sounds of running feet and some of the guys on the ground started to stir. The sirens drew near and then cutoff. Through the open door they could see the reflections of the flashers. Right then, they looked up and Chris’ dad appeared there with Dave Basem and others from the dance behind him. Michael looked at the carnage and then he saw Chris and he ran to him and hugged him.
Soon there were police, firemen and paramedics in the room. The police were checking the guys on the ground. They pulled off the ski masks of the other three attackers. Besides Jerry, there was his friend Mark Howard and a couple of other juniors, John Neal and Terry Lopez. The only one who wasn’t moving so far was Jerry. He was still unconscious. The others were moving a little, but not very easy. They were groaning and holding various parts of their bodies. One of the paramedics was tending to Jerry with the help of a couple of the firemen. Another paramedic looked after Chris. A policeman was standing there. He tapped the paramedic on the shoulder.
"Hold up a minute," he said. The police office took a small camera out of his pocket and took some pictures of Chris’ face and the red marks on his body. "Okay go ahead, I just wanted to document the injuries before you cleaned him up too much," he explained.
He turned to Michael, "Sir, could I talk to you for a moment while the paramedic works on the boy?" he asked.
"Sure," he replied. He looked at Chris and asked him, "You’ll be okay Chris?"
Chris nodded, "Yeah Dad. I’m fine."
Michael smiled and stepped away to where the officer was standing. He waited until the officer finished taking a few more pictures of the room and the others. He put the camera away and turned to Michael holding out his hand.
"Officer Gunderson, sir," he introduced himself.
"Michael Hale," Michael replied.
"Am I right that the boy over there is you son, sir?" he asked him.
Michael nodded, "Yes he is."
The officer took opened his notebook, "His full name?" he asked.
"Christopher Jason Elkins," Michael answered.
"Okay. Do you know anything about what happened in here?" the officer asked.
Michael shook his head, "Not really, no. I didn’t know anything until you guys showed up at the hall and told us about the 911 call, and then I ran over here and saw…all this," he gestured to room.
"Do you know any of these other boys?" he was asked.
Michael nodded as he looked at the boys lying around the room, "Yes all of them. They are juniors here at the school."
"Could you give me their names?" Officer Gunderson asked.
Michael looked around the room as he pointed at each one and told the officer their names, "Jerry Latham, Mark Howard, John Neal, and Terry Lopez."
The officer made notes as he pointed out each one, "Thank you."
When he finished the notes, he looked up again, "Does your son have some sort of martial arts training to be able to fight these other boys and injure them like this?" the officer asked.
"No, none. I’m sure he defended himself, but I don’t know how he could have done this?" Michael said.
"What about the other two boys who were here when we showed up," he pointed at Travis and Bryce.
Michael again shook his head, "No, they have no training like that either. Although I don’t think they did this either. They don’t look like they have been fighting and in ten years as a coach and a teacher, I’ve seen the results of fights between boys. They usually look more like my son and these other boys look right now, rather than completely unscathed as Travis and Bryce are," he pointed out.
The officer took note of what Michael was saying and looked at the two other boys and nodded after a few moments, "Yeah, you’re right. I don’t think they are involved either. You said Travis and Bryce? What is their relationship with your son?" he asked.
"The three of them have been best friends since kindergarten. They’ve grown up together, played Little League and now they play on the freshman team for the school here. They’re virtually inseparable, especially Travis and Chris, they grew up next door to each other," Michael explained.
The officer wrote a few more notes before he closed the book, "Well, I guess that’s all I can get for now. I will need to speak to all three boys, of course. Plus anyone else who might know anything?" he asked.
Michael looked around and said, "The only other person that was here when I got here was Cheryl over there. She’s Bryce’s girlfriend."
Officer Gunderson opened his book and wrote a couple more notes, "I’ll have to talk to her as well. You don’t happen to know her parents?" the officer asked.
Michael shook his head, "No, I don’t," he said.
"Okay, thank you Mr. Hale," the officer said.
"Sure," Michael replied.
The officer walked over to Cheryl, who was now standing back a bit with Bryce. He talked to her for a moment and wrote down her information. In the distance some more sirens were approaching. One of the other officers came up to Officer Gunderson.
