Chapter: 36 of 43
Other Info: Sequel to Walls
Warnings: Drug-usage, cursing, violence etc
Excerpt: Thomas sat out on his back steps, waiting for his little house-guest to leave. He wished he’d been able to tell the boy something. There just wasn’t anything to tell. And he had to get gone from here, this was no place for the kid to be. Well, he’d go home, and he’d be fine. The boy in the hospital though…
Sighing, he dropped his head in his hands. He felt terrible, having left the poor little guy. But there had just been too many questions he couldn’t answer. Thinking back, the scene at the hospital played out in his mind.
Just taking a moment to say “Thanks!!” to Karen, for all of her time and patience and muscle, lugging around the six hundred pounds of medical books, to help me with this, and the next few chapters. For explaining their meanings to me endlessly, and never telling me to buzz off!! — Sheryl
“Hey. Wake up.” Something shaking him. “Hey. Come on, you have to wake up.” Jason cracked sleep crusted eyes onto an unfamiliar face. When had he fallen asleep? Where was Zac?
“Are you okay? You kinda passed out on us.”
The face and voice seemed concerned. Who was this? Where was he? Puzzled, he sat up, slowly, muscles aching. He let his eyes, gritty and stinging, rove around the room. Why couldn’t he remember anything?
The face in front of him smiled.
“You have no idea what’s going on, do you? You must have been really tired. We tried to wake you up so you could call a ride, but you didn’t even move.”
Jason’s head stubbornly refused to clear, and he scowled.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Where am I? Where’s Zac?” The only thought he could connect on. Zac. Had to get Zac home… “Oh, what is going on?!” He felt himself beginning to tear up, and bit his lip. The boy next to him smiled again, and patted his shoulder reassuringly.
“It’s okay. You just wake up for a minute. It’ll all come back to you. You must have been dead tired, you slept through an episode of “Cops”, right here in the living room! What’s your name, anyway?”
Jason blinked up at him. He knew this kid. If only his mind would unfog.
“Uh, Jason. I can’t remember anything.”
The boy nodded, smile vaguely sarcastic.
“That should be me, not remembering anything. Don’t you remember though? I picked you and your friend up, on the side of the road.” Jason chewed on it for a moment. He did remember something. Dark, cold, gravel digging into his knees… suddenly, a flash of memory, and it all came back. Eyes huge, he clutched the other boy’s hand, panicky.
“Zac! Where’s Zac! Oh, God, why did you let me go to sleep?!”
He jumped to his feet, swaying suddenly as black spots filled his vision. Arms were around him in an instant.
“Now that wasn’t too bright. You’re pretty done in, why don’t you just sit down? “Jason blinked, waited for his eyes to clear, and pulled away from the boy. “Why am I still here? Someone took Zac. When did he take him? God, I have to call my mom!”
“Calm down. I know, we wanted you to do that last night, but you passed right out. Phone’s right there.”
“Hold up a minute.” The voice that came across the room was cautious. “I don’t know if that’s the best idea. We don’t want a lot of people driving out here. Brian, why don’t you just drive him home? Where do you live, son?”
Jason looked up, and up, into the eyes of the biggest man he’d ever seen. “T-Tulsa…” His voice broke, awe stealing his words. “I live in Tulsa.”
The man frowned. “Long way from home, aren’t you? What were you doing out on the road last night, way out here?” Jason couldn’t seem to blink, and his eyes began to water. “We went camping…” His voice faded away, in wonder. This man must be at least 8 feet tall. “Gosh but you’re tall!” The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them, and he blushed, dropping his eyes. “I’m sorry.” The man chuckled.
“I expect I am. Seems an odd place to go camping, especially with one of you so sick. You weren’t running away, by any chance, were you?” Jason shook his head frantically.
“No! No sir, no, we were just going camping. We… jumped the train, it was my fault, and we got lost. We were trying to get home. Where’s Zac? Is he okay?” The man frowned, then.
“I don’t know anything about your friend. Why don’t you let Brian here take you home.”
“But… aren’t you the one who…” Jason’s words were cut off as the man abruptly stood, and strode from the room.
