I have a section which discusses suicide in this story. This is not my personal viewpoint. As I've written the characters, over the last few months, this is how I perceive that they would act.
I saw Robby spin completely around and from experience I knew he had been shot. One of he jobs of a bodyguard is to place yourself in the line of fire if necessary. Of course the more you love and respect the one you're guarding the easier it is and jumping toward Robby was automatic. I felt the bullet hit, but my adrenaline level was so high that I didn't even feel the pain, but I no longer had control of my body and I landed on top of Robby, then things went black.
I woke up briefly and I was aware for a minute. I croaked out, “Robby?” and I heard Jeannie answer.
“Alive, but he's in a coma right now. We don't know how it'll go for the moment.” Jeannie told me and I appreciated her honesty. “That second bullet that hit you Len, was deflected and just grazed his head. That's the only reason he's still alive.”
I felt a fierce pride as I went back to sleep again. The next time I woke I was a little more aware and Jeannie was sitting in a chair by my bed. “How do you feel, Len?”
“I feel like sh...” I started to say.
“You're not allowed to use that phrase. That's what Robby said about the way his mother looked when he woke up.” she told me sternly and a feeling of relief washed through me.
“How bad is he?” I asked.
She grinned, saying, “He's got a headache and he's mad as a hornet about what happened, to the point where he's ordering the doctors around.” I giggled at that, I know at thirty-five you shouldn't giggle, but I could just picture the scene. Jeannie said more seriously, “The bullet that creased his head is the cause of the headache. The doctors say that aside from a slight concussion it isn't serious. An eighth of an inch in the other direction and he would probably have died. The shoulder wound was in and out and didn't impact bone, so it's basically a flesh wound and should take about three or four weeks to heal.”
She explained, “The bullets that hit you, caused severe wounds. They were never considered dangerous, but one of them hit a lung. It's going to take a couple of months before you're up and three or four months before you can get back to the job.”
A little worried I asked, “Who's going to provide backup while I'm down, I don't want just anyone to take that job.”
Jeannie said, matter of factly, “He hired me to take over for you, until you're well, Len.” and I felt relief and gladness, she was first rate.
“Take good care of both my babies, will ya, Jeannie.” and she knew I was talking about Robby and the mini-van and her eyes twinkled. I asked, “How is he taking it?”
She told me, “He's sorry that you got hurt, but he's proud of the reason that you got hurt and as I say mad as a hornet at the one who hired the shooter.”
Something occurred to me. I asked, “Why haven't they come along to break this up? Usually when you're hurt, they don't allow visitors to talk this long.”
She giggled and it sounded much better from her than from me. She said, “Robby's right next door and the staff is terrified of him. They're staying as far away from this section as they can, only coming here when it can't be avoided.” She looked at me closely. “But I think it's time that you go back to sleep. You're still in pretty bad shape and you need rest.”
I nodded my head wearily, she put her hand on my arm and squeezed gently, saying, “Sleep well, hero. I'll stay until you're asleep.”
It couldn't have been more than a few seconds, before she just faded into black.
I was aware of an intent pair of eyes gazing at me when I awoke the next time and it was a relief when I saw Robby big green eyes looking at me. His face was solemn but his eyes were serene. He said in his soft voice, “All you Peters are the same, have babies, or get yourself shot so you can take some time off of work.”
He reached out with his small left hand and grabbed my right hand solidly. He told me, “I'm sorry you got shot Len, but I'm proud of the way you reacted.” and he allowed me to feel his pride and it was a fierce pride, showing me that he would never be sorry for the reason I got shot. He would have expected nothing less of me and despite the way I felt, at the same time I never felt better in my life.
Robby was sitting on a chair with Blue in his arms and his eyes were bright. I said, “I thought they didn't allow animals. I know they made an exception when you were hurt, but...”
He grinned, saying, “They're still wary of me. The nurse was about to say something, but when she saw who it was she stopped abruptly. I have something for you.” He put Blue down on the bed and the cat stayed where he was, usually he would come closer to be petted, but he knew what Robby had. Robby took a box out of his pocket. He said simply, “I got these in Mexico while Jeannie and I were taking care of Luigi Corso. These are my versions of the Navy Cross. Gold for those who risked their lives to save my life and silver for those who helped to do it.” Robby lifted up a fine gold chain, on the end of which was a tiny cross, about three-quarters of an inch long and a half-inch wide. He stood up and carefully fastened it around my neck.
He told me solemnly, “I know they say you shouldn't have jewelry in a hospital, but it's the presentation that's the important part. If you lose it or someone steals it that doesn't matter. You know you got it and I know you got it. I gave one to Blue as well, for helping to keep everyone calm while I was in a coma.” He turned over Blue's color and there was a tiny silver cross embedded in the back.
