Everything But Love

by Joel Young

Chapter 14

I Want to Go Home!

"Tell us what happened," a man in a Sheriff's uniform said to me. He was standing next to another man in a white lab coat. "How did you get ahold of the gun?"

I was in the Pike County Hospital just west of Tellico Falls. I had bandages around my forehead. I was still scared, and I felt nauseous. I'd already answered the same question from several different people since I had shot one of my kidnappers and ran to get help at the first house I could find.

"I grabbed the gun when Darryl wasn't looking," I answered.

"And tell us how that happened?" the Deputy Sheriff said. "The coroner found a bite mark on the man's – private parts."

"Coroner?" I asked. "Does that mean Darryl is dead?"

"I'm afraid so," the Sheriff said. "You shot him straight through the heart at close range."

Part of me was horrified that I had killed a man. But mostly, I was relieved. "I'm glad he's dead," I said.

"Tell me more about how you got possession of the gun. And what about the bite mark?" the Sheriff asked.

"He made me do it. He held the gun to my head," I answered, hoping that I wouldn't have to go into further embarrassing detail. But of course, the Sheriff wanted to hear more.

"What did Darryl Snyder make you do when he held the gun up to your head?" the Sheriff asked.

"You know what he made me do!" I responded angrily. "He let go of the gun just as he was about to - finish. That's when I bit him and grabbed the gun. When he stood up and came after me, I shot him."

The man next to the Deputy said, "I think Mr. Covington needs to rest now. You can talk to him again later."

Reluctantly, the Deputy left. The man in the white lab coat introduced himself as Dr. Desmond. "You've been beaten up pretty bad," he said. "But you're lucky that there are no serious injuries. How are you feeling?"

"Like I was just run over by a truck," I answered. "When can I go home?"

"Well," he said. "I'd discharge you today, but you need to see our psychiatrist before you leave. And there's a Sheriff's hold on your release."

I was totally confused. "I don't need a psychiatrist!" I said. "I'm not crazy! And what the – I mean, what's a Sheriff's hold?"

"Well," Dr. Desmond explained. "The Sheriff doesn't want you to leave the hospital until they have reviewed the report of your injuries and have finished their interrogations. And the psychiatrist needs to assess your mental status. Since you were physically beaten and sexually abused, and because you did kill your attacker, well – we just need to know that you're okay."

"I'm fine," I said. "I just want to go home. My aunt will take good care of me, and I can come back to the hospital if you guys need to see me again."

"James," Dr. Desmond said. "Once you're discharged, you won't be going back to your aunt's house. Your parents have rescinded your aunt's guardianship of you. Their lawyer is here in Arkansas to take you back to your home in Connecticut. There is a court order preventing any member of the Dwyer family from having contact with you, and you can't have any visitors. You'll be going straight to the airport from the hospital."

It took a moment for what Dr. Desmond told me to sink in. I didn't want to go home to my parents! I had adjusted to living on the farm with Aunt Gretchen and Uncle Nathan. I was happy there, and I finally had some real friends.

"I'm not going home to Connecticut!" I said. "They can't make me! And even if they could, why won't they let me see my aunt and uncle?"

Dr. Desmond looked hesitant to answer my question. "You'll have to talk to the Deputy Sheriff about that," he said. "I'll see if he's still here."

A few minutes later, the Deputy came back into my room. This time, I noticed that his badge indicated that his last name was Burns. "I understand you have some questions for me," he said.

"Why can't I see my Aunt Gretchen and Uncle Nathan?" I asked. "They're the only family I have in Arkansas, and I want to see them."

"I'm afraid that's impossible," Deputy Burns said. "Until we figure out what happened, you can't see anyone who is under investigation for your kidnapping."

"What are you talking about?!?" I demanded to know. "My aunt and uncle didn't kidnap me! It was that man Darryl and his friend Zeke who took me."

"Mr. Covington," the Deputy said, "It's your cousin Mason that we're investigating, not your aunt and uncle. According to Zeke Potter, Darryl Snyder paid some young guy to make sure you were at the Revco parking lot on the morning of the kidnapping. Based on what you said happened, we believe that Mason Dwyer may have been involved."

"That's ridiculous!" I said. "Mason wouldn't do that to me! He and I might not get along very well, but we're family!"