“No, wait!” Jason turned, desperate, to Brian. “Make him come back! Go get him! What happened to Zac?” Brian shook his head.
“I don’t know. He came back here without him about five hours ago. He won’t talk about it. I better just take you home.”
“Five hours!!” Brian nodded.
“Yeah, you’ve been out a long time. Come on. I’ll take you home.”
“Where did he take Zac?!” Brian shrugged.
“I don’t know, to the hospital.”
“But…” Brian spun on him then, face intense, almost angry.
“Look. Jason, there’s a lot going on here that you don’t know about. The less questions you ask, the better. I’m sure your friend is fine, my dad took him to the ER, they’ll take good care of him there, but we really need to get you home.” Jason nodded, not understanding, but too tired and confused to do much but go along with it.
“He’s really at the hospital?”
“He’s really at the hospital.”
He stood up, still shaky. “How far is it back to Tulsa?”
Brian snorted. “Almost two hours. You guys really hiked it. No wonder you’re tired.” Jason grimaced.
“That’d be why I feel like I got hit by a truck. Can I use your bathroom before we go?” Brian nodded, and pointed in the general direction of the back of the house. “Over there. Hurry up, okay?” Jason shrugged, and limped off toward the door. These people were just too weird.
Thomas sat out on his back steps, waiting for his little house-guest to leave. He wished he’d been able to tell the boy something. There just wasn’t anything to tell. And he had to get gone from here, this was no place for the kid to be. Well, he’d go home, and he’d be fine. The boy in the hospital though…
Sighing, he dropped his head in his hands. He felt terrible, having left the poor little guy. But there had just been too many questions he couldn’t answer. Thinking back, the scene at the hospital played out in his mind.
He’d pulled in just in time for another one of those fever fits to start, and had had all he could do to carry the child through the doors. Thank God, someone had come over instantly, and taken the boy from him.
He’d turned, ready to leave immediately, when the seizure had ended, and the boy had started to cry. Not the heartbroken sobbing he’d done in the car, not even really crying, just a keening wail that had sent chills down his back. A sound so mournful, so hopeless… he couldn’t just leave him.
Turning quickly, he’d followed the medical staff into the room, quickly insinuating himself into the mass. They’d taken little notice of him, as he stood, holding the boy’s hand, wishing he could offer some sort of reassurance. He’d crouched down there, face on an even keel with the child, and talked to him, keeping his voice friendly. The boy’s eyes had locked with his, glazed and wild, but somehow seeing him.
“It’s okay, big guy, they’re gonna fix you up, you’re gonna be fine.” He’d kept the steady patter going, and the boy’s eyes had never left his, while around them rang a steady stream of urgencies. Isolated words, disjointed and unreal, had floated by him. “Febrile” “Seizure,” it had all rung in his head with the chaos of a battlefield. He’d been ignored by all but the boy, as the child’s clothes were stripped off, and he got a good look at the terrible struggle the boy was having to breathe.
“104, get that IV going!”
“No air entry!”
He’d watched, horrified, as the child’s entire body convulsed with the effort of drawing just one breath. So many people, so many voices, the boy clutching his hand hard enough to be painful. More words, frightening in their urgency “Inspirations.”
“Pulse is steady.” and the most frightening, the sudden voice barking “Get him in there, get him in there now!”
He’d been roughly pulled away from the boy, hands torn apart, watching as the child was quickly taken from the room, God knew where. Turning to go, then, he’d bumped headlong into a woman, holding a clipboard.
“You brought him in?”
He’d nodded. “Yes.”
“What’s his name, are you the father?”
He’d shaken his head. “I don’t know, his first name is Zac, I’m not his father.” Her face had taken on a puzzled, and then suspicious look.
“He’s a friend of my sons.” The lie had come easily. “He was staying with us, he got sick…” She’d nodded, accepting that.
“What’s his full name please, are his parents on their way?”
“They’re out of town. What’s wrong with him?” She’d frowned sympathetically. “I’m sure they’ll take fine care of him. Why don’t you come over here, and you can give me some information.”
