So Cal Summer 69

by Flip McHooter

Chapter 26

"Oh, no, no, no. Shit!" I said as I slouched back against the table. "And I made you screw with him. Now I feel terrible. Why didn't he just tell us?"

"I didn't have to do anything to him. I could tell just by looking at him that something was seriously wrong. He's embarrassed and humiliated, and he wouldn't talk about it. There is no way a boy his age would tell his friends or anybody else for that matter."

"Damn. What can we do, Doc? How can we help him? We've gotta make this right and help him out. He can't go on like this."

"When someone is sexually abused, especially boys, they shut down, or more often than not, become very aggressive to everyone around them. They act out in ways that are not normal for them. You seem to be the only one who cares, or at the very least, knew something was wrong with him. You have to get through to him and help him out. He wouldn't talk to me. If he doesn't get help, the situation is going to escalate and, I'm afraid, get much worse."

"Man, I feel like shit. Who could be doing that to him? And why?"

"Maybe a family member, or somebody from his church. It could be anyone, though. But usually, it's somebody he's close to. It could be anybody, but like I said, it's most likely someone that he knows and trusts. Any idea who it could be?"

"I don't know much about his dad, but his mom is kind of weird. Do moms usually abuse their sons? How sick is that?" I couldn't even imagine my mom doing something freaky like that to me. "His little brother doesn't act like something is going on."

"Not surprising. It's not often that women molest children, especially their own, but I've heard of it before. It's possible that only he is being abused because he's protecting his younger sibling by taking the abuse for him. Some molesters like younger kids. Unfortunately, the authorities don't take this type of thing very seriously. The abuser usually denies it, so it's hard to prove. It's a he said/she said kind of thing. But it's going to be a new decade soon, so hopefully, things will begin to change."

"Okay, Doc. Thanks. We'll figure something out. I'm sorry I made you do that to him, but I'm glad that I know what's going on now. Do me a favor, will you? Don't tell Coach about this. Let us try and fix it first. I know Jake and Kenji out there are worried about him and want to help. If we can't fix it, we'll talk to Coach and get his help on this. And, oh yeah, don't get freaky with Coach anymore, or at least, lock the freakin' door, okay?"

"Will do. Your right. We should have taken better precautions. You boys didn't need to see adults having sex like that."

"Yeah, well, what's done is done. Here's your ten bucks back. Sorry I was such a doofus."

"Keep it. Just don't tell anybody what you guys saw in there, okay?"

"Sure. Thanks. And thanks for figuring out what's going on with Enzo. We'll take care of it and help him out. I promise."

"Make sure that you do. He needs it."

I went out the door to collect Jake and head back to the locker room to change clothes for our Yoga and meditation session that was coming up next. I hoped that I'd never see that freakin' doctor ever again, although, he did help us figure out what was up with Enzo. I still had a hard time believing he was a doctor because he was so greasy and squirrely, and couldn't believe that a doctor would film a porno. Jake and I silently headed down the hall and on into our locker room. Enzo and Kenji must have been here and left before us because the locker room was empty. Since Jake and I were in here alone, I felt comfortable to talk with him without anybody eavesdropping. Still, I didn't talk very loudly.

"What did the doctor want?" Jake asked.

"Nothing. Let me think for a second."

"No sweat," Jake said, smiling and holding out his finger. "Does this smell like Cheeto's to you?" He was back to being in a good mood.

"Shut up. This isn't a good time to be joking around."

"Why? What's going on?"

"Well, I have a big problem. When I was getting my physical, I blackmailed that doctor into freaking Enzo out, but it turns out that the reason Enzo has been such an ass to everybody is because someone close to him has been forcing him have sex with them," I whispered to him.

"No shit? No wonder he's so freaked out. Damn. That poor guy."

"I know. This is so totally fucked up. All I wanted was to get even with him for elbowing your back. I didn't expect this," I said.

"We have to do something. Shoot, I don't even know him, but we gotta help him."

"I agree, but what can we do?" I asked.

"Well," Jake said, thinking for a second and scratching the side of his head. "Let's get him alone and call him out on it and take it from there. We might have to trap him or block him somehow so he has to face us. Does Kenji know?"

"No, I don't think so. He knows something's wrong, but not what it is exactly. I'm sure he's going to be just as surprised as we are."

"We've got to tell him what we know and get him on our side," Jake said. "Then we can figure out how to fix it and make it stop."

"I know. If that shit was happening to me, I'd want my friends to help me out, no matter how embarrassing the situation was."

"Ryan, it's not embarrassing, it's just fucked up. Plain and simple. He's a victim. Nobody has the right to take advantage of your body unless you let them. It's not right for somebody to control another person like that. I learned that from Lisa when one of her boyfriends got too serious and pushed her too far. We'll fix it, and Enzo will thank us for it later. He might get mad and go off on us, but in the end, he'll be better off for us helping him out."