Robby took a second gold chain out of the box, saying seriously, “This one is special, it's for Paul, he wasn't able to help physically, but everyone says he was a tower of strength during the same time. Blue and especially Paul kept the family together, when it could very easily have crumbled.”
I marveled again at the wisdom in that young mind. If he had been a different type of person, he could very easily have forgotten how important it was for someone to be there to lean on at times like when he had been hurt. I took his arm and pulled him into a gentle embrace and he was very careful not to hurt me. When I pushed him back up, there were tears at the corner of his eyes.
Robby shook his head, telling me, “I also got a silver one for Jeannie. I figure I'll give it to her when you get back on the job, for putting up with me for a few months. Blue already has his and I've given you one of the gold ones. Teddy will get a gold one as well and Barry and Mom each a silver.”
Trev and me were feeling really nervous. While we've known Robby since May, we'd never approached him as an Elder before, always as just another kid. An older kid of course, since he'd had his birthday yesterday and had turned thirteen and we're only nine. He was just sitting on the back porch steps, leaning back with his eyes closed. We knew he wasn't in one of his trance like periods. You know when he's in them. He doesn't move then and he was rubbing Blue's head and back.
I looked at Trev and then gave him a pinch on the butt to get him started. He's always been the leader and the spokesman for the two of us. He jumped when I pinched him and that caused Robby to open his eyes and look at us. Those large green eyes of his regarded us calmly. They just reach out and grab you and if you've done something wrong you want to turn away, but you can't.
Since Trev obviously was feeling even more tongue-tied than I usually was I figured it was up to me. I cleared my throat, saying, “Robby, Trev and I,” and then all in a rush. “Trev and I think Randall has gone and bought a gun.” and I took a deep breath, glad that part was out of the way.
A hard look came into his green eyes and even though Trev and I knew it wasn't aimed at us, we both shivered anxiously. He asked in his soft voice, “Are you sure?”
Finally, Trev was able to talk, “No, not really, but it's just the way he went about it. He's always been stingy with money, yet we saw him give this kid two hundred dollars and he got a cigar box back. He doesn't collect anything and there's nothing to be celebrated. No birthdays, anniversaries or anything like that. Thanksgiving is coming but we don't give out gifts then and he hates drugs with a passion.”
“You were spying on him, weren't you?” he asked. His eyes were still hard, but there was a little humor in his voice.
Trev and I looked at each other and then we answered at the same time, “Yes.” we said quietly.
Robby reached out and ruffled our hair and said, “Don't worry about it, I don't know of a little kid with an older brother and sister who doesn't. It's part of growing up and if the older kids aren't perceptive enough to realize it, that's their tough luck.”
We felt relieved. He closed his eyes for about thirty seconds and then opened them and Trev and I stepped back at the anger in them. His voice was even softer than usual, yet it was just charged with anger. “He did and then he went and took a loaded gun into a house where there are younger children, when he doesn't know the first thing about guns himself.”
Robby said sternly, “I will be over at suppertime and you two will say nothing when I get there. It concerns your family, so you should know what happens, but you're too young to have any say in this, so you won't say anything, unless you are addressed directly. That is an order from an Elder. Do you understand?”
We nodded our heads, vigorously. He said soothingly, “Don't be concerned about not having any say in this matter, nobody else in your family has any say either. Your brother has disobeyed a Werewolf Law and that means it becomes an Elder's responsibility and I intend to punish him for it. Don't worry, my punishment will fit his age, so it won't be that bad, though while he's going through with it he'll certainly think so.” Robby turned us around and gave us gentle swats on the bottom, “Now go.” and we went.
I had heard about Robby Hansen from my cousins and other werewolves at the high school, but he had just seemed like a nice ordinary polite little kid. Well, the Robby Hansen who showed up at our door just as we were finishing supper was a very different matter. He was one very, very angry Elder.
I answered the door and when he was inside, he pointed to my chair and said, “Sit!.” and his soft voice had such command that I obeyed instantly. He looked at the rest of us, telling us, “This is between Randall, as one who has broken Werewolf Law and I, as an Elder who found out about it. You will stay out of it, unless I include you.”
Robby turned to Randall, who had gone white with fear. He said sternly, “Go get the gun and bring it here. Leave it in the box. Move!” The last word was only slightly louder than the rest of what he said but it sent Randall out of the room at a run. He came back in carrying a cigar box and then sat down. Robby put the box on the table and opened it and we all gaped at the handgun in the box, all except Randall who couldn't make himself do so.
