Myles Richards was in the treehouse for the first time in over a month and three weeks. He'd spent the last part of May and the first two weeks of June in the hospital with double pneumonia. When he got out, his cousin Jody refused to let him out of the house for another week and not out of the yard for a second week.
School in their town ended the third week of June and Paul and his two kids had taken off. Paul had said they were just going to Disneyworld and would return in two weeks, but Myles knew they wouldn't be back.
Not that they had any reason to come back. They were no relation to Myles at all. Paul had been kind enough to bring Myles back home when his mother had died. She'd only been living with Paul for a month, so Myles wouldn't have been surprised if Paul had just turned him over to the Children's Service and just left.
Of all those his mother had lived with, he had liked Paul the most. nOt that that was any recommendation, he always thought the men his mother had chosen sucked and Paul was no exception, he just didn't suck quite as badly. Not that Myles had been very close to his mother either, she had cared enough to keep himaround but not enough to show much affection.
He walked across the treehouse to the window, the floor swaying under his light weight. He was so used to it that he didn't even notice it. He knelt down, with his elbows on the sill, his chin on his hands and went still. Al had always marveled at how a boy, who was such a bundle of energy, could suddenly stop and remain unmoving for minutes at a time.
It wasn't until Myles caught some movement though the window, that he began to move again. He peered out but he was too far away to make out much. Moving a couple of feet on his knees, he opened the large trunk he and Al had maneuvered up here, at the end of last summer. Opening it he took out the old but powerful pair of binoculars that had belonged to Al's father.
Moving back to the windows, still on his knees, he could see the person more clearly. A young man, perhaps in his early twenties, his head was almost devoid of hair, with a fringe around the sides. He wasn't a skinhead, he was just going prematurely bald. After looking around, he got down on his knees and after pulling a trowel out of his jacket, he carefully scooped the top layer to the side and began to dig a hole. He only dug down about a foot and then he took out a package from an inner pocket.
Myles was thinking, 'Boy he sure must have big pockets.'
The man pushed the dirt back into the hole with the trowel and then carefully put the top, which he had put to one side, back over the hole. He stood up and looked down for a moment. Apparently satisfied that it looked normal, he shoved the trowel back into his pocket and headed away.
Myles sat down and picking up a sketchpad, began drawing the man he had seen, the tip of his tongue sticking out in concentration. That was his talent, producing almost photo-realistic sketches, which were simply amazing for a boy of barely ten years old. He drew half a dozen pictures, showing the man from different angles. After flipping quickly through the pictures, he put the pad down with satisfaction. Putting the binoculars back into the trunk he closed it and scrambled down the trunk of the tree to the ground.
In a couple of minutes, he was at the place where the intruder had been digging. It only took him a few seconds to scoop out the dirt and take out the package the man had buried. It was about the size of a cigar box and was quite heavy and was covered with a garbage bag taped together. Pushing the dirt back into the hole, in a hurry, he got up, ran back to the treehouse and climbed back up.
Sitting on his heels he eagerly tore off the garbage bag, to reveal what was indeed a cigar box. He opened the box and was stunned when he saw an automatic pistol and a clip of ammo. An answer to his prayers? He looked at it carefully, He turned the safety to off. He pulled back the hammer and pointing it at the trunk of the tree, he pulled the trigger.
expected nothing happened, taking the clip from the box, it took him
a moment to see which way to insert it. Once in he pulled back the top
to chamber a round and pointing it at the trunk he pulled the trigger.
The noise and the recoil astonished him, but he was quite satisfied
with the hole it made in the tree trunk.
At the same time, a quarter of a mile away from the treehouse, on the road bordering the small wooded area, a man launched himself into the ditch beside the road, a gun almost identical to the one Myles had just fired, in his outstretched hand. The sound of the shot had echoed strangely and had sounded much closer to the man than it actually was.
