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    C James
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

In Memory of Ed Wooton

For the Love - 23. Flying Lessons

I watched Steve's muscles strain, sweating as he struggled against his bonds. Hearing him cry out, I ceased my own struggles, telling him, "Steve, it's no use. You'll just hurt yourself."

"Chris, we have to do something. I'm already baking and I know you are, too. Eric's gone and even if he comes back, you heard what he's gonna do."

"Yeah, roast my dick. But I don't think we'll be alive if he comes back. We're dehydrated from the alcohol last night, and the Ketamine. We're staked out in full sun and it already feels like it's over a hundred degrees. A few hours of this and that's it for us, we'll die of heat stroke."

"So, what does that mean? How long have we got?"

My head was still pounding, but I was able to concentrate, a little, and remember some things that, under the circumstances, I'd just as soon forget;"Your body cools itself by sweating. The hotter it gets, the more it has to sweat. What will happen is our bodies will run out of water and not be able to sweat enough. When that happens, our body temperatures will rise and we'll get heat stroke or heat exhaustion, I can't remember which. That, and exposure, will kill us. I'm guessing six hours will be about the end for us."

Steve groaned, "Even if Eric comes back, it won't be until late afternoon, if at all. We'll be dead by then."

Bucking and straining, Steve fought against his bonds, but stopped after a few minutes, gasping and sweating hard.

"Steve, the way I see it, we don't have a lot of options. We can struggle and hope to work free somehow, or keep still and hope we make it until Eric gets back, if he comes back at all. Struggling will make us sweat more, which will kill us sooner. I don't think we will last long enough for Eric to get back no matter what, and I think even if we survived until then, he'd just torture us and leave us to die anyway. I think breaking free is our only hope."

"Yeah, damn, I sure don't want us to have to die like this, but it looks like we will. I'll try though, no reason to hold back."

Steve struggled, pulling on his wrists and ankles, bucking and straining, and began to cry out from the pain. I tried, too, but the sun was too hot, burning hot, and I could barely move. I tried, straining hard, but all I managed to do was make my head pound harder, and my wrists burn.

Eventually, I struggled not from a desire to be free, but out of sheer desperation due to the pain of cooking in the sun. My chest felt like it was on fire, and the pain grew with every passing minute. I felt my mouth go dry, my throat burning with a raging thirst, so bad I'd do anything for water.

Sometime later, I couldn't tell how long, I heard Steve gasp, "Concentrate on the stake between us... pull when I'm not... maybe we can use the angles to rock it free."

I twisted my neck to look along my arm, and at the stake Steve was talking about. We were both tied to it, him by his left arm, me by my right. I saw what he meant about angles; if we took turns pulling on it, we had a chance to work it loose. I gritted my teeth and heaved, pulling with my legs, straining with my shoulders, willing the stake to move. I collapsed, gasping, my throat felt as dry as the desert around us, as Steve tried heaving against the stake. We alternated, back-and-forth, for, I don't know how long. But the stake was over a foot from our wrists and we had no leverage; it just wouldn't budge.

Steve cried out and I looked at him. His shoulder was arched off the ground; I could see that his lat was cramped, and he couldn't move to ease it. He was suffering, rolling his head in agony. I tried again, straining as hard as I could, anything to get loose, but I couldn't. I felt myself burning up. My thirst raging, I raised my head to look down my body. I could see that I was sweating less and knew I couldn't last much longer.

The fierce, unyielding sun beat down on us, baking us, as the pounding in my head grew worse. I couldn't think, I couldn't talk all I could do was bake, splayed out prone to the sun as I was. I grayed out a few times, getting up to go to the water, but always I'd come too just as I reached it. My head spun, and I couldn't tell what was real anymore. Sometimes I heard Steve call my name, but the sound was distant and fading fast.

Panting, shuddering, I cooked, my mouth bone dry as my thirst raged. I couldn't tell how long we had been there, as time itself seemed to stand still, but it seemed like we had been baking forever.

I was dimly aware of Steve beside me, and turned my head to see him still struggling, mainly against his wrist ropes. He was scorched by the sun, sweating hard. I knew that he was weakening, but he still fought.

I was tired, so tired, and my head swam. I looked over at Steve, and saw that he was no longer moving. I tried to speak, to tell him goodbye, but all that came out was a croak. Blackness closed in, the pain finally easing.