"Man, that's why I love you so much. You always want to do what's right and take care of everybody. Let's do it," I said.

We finished getting dressed and headed over to the gym. It was kinda funny to be in the huge building by ourselves. Just the four of us and Miss Sam out in the middle of the big basketball court surrounded by the huge, roll-out bleachers. She had set up four grass mats for us and one for her. She even had a couple of giant fans set up and directed towards our area, because it was stuffy in here. Kenji and Enzo were already inside, doing a couple of stretches to loosen up. It was quiet because nobody seemed to be in the mood for talking.

Jake and I walked over to her and introduced ourselves. Thank goodness she didn't have dried spooge on her face. I remembered her from the one time last year when I needed help in the library for a report I was doing on the Grizzly Flats Railroad. She was very helpful and nice. Today she seemed a little pre-occupied. Duh. Wonder why?

She told us to take a seat on a mat and said she'd give us a short overview about the Yoga and meditation that we would be doing. Once she got everybody's attention, she talked a lot about the history of Yoga, but she didn't say much about the second half of the class, only that it was something she called guided meditation. She seemed certain that this was going to make us better athletes.

She went on to tell us some of the names of the various Yoga poses, and sometimes we had to laugh at the funny names. Damn, there were a lot of them, and I wondered how I was going to remember all of them. But when she demonstrated them for us, I was impressed. She could bend her body into all kinds of weird positions so easily, and it made me think that she could probably eat her dinner off her butt. We started to do some more stretching and got into some of the simpler poses. It was interesting, and after we had warmed up, we were feeling pretty good about doing this. I started to think that this was going to be fun and a good thing.

Then we started doing the real stuff like the Crane, where we had to balance on our hands. That was hard, but Kenji seemed to do it okay. She made us do a Half Spinal Twist, and I thought my balls were going to get crunched. The worst one, and the one that made us laugh was called the Crow, and basically, you lay on the back of your neck and throw your legs over your head like you're trying to blow yourself. I looked over at the other guys, and it looked like Kenji could probably do that. I'd have to ask him about that later on.

After we learned a handful of other basic poses, and how to do them right, we took a quick break to cool down and get ready for the meditation. Jake and I walked over to the drinking fountain and got a refreshing sip of the fresh water. It was pretty warm in here, and the big fans only seemed to blow the hot air around. We both agreed that so far this was working out okay, and everybody appeared to be getting something out of it. Even Enzo seemed to be back to his old self.

We got back to the mats, and Miss Sam told us to sit down in the Lotus position. She had set up a portable record player off to the side, and she told us that we were going to listen to some music made especially for meditation. She was going to 'narrate' and walk us through the meditation. When she played the album, it was a soothing mix of waves and other nature sounds. She had us close our eyes, and told us to relax and take deep breaths, in through the nose and out the mouth. When we were sufficiently relaxed, she went further, saying for us to focus on one particular body part at a time and think of it relaxing even more.

Once we felt like Jell-O, she started in on some sort of color-chakra chant thing that I completely couldn't figure out. For instance, the Third Eye was indigo, but you'd think it would have been brown. But the funny thing was, I was so relaxed that it all sounded groovy. Maybe it was her soothing voice that was making this experience so enjoyable. If she asked us to fly around the room, I bet we could have. In no time the hour session had ended. Man, it seemed like we had just started. Wow. I felt totally relaxed and yet, at the same time, full of energy. My mind felt sharp like I had downed five Coke's one after the other. When she told us to stand up, we all did, everybody but Enzo that is. I looked over at him and what I saw really disturbed me. He was a blubbering mess, hunched over and weeping uncontrollably. Miss Sam went over to Enzo to try and comfort him and to find out what was wrong.

"Hey, sweetie, what's the matter?" she asked him.

"Nothing. Please, get away from me. I'll be all right in a second," he sniffed loudly, and wiped his face with the back of his hands like a little kid would do. He got up and ran out of the gym. I guess he was headed back to the locker room. Kenji tried to follow him, but I grabbed the back of his t-shirt and held him in place. He stopped and gave me a dirty look.

"Let him go. He needs his space. Besides, I need to talk with you anyway."

"Why? What's up?"

"It's not okay, and you're not going to like it."

Making sure Miss Sam wasn't listening, I went on to tell him what the doctor had told me. Kenji seemed to think that maybe that was true. He didn't have any idea who could be abusing him, but ruled out Enzo's dad, because he hadn't been home much lately. Something about working a lot downtown recently, late nights and weekends. We thanked Miss Sam while she was busy picking up the Yoga mats, and told her we would find out what was wrong with Enzo. The three of us guys stood over to the side and hatched a plan. Even though he wasn't treating us all that great, we still felt bad for him and decided that we're the only ones who could do something about his predicament. If we didn't, who knew what else would happen. I was worried that he might do something stupid and seriously hurt somebody or even himself. Then he'd really be in trouble. But still, even though he was an ass, I'd blame myself if he did something stupid.