He’d gazed at her blankly then. He had no idea who the boy was. What could he possibly tell her? How much trouble could he be in, bringing an unknown child here? Too much too hide, he had too much to hide. He couldn’t talk to these people. Now, thinking back, he realized he could have simply told her that yes, the boy’s parents were on tour, and satisfied her. At the time, though, the stress of the situation had rendered him blank, and instead of answering her, he’d spun on his heel, and very nearly run, out of the building and back to his car.
He’d arrived home to find the party had been cleared out. His relief at this was nullified somewhat by his discovery that the other little boy was still here, sound asleep, exhaustion so deep nothing would rouse him. He’d spent a long time just staring at him, his guilt at leaving the other boy multiplying with every moment.
The rest of the night had been spent, staring at the phone, wondering if he should call. Wondering if he should call someone. But who? Obviously the boy was some mother’s son, and people must be worried about him. The kids both had the look of hard travel, and even the boy sleeping here, while not ill, was completely done.
He should call the police. No. No he couldn’t. Not after all that had happened here tonight. He had no idea what might still be on the premises. No, he didn’t want to call the police. He couldn’t explain why this kid was here, or explain why he’d abandoned Zac at the ER. He suspected there was some sort of trouble in that. He couldn’t do anything, just get the kid out of here. Zac was in the hospital, he was taken care of. The boy still here would be gone soon enough.
CC Evans had come and gone, told by Brian that the person in need of his attention, had already been taken to the hospital. Best to just let things quiet down, and go back to normal. As normal as they ever were. That left him here, out on the back step, chain-smoking, thinking too much, and riddled with guilt. He sighed, as he watched Brian, and the other little boy, backing down the drive. Good. He was on his way.
He dropped his head in his hands again. God help him, he just couldn’t shake the guilt he felt, over leaving Zac alone there. He turned his gaze heavenward. “Well…” He addressed the clouds, softly “I hope you know what you’re doing. That little boy had just better pull through, if you know what’s good for you.”
Sighing, Thomas lit himself the last smoke in the pack, and followed his thoughts inward.
God it was loud in here.
Taylor watched, annoyed and unexpectedly sleepy, as chaos ruled. People on the phone, people at the door, police, reporters, friends. The helpful and the curious, the kind and the hateful. Too many. Just too many. Dreamy drowsiness stole over him, bizarre and incapacitating. Why couldn’t he stay awake? It was just so weird. One minute he felt fine, the next consciousness was swimming away from him. Shaking his head, he turned to look at CC, who was watching the insanity with mild eyed fascination.
Catching Taylor’s eye, CC smiled. “It’s quite something, in it?”
Taylor grimaced, fighting the drowsiness washing over him again, and sighed.
“Ceec, none of these people cared what happened before, what are they all doing here now? They’re not helping…”
“Oh, Taylor, nosiness is one of the great driving forces in human nature. They are here…” His voice was tinged with wry humor.
“To gawk.” Taylor snorted, disgusted. “They could be out helping find him. Standing around here isn’t doing anyone any good. “He shook his head, hard, and dug at his eyes. “I can’t stay awake. God… I want to be doing something! Why am I just sitting here?!”
“What is it you want to be doing?” The humor had disappeared from CC’s voice. Something in Taylor’s countenance was disturbing him. The way his eyes kept drifting up in his head, it almost looked as if he were losing consciousness every few minutes.
“I don’t know, I just feel so bad sitting here…” He stopped, fighting another wave of sleepiness. “I feel like I’m just gonna pass out, and I don’t know why, it feels like my brain is trying to run out on my body.” He smiled faintly, knowing how he must sound. “Nap attacks or something, Ceec.”
CC’s brow knit. “How do you feel? Just sleepy?”
“No…” Taylor paused, trying to find a good description. “It’s more like… I get really really sleepy, all of a sudden, my head gets all swimmy, my heart starts beating real fast, I get all shaky, and then it’s gone. It feels really really weird.”
CC nodded, and slid closer to him, gently capturing the boy’s wrist in his fingers. A few seconds later he felt it, the sudden acceleration of his pulse, just a few seconds long. Glancing up, he saw blue eyes drifting upward, forcibly pulled back down, as Taylor shook himself, fighting to stay awake. He let the boy go, and sighed.
