So Cal Summer 69

by Flip McHooter

Chapter 33

"Jake, how bad are you hurt?" I rushed over to him while at the same time yelling at the guys to control Ace so he couldn't cause any more damage.

I was surprised Jake was still standing up. He looked pale and had his right hand clamped tightly around his left bicep. I could see a small trickle of blood seeping through his fingers.

"I'm not sure. It burns a little, and it hurts, but not as much as I thought it would when you get shot."

"Lemme see it. Take your hand off it for a sec."

He slowly moved his hand away, and even though it was bloody, there wasn't much pouring out. I was relieved, but still scared. "Let me pull up your sleeve so I can get a better look."

I rolled up his shirt and was thankful to see that it looked like a wide scratch, kind of like what you get when you take a header off your skateboard and you skin your arm. It was only a quarter of an inch wide and maybe two inches long. And thankfully, it wasn't too deep.

"Is it okay?" Jake asked. I think he was more scared than in pain.

"Yeah, bud, it's all right. You're gonna be fine. We can clean it up and wrap it in some bandages my mom has in her first aid kit. I don't think you even need stitches. Dude, that was close." I heard a noise behind me, and I had to take my eyes off Jake and turn around.

"Stop it, you little pricks. You broke my legs. Get off me, Goddammit." Ace was the one whining now, not like his teenage son who had just been shot in the arm. And it was a truly, fucking hilarious sight to see. Lisa was sitting on Ace's stomach, while Cooper and Colton each had one of his arms outstretched, holding them down. They weren't very nice about it either. Enzo and Kenji each had a leg, Enzo holding on quite a bit harder than Kenji was. Tucker was over in the corner taking the bullets out of the gun and shoving them in the pocket of his cutoffs. And finally, Jordy and Chris were standing there, looking at Ace and smiling ear-to-ear. Chris was actually poking at Ace's kneecap with the end of his golf club. I bet he was going to be a terrorist when he grew up.

I couldn't stand it anymore, I was so pissed. Pissed off like never before. I ripped Jake's favorite tie-dyed shirt right off of his shoulders, then ripped off a couple of strips from the bottom. He winced when I tied them tightly around his arm so that he wouldn't go bleeding on my mom's carpet. Bullet holes were one thing that we might be able to cover up, but drops of blood everywhere might be something else if we couldn't clean it up. Once I was sure Jake was going to be all right, and after a quick kiss on his forehead, I marched over to Ace and our band of merry men sprawled out all over him.

"Great job, Jordy and Chris. You're the best little dudes ever," I said, looking at my friends piled up on Jake's dad.

"I agree. I think we're going to have to take them to Disneyland," Enzo shouted out.

"Yay!" the little dudes shouted, smiling at each other. Chris was so happy he gave Ace another hard whack in the knee with the golf club.

"Ow. Shit! Get away from me you, little fucker." That just made Chris and Jordy laugh.

For good measure, Chris hit Ace one more time with the golf club and yelled," That's for shooting Jakey."

Jake had come up behind me, but I think he was so mad at his dad that he didn't want to be any closer. I actually believe that with Jake's quick temper, his dad was going to be a dead duck in a matter of seconds if Jake got his hands on him. Then he'd end up like his partner the Dark Man dumped in the canyon behind our house.

"Are his knees actually broken?" I asked.

"I don't know. Let's see," Enzo said, picking Ace's leg up by the ankle and twisting it around. Ace let out a blood-curdling yell, but his leg moved around pretty easily, back and forth and right and left, and we didn't hear any cracking or crunching or anything like that. "I think this wimp is faking for sympathy. Can you imagine him being our boss? Not in this lifetime, motherfucker!" Enzo slammed his leg down hard on the floor, making Ace yell out again.

"Yeah, well, thankfully this was all a ruse to get him secured. But no, I couldn't stand being around this guy," I said.

"Me, either," Jake said. "I don't want to see this piece of shit ever again. I can't even believe he's my dad. What a wimpy piece of crap. Bummer."

"What should we do with him?" Cooper asked.

"Kill him," Kenji said. "Fucker made me piss myself."

"Yeah, I agree," said Tucker. "He could have killed Jake, the little dudes or any one of us for that matter."

"You know, it's been so long since I've been this close to this bastard. He doesn't really look like us," Lisa said, staring at Ace's face, which was funny because she was still sitting on his stomach and flicking his nose and ears with her fingers.

"I was thinking the same thing. We don't look like him at all, sis. We need to tie him up and gag him like he did to me. We're going to have to come up with a good way to get rid of him once and for all."

