The next few days passed quite normally. The whole family pretty much stayed home and enjoyed a well deserved chance of peace and rest. Derrick and I had begun discussing the possibilities of what school would be like when he returned. Neither of us was still quite certain what to expect when school started up for him in a few days. As I have said before and shall say again, we will face this together.
I learned that we really had nothing to fear from the news. The media, as it always does, found another story more newsworthy after a few days and had apparently released very little information since everything was still under investigation. So, thankfully, that all blew over pretty quickly. Many would accuse the stations of moving onto stories so quickly due to homophobia, but I knew this wasn’t the case at all. News organizations exist because of advertisement funding they get, which in turn comes from people watching the program. Therefore, public news being the rare exception, news shows exist purely so that people watch them, which means they have to tailor their stories to the viewers. Remember when people found out that SARS only killed about 5% of the people who caught it? How much do we hear about it anymore?
A few days after Christmas, I wasn’t keeping count since the whole few weeks have been mostly a blur, a police officer came to our house.
I was sitting on the couch, watching television around two in the afternoon when the doorbell rang. The door was only about ten feet away and I was the only one in the house, mom and dad had taken Ty and Derrick grocery shopping. So I forced myself up and answered the door.
I stood face to face with not a city police officer, but a county sheriff. I knew this since the two wear different uniforms. Baraboo city police wear black while Sauk County sheriffs wear more of a tan colored uniform.
“Good afternoon. I’m sorry to bother you, my name is Sheriff Wilson and I’m looking for a Mr. Tommy Stenson.” The sheriff was tall and lean, with a graying mustache which placed him probable in his early fifties.
“This is he.”
“Hello Mr. Stenson…”
“Call me Tommy.”
“All right Tommy, I was wondering if I could come in and speak with you for a moment.”
“Sure.” I walked back to the couch and sat upright near the end and motioned for the officer to have a seat in a recliner near the couch. He closed the door behind him as he entered.
“Well Tommy, I wanted to talk to you about the investigation we’ve been running as to who had shot you.”
“What do you need?”
“Well, I have some bad news.” He took out a notepad from his pocket and glanced at it before setting on the end table near him. “We found the person you were describing earlier, the one from the high school who threatened you. His name is Earl Carver. Unfortunately he has an airtight alibi. He was at a Future Farmers of America meeting at school around that time. His advisor confirmed this.”
“So, that shot down our only lead. We took the bullet that the surgeons removed from you and we analyzed its rifling marks. You see when a bullet is fired from a gun with rifling…”
“Yeah, yeah I know. It leaves behind distinctive marks on the bullet.” I used to watch CSI a lot.
“Right, so we ran the markings through a database of known rifling patters from guns used in previous crimes.”
“Well what about this Earl kid? Did he have any friends or someone else that could have done this?”
“We checked on that. We knew that the bullet came from a 22 caliber rifle, which is most commonly used for small game hunting. So we had several ideas that came out of that. The first was that the person knew it was a low power rifle and just wanted scare, not kill, you. Now a 22 could still kill a person if they’re shot in the right place by making them bleed to death, so we also considered that the person really did want to kill you or your…companion.” He said the last word carefully which means he knew the details of the case that only a few officers probably did. At least he seemed all right with it.
“So either he was trying to scare me or kill me. That’s comforting. Either way do you have any clue as to who could have done it?”
“That’s just it Tommy, we’ve completely run out of leads and have no idea where to go. We checked with some of Earl’s friends, but they all had some alibi. Do you want my personal and honest opinion?”
“Probably not, but go ahead.”
“The chances of us cracking this case on our own are slim to none. There just isn’t enough evidence. If we had the weapon that would be a different story, but the shooter took it with them. We’ve got the bullet at least if a weapon ever does show up. In cases like these, we’re more likely to solve it by someone gloating about it. That way it’s a hell of a lot easier to get a warrant to search a home and possibly find a weapon. So unless someone goes around gloating about shooting you, I doubt we’ll ever find out. The official investigation is going to be ending until new evidence pops up. I’m sorry Tommy.”
“That’s all right. I’m sure the police did everything within their power to solve this. I’m not going to hold a grudge or anything against them. Do you think though, that someone might try this again?”