“That’s stress, doing that, Taylor. It’s just an anxiety reaction. It actually happens to a lot of people in extreme situations.”
“Stress? So what do I do about it?”
“Well, you could go lie down, see if you can sleep.”
Taylor scowled at him, a deep crease forming between his brows.
“I am not gonna go sleep while my little brother is out there dying somewhere. Which one of us is supposed to be nuts here?”
“Well, why don’t you just remove yourself for a little while? Go read, or write in that journal you’re always buried in. Just go, get away from it for a little while.”
Sighing, thinking that there was no way he’d ever be able to concentrate on anything, Taylor shoved his chair out.
“I’m gonna try it only because you haven’t steered me wrong yet, but I’m telling you, I’m not gonna be any good for anything.”
“You don’t have to be, just get yourself out of the middle of it for a few.” Nodding, Taylor reached down and lightly brushed his friend’s shoulder. “Ceec, don’t take off, kay?”
“No worries, I’m here for as long as it takes.”
Faint smile then, and a nearly inaudible “Thanks…” and Taylor slipped from the room, his departure noted by none but CC.
“No, Tay. Not that one. Look.” Taylor smiled at his brother, as the little boy corrected him yet again. He was so out of it he couldn’t even figure out Lego’s, but still, surprisingly, he was a lot more relaxed. Mackie’s cheerful chatter, and the rather mindless task of snapping the blocks together, had dulled the anxiety he’d been feeling. He had actually felt himself calming down. Now, as he saw what he’d been about to do, his gentle smile became a laugh.
“Oh, ugh, Mac, I guess that wouldn’t have worked, would it? Here…” He shoved the blocks over to the little boy. “You go ahead and do it. I’ll just watch.” Mackie nodded, absorbed.
“You can…” He pointed to the huge pile of multisided, many colored bricks, “…unmix those.”
“Yeah… you know. Put the colors together for me.”
“Oh, lazy, aren’t you?”
“No… but you can be my…” he paused, unable to think of the word he wanted. “You can just do that for me.”
Taylor smiled again. “Assistant, Mac?”
A vague nod, “Yeah, that. Go ahead…”
Shaking his head, still smiling, Taylor set about doing as his brother had asked, marveling at how absorbing the task was. “Geez, Mac, maybe I should go into factory work, just keep putting the pieces where they go…”
“Hmmm…” was the absent response, prompting another chuckle. The kid was just too into this stuff. The smile lingering on his lips, he continued sorting the blocks, his mind, for once, quiet, ignoring the continuous rumble of voices from the next room.
Diana walked by the room, glancing in, surprised to see Taylor. “Oh, how sweet…” The thought drifted through here mind. It had been an age since she’d see Taylor have anything to do with anyone, and Mackie really needed someone to keep him company right now. So, she thought, did Taylor.
Smiling, she’d begun to step away, when her eye lit on the camera on the hall table. “Oh…” Quietly she picked it up. This was one of those fleeting moments she didn’t like to let go. Stepping into the doorway, she didn’t speak, simply pointed the camera at the two boys, and pressed the button. The flash went off, startling them into looking up, and she saw, in that split second,
Taylor’s small smile slip into caution and suspicion. He blinked, trying to focus flash blinded eyes, and she laughed. “Oh, sweetie I’m sorry, I should have warned you. But you just looked so sweet…”
He nodded, but the look of unease on his face seemed to set.
“It’s okay. You just blinded me a little bit.” He turned back to what he had been doing, but now his heart was racing, and that dark, dreamy drowsiness began to creep over him again. Damn it. He sighed, frustrated. He’d been feeling so much better… His thoughts were interrupted when the corner of his vision caught motion, and he looked up, into the lens of the camera again.
Almost before he could register what he was seeing, something deep inside, something animal and instinctive took over, and he was on his feet and across the room, away from the camera, away from the person behind it.
“NO, don’t! Don’t. Just put it away, just get away from me!!!”
Diana jumped, dropping the camera, moving quickly to her son, who stood, breathing hard and shaking, in the corner of the room. “Baby, what is it? What’s wrong?” Her voice, sympathetic and concerned, only seemed to make it worse, and his strained words became shouts.
