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    Parker Owens
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A to Z - 58. Chapter 58 Discovered

Discovered

No special warnings for this chapter.

Questions and issues raised in this chapter or any other chapter can be discussed at the A to Z story thread here: http://www.gayauthors.org/forums/topic/40860-a-to-z/

Entry for March 19, Sunday, continued….

I couldn't believe it. I was staring into the face of Ambrose Whitley.

I was stunned. If I'd kept my wits, I would have sprinted for the barn, gone on through the llama enclosure and headed for the woods. Instead, I just stood there, motionless.

How had Ambrose tracked me down? What mistake had I made? I had been so close to real happiness – and now he'd found me.

"Excuse me," I heard Garrett say, "but who are you, and what do you want?" He was ready to do battle again, and at that moment, I loved him for it. My stepfather the lawyer.

My eyes were locked on Ambrose. "Garrett," I heard myself say, "this is Ambrose Whitley. State Police Detective Ambrose Whitley. He and I met last summer."

"How do you know my son?" Monica challenged.

Son? He's in the car. Not sure I'd count after this.

Ambrose never took his eyes off of me. "Eric – or do I call you Stefan? Or Andrew? Which is it?" he paused a moment. "This young man – your son? - worked for my father's farm this summer. Called himself Eric Anderson. He left in kind of a hurry, and well, we have some unfinished business."

I knew what that meant. I took a step backwards. Zander couldn't keep still. He got out of the back passenger seat, slammed the door, and stood protectively between Ambrose and me, facing the danger. Zander slowly backed up in my direction, staying close.

Ambrose watched warily.

"Were you the man who attacked Andrew last summer?" Garrett demanded.

That made Ambrose turn towards Garrett. "Attacked who last summer? Eric? When?" he seemed genuinely shocked. He shook his head. "No. No, I've spent the better part of my free moments these past eight months searching for him. My wife is about to send me packing over it; she calls it my obsession. I have some questions I need to ask him, but what's this about an attack?"

Again, he looked back at me.

"You can ask him anything you want with his attorney present," Garrett said firmly. "I can have her here tomorrow evening."

"Mr. Stevenson, that could be a little difficult." Ambrose began, glancing down at his car. "I'm under some real time pressure, here." He rested his arm on the roof of the sedan.

"I'm sorry, for that Detective, but if want to question Andrew…" Garrett began.

"No, no, I'm not worried about a lawyer. You see, I've been up since about three in the morning, so I could pick up Eric's – sorry, Andrew's - uncle and bring him along with me. His uncle is really anxious…"

I didn't hear anything else. The shadowy figure in the car? Uncle Ray? Panic took over. I turned and tried to bolt. I would have made it clean away, too, if I hadn't tripped over Zander in my haste and fallen right down.

I tried to scramble to my feet. I felt Zander hauling me up, trying to stay between me and Ambrose and that man in the car. He held me tight. "Stop," he hissed, "You don't have to be afraid of him. I won't let him hurt you. I've got you, okay?"

I shook my head and closed my eyes tight. I couldn't face the man. I concentrated on keeping the panic at bay. Deep breaths.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, now," I heard Ambrose say placatingly, "just a second, Eric. I think you've got the wrong idea. I have the feeling you’re thinking of the wrong uncle."

The wrong uncle? I kept breathing. Slowly. Calmly. Wrong uncle? I only have the one, and he's a monster. What other uncle is there?

I heard the door on the big grey sedan open. A man's voice – one I didn’t know – called out softly: "Stefan?"

I couldn't help opening my eyes. There stood a middle aged man, brown eyed, with dirty blond hair in a short, sharp haircut. He wore a rumpled blue suit, shirt open at the collar. He probably needed a shave. There was something hauntingly familiar about that face.

I heard Monica gasp. "Andy. You must be…you're…"

The man smiled. "I'm your mother's brother, Stefan. I'm your uncle Allan. Allan Walker."

That smile had me searching my memory frantically.

"You look so much like your mother," he said. "You have her eyes. The last time I saw you, you were about four, I think. You and your mom spent a week at our parents' house in Maryland, on the shore. I was there. I doubt you remember me at all," he added ruefully.

Why couldn't I remember him? I felt Zander relax his grip. Now that I realized it wasn't Uncle Ray, I began to think. I look like my mom? My mom? He knows my mom? I couldn't help it. I took a step, then two, towards this man who claimed to be my link to a mother who left me nine years ago.

"Where's my mom?" I asked suddenly. I needed to know. I came around the back of our car; he came to meet me partway. I think he would have embraced me, but one look at my face stopped him. I had to have answers. Where had she gone? Why did she leave me with my monster of a Dad? "Where's my mom?" I yelled again.

Allan Walker reached out and held me by both shoulders. He looked me directly. "That bastard never told you, did he?"

I tried to read his face, tried to figure out what he was saying.

"Stefan…your mother is dead. She was murdered nine years ago. I'm so sorry you never knew."

