What Else Is There?

by Al Norris

Chapter 14

The plan was made. All that was needed was to implement it, starting tomorrow. After Officer Farley left, I looked at the time and realized it was well after 4 pm. Dang! I was supposed to be over at Luciano's. To be fair, I should call him and let him know I wouldn't be able to make it today, or any time this week. What with the plans dad and Farley had outlined, the time I needed to spend with Jimmy, practice tomorrow, and the game on Saturday, I just didn't have the time. I sure hope Luke will understand. I'd hate to lose my job before my first day.

It was late enough that I knew Luke would be busy preparing to open the doors. I made a mental note to call him at lunch tomorrow.

The rest of the day was spent making dinner and then finishing my homework. I did call Jimmy a bit later to see how he was doing. He was happy. A couple of his other friends had called him. After that, I decided to play a game or two on my Xbox, before bed.

Friday morning came quicker than it needed to. OK, so maybe I shouldn't have played those last two games. I got up anyway and did my morning exercises while I waited for my coffee and toast. I went on my run with the guys and then came home to shower and get ready for school.

As I left, I reminded Uncle… er, Dad, that I would be going over to Jimmy's after practice until about 5 pm. He grunted in acknowledgment as he drank his first cup of coffee. Dad's not exactly what you would call a morning person before that first cup.

As I came off the footbridge, there was no one to walk with me to school. No escorts meant that I was finally on my own. I hoped I wouldn't encounter Jeremy and crew and I also hoped that the plan was in place… Should I mention I hoped we wouldn't need the plan?

I did check my phone to make sure the GPS tracker was active.

In my AP Calc class, Aaron approached me, before the final bell rang. "I called Jimmy last night… You were right, Pete. I couldn't apologize enough."

"I'm glad you did, Aaron. Jimmy didn't cry, did he?"

"No, but I could tell he was on the verge. I feel so bad, not thinking of how he would have felt."

"Aaron, you called him. Even if I had to um, prompt you. You called, and that made Jimmy feel better." The bell rang, so we took our seats.

After class, Aaron made sure that he caught me before we went to our next classes. "Pete, I'm going over to see Jimmy after school."

"That sounds good. Would you check his Calc homework for yesterday and today? I'll be going over there myself, after practice today to help him with the rest of his AP classes. So, I'll see you if you're still there."

"Sure, Pete. See ya at lunch."

The rest of the morning was uneventful, until lunch.

I was talking to Tom and Stan about tomorrow's game when this guy, Greg, came walking up to the table.

"What the hell ya want Greg?" Tom spat out, "You here to cause more trouble?"

Greg looked down for a moment then looked directly into my eyes. "Pete, I'm not sure I understand this whole 'gay' thing, but I've had it drummed into me that there is nothing you can do about it." Greg hesitated for a moment. "I was suspended for a week and my dad has had several talks with me, not to mention what mom has had to say.

"The bottom line is that I've come to understand how wrong I was. Not just in my thinking about gay people, but particularly in trying to hurt you.

"I'm asking you to forgive me and accept my apology, Pete." Greg stood there holding out his hand.

I stood up, looking at him. He seemed to be honest in what he said, but could I trust him? The least I could do is meet him halfway. "I'd rather have a friend than an enemy, Greg." I held out my hand, "I accept your apology."

As we shook, Greg said, "I don't think we know each other enough to say we're friends, but I can say I'm no longer your enemy."

"That's good enough for me, Greg."

"Pete, how's come you're only 14 and a sophomore? I mean, you're kinda young to be a freshman let alone a sophomore," he asked.

"Here's the short version… My birthday is at the beginning of December. I had just turned 6 and my mom was home-schooling me. We lived way up in the Sierras. It took about an hour to get down to town and during the winter, we were snowed in. Early in January, my dad died. When things got settled down, we were living in San Bernardino. Mom registered me for school, thinking I would be in first grade. They tested me and wanted me to start third grade but mom didn't want me to skip that many grades, so I started in the second grade. That's how I'm in my sophomore year and because of when my birthday falls, that puts me anywhere from six to eighteen months younger than everyone else in my grade."

"That had to be hard with everyone being older than you."