"Maybe one of those new snuff films with him as the star," Lisa said.

"What's snuff?" Jordy asked. I'm pretty sure everyone else was wondering the same thing.

"Tobacco you suck up your nose or put between your cheek and gum. It's just gross," Lisa deflected, throwing them off the track. She had stepped into it big time and had to backpedal to get out of this one. "Makes your teeth yellow and black and then they fall out one by one. Baseball players use it."

"Eww."

"That's gross."

"Wait! Wait! Just let me go, and I'll never come back. I promise," Ace said. "I promise I'll go to New York and never see you guys or your mother again. I promise. I fucking swear," Ace screamed out. He really was a total freakin' wimp.

"After shooting your son, and trying to kill my dog, you think we're just going to let you go? You'd fuck anybody over to save your scrawny ass, wouldn't you?" I said, playing a little mind game with him. "I don't fucking believe you."

"But I'll leave, I swear it. I'll even send you money every month."

"That's it, isn't it? Money. All about the money. Where's the rest of my t-shirt? I need to gag this sorry-ass prick who says he's my father. They must have switched us up at the hospital when I was born because I can't even believe I came from his stinking sperm." Jake reached down and shoved a big wad of his bloody, ripped up t-shirt into the Ace's mouth. "That takes care of his big mouth. Now we need to tie him up until we can decide what to do with him."

"Jordy, run to the laundry room and get some rope out of Dad's toolkit. You know where it is, right?"

"Shebang!"

"Chris, go help him out. Get a knife from the kitchen so we can cut it up in the right-sized pieces and tie him up real good so he can't get loose," Enzo told his little brother.

"Hot Dog," he yelled and ran after Jordy.

Sloan didn't follow them like she normally would have. Instead, she was standing over Ace's head, breathing hard on his face and drooling down his neck now that he was neutralized and wasn't a threat to her pack.

The little men were back in a flash, and it took almost all of us to pick Ace up, set him in a dining room chair and tie him up. He squirmed, twisted and struggled like the slimy creep that he was. After Lisa slapped Ace across the face a couple of times, we finally got him situated with so much rope that there was no way in hell that this prick was going to get free. He almost looked like a mummy.

"Maybe you should plug his ears so he can't hear what we're going to do to him," Tucker teased.

"That's a great idea. What can we use?" Lisa asked.

"How about we stuff his ears full of cotton balls? We can hold in place with some Band-Aids or masking tape or something. I'll go get that stuff because I've got to fix up Jake's arm," I said. "Keep an eye on him and whatever you do, don't let him go."

"Hey, Ryan? I think you should use Scotch tape and wrap it around his head. We can pull it real tight and make weird faces on him," Chris said.

"Um, okay. Be right back." This wasn't the first time I thought Chris was one little space cadet.

We got Ace tied and taped up. And Chris was right, his face did look funny. But boy, was Ace ever pissed. Chris used a piece of tape and stretched his lips upwards to make him look like he was smiling, even though his ears were steaming red and he was breathing hard through his nostrils. It would have been hilarious if what we were doing wasn't so serious.

The four biggest guys picked him up along with the chair, setting him down in a corner so he couldn't see us, but we could still see him. The only problem was that he could easily slide around on the dining room's hardwood floor. We solved that problem by flipping him on his back, so he was staring straight up at the ceiling. We also turned the radio on as double protection from him hearing us. We turned it on to Lawrence Welk first, but somebody said that he'd probably like that kind of music, so we switched it to some acid rock on FM. They were playing Iron Butterfly, which seemed appropriate for our situation.

Jordy and Chris were super-antsy, and they wanted to tickle him and make him pee. When we said yes, they jumped at the chance to do that because they were still mad that he shot Jake and this was their way to get even. I told them to set some newspaper under the chair so cleanup would be easier.

Sloan wouldn't take her eyes off this asswipe. Somehow, she knew this was an evil man and a threat to her pack, so she sat staring straight at him from about five feet away. I don't think she ever took her eyes off him the rest of the night.

Jordy and Chris started to work on him, and the first thing they did was take off his leather loafers. They had barely started when Jordy screamed out, "Hey, guys, look at this!" He had pulled a shiny, silver dagger from his sock on the opposite leg that held the gun.

"Give me that, little man, and be careful you don't cut yourself," I told Jordy. "We're going to have to strip him and see what other surprises he might have."