And then we really did embrace. A dam inside me let go. I couldn’t help bawling into this man's shoulder, and he held me firmly and just let me cry. And then I felt another body behind me, trying to hold and comfort, too. Zander.

The lovely woman who sang to me in my dreams was really dead? I couldn't believe it. Dead? My Dad knew it and never told me? He let me believe all this time that she had left me because she didn't want me? Because I'd screwed up her life? Anger and anguish swirled inside me, and I had no way to separate them. It was easier just to weep.

Eventually, I was aware of Zander's voice behind me, murmuring, over and over, "It's okay, Andy. We're here, and we've got you. It's gonna be okay."

"Look. Detective Whitley, why don't we go inside?" I heard Garrett suggest. "I think there are going to be a huge number of questions we have to settle, and we're all getting cold. Maybe some coffee?"

Monica, Garrett, and Ambrose headed for the kitchen door, but I stayed outside with Allan Walker and Zander a little longer.

I pulled back and allowed some distance between me and my new uncle. "I really look like my mom?"

"Yeah, you really do. I've got a picture someplace to prove it," he chuckled a little. "I'm completely amazed. I am so, so happy to meet you. To see you. It's uncanny – kind of like my dead sister come back to life again."

Zander still had me wrapped up from behind. He wasn't letting go.

Allan changed subjects. "And who is your friend?"

I hesitated an instant. No hiding. "This is Zander. He's my boyfriend. No, he's…what's the word? We want to get married." I blushed. "Is it obvious that I'm gay?"

"Only because it's obvious that he loves you. And I don't give a shit that you're gay. I have part of my family back, and that's all that matters."

Zander came out to stand beside me and offered a hand, which Allan took. He looked seriously at Zander. "Your fiancé? Aren't you a little young to get married?"

"It's a long story," I said.

"Then let's go inside and tell me about it," my new uncle grinned.

And so the story got told again, over coffee and hot chocolate. Eggs and sausages appeared; I noticed both Ambrose and Allan ate well while I gave the outlines of my sorry life, and what had happened after I left Carlsberg.

Ambrose nodded frequently but said very little. When I'd finished, he commented, "Well that might help the Carlsberg police a little. You realize they're kind of interested in this little project of mine? They thought I was crazy, trying to find you, of course."

"Didn't they want you to arrest me for killing my Dad?" I asked.

"Nope," Ambrose replied. "No point in arresting someone you think is dead."

"What? They thought Andy was dead?" Zander cried.

"Yup. What happened was this. Andy walked out of the school when all the smoke bombs went off. The police started hunting for him as their number one suspect, but they kept checking out all the wrong places – they thought you'd hitched a ride south on the interstate, and spent a lot of time searching for you that way. Had them pursuing a bad lead down in Charlotte for almost a week." Ambrose took a sip of coffee. "Then Andy's Uncle Ray – he's a real piece of work, you know that? – he got pulled over driving his dead brother's pickup truck – broken taillight. Ray has no license, no registration, and the traffic officer took him in. That's when things got interesting. Carlsberg police took a look inside the truck, and what do you know? There's blood on the interior, and there's a box full of kiddie porn under the seat."

I shuddered, and Zander took my hand under the table.

"Now the homicide people went over the truck – discovered blood on the broken taillight and traces on the bumper, too," Ambrose related. "Of course, Ray howled for a lawyer and kept his mouth tightly shut. But a search of the house showed the place had been ransacked – Carlsberg police think old Ray had been living on Gunnar's credit cards and bank accounts for a few days – and they found a leg iron and chain, recently used, down in the cellar…and they found more than a little blood on the basement walls. Not Gunnar's blood; not Ray's – had to be yours, Andy."

I shut my eyes. I didn’t want to remember.

Ambrose kept going. "Now Carlsberg Police were looking for your body, too. They figured Ray had killed you in the basement, then dumped your body someplace. They've grilled Ray about that over and over, looked for you in a dozen places. No use, of course – you’re alive." He grinned. "But they pretty much closed the books on you; you were presumed dead. So now the Carlsberg Police are holding Ray for a bunch of offenses – driving a stolen vehicle, driving without a license, fraud, two murders – oh, and for a serious parole violation – did you know your Uncle Ray is a registered sex offender? Did time for molesting little boys in Philadelphia."

Oh, shit. Something snapped inside. "Uncle Ray raped me every other day for a month after mom went," I declared bitterly. "I was eight years old, and Dad was drunk every night, when Dad wasn't beating on me. Ray…" I just stopped.

Uncle Allan's face wore a look of speechless horror. Monica and Garrett looked away. Zander held my hand. Ambrose swallowed, brought up short. He looked at me, compassion in his face. "I'm sorry, Andy. I'm really, really sorry. I kind of figured something like that might have happened."

"How did you know?"

"I met Ray once in the holding center when I was looking for you, Andy. And as bad as a murder conviction might be, he was plainly eager that you should stay dead, Andy. Look at it his way: if you don't show up, you can't contradict his story – he says you must have killed your father in an argument on the weekend. Nothing to do with him; he just borrowed the truck after you'd disposed of the body."