The next words were so low that they were almost a whisper, but they just knifed though us and especially Randall. “Are you even aware, Randall, that the safety on this gun is off.” Randall jerked and went even whiter if that was possible. Robby picked up the gun and very carefully put the safety on and unloaded the gun. From the way he handled it, it was obvious that he was experienced in handling firearms.
Putting the bullets and the gun back in the box, he asked still in that cutting voice, “You will tell me who you got the gun from, Randall. Out loud. I don't intend to dig for it.”
“No-lan Arm-stead.” Randall jerked out.
said quietly, “Very well, my fingerprints should be on the gun, yours
and possibly Nolan's. My mother is waiting outside in the car, to receive
this. I will bring this out to her, then I'll be back to discuss your
transgression further.” Robby picked up the box and turning he went
to the door and leaving it open, he went outside. My parents and I looked
at each other helplessly. This was now in an Elder's hands and we had
no say in the matter.
Robby returned to the kitchen and closing the door behind him, he got a spare chair and sat on it backwards, hands on the chair top. He told us in his soft voice, “Don't worry, Quentin, Lucy, it's not your fault and in a sense it's not Randall's either, it's that stupid intelligent test that the Cormier school system gave to him. Benson doesn't allow such tests, because it tends to categorize a child and at the same time can unfairly put pressure on someone who is not emotionally ready for it.”
Robby explained, “I know that when Randall was seven he was a very shy, introverted child. He took a test and suddenly he was pushed out into the spotlight, into an accelerated class system. He was crash-landed into a world he wasn't ready for. He covered his hurt and shyness by appearing to be arrogant and full of himself and in bullying the twins. Suddenly you move to Benson and he expected he'd finally be able to relax, that all of a sudden the pressure was off.”
Robby sighed before continuing, “Randall was shocked after the first few days of school when he realized that Benson's school as a whole is an accelerated class system. For the last fifty years, it's been in the top ten schools in the country, in the last twenty it's never been out of the top five and in seven of the last ten years, it's been one or two in the country. The way it's set up, if you're brought up in the system there's no pressure, you simply know it's the best and you want to keep it that way.”
He waved his hand in the general direction of Cormier, saying, “When you suddenly come in from the outside, where you've always had pressure and think the pressure is suddenly gone, the shock puts even more pressure on you. Then you find that even if you work your hardest you won't be the top student in the class, because two of your classmates are much brighter than you are and just as dedicated to making good grades. That leads to depression and normally a werewolf child in that situation will go to the nearest Elder, to get help. It's ironic that the Elder is one of the two children in your class who's brighter than you are.”
Robby said quietly, “Keep this quiet, please, it's personal and I'm only mentioning it because it may help. Randall's IQ is 170. Benson can't forbid private testing. I was tested and I know my level is so high that it's off the scale. The other student, who Randall knows, but I won't name is also off the scale. Given that the three of us work equally hard, it's inevitable that the two of us will have higher grades.”
There was no longer any anger in that soft voice. It was kind and soothing and I could see Randall brightening as he realized that his failure wasn't personal. He had simply gotten unlucky in the fact that two of the children he was competing with were far smarter than he was. Might not seem like something that would be reassuring, but apparently it was.
Robby sighed again, saying, “I told Steve Ross just after school ended that this would happen, but as you are aware, I wasn't really paying a lot of attention to anything but schoolwork after school started, all my other thoughts were occupied elsewhere. However, I also said that Randall's mind was strong enough to take what has happened. It is, but suddenly in the midst of his depression, he got access to a gun and he was thinking about killing himself.”
A chill went up my back at that. I should have realized, why else would Randall get a gun? Robby kindly, “You were so depressed that you forgot that your family still loves you and would be hurt by your death. It's hard to know from just being told, so I will let you all feel what would have happened.”
Suddenly we were at a funeral and there was a small coffin, ready for lowering into the ground and the feeling of loss from my parents, my two little twin brothers and mine, made me heartsick. Suddenly I was back in the kitchen and the memory was fading though it never disappeared completely.
Robby explained to us, “Randall will remember that incident full force, to the rest of you it'll just be a faint memory, but it'll never go away. It's important to Randall that you remember it, even if only faintly.”
Robby paused before saying, “Now Randall, you broke a Primary Law, which is that no werewolf shall have a loaded weapon inside of a house where there are small children, unless it is to protect against specific danger. If it is to protect against specific danger, it still must be stored safely. The second part of that law is that no minor werewolf shall possess a handgun. There are exceptions made. I'm one, as an Elder I sometimes need a handgun. Given that fifteen is the general starting age at which Elders are chosen, there are other minor Elders who also need handguns. Some minor children belong to shooting clubs and use pistols to shoot competitively.”