"It wasn't easy. I was always smaller than almost everyone else, until about two years ago. So the bullies were always pickin' on me. I learned to fight real quick-like. That's why I have a low tolerance for bullies."

"Yeah, after that afternoon here in the cafeteria, some of my other friends told me how you took out Turner and I read about what you did to Breslen's old man. I don't think I would want to tangle with a full-grown man, let alone a big mechanic like him."

"It wasn't like I had a choice, Greg. He was in a blind rage and could have easily killed Jimmy…"

"Or you! Didn't you think of that?"

"No. There was no time to think of anything but to get him away from Jimmy before he killed him. 'Cause, that's what he would've done if'n I hadn't stopped him. It was just the right thing to do. Hell, it was the only thing I could do."

Greg just shook his head. "I'll have to think about that one, Pete. At any rate, I'll be seeing ya." He nodded and walked back to the table he had been sitting at.

Tom looked at me. "Pete, I don't believe what I just saw. Greg isn't a real bully, but he has his moments."

"I've found most people are easy to get along with if both will just listen to each other, instead of listening to what someone else has to say," I smirked after saying that.

"Ouch! I think I've just been schooled!" I snickered at him.

I glanced at the clock. "Oops, I've got a call to make." While everyone else continued to talk before the bell rang, I called Luke and apologized for not showing up yesterday. Then we all went to our next class.

After practice, I walked over to Jimmy's house. I was just a couple of blocks from Jimmy's place when Mitch caught up to me. "Pete, can we talk for just a minute or two?"

"Mitch, I promised to help Jimmy with his homework. But I have a minute I can spare." I stopped where I was since we were also about two blocks north of where Mitch lived. He would have to turn off here unless he followed me to Jimmy's. I didn't want that.

"I um… I'm not too good at this. Everything you said the other day was true." Mitch looked away from me for a couple of seconds, then looked straight into my eyes. "I like sex. Maybe too much. I like topping. I hooked up with you 'cause I thought you'd be an easy score. When you wouldn't take my 'hints' I got frustrated. I'd totally forgotten why we were keeping apart from each other. When Bobbie suggested going to the car show, I knew that at least one guy would be there that I could hook up with."

"OK, but why were you so cold after that, Mitch?" What's this all about? Was he trying to get back with me? Is that why he's telling me this stuff?

"I was angry, Pete. I was so angry with myself for what I had done. I knew if you found out, it would hurt you. So, I turned my anger with myself to being angry at you, for not giving me the sex I wanted. And that hurt you again, which made me even angrier with myself. So much so, that Tuesday I got really stupid and tried to hurt you physically."

"So why are you telling me all of this now? Why couldn't you tell me the other day?"

"Because I'm a coward. I didn't know how to tell you and still get back with you…"

"Mitch, that's not gonna happen. I had strong feelings for you. The operative word here is, 'had'. Last Monday, when you wouldn't come clean, even after I confronted you with what you had done… You hurt me Mitch, even worse than I had been hurt by my mom. You burned that bridge. Those feelings are just ashes." I looked at him, almost daring him to come up with another meaningless lie. I think he was just now understanding what he had done. His eyes were watery and on the verge of leaking.

I turned around and started to walk away.

"Pete! I'm so sorry…" Mitch's voice was cut off.

"Looky what we have here boys! We get two fags for the price of one!" I spun around at that voice, I knew exactly who it was. I was just in time to see Jeremy put a fist into Mitch's kidney, knocking him to his knees. I took my phone and hit the speed dial number officer Farley had given me, then tossed it aside. It landed in the grass.

Jeremy was just getting ready to kick Mitch in the head. I took a couple of steps, grabbed his foot, and yanked it up, hard. This flipped Jeremy onto his back. I swear I could hear the air whoosh out of his lungs when he hit the sidewalk. I looked up. The other two guys were closing in on me. Mark was the closest, so I took a step and leaped into the air, bringing my foot around, and delivering a solid kick to his face. I twisted in midair so I could land on my feet, just as Mark staggered back, colliding with Bob.