I felt a hand on the back of my head. Monica stroked my hair, reassuringly.

Ambrose scratched his ear, remembering. "Alive, you could tell a different story, but would it be enough to convict him for murder? Ray didn't seem to mind. But beyond than that, I got the feeling there was something else he didn't want you to talk about. Ray didn't want you coming back with stories to tell. That was plain on his face." Ambrose paused, glancing at me. "And then, I deliberately told you I'd brought your uncle to see you. Your reaction told me a lot, right there."

"Do the Police believe him?" This from Zander.

"No. But the DA knows a trial isn’t a sure thing. Better to keep Ray locked up on the other charges, which will actually stick, and keep looking for more evidence. The problem of course, is that, now that he's alive again, the DA could theoretically charge Andy with the killing."

I felt a chill.

I protested, "But how could I be killing my dad if I'm locked up in the basement all that time? And…" Something nagged at me. "When does Ray say he took the truck?" I asked.

Ambrose sat back, thinking. "I'm not sure. Sometime after you disappeared from the smoke bombs, I think."

"Well that's funny. When I got out of the basement – before going back to school – the truck was gone," I pointed out.

"But how would anyone know that except you – your word against his, you know?" Ambrose returned. Everyone pondered that for a moment. I could have been in real trouble.

"It's in the journal," Zander said, quietly.

"Journal? What journal?" Ambrose asked with interest.

"I keep a journal – I've been writing off and on for almost a year. After it happened, I wrote about escaping out of the cellar, but I don't know if I said anything about the truck…"

"Yes, you did. I remember reading it," Zander said more excitedly. He jumped up, and bounded up the stairs.

"Zander reads your journal?" Ambrose asked.

I nodded. "He got to look through it once, while I was sleeping. I trust him with it."

In a few moments, Zander returned with my old, worn, tattered composition book. He had it open to one of the earlier pages. He handed it over to Ambrose, pointing to a particular page. "Look at that. Does it help?"

We all watched Ambrose read in silence, turning pages. Eventually, he nodded. "This is very helpful. What we call a 'contemporaneous account.' And notice, here, you say that the truck was gone, and you thought that strange. And your father was missing." Ambrose broke into a very wide grin. "Oh, yeah. I think you just nailed your Uncle Ray."

And it felt very, very good to hear that.

Monica directed a question to Allan: "So what really happened with Andy's mother –your sister?"

Allan shifted in his chair. "She was murdered. Brutally beaten and strangled; her neck broken. She was hardly recognizable, my father said. He helped to identify the body."

I watched Allan shudder; I knew how it could have happened. I remembered how vicious Dad could be. I was lucky to be alive.

"They found her body in a ditch thirty miles away from home. Gunnar had reported her missing; said she'd walked out after a marital disagreement. Of course, Gunnar was the prime suspect, but he had an unshakeable alibi – he'd been fishing with his little boy and his brother Ray."

So Dad had killed my mom; and Ray had given Dad an out. And Ray felt perfectly free to take advantage of the motherless eight-year-old.

"They never asked me," I said abruptly.

It wasn't surprising they hadn't. I was the little boy waiting for his mommy to come home. The one who never knew. The one who understood that one wrong word meant pain. Agony.

"Of course. They wouldn't have."

There was a silence. What was left of my eggs got cold.

It was Zander who warmed the room again. "So how did you finally find Andy?"

Now Ambrose smiled widely. "I'd like to boast of good, old-fashioned detective work, and there was plenty of that; but it was also just dumb luck."

"I think that figures pretty heavily in a lot of cases," Garrett put in with a smile.

"Well, after you took off – can't believe you overheard me and Eustace arguing in the barn – I put out a notice on you all over the state. I was so mad; I thought someone in Andersonville had tipped you off. I worked with someone to get a sketch I could distribute." Ambrose shook his head. "But the trail was absolutely cold. Nothing. You'd completely disappeared. After a few weeks, there wasn't much I could do; it wasn't my region, not my case anymore. There were other things for me to handle. But when I had spare moments, I'd go back to it."

I toyed with my eggs. Ambrose glanced at me.

"I got a call from a fellow trooper who thought he might've run into you – but back in June – and it was way to the east of Dad's place. I figured, maybe if I could trace you backwards, I might work out where you might have gone. Turns out there were one or two more possible sightings. A librarian in Marshall remembered you."

I winced at the memory of my stop there.

"And then there was this…" Ambrose dug in his pocket and produced a newspaper clipping, dated back in early summer last year.

ACCIDENT VICTIM MEETS ANGEL

Libertyville woman claims mysterious 'Guardian Angel' saved her and daughter from wreck

Libertyville – Jennifer Pickering credits a mysterious "guardian angel" with rescuing her and her eighteen-month-old daughter, Branlee Lewis, from a fiery automobile crash on county route 415 two nights ago. According to the twenty-five year old, "I don't know what happened. One second the car was on the road, the next there was a huge crash. And then everything was kind of blurry and dark. I think I might have seen God. Or an angel. He was all golden and had white wings - but I know he rescued me and my Branlee from that fire."

