He slowly approached me until he was at my side, I could barely see him through my peripheral vision. He was holding the red-hot iron poker in his left hand and began to slowly lift up my shirt with his right. His hand slid several inches along my back before it suddenly stopped. I knew what he was feeling now.
He halted and slowly felt the area where nearly a year ago he had put a bullet. His fingers twirled slowly about the scar, he seemed to take in every ridge, every pore of the flesh he had mangled. He examined the area with his palm and every knuckle of his fingers, as if committing the entire area to memory. He seemed awed at his own work.
I soon felt my opportunity, literally. I could feel the thumb of my left hand begin to twitch slightly on the index finger. If only he would stall for a few more minutes. Little did I know my saving grace would soon arrive.
He suddenly seemed to lose interest and began raising my shirt farther when the sound of gravel being crunched and flung about grew quickly and as immediately joined by the roar of a car engine somewhere outside of the cabin.
Hearing the noise as well, he suddenly dropped the poker to the floor. Its end soon began to singe the wood flooring and the smell of smoke faintly rose into the air.
He mumbled something to himself under his breath and set the poker up onto the table, with the red-hot end sticking out over the edge as to not make contact with the wood. He ran to one side of the room and grabbed a blanket which was huddled up in the corner. He quickly returned and threw it over me. Under the cover of darkness, I began to twitch all my fingers to test their recovery…only a few more minutes.
A knocking soon rapped upon the door and filled the cabin. “Excuse me sir,” came the voice at the other end. The man outside wrapped on the door again, faster than the first time.
Jim marched to the door and it squeaked slowly. He must have just opened it up enough to peak at who was outside. “What?” Jim barked quickly.
“I’m sorry to bother you Sir, but are you the owner of this cabin?” the voice asked calmly.
“I’m here ain’t I?”
“Are you James Weitten?”
“Yeah,” Jim barked in the same manner as before.
“My name is Detective Brenner with the Madison Police Department. Are you familiar with a man named Tommy Stenson?”
“Never heard of him.” Jim sounded less irritated than before, as if to hide himself from any suspicion by the detective.
“Do you mind if I come in sir?” Detective Brenner asked calmly.
“I was just about to go to bed, so could you tell me what this is about?”
“Mr. Stenson went missing earlier this evening and we received an anonymous tip that you may have some information as to his whereabouts.”
“Well obviously someone fucked up; I never heard of this kid.”
There was a slight pause. Suddenly the detective said. “My mistake sir, I’ll be leaving, but first, could I use your bathroom quickly?”
“This is a goddamn forest, go behind a tree!” The door was suddenly closed and I could feel the fear rushing back. This whole time I had been fighting with every bit of my strength to move loudly or say something to alert the detective, but the drug hadn’t worn off enough yet.
I heard his footsteps approaching me when suddenly, there was a loud crash and the door came flying open.
“Stay there and put your hands in the air!” shouted the voice of the detective.
There was a clang as the poker must have been lifted off the table followed quickly by two gunshots and a loud crash as Jim fell to the ground. His body fell against one of the legs of the table and shook it violently.
Several short seconds of silence filled the air before being broken by several quick footsteps. The blanket was pulled off of me and out of the corner of my eye I could see the astonished face of the detective. He holstered his gun and instead shot two of his fingers out to my neck and checked for my weak, but present, pulse.
He reached for a cell phone in the inside pocket of a thin black jacket he had on. “This is Detective Brenner, I need a couple…” he stopped suddenly and kneeled to the floor. A second later he stood back up, “Make that one bus, and get the ME here.”
He moved around the table and stared right at me. “Can you hear me Tommy?”
I finally had the ability to mumble out a few sounds.
“Okay, just stay with me. You’re safe now.” He pulled down my shirt, and took the blanket off the floor. This time, though, the blanket was only covering up to my neck to keep me warm, not hide me.
I was lying down on the gurney of the ambulance that came about 20 minutes later.
“You sure you’re all right kid?” asked Detective Brenner.
“Yes, I’m quite all right, thank you.” I kindly replied. The drugs had completely worn off by now and I was mobile, though the medics didn’t want me to do any walking by myself quite yet.
“Suxamethonium chloride,” said a woman as she came out of the cabin. She was dressed in a dark blue overcoat and had obviously rushed here from home as was evident by her frizzled hair and tired eyes. “It’s a paralyzing agent; emergency room doctors use it when they have to intubate a patient. It kicks in quickly, but goes away quickly too. He should be fine,” she said to one of the medics at the side of my gurney.
“Good,” was all that the detective could manage to say. He looked at me now, “these guys are going to take you to the nearest hospital and just make sure everything’s okay, alright?”
“Yeah, thanks. By the way, how know where to find me?”
“Like you probably heard, we got a tip about this cabin. When I got here, and was questioning him, he said he ‘never heard of this kid.’ I never mentioned your age.”
“So I know it was anonymous, but you guys know the phone number and place where the tip was called in from, right?”
“Actually no, it was made on a disposable cell phone. We checked. Whoever made the call really wanted to remain anonymous.”
“So what about Jim?”
“He came at me with that poker, I had to stop him. He didn’t make it.”
Part of me was relieved, but part of me still felt sorry for him.
“And Chad?!” I had just realized he was left in the room hours ago.
“He was the one that called us. Don’t worry, he’s fine. Tox screen showed he was just injected with a potent tranquilizer. I’ll call him and your folks to let them know which hospital we’re headed to.”
“Thank you. I owe you so much.”
“You owe Chad and this mystery man more than you do me.”
Six Months Later
A gentle breeze sent the grass rustling all around me as I lay in the field only a few hundred feet from Devil’s Lake. The leaves of the trees were already turning their golden, amber, and ruby colors in preparation for the fast approaching fall. I lay on the ground staring at the sky, remembering my fondest memories of Derrick that he and I had shared here. I felt a calm presence around me and felt I could once again speak to the man I had loved so dearly.
“I still love you and miss you every day. But I’m finally moving on with my life. That doesn’t mean I’ll forget you; I never will. I love Chad, he makes me feel so happy and full of worth, just the way you made me feel. I could easily see myself spending the rest of my life with him.”
“You helped me through so many tough times, and I’ll never forget that. Life is still tough for people like us, but it’s getting better every day. I’m fighting the INS to recognize Chad and mine’s civil union, so he can get full citizenship status. I think you’d be proud.”
“I just want to say, that despite everything, the hate, the violence, the ignorance and the stupidity of other people, I feel that people are inherently good.”
“The one thing I want you to know if you’re listening somewhere up there in heaven, is that I’ll always love you and I never regret anything that happened when we were together. It seems that every hardship we faced, we faced as one; it brought us closer together.”
“But that’s all I can think of to say, I hope you’re as happy up there as I am down here.”
Off in the distance, leaves began rustling along the ground and a gentle breeze swept over grass.