Unbeaten

by Ivor Slipper

Chapter 28

Having dealt with the other two ladies, Mr Fitzpatrick turned his attention back to us. I wasn't sure if I'd gripped hold of mom's hand or if she'd clasped mine, but we both instinctively tightened our grip as he stepped toward us.

"What about Troy, sir?" I asked.

"Let's go over here and sit down." he replied indicating a nearby bench.

We let him lead the way, sitting down when we reached it while he remained standing in front of us.

"Troy's still in there, isn't he?" mom asked, looking directly at the VP.

"Mrs Connelly, the situation is very confused and we aren't certain of all the facts. I don't know how you managed to get onto the school premises...." I went to say something, but he raised his hand and continued, "and in the circumstances I am not going to ask that question. I'd prefer it if you weren't here, but you are and I don't intend to ask you to leave at this point. However, I must ask that you remain seated here, or go to the football field where everyone else is. I can't risk endangering anyone else."

Mom gave him a sort of a smile. "Thank you for that, but you didn't answer my question."

By now there were even more police around than a few minutes ago along with paramedics and various other emergency vehicles and personnel.

"I'll tell you what I know, Mrs Connelly. Just before 11 am the panic alarm was sounded. This calls for everyone to leave the school buildings as quickly as possible, but in an orderly manner."

"Did you sound it, sir?" I asked.

"No, Adam I didn't. But I quickly identified who had."

My heart began to sink and I wanted to be sick. I knew what class Troy would have been in at that time. I instinctively gripped mom's hand tighter.

"It was Mr Edgars."

I couldn't help letting out a groan as I heard that name.

"He's your favorite teacher, isn't he Adam?" mom asked.

I guessed she wasn't aware of our timetable and thus the full significance of hearing the name hadn't registered with her. We'd have been doing World Geography at that time today, so if Mr Edgars had sounded the alarm that meant Troy would have been in his classroom. Not only that, so would Jerry Martin and Hannah Parker! That meant not only was the boy I loved there, but also two of my best friends were apparently in danger. And to cap it all, my favorite teacher and the man who had been responsible for bringing Troy and I together and thus making the last few months of my life such happy ones, was also there. If anything happened to any of them I'd be more than devastated, but if anything happened to Troy........ I had to think positively and couldn't let my thoughts go there.

I managed to reply. "Yes, he is mom. I assume the alarm was sounded from his classroom, sir?"

"It was, Adam and I can tell from your expression you have already realized what that means."

"What does it mean, Adam? Tell me."

Mom turned to look at me and an expression of horror and fear appeared on her face as she clasped a hand to her mouth.

"Oh god! Troy's there, isn't he?"

"Yes, he must be mom, and so are Jerry and Hannah."

She started to cry and I moved to hug her. She'd done so much to support me in the last few months, now I had to try and be strong and support her even if I did feel like breaking down and crying my eyes out.

"What else do you know, sir?"

"Not that much I'm afraid, Adam. The door of that classroom is shut and we presume locked. We assume everyone who was in the class when it started is still there. We'll have to go through the school records to find out who should have been there and cross check that against the roll call of who is outside to be absolutely sure, but on the face of things it does appear that Troy is in that classroom."

"So what happens now?"

"Basically Mrs Connelly, we sit and wait. As I understand it the kidnapper has made no demands so we have no idea why he went to that classroom. It could be that he specifically selected it, or it could be random. Until he tells us we can only surmise his purpose. The police have sent in a negotiator to try and talk to him and find out what he wants, but I have not heard if he has even been able to talk to the man - we assume it is a man – let alone find out what he wants. I'm sorry I can't tell you more than that.

"Now I have to ask you to excuse me as there are matters I need to attend to. I must though ask that you remain here, for your own safety and so I can find you should I need to."

We thanked him for what he had told us and watched as he walked toward the school buildings. It had been good of him to not only talk to us, but also let us stay here. With all the police now around I couldn't see how we could be in any danger, but I guessed there had to be more risk within the school grounds as opposed to outside.

Mom and I were now hugging each other. I was worried about my lover and my friends, but she had the safety of her only natural son to worry about. I knew that had to be much, much more of a burden to carry. It almost seemed that she was reading my thoughts when she spoke.