Dimly, from somewhere, I heard water and felt its frigid presence spread across my skin, as the red haze of unconsciousness retreated. I could feel the rush of water against my lips, trickling down my parched throat as I struggled to swallow. I started to come around, wondering if this was just another hallucination on the stakes. I opened my eyes to see Steve looking back at me, concern and exhaustion marring his reddened face. I sat upright with a start, and found myself in his arms, with the cool water lapping against my sides. I rolled over, face first into the water, and drank deeply as I heard Steve do the same.

I could barely hold my head out of the shallow water, as I felt Steve take me in his arms and pull me to a sitting position. We were sitting in only a foot of water, but nothing could have felt as good. Steve and I hugged as I lifted my head and looked at him, noticing that his wrists were rubbed raw and marked by the ropes. I glanced at my own to see the same, "Steve, what happened? Last thing I remember was still being staked, then blacking out," I croaked, as my throat began to work again.

Steve sighed, "Yeah, I thought you'd about had it. I was nearly there too. I think it's about three in the afternoon, so we were staked out most of the day. I didn't know if you were gonna wake up, I thought I'd lost ya..." he said, hugging me again.

"I think I'm ok... How did you get us out of there?"

"I was concentrating on the ropes on my wrists and trying to loosen the stakes. I kept pulling and fighting, and I managed to get the rope on the stake on my right side to slide about an inch and a half up the tent stake. That gave me a little leverage. I got the stake to move a little, and it finally came out. That let me untie myself, then you, and I carried you over here to the water."

He'd untied me and carried me over to the water; before getting a drink himself, saving my life before his own. I smiled at him. If that wasn't love, I don't know what is.

Steve looked so sad, so guilty; I knew instantly that he was feeling bad over what his brother had done. I knew I needed to head this off at the pass;"Steve, there's something I need to tell you..." I saw him wince, "I don't like your brother very much right now."

He laughed, realizing what I was up to. I looked him in the eye and told him, "I don't want to hear anything about you feeling responsible for this. Remember what I said before, when we were in the car chase; only Eric wins if you do."

I washed his wounds, and he washed mine. Finally he spoke, "Chris, we're still in deep shit. We have to get out of here, but Eric took everything. We can't carry water, but we can make the highway easy enough at night. It's gonna be a rough trip with no shoes, so our feet will end up raw, but we can make it. Maybe you should stay here and let me go alone; I think you ended up with a larger dose or something; you were really out of it. I was nearly gone by the time I got that damn stake loose, but you were unconscious, and you'd blacked out a bunch of times."

"I'll be ok. I think I got a huge dose, or it just hit me hard, but I'm okay now, just weak." I said, as my head cleared some more. I wasn't crazy about having to flag down a car at night, wearing just running shorts and looking like we had been through hell, but figured we could just scream 'help' and at least they would call the cops.

We moved to deeper water, before checking each other's backs. We were both scratched up pretty good, with a few nicks and cuts from the sharp gravel, but nothing too serious. Steve had some bruises where he had been kicked, but it looked like the kicks had missed his ribs.

Suddenly, Steve got up and headed over to where our camp had been. I saw him pick up a few rocks, holding up something triumphantly, as he came jogging back to me. It was a book of matches. Steve placed the matches under a nearby rock, and then got back in the water with me.

"I always put the matches under a rock, so I won't lose them. At least we have those! Now, when we get to the highway, all we have to do is gather some brush and set it on fire in the middle of the road. That will stop any traffic, or at least get the cops or fire department called right away."

Steve looked at me thoughtfully and then added, "We are both worn out from what we went through. But, I think we should both try for the highway tonight, if you feel up to it. That way if one of us can't make it all the way, the other can still get help. It's gonna be a hard hike though, especially barefoot at night."

I thought a bit and then said, "True, but, I think we're forgetting a much easier way. Eric might come back."

"Yeah, after trying the code that won't work, but, the second he peeks over the edge and sees us loose, he'll be off like a shot..." Steve paused, looking over at the stakes, "Unless he sees us still staked out."

"Hey, yeah... But, I don't think either one of us could take lying out there in the sun anymore," I replied.