"Yeah, but we can do that later. He can't get untied. Tucker and I tied him up good. Look, he can't even move," Colt said, poking him hard in the ribs with his foot.

While Jordy and Chris, plus Sloan, were messing around with Ace, Lisa brewed some coffee while I sterilized Jake's wound. Luckily, it wasn't too terribly bad, and the worst thing was it might turn into a small scar that was always going to be a reminder of what his dad did to him. We started to discuss quietly what we should do next.

"I think we should dump his ass down the canyon with his friend," Enzo said.

"Yeah, but what do we do about the car? That car is easy to spot. I'm surprised Mrs. Kravitz hasn't been over here to see what all the noise was about," I said. "That reminds me. Can two of you guys go wash the blood off the patio before it dries? If there's no blood, there won't be any reason for anyone to be snooping around back there or up the trail."

"C'mon, Tucker. We've got this," said Colt. They probably wanted to go have a quickie or smoke a doobie, or both. That left me and Jake, Lisa and Cooper, and Enzo and Kenji to decide what to do with Ace.

"You forget. There are two cars," Coop said.

"Shit. You're right." That was from Lisa.

"Well, we can't do anything with the green one across the street. We don't have the keys," I said. "Whatever the Dark Man did with the guy's body, the keys are probably at the bottom of the ravine still in his pocket. Actually," I said thinking out loud, "that works to our advantage."

"How so?" asked Lisa.

"Seriously?" asked Jake.

"Let's assume it takes a few days before someone like Mrs. Kravitz starts to complain about an abandoned car in the neighborhood to the police. By that time, if they look for the driver, he'll be toast by then and can't say anything to anybody. You have to admit the cops have been pretty lame around here lately."

"I'll second that motion," Jake said.

"And I don't want the Dark Man to get in any trouble," I added.

"Okay, so what do we do with Ace's car?" Lisa asked.

"Well, that's harder and is going to require some thinking on our part," Coop said.

"You know guys, I could call up my dad, and he and his men could clean this mess up, no problem-o," Enzo said.

"Yeah, but then he'd know what we've been up to. I don't want him pissed at you. And he might always hold it over our heads. He might make us do some shit as payback. No offense, dude. Like we're fuck-ups or something. No, I think this is our problem to solve. Well, Lisa's and mine. And all that activity might tip off Mrs. Kravitz, and more people would be involved and could get hurt. Great idea though," Jake said.

"Yeah, that was a good one, Enzo. So close," I said. "But it's our problem, and we're gonna have to take care of it ourselves. Besides, I don't think we need adults getting involved."

"C'mon, everybody, let's really think," Lisa said. "Think carefully."

Jordy and Chris started laughing and yelling. "Look! We made him pee his pants," they shouted.

We walked across the room to look at the pathetic sight. As much as I hated this guy, it really wasn't amusing. I think the rest of our group felt the same way I did. Most of all, I think we felt sad for Jake and Lisa.

"Very good, boys. Now clean it up before it starts to stink," Enzo told them. Fine with me if he wanted to give them the bad news.

"Oh, man," they whined.

"Hey! I think I've got an idea," I said, snapping my fingers.

"What?" Jake asked me. "Tell us."

"Hold on, let me think for a second. Yeah, this might work. Let's go to the kitchen and get some coffee. We can still see Ace from there." Turning to the little dude's I said, "Clean that up guys and then come in the kitchen with us. We're gonna need your help in a minute." I whispered my idea briefly to Jake, and he nodded in agreement.

We got to the kitchen and made our coffee. I hated coffee and had to put tons of cream and sugar in mine. Most of the other guys did too. Just as we were finishing up, Colt and Tucker came in from the back deck while Jordy and Chris came running in from the family room. I pulled out some cocoa and a bottle of milk and started warming it up. They were probably going to have to stay up all night with us, and I couldn't have them falling asleep and ruining my plan. Once everybody was situated with their drinks in hand, they gathered around to hear my crazy-ass plan.

"Okay, first of all, you have to promise me that every single one of you will keep an open mind about this. Some of you might not like what we're going to do. Especially Jordy and Chris. Coop, you might have a problem with it too," I said.

"I'll do anything to keep Jakey safe," Jordy said, and went over and slipped his little arm around Jake's waist.

"Me too. I like Jake," Chris chimed in, hugging Jake from the other side.

"Aww, me too," said Coop, laughing as he walked over to Jake, then planted a wet, sloppy kiss on the side of his cheek. "He might be my brother-in-law someday." That made everyone in the room bust-up. It was totally out of character for Cooper, and after he had realized what he did, he started blushing and hightailed it back to Lisa's side.