A quick glance at Mitch told me he was down for the count. Jeremy was getting up, however. Bob was untangling himself from Mark. I turned around again and landed a blow with my fist to Jeremy's temple as hard as I could.

Someone grabbed my arms from behind. I pulled my feet up and tucked into a roll, causing the guy who had me to be overbalanced. He went over my shoulder and when he came down, his head hit the sidewalk with an audible crack. Feeling someone else behind me, I lashed out with my leg, hoping whoever it was, was where I thought he was. Yup. I must've hit a knee judging from the feel of my foot and the scream that accompanied it.

Not sensing any movement, I stood up looking all around me. Jeremy was out cold, behind Mitch. Bob was on the sidewalk, but not moving. Mark was on the grass holding onto his right knee and screaming bloody murder. Mitch was on his right side with a hand on his left kidney, moaning. I was just standing there wondering where the hell these creeps had come from.

I could see people starting to come out of their houses and heard several sirens. Just then a car came screeching around the corner and skidded to a halt. Officer Farley hopped out with his gun drawn…

"Jumping Jehosaphat's! Peter! Couldn't you at least save me something to do?"

"Slowpoke!" I smirked, just before I sat down on the grass hard. My chest was pounding, and I felt a little lightheaded. "Shit! I think I broke my hand." Two other squad cars pulled up and some uniformed officers got out.

"OK, Pete. You seem to be the only one capable of talking, so tell me what I'm seeing here." Officer Farley began to take charge.

"Um, I was walking to Jimmy's house to help him with his homework. Mitch and I were talking as we walked. We were ambushed. Jeremy, that guy over there, punched Mitch in his kidney. I don't know if Mitch's kidney is damaged or not, but he's been on the ground since this started.

"I kicked that guy," pointing to Mark, "in the jaw. I saw Jeremy getting ready to beat on Mitch some more and put a fist into his temple. Bob grabbed me from behind and I flipped him over my shoulder. His head came down pretty hard on the sidewalk. He might have a concussion. Right after that, I back kicked Mark's knee.

"Then you showed up." I shrugged and winced while I continued to nurse my right hand. Now I felt my shoulder beginning to burn. Crap! That's all I need.

I could hear more sirens now. Mark was handcuffed… Still screaming about his knee. Mitch was sitting up and no longer moaning. Jeremy was awake and handcuffed. Bob was still out. Another cop had shown up and was working crowd control. It looked like half the neighborhood was out and looking at the mayhem. Just then the ambulances began arriving. As did dad.

He got out of his car and stood there. He started to walk over to me but the officer doing the crowd control stopped him. Dad said something to the officer and pointed to Officer Farley. The officer waved dad through. Just as he got close enough so that I didn't have to shout, "Hi dad. I think your plan worked… sorta."

Uh oh… he wasn't smiling, humor isn't going to help, but on the positive side, he wasn't scowling either. He squatted down next to me. "Are you hurt Pete?"

I shook my head. "No sir. Not really. My hand hurts from when I slugged Jeremy."

Dad nodded and looked around. "What's Mitch doing here, was he part of this?"

I shook my head again. "No sir. He was finally trying to apologize and I was reading him the riot act when we got ambushed."

"OK, you stay put. I'll get one of the EMTs over here, and I need to talk to Farley." He looked around at the mayhem and shook his head and walked over to Farley.

One of the EMTs was with Bob and looked at me. "Do you know what happened to him?"

"Um, yeah. He grabbed me from behind and I flipped him over my shoulder. His head hit the sidewalk pretty hard." The EMT retrieved a cervical collar and placed it around Bob's neck.

"Holy Cow, Pete!" I knew that voice. I looked up and sure enough, there was Jimmy and Aaron was with him. "No wonder you're so good at 'Call of Duty!' You practice the game in real life!" Aaron cracked up at Jimmy's dig.

Oh great. Just what I need, more witnesses. Can't a fella have a street brawl without the whole school knowing? "Naw dude! I just had to take care of my own homework before we got to yours!" One of the EMTs looked up and shook his head. I stood up, still opening and closing my hand. My knuckles were pretty bruised but not bleeding. I did a couple of shoulder stretches to work my range of motion. I guess that was mostly OK too.