We were supposed to have swim practice in the pool later on for an hour or so, but we were running late and when we saw Coach run by he seemed to be preoccupied. We figured that we had some time, so we headed into our special locker room and locked the door behind us. Nobody was in here except for Enzo, and he was sitting on the bench with his head in his hands. I'm not sure that he was crying anymore, but I bet he was feeling like shit. Man, did I feel sorry for him, even if he was a jerk. I looked over at Jake, and he seemed to have the same look of compassion on his face that Kenji did. It was good to know that we were on the same page and wanted to help Enzo fix his problem. Whether this idea was going to work or not remained to be seen, but I hoped it would. Hopefully, we wouldn't fuck up an already fucked-up situation.

Kenji came around the lockers first and asked Enzo what was going on and why was he crying. He wasn't in a mood to talk and basically told Kenji to get lost. That did it. It was time to put our plan into action. I wasn't sure we could pull it off since Enzo was bigger and heavier than us, but it was three against one, so I guess we had a chance. I whispered my directions to Jake, and after giving me a crazy look, he rolled his eyes, shrugged his shoulders, and whispered under his breath, "Okay." He went over and grabbed a handful of old jockstraps that were piled in a box over along the side of the room, waiting to be washed or given to the poor or something. Who knows what they do with them? Maybe give them to the girls in the sewing class so they can learn to make a quilt and enter them in the county fair.

I waved for Kenji to come over to me, and I whispered my plan to him, as well. He seemed to be game for it. I went over to the other side of the locker room and got a couple of the wrestling mats from the shelf, and plopped three down on a wide area of the cement floor. If Enzo heard me, he didn't let on. So once the three of us were ready, we assumed our positions.

To say that the first part of our little plan worked perfectly would be an understatement. Kenji walked up in front of Enzo and kneeled down in front of him like he was going to look up into his face and say something soothing. Jake went around the bench to the right, while I went around to the left. In no time we had surrounded Enzo. Before he could figure out what was going on, Jake looked at me, nodded, and grabbed one of Enzo's arms. I took the other, and a surprisingly strong Kenji grabbed Enzo by the ankles, holding them together so he couldn't kick free. We picked Enzo up and carefully backed up over to the mats that were on the floor. Enzo was screaming and yelling and cussing us out the whole time, bucking like a wild chimp having banana withdrawals, and I was afraid someone was going to hear him and our plan would be shot to shit. Once he figured out that he was overpowered, he basically went limp. That worked to our advantage.

When we set him down on the mat, Jake put his knee on Enzo's wrist and unwound one of the stinky old jockstraps. I did the same with his other hand while Kenji held down his legs. We were able to tie up Enzo's wrists together pretty tightly with the straps from the jocks, and once that was done, we moved down to his legs and secured his ankles. He was still screaming and cussing, and against my better judgment, I shoved an old jock into his mouth. He was seething, and if this didn't work, I was going to be dead meat. Seriously. I'd be dead, and Jake would have to bury me under the treehouse next to snakey.

Once he was tied up and secured, it was up to me to start talking to him. I didn't like doing this, but if this was going to work, I had to do it. It was basically my idea, after all.

"Enzo, stop squirming around, man. We're not trying to hurt you. Relax, so you don't get hurt. You're our friend, and even if you don't believe us, we want to help."

"Yeah, Enzo, mellow out, dude," Jake said.

"Listen to what we have to say, Enzo, and then we can untie you," this was from Kenji, who had moved around and sat down on the mat next to Enzo's face. "Please, we're not trying to hurt you. We're gonna try and help you out. Please trust us."

Enzo laid there trying to break out of the jockstrap ropes, eyes staring up at us. If he knew why we were doing this, he didn't let on. Because he had a jock shoved in his mouth, he was breathing hard through his nose.

"Enzo, you gotta calm down right now. We're running out of time," Jake said. Finally, Enzo stopped squirming around but shot me a dirty look.

"Okay, here goes. Let me start by saying that I know how difficult this must be for you. Actually, to tell you the truth, I don't know. I can't even imagine what you're going through. But know this: we want to help you. That's the reason we're here doing this crazy thing. That's what friends do," I said. Man, what did I get myself into? This was tough, and I wanted to cry, but I pressed on. "The three of us have figured out that something is seriously wrong that's happening to you, and that's why you've been such a prick to us lately. You're not that mean of a guy, usually. So, after you hit Jake, we wanted to get even with you. That's when I asked the doctor to fuck with you a little bit. But it turns out that the doc found something with you that didn't quite add up, and it sorta explains what's going on with you. All three of us want you to know that whatever is going on, it's not acceptable, and we're going to help you put an end to it."