"Okay. First things first. Everybody gather round and make a circle. Grab each other's hands."

"Where's this going, Ryan?" Lisa asked.

"You'll see."

"What is this, Ry-Man? Cub Scouts?" Colt asked, grinning.

"No, you nimrod, we have to take a vow of secrecy. Look," I said, getting serious and looking at everybody one by one. "This is super freakin' important. Everything that we have done so far, everything that we are going to do, everything that you are about to hear and everything that we've done so far has got to stay private, just between us. Totally private. This is serious business. That means no one talks about it after we do it. Jordy, Chris. That means that you can never, ever, tell anyone about this as long as you live. Especially to parents or other adults. Got it?"

"Yes."

"Yes."

"Okay, everybody swear their allegiance."

We agreed and shook each other's hand, seriously I might add. When we were done, everybody was looking at me for an explanation. "Jordy and Chris, after tonight, you are no longer boys, and now you are officially young men. What we are going to do is what adults, grown-up men and women, have to do sometimes. This is your first adult responsibility. In our eyes, you are no longer little kids, but adults equal to us. Got it?"

"Yay! What do we have to do?" Chris asked, looking up at his older brother and me. He had a huge smile on his mug and seemed awfully proud.

"That means we're doing more G.I. Joe stuff. And we can never tell Mom and Dad, ever, even if they ask. Right?" asked Jordy. He got it and was totally serious. "No matter what we have to do."

"That's right. This is a super-secret, just between us. Normal rules don't apply here. And like you said, this is G.I Joe stuff. It would get everyone here, you little men included, into so much trouble that you might have to go to prison. But that's what adults do to keep their best friends safe. Do you understand?"

"Be smart," Enzo added before the little men could answer.

"Yeah, I think we get it," Jordy said, looking over at Chris.

"I do too," Chris added. "Friends and family first. Always."

" Esattamente ," whispered Enzo, and rubbed the back of his little brother's head. Chris looked up at him, beaming with pride.

"So what's the big plan?" asked Kenji. He was excited to hear it. Actually, everybody was. I guess the coffee, cocoa, and sugar had kicked in. It was going on three in the morning, and no one was sleepy in the least.

"Lisa, I'm sorry to ask you this, especially in front of everyone here, but I don't have a choice. Can you give us an abbreviated version of the Polaroid's you and Jake took at your old school?" I asked. "Especially the ones with that cheerleader chick Fiona? I think that was her name. I might have an idea that could work out the same way with Ace, only with much better results."

"Oh, God. Ry, this better be good. Okay, here goes. I was being harassed by the girlfriend of the quarterback on the football team at our old school that I had, well, messed around with at a keg party. It's no secret I like sex. Coop's heard this story already, so it's no surprise to him."

"Actually, it gets me hot!" Coop said. Everybody but the little men snickered at that.

"Anyway, Fiona was a total bitch and talked smack about me and Jake, at school behind our backs, after she heard what I did with the team. That bitch even fixed up her whore mother with my dad if you can believe it. So we had to get even. Long story short, we set Fiona up and got her drunk and naked and took incriminating pictures of her and her boyfriend's younger brothers. Oh, I see where this is going now. I love it, Ryan," she said, turning to me.

Jake piped in and continued the story, "We got her drunk, and took Polaroid's of her naked with my best friend and his ten-year-old brother. That shut her up for good and was the talk of the school after everyone saw the pictures. But how can we do that with Ace?"

"Remember how messed up my mom was when she came home from that Italian restaurant after she mixed up her pills with that red wine they were drinking? Jordy, you did not hear that, okay?"

"Huh?"

"Good. So what if we do the same thing to Ace, and then once he's wasted, we take pictures of him naked with Jordy and Chris. Then we shove him back in his car, maybe roll it down the street, with the pictures spread out all over the floor and pose him half naked at the wheel. Then we can call the cops anonymously and say that there is a pervert in the neighborhood and we think he's in front of the house. We'd have to do it fast before he comes to. Plus, we've got maybe two hours to do this before the sun comes up. What do you guys think? I think it actually might work."

It took a couple of seconds for it to sink into everybody heads, and most the crew was on board right away. Obviously, Jordy and Chris had no plans to get naked with an older guy – a guy that had minutes ago threatened to kill us.

"No way!" Jordy yelled, crossing his arms across his chest. "Uh-uh. No way. Never!"

"Me too! I'd get naked with a girl, but not a guy," Chris said.