"We haven’t got much more than their names from them. Two of them are still a little groggy, but coherent, so we’ve cuffed them. It looks like they can move on their own steam so we’re going to transport them to the hospital to get checked out. The one over there is still pretty out of it, so they called up another ambulance to carry him and the guy that’s still out, plus the other kid over there by the desk. Any idea what happened?" the officer asked.
Gunderson shook his head, "Not really, at least until I get a chance to talk to the kid at the desk. I’m guessing these four attacked that kid for some reason and the kid fought ‘em off somehow. I’m guessing maybe he hit some of them with some of the stuff in here like the pole for the pool net. Other than that, everything is just guessing, until we can talk to them."
Officer Gunderson went back to checking over the crime scene. He found some blood on the metal pole and gestured for one of the officers to take it in as evidence. He looked around and saw the end of the bolt clippers on the other side of the filtration equipment and took a glove out of his back pocket to pick it up and passed them to another officer for evidence. He also picked up the hood that had been placed over Chris’ head and had been thrown to the side when they removed it. Everything that was on the desk was scattered around. He noted the overturned desk chair and other things that were apparently out of place. After making notes and taking a few more pictures he walked over to Michael.
"Mr. Hale. I will see you at the hospital. I’d like to talk to Chris about what happened," he said to Michael.
Michael nodded in acknowledgment, "Fine. We’ll see you there."
They shook hands and the officer left. About this time, the paramedics and the police were ready to transport everyone. The officers got Terry and John off the floor and walked them out to their cars. Jerry, Mark and Chris were on gurneys now and were wheeled out to the waiting ambulances. Most of the students had been moved back and out of the area and were being held back by other police and firemen. The ambulances were loaded with their patients and driven away. Michael was with Travis, Bryce and Cheryl. He turned to the other teachers and directed them to get the students back to the hall.
"C’mon, let’s go to the hospital. Cheryl, why don’t you go back with the others and have your parents come pick you up. I’m going to take these two with me to the hospital," he said to her.
"No way. Chris is my friend too, I’m going with you. I’ll call my parents and let them know where I am," she protested.
"Okay. Let’s go, but call you parents right away. They can meet us there," he said.
He led them to his SUV and drove off. They weren’t too far behind the emergency vehicles and arrived at the hospital just behind them. Once he parked, the four of them hurried inside and Michael told the receptionist who he was. She had them sit down and she would call him when he could go back.
They found a group of chairs that were together and waited. Michael called Heather to let her know what was going on. He assured her that Chris was going to be fine and outlined what little he knew. He heard his name being called and saw a nurse standing at the desk. He went up to her and she had him follow her back into the ER. She led him to a cubicle where he could see Chris. He was cleaned up now with some bandages on some of the cuts he sustained. He thanked the nurse, went up and kissed Chris on the forehead and took his hand. Moments after she left, a doctor came in.
"Mr. Elkins…" the doctor started.
"It’s Hale," Michael correct him.
"Hale, but I thought his name is Elkins," the doctor said.
"It is, I’m his stepfather," Michael explained.
The doctor nodded, "Okay, my apologies. Mr. Hale. Well, to start with, other than some scrapes, minor cuts and some bruising, Chris is going to be fine. He’ll probably be sore for a few days, but other than that he should be fine. If he has any pain, a simple over the counter pain reliever should be sufficient," he told them.
"So he’s free to leave?" Michael asked.
The doctor nodded, "Yes, I’ll take care of his paperwork and you can take him home," he said.
After the doctor left, Officer Gunderson came in, "I understand, that they’re cutting you loose. Glad to hear it. While we’re waiting, could I ask you a few questions while everything is still fresh?" he asked.
Chris nodded, "Yes, sir."
"Good. Now can you tell what happened?" Gunderson asked.
Chris nodded and started to tell him what he remembered, "I was coming out of the restroom when I was jumped…"
He proceeded to tell the officer everything that he could remember, right up until he woke up again, except for anything about him and Travis. Officer Gunderson made notes, occasionally asked him to clarify one point or another.
"So, other than when you charged the one guy, you say you were unable to do much of any fighting back," the officer asked.
"No sir," Chris shook his head.
"So you never saw anyone attack them?" Gunderson asked.
"No, sir," Chris again shook his head to emphasize his point.
"What about your friends? Could they have done it?" Gunderson asked.