“Don’t touch me, get away from me!!!” He shrank away from her, pulling himself against the wall, as her hands reached for him. Puzzled, she stepped back, and he bolted by her, to collide with CC, who, hearing the shouts, had come to find out what was wrong. “Whoa, hold on now…” His voice was calm, hands firm, as he caught the boy running by, and held him gently in place. “What’s going on?” Taylor’s eyes, wild and incoherent, stared blankly, and his breath rasped in and out in harsh gasps.
“Let me go! Let me…” He stopped suddenly, staring at nothing, and CC glanced at Diana. “What…”
“I don’t know.” Her voice was helpless, as she held Mackie, who, frightened by his brother’s outburst, clung to her fiercely. “I took their picture, and he just went crazy.”
“Taylor!” CC’s voice was loud, and direct. “Taylor, look at me.” The blank blue eyes flitted up to his, then away. “Taylor!” He gave him a little shake, not liking for one moment the vague look in his eyes.
“What CC, what, cut it out!” Taylor pulled away, blankness replaced by irritation.
“What happened, why were you yelling at her like that?” Taylor glanced at his mother, and then at the camera on the floor, and CC saw him pale a little.
“I don’t know, I don’t know, I’m sorry, just don’t take my picture anymore.” He shoved past CC, puzzled himself as to what had just happened. Why had he gone off like that?
“God…” His whisper went unheard to all but himself. “I really am crazy…” He clung to the wall, legs shaking too much for him to dare let go, and went back into the kitchen, dropping into a chair at the table, and laying his head in his hands. He looked up once, when CC sat down, then wearily closed his eyes, and put his head down onto folded arms. He just couldn’t take it anymore.
CC was worried. Badly worried. He had no idea what had just happened, although the sensation of a little voice behind his mind wouldn’t let him go. He had the feeling he was just missing something, if only he knew what it was. Whatever it was, he had to do something about Taylor. The kid looked about to blow. He was under a lot more pressure than he could hold up under. “Taylor…”
“Hmm?” Taylor didn’t look at him, instead focusing intently on the pattern on the table cloth, tracing it with the pad of one finger.
“Get your shoes on. You need to get out of here.” Taylor shook his head, face still impassive, gaze still focused on the table.
“No, no no Ceec, I can’t leave. Not until they find him.”
“Yes you can, and you will. Now go get your shoes on.”
“CC!” His voice was a growl now. “I am not gonna leave! Don’t you understand?”
“I understand that this is beginning to cave you in. You won’t be any use to anyone if you fall apart. I’m not asking you to go to the Andes and stay for a month, I’m telling you to get your shoes, and we’re gonna drive around the block or something, until you get yourself together.”
“Right. Get your shoes.”
Taylor sighed, finally looking up, and CC saw tears in his eyes. “I really want to get out of here Ceec, but what if something happens?”
Sympathy flooded CC then, looking down into Taylor’s eyes. This poor kid had had more than his share of tough breaks. This was beyond unfair. He leaned down and hugged him, quickly.
“Tay, I’ll take the cell phone with me. If anyone finds out anything, they can call pronto.”
“We’ll come right back?”
“Without question. Trust me. You need to get away from here.”
Sighing, Taylor dragged himself from the table. “Okay. But you promised.”
He headed upstairs, and CC let his gaze shift out toward the front door. So many people, what a zoo it was. He could see Walker, on the phone, had he put that phone down in the last several hours? CC didn’t think so. Diana, where was she? Somewhere with the little ones?
No, there were some of them, running in and out between peoples legs. He smiled slightly, at that. Children could find a game anywhere.
There was Diana, talking to the police. Perfect, that should add to her stress. He reflected on the remarkable incompetence of the police department so far. They were treating it like the whim of hysterical, overprotective parents. The boys had taken camping gear, and hit the road. They’d be back. There was no reason to think anyone was in trouble. Well… CC understood their point, but he also understood following your gut. And his gut told him they needed to find those kids, fast.
He was gently shaken from his reverie by a light touch on his head. Pulling away slightly, he looked back at Taylor. Unlike him to be touchy.