"Well, you get naked with us when we go swimming," Jake pointed out.

"But…" started Chris.

"You've even had your little pecker sitting on my shoulders when we played volleyball in the pool the other day," I said.

"But that's different," Jordy whined.

"Is it?" Enzo asked.

"And besides, he'll be passed out. He won't even know you're there," Lisa said since she was the expert. "He won't even see you. It won't be any different than when you climb up on me out at the pool and play with my boobies."

"They play with your boobs?" Coop asked, laughing, not all that shocked. "Where were you when I was their age?"

"I told you I was off men, but I didn't say anything about boys," she said, rolling her eyes. "You're the only man for me now."

"That's better."

"We're all going to have to make sacrifices to make this plan work. Jordy, a G.I. Joe Frogman would do whatever it takes for his country, right?"

"Yeah, well…"

"And Chris," Enzo asked, "Isn't this part of being famiglia?"

"Well, yeah, I guess …"

"And wasn't he just going to kill us?" asked Tucker. "And your dog?"

"Well, yeah."

"If you do this, I'll give you little men one last extra-special treat," Lisa said. "Something that you will remember forever. A little welcome to manhood treat. Do we have a deal?"

Jordy looked back and forth between Lisa, Chris and myself. It took him a while, but he finally said, "All right. As long as we get to see your boobies again."

"And maybe your cho-cho too?" asked Chris.

"Maybe. I'll think about it."

"But just us. Not in front of the other guys, okay?" Jordy asked.

"Eww, her cho-cho?" asked Kenji. "That's gross."

"Say's you!" Chris said, sounding older all of a sudden. Guess he really did just become a man.

"Okay, little men, we get it," said Jake.

"How's this. Just Jake, Lisa and me, the little dudes, plus that drunken old scumbag in there. And if you want, we'll get naked too, if that makes it easier for you little men to do this. Is that okay?" I asked.

"Oh, all right. If it's for Jakey and Lisa, I'll do it. But we get to play with your boobies' later, right?" Jordy asked.

"And you still have to take us to Disneyland and go on every ride with us," Chris added, looking up at his big brother Enzo.

"Agreed," Enzo said, shaking his brother's hand.

"Yes, Jordy. Chris, you and Jordy c'mere. You guys pinky swear with me," Lisa said.

The older guys started giggling, even Coop, who probably wished he had this much action when he was almost eleven. Lisa whispered something in their ears which made them practically jump for joy.

"I swear!"

"Me too! I swear, I swear," Chris said.

"I'm going to regret this, but I swear too," Lisa said, hooking her little finger with both Jordy's and Chris'.

"Okay, so how are we going to get him wasted? He's bound and gagged," Tucker asked. "Do you really want to untie him?"

"Good question. Ry?" Jake asked me.

"I'll go see how many Valiums my mom has. We can mix it up with my dad's scotch. We might have to hold his nose and pour it down his throat," I said. "But we can do that while he's still tied to the chair. I don't think it will be a big problem. If she gets too low on her pills, we can always have Coop deliver a refill. She'll never know."

"I can do that, but hold on a minute, guys. If you give him too much of that Valium stuff, he might croak," Coop said. He should know since he was the resident drug dealer and deliveryman for our neighborhood pharmacy. "Then we'd have a lumpy dead body to dispose of. Are we ready to deal with that?"

"Not really. I don't," Enzo said. "It's one thing leaving a guy in the ocean, but it's another to throw him down the canyon in your own backyard after we've drugged him."

"I don't think it's a big deal. There's one already down there," added Colt.

"True. But we had nothing to do with that one," Kenji said. "We have…what's that called? Oh yeah, deniability."

"Still, that'd be pushing it," I said. "That has to be our last resort."

"I agree," Jake said. "I don't want to go to jail for killing him. We didn't do the other guy, so they can't pin that on us. But if we waste Ace, that'd be on us. There has to be a way to dope him up without killing him."

"Let's do this: We'll give Ace a little at a time so we can watch his progress. My dad said that my mom took two pills and had two glasses of wine when she came home all mellow and feeling no pain the other night. Again, Jordy," I stared at him and made a zipping motion over my lips. "I think we need to give him a little bit more because he's bigger than her. I don't want him waking up and messing with the little men. Jake, remember when she yelled at you to get to the party?"

"Oh yeah. Man, that was freakin' hilarious. I agree. Ace has to be dopier than your mom was. Let's start with two pills and one full glass of booze. A big glass. We can take it from there and add more if we have to," Jake said.