I walked over to pick up my phone and shut it off when I heard Mitch telling the EMT that he wasn't gonna go to the hospital. I grabbed my phone and went over to Mitch. "Dude, let them take you in and get checked out."

"I'm OK, Pete."

"Yeah right. When did you get your medical degree? No, we don't know that. You took a hard punch to your kidney that dropped you. You really need to have someone check it out."

"We got a game tomorrow…"

"And if your kidney is damaged, what good are you going to be? How much of that game are you gonna be able to play? Should I mention that you could wind up in the emergency room having an operation to remove it?"

"I feel fine, now."

My phone was still in my hand and I turned it back on, scrolled through my contact list, and dialed Mitch's house. Mitch started to protest but I held up my hand. Dorothy answered the phone and I quickly told her what had happened and that Mitch was refusing to go to the hospital. I handed my phone to Mitch. I heard a couple of 'yes mams' before he disconnected and handed my phone back to me. He frowned and shrugged then let the EMT put him on a gurney and pack him off to one of the waiting ambulances.

It had been almost an hour. Most of the statements had been made. The injured had been carted off. The crowd around us was almost gone. Only one or two bystanders were still around us.

There was one guy who was talking to dad. He had a microphone and there was also a cameraman recording what the reporter and dad were saying. Terrific! Another reporter, maybe I should start a scrapbook. It piqued the interest of one of the last bystanders who walked over to them and conversed briefly with them. This guy went back into his house. The house that was directly behind where the brawl had happened. I watched dad and the reporter as they went with the man.

In about two minutes, dad came back out and motioned for Officer Farley to join them.

While all of this was going on, I had been BSing with Aaron and Jimmy. So I had to remark about what dad and those guys were doing. "Guys, have you noticed what's been going on the last few minutes?"

"Yeah. I was kinda wondering about that myself," Jimmy said.

Aaron looked around quickly and then focused on the house. He got a smile on his face. "Pete, look at the porch. Look real close."

I looked until it dawned on me what I was seeing. "Jeeze! A camera! You don't suppose the guy got the whole fight on camera do you?"

"Yeah, I do. With the reporter and your dad going in there with the homeowner and then calling that Officer in…" Aaron left the rest unsaid.

"That would be great! 'Cause I would sure like to know how Jeremy managed to ambush us."

"What do you mean? Didn't you see them?"

"No Jimmy, I didn't. I was busy being sorta mad at Mitch and wasn't seeing much else."

"Really? I thought you and he were friends?"

I didn't want to get into explaining what was going on, but I had to say something. "We're teammates, nothing more. He just did something that pissed me off and wouldn't admit it the other day. Today he was trying to apologize for what he did." I hoped that would suffice.

Aaron nodded as if he understood. I could tell that the light came on in Jimmy's eyes. He coughed and turned away for a moment.

Just then, Officer Farley came out of the house. "Charley!" He hollered, "Come with me. I need a witness."

I could see Officer Farley talking to his fellow officer but couldn't hear what was being said. They walked across the street to a car. Jeremy's car. Farley tried the door but it was locked. He said a few more words to the other officer who nodded his head. Farley went back to his car and radioed something, while the other officer got out some traffic cones.

The other officer set out the cones on the street and began running crime scene tape around Jeremy's car.

"I wonder what that's all about."

"Um, that's Jeremy's car. Whatever they think they want, it's in that car. Since Jeremy wasn't driving when the cops all arrived, they need a warrant to get into it. I'll bet that's what Farley radioed about."

"You almost got it all correct, Peter." I was so intent on what the cops were doing, I hadn't seen dad come out of the house.

"So what's going on, Dad? What part didn't I get right?"

"The guy has surveillance cameras around his house. The one in front captured the whole fight, including when they drove up and parked. It shows Jeremy getting out of the car and pulling something from under his T-shirt and stuffing it under the driver's seat. The camera resolution wasn't good enough to see what he hid. Could be drugs or it could be a firearm.

"Because of the fight, and that the video showed him stashing something before attacking you and Mitch, Farley has probable cause to search the car. Since it is locked, they need a search warrant to break in and search. They still have probable cause, so it's just a matter of following the proper steps to authorize the search.