Taking his cell phone, out of his pocket with his left hand, he flipped it open and hit the speed dial, putting it to his ear, he heard it answered, "Sheriff's Office, how may I help you."
the man said, "Barb, this is Ryan. Send the Emergency Team out
to Silas Road, just by the old wood lot. I just heard a gunshot. At
first I thought it was at me, but there haven't been any other shots,
so I think it may have just been random firing."
of the attention he had inadvertently attracted, Myles was in the treehouse,
tongue between his lips, he was composing a letter. It was a letter
to his friend Al and it wasn't really intended to be a suicide letter,
but in fact, that's what it was.
i think my praers have ben ansered. i saw a man buri a box. i drew sum pitchers of him. i dug it up and fond a gun. o, i no the gun isnt from u. u'd want me to stik it out, butt i cant. To days aftar i was at ure place, i got reel sic and was in hospitall a hole month. since i ben out my hart akes all the time and spesly every time i think ov u.
if the minster is write, i'll go to hell so i wont be able to see u, butt anything is better than this.
i wont due it in the treehous, butt at the base of the tree.
It was written in beautiful copperplate handwriting, so incongruous with the spelling, but he knew it was the best he could do. The whole thing had taken him almost fifteen minutes to complete and the police would have found him in another couple of minutes.
Placing the note on top of the trunk, where Al could see it, he climbed down the trunk of the tree. Sitting down, calmly cocking the gun and holding it out he pointed at his chest. Being an artist, a very good one in fact, he knew exactly where his heart was. He heard yelling and looked up to see a man waving at him, "Don't do it, kid."
looked up at the man. Serenely, he pulled the trigger and felt the jolt
in his chest as his heart was destroyed.
Ryan saw the kid. He was just sitting at the base of a tree, with the gun is his hand pointed at his chest. He looked strangely familiar. Ryan yelled, "Don't do it kid." the boy looked up at his yell, but with complete calmness, he pulled the trigger.
Ryan ran toward him, knowing it would be too late. He too knew where the heart was and the bullet couldn't have been placed better to destroy it. He knelt beside the boy, feeling for a pulse and one of his deputies knelt beside him. "He's dead," Ryan said heavily, looking at his watch, "I call it at 8:32."
out what looked like a push button ball point pen, he placed it on the
boy's bare thigh and pushed it twice. The boy's body stiffened then
went slack again. "Get him out of the woods will you, Tom."
Ryan could see Tom with the stretcher crew, just carrying the boy out of the woods. He heard, his brother swear behind him, then say, "Who called them in?"
Ryan turned and looked at an orange shape that looked almost exactly like a blimp, though as it came closer it was evident that it was much bigger. Ryan said, "I had to, twenty-first century medicine simply couldn't have helped the boy. He was dead. I shot a stasis cartridge and a beacon into the boy's thigh to call them in. It was lucky that I was right there when he shot himself. A few minutes later and even thirtieth century medicine wouldn't have been able to help him, the lack of oxygen would simply have caused too much damage."
He told his brther, "Get a hold of Betsy, will you Josh, the kid was at the base of a tree, in which there's a treehouse. It looks well built but still pretty flimsy. She's the only one on the force who weighs little enough that I would trust up there. Tell her for once her weight gives her an advantage."
He watched as the orange ship gently grabbed hold of the stretcher with a tractor beam and pulled it up into its belly. Turning to his brother, "You got lucky this time, bro. If I hadn't run out of gas when I did, that kid would have died. But next time you bring my car back with an empty tank, I'll arrange for Dad to recertify you in martial arts."
With satisfaction he saw the sweat break out on his brother's forehead. Josh was six feet four inches tall and weighed about two forty and Ryan wasn't much smaller. Their dad was barely five-eight and weighed a hundred and fifty pounds. He had been learning and teaching the martial arts for the better part of his fifty-five years and could tie up his sons, when they took him on together and sparring with him one on one was sheer torture.
After getting some gas, he drove to Sheriff's Headquarters and he strode inside. Barb Freemont, who was day watch commander and at times like this, an all around godsend, was waiting for him in his office. He sat down behind his desk and looked at Barb, who preferred to stand. He asked, "Now why the hell were you answering the phone, that's the receptionist's job, not yours."
Her lips quirked with humor, as she said with amusement, "Sorry about that, boss. Reggie had a little morning sickness."
"Nepotism, that's what it is, sheer nepotism," he grinned to take the sting out of it, but Barb, answered anyway, "You can talk. You who has a brother's who's a lieutenant," he muttered just loud enough so she could hear him, "I'm thinking of firing him, he left me with an empty gas tank again." Ignoring him, she continued, "A sister who's a sergeant.", "Maybe I should promote her over Josh, she's the only one he's afraid of, except for dad." he muttered again.
They looked at each other and burst out laughing. With real concern this time he asked, "How is Reg anyway, I hope it's nothing serious."