Halfway through my speech, Enzo had mellowed out some and was actually looking at me and listening to what I was saying. But his eyes were as big as they could get. If they got any bigger I was afraid they might pop out of his head. I think he knew that we were in on his secret, and was scared shitless.

I took a deep breath and sighed. It was now or never. Looking down at him, I said, "If we take that jock out of your mouth, are you going to be mellow and talk to us and not yell your head off?"

Tears started to form in the corner of his eyes, but he nodded in the affirmative.

"Good. If you start screaming and yelling again, I'll have to put this stinky thing back in." I reached down and took the jock out of his mouth. "Are you okay, now?"

"Yeah. I'm not going to yell. Untie me."

"No, we can't do that just yet. We need you to understand that we're going to help you get this fixed. We're on your side, man. And I don't think you get that yet. So we've gotta talk some more first, okay?"

He took a good look around at us, and let out another long sigh. He was still all red, and tears were starting to stream down the sides of his face once again. If he didn't know before, I'm sure by now he had a pretty good idea of what we were going to talk about next. He had to be scared shitless.

"Okay, guys, let's sit down next to Enzo so we can talk amongst ourselves and get to the bottom of what's going on," I said.

Jake and I got down on the mat next to Enzo, while Kenji scooted closer and put his hand on Enzo's forehead and wiped the hair from his eyes, letting him know that even though he was tied up, he was in good hands. Kenji looked like he cared a lot for Enzo.

"First of all," I said, "Don't be embarrassed. None of this is your fault. Like Jake told me earlier, the shit you're going through is totally fucked up and out of your control. You have nothing to be embarrassed about, and we don't think anything less of you for what's going on. It's definitely not your fault, and you can't blame yourself for any of it. All we want is to make sure it ends right now and that you're okay. Secondly, contrary to what you think, we're your friends, and we care about you. We're going to help you take care of this problem once and for all. We got your back, man. If we didn't care, we wouldn't be doing this and risk getting in trouble."

I took a deep breath. There was no real way to jump into this, so I forged ahead.

"So, can you tell us why your cock hairs are shaved off? I'm pretty sure I know why, but we need to hear it from you."

"What the fuck are you talking about? You're fucking out of your minds!" he yelled and started to roll around to try and get loose again.

"I thought you might say that. Kenji, can you pull down his sweats?"

"No! Don't. I'm warning you."

Jake put his hands on his ankles to hold him down. There was no way we could let him get loose now.

"Enzo, be quiet. Or I'll have to gag you again."

He didn't say anything this time, but he stopped squirming and laid there crying. He started to tremble a little bit. If this was hard for us, this must be a thousand times more difficult for him.

"I'm sorry Enzo, I've gotta do this. I want you to be better." Kenji reached over and grabbed the front of Enzo's sweatpants, and pulled them down to show off his cock hairs, or rather, lack thereof. There were a few small, red scars where the blade must have nicked him. The three of us sort of gasped, seeing this muscular teen guy look like a ten-year-old boy in the meat department, and I'm not talking about the grocery store. Whoever shaved him didn't do a very good job, because he had small, weird patches left around his shaft.

"Can you tell us what happened? Who did this to you?"

"I can't. I don't want to get anybody in trouble."

"We know, Enzo. But look, you're already in trouble. Look at you! You can't go on like this," Jake said. "It's not right."

"He's right. Let us figure out a way to help you, so no one finds out what's going on. Otherwise, we'll have to go to Coach, and then he'll call the cops and tell them what we think is happening. That would be totally embarrassing," I said. "Embarrassing for everybody involved, even us. And if the cops find out, everybody at school will find out too."

"No. You can't. You can't go to the cops."

"Then who did this to you?" Kenji asked.

"No one. I did it. I was just fooling around."

"And you gave yourself a black eye too? No, I don't think so. I'm pretty sure you know how to shave better than that. I know I do and I don't have that much of a beard yet," I said.

"I agree," Kenji said, "I think I have three or four whiskers on my face and I do a better job than that. C'mon Enzo, fess-up."

Nothing. He laid there and closed his eyes, squeezing out a big tear that rolled down his cheek and dropped on the mat. Man, I bet he wanted to curl up and die.

"Did your dad do it?" I asked.

"No!"

"Your Priest?"

"No, we don't go to church, except on holidays."

"Your brother Chris?" I doubted that that was even remotely possible, but asked anyway.

"No."

"Your mom?"

Silence.

Uh-oh. He didn't answer this one and instead looked away, towards Jake's side.

"Enzo, your mom did this? Why would she do this to you?" I barely whispered.