"Adam, if anything should happen to Troy...."

"It won't mom. He's gonna come bouncing out of that door soon with a big grin on his face."

She managed a little chuckle.

"That's what I'm hoping Adam. But, I want you to know that if anything does happen then you are staying with us. I couldn't bear to lose both of my boys."

Oh jeeze – that started me off. I just couldn't help it. How on earth could this woman be thinking about me at a time like this and trying to reassure me about my future? We sat there in a hug for a while, both of us trying unsuccessfully not to let a few tears fall. The hug was interrupted when my cell rang. I took it out of my pocket and saw a number I didn't recognise.

"Hello."

"Adam is that you?"

Now I recognized the voice. "Yes, Mr Connelly."

"Thank goodness for that! What's going on Adam? I've just been told about a kidnapping or some such thing at your school. I know you're not there today, luckily, but I tried to call Alicia and couldn't get an answer from her cell or at home. I tried Troy's but that's switched off which I suppose would be normal if he was at school."

"Mr C, mom and I are at the school......"

"What! What are you doing there?"

"Mom saw about it on TV and decided we should come down here. Luckily we managed to get into the school grounds, before the security was all in place."

I'd put my cell into speaker mode as soon as I'd realized it was Mr C so mom could hear both sides of the conversation.

"I'll pass you over to her so she can tell you what we know."

I handed her the phone but before doing so switched it out of speaker mode as I felt it wouldn't be right of me to hear both ends of this conversation. Instead I sat and listened as she told him what we knew and tried to answer some questions he asked. She ended by telling him she'd call him as soon as we heard anything. She managed a weak smile as she handed my cell back to me.

"Sorry, Adam. I was in such a panic I left my cell in the car. Good thing you had yours in your pocket."

We sat there in silence for some minutes both lost in our own thoughts once more before she spoke again.

"I hate to say this Adam, but I have to wonder if this might be due to the setting up of your GSA."

That took me by surprise. "Wow!" I exclaimed, "Why would you think that?"

She sucked in a deep breath before answering.

"Don't think for even one second that I don't totally support the setting up of your GSA. I understand the reasons for it – even more after meeting your mother and her spiritual adviser than I did before. It is something that is needed to hopefully reduce the bigotry and hatred that is directed at children who deviate from the so called norm. So, yes I was all for it and admired the way you and Troy worked together to get it established."

"So you have no problem with what we've done?"

"Absolutely not! I admire you two and the friends who helped. Would that we'd had such an organisation back in my day. But, the fact that it had been set up did get publicized locally and your names were mentioned as being the prime movers in it being established. Your pictures weren't made public, but your names and the school were out there for all to see. Sadly, we know from your own experiences that there are local people who don't approve of gays and would consider the establishment of a GSA to be a potentially corrupting influence on children."

It was my turn to take a deep breath and consider before responding.

"I hadn't thought about it like that, mom. I suppose it's possible someone might be after Troy and I – but it isn't certain and this could all be random."

What she'd said did sort of make sense to me, but I knew I had to try and find something positive to say for both our sakes. Whatever happened was out of our control and we could only hope and pray. I put my hand down inside the neck of my t-shirt to finger the cross that I always wore on a chain round my neck. I suddenly recalled doing the same while I had been sat in the old house a couple of months ago hoping that Troy would appear. The little prayer I'd offered up then had worked, so I said another one now and having done so, felt that the black cloud which had been surrounding me had lifted a little.

We continued to sit there is silence. There was nothing to say and nothing to do except wait and watch the activity that was still going on outside the school. Suddenly we heard a couple of noises that sounded very much like gunshots. Mom's hand went back to her mouth, my stomach lurched and bile started to rise up my throat. Activity outside the school buildings started to increase. We stood up and holding hands, walked closer to the buildings, despite having been told by the VP to stay where we were. Everyone seemed too interested in what was happening inside the school to take any notice of us.

After what seemed an eternity but was could only have been a couple of minutes, two policemen appeared with between them a civilian. They were each holding one of his arms which were evidently handcuffed at the wrist behind him. The man had his head down as they emerged, but then looked up. He was quite short, fairly slim and with a receding hair line. I'd met him before – it was Officer Diamond, or to be exact ex officer Diamond as I now believed he was. He caught sight of me and at once his face filled with anger. He snarled and shouted out.