Emergency crews responding to the scene found Ms. Pickering conscious, bandaged, and holding her baby on the side of the road, but there was no rescuer present.

"It is a bit of a mystery," Libertyville Volunteer Rescue crew chief Michael Murphy stated. "We couldn't find anyone to thank, and nobody saw any other traffic on that road."

There was more, but I didn’t bother reading further. I knew what had happened. I looked up.

"So, was that you? Wondered if it might be."

I just smiled.

Ambrose continued his narrative: "Anyways, I had the idea that you'd come from somewhere a long ways east of home. Don't know how you got there, but it cut out a lot of territory. Did you know there are at least five hundred missing kids within a block of territory six hundred miles to the east of New Salem? I had pages and pages of printouts all over the dining room table – it got to be a family activity – sorting out possibles and probables. We got it narrowed down to maybe, a couple of dozen in the end. And then I started going through the state judicial database, looking to see if maybe you were in some court file, or maybe if you were subject to a warrant and a mug shot. No Eric Anderson. No photographs that looked anything like you."

Ambrose sighed.

"Cheryl had the bright idea to send out notices with the sketch we'd done to schools and police departments in the eastern part of the state where there were missing kids without photographs. That's when we hit paydirt."

Ambrose looked at me, eyes narrowed.

"Your old principal in Carlsberg – he doesn't like you very much, but he remembered you from the sketch. One day in November, he called me right up, said he'd seen the sketch and knew it was the kid he'd known as 'Steven Ericsson.' He said you'd been mixed up in some gay prostitution thing and a school firebombing; then you'd disappeared."

"I didn't…it wasn't like that…it wasn't me," I protested.

"No, it wasn't, was it? There were flash-bangs and smoke bombs in your locker, and in several other parts of the school. The principal still thinks you had something to do with it, but Carlsberg Police finally figured out it was some other kid. Some idiot's prank."

I could guess which idiot, too, not that I was going to ask. James Fucking Ackerman.

But Ambrose was still talking. "… and God knows what prostitution that man was talking about. Anyway, the last time your principal heard anything in June, he'd heard the police were looking for your body. I asked him if the sketch really looked like you, and he insisted it did."

That principal. What was his name? He must have wanted to see me hang. What had I ever done to him?

Ambrose sighed and took a breath. "As it turned out, I had to go east on police business, so I dropped by the Carlsberg Police Department. My colleagues in Carlsberg sat up and took notice when I showed them my sketch. I got some good time with a couple of their detectives; they perked right up at what I told them. Obviously, they wanted to know if there was a body or not. They got me in to see your uncle Ray. And they let me see your birth and family records, what they had of them. That let me trace you back to Allan here, and his family. I'd kind of hoped you'd run back to your extended family, you know?"

Uncle Allan spoke up at this point. "We'd heard back in June that Gunnar was dead, of course, and that you were missing, and probably murdered, too." He hesitated. "We didn't go to any of the services for your father, Stefan…Andy. He'd cut us off long before your mom was killed, and after the investigation of her murder, we wanted nothing to do with the man, though we did send birthday cards and presents at Christmas for you. I don’t suppose you got any of that, did you?"

I shook my head. All those miserable, lonely years. Someone actually cared, and I never knew.

"You can imagine how I empty I felt. Not only my sister gone, but her little boy, too. It was a terrible time." Allan looked off into space.

Ambrose took over again. "Carlsberg was happy to let me keep looking for you; they didn't want to spare the manpower to do it themselves. I didn't get a single lead at all for months after that. Not until February, when a buddy of mine showed me this." Ambrose handed over another newspaper clipping.

This one showed a picture of a group of swimmers, posing happily at the end of a meet – big smiles, arms around shoulders, flushed with accomplishment. And there, in the background, but in perfectly discernible focus, was me. It had been taken the evening of the western regional meet we'd all gone up to see. There was my face in profile, looking for Zander.

"Pure dumb luck, you being in that picture and my buddy having a daughter who swam in that meet. That's her, in the picture, second from the left," Ambrose pointed out. "So now I knew where you had been that night, at least. You hadn't made it to Florida yet," he grinned. "And best of all, there was a list of forty schools that had sent kids to that meet. I just had to make inquiries at each and every one of them to narrow down where you might be hiding."

"My goodness that sounds like a lot of work," Monica interjected.

Ambrose nodded. "And worse, I got involved for a couple of weeks on a big, nasty case that took up quite a lot of time. I was getting ready to send out my sketches and requests for help when I got another bit of luck. I'd made a friend or two in Carlsberg, and one of them called to tell me there had been a request for the birth records and requests for information about someone named Stefan Ericsson. He couldn't say who asked, but he was able to tell me that the inquiry had come from a judge here in this county. Your high school principal was very nice about it, I must say. She sent me your school ID photo, Andy, and then I knew exactly where you were."