"She didn't. I can't say. Leave me alone," he said, and really started to ball now. He was trembling and gasping for air, so I motioned to Jake and Kenji to help me lift his back so he could sit up. Once we did that and made sure that he was somewhat comfortable, Kenji sat back down next to him and threw his arm around his shoulder, pulling him in tight. I still wasn't ready to untie him yet, because I was afraid he was going to bolt and things would never be fixed.

We let him cry for a while and get it out, and when he was calmed down again, I started to ask more questions.

"So why would your mom do that to you?" I asked quietly.

"She-e, she didn't. I-I-, well, s-she made me-e do it to myself," he said, finally.

"Why?" Jake asked gently. "Why would she make you do that?"

More silence.

"C'mon Enzo. We've come this far. Please tell us. We only want to help you. Why would she make you do something like that to your privates?" I asked quietly.

"B-because s-she wants me to b-be her little b-boy."

"Why didn't you tell her no? You're bigger than her," Kenji asked.

"Because if I didn't, she said she'd start hurting C-Chrisss," he said, this revelation set off a whole new round of bawling.

The three of us felt like shit for the poor guy. We all reached out and stroked his arms or legs, and tried to comfort him as best we could. I'm pretty sure that we were on the verge of crying right along with him, as well. Jake was cooing to him and telling him it was gonna be all right. We sat there with our arms around him, while he cried himself out. I went over and got a clean towel and soaked it with cold water from the drinking fountain in the corner. I handed it to Kenji who wiped up Enzo's face with it. That seemed to make him feel better. After a few minutes, he appeared to be calming down, so I asked him a question that was in the front of my mind.

"Why haven't you told your dad?"

"Because it's too embarrassing and I don't want him to know what she's doing to me. Besides, he's not around that much lately, and he probably doesn't even care. He always busy at work. And she would only deny it, and I'd get in even deeper trouble. She's the one that gave me the black eye when I sassed her the other day. She could get away with it because she knew my dad wouldn't see it and start asking her questions. He's never home anymore. And she's been so mean lately. I don't know why."

"Well, we've got to tell him," I said.

"No. You can't do that."

"We've got to do something to make this stop. What if she starts messing with Chris and you could have stopped it?" I asked.

"No way. I'd fucking kill her if she did that to him!"

"I know. But think about it. If you did that you'd be in even bigger shit. Probably go to prison," I said.

"But at least Chris would be okay," he said, genuinely meaning it.

"No, man, he wouldn't. He wouldn't have his big brother around to protect him. And you'd be sent to The Rock and have to join a gang, and get those ugly tattoos and you'd probably have your cellmate Bubba's big cock up your ass every night. You want that?" Jake asked.

"No. That sounds awful. I'd miss Chris, although I've been so shitty to him lately he probably doesn't even like me anymore."

"Oh yes he does," Kenji said. "He's worried about you, just like we are. He loves you. He told me that the other day."

"Oh, man. I'm so sorry."

"Dude, you have nothing to be sorry for, so stop talking like that right now," Jake said.

"We gotta tell your dad, man. There's no other option," I said, standing up. "We'll go with you and back you up. All of us, together. Make him deal with it. Besides, this way, nobody else finds out, and this will be our secret. The four of us will make a pact and swear ourselves to secrecy. Right here, right now. None of us will ever spill it to the other guys at school. We promise. Right, guys?"

Jake and Kenji quickly agreed.

"You guys would do that for me? I've been such an asswipe to you guys – especially you, Jake. And I don't even know you. Why would you do that for me?"

"Ryan told me something earlier today, when we figured this whole thing out, that if it were him, he hoped his friends would do the same thing," Jake said. "And I agreed. It's the right thing to do, and we're gonna do it."

"That's right," I said. "Friends should always have the other guys back."

He started bawling again, but I think this time it was from relief. He must have been carrying this heavy load around for a long time. After he was done crying, I was about to ask him another question when suddenly, the door to the locker room rattled and we heard Coach yell out, "Hey, you guys in there?"

Shit!

"Hey, Coach. Gimme a sec, and I'll open the door," then I whispered, "untie him, Jake. Kenji, take your shirt off and dry off his face. Do it quickly, okay?"

Everybody started to move around like jackrabbits. Once Enzo was untied, Kenji helped him over to the bench where he sat down. Once everything looked somewhat normal, I walked over to the door and unlocked it.

"Coach, what's going on," I said, trying to sound casual.

"Mr. Miller, why was the door locked?

"Oh, uh, we weren't sure if we should keep it open or locked while we were in here changing. We didn't want the little dudes coming in here and fooling around and figured you'd have a key when you needed to come in. What's up? Are we going to swim now?" I said. "The four of us want to get in the water."

"Well, that's why I was looking for you guys," he said, looking around the room. Luckily, Enzo's back was to him, and he was leaning over so Coach couldn't see his face. "I had to close the pool down early today because one of the pumps that run the filters is broken, and I can't add any more chemicals to the pool until it's fixed. Why don't we call it a day and we'll have you guys in the pool training tomorrow? I'll have Tucker set up two lanes for you guys to practice in."