“Things okay? You ready?”
Taylor’s voice was weary. “As ready as I’ll ever be.” Sighing, he stood up, fishing for his keys. “Okay.” CC had a hard time keeping the dubious tone at bay. “Lets go.” They’d gone as far as the back steps, when Diana stopped them.
“It’s okay, you’re gonna be fine, big guy.” That voice. Thank God. Too bright, too loud, pulling, tugging, what was going on? Zac’s world was confusion. Heat, and cold, and pain, people at him. “Stop it, stop it, I’m dizzy,” the thought never left his mind. So many voices, all talking at once, he couldn’t understand any of them.
Panic started to crest, and then that voice. Strong and low and soothing, familiar. Struggling against lights that hurt his eyes, and never ending crashing noise, ripping his head apart, he located the voice and turned his eyes to the man’s face, right there, gray eyes capturing his.
He let those eyes hold him, as his mind focused on the voice. What was he saying? No matter, didn’t matter, it was just there. Warm, flowing over him, counteracting the surrounding insanity. Why were they all yelling? It hurt his head, didn’t they know how much it hurt? God, it hurt to breathe.
“Little stick now, hon.” What? What? Who was that? Something jabbed his arm, nothing compared to the enormous pain in his chest, but the man’s grip on his hand tightened. What was he saying? He squeezed the man’s hand, wanting to ask him to stay, words beyond his grasp.
Things seemed to be jumping around, flashes of vision and understanding. God, what was going on? Cold. So cold, what were they doing? He pulled a little on the man’s hand, wanting to bring him closer, startled suddenly by a bright flash of light, and sudden, gripping pain everywhere. Pain, screaming pain, no breath, God he couldn’t breathe! Voices suddenly raised and shouting, the man’s hand ripped away from his, as the world suddenly lurched in his sights. The figure of the man, tiny, swallowed in blackness, gone, along with the rest of his world.
“No, no way, I’m not doing that. NO.” Taylor was emphatic. “I’m going with CC, and that’s all. I’m not going to have anything to do with this.”
Diana’s lips were tight. This was no time for him to be obstinate.
“Taylor, we’re all…”
“NO!” He pulled away from the hand she’d set on his shoulder. “I can’t deal with that, and I’m not going to!” He backed away, staring at her for a moment, as if wondering if he were going to be allowed to get away with talking to her that way, and then quickly slipped out. A few second later they heard the slam of CC’s car door.
Helpless, Diana turned to CC, who only shook his head. “Press conference is pretty stressful, Diana. If he’s not up to it, I wouldn’t push it. I’m amazed he’s even willing to leave the house.”
“It’s not really a press conference, just a statement.”
“Is it really necessary that he be here?” She hesitated, and he pressed on. “Why would it be? The only one who really needs to be there is Walker. Don’t push him, not now. He’s on very thin ice.”
She sighed, shooting an annoyed glance after her son.
“Why, Ceec, is he on such thin ice? What exactly are we doing wrong, still?” Shaking her head, she didn’t give him time to answer. “We’ve done everything in our power, and he still acts as if he’ll come undone at any moment. It’s, very frankly, getting on my nerves. I really think that with all that’s going on now, Taylor needs to get his act together, and stop acting so ridiculous.”
He studied her quizzically. “Do you really think that? Do you think it’s in his control?” She shook her head.
“I don’t know what to think. I just don’t know. He just about had a psychotic attack over having his picture taken, he’s spent the entire last 24 hours insisting he can’t leave the house and now he’s running out the door… I don’t know. Just get him out of here, the less I have to look at him right now, the better.”
Sighing, feeling badly for all of them, CC gave her hand a brief squeeze, and let himself out. Something she’d said was starting those unsettling little bells in his mind again. “Psychotic attack over having his picture taken… can’t leave the house, running out the door…” Oh where was it?! It was right there, what wasn’t he seeing?!
Shaking his head, annoyed with himself, he opened the drivers door and looked at the boy already in the passenger seat. His face was tight, pale, and his eyes were frightened. “Tay, you alright?”
The boy nodded, shortly. “Yeah, lets just get out of here.”
Nodding, CC turned the key.