As soon as Brandon and I pulled in the driveway after work on Thursday, Elliot came rushing out of the house to greet us. "Have you heard the news?"
"Come inside. They're talking about it on the television."
When we reached the family room, the local news broadcast was on and the entire family was watching it. "It was an unbelievable and bloody scene," the reporter was saying. "In all, there are five dead and several others were wounded in the incident that took place earlier today."
"What the hell is going on?" I asked, totally unaware of what this was about.
"Just listen and you'll find out."
"It all started a little over two hours ago when a car with two sheriff's deputies and another with two state police officers pulled up in front of the house you see behind me. They arrived here to serve arrest warrants on two young men they believed were inside the premises, but as they approached the house gunfire erupted. A sheriff's deputy and a state police officer were hit in the initial exchange, and then the others took cover before returning fire. I've been told that the remaining officers called for backup and the gunfire continued for another forty minutes before the lone survivor inside the house finally signaled he was ready to surrender. When the standoff ended, five lay dead and several others were taken to nearby hospitals to be treated."
"Have any of the victims been identified?" the anchor in the studio asked next.
"No, their identities are being withheld, awaiting notification of the next of kin."
"Do you have any idea what the charges associated with the arrest warrants might have been?"
"No, that information hasn't been released either."
"Well, thank you and we'll check in with you again later."
"I look forward to it. This is Alan Harding signing off from the scene in Altoona."
Even though I hadn't found out many particulars from the reporters, I had a fairly good idea about what was going on. "So you think this involves the guys who beat up Ian?"
"There's a good chance," Dad answered. "When the news first broke, I called Uncle Steve to see if he could find out if David Hubbard was still living in Altoona. He called back several minutes later and told me that not only was David still living in Altoona, but there was currently an incident taking place at his residence. It looks like Grant returned to the home he'd grown up in and figured he could hide out with his Uncle David."
"Shhh," Elliot told us. "The reporter's saying something else."
"So did the people whose names were listed on the warrants live in this house?" the anchor asked.
"No, I understand they were merely staying with the current occupant temporarily. It was also mentioned that one of the two might be related to the person who resided here."
"So what led law enforcement to this particular house, if neither of the men lived there?"
"It's my understanding that someone from the area recognized one of the men and knew he was wanted in connection with a crime in another jurisdiction. He reportedly phoned in a tip to the local hotline, and then officers were dispatched from these two agencies to make the arrests."
"Did they know the subjects were armed?"
"Obviously not, or the S.W.A.T. team would probably have been involved. However, I've learned from reliable sources that one of the young men they were about to arrest is a firm believer in the Second Amendment and allegedly owns several guns."
"It seems the officers should have been more cautious then, or didn't they have access to this information?"
"I'm not sure, but it appears they hadn't been informed of these facts."
We all continued to wonder if Grant and Sam had been the two in the house, or if these were just some other lowlifes who happened to hang out with David Hubbard. Knowing his background, that was a possibility, although the information we'd heard so far certainly sounded as if they were talking about Grant and Sam.
We eventually left the family room because no new information was being presented and Trey had let us know that dinner was ready. When we went in and sat down at the dining room table, we continued to discuss what was happening while we ate.
After we finished the meal, we went to watch TV with the boys, and every so often a news bulletin would interrupt the show, but we learned nothing new from any of these breaks. It was merely a rehashing of what we'd seen and heard earlier. Then, at 10:15 there was another bulletin.
"Those killed in the shootout earlier today have been identified. Stay tuned for more information on Channel 10 news at 11:00."
"Maybe we'll find out if it was them in a little while," Brandon stated, verbalizing what the rest of us were thinking.
When the 11:00 news came on, we all sat glued to the TV screen. "Here's the latest information we've obtained about the shootout that happened earlier today in Altoona. Two sheriff's deputies and two state police officers arrived at a home there to serve arrest warrants on two men. According to the information we obtained recently, the house belongs to a Derek Ridley, but was currently being occupied by his brother-in-law.