He said, “You broke both parts of that law.” Robby turned his eyes on me, asking, “Cindy do you accept Charge or do I go to another relative?” Parents were never left in charge of punishments that Elders gave to children. Children needed to be able to go to their parents if they were troubled about the punishment. It would always be an older sister or brother or a relative, who would supervise the punishment.
I said, my voice a little choked, “Yes, I accept and I am aware it may be unpleasant at times, but despite what he did, I still love the little idiot.”
Robby looked at Randall, telling him, “The punishment will last one month, the first part of that punishment is that you are grounded for that period. You will stay at home, unless you are out with your parents or Cindy. You are old enough to supervise yourself. Any trouble with that portion and I'll double it and prevent you from changing for that same time period.” Randall took that with a jolt, he had known things were serious, but that told him how seriously Robby regarded it. That was almost the ultimate punishment, even as short a time as two months of not being able to change would be excruciating to a boy as young as Randall.
Robby asked, “Cindy, would you join me out on the porch, we'll discuss the remainder of his punishment.” Our house has three doors, the front door and the back door and the kitchen door by which Robby had entered. Robby followed me to the back porch, I sat on the porch swing and he sat on the railing.
Robby told me, “I intend to make the next month very disagreeable to Randall. Unfortunately that also means that it will also be very disagreeable to you and to me.”
“Won't hurt my social life anyway,” I said, a little moodily.
He said, “Ah, boy trouble.” with humor in his voice, then he was silent for a few seconds. “You're feeling desperate, so you're chasing them. In spite of women's lib, teenage boys prefer to chase and tend to avoid those doing the chasing.”
Thinking of his age, I burst out, “How do you know? You're only thirteen!”
Robby said wryly, but with bubbling humor in his voice, “Only thirteen yes, but I'm also an Elder and teenagers feel more relaxed coming to me than an older Elder. One of my jobs is that of marriage counselor and while adults might prefer to speak to an older person, sometimes I'm the only one available. I hear about marital problems and sexual problems. I'm no Doctor Ruth, but some of those stories would curl your hair.”
He said more seriously, “Over the next month, I intend to keep him so exhausted he has no time to feel sorry for himself. Starting tomorrow, I want him up and at my place by six-thirty, Jeannie and I take a three mile run each morning, joined by Jenna. At noon, I intend to get on the track with him and run another three miles. After school I want him to join our homework porch group that the twins are part of. It might help you as well if you come along. Rose has a Masters degree in Mathematics and Jeannie is a college graduate, ex-marine and pilot.” He pointed at me, “You have a choice, he doesn't.” he said flatly,
He contined explaining what Randall`s punishehment would be, “After the homework, another three mile run, however you'll be joining him for that. You'll fingd that it will help you with your hormonal balance as well. It doesn't work for humans but it does for werewolves. Starting tonight, before he goes to bed, make him do two hundred pushups and one hundred sit-ups and he's to do the same every night. I want him to end up in bed so tired all he can do is sleep.”
“And if he gets used to that, he is a werewolf after all?” I said.
Robby said solemnly, “We increase the exercises, if he hasn't started to come round. I want him on the verge of exhaustion until he does. It's not pleasant, but it's not intended to be and it does seem to work. Most Elders use this type of system to punish children, but most of them just point at the track and say go. Personally, though it's harder on me, I prefer to join them when I can.”
Robby waved at the kitchen, saying, “Getting back to Randall, this is a punishment yes, but I'm also hoping to kick him out of his depression as well. I don't think it was ever suicidal depression, I think the gun happened to be available at the wrong time. As a hypothetical case, if this didn't bring him out of depression and he still wanted to kill himself after the period of punishment was up, you must realize that as an Elder I'm also responsible to my people, as well as individual persons. I could put a prohibition on his mind against killing himself. However, such a prohibition is not so strong that if his wish to die is strong enough, that he can't override it. Most single Elders can't put any stronger prohibition on anyone. I could but I have been asked by the Council that when such a situation comes up, not to use my extra abilities, but to simply put the same type of prohibition that an normal Elder could use.”
He explained, “When they get to the age of twelve or thirteen, we consider werewolves old enough to decide whether they should live or die. If his mind is sound, I will do nothing further to stop him. We prefer those with that strong a death wish to die rather than contribute to our gene pool.” Robby stared at me with those big green eyes and a chill went up my back as I realized that while they were very calm, he meant every word.
“However,” he said reassuringly, “that was general information only. I don't think Randall ever had a death wish. His depression already seems to be dissipating, after he felt the loss that your family would experience at his death. He knows that he's not able to beat the other boy and I because we are smarter than he is. Maybe a lot of people would find that information hurtful rather than reassuring, but with Randall, it takes the pressure off of him. He no longer has to worry about being the best, because genetics has just told him he can't.”