Ambrose stood. "Will you excuse me for a moment? I need to get something out of the car."

Allan took the chance to speak up. "I got a call from Ambrose on Friday evening. I spent Saturday trying to rearrange my schedule and transport. I managed to book an early morning flight out of Reagan National; Ambrose met me when I landed. I didn’t realize it was a two hour drive from there. Anyway, Ambrose was lucky to get me at all; I'm based overseas, and originally, I was headed back out of the country Saturday morning."

"I'm sorry, but I never asked what it is you do," Garrett put in.

"I work for the State Department in Washington," Allan said. "I help warring parties try to settle their differences peacefully. Basically, I'm a professional negotiator. Right now, I'm supposed to be on my way back to East Africa to try and help get some little children who are being held hostage released."

"You’re joking," Monica said, "and you’re here?"

"No, I'm not kidding. But there's another flight tonight I'm going to catch from New York that will get me there in time. I absolutely had to be here. Just in case Ambrose was right." And Uncle Allan smiled at me again.

"How does your family stand it?" Monica asked.

"It can be hard, sometimes," Allan admitted, "but my wife is understanding. We have a house in Nairobi, and she's there with our two children. We get to see a lot of one another that way. Here's a picture." He handed around his iPhone with a picture of himself and a beautiful, statuesque African woman standing in a dry savannah grassland, Mount Kilimanjaro in the background.

"That's your aunt, Sandrine," Allan said to me. "We have a boy, Phillippe-Alexandre, who just turned ten, and a girl, Sophie, who is six. You have cousins. They're going to be all over me to bring you home with me."

That suddenly jarred me.

"Home? But I'm already home," I said, without thinking.

Allan nodded wearily. "I know. I can see that. And, really, that's great. I want you to visit us some day, but I get that you’re about to start something new here, aren't you?" He glanced down at the place where my hand was joined with Zander's. "And it won’t be the first surprise your grandmother Walker has had in her life. It'll be a good one. Anyway, Stefan…" he paused again;"…sorry, I just can't help seeing you as this cute little blond-headed kid. It's crazy, I know it…listen…Andy…you're getting a whole new start in life. You can't know how happy I am about this. I just want you to know you're not doing it alone, do you see?"

And I did see.

Ambrose came back in at that point, with a battered looking box under his arm. "I stayed over with Eustace last night." He handed the box to me. "Open it," he said.

I lifted the lid. Inside, I found a very tired pair of jeans, a seriously ratty pair of sneakers, a couple of stained and worn t-shirts, and a small bottle of laundry soap. Everything I'd left behind in Eustace's barn. And on top, a long white envelope.

I looked up at Ambrose, who stared back levelly.

"You might want to read the note," he said.

I opened the envelope and unfolded a plain piece of white paper. Something fluttered out: a check, of all things. Zander picked it up for me, while I read:

Dear Eric,

Ambrose tells me he thinks he found you. He seems pretty sure of himself. I am sending these things along with him, so they get to their rightful owner. Ambrose's boy, Gerry, found them up in the barn over Thanksgiving. I know they are yours, but I have no idea how they got there. Maybe someday you can come back and tell me. It will be a pretty good story, I'll bet.

You will find a check enclosed for $250, your wages from your last week of work. I have never enjoyed writing a check more. I only regret you had to leave before the summer was finished. You must have had your reasons.

After Ambrose talks to you, if it turns out that you need a place to stay, please consider the farm a place you can call home. I'd be glad to have you.

Fondly,

Eustace Whitley

Zander noticed the tears trickling down my cheek after reading the note and put his arm around my shoulder.

"That man loves you like a son, Andy. You made a huge impression on him last summer," Ambrose said quietly.

I nodded, blinking back a tear. Eustace Whitely was the first genuinely kind individual I'd met in years, and I’d hurt him. And here he was, forgiving me.

Suddenly, Ambrose changed to a businesslike tone. "All right, then. For the record, Eric – Andy – would you roll up your sleeve for me?"

I wiped my nose and smiled. I knew why he wanted this. I rolled up the sleeves of the shirt Zander had lent me. I showed him my arms. All clean.

Ambrose shook his head. "I was such an idiot. Dad's never gonna let me forget it," He grinned at the memory of his own mistake. "And I can't believe you spent six weeks just living in that barn. No wonder you ate like food was going out of style."

"Speaking of food," Monica interrupted, "anybody hungry? We've had breakfast, but pretty soon it's going to be time for lunch."

There was laughter at her interruption. We cleared the table, and Garrett insisted on doing the dishes. Monica put more coffee on, and began working on sandwiches as soon as Allan's stomach rumbled a little. He'd had nothing to eat besides coffee and scrambled eggs since the night before.

We sat at the table, talking about lighter things, Zander cracking jokes while I got used to the idea that I had a non-toxic uncle. Someone who I could call a relative of my own. And a grandmother. I was pretty sure Allan had mentioned a grandmother. Lunch things appeared.