"Chart his progress, so to speak," Coop said.

"Exactly," Lisa said.

"Okay, be right back." I flew up the stairs and on into my parents' bedroom. My dad's golf bag was lying on the floor, and his clubs were spewed out all over the room. I was surprised we hadn't heard the little men rummaging around up here and making a commotion earlier. I didn't bother picking up the mess as I made my way to the back, where my folk's big bathroom was. There was time for that later. I rooted around the medicine cabinet until I found what I was looking for. Shit! She sure had a lot of pills in there. One for everything, I guess. I found the Valium, and then a bottle of Premarin fell into the sink. That one sounded womenie and would probably be fun for Ace. I grabbed that one too and went running back downstairs.

"How are we going to give these to him? He's not going to take them willingly, is he?" Kenji asked as he followed me into the kitchen.

"He's got to be pretty thirsty by now. Let's crush them up and pour them into a glass of scotch. Maybe if we put some ice cubes in it, so it looks like a real drink, he'll suck it down. What do you guys think?" Jake asked, looking around the room.

"That's boss, man," Enzo said. "My dad loves his scotch."

"Our dad, too. He was furious that his liquor cabinet was raided after our party that he cussed us out and told us we can't ever have any more parties as long as we both shall live," Colt said, laughing and looking over at Coop.

"Don't look at me, dick for brains. I only wanted a little party with my swim buddies and a few friends. I didn't expect you to invite every hippie in Pasadena."

"My dad usually drinks beer, and sometimes he makes margaritas and some other fancy drinks, but he does have a couple of expensive bottles of scotch in the liquor cabinet." I went to the family room to get a bottle out of the wet-bar, but first took a good long look at Ace. He was still fuming, tied up tight and wasn't moving. Yeah, he's in for a day of reckoning.

I remembered my mom had all of the latest kitchen gadgets, and after poking around in the kitchen and pantry, I finally found the Molcajete that my mom had picked up in Tijuana last year on a day outing with her snooty bridge club. It was on a top shelf over the refrigerator way in the back. I was pretty sure that she had never even used it. She was like that with her shopping. Just don't get me started on her shoes.

"Here," I said, holding out a fancy, dark bottle of Glenmorangie Scotch Whisky that my dad had bought when he got his first promotion at the bank. I hoped that no one would drop it on the floor or I'd be dead in the canyon like that goon. "Would someone please pour a double shot into one of those round glasses over there? No ice yet, okay? I want to crush this shit up and mix it in with the booze so Ace won't be able to tell that there is something in it. Hey, Jake? Do you know how your dad likes his scotch? With or without water?"

"I don't know. Does it make a difference?"

"Oh, it does. If my dad has a good bottle of scotch lying around, he drinks it straight, without ice. That's called something, but I can't remember exactly what it is," Enzo said. "Boss, I think."

"Neat," Kenji said.

"Bitchin," I said.

"Groovy," said Jake.

"Far out," said Tucker.

"Outasight," said Lisa, chiming in.

"Not bitchin and not groovy. Not far out and not outasight. It's neat," said Kenji.

"Right on! I know it's neat and cool and all, but what's it really called?" Jake asked.

"It's called neat, you dumb shits!" Kenji said again, this time yelling and getting perturbed for some reason.

"Cool."

Colt and Cooper were starting to really laugh now. They both knew what was going on.

"What the fuck are you guys arguing about? We don't have time for this now," Lisa said. She didn't know either, like the rest of us.

"It's called neat! Not bitchin. Not boss. Not groovy. Not far out. Not outasight and definitely not cool. It's called NEAT!" It was Kenji who was flying off the handle, making us stare at him. He'd never gotten angry like that before. After he had calmed down, he explained quietly, "When my dad was dying from cancer last year, he said the hell with it and had a shot of good scotch whiskey every day before dinner. He liked it 'neat' or without ice or water. I don't know why, because one time he shared a glass with me and I almost puked my guts out, it tasted so gross. Give me a joint any day."

"Oh. Okay. Thanks, Kenji. So, will someone make me a glass of scotch, neat?" I asked.

"I'm on it," Lisa said. I could always count on her.

I finished grinding up the two Valium pills and added one of my mom's Premarin tablets, but decided to add a second one for good measure. Lisa set the drink down next to me and picked up the bottle of Premarin. After looking it over, I was surprised when she said, "You know this is made from horse piss, right?"