He grinned saying, “Normally I would just tell you Randall's punishment and that would be it,. I'm talking to you about what it means to be an Elder, because from your aura and your mind, I will be entering you as an Elder candidate. From now on you're going to get seemingly useless information from the unlikeliest of sources.”
That shocked me almost as much as the werewolf attitude to suicide and Robby winked at me. Then he led the way back through the house to the kitchen. He nodded at Mom and Dad and the twins, but ignored Randall, who probably didn't notice it anyway. He was just staring at the table and there was shame and sullenness on his face.
Robby stopped at the door just before he opened it and said to me, “His punishment starts now. He doesn't go to bed until he's completed the two hundred pushups and one hundred sit-ups. Not being used to them, it could take quite a while for him to complete them.”
Robby nodded goodbye, then opened the door and left. I sat down at the table and told Randall what his punishment would be. He never looked up from the table, but I could see the tips of his ears turning red.
Dad grasped Mom's hand and began to speak. “Don't think you're the only one ever to be in Charge, Randall, both your mother and I ended up in the same position when we were kids. It's not going to be a pleasant period for you. Elders make sure that you find it very unpleasant, but the very reason that Cindy was chosen is so that you can come to us if you need to.”
I realized how wise the Elders had been to choose a sibling or relative rather than parents, because Randall looked at them and he could see the sympathy in their eyes and I could see he felt a little better.
I ruffled his hair affectionately. I knew that over the next month he might come to hate me, at least for a while, so it might be the last gesture of affection I would be able to give for the next month. I told him. “Come on, little brother. You're not in the best shape that a young werewolf can be in. Robby's right it'll take you awhile to complete pushups and sit-ups.”
It was almost five-thirty. By the time he finished the exercises, it was almost nine-thirty and Randall went into the bathroom and put his pajamas bottoms on. He almost fell into bed with exhaustion and I knew it was going to be much worse. Robby would let him off if he was sick, but that was the only excuse he would be allowed.
When I got home, Mom still wasn't back. She didn't show up until ten o'clock. She told me, “Your fingerprints were on the gun and so were Randall's but that's all. All of the children in the Cormier school system were printed a couple of years back when they were worried about a kidnap scare. I keep yours and your brothers and sister, in the safe in my bedroom and I took yours with me. Since that's the case, Norm and I destroyed the print record. The gun is not a wanted gun, we ran a ballistics test on it and got back negative results. We'll have to go after Nolan in another way. I think it's probably his stepfather who's responsible. He's always in trouble. Selling guns is just the type of thing that he would do.”
I looked at my watch, “Well, I won't be getting sleepy for another four or five hours.” I said with disgust in my voice. “Why don't we go see what I can get out of the stepfather. What's his stepfather's name anyway?”
It sounded like she said Cherry Coke and I looked at her in astonishment and she laughed at me, before saying, “That's only the way it sounds, eldest son. It's, spelled C-h-a-r-y K-o-c-h and the Chary is short for Charles.”
“You did that deliberately,” I accused.
Mom took hold of my hair and gave a couple of tugs, before saying, “Of course I did, Robby. It's not the usual pronunciation, but it's the way he pronounces his name. You're right however, I should take advantage of that brain of yours when I have the chance.” She gave Paul a kiss and then, we headed back out. Since I was with Mom, Jeannie didn't go along. Both Len and now Jeannie considered her quite capable of looking after me. It was only about a mile and she pulled up on the opposite side of the road. She told me, “Go to it, see what you can come up with.”
I closed my eyes and reached into Nolan Armstead's home. Nolan and his little brother and sister were sound asleep. Chary was watching a hockey game on television and he was half plastered. He had an unpleasant mind and it took me about fifteen minutes to get to the information I needed. I told Mom, what I found, “According to what he's thinking, Nolan is innocent in all of this. Chary threatened his little brother and sister, saying he'd hurt them. Apparently he's done so in the past and got away with it. Chance is Nolan's eight-year-old brother. He broke Chance's arm, Nolan reported it to Children's Services and nothing ever happened, so he knows he can't count on them. Chary forced him to sell four guns in the Benson public school. He doesn't know who Nolan sold them to, or why they were purchased and he doesn't care.” I could hear my voice go cold at that.
I felt my Mom take hold of my hand and squeeze, as I comtinued, “All told he's sold thirty-five handguns in the Benson-Cormier area. Eleven in the high school. And twenty in Cormier, most of them to the high school there. He has five others stashed in a oil drum in the back yard.”
When I heard his voice get softer, I knew he was getting angry and I grasped his hand and squeezed and he squeezed back. I always found it so unusual. Most people I know, including myself, the angrier I get the louder I get. The angrier Robby gets, the softer his voice is. When it gets to a whisper, somebody needs to duck. I'd only heard it that low once and that led to him killing the rogue werewolf.