"As law enforcement approached the front door, shots erupted from inside the house and a sheriff's deputy and a state police officer were hit. Before it was over, several more from law enforcement had been struck as well, along with the three men inside the house."
"Can you give us the names of those who died or were wounded?"
"Yes, I can share that information with you now. Two of the men inside the house were killed, and the third one is currently in the hospital with life threatening injuries. The dead have been identified as Sam Abernathy, 24, and David Hubbard, 32, while the wounded man was identified as Grant Ridley, also 24. He is the son of the owner of the house."
"And which two were the arrest warrants on?"
"That would be Abernathy and Ridley. The warrants stem from an assault that happened approximately a month ago in Bedford County."
As soon as he heard this news, Elliot began jumping around and celebrating, so we weren't able to hear the names of those in law enforcement who'd been killed or wounded. We'd be able to get that information in the next news broadcast, though. For now, I believe we were all merely grateful that Frankie was currently stationed in another part of the state and hadn't been involved.
Even though I hated to see Elliot so excited after learning that people had died, I could relate to the relief he was feeling. He and Ian no longer had to worry about having their property damaged or being attacked by those two again. I was about to tell Elliot to settle down when his phone rang.
"Yeah, Ian. I just heard it on TV too. One of your attackers is dead and the other one is fighting for his life. Even if he lives, he'll be going to prison for the rest of his life for murdering those cops, so we'll never have to deal with him again."
Elliot then paused as he listened to Ian say something else. "Yeah, he was the same guy that my dads had trouble with when they were younger, so he's no longer a problem for them either."
There was another pause. "Yeah, I'll come over tomorrow, but you should sleep a lot better tonight."
We then heard Elliot kiss the air as he sent his love to Ian and said goodnight. Then he turned to us again.
"I'm glad this is finally over. I guess Abernathy must have taken his guns with him when they fled, so I guess that meant they weren't planning on being captured alive."
"That's possible, although I don't quite understand it. Instead of spending a few years in prison for assault, they opted to do something that had a good chance of ending their lives instead. That doesn't sound particularly bright to me."
"Who said they were smart?" Dad chimed in.
"Since we all know how they felt about gay sex," Trey added, "maybe they were afraid something like that might happen to them in prison."
"Maybe, but if that's what they were worried about, they certainly went to one hell of an extreme to keep it from happening to them," Pop observed.
"I'm just glad they didn't use those guns to come after Ian and me. They still might have died in a shootout if they'd done that, and if the police didn't get there in time to confront them then, they might have been killed later. That's because the cops would have been ready for them when they went to arrest those guys later. Seeing they were willing to die, I don't understand why they didn't try to kill us first, because that was what they threatened," Elliot added, and then I noticed his body visibly tremble.
"I'm very glad they didn't do that, because I wouldn't want to lose either of you. If someone had to die, I'm much happier that it was them instead of either of you," I assured him. In fact, I think we were all breathing a little easier when we went to bed that night.
The next morning we had to start turning our attention to the cookout, which was the following day. We were definitely glad that we didn't still have the other problem hanging over our heads while we were doing this, but now we just wanted to make sure everything went well. It would be the first time we'd be meeting Adam's parents, seeing they finally had agreed to come, so Brandon and I wanted the day to go perfectly.
When we got home from work on Friday evening, we double-checked to make sure we had everything we'd need for the next day, but I also made sure everyone was prepared as well. I'd asked Elliot to mention to Ian and his parents about Adam's mother's problem when he was over there earlier in the day, so they wouldn't say anything about her condition or stare. When Terri arrived to drop Owen off, I went out to say hello and told her the same thing. Then, I sat down and talked to the boys about this after dinner, so they wouldn't do anything like that either.
"Guys, we're having company tomorrow for a cookout and I want everything to go well. You know Ian and Owen's parents, and they'll all be here, and Adam's mom and dad are coming too. We haven't met them before, but we've been told that Adam's mother had the measles when she was younger and it left her face scarred. She is very sensitive about that, so I don't want anyone to say anything about it, and we don't want anyone to stare at her either. I'm not sure how noticeable it is, but I know she doesn't like to go places because of it, so please make her feel welcome."