Barb shook her head, saying, "No, she just forgot to take her medicine again. If your brother Jarrod would remind his wife, who happens to be my daughter, to take her medication, we could avoid these little morning events."
He said, with humor of his own, "Fat chance, when their kids have overnight guests, he's not even sure who he's supposed to send home in the morning." Finally getting serious, he said, "All right, give me the news."
She became serious, telling him, "The Guardians say that the DNA sample the beacon sent them, indicates that there are no hearts available for the boy at the moment. It'll take about a week to grow it from scratch, so with implantation it'll take about eleven days."
She paused, telling him, "I've got some bad news for you, Rye, His name is Myles Richards, he's Billy Richards son. Her last boyfriend was Paul Sanderson. They were only together about a month before she died. He brought the boy home, which took more kindness than I thought he had in him. I talked to Jody to tell her about the boy. She said Paul had stayed all year, wanted to give his sons a stable school environment, they took off just after school let out. Supposedly it was to Disneyworld and they were going to return. She said Myles was pretty sure they wouldn't be back and she agrees with him."
Reg knocked on the open door and stuck her head in, "Boss, a fax coming in from Styles Road, Betsy says have a look at the signature first."
Ryan swiveled around to get the fax out of his machine. He settled back in his chair and as his sister had said, looked at the signature. He swore under his breath. Then he read the letter.
He looked up at Barb and she could see the pain in his dark eyes, as he said somerly, "It looks like the grief counselors on the Merrick case missed someone and from this, it was the most important someone."
She raised her eyebrows and he started reading the letter out loud correcting the spelling as he read.
He read the whole letter. "And it's signed, Your Friend Myles."
He said, "Al, Amanda Louise Merrick, murdered along with her two brothers and her parents and it's signed by Myles, with a stylized M, the M that we've been looking for, for the last two months. I don't know why he was in the hospital, but I'd bet my badge on it that whatever he had was triggered by grief."
Reg yelled from the other room, "Ballistics on Line 1 boss.'
He picked up his phone, "Brent here." he listened for a moment and the pen he was holding in his right hand snapped under the pressure he put on it. Putting the phone down lightly, perhaps in a reaction to stress. He looked at Barb, shaking his head, saying, "God, this gets better and better. Or worse and worse. The gun that Myles shot himself with is one of the guns that was used during the Merrick family killings."
"Jeez, boss, what do you want us to do?" Barb asked.
He thought for a minute, then said, "Myles said, in his letter that he drew some pictures of the man who buried the gun. If they're as good as the four we found at the Merrick house, we'll be able to recognize him. Hopefully, it's someone we know."
He sighed, saying, "As for Myles, we have someone out there who had no compunction in killing five people, a little girl, two boys in their early teens and their parents. He's a material witness and he could be in danger." He looked around at the organized chaos he could see through his office windows. "Now we could keep him safe here, but I don't think it's a place for a child. Especially one who needs grief counseling. Now, my parents place is even more defensible than here and they're the best grief counselors that I know. So get in touch with the Guardians for me, will ya and tell them that he's in possible danger and we want him put down on my folks place when they're ready to release him."
Ryan Brent's mother ran a working ranch and there were a dozen hands, all ex-law enforcement people. They had retired early for one reason or other, none of them physical. In point of fact the ranch could have easily been run by four hands. Even with a dozen it still made a decent profit and the Carson's, his mother's people, had never worried about getting rich. So, with eight ex-cops plus four from his department, Brent could run a round the clock watch with no difficulty at all.
It was about three o'clock in the afternoon and a Guardian vehicle was stopped above them, just lowering a stretcher on a tractor beam. When the stretcher landed on the ground, the tractor beam flicked out and the Guardian ship began moving away, slowly and ponderously.
He heard his mother laugh delightfully behind him and he turned around, she held up a label, which read, 'Pull tab'. She said, "I never knew the Guardians had a sense of humor. He looked sourly at her, "Oh, don't be so glum, darling. They're just doing what they've been programmed to do and by our own ancestors, at that. If you were really tired of it you could opt out and you know it. A five year re-education course and you'd have the whole 30th century galaxy to explore for the next three or four hundred years.
He shook his head, saying ruefully, "Sorry, Mom. We were able to save this kid's life by using 30th century science, yet our crime labs are stuck with 21st century technology. It always pisses me off, when we have a crime like the Merrick killings and you try to get help and get, 'We are sorry, but the what you are asking us to do, is beyond our assigned parameters.'"