I thought about it for a while, but Steve figured it out first, "Huh... true, but, wait a sec. We don't need to. From the rocks at the end of the water hole nearest the drop-off, we can see the road and the trail. We'll be in the shade of the cliff, so we can keep a lookout. When we see him coming, we can get back to the stakes and fake being staked out. Beg and plead a lot, that sorta thing. Then when he gets close enough, grab him. That way, we will at least get the keys so we can drive out of here."

"Great idea! We can't leave until sundown anyway. Let's cruise over there, and take turns on lookout." I said, hoping that our plan would work. It was strange; for the first time that I could recall, I actually wantedEric to show up.

We lay in the shallow water, safe in the shade and began our lookout. After a while I asked Steve, "What if he's not alone when he comes back?"

Steve thought a while and then shrugged, "We are probably too weak to put up much of a fight even if they aren't armed. We'd see them get out of the vehicle, though, and that would give us a big head start. We could head up that draw we found onto the plateau and head for the rocks at the base of the mountain. If we hid in there, they'd need an army to find us."

"Unless they just stayed here to keep an eye on the water hole," I grumbled.

"We'd have to find another way down and try to reach the highway. Still, I think it's our best chance," said Steve.

"Yeah, I agree. He came alone before, though, so maybe he will again, if he comes back at all. I just hope he doesn't stash the keys somewhere on the way up."

Steve looked grim, "If he does, I'll beat it out of him, so help me."

We took turns keeping a lookout for a while, one of us resting just a few inches away. I was tired, but feeling better by the hour. We drank plenty of water, but hunger was starting to gnaw in the pit of my stomach. I looked out across the empty plains, "Do you really think he'll come back?"

Steve put his arm on my shoulder, "I hope so. He said he needs that info real bad, and by now, he's tried to decode it and failed. I think he'll come back, but if not, we'll try for the highway tonight."

I was dozing lightly after having traded off on lookout duty with Steve, when I felt him shake my shoulder, "Dude, I see your Jeep."

I bolted around, franticly scrambling forward to look as Steve told me, "Relax. He's still a long ways off, we have lots of time."

Spotting a large cloud of dust with my Jeep lurching at the head of it, I growled, "The little bastard is going hell-for-leather. I just hope the Jeep is drivable for the trip back," before adding glumly, "I just hope he's alone, and unarmed. If he has that damn dart gun and gets one of us, whoever is left has got to take him down, or he'll kill us for sure. "

We watched as my Jeep turned off the old road and disappear into the dry wash. I held my breath for what seemed like forever, until I saw the Jeep crest the rim of the wash and skid to a halt, right about where we'd left it the day before. I saw a small figure get out, look cautiously around, and then head for the mouth of the canyon.

"That looks like Eric, and he's alone," said Steve.

We watched, keeping low, until we saw him down in the canyon below us, with an ominous shape protruding above his shoulders. We ducked back and trotted over to the stakes as I whispered, "He's either got a rifle, or that tranquilizer gun."

I shuddered at the sight of the stakes, but I laid down and let Steve drape the untied ropes over my wrists and ankles, tucking them under my limbs so that they still looked tied. I watched as he loosely tapped in the one unearthed stake, then lay down, draping the ropes over his own wrists and ankles.

Steve grabbed the ropes and began pulling and writhing. I followed suit, and soon Steve whispered, "I see his head peeking over the edge. Make it sound real. We need him to get close," I let out a moan and a cry as Steve did the same.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Eric stop twenty feet away, the oversized bore of the tranquilizer gun pointing in our general direction. I figured he was close enough, but closer would be better as we'd get only one chance. I heard Steve gasp, "Water, water, please..."

Eric swore, "You shithead! You gave me the wrong fucking code! I spent all fucking afternoon typing in pass phrases and looking up verses! Now I'm gonna build a fire in both your crotches and see who gives first."

Steve gasped in a horse whisper, "No, please, I'll tell you if you give me water..."

"So, tell, and I'll give you water."

Steve whispered and sputtered, faking a dry mouth and throat. Eric stepped up next to him to be able to hear, his eyes opening wide as Steve leaped up and lunged at him. I scrambled up as Eric gasped in shock as the dart gun was knocked from his grasp. He turned to run, but it was already too late.