"What the fuck are you talking about? You're saying my mom takes horse piss by pill? If that's true, no wonder she's so wiggy. She must get hers from Mr. Ed. I'm surprised Jordy isn't named Wilbur."

"Yeah. Horse piss. Makes menopausal women more normal and stops their hot flashes. Are you going to add them to his drink?"

"Well, uh, yeah, I guess. Why not? I thought it'd make him all womenie and stuff. Maybe easier for us to handle. But now I'm not so sure. Horse piss?"

"Yeah, really," she said, locking eyes on me. "But let's see what happens. It might be fun. Maybe Ace's dick will fall off. Anyway, we can use this as an experiment for next year's chemistry class."

"Right on," I said.

I took the drink from Lisa and dumped in the powered drugs. I swirled it around with my finger until the liquid was clear again. I turned around and told the gang, "I need Colt to help me set him back up. The rest of you can watch from here. Let me go in by myself to make nice with him first. If all of you are watching him, he'll know something's up, and it'll be harder for us to make him swallow it. I also need you guys to be quiet because I've got to pull out the cotton from his ears and fix his face so he can talk to me. I don't want him to hear you guys talking behind him."

"Great idea, Ry. Good luck," Jake said.

I went through the door into the dining room while the guys watched from behind. I sat the drink on the table where he could see it. I checked the ropes to make sure they were still tight, and he hadn't loosened them somehow. There wasn't any way that he could have untied them because there were so many, and the guys used all of their strength to make them tight. The guys had done a great job. I guess they had earned their knot tying badges in scouts. I pulled off the Scotch tape holding the cotton in his ears without worrying whether I hurt him or not. I knew it had to hurt because tears were running down his cheeks, but I didn't give a shit since he hadn't worried about the tape over Jake's mouth earlier tonight on the boat.

"Colt and I are going to set you up now, dickhead. No funny business, okay?" He nodded yes. The two of us set him up, and after we were sure he wasn't loose or was going to do something stupid, Colt backed off behind him, close, but out of sight.

"I figured you had to be thirsty by now. I brought you a glass of my dad's favorite scotch. I don't know why he likes it so much because to me it tastes like, well, horse piss to be truthful. But I'm not going to give you any if you're going to fuck around. Do we have a deal?" He nodded his droopy head indicating yes.

It took me quite a while to untie and pull out Jake's ripped-up t-shirt from his mouth, but finally, I got it undone. "That feel better?"

"What are you kids going to do with me?" he croaked at me. I was beginning to think he was scared.

"Hey, slow down. I'm here with a peace offering, and you want to fight me over it? Jake is more of a man than you were when you and your goons tied him up even harder. You know, we could have taped your mouth shut like your goons did to him. Do you have any idea how much that must have hurt poor Jake when I had to rip that tape off his face after I rescued him? He's a kid, and you're supposed to be a grown man. You don't even care, do you?" I said, loud enough to get his attention. "Now, for the second and last time, are you going to be nice, or am I going to have to gag you again and drink the scotch myself?"

"No, no. All right. I am thirsty," he grumbled. "Let me have a drink. Then you can do whatever you want with me. I don't care anymore."

"That's better." I took the glass of scotch and held it to his lips, but I quickly yanked it away from him before he could get a taste. "You know, now that I think about it, I shouldn't even give you this. This is my dad's favorite drink, and he'd be pissed if I gave it to a scumbag like you." I put the glass up to my lips like I was going to drink it.

"Look, kid, let me have some. I told you I'll be a good boy. I promise."

"You better. Okay, here you go."

I put the glass back to his lips and poured the concoction down his throat. He sucked it up like a baby piglet nursing on a teat. Any thoughts that I might have had about it tasting gross was soon gone.

"That's tasty. Give me some more," Ace said.

"No. Maybe in a minute. We gotta talk first." I set the empty glass down on the table and slid a chair around so I could sit and face him. I was able to see the guys crowding in the doorway. "I'm going to sit right here, and we're going to have a little chat. Just so you remember, Colt is standing right behind you in case you need some calming down."

Colt flicked both of Ace's earlobes hard with his fingers and said, "Hello." That made Ace jump a little and was actually kind of funny.

"Okay, we've had some time to talk about what we should do with you, but I wanted to get your opinion as well. First, I want to know why you are such a prick to Jake, Lisa, and Lulu? They're the nicest people I've ever met, and don't deserve your bullshit. What the hell have they done to you to make you so pissed off and evil?"

"It's none of your Goddamn business. You're just a kid."