He pulled out his cell phone and with one hand, he dialed a number. When it was answered he said, “This is Robby Hansen, put me in touch with Brian Peters, of the State Children's Services office, ...and don't tell me that it's after work hours, I'm aware of that. Your job when an Elder wants to talk to someone, is to find them and connect us to them… Yes I will wait!”
I asked, “Another Benson Peters I would assume?”
Robby nodded, telling me,, “One of Len's brothers.”
We were silent for the next ten minutes, before he said, “Brian, you will pull a file on a complaint made by one Nolan Armstead against his stepfather, Chary Koch.” and he spelled it. “This incident for some reason was ignored by the County Children's Services offices. The mother is unaware of the abuse that he has been using on the children, she works two jobs to keep them alive. As I said you will pull the file and raid the stepfather's residence and arrest him. Not tomorrow, tonight, I'm sitting outside his house right now. I expect to see your people here within one hour.”
He continuied speaking sharply, “He has been selling guns and forcing Nolan to help him, by threatening his younger siblings. Nolan made a complaint which should have been investigated, tomorrow you will launch an investigation into why it was not looked into. Since he knew Children's Services wouldn't do anything about it, he was forced to sell four guns. Koch still has five guns on the premises, Nolan to protect his siblings and mother will probably tell you where the remaining guns are.”
Robby paused then and took, a couple deep breaths and then spoke again, “I apologize, Brian I'm angry but I shouldn't take my anger out on you. You can't personally supervise every single caseworker in the state, but if this case had been investigated, a young werewolf wouldn't have gotten a gun, when he was thinking of killing himself. I don't know if he would have done so, but he had the means and all he had to do was pull the trigger. And there are thirty-four other guns out there floating around in the hands of Benson and Cormier public and high school students. Get your people here as soon as you can, please, Brian.”
A patrol car and an unmarked car from Children's Services and Brian Peters showed up at twelve-thirty. There were two caseworkers and the two policemen and they went and knocked on the door and Brian came over to us. I rolled down my window and apologized again, “I'm sorry about coming down on you so hard, Brian. The information was bad enough, you didn't need me ripping your head off at the same time.”
He put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed gently, saying, “I have a feeling you're not quite over getting shot yet, are you Robby.”
I thought about that, before saying, “Only partly. The other part, is that this went on right under my nose and I was concentrating so hard on something else up to a week ago that I wasn't paying attention to what was going on around me. I understand it, but it's still just as inexcusable as Nolan's complaint being ignored. It's a lesson learned and I've got to make sure that I take it to heart and don't repeat my mistake.”
I nodded at the Armstead-Koch house, where Chary was being escorted out by the two police officers, hands cuffed behind his back and one of the officers was carrying a plastic bag. I said, “Looks like Nolan gave them the guns. That should put him away for a while. How are you going to deal with it?”
Brian told us, “Well, those guns make this a crime scene, so we'll wait until the mother gets home and move them to the Heritage Motel. I already called Aunt Lily, just in case. What they'll do with the house will be up to Norm,” and he nodded at Mom, “and Hary.”
My mother said, “I doubt we'll do much. If there was anything to find aside from the guns, Robby would have detected that fact in Koch's mind. We'll have to call in State Police Forensics anyway and they'll give the house a going over, but it probably won't be tied up for more than a day or so. I'm more worried about the guns. You've probably been thinking about this since you got the gun from Randall, Robby, what do you think?” and she raised her eyebrows.
I said, explaining my thoughts, “An amnesty. Station police cars outside each of the schools and have them announce over the intercom that we know guns were sold in this area. Tell them that if any students possess illegal weapons, guns or knives, that they have until the school day ends either to turn them over or report the fact that they have them. That's just in case the weapons are at home and they have no way of getting there. The amnesty is going to have to include everyone, so Randall is the only one who gets punished out of this, even if werewolves turn in guns, which he may think is entirely unfair. Announce that the next day that you'll be doing a sweep of all the schools, any weapons found during the sweep, will result in charges being laid. Then you cross your fingers and hope only thirty-four guns are found. One or two over might not matter, but if you find a significant number, then that means there's another distributor of guns out there somewhere. Make it clear over the intercom that names will be taken and their parents will be informed, that if they are found with a gun or other illegal weapons in the future they will be charged and this incident will be taken into account.”
Mom nodded soberly, saying, “I think Norm and Dan Cubberly, the Police Chief in Cormier will agree and I agree, in that I hope that we come up with thirty-four guns or at the most thirty-six.”