The boys all promised they would, so I thanked them and went back to making sure everything else was set. The ground beef, hot dogs, and steaks were in the fridge, along with a container of chicken breasts that were marinating in barbeque sauce. Trey and Brandon were busy finishing the salads they were working on, and I checked to make sure there would be enough to drink for everyone. We had a huge selection to choose from, which included soda, ice tea, flavored and plain water, wine, and beer. I wasn't sure what the others would prefer, but they should be able to find something they liked from the selection.
When we went up to tuck the boys in later, we reminded each of them to be careful about not staring or saying anything to Adam's mother about her condition. They promised they wouldn't do those things, so I just hoped they kept their word.
When I said goodnight to Noah, he had something he wanted to tell me instead. "Adam and I are really glad his mother's going to do this, so I hope no one slips up and does something that makes her feel bad."
"I know, and I've warned everyone. That's the best I can do, so now we'll just have to pray no one messes up."
I was nervous as I went to bed that night, because I was worried that something would go wrong and ruin this outing for Adam's mother. There was nothing more I could do about it, though, so I'd just have to wait and see how things worked out.
I told the others to show up at 11:00 and we'd visit first, and then we'd eat at noon. Before anyone arrived, I arranged the non-breakable dishes and silverware on a large tray first, and then I asked the boys help me put a variety of the beverages into our two coolers and take them outside. Dad and Pop were busy placing the meat on another tray so they could carry it outside, and then they fired up the grills so they'd be ready to use. Now, we waited for everyone to show up.
Ian and his parents arrived first. Elliot and I went out to greet them and see if we could give them a hand. "Hi, Danny. Thanks for inviting us," Ian's mother, Erin, said.
"It's our pleasure and we hope you enjoy yourselves."
"We wanted to get here first, so Ian could get settled before everyone else arrived," Ian's father, Cameron, said next. "He's pretty good on the crutches, but with the uneven ground and the boys running around, we didn't want him to have an accident and get hurt worse."
"You don't have to worry about that. I've got a lawn chair set aside for him," Elliot responded, as he went to help Ian get out of the car.
"Somehow I knew you would," Erin teased as we walked toward the picnic tables on the side of the house. I then let Elliot introduce Ian's parents to everyone else.
Owen's mom and dad arrived next, and Owen raced out to the car and was opening his mother's door almost before the vehicle stopped. "This is gonna be great," he shouted as he gave his mom a kiss, and then he raced back to find Ryan.
"I'm not sure what I'm going to do with that boy," Terri said shaking her head. "It's a miracle we aren't constantly taking him to the hospital to be treated. I'm so glad he wants you to be his doctor now, because that will make it a lot easier and take a big load off my mind."
"I'm just happy he's acting like a normal kid and enjoying life," Brian added as he reached out to shake my hand.
I had just walked them over to the picnic tables when another car pulled in, so I told Owen to introduce his parents to anyone they didn't already know. While he was doing that, Noah and I went to greet our new guests.
"You must be Adam's parents," I said as they were getting out of the car. "I'm so glad you came and I want you to know we all think the world of your son. I'm Danny, and you already know Noah, and when you're ready I'll take you around to introduce you to everyone else."
"I'm glad to meet you and I'm Wil," Adam's father said as we shook hands. "And this is my wife, Judy."
"I'm so glad to meet both of you," I said as I smiled and looked into each of their eyes. "I really appreciate that you let Noah spend so much time at your house."
"Adam enjoys his company and he's never a problem, but I think Adam's been here nearly as often as Noah's been at our place," Wil said.
"Adam's always welcome here, as are you, so let's head to the picnic tables so you can meet the rest of the crowd."