"Sure Coach. That's groovy," said Jake, walking up behind me, trying to block Enzo from Coach's view. "We're anxious to get in the big pool."

"Okay then, see you boys tomorrow. Lock up after you leave, all right?"

"No problem. Thanks again for what you're doing for us. The four of us appreciate it," I said, kissing up a little bit so that maybe he would get on his way faster.

"Okay. Bye, guys."

I shut the door behind him, and once I was sure he was gone, I asked the guys, "So what's the plan? Enzo, we've gotta talk to your dad. How do you want to handle this?"

"I don't know. He's always at work."

"Where does he work? Can we go find him and talk to him there? That actually might be better than talking to him at your house with your mom and Chris hanging around," Jake said.

"He works downtown in an office building. I think I know which one. He has his own office, so I guess we could do it there. We'd have to take the bus."

"No, we have a chauffeur today. Lisa is supposed to drive us around this summer so my mom can play bridge with her friends and do the other society crap she likes to do. She can take us. All we have to do is give her a call to pick us up. Right, Jake?"

"Yeah, but she might have to bring Jordy."

"That's no biggie. As long as he's with Lisa, he's happy as a clam." Turning to Enzo, I said, "I'm sorry we had to tie you up. But we had to do this, you know. How are you feeling now?"

"Better. It feels good to finally get this out. Thanks, guys, I appreciate this. I'm sorry I've been such an asswipe to you guys. I promise I'll make this up to you."

"Don't worry about it. Let's go and get this over with," Jake told him, wrapping his strong arm around Enzo's shoulder like they had been best pals forever.

We finished getting dressed in our street clothes and went out in the hall to the pay phone to give Lisa a call. We told her that we had a super-secret mission to run, and she said she was happy to come down and get us. She went on to say that she was bored at home because none of her shows were on. Something about Tricky-Dick interrupting TV and talking about the war in Indochina. Jake hung up with her and handed the receiver over to Enzo. "Give your dad a call and make sure he's gonna be there. No sense going all the way down there if he's not going to be in his office."

"Okay, thanks. Great idea. I'm glad you dudes are going with me to do this. I couldn't do this on my own, I just couldn't," he said, wiping another stray tear from his eye. "I hate to admit this, but I'm petrified."

"I know, bud, but we're all gonna be right there with you, backing you up," I said.

To prove my point, Jake wrapped his arm around the big guy's shoulder again and said, "It's okay, we're here with you, buddy."

"Thanks. That makes me feels better." He fished around in his shorts for a dime, sucked up, and made the call. He told us later that his dad wasn't too thrilled to be interrupted at work, but Enzo told him it was important and he didn't have a choice. Once that was done, we grabbed our gym bags and headed out to the parking lot to wait for Lisa to show up.

It was scorching out here in the afternoon sun, standing on the blacktop waiting for Lisa and worrying what was gonna happen next. But in no time, there she was in Mom's big pea-soup green station wagon. She looked funny in it, looking all Yoko in her big sunglasses. The microbus was a cooler ride, but I had to admit that on hot and smoggy days like this, I liked the air conditioning in the wagon. My parents got the mile-long wagon last year because my mom wanted something contemporary with the wood paneling on the sides, like all of the other moms at the club were driving these days. But my dad went one step further and got the Olds Vista Cruiser with the skylight windows in the front and sides of the roof and the huge 455 V8 engine.

And exactly as I figured, Jordy was with her riding shotgun. "Hey Lisa, you look good in the Mom-mobile. You about ready to start popping out babies now?" I said as we climbed in the back.

"Shut the hell up, Ry. How come you guys are done so early?"

"Because the pool was broken or something. You remember Enzo and his friend Kenji?" Jake said.

"Hi guys," she said, smiling at them. But that smile faded fast once she saw the look on Enzo's face. "Enzo, are you all right, baby? Let me look at you. What's wrong? Are you sick? You seem terribly pale. And who gave you the shiner? It looks worse today."

"He's okay, no big deal. It's something that the four of us have to go fix. That's why we needed you to take us downtown," Jake told his sister.

"Okay, if you say so. Where are we headed? Not to the porno theater I hope." If Jordy heard that, he didn't let on.

"No, nothing like that," I said, giving her a frown and nodding at Jordy.

"Oops. Okay. Where're we headed?"

"We have to go downtown to see Enzo's dad. We have to help him out with some, uh, paperwork for swimming," Jake lied. "There's some sort of mix-up or something with the lady in records."

"All right. Tell me how to get there."

Kenji and Enzo had climbed in the back and were settling in the third-row seat, while Jake and I were in the second row. "Where downtown is it?" I turned around and asked Enzo.

"Colorado Boulevard and Raymond. I'll know the building when I see it," he said. "It's on the north side of the street."