I was pleased that when Randall showed up the next morning, he already looked tired. This was punishment and it wasn't something I liked to do, but at the same time, it was part of being an Elder. I wasn't surprised that Cindy showed up as well, that was part of being an Elder as well, or in her case an Elder candidate.
I told Jeannie to run at her usual pace and I'd stay behind with Randall. I expected that he would do a lot of walking for the first few days. Cindy maintained our pace and we walked for at least half of the three miles. Jeannie and Jenna were already on their way back before we got halfway.
Randall and Cindy went home, I told about them about the announcement,
“You may think it's unfair, Randall, if other werewolves kids have
guns and go unpunished. We know there are thirty-four guns in the Benson
and Cormier school systems. We need to find those guns and the best
way is to declare an amnesty. However, while no charges will be laid,
their names will be taken and their parents told, so that if they are
found with guns in the future, this incident will be taken into account.”
It was a quarter to nine and Steve was in the classroom alone. I locked the classroom door behind me and he looked up when he heard the click of the lock. I sat on a desk, informing him, “I imagine you know about the guns? Well I found a young werewolf with a gun which led to the announcement which will be made. He is under Charge. In other words, he's being punished and generally, our punish them to exhaustion. An Elder can tell whether it's over exhaustion and he'll ease up. The period for Randall will be one month, if I figure he has learned his lesson, I'll ease up after two weeks. For the first two weeks, it might be just as well to ignore him.”
Steve said to me, “That's why you were on the track three times last year with some younger kids, isn't it? The coach was drooling when he saw you run, but I persuaded him that it would be useless to ask you.”
I grinned, telling him, “You didn't persuade him enough, he asked me anyway, but I told him I don't compete competitively and he didn't ask again. I had the principal tell their teachers that they were being punished for an infraction, but she didn't say what kind. Since you're were I can tell you personally, but it's nice that we have a werewolf principal, it does make things like this easier.”
Since all my kids went to this school, except of course for Grace, I had decided to take the Benson public school and Norm was going to take the high school. Marian Conners, the principal handed me the microphone to the intercom system, just a little after nine AM. I cleared my throat and turned on the mic, saying, “Attention to all students. A gun was discovered in the possession of one of the students at this school. Since then we have found out there is a gun seller in this area. We know at least four guns, were sold here. A sweep will be made of all lockers tomorrow.”
I informed them that, “Either my partner or I will be in the marked police car in the parking lot. You have until class ends this afternoon to turn in those guns, or if they're at home to report them. Just ask any teacher to be excused, you don't even have to say why. If you turn them in, you will not be charged, however your names will be taken and your parents informed. If you have any other weapons, the same conditions will apply. Remember all knives are illegal in school, even a one inch pen knife. If you have knives that you know would be legal at home, turn them in and we'll give them back to you at the end of school hours, so that you can bring them home. If you have knives at home, that you aren't sure of, report them and we'll have a look at them to see if they are legal or not.”
I clicked off the microphone and said to the serious looking Marian. “I almost said over and out.” She smiled but her heart obviously wasn't in it. I squeezed her arm, telling her, “Take it easy, Marian, it could be a lot worse. Those guns could be out there without our knowing anything about them.” Not a very comforting statement but it was true.
I suppose I should have been angry that if other werewolf kids turned in guns they wouldn't be punished, but I wasn't. I'll never admit it to anyone but I'm glad that I got caught before I worked up the nerve to use it. Robby showing me how much I'd be missed if I died, had cured my death wish, if it had really gone that far. The fact that he joined me at lunch to run the three miles helped me a lot. I knew he certainly didn't have to do that.
Dad had told me that when he was under Charge, he'd brought a rifle into the house and he had forgotten to unload it. He also forgot to put the safety on and it had inadvertently been fired, just missing his younger brother. The punishment was more or less the same, but he'd had to run on his own and it was a very lonely feeling.
We'd collected the three guns and about a dozen pocketknives. The pocketknives we just returned at the end of the day, but we reminded the kids that if they brought them to school again, they could be charged. The three guns were turned in by three eleven year olds and they assured me that they just wanted to know what a real gun was like. They all had the safety on and were unloaded, so I figured they were telling the truth.
I was glad the sweep the next day didn't even turn up a pocketknife. Norm was just as lucky, he got the eleven we knew had been sold in the high school and a few pocketknives but didn't turn up any more. The Cormier police turned up twenty-one guns, which was one over the number that Chary had sold. They didn't turn up anymore in the locker sweep and they didn't say how many pocketknives they found.
Joining the homework porch group that afternoon was very strange. They were very intent on what they were doing, but it looked like chaos at first glance. Some of the kids were lying on their backs, others were kneeling, some were sitting and there was almost always one of the kids with Robby or Wil. How they managed to do their own homework was a wonder.