Ambrose produced one of those old style paper roadmaps of the state – the kind that unfold like some kind of accordion, and you can never get folded back up right. He spread it out on the table. The first thing I noticed were places marked in a few big red circles with many more with yellow marks. When I asked him about these notations, Ambrose told me that the red circles were what he called "confirmed sightings."

"Now, Andy, perhaps you can show me how you walked all the way from Carlsberg to Blackburn, by way of East Akron," he laughed.

I looked at the map blankly. "I have no idea," I told him truthfully. "I didn’t have a map or anything – I just walked kind of randomly, and let the road take me where it wanted to go."

"Well, let's just see."

And for the next half hour, we tried to work out how I must have travelled, given the landmarks and towns I could remember. Zander stood by with the journal to help jog my memory. Monica and Allan looked over our shoulders interestedly.

"Jeez, Andy, you sure took the scenic route," Zander put in after we'd traced my meandering path to the west.

"You try it without a map," I smiled, giving him a playful shove. "But you're right," I added, examining the straight line distance from Eustace's town to Blackburn. "I probably walked three times as far as I had to in getting here."

"You know, it really doesn't look all that hard to get here," Zander said.

"It isn't, if you know where you're going," Ambrose put in.

"Listen, I'm really sorry about this, but…" interrupted Allan, "…Ambrose, I think I've got a plane to catch back to New York."

Ambrose rose immediately, looking at his watch. "Oh, hell. I'm sorry. We'd better get moving."

Allan smiled bleakly. "I really don't want to leave. We only just met, and I want to get to know you." And I got a hug, a good one.

Suddenly there was a bustle of preparations to leave.

"Monica, and Garrett, I have to thank you for your kindness in letting a stranger into your family this morning. I know it was a huge shock…" Allan began, but he didn’t get to finish. Now it was his turn to be hugged, this time by Monica.

"Oh, thank you for making this trip," she said, before releasing Allan, and making it Ambrose's turn. "And thank you, Ambrose, for giving Andy some family back." I thought she might cry.

"You know, Ambrose, I have an idea," Garrett spoke up when Monica released him. "Are you going back to your dad's farm after the airport?"

So that was how Zander and I wound up driving to East Akron. I really needed to see the old man. I wanted Zander to meet him, too. Garrett and Monica rode with Allan and Ambrose to the airport, and then on to Eustace's. We would all drive home together after. At first, I wanted to go to the airport with my new uncle, but he shook his head.

"No, you and I are going to email and text and Skype. Then we'll get together in the summer, when Sandrine and the kids can come over with me for a vacation in the States. There are a dozen phone calls I have to make on the way to the airport, and we won't have a chance to talk or anything. It just wouldn’t be right." We embraced once more before he got in the car. "Remember, Andy – you’re not alone in this big, wide world, not anymore. I love your new family, but there's something left of the old one, too. If you need anything – anything at all – I'll do my best to make sure you get it, all right?" I nodded into the shoulder of the man who in only a few hours had become something I never had. Family.

I wish to thank Craftingmom for her unfailingly kind and careful editing. This story would not have been published without her.

Please leave a review. Your comments and thoughts of any kind are most welcome.

Copyright © 2016 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments



It was a long time coming, but I had a feeling Ambrose hadn't given up the search. After Zander and Andy meet Eustace, there are only a couple of questions left:
1) Who murdered Andy's Dad?
2) Will Uncle Ray go on trial for his rape and abuse of Andy?
3) Whatever happened to James Fucking Ackerman?
4) How will these new revelations affect the folks at CPS?
5) What will happen when Andy re-enters Carlsberg?
I'd love to see a reunion between Andy and JFA. Somehow I don't think he'll be very intimidating to the confident, athletic Andy...
What a great story. Thanks again for writing it!

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A wonderful story. I have enjoyed reading it and getting to know these people. I suspected the mother was dead and look forward to the questions XLEROC mentioned being resolved. Pretty sure Ray murdered his brother and I want to see the face on that witch from CPS when she finds out she can't get Andy under her control. Thank you for the story.

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Wow....just....wow.
Such a moving wrap-up of some loose ends. Yup, there are still more to tidy up, but this is a moving chapter--Andy gets a new family, and finally understands that people cared about him all along. Even his return to the farm to see his original grandfatherly-type benefactor. Another emotional moment.
You got the emotions perfect--and if I mess up on spelling/grammar of the review, it's all your fault, making my eyes tear up like this!
Damn fine writing here! And the next few chapters are certain to be as sparkling!