"Go down here and make a right turn on Colorado. I'll tell you when to park," I said, pointing towards the right.

"Okey-dokey," she said. "Fasten your lap belt, little man."

"Yes, MOM!" Jordy cracked. I guess his love affair with her was coming to an end.

"Don't call me that or I'll have to whup yer little ass."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Can I turn on the radio?" Jordy asked, all sugary again.

"Just keep it low. Not all of the boys back there might like your music." After punching the pre-set buttons, he spun the knob around until he found a song that he liked. The little man's choice of music never failed to amaze me, and his choice absolutely fitted our crazy situation. Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash were singing Ring of Fire. That felt exactly like where we were going. It would be our luck if Eve of Destruction would play next.

Like a typical teen, she whipped out of the parking lot and in no time, we were racing down Colorado Boulevard, sailing through yellow-almost-red lights, fresh air from the air conditioning blowing in our faces. When we started getting closer to the old part of town, Jake leaned over and whispered in my ear, "I recognize this place. Isn't this where the porno theater is and where we ran into my dad? Should we be down here again?"

"Yeah, it's the same place. But there's lots of office buildings downtown. We'll go straight from the car to office and back. We won't run into any of those freaky guys, I promise. Besides, if we do, there are four of us, and we'll kick their asses."

I'm not sure that made him feel much better, but he leaned back and stared out the window, watching the pawn shops and tattoo parlors roll by. That's all we needed, I thought. To run into Jake and Lisa's dad Ace, or worse, Mr. Jimmy or that creep that was in the theater that Jake almost punched out. When we got to Arroyo Parkway, Enzo told Lisa to slow down so he could find his dad's building. Soon enough, it was on our right, and he told her to pull over and park in an empty space in front. Wouldn't you know, we were directly across the street from the Hunt Club, the bar that someone had changed the H to a C. It looked like someone had changed it back since Jake and I were down here last week.

Being in this seedy neighborhood again made me think about the time Jake and I were here last, so I told Lisa, "You and Jordy better come inside and wait for us in the lobby. It's not very safe out here for you guys. Lots of druggies and panhandlers, and who knows what else. I don't want Jordy to see all of that shit. Besides, I'm not sure how long we're going to be, and it will be cooler inside the building." As we were climbing out of the car and onto the busy sidewalk, I asked the guys, "Anybody got a couple of nickels for the meter?"

Jordy heard me and said he wanted to put them in the slot. We followed Enzo through the big glass doors into the multi-story brick building. Anyplace else, this would have been a beautiful place, but it was dirty and was showing its age. Luckily, inside the lobby, there was a welcoming old Italian lady stationed at the reception desk reading a bible, and after looking at us strangely, she told us what floor we needed to go to. She showed Lisa where to sit and took an instant liking to Jordy, giving him a couple of old comic books and a Mad magazine to read, and some candy from someplace under the counter. It must have been old because I don't think they got many kids visiting this building.

Heading over to the elevators, we were surprised to see an old, gray-haired elevator attendant sitting inside on a wooden stool, waiting for someone to call for the lift. There weren't too many elevators in town that had attendants these days, and he had to be pretty happy to still have a job like this. He snapped to attention immediately when he saw the four of us athletic guys heading his way. As we stepped into the car for the ride up, he looked all of us up and down, then asked us what floor we wanted and who we were seeing.

The old dude seemed to be nervous, kinda beady-eyed and sweaty, and he gave me the creeps. I gave him the once over and noticed that he was wearing a nametag that read Little Johnny. I thought that was kinda weird since he wasn't all that little, and was kinda old to be called Johnny. But the ride was uneventful, and in no time, we were at the penthouse level, floor ten. As we filed out, I was sure I saw a pistol in his coat pocket when he turned sideways, but I couldn't be sure, so I bit my tongue. We had been through so much weird shit these past few days, I figured I was just seeing things.

Following the guys out into the hall, I noticed that it was surprisingly dark and smoky in here. Not at all like the beautiful office my dad has in the new bank building on the other side of town. The long hallway was lined with uncomfortable looking wooden benches on both sides, and big ashtrays on tall, dirty stands, and the ceiling was high with old swirly plaster decorations. This must have been a nice building when it was new. A few guys were sitting around smoking cigars or cigarettes, and some were reading the paper. The old linoleum at our feet was cracked and looked like it hadn't been mopped or waxed for a long, long time. The few doors along the side had big glass panels in them, but the glass was frosted so you couldn't see what was going on inside. They had office numbers painted on them in gold lettering, and judging by the numbers, the office we wanted was all the way down at the other end of the hall.

As we shuffled down the hallway, it was eerily quiet, and as we walked past the men sitting and smoking, they stopped talking and reading and looked up at us. I was starting to get nervous now. Something didn't feel right in here, and the skin on the back of my neck started to get itchy, and the hairs on my arms stood up like dried out needles on an old Christmas tree.