Cindy and I sat on the old sofa with Jeannie Reynolds. She told us, “Robby and Wil are born teachers. They know just how to explain how to do something. They can even explain the way to do something if your teacher insists that you go by the book. Luckily, Benson Public School doesn't have many of those, though the high school I gather has a few. I know you go to high school Cindy, but if you have any problems, go to one of them. They can go to the back of the book and figure out what you're supposed to do and explain how to do it, even if they're not yet capable of doing the problem themselves.” Jeannie shook her head and smiled, “I'm used to weird things from Robby, but I didn't know there were two of them, though Wil seems to be limited to school work and Robby is limited by very little.”
Cindy nudged me then, saying, “I guess we'd better do our homework as well.”
Now that I knew that Robby and Wil were smarter than I was, I could relax. Simple logic told me that the only way for me to beat them was if they weren't trying and from observing them in class that simply wasn't going to happen. I was free of the pressure that schoolwork had put on me since I was seven. For the first time that year and in six years, I was actually looking forward to doing homework, I simply was no longer frantic to get something done and though I was very tired, I enjoyed doing it.
For the next two weeks I was always near exhaustion and I knew that was deliberate, I was being punished and if it wasn't unpleasant why bother, but I found that the time after school on that porch was fascinating. The interaction between the people there, so comfortable with each other was part of it and the way Robby and Wil could pull apart a complex problem and make it almost seem simple was another part. The main thing was that they all enjoyed being there. After two weeks, Robby cut out the afternoon run, though he added fifty pushups and fifty extra sit-ups and I joined the games that they had after homework.
Mostly it was football, mixed with a lot of wrestling and they were rough games, even Cindy and Jeannie joined in, but they got spared the wrestling. Wil said he wasn't foolish enough to join in on either football or wrestling with were kids and the times that his sister Cary was there, she didn't join in on either.
After the first week and a half, I was standing on the back porch in the evening, when my mother came out. She put her arms around my chest and rested her chin on the top of my head. She asked, “How are things going with you, Randall?”
I admitted, “It's not fun, but in a way it's kind of satisfying.”
I heard my father say behind us, “Sounds like my job.” he said teasingly and I couldn't help but giggle, as he put his arms around both Mum and me.
At the end of three weeks Robby said, “You've taken your punishment well. I feel you've learned your lesson so I'll spare you the last week of the punishment. You don't have to come here after school if you don't want to.”
I said hesitantly, “I'd like to come and I'd like to join you on your morning run as well.”
His large green eyes were incredibly warm. He said, “You're always welcome here and in the morning.”
I was saying at the dinner table, “Chary decided to talk, in order to get a lighter sentence on the gun charges and we agreed so we got the big shot in Prescott. They made a raid and seized over one hundred and fifty guns. Nolan Armstead won't be charged, he was under duress, Brian said a caseworker would be working with them more closely in the future. Chary doesn't know that after we get finished with the gun trial, we plan to charge him with child abuse.”
She paused for a secomd efore saying, “The caseworker who dealt with the case originally, was determined to have mishandled the case due to prejudice. His grandson was one of those Nolan bullied and beat up in the past. Since he was close to retirement age anyway, Brian just let him retire early, so that will reduce his pension somewhat, though he still should have enough to live comfortably.”
Trevor and I didn't exactly feel guilty, but the day that Robby said that Randall's punishment was over, when we were getting ready for bed, after we were in the underpants we sleep in, we looked at each other and decided without saying anything that we'd have to tell him.
I knocked timidly on his bedroom door and he said, “Come in.”
Randall turned in his swivel chair, at his computer. He asked, “How may I help the X-Men?”
We were wearing X-Men underpants. We looked at each other and for the second time I got picked and I didn't know why. I cleared my throat, “Trev and me, we want to tell you that we're the ones who told Robby about the gun.”
He smiled a slow smile and he winked at us, telling us, “I know. I knew as soon as he came in the door.”
We were relieved, “You're not mad at us?” I asked and he shook his head.
He explained, “I'm glad you did, I wasn't thinking straight. The last three weeks have taught me a lot.” Randall held out his arms and for the first time that we could remember, Randall initiated a hug and it felt good.
He said softly, “However, there is one slight matter, that must be cleared up. Spying on your elder brother, deserves punishment and I'm going to hand it out liberally.”
The next thing we knew, Trev and I were on the floor and Randall was on our legs and holding us down and he began tickling us. By the time, the door opened a couple of minutes later, we were laughing hysterically and trying to get away. Mum after opening the door and seeing us being tickled, just smiled and said, “Carry on.” and closed the door behind her and we were left to Randall's mercy.