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This is a bittersweet chapter, Parker. On the one hand it is good to know that Andy is not alone in the world anymore, drifting and running, but with a support network of family, loving, caring. On the other, what will it mean to him that his father systematically kept love and care from him for years? Seeing Eustace again - what a wonderful outlook for Andy. And knowing that somebody is actually missing him - what will it mean for him... the first personal letter ever to reach him. He must feel overwhelmed (and it makes me look forward even more to your next chapter.)
Of course I would like to have closure and justice done. In a way, the mist seems to be clearing - I would hazard a guess it was one of the brothers who murdered Andy's mother.
I also guess that Garrett will inform Judge H. of the new developments and that important conversations will take place on Allan's way to the airport. Maybe this will end in some more people being invited to the wedding, not just Andy's old relatives. And I guess that this will also affect Ms Chandler's plans... and not in a way she likes.
This almost seems to point to a fairy-tale ending - poetic justice at work.
The real surprise for me was Ambrose. Not so much his tenacious investigations, but him caring for Andy so much... probably because we used to see him through Eric's suspicious eyes. And I am surprised that Allan was less of a surprise for me. Probably due to the apprehension what Ambrose's arrival might mean to Andy.
What I liked very much was the loving interaction of Andy during this crucial conversation, the love and protection he receives from Garrett and Monica, especially.
So, thanks again for a really good chapter even though I am pretty sure that not many more are left for us to wait for...

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Thank you Parker!

 

This chapter was well worth the small wait. I really can't find words to express how much I enjoyed it, but I'll try.

 

As you usually post in the morning, I have come to enjoy beginning those days with a healthy dose of a2z. Today's post was better than breakfast beer :) .

 

I look forward to the reunion with Eustace. I look forward to xlerloc's questions being answered.

 

As usual, the scenes are beautifully written and emotionally powerful. As I read, I felt as if I were there. The way the puzzle pieces fall into place is simultaneously fantastic and believable. The 'story telling' is clever and fun.

 

My one tiny nitpick: Andy refers to Garrett as his "stepfather" at the beginning of the chapter. It struck me as odd, perhaps a little out of character.

 

I suspect Andy will sleep a little better tonight. I know I will ... :) ... I've become very fond of him and always sleep a little better if I believe he is safe ...

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Very powerful writing Parker......Andy has to be one of the strongest characters I've ever enjoyed meeting, you have given such depth to him over the many chapters...he just continues to become evolve into a strong and confident young man. I don't know if I, personally could absorb all the latest intel that was explained by Ambrose and Uncle Allan....it's just overwhelming when I recount the story to myself.
You have taken us all on a troubling and exciting journey....although still not over......and I have admittedly not always wanted to continue...but Thank God I did............Hungry for more...much more.............:) Mike

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I think that every single chapter of this story has made me cry! This is truly a masterpiece. Thanks so much for writing it, and for sharing it with us.

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I was totally shocked by the appearance of Uncle Allan! I never even considered that Andy might have relatives on his Mother's side. It figures that the sperm donor would keep Andy from knowing anyone was out there who cared.

 

At least the very least, now we know what happened to Andy's Mother and who killed his sperm donor. There's a whole bunch of people who deserve to be prosecuted for neglect, including the principal, who will never face any legal justice.

 

I've been waiting to see Zander meet Eustace! And we get to see Andy tell Eustace how he honored the farmer in choosing his new middle name. Maybe Andy can catch up with Ambrose's son and Toby when they get to the farm too. Another joyful event for Andy who hadn't had any for a long time…

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Okay, so you totally redeemed Ambrose in my eyes Parker. I'm glad you were actually one step ahead of me and all the questions I had about his investigation had already been answered. I'm glad I was right though in that as he actually investigated Andy he realized his suspicions were way off base. Also Ambrose apparently is a much better detective than the guys back in Carlsburg. Though I'm glad they actually discovered all that trace evidence of Andy's abuse in the basement, and deduced that he didn't kill his father. A lot of questions answered this chapter, and it does feel a bit like some things are winding down.

 

Not an important point, but what the hell was with that principal back in Carlsburg? What a total jackass. Yeah Andy's a male prostitute cause mad bomber kid said so. Oh I'm assuming the cops figured out it was good old JFA that pulled that stuff. Is the principal JFA's uncle or something? Not important and I guess we'll never know. However I'd just love for that jerk to fin out that Andy is an AP student getting straight As and (probably) a track star. His school lost a really good student.

 

So much could be said, I'm so happy Andy will take Zander to meet Eustace, so happy Ambrose realized how totally off base he was, so happy Garret and Monica were there to back Andy up, so happy Zander was there to comfort him like that, so happy that Andy has other family who cares about him. That was a mega run on sentence wasn't it :D

 

Beautifully written as always Parker. With unexpected twists (seriously Uncle Allan!?!?!) and some heartwarming moments. That striking contrast of the tragedy of Andy's past life with his current joy is always masterfully done. I'll be looking forward to more for as much as there is to look forward to.