"Well, maybe I am, but that's beside the point. In the last few weeks, you haven't made much of an impression on anybody around here. Oh, wait. You did do one nice thing, and that was talking to your friend Mr. Jimmy to get us into the porno theater downtown. But you got into a big fight with Lulu, had your goon's stake out our house for the last couple of weeks terrifying everybody, and broke the brake line on the microbus. Then you kidnapped Jake. And right after we got Jake back, you bust in here and almost shot my dog, not to mention shooting your son in the arm. That's not being very nice, now, is it? If you're trying to make friends, that's not the way to do it. What kind of moron are you?"

"Well, I had to. It's part of my job. You don't understand. You're too young."

"Don't patronize me. None of us are idiots here. We might be young, but were not stupid, asshole. Be a man and tell the truth for once."

"I'm under a lot of pressure. This divorce thing is costing me a ton of money, and I goofed something up at work. I've been skimming money from the theater and, well …" he stopped talking.

"Want another drink? I don't think my dad will miss a little bit more."

"Sure." His face was starting to get flushed and wrinkly, but he wasn't slurring his words like my mom did, or acting like he was that drunk. Maybe he could handle his liquor better.

"I'll be right back. Colt, stay right there for a second, okay? Don't let him try anything funny. If he does, you have my permission to whack him."

"No problem. I'll take this scumbag out with my bare hands if I have too."

"Try not to make a bloody mess of him, okay? I'll be right back."

I walked through the dining room on my way to the kitchen holding my finger to my lips and motioning to the guys not to say anything yet. We assembled in the far corner, and I whispered to them that he wasn't drunk enough yet. I also told them that I was going to try and find out the real reason that he wanted to kidnap Jake, but that I wasn't getting anywhere yet. I asked Jake and Lisa if there was anything they wanted me to ask him because it was now or never. Neither of them did and said to hurry up and get this over with.

Back in the dining room, Ace was still wide awake. "I brought you another drink. But first, I want the real reason you want Jake so badly. And why not Lisa? I don't get it."

"I can't tell you. Besides, it's none of your business. You're just a punk kid."

"I'm offended by that. See, there you go being a dipshit again. Why do you continue to say that shit? It is my business, and if you want another drink, you're going to tell me. Besides, Jake and Lisa are like my brother and sister now, so I need to know. That sorta makes you my step-dad, as gross as that sounds."

"Give me a little sip first, and I'll tell you," he said.

"No."

"C'mon, step-son."

"Okay, but only half. And don't you ever, ever call me that again."

"Oh, that tastes so good," he said. The pills must have given it a sweet flavor. Yeah, I think this stuff was finally starting to kick in. I looked up at Colt, and he smiled back at me.

"So what's the deal? Why are you such a prick?"

"Jake's not my son," he said sadly. There were gasps in the room, but Ace didn't pay any attention to them. I was pretty sure Ace didn't even hear them, or if he did, he didn't care. "Lisa isn't my daughter, either. I found out a few years ago that Lulu was having affairs with some of her students at the Music Academy. I didn't know until Jake started growing up and didn't look or act anything like me. Lisa, too for that matter, but I thought that was because she was a girl. Maybe I shoot blanks. Anyway, that's why I wanted to kidnap him. To make Lulu pay," he said and started to cry and hiccup. It looked like the womenie stuff was finally starting to work.

"Here, drink the rest of this." I held the glass to his lips and almost had to pour it down his throat because he was starting to get so groggy. I almost felt sorry for him, but I couldn't because he was such a scum bucket. "C'mon Colt, let's leave him to simmer for a second," I said after I poured the last few drops down Ace's pie hole.

The kitchen was abuzz with lots of talking, but the thing that I will always remember to my dying day was the look of sheer joy on both of Jake and Lisa's faces. They both ran up to me the minute I walked in the room and thanked me profusely for getting that out of him. I was covered with kisses, which made everyone in the room laugh. Grilling Ace about that hadn't been part of the plan and was something that I thought of at the last minute. I had always wondered why Ace treated Jake so mean while my dad embraced him. Now we knew the real reason why.

"He's not our dad, he's not our father, la-la-la," Jake and Lisa were singing and dancing around the kitchen.

"So who is your dad?" Jordy looked up and asked them.

"I don't know little man, but as soon as the Lulu's come home from Uncle Gus's farm, we're going to find out, that's for damn fucking sure," Jake said.

"Shebang! Maybe our dad can be your dad."

"Hot Dog!"

"Woof."

And then, "WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF!"

"C'mon guys – into the dining room right now – something's wrong."

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