“I doubt it. If they did it to scare you, they’ll find out they failed and, to be honest, will gain little sympathy from the community for what they’ve done. If they were trying to kill you, I doubt they’d try again, since it makes for a greater chance of hem getting caught. So all together, I think you should be safe, and I certainly hope you will be.”
“Thank you Sheriff.”
“Good luck Tommy, and if we ever learn anything new, you’ll be the first to know.” He stood up, shook my hand and left out the same door he entered.
No one ever boasted, no weapon was ever found, and the case was never solved.
The 29th had finally rolled around and I told mom and dad the day before that it was Derrick’s birthday. Consequently they planned for the whole “family”, this now included Derrick, to go out for dinner. Derrick of course made a big fuss that they shouldn’t have gone to all the trouble, but he had no chance arguing against my mom. We went to an upper end bar and grill called “Damon’s” in the Dells. The food was pretty good but that wasn’t the best part of the whole thing. This was the first public recognition of our new family. Sure, there wasn’t anyone there who knew us, but it was still a big step.
Finally, dinner was drawing to a close when mom announced, “Well, I suppose it’s traditional to give a gift on someone’s birthday, so we got you a little something Derrick.”
“Mrs. Stenson, you didn’t have to get me anything, you’ve already done more for me than I could ever repay you for.”
“Nonsense Derrick. This actually has to do with you staying here.” She reached into her purse and pulled out a very small, flat item wrapped up in leftover Christmas paper. She handed it to Derrick and he quickly removed the wrapping to reveal a small key. Mom elaborated, “Derrick, we want you to know that this is your home now, and you are always welcome. That’s a key to the house. Happy birthday Derrick.”
“Thank you so much, all of you.” He stood up and leaned down to give mom and dad a hug each.
Derrick and I were sitting in the basement after dinner, watching TV.
“So,” Derrick began, “was that your idea for the key?”
“No actually,” I replied, “that was completely mom and dad’s idea.”
“Did you get me anything in particular,” he said with a grin.
“You see that,” I motioned to the ring on his finger, “That should at least count for all gifts up until Columbus Day. But I suppose if you wanted a little something else…” I leaned in and began kissing him and moving my hand around his back.
We made out for several minutes before we heard the basement door open. We each snapped back into our own chairs instantly. Ty came down the steps and asked, “Can I use the computer? I want to look at some golf clubs on EBay.” The only other computer in our house, apart from my laptop, was located in the basement.
“Sure,” I said. Ty walked over and sat in front of the computer while Derrick and I continued to watch TV. As Ty was facing the computer, Derrick and I each took a moment to adjust our wrinkled clothing.
After a minute or so, Ty said as he was still staring at the computer screen, “I’ll knock next time I come down.” I was a little uncomfortable since obviously he had caught on to Derrick and me, but at least he seemed okay with it.
After another half hour or so, Ty announced he was going to bed. I decided I had better also, lest I give into my temptations with Derrick again. When Ty had already gone upstairs, I gave Derrick a quick kiss, wished him a happy birthday one last time, and headed up to bed.
I spent another hour or so reading by the light of my desk lamp n my room. This was my favorite thing to do in my favorite place to be. Lounging in my leather chair in the serenity of my own room, I immersed myself into the fictional world of an author’s imagination. For the few short I hours I read every day, all the troubles of my own life evaporated away and life just seemed a little bit simpler.
I know from my parents that it is mentally unhealthy to simply ignore the real world around me, but it was necessary for my mental health to simply escape every now and then. It seems like a Catch-22, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. At least in my readings I had added a plethora of words to my vocabulary which was useful in itself. This is good for confusing stupid people who may annoy me in the future.
My eyes were growing heavy, so I closed my book and crawled into bed. I had a difficult time getting to sleep since so many troubles plagued my mind. I was afraid of how this might affect my grades. My freshman seminar teacher told us that one of the best ways to get good grades was to leading a low-drama lifestyle. Why couldn’t my life have just a little bit less drama now?
If I had learned anything from the past few weeks, it was to stop worrying about the future and live life one day at a time. Besides, if we spend every minute of our life worrying about the future, how are we supposed to enjoy the present?
And I certainly had a whole lot of present to be enjoying, if you know what I mean.