"Maybe, but they told me they didn’t do it. So I doubt it," Chris said.
"Okay. I only have one more question and it's one I have to ask," Gunderson said apologetically.
Chris was worried by the tone of the officer’s voice. He noticed the officer glance at his dad before he asked it.
"You said this Jerry Latham was trying to force you to perform oral sex and before you passed out you heard him tell the others to strip you as if preparing to rape you," the officer stated as he read his note.
"I have to ask this, are you gay Chris? I talked to some of the others at the dance and learned that it was sponsored by your GSA club at school and that you are a member of that club. The reason I have to ask, is that if that is true, then this becomes a hate crime and there will be more severe penalties for your attackers, almost certainly to guarantee jail time. I wouldn’t ask it, if it wasn’t important," he asked.
Chris didn’t say anything for a moment. Then his head dropped, causing Michael to be concerned; tears dripped from his eyes and he nodded his head. The officer looked toward Michael to see his reaction and relaxed when he saw nothing to be worried about.
"Thank you Chris. I know that was hard and very brave of you to admit it. Mr. Hale, I will be in touch with you in case there is anything more. I would still like to talk to the other boys, so could you have their parents call the station as soon as they can and find out when we can do the interviews?" he asked.
"No problem. I’ll let them know," Michael assured him.
"Thank you and good luck to you both," he said as he shook their hands.
He left the room and Chris’s head still drooped. Michael lowered the rail of the gurney and sat on the edge as he took Chris in his arms.
"I’m sorry dad. I didn’t want to be, but I am…gay," Chris apologized.
"Don’t worry son. Your mom and I aren’t going to stop loving you because of that. You are our son and we will always love you. You being happy is what’s important to us. Not who you like," he assured him
Chris started crying in relief for a few moments and Michael rocked him until he had sorted himself out.
"Thanks dad," he said as he tried to gain control of himself.
"No problem. So is that the reason Jerry and the others attacked you, huh," Michael asked him.
"I don’t think that is the reason, really; I think it was an excuse," Chris said.
"Why an excuse," Michael asked.
"I’ve never done anything that would make people think I’m gay. I mean me and Tra….oh, fu…shoot," Chris stopped.
"Ah, I see. You and Travis, huh?" he asked.
Chris nodded again.
"I guess it makes sense, since you guys have been practically joined at the hip, like your mom always says, your entire lives. You’re sure this is just not some experimentation phase that you guys are going through. I know that a lot of guys do that when they are your age, with all those hormones running rampant in your systems. I mean, you were both going with those girls a few months ago," he said.
"Yeah, well, we were never serious about it, besides, Jeannie is a total bigot. There’s no way I’d want to be with someone like that, even if I was straight. But no, this isn't a phase. We just admitted it to each other a few weeks ago, but we’ve both been feeling like this for a while now. We just didn’t want to admit it, because we were afraid. I think going out with the girls kind of proved it to us. I mean, Wendy was pretty nice, but Travis says that she didn’t make him feel the way he does when he’s with me. So, we’re pretty certain, we’re gay," Chris explained as he blushed at what he was admitting about how Travis felt about him.
"How many other people know?" Michael asked.
"Alex from my art class was the only one who knew until tonight. Bryce and Cheryl kind of caught Travis and I kissing after Travis found me earlier in the pool room. So that makes four, including you," he said.
"I think Travis is going to need to tell his parent’s, but other than our families, no one else needs to know. Just know that your mom and I will support you, however you need us," Michael said as he hugged Chris again.
Chris smiled, "Thanks dad."
The nurse entered at that moment and handed Michael some forms and Chris was released. Chris put his ripped up shirt back on as best as he could. He and his dad walked out to the lobby and they were immediately surrounded by Chris’ friends. Michael ushered them out the door and to his car. In the car, Travis and Chris sat in the farthest back seats and Bryce and Cheryl in the middle seats. Michael dropped Cheryl off first. She gave Bryce a quick kiss before she got out. At Bryce’s the three boys bumped fists when he got out and he thanked Michael for the ride home. Once Michael pulled into the driveway, he turned around to look at them.
"Okay guys. Travis, I’m sorry, but Chris accidentally told me," Michael said with a shrug.
"Told you wha…oh, you mean…" Travis said but stopped as it dawned on him what Michael was saying.