Now that his mother had taken him to task and he'd got a little of the anger off of his chest, he had to admit that the tag was cute. The Guardians had been using the same model of stretcher for over five hundred years and even the youngest child knew how to open one. A slight smile lingered on his lip as he obeyed the sign and pulled the tab that opened the stretcher.
The stretchers were designed to take a drop of several thousand feet without its occupant being harmed, if ever a tractor beam failed. With the lid open, the boy's eyes began to flicker as the fresh air began to wake him. Myles opened his eyes fully and saw Ryan leaning over him. Myles said, questioningly, "This can't be heaven, if they have someone as ugly as you here." Ryan was not offended, ugly was one of the milder comments on his looks that he had heard. Myles looked over his shoulder. He exclaimed, "You're not my mother, but you look like her!!"
"No child, Billy looked like me, not the other way around, She was my granddaughter." Ingrid Brent said to the boy gently.
"I'm not dead?" he asked, but before she could answer, he began to cry. And she scooped him up and began rocking him gently. But he stiffened in her arms and she looked at Ryan, with puzzlement. He leaned over and said urgently, "You don't want to be dead, Myles, if you're dead you can't help us find out who killed Al and her family."
Myles jerked his head to look at Ryan, eyes blazing. Instinctively, Ingrid passed the boy to her son, a son who had never been at ease holding a child, was at ease now. Myles asked, "I can! How?!!!"
Ryan explained, "The gun you shot yourself with. It was one of the guns that was used to murder Amanda and the others. We've got your pictures of the man who buried the gun, but we can't find him. He isn't in any of our databases. If you could draw a few other pictures of him that would help." Myles was almost bouncing in his arms.
Myles nodded his head, vigorously he said cofidently, "Sure I can draw lots and lots of pictures of him. Just give me a pad." Ryan who was thinking of this more as therapy than as something that would give him an actual lead, put Myles down and led him over to a table set up on the lawn in front of the house, under a tree for shade. The table had pads of paper and all the right pencils needed for sketching.
They left him to it and strolled about on the lawn. Ingrid said wryly, "I think you're going to be doing more grief counseling than I am. I think the fact that Billy looked so much like me, is going to hurt any chances I have of helping him. If he really can help you solve her murder, I think that'll help him more than anything else."
Ryan shook his head, saying, "Actually, Mom, I just wanted to give him something to do to calm him down. You haven't seen any of the pictures he drew. They're extraordinary. For almost two months we were looking for an adult with the initial M, the drawings were so good." rubbing his hair.
Myles put down his pencil and ran over to them, "Here," he said handing over the pad. Ryan took it from his hand and looking at the first picture his jaw dropped. He asked in a strangled voice. "Where are these from?"
Myles looked up at him puzzled, saying, "They're from Sherwood Mall, I met Al there one Saturday, she was with her parents but they had a rendezvous place and time arranged and everybody just scattered to do what they wanted. That's where I first saw the man from the woods, he was with two men. They're on the next two pages."
Hurriedly Ryan turned over the next page, the picture looked familiar but he couldn't place the face. He turned over to the next page and his whole body stiffened. He snarled and then his face went cold. Myles shivered, but not from fear, he realized that this man had recognized the picture and he didn't like the man in it one little bit.
Ryan handed the pad to his mother and then he grabbed Myles under the arms and threw him high into the air, whooping with joy. Myles had never been treated like this before but he felt absolutely safe as he was tossed into the air twice more. When he landed the last time, Ryan held him around the legs and Myles put his arms around the man's neck.
"Tanner Slocum, Mom, he was the boss, do you recognize the other two?" Ryan asked.
She turned the page over to the one who had looked familiar to Ryan. She stated confidently, "Darrin Slocum, Tanner's older brother. He moved down south a while back. That's probably why you don't remember him." Turning it to the first page, she declared, "and that's Jimmy Slocum, if you ever saw him it was probably with lots of hair. He got into trouble when he was about twelve and Tanner sent him down to live with Darrin."