Steve grabbed Eric's arm and spun him around, giving him a solid right hook to the jaw. Eric staggered and fell, but Steve kept a hold of his arm.

Eric was stunned by the blow, so he didn't put up much of a struggle as I pinned his arms behind his back while Steve checked Eric's pockets. Steve held up my keys with a grin before fishing out a pocketknife and Eric's wallet. Tucking everything safely into his own pocket, Steve shoved Eric to the ground, and we used some rope from the stakeout to bind his wrists and ankles. With Eric safely trussed, we stepped away, gathered up the dart gun, and headed to the water hole to drink and talk.

Steve asked, "What are we gonna do about Eric? We can't take him with us; there's no way to get him down the climb tied up, and I sure as hell ain't untying him."

I took a drink before answering, "I was thinking we could just leave him here tied up, and send the cops once we get into town?"

Steve shook his head, "Nah, tied like he is he'll be able to grind the ropes and break them. He's too damn good at getting away. We could shoot him with the dart gun, but he might come to before the cops got here."

I glared in Eric's general direction;"Why can't we get him down the cliff tied up? It wouldn't be hard at all. Just drag him over and toss him over the cliff. Call it a flying lesson. Can't be more than forty feet to the rocks below."

Steve looked at me, no doubt trying to decide whether or not I was serious. I knew he couldn't tell, because I didn't know for sure myself.

Nodding towards the dart gun, Steve said, "Why not just shoot him with that?"

That was a good idea, and I mulled it over, "The dose was high enough to nearly kill us, so it would stand a good chance of killing him. For all we know, he might have used an even bigger dose, or put something lethal in it to come back with."

"I can think of one good way to find out; shoot him," Slowly, an evil grin appeared on Steve's face, "I have an idea. I want to pay the little fuck back a little before we let the cops have him. The stakes you were tied to were in really good; you couldn't budge 'em and you are a hell of a lot stronger than Eric."

That sounded like a good idea to me, so I nodded in agreement as we walked back over to a struggling Eric. We hauled him to his feet before Steve slugged him hard in the stomach, and I smiled at the satisfying 'thud'. Eric doubled over, wheezing, while we untied his hands.

Eric gasped, "What are you doing?"

Steve ignored him, slugging him in the gut again, before throwing him on the ground where I had been staked. I pinned Eric's right wrist while Steve tied his left. We both then tied his right wrist and then stretched him out tight before tying his ankles.

Steve pulled out the pocketknife and flipped it open, telling me, "It's going to be a long walk back to the Jeep without shoes. Strips of cloth around our feet will help." Steve knelt and began cutting Eric's shirt off, as Eric writhed, his shifty eyes darting around. I thought I saw a glimmer of panic there, and hoped that I did.

Ripping the shirt into strips Steve said, "This should help," and tossed me a few strips before adding, "It'll be easier to climb down barefoot... Wait until we're down into the canyon before putting these on." Steve took Eric's shoes and socks, "The shoes are a couple of sizes too small but they might be better than nothing, and the socks might help a little."

We stuffed the fabric strips in our pockets as Eric yelled and pleaded, but Steve motioned with his head for us to leave.

As we began to walk away, Eric screamed, "You can't just leave me here."

Steve shot back "Why not? It's what you did to us. Have fun in the sun tomorrow, Eric. We won't be back for at least a month, when we come back to bury your bones. Everyone will figure you just ran away to avoid going to jail, either that or your criminal friends finished you off."

"No, I'll do anything! Please, let me go," Eric wailed, straining against the ropes.

Steve tossed the shoes and socks over the edge and then turned, "Who are you working with, Eric? Hell, never mind, you'd just lie again. We already know it's that Piedmont Sheriff and his brother-in-law, Thaddeus."

Eric's eyes told us that we'd hit pay dirt. Steve smiled coldly at Eric, "Bingo, and that's all we needed. Goodbye forever, Eric."

Eric thrashed against the ropes, screaming, "No, please, I'll tell you anything. It's all Thaddeus and the sheriff. They made me do it."

Steve shook his head, "You came up here alone and you tried to kill us. You also tried to pull that 'they made me' crap before. We're outta here."

Steve turned away as Eric yelled, "No, you can't!" before pleading softly, "Please, don't do this." Eric raised his head to look directly at me, "Chris, don't let him do this to me, please!"