"It's all your fault you fuckin' faggot. Why weren't you in that fuckin' class!"

The officers holding him manhandled him and turned him away so he could no longer see us. Nor could we hear what he was saying.

"Who was that, Adam?"

"It was that Detective Diamond who I took Troy's cell to when I found it."

"The one who tried to hide the evidence?"

"Yes, that's him. So it wasn't to do with the GSA, but he was actually after me."

I said that and then felt all cold. Had I not had appendicitis I'd have been in that class and then........

My thoughts were interrupted as there was more activity at the main door. Paramedics appeared pushing a gurney on which someone was lying. I couldn't tell who it was but the hair was dark so it wasn't Troy. More minutes passed and then kids who I recognized started to emerge, each escorted by a policeman or woman. At last we both caught sight of Troy who had none other than Office Rudigger with him. They both saw us and I saw her nudge Troy and whisper something to him. He came bounding towards us as we started to move toward him. When we met none of us were sure who to hold and kiss first so we ended up in a three way hug.

"Are you alright Troy?"

"Apart from a couple of bruises, yes mom. Look, we've got to go and give statements. We aren't supposed to talk to anyone before that , but Rudigger saw you and let me come over for a minute. I've gotta go back, but I had to come and tell you both how much I love you."

We both kissed him and I admit my kiss was longer and deeper than the one he gave his mom and neither of us cared who saw it.

Just then Mr Fitzpatrick reappeared.

"I see you've found Troy or Troy has found you," he said beaming. "Why don't you come to my office. I've got things to do and organise, but you can stay there and I'll get one of the police to let Troy know where you are. I don't think they'll be any longer than they have to with the interviews, but as Mr Edgars was shot...."

In my excitement at seeing Troy I'd forgotten all about the person on the gurney. I felt awful.

"How is he?" I interrupted.

"I gather he was shot in the shoulder. The bullet appears to have missed any vital organs thank goodness, but we may be without his services for a few weeks I understand. That apart I still don't know much more than I did earlier. I'm sure though that Troy will be able to give to a first hand account of what took place."

I felt really sorry about Mr Edgars having been shot and guilty that I'd not thought about him after seeing Troy.

We went with Mr Fitzpatrick to his office. He told us to help ourselves from the coffee pot that was there and also produced a packet of cookies from a drawer. Neither of us felt like eating or drinking though, we just wanted to see Troy and find out what had taken place.

In the end it must have been a good hour before Troy walked through the door. We both fell on him again wanting to know all the details. While we'd been waiting mom had called Mr C to give him the good news and he'd told her that he was heading home from work. When she told Troy that he asked if he could wait until he got home to tell us what had happened to avoid him having to go through it twice. Anxious though we both were to find out the details we both agreed. I'd seldom been happier than to share the back seat with him on the trip home.

Mr C was indeed waiting when we got home as was Gran. As we walked into the kitchen he grabbed Troy into a big bear hug and I'm sure his eyes were wet as he eventually released him from it. We got ourselves drinks and made it as far as the family room. Apart from the time he was being hugged by his father Troy and I had hardly let go of each other. I felt we'd both dodged a bullet – in his case literally – but I still didn't understand why Diamond had come looking for me today. That was the question I desperately wanted answered, but I decided it would be best to let Troy recount events in his own words and no doubt I'd find out.

We settled ourselves, Troy and I with our arms round each other on the settee. Gran sat next to him and his folks sat in the armchairs opposite.

"We're all yours, Troy, said his mom.

"I know," he said with a little grin. "I'm just collecting my thoughts."

"If it's too hard to relive you don't have to tell us," Gran said.

"It's not that, Gran. I've already told the police, so it's shouldn't be a big problem telling you. Maybe it'll even help going through it again."

"Troy, I think we should see about getting you some counselling. You've had a hell of a lot to deal with lately."

"Maybe Dad. As everything turned out alright and it seems this is really the end of what started a while ago, I don't think it will haunt me – especially with you three and Adam to support me."