"I'm hoping it was drugs. Whether it's drugs or guns, it'll be something else to charge them with."

I was released before Farley had his warrant. Dad insisted that we go to the after-hours care center so my hand and shoulder could be looked at. I really didn't want to go, since I felt everything was just fine. "Peter, do you want to play baseball? If so, then we need to make sure you are medically fit." That was an argument I couldn't refute for two reasons. I had used almost the same argument to get Mitch looked at and I did think my hand was broken, at first.

It turned out my knuckles were just bruised. The doc had me do some of my range-of-motion exercises. He gave me the OK. Nothing was majorly stressed and there were a few other bruises. So we went on home.

Saturday morning came and I did my usual. When it was time, I left for the locker room at school, suited up, and boarded the bus for our next game. It was an away game that would take us about two hours to get to the field. I noticed right off the bat that Mitch wasn't there. I looked around and noticed that Mark Critchfield, our relief shortstop, was acting nervous as all get out.

I went and sat next to him. "Dude! You should be all excited!"

"Yeah right. I know I wanted to play, but not this soon. Does anyone know why Mitch isn't here?"

Before I could make up my mind to say anything, Stan, our right fielder and clean-up batter, chimed in. "Yeah. He was in one heck of a fight yesterday and injured his kidneys. I thought Pete was gonna say something since he knows all about it."

"Stan, where did you get that information?" I asked.

"YouTube. There's a one-minute video of the fight." Stan was positively beaming. "All I know is that I never want to get you pissed at me!"

"Ah Hell! That video is police evidence and was supposed to have been confiscated."

"Who watches a one-minute video?" "Where is it? I want to see." "Stan, show me!" "Shit man!" "Did you see that?" "Jeez…" "Holy Crap!" "That's gotta hurt!" "Play it again." The voices were becoming loud and wild as more and more players clued into something 'good'.

"Everyone quiet! Williams! Get your butt up here! Now!" Everyone got quiet. When Coach Anderson hollers like that, you simply obey. Or else.

I stood up from my seat and walked up to the front of the bus. As I made my way up the aisle, there were a lot of smiles and thumbs up. When I got to the front, Coach Anderson and Coach Jonas both had their phones out. Jonas was smiling as he looked at me and mouthed, "ninja". I sorta slumped. I didn't need more of this. I really, really didn't.

"Is this for real, Williams?" Coach Anderson showed me his phone and triggered the video. After watching it, I just shook my head. At least now I knew how they had ambushed us. My whole attention had been on Mitch and I wasn't watching what was going on around me.

Still, how did that video get sent up to YouTube? I knew the reporter didn't have a copy. In fact, he had agreed to hold off on the story until tomorrow. Supposedly, the police had the original and no copies were made. Unless…

"Coach, umm, yes sir, unfortunately, it's for real. You saw the hit that Mitch took? It was to his left kidney. I had to call his mom in order to get him to agree to get medical attention. He wasn't going to go with the EMTs. Since he isn't here, I think he probably had some kidney damage.

"I'm a bit surprised and worried that this video is public. The police confiscated the original and no copies were made at the scene. The only explanation I can think of is that the guy had his cameras set to upload to the cloud as it was captured."

Coach Anderson looked at me speculatively and nodded. "If he sent this out to YouTube, you can bet the police will charge him with obstruction." He paused. "Well, once they find out it is there!" He paused again.

"OK… Williams I'm trying to wrap my head around this." Coach raised the phone slightly as he spoke. "I just saw it for myself, but I've still gotta ask… You really did that to those three?"

I nodded, then in self-defense, I added. "At least our plan worked."

"Plan? What do you mean? What plan?"

So I told both coaches what had been happening with Jeremy, his threats, his stalking, and what we had decided to do. As I was talking to them, the guys in the next two rows could hear pretty much everything I said.

"... I was bait. Officer Farley and Dad knew every place I was going to go to and the route I would take. Officer Farley had bought a disposable cell, he called it a 'burner,' and I had that number on speed dial in my phone. I was the only one who had the number of the burner, so there would be no incoming calls but mine. He was never more than a few seconds away from my route, wherever it was that I was going. We sorta mapped out the routes I would take to get to the places I needed to go. So, with the help of the GPS Locator App on both phones, Officer Farley would know exactly where I was if he got a call from me.