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AWESOME!!!! This chapter, this story....the entire body of work has been truly, brilliantly written, from characters to plots to fianlly, lots of love and a sense of belonging for our Andy!!! Thank you Parker for sharing this beautiful story...looking forward to more!!!!! :worship::thankyou::wub:

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That chapter was wonderful. So many questions answered. My only wish was to have seen a Eustace and Andy reunion. But still it was satisfing. The writing was solid Parker throughout.
Thank you!
tim xoxo

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A lot of unanswered questions finally get answered. It will be the icing on the cake when Andy and Zander finally get to meet Eustace again! This was a very heart warming chapter! I am sure Andy will be feeling a whole lot better about things now that a lot of his past burden has been unloaded. All he has to do now is get CPS out of his life. I also have a feeling this story is about to be wrapped up soon. This story has been very much in my thoughts the last while. Great writing Parker :worship:

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Oh wow! That was some chapter! So many lose ends tied up and Andy got more family! He's almost adopted by Eustace too, so he certainly isn't alone anymore.

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I will keep it short, since I propably would just ramble senselessly: I absolutely love it! One of the best chapters up until now. This is one incredibly good story!

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I could hug you! This was an awesome chapter. Glad so many questions were answered for Andy especially.. Andy has more family than he can count now, and he's headed to see Eustace too... So many things to comment on, but I'll spare you. It was just all so, so good..

 

Thank you Parker!

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Very nice Parker.
Nice for Andy, especially.
All the way through, I was certain this was Chapter Z. -- Even when I finished, I checked the status.
Well, there's more to come, so bring it on!

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I can finally see how everything can play out. This chapter had my feels going especially Andy getting some actual family that he's never really had after his mother's death. His uncle worries me a little, but not much. I hope that the CPS woman and those attached to her get what is coming to them. I seriously hope that there is about 20 more chapters, to be honest. I rarely read a story twice, but I imagine this will have the pages worn out on it.

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Revelations galore this chapter. I suspected that Stefan's father had killed his
mother from the outset. Other than the fact that she's known to be dead, I don't
suppose we'll ever know who killed her for sure. Evil Uncle Ray is in jail, and I
hope he dies there. Now Andy is going to see Eustace, and that makes me happy.
He was kind to 'Eric' and it bothered me to know that Andy left without a word.
Many questions were answered here this chapter, which was a pleasure to read.

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On 02/17/2016 12:33 AM, xleroc said:

It was a long time coming, but I had a feeling Ambrose hadn't given up the search. After Zander and Andy meet Eustace, there are only a couple of questions left:

1) Who murdered Andy's Dad?

2) Will Uncle Ray go on trial for his rape and abuse of Andy?

3) Whatever happened to James Fucking Ackerman?

4) How will these new revelations affect the folks at CPS?

5) What will happen when Andy re-enters Carlsberg?

I'd love to see a reunion between Andy and JFA. Somehow I don't think he'll be very intimidating to the confident, athletic Andy...

What a great story. Thanks again for writing it!

Thank you so much for your patience while I shoveled out yesterday! I am also glad you liked this relevatory chapter. As to your questions...some will have to remain out there, hanging...(sorry :) ) But...

 

 

1. Circumstantial evidence in the journal, together with what Ambrose told Andy points pretty clearly at Uncle Ray as Gunnar Ericsson's killer.

 

2. Can't say anything about this one.

 

3. James Fucking Ackerman got found out for planting flashbangs and smoke bombs in school - at least, that's what Ambrose suggests. His punishment is not mentioned, but will probably mean something pretty nasty.

 

4. This is not something Andy really knows. Allan will have to prove his relationship to Andy, which can take a little time.

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On 02/17/2016 12:50 AM, avidreadr said:

A wonderful story. I have enjoyed reading it and getting to know these people. I suspected the mother was dead and look forward to the questions XLEROC mentioned being resolved. Pretty sure Ray murdered his brother and I want to see the face on that witch from CPS when she finds out she can't get Andy under her control. Thank you for the story.

Certainly the circumstantial evidence Ambrose mentioned, plus Andy's journal points very strongly toward Ray as Gunnar Ericsson's killer. I am very glad you have enjoyed Andy's story - I find the characters have gotten deeply embedded in my psyche. And thank you for your many kind and thoughtful reviews, too.

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On 02/17/2016 01:00 AM, Paqman said:

Hope this story doesn't end until Andy gets to the state finals (sprinting).

Well Andy is certainly sprinting forward, whatever he might do on the track team. Thank you so much for your kind review, and for reading Andy's story.

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On 02/17/2016 01:11 AM, Robert Rex said:

Wow....just....wow.

Such a moving wrap-up of some loose ends. Yup, there are still more to tidy up, but this is a moving chapter--Andy gets a new family, and finally understands that people cared about him all along. Even his return to the farm to see his original grandfatherly-type benefactor. Another emotional moment.

You got the emotions perfect--and if I mess up on spelling/grammar of the review, it's all your fault, making my eyes tear up like this!

Damn fine writing here! And the next few chapters are certain to be as sparkling!

I cannot promise sparkling. However, I am glad you thought this chapter was moving and fulfilling. Andy must have had his emotional insides wrenched in a bunch of different directions - roller coasters will be a breeze for him after this. And yes, there is love for him now, love he can believe in. Thanks so much for your very kind reviews, and for your encouragement. Most importantly, thank you for taking the time to read Andy's journal.

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