I slung the dart gun over my shoulder and shrugged, "Hey, I'm all for it too. Goodbye and good riddance, Eric."

Eric looked at Steve and wailed as we began the descent, "You can't do this, I'm your brother!"

Steve's last words to him were, "Not any more you aren't."

Steve and I climbed over the edge, working our way slowly down to the canyon floor. On the way down, Steve reminded me, "Be careful with that gun; don't touch it any more than you have to. It might have fingerprints on it, Eric's for sure and maybe others. He had to get it from somebody."

We reached the bottom and quickly began tying the strips from Eric's shirt around Steve's feet, then pulled the socks on over them. Steve helped me stuff my feet into Eric's shoes, which were tight, but better than nothing. Steve was right; the walk back to my Jeep was easy enough.

The one thing we didn't see was any trace of our clothes or camping gear. When we finally reached my Jeep I opened it up and found it empty, even my emergency water was gone. I placed the dart gun carefully in the back as Steve grumbled, "He must have dumped our stuff. He was totally serious about leaving us there to die."

It was growing dark and I was thirsty, but I was worried about damage stranding us on the way back. I started checking under my Jeep and found that the skid plates Mr. Williams had Rob and Joe install had taken a major hit near the oil pan; without the steel plate, we would have been walking back.

As I got up, I thought I heard something and stopped to listen. I heard it again, a faint and distant electronic chirp.

I put my finger to my lips and Steve listened too, and I saw him nod then point towards the bushes. The skies were getting dark quickly, but it was still light enough to see. Steve held his arm out for a second, warning me, "We saw an old test shaft around here somewhere when we were camping, so watch where you step."

We followed the occasional beeps as they grew louder. Steve came to a halt and pointed down into an open ragged hole, a few feet wide but a couple of yards long, like a giant fissure in the Earth; a mining test shaft, dug in the days of hand tools from the look of it.

Steve grabbed a branch and used a match to light it, then held the makeshift torch above his head as he peered down into the gaping pit. He swatted out the flaming branch before telling me, "Our backpacks are down there on a ledge, about a dozen feet below us, and whatever is beeping sounds like it's coming from one of 'em.."

I shook my head, "Too bad we can't get down there. That sounds like a cell phone with a dying battery, and I carried mine turned off. How about you?"

Steve smiled, "You give up too easy. Mine was off too, so my bet is that Eric turned it on and made, or tried to make, a call. We might be able to see who he called if we can get to it before it goes totally dead. I don't know if it would lose its memory if it went dead, so we better get it quick." Steve opened the pocketknife and walked over to an Ocotillo, gingerly leaning in among the spiked branches before cutting a long one off at the base.

Steve returned, smiling;"Nature's grappling hook," he said, as I looked at what appeared to be a fishing pole with spikes.

Taking off the socks and bindings on his feet, Steve wrapped them around his hands. I grabbed some dry branches as he handed me the matches. As Steve hunched and lay down on his stomach at the edge of the shaft, I lit a branch and held it over the hole. Steve lowered the Ocotillo branch, and to my amazement, he began pulling hard on the branch, easing it up carefully until he reached down and hauled a backpack out of the shaft. He shrugged, "It's not this one, let's try again."

Retrieving the second pack took him a few minutes, but at the end of it, we were sitting a safe distance from the gaping shaft, digging through the chirping backpack. A cell phone tumbled out, emitting an occasional 'beep'. I flipped the phone open, noticing that it was mine and had a 'no signal' and 'low battery' message. I checked the "dialed numbers" menu anyway, and memorized the unfamiliar number that came up before powering off the phone.

Steve found his own phone and stuck it in his pocket, and together we hauled the packs back to the Jeep. I looked in the glove box for a pencil, and found our wallets, now empty of cash and my credit card. I tossed Steve his wallet and wrote down the phone number, "The prefix is Lonesome Valley, but I don't recognize the number." I said.

We both gingerly sat down in the Jeep, careful of our scratched-up backs, and buckled in for the drive home. It was fully dark by now, so the trip down the forty-five degree slope was a little hairy, but soon we were back in the dry wash, and then back on the old mining road.

Steve wasn't happy, "I think I should have questioned Eric some more. Maybe he would have talked. Might have been better than nothing."