He gave me a little kiss on the cheek as he finished before leaning across the settee to give one to his gran. Despite what he'd just said I could feel his body tensing. I knew it was going to be difficult for him to recount the events in the classroom again, but hopefully he was right and telling is would help him deal with it.

"Okay. It was a perfectly normal day at school and Mr Edgars was talking about the effects of deserts spreading in Africa when the classroom door was opened and in came this young lady who was being held by a man with a gun."

"Who was this young lady?" I interrupted.

"Ah, I found out after it was all over that Mrs Taylor the school secretary was on holiday this week and this young lady was a temp brought in to cover for her. I managed to talk to her afterwards 'cos I didn't know who she was or how she got involved. Apparently Diamond, although I didn't know it was him when he came into the classroom, had gone to the secretary's office, flashed his badge and told her he needed to see Adam Jackson urgently."

"Wow – so he definitely was after me?" I felt a cold shiver go down my back as I spoke.

"Yeah, so it turned out. He got her to look up what class you'd be in and then asked how to find it, but she offered to escort him there."

"Poor girl." Gran commented.

"I know. Anyway, Diamond comes into the room holding her with one hand and waving this pistol around with the other. He looks round the room, twice and then turns to Mr Edgars and asks him where Adam Jackson is. He didn't just use your name Adam, there were a few choice descriptive words used as well."

"I can imagine based on what he shouted at me when I saw him being led away afterwards."

"Mr Edgars was brilliant though. He really thought quick and told Diamond that you hadn't been feeling well so he'd given you a hall pass to go to the toilet, but you should be back in a few minutes."

"I guess he was playing for time, or didn't want Diamond going elsewhere." I said.

"Yeah. He'd already pressed the panic button as soon as Diamond came into the room so the rest of the school could evacuate and the problem was sort of contained. So we all sat there for a few minutes until it registered with Diamond that with the school being evacuated you wouldn't be coming back. When that occurs to him he asks if the other, sorry all, but choose your own adjectives, faggot boy Connelly is here."

"How come he didn't know you?" Mom asked.

"Because he never saw me. He didn't come to the hospital to interview me and Adam took my phone to the police station. After that he came up with this nonsense story about deleting the pictures which was when dad got Marvin involved and he was kicked off the case."

"Right. I understand now."

"I felt sure someone would give me away by looking at me, but if they looked he didn't notice. Then he shouts that one of those two is going to pay because it was their fault that his nephew is dead."

"Mike's dead?" I exclaimed.

"Yeah – seems he died overnight and Diamond flipped when he heard."

"Doesn't make much sense." Mr C said. "It's not as if he was his son, but throughout the whole thing he has been strangely protective of him. Very odd."

I thought that too. I didn't want to express the thoughts that were in my brain, but it almost seemed that there had to have been a relationship between Diamond and Mike that went beyond the usual one that would exist between an uncle and a nephew. I doubted we'd ever find out, but....

"At this point Mr Edgars stands up and tells Diamond he's wasting his time because you're not coming back and I'm not in this class, so he may as well put his gun down and quit before he hurts anyone and makes things worse for himself. On hearing that Diamond walks towards Mr Edgars and says he doesn't believe him. He points the gun right at Mr Edgars and the young lady faints. Diamond looks away to see her and Mr Edgars jumps on him. The gun goes off and two or three of us who are at the front of the class charge in and jump on Diamond. The gun goes off again, but that bullet doesn't hit anyone and then we manage to wrestle Diamond to the floor. Mr Edgars stamps on the hand that is holding the gun at which point the classroom door bursts open and armed cops rush in. It's only then I see that Mr Edgars has blood coming from his shoulder. Gee – he was so brave!"

"He always was my favorite teacher, but he's gone up even more in my estimation now."

"Yeah. They did say his injury wasn't life threatening, so I hope it won't be too long before he's back at school. You're right Adam, he's a real good guy."

We all sat there for a few minutes, each digesting what Troy had said. I thought back to how, after I'd run away from home, I'd had nightmares of being shot by my pa. Had I not had appendicitis and been off school recuperating from the operation I'd have been in the classroom and Diamond would have had the chance to make that nightmare become reality. It was a scary thought. I pulled Troy to me and kissed him deeply and at length, not worrying about the audience we had.

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