Judy looked nervous as I turned to lead them, but she followed me just the same. Before long, I was taking them around and introducing them to everyone personally. I was pleased that the others were very friendly, including the boys, and no one made any serious blunders. I held my breath when Ryan did more than merely say hello, though, as he welcomed them to our house.
"I'm happy you're here, cuz I like Adam a lot," he said. "He and Noah helped me when some boys were pickin' on me, so now they don't do that any more."
"I'm glad he was able to help you, sweetie," Judy said as she gave Ryan a little hug. "You seem like a really nice boy, so I'm pleased Adam did that for you."
She and her husband then took a seat, as she chatted more with Ryan. Over the course of the next hour I saw her smiling and talking to the others as well, so it appeared everything was going as hoped.
Shortly after noon, Dad made an announcement. "The dishes and silverware are over there, so grab a plate and some utensils before coming over to the grill and telling me what you want. We have steaks, barbequed chicken breasts, hamburgers, and hot dogs. You'll find the buns and condiments on the picnic tables, along with a selection of salads, and the drinks are in the coolers located at the side of the house. Let's get started."
I told the boys to let our guests get their food first, and then we got in line behind them. Once everyone had what they wanted, Dad and Pop got their food too and we all sat down at the picnic tables to eat and talk.
"This was a really great idea," Terri said in between bites. "It's nice to finally meet the other parents, since we already knew their sons."
"And I enjoy this much better than a formal dinner and a night filled with boring medical talk," Erin added.
"I can always leave you at home next time," Cameron teased.
"I just might take you up on that," she countered.
"I'd like to thank you for inviting us too," Judy said next. "The food is delicious and everyone is really nice, so I'm glad we had an opportunity to do this."
"We're glad you came too," Brandon replied. "Adam has become a valuable friend and ally for our sons, so we were eager to meet his parents. We knew they must be really special people to have raised such a wonderful son."
"Are you sure you're talking about our boy?" Wil joked, as he playfully pushed his son.
"Absolutely," Dad confirmed.
After we'd finished eating and were letting our meals settle, I noticed that Owen was taking his dad out behind the house so he could show him the pool. I thought I'd walk out and fill Brian in about a few things as well.
"My dad bought this pool when my brothers and I were younger. It's been well used and a valuable retreat on hot summer days."
"And the area is nicely secluded with no neighbors in sight. It's a perfect spot for taking a naked dip in the pool." Owen's mouth dropped open as he looked at his dad. "Come on, don't tell me you've haven't ever thought about doing that." Owen blushed and stammered a bit when he began to speak.
"Yeah, ummm, we've ah, kinda tried that. I hope you're not mad?"
"Mad? No way. In fact, I'm glad to hear that you're not ashamed of your body. If Ryan's dads ever do it with you, then I might try slipping away from your mother sometime so I can come over and join you." I thought Owen's eyes were going to pop out of their sockets.
"Really? You'd do it with us."
"Of course. Just don't tell your mom."
"Oh, I won't, cuz I don't want her to know I'm doin' it either."
"Good boy, and you're more like me than I thought."
That was an interesting exchange, and I followed them as they walked back to rejoin the others. As we got closer, Noah posed a question?
"Dad, can we play touch football now?"
I quickly informed the other parents about what the boys wanted to do, and the other three fathers agreed to join in. The three women said they'd just sit and talk some more, so I told Ian he could referee from the sidelines, since he wasn't able to play. I moved the lawn chair down to the area where the game would be played, as Elliot walked with Ian to make sure he didn't fall while using the crutches.
Once we were all together, we picked up teams, splitting up each pair of boys, as well as the rest of us. Since there were only three other fathers, Elliot agreed to play too, and then Dad and Pop were placed on opposite teams, as well as Brandon and me.
The game was mostly for fun, and we had a few good laughs along the way, but we let the boys do most of the running. I think Ian made up a few calls in order to keep the score close, but no one complained - well not seriously that is. We did give him a little grief now and then, so he wouldn't feel left out.
When we finished, we were all hot and sweaty, so everyone grabbed a drink from the cooler before sitting down again. "I would have said that looked like an old-timers game, if our sons hadn't been playing," Terri quipped.