"Don't worry about it, the cops will grill him for sure," I said, and then waited for a reply that never came.

Steve was silent, almost brooding. I knew how much he had been through, but I felt something else was eating at him, so I asked.

Sighing in response, Steve told me, "Eric just tossed the packs into the shaft. It's just dumb luck they caught on a ledge, but he could have piled brush in on top of 'em, or thrown rocks and knocked 'em off the ledge. He didn't, and I think I know why. He was going to shove our bones down there when he came back in a month, then seal the shaft. Not hard to do; just shove some big rocks down it. He wanted that to be our grave, Chris."

I put my hand on Steve's shoulder, "But we survived, and he's going to go away for a hell of a long time."

Steve didn't answer. I glanced down at my gas gauge, which read a quarter of a tank. I hoped that it would be enough to get us to Lonesome Valley, and said as much to Steve. Steve smiled blankly, "Not a problem. I took the little bastard's wallet, remember?"

Steve pulled out the wallet and opened it, "Chris, there's several hundred in cash here." He said digging around a little and pulled out a credit card, "Yours... and I bet the cash is partly ours too. How much did you have?"

I wasn't sure, but thought it was about sixty and said so. Steve nodded, "and I had about fifty." Steve began to count out the money in Eric's wallet, some of it in hundred dollar bills. He stopped and announced, "Nearly a thousand bucks here."

Steve folded a few bills and stuffed them in my pocket along with my credit card, "You get the five C-notes, and I'll take the rest. Too bad somebody stole Eric's money, huh?"

I laughed, "Yeah, pity, that. I think we can make a gas station easy enough too, if not your phone should work."

As we neared the rough stretch near Make-out Rock, Steve said, "I've been thinking. No way in hell did Eric walk all the way to Hidden Springs, if he was driven out in a 4X4, they would have gone most of the way but the only tracks I see are yours. If it was a car, he must have been dropped off right around where we had to stop the night we were chasing him. Stop just short of there and let's see what we can see."

After exiting the wash I pulled to a stop, my headlights and spotlights aimed ahead. Steve jumped out and began searching around while I stayed put and trained the lights on the area ahead of where Steve was looking. Steve climbed back in and indicated that he was done, so I took the Jeep out of low-range and headed for the highway.

"I see tracks, looks like somebody turned around there recently in something fairly big. Might be a good idea to take a cast of the tire tracks, and maybe match them up somehow. Dad has a kit for that."

I looked over at Steve, "Shouldn't we let the cops do that?" I asked, puzzled.

"I think we can handle this ourselves. It's really the only piece of evidence that I can see, so no need to call the police," said Steve in a flat voice, his face expressionless.

I began to worry, and so I asked, "You should be able to get a signal from here. Want to call the Sheriff's department now?"

"Nope," said Steve firmly, and I let the matter drop.

When we were finally back on pavement, Steve gave me an appraising glance, "Maybe we should head for the hospital, and have a Doc give you a once-over."

I shrugged, wincing from the pain it caused, "I'll be ok. I just want something to eat and some rest. What about you?"

Steve nodded his head, indicating that he didn't want to head for the hospital any more than I did. He didn't speak again for the rest of the drive.

We pulled into the driveway at Steve's house and climbed out of the Jeep, our sunburns starting to sting a little. No one was home so we both went back to Steve's room and sat down. I looked at Steve expectantly.

Steve looked back, "What?"

"Aren't you going to call the cops now?" I asked.

Steve smiled wanly, thought for a minute, and said, "I don't know. Not now, probably not later."

Not quite sure what he meant, but dreading the answer, I asked "So, er, what do you mean?"

"Dude, first he blackmailed us. Then he stole your car and led us on a wild goose chase. Then you almost got killed by the Piedmont Sheriff, and then he set us up for that snatch attempt at the bookstore and a one-way ride, and then he put in secret cameras and broadcast us screwing all over the Internet. And finally, he stakes us out in the desert to die slowly! Don't forget Thaddeus, that fucking Fundy vendetta, and those guys who came after you with baseball bats. Man, ever since you met me, he's made your life hell, and mine too. But trying to kill you was crossing the line. I can only think of one sure way to end all this crap, and that's to do nothing, nothing at all. I won't try to stop you if you want to call, but let me handle this, 'k?"