"We knew there was a risk but we all figured that I would see the punks and would have time to run and use the speed dial. That would give Officer Farley time to get there before anyone got hurt… Well, too badly hurt.

"Having Mitch there was a wildcard. We didn't expect that. I wasn't paying attention to anything but Mitch. That's when they showed up. Until I saw that video I had no idea where they came from. I was lucky, Jeremy was dumb and Mitch got caught in the middle. If they had left Mitch alone and ganged up on me, I wouldn't have had the time to call Officer Farley. If they had come at me all at once, I would likely still be in the hospital. Or the morgue.

"What surprised me was how fast it all happened. The fight started and was over in less than 20 seconds, with Officer Farley arriving a few seconds later. I would have sworn it took a lot longer than that!"

By the time we boarded the bus, after the game to return to school, everyone was subdued. We had won our game, 7 to 6. Two errors were given to Critchfield who had bungled the ball both times and allowed two runs to come in. We should have been thrilled. I guess the whole fight thing had everybody in a down mood.

About halfway home, I couldn't stand it anymore and stood up and went up front. "Coach? Have you heard anything about Mitch?"

"No. Not yet."

I took my phone out and called Mitch's house. "Hi Mrs. Thomas, it's Pete. How is Mitch doing?" I listened for a few moments, "Yeah, that's pretty good news. I'm so sorry he was hurt…" I listened some more. "OK Mrs. Thomas. I'll let everyone know. Please let Mitch know we won our game today." … "Alright. Talk to you later, bye."

"Coach, Mitch has a bruised kidney. He was initially passing blood in his urine so the docs want him on bed rest for a week. If the tests are all good next Friday, he can come back to school. It may be another week before he is released for full activity."

"Williams, go ahead and let everyone know. It should cheer them up."

I walked back about halfway into the bus. "Guys! Mitch is gonna be OK. He has a bruised kidney, but nothing major. He'll be back in a week or so. So, come on guys! Cheer up, we won our game."

"Yeah, but you guys could have been killed yesterday," Someone said.

"But no one was and it was yesterday. Nothing can change any of that. Today we won our game! Mitch is happy! We should be happy too!"

And that started the ball rolling. Little by little, the team began celebrating. It was a happy bus when we pulled into the school's back parking lot.

As I stepped off of the bus, Coach Anderson pointed to the two guys standing by dad's car. "Let's go over and talk to the gentlemen, Williams."

The Coach told Jonas to make sure the guys changed out and went home, then we walked over to dad and Officer Farley. After the ritual adult greetings and handshakes, the coach looked at Farley, "Officer, is there any way you can keep this young man from injuring the rest of the junior class?"

"Hmm, I take it you've seen the video?" Anderson nodded. "For what it's worth, it's been taken down. Seems it violated YouTube's anti-violence policy."

"God only knows how many people have seen it," Anderson said.

Dad scowled, "The view count was up to several million views before it disappeared."

I sighed. "I bet that's not counting how many actually downloaded it and sent it to their friends."

"Yeah. Let's hope it's just kids. If too many adults, here in Elko, watched it, we may have to change the venue for the trials." Farley quipped.


"We found drugs and a gun in Jeremy's car. The DA is wanting to charge them as adults."

"Officer Farley? Are they all in jail now? I don't need to keep looking over my shoulder, do I?"

"They're all in custody, Pete." I could tell by Officer Farley's eyes that there was more to this, but I wasn't gonna press the issue. "Oh, and Pete, be prepared. There will be a front-page story in tomorrow's paper. That's as long as we could hold the reporter off."

"This is gonna be all over school, come Monday morning. Again!" I groaned. "I hope it doesn't go any further."

"Don't count on that, Williams," said Coach Jonas as he walked up to us. "Anderson, everyone is out of the building and I've locked it up."

"Coach," I asked, "what do you mean?"

"That reporter is a friend of mine. He called me and was bragging that he has sold his story about you to the New York Times."

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