One of the guys stood and held his hand up for us to stop. He seemed to have a sharper, more contemporary suit on, a dark brown pinstripe that fit him perfectly. He also looked younger than most of the other guys sitting around the hallway. He wasn't wearing a hat like the other guys were wearing, but he had expensive looking Italian loafers on his feet. I knew about those because my dad had always wanted a pair, and he showed me once when we were shopping for a birthday present for my mom. He told me he never got them though because he said they were way too expensive and far too ostentatious.

After looking us over, he said, "Hey, fellas. Kin I help ya's? Lookin' for something? Sellin' Boy Scout cookies, may-bee?" The other guys in the hallway snickered at that.

Enzo spoke up fast, and surprisingly, didn't seem to be surprised, or nervous, by the action going on here. "Yeah. The old lady downstairs said I could find my dad up here. We have an appointment with him."

"That would be Mama Rosa-Maria Licata. She sent ya's up here, did she? How's about that? These fellas have an appointment with the boss. But how's do we know you're actually his son?"

The rest of the guys sitting around the hallway suddenly took great interest in the four of us, dropping their racing forms and Hollywood Reporter magazines on the bench. A couple of guys even unbuttoned their jacket buttons so they could quickly reach inside their coats. I had seen enough bad black and white movies to know what that meant, and it wasn't a good sign.

"My dad's Crash Ferrari. Mr. Ferrari to you. I just talked to him on the phone a few minutes ago. He knows we're coming up here to see him. My name's Emanuel Ferrari, but everybody calls me Enzo."

"Oh, the Boss has a son, huh? How you like that, Zero?" the young guy said to some goon sitting on the bench, watching us intently. He was one of the guys who unbuttoned his coat when he first saw us, and was absentmindedly rubbing his stomach.

"Uh, Tony Boy, you better go check with the boss man. If this is true, and this punk is his son, ya better not keep him waitin'," said the guy named Zero. He tipped his hat at us and gave us a wink with his good eye. His other eye was pointing way off into left field.

"All right. You boys don't go nowhere's, okay?" Tony Boy said, as he silently slinked down the dark hall.

The four of us were left standing there, and we had a second to look around. When I did, I noticed that all eyes were still focused on us. This was truly one freaky scene – like being in an old movie. I was kinda waiting for Jimmy Cagney and his Tommy gun to pop out any minute. I took a quick glance at my buddies and was surprised at how comfortable they were. If they thought this place was weird, they weren't letting on. Very quickly, the guy named Tony Boy came racing back down the hall, practically running and gesturing for us to follow him. He was all serious business now, standing up straight and ignoring his pals hanging around. We followed him through the big door at the end of the hallway to a nicely furnished waiting room.

"Take a load off," he said, pointing to a large leather couch. "The Boss will be out in a sec." With that, he turned and left, shutting the door quietly behind him.

"Wow, Enzo, your dad has a lot of employees. What does he do?" asked Kenji.

"He's an accountant or an auditor. Something to do with numbers, but I'm not real sure. He doesn't talk about it much. Man, I'm scared. Thanks for coming guys," he said. "I couldn't do this without you. No way."

"Don't worry about it, dude. That's what friends do. Like I said, we've got your back," said Jake.

"That's right. Don't worry about it. This will be over before you know it," I said. I sure hoped so.

Just then, the door to Mr. Ferrari's office opened, and out came two big guys. The first dude I recognized right away. It was the guy from the tattoo parlor next door to the porno theater. I think Jake's dad Ace called him Sonny. Oh shit. Following him out was an even bigger guy, dressed in a perfectly tailored, dark double-breasted suit, with a small sapphire flower in his lapel. I guess that was Mr. Ferrari, because he looked a little like Enzo, only a whole hell of a lot bigger.

"Thanks for the help, Mr. Ferrari. It's good to know that I can count on you. Ace was right when he told me to come see you," Sonny said.

"No problem. That's what I'm here for. I'll see you real soon. If you'll excuse me, I have to talk with these young men right now," Mr. Ferrari said.

"You bet. Thanks again."

Ace? Did I just hear him mention Jake's dad? Jake and I had taken a quick look at each other when Sonny came out, and both of us immediately looked down at the floor to see if there was something on our Keds we needed to flick off. Hopefully, Sonny would head out the door without looking at us. If he spotted us, he'd tell Jake's dad that he saw us down here and we'd be in deep, deep shit. Luck was with us though, as he was out the door in a flash. Hopefully, he hadn't recognized us, but I couldn't be sure. Mr. Ferrari walked over and closed the door behind Sonny, then locked it with a flourish. He turned around to look at us and the smile on his face instantly disappeared.

"Gentlemen, my office. Now."

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