I thought about that for a while before answering, "Steve, believe me, I'm real tempted, but he's your brother whether you like it or not. I know you, Steve, and I know you won't be able to live with this. Sooner or later, it'll get to you. Think about Christmas; will you be able to face your parents, knowing you left Eric out there to die in the sun?"

Steve slammed his fist into the desk, "Damn it, that's what he tried to do to us!"

I nodded, "Yeah, he did, and if it was anybody else I'd say let him die. But he is your brother, and my sole concern here is I don't want this to cause you hurt, especially not something that will bug you for the rest of your life. Look, Steve, he's going to be locked up for a long, long time. You made this decision after the mineshaft, didn't you? I know because I saw it eating at you. Don't let this become something that haunts us both for the rest of our lives. Don't do that to yourself, or us."

Steve began to sob as he hugged me, "Damn it, you're right. It will bug me if I let him die, I know I'd regret it, and Mom and Dad would never forgive me if they found out. I guess I'm not as strong as he is, because he sure had no problem leaving us to die."

I hugged Steve and patted him gently, "No, Steve. All this proves is that you aren't anything like your brother."

Steve reached for the phone, lifted it, cradled it in his hand, and then slammed it down. He turned to me and said, "Ok, you're right, but why call now? He'll be safe enough until well after daybreak. So, I'll call in a few hours. I want him to suffer some anxiety, then see the sunrise and think it's his last. We owe the little asshole that much grief."

I agreed. Steve and I showered together, then dabbed each other's cuts with rubbing alcohol, which stung like hell, before rubbing lotion on our sunburns.

We put a Pizza in the microwave, pacing the floor until it was done. We tore into it, barely tasting the soggy thing as we wolfed it down.

After eating we sat down on the living room couch and within minutes we were asleep, leaning against one another, Steve's head on my shoulder.

I woke up and checked the clock, noting that it was a few hours before sunrise. I shook Steve awake and handed him the phone. He reluctantly picked it up, muttering, "I'm still tempted to not call, but you're right, it will bother me if I don't."

Steve dialed 911 and told the dispatcher that we needed an officer to come right away. Minutes later an officer, a friend of Steve's father, was at the door. Steve and I were still sore from our sunburns and we were wearing nothing but boardies. After I opened the door the officer looked at us, our sunburns, scraped-up backs, rope-burned wrists and ankles. "What happened?" he asked.

The officer was familiar with our earlier problems, so he accepted our story with only a touch of skepticism. Steve was vague regarding when we had arrived back, and, to my relief, the officer did not press the point.

Steve marked the location of Hidden Springs on a topographical map as the officer asked, "Let me get this straight. We are going to find a sixteen-year-old staked out up there and arrest him for kidnapping and attempted murder? Including the attempted murder of his own brother?"

I nodded, "Yep, we had to tie him up 'cause we had no way to get down the cliff with him. You know the history here."

The officer doffed his cap and wiped his brow, "Ok, yeah... But man, this is one for the books. The press will have a field day with this if they get a hold of it."

Steve chimed in, "I sure hope that doesn't happen. We've had our lives put on display more than enough already."

"Well, I'd have to agree, given all that's occurred. I'll do what I can to keep this under the press radar. I guess I'd better go radio this in before he cooks."

I shrugged, "Take your time. We cooked out there damn near all day."

The officer returned from his patrol car, "I'll have someone come by to take full statements and some photographs later. I'm the only officer on duty so I've asked dispatch to round up a couple of off-duty officers and have them meet me at the station. Then we'll take the town four by four out to make the arrest."

We watched as the officer pulled away before climbing into Steve's bed. We were asleep within minutes, curled up in each other's arms.

©Copyright 2007 C James; All Rights Reserved.
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Please let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.  The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"

Many thanks to Conner for editing, support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions on this chapter.
Many thanks also to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions (and for thinking up a title!).

Thanks also to Shadowgod, for beta reading and advice, and for putting up with me.
Any remaining errors are mine alone.

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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I hope Eric's friends didn't come after him and rescue him.  Chris being honest with Steve about how Steve would feel if they didn't contact the police was excellent.  However, since I am not related to Eric, I would leave him with not regrets.  He just needs to not exist, nothing worth saving, and no way to change him.  

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