There were a couple of dozen deputies, both in uniform and out. Ryan told them, "The way the house was torn apart we've always assumed the motive was robbery and from the insurance lists, some small valuable items were missing. Now knowing who did it we know that indeed was the case." Ryan pointed at an aerial map. "Most of you have been to the Slocum farm for one reason or other. Since they could use twentieth century technology the Guardians agreed to take high altitude photos, for us. Both regular and infrared. The infrared is most interesting from our standpoint. Since we know both Tanner and Darrin Slocum's wives are dead and it shows three humans occupying the house and farm in general. We assume it's Tanner, Darrin and Jimmy Slocum. There's going to be lot's of firepower available to the Slocum's, but according to our sources nothing big has been sold or transported to this area in the last few years."
He explained, "Now, if any of you are curious to why Jimmy Slocum would choose the woodlot on Styles road to bury a gun. Well he used to take the school bus to the Jenson Styles Public School on Styles Road. He used to skip school a lot and quite often, he would be found in the woodlot. It was a familiar place to him, as familiar or more familiar than the farm."
He said intently, "Most of you have probably heard that the gun that Jimmy Slocum buried was used during the Merrick killings. It was, but in fact, none of the bullets from that gun were pulled from any of the bodies. It looks like Jimmy just shot up the house, unless he had another gun, which is unlikely since Ballistics only places three guns at the Merrick house. So we'll try to take him alive if possible."
He paused, then said, "You've all heard me badmouthing the Guardians, well, I don't like them but in this case they've decided that they can do something to assist us. They will mark Jimmy Slocum, so that we'll always know which one he is, but we can't count on him not shooting back if someone is shooting at his family, so be careful."
He shook his head, saying with a frown, "One other thing and it's something you won't like, it's something I don't like, for God's sake. We'll be taking Myles Richards with us. The Guardians did a psych profile on him while they had him upstairs. They think that if he isn't in on the resolution of the problem, he could very well try to kill himself again. They feel he's smart enough that he won't fail a second time. He's a nice little kid and I don't want to see him dead."
Myles was excited. He was going to be in on punishing those who killed Al and her family. It didn't bother him that he would just be watching. Since he had drawn the pictures that pinpointed who did it, just seeing it end would be enough. He looked a little ridiculous but he didn't care about that either. He was wearing, two bullet proof vests over his regular clothes and they hung down below his knees and he had on a riot police helmet with its transparent face shield.
He was in the back seat of Sheriff Ryan Brent's personal car, which also served as the Sheriff's official vehicle. Unlike a regular police car, it had regular back door locks, but he had been told to stay in the car.
Ryan had an earpiece in one ear, which he was listening to. Taking the earpiece out he spoke into car's radio, "Move in! Infrared reports that all three perps are in the house! Move in now!"
It was savage, quick and very effective. The van, which had been waiting for the signal, roared into the barnyard and came to a stop. The back door opened, heavily armed police officers with sub-machine guns and plastic shields poured out. They were at the door in seconds, knocking it in. The three men in the house were caught completely by surprise. Tanner was just racing up the stairs from the basement with a shotgun in his hand.
They used a taser, which was a little more advanced than it should have been, being from the middle of the 21st century rather than the beginning. It was very effective as a stun gun and Tanner fell back down the stairs as fast as he had climbed up them, but aside from a few bruises he was unharmed.
Darrin wasn't quite so lucky, he fired off two rounds from a rifle and was taken out with a burst of machine gun fire. Upstairs, they found Jimmy Slocum, actually hiding under a bed. He whined, "Don't hurt me, I ain't done nuttin’."
Two weeks later, both Tanner and Jimmy Slocum were found guilty. Tanner Slocum for murder and Jimmy Slocum for conspiracy.
Ryan holding Myles in his arms looked up as the container that held Tanner and Jimmy Slocum was tractored into the Guardian's large ship.
Ryan said with deep satisfaction, "That's one good thing about our system. At least we don't get repeat offenders. If their psych profile says they will repeat a major crime, then they're transported to a prison planet to serve their term and never allowed back on the world they were sentenced on. Now that we've got rid of them, how about an ice cream, sport."
Myles gave a gap-toothed grin, from the two baby teeth he had lost in the last week. "Great, I want vanilla and chocolate."
headed for the Ice Cream Shoppe, Ryan said, "I must admit that
a century that had ice cream couldn't have been all bad."
I don't give the capture of the Slocum's much space, but the story was more about the incongruity of a 20th-early 21st century era planet in a 30th century world than about crime. And as you probably noticed the Guardians didn't always stick to the letter of their programming about helping or allowing more advanced weapons than they should allow.