"Yes, that you two are a couple," Michael confirmed.
"I thought we were going to wait to tell anybody," Travis said to Chris.
Chris had a sheepish look on his face, "I couldn’t help it. The policeman asked me if I was gay. He said it was important to know for the investigation and I didn’t want to lie. So I admitted it. Afterward, when Dad and I were talking, I kinda slipped and he figured it out," he explained.
"Sh….shoot what are we going to do. I am so dead," Travis said with worry creeping into his voice.
"Travis calm down. You have nothing to worry about. I don’t have a problem with it and neither will Chris’ mom," Michael assured him.
"Yeah, okay. Then we don’t have tell my parents about it," Travis breathed a sigh of relief.
"You’re right we don’t have to tell them…but you really should," he told Travis. "They are our friends and this is not something that I want to be hiding from them. That’s not what friends do. I’ll go with you when you tell them if you want," Michael assured him.
"So will I, Trav. We’ll face it together," Chris said to him.
"Okay then, I guess I’ll tell them, but can we do it tomorrow. It’s kinda late and I’m tired," Travis said wearily.
"Fair enough, you just call us when you want us to come over and we’ll be there," Michael said.
"Thanks Mr. Hale. Goodnight Chris," Travis said as he started to get out of the car.
"Wait a moment boys, I’ll be inside, just don’t take long or your mother will come out here and drag you in the house," Michael said with a smile.
"Thanks Dad," Chris said.
Michael got out of the car and went inside. Chris and Travis just leaned into each other and hugged.
"Sorry about spilling the beans," Chris apologized.
"S’okay. We we’re going to have to tell them eventually, might as well get it out of the way. It’ll probably be easier. I didn’t like keeping it from them anyway, so I hope it will be okay and they won’t freak when I tell them," Travis whispered.
"I think we’ll be alright," Chris assured him.
"Well, see you tomorrow," Travis said.
"Yeah bye bro. See ya." Chris replied.
They kissed once more and got out of the car. Travis jogged over to his house and went inside.
Chris closed the door of the car and went inside himself. He found his mom and dad at the kitchen bar drinking some coffee. She put down her cup and went over to hug him. She pulled back and looked at his face, her eyes had tears in them. Some of the bruises had started to show more now.
"Well, a little worse for wear but, I guess you’ll be fine. I’m so glad you’re home safe honey," She said.
She guided him to one of the chairs at the bar and gave him a cup of hot chocolate that she had ready for him. She sat next to him, keeping her arm on his shoulders.
"Your dad’s told me what you told him. He said that you and Travis are sure, is that right," she asked him.
Chris nodded, "Yeah mom, we’re sure," Chris said.
"Well, okay if you’re sure, then we’ll help in any way that we can," she assured him.
"Thanks mom," he said.
"Well, you should finish that and then go get cleaned up and get some sleep. It’s late," she said to him.
"Kay mom," he answered her.
They sat for a few minutes longer talking until Chris was finished. He hugged them both and said goodnight. Up in his room, he threw the torn shirt in the trash and took off his pants. He grabbed a fresh pair of boxer briefs and went to the bathroom to take a shower. Once he stripped down, he looked at his body in the mirror while the shower warmed up and he could see that some of bruises had started to show on his chest and sides. He carefully felt his parts and though they were a little tender, there appeared to be no permanent damage. The hot water of the shower felt good on the bruised areas and helped relieve some of the soreness from the abused muscles. Once he felt better he got out, dried off and put the clean underwear on and went to his room. He got in bed and the events of the day sent him to sleep within minutes.
In a tree in the backyard that looked into Chris’ bedroom, a figure in a dark sweatshirt and jeans let out a breath of relief as he watched the bedside lamp turn off and Chris fall asleep. When he was sure Chris was out, he lightly dropped to the ground. Moving smoothly through the backyard, he vaulted the fence into the backyard of the house on the other side of Chris’ from the Grayson’s and made his way to the end of the block, by moving swiftly but silently from yard to yard, until he was at the end of the block and over the last fence. A couple of yards had dogs in them, but he just put his hand up and they stopped and lay back down where they were without a sound. He went to the car that was parked near the end of the block and then made his way back to his home, satisfied with how things turned out tonight.