"Hey, you're the same age I am," Brian shot back.
"Yes, but I wasn't playing and trying to act like a kid again."
"I haven't heard that much wheezing since I visited the patients with emphysema at the hospital," Erin teased.
"It must be that some of the boys are suffering from asthma then," Cameron countered.
"Yeah, sure," she replied.
"I'm not sure about the rest of you, but I haven't seen Wil run that much since he chased me around on our honeymoon," Judy threw in next. This caused Wil to blush and the rest of us to laugh.
"Guilty as charged," he finally relented.
Over the next hour things began to wind down. Trey brought out a cake and Dion carried out a cheesecake, as they asked each person which they wanted for dessert. Once everyone had something and downed the tasty treats, some of our guests announced they had to leave.
"Thank you for the marvelous day," Erin said as she and Cameron got ready to go home. "We had a great time and hope we can do this again."
"Yes, and I think we'll do it at our house next time," Cameron added.
"Well, we're glad you joined us and we enjoyed your company," I confirmed.
After the Hills left, Adam's parents said they had to get going too. "I'm really glad you invited us and I had a truly wonderful time," Judy informed us. "I don't do this often, but I'd love to join you all again sometime."
"And you won't ever get a better compliment than that," Wil added.
"Then we'll plan on it. Maybe we can all get together for a holiday party this year too."
"That would be lovely," Judy agreed.
Once the Garcias drove away, Terri and Brian walked up to me. "We should be going too," Terri stated. "We all had a great time and the food was delicious."
"I'm gonna stay here again, right?" Owen asked. "I want to go to church with them, so I'll come home sometime tomorrow." Terri looked at her husband and then at me.
"It actually works out better for us that way, as long as you don't have a problem with it," I told her.
"Ok, but I think we're going to have to add your names to his birth certificate, since he spends so much time with you," Terri stated as she gave Owen a playful punch. "I'm really glad you don't mind doing this for him, but don't let him take advantage of you."
"Don't worry. We won't."
"Thanks, Mom," Owen said as he gave her a hug and kiss. "And you too, Dad," he added as he hugged his father.
Once they left, I asked the boys to help us pick up the mess and carry everything inside. As we were doing that, I heard several comments.
"Today was a lot of fun," Benny said. "I really liked playin' football."
"Yeah, me too. Too bad your team lost," Joshie countered, jokingly.
"Nuh uh," Benny disagreed, and the two continued bickering about it as they walked toward the house.
"Thanks for lettin' me stay again too," Owen offered. "I don't think my mom would have let me do it if you hadn't said it was ok."
"Then I hope I didn't upset her."
"Nah, she just thinks I'm takin' advantage of you."
"Well, we do it because we need our weekly dose of seeing your naked butt streaking around the house." Owen just looked in my direction and gave me a devilish grin before shaking his butt at me.
"Come on. We got other stuff to do," Ryan interrupted, in an attempt to urge Owen to get a move on.
"Ok," he replied before turning back to me. "And you'll get to see more than just my butt." Then, he took off to catch up with Ryan, and I had a good idea what they were going to do.
"I'm really glad you invited Adam's parents," Noah stated next. "I think his mother meant it when she said she had a good time and wanted to do it again."
"I'm glad, and after hearing Wil's comment, I think he was pleased and surprised as well."
"Yeah, and Adam was really happy about it too. You know, I don't think she used quite as much makeup today either, like she usually does when she goes other places."
"That's encouraging, and I hope it means she'd already thought she could trust us."
"Yeah, me and Adam kept telling her that, so I guess she finally believes us now."
Later, after the boys showered, we went up to tuck them in. Each one thanked us again for having the cookout and said they had a lot of fun. When we got to Ryan's room, Owen kept his promise, because he stood by the bed, totally naked again, when we entered the room.
"Told ya," he whispered as I tucked him in.
"You're something else," I countered as I kissed him on the forehead and said goodnight.