"Well, until this matter is cleared up, you have to stay away from everyone in the Dwyer home," Deputy Burns said. "You should rest now."

I couldn't believe what was happening. I had just been through the worst experience of my life, and I wasn't being allowed to see my family or talk to my friends! That seemed horribly cruel! I just wanted to be around people who cared about me. I wanted to go home – to Aunt Gretchen!

A nurse came into my room and asked a lot of questions about how I was feeling, any pain I was experiencing, and if I were still nauseous. As she was writing in my chart, I noticed a phone on a rolling nightstand on the other side of the room. I waited until she was about to leave before asking her to bring the phone closer to my bed. I was surprised when she did as I asked. She must not have known that I wasn't supposed to talk with anyone.

I picked up the phone and dialed my aunt's number. She answered almost immediately. "Aunt Gretchen," I said." I want to come home! I really need you."

"James!" she said. "Oh, baby, are you okay? Those bad men didn't hurt you, did they?"

"They beat me up, Aunt Gretchen," I said. "They were really mean - and I killed one of them."

"Oh my God, James!" she said, "That's terrible!"

"The doctor says I don't have any serious injuries, but the Sheriff won't let me leave the hospital. Please, Aunt Gretchen! Please get me out of here." I broke down crying. "I just want to come home!"

Suddenly, I felt someone grab the phone out of my hand. It was the nurse who had just left my room. "The Head Nurse just told me you're not allowed to talk with anyone on the phone," she said. She sounded angry. "You could have gotten me into a lot of trouble!" She slammed down the phone, unplugged it, and took it with her as she left in a huff.

I felt trapped – similar to the way I felt when I was abducted. For the rest of the day, I just stayed in my bed feeling very much alone.

"Your appointment with the psychiatrist is this morning," Dr. Desmond said when he came to my room during his early rounds the next day. "There's no reason for you to be nervous. We just want to make sure you're okay. You've been through a traumatic experience, and you need to talk with someone about it. You'll like Dr. Everhart. She's the head of our Child Psychiatry Department."

"I'm not a child!" I said. "I'm fourteen years old. And I don't need to see a shrink! I'm not crazy."

"Well, you should talk with her anyway," Dr. Desmond said. "If she recommends it, you might be able to have some visitors."

That caught my attention. I was desperate to see my friends and family. So, I decided to cooperate with the appointment. Dr. Everhart came to my room at about 10:00 that morning. She pulled up a chair next to my bed and introduced herself.

"I've read the reports about what happened to you," she said. "You were very brave when you managed to escape. Do you mind telling me about it?"

"It was awful," I said. "The guy I killed – his name was Darryl – he was really mean to me. He hit me and slammed my head into the wall. He made me drink alcohol until I passed out. And he held a gun to my head. He kept talking about how he might have to kill me."

"That must have been terrifying," Dr. Everhart said. "And traumatic. Sometimes, people who have experienced trauma like that try to put the memories of the event out of their minds. In my experience, however, I find that talking about what happened helps. I understand that there might have been a sexual assault. Are you able to talk about that?"

"If I say, 'No,' will you leave me alone?" I asked. "It's humiliating, and I don't want to talk about it. I just want to go home and see my family and friends. Can you help me get out of here? Please!"

'What you're feeling is normal," Dr. Everhart said. "Your ordeal was not your fault. I'm sure what happened was humiliating. But you can tell me about the experience, and I won't be judgmental. Whatever happened, I know that you were threatened and couldn't control the situation."

"Fine!" I said angrily. "He made me take off all my clothes and give him a blow-job. There! Is that what you wanted to know! Can I go home now?"

"You have every right to be angry, James." Dr. Everhart said. "You were brutally abused by those men. What was going through your mind when you fired the gun at Mr. Snyder?"

"I was scared more than I was angry," I said. "And I – I, ah, wanted to kill him so he couldn't hurt me anymore! I hated him, and I'm glad I shot him!"

Dr. Everhart and I talked for another half hour, and I started to feel a little better. She was a very caring person, and I liked her. I thought maybe she would arrange for me to go home.

"I can't recommend that you go to your aunt's house," Dr. Everhart said. "Since there is a concern about your cousin's possible involvement in your kidnapping, going to the Dwyer home would be too stressful and potentially dangerous. I do, however, think it would be good for you to have a friend visit. Is there anyone special you'd like to see?"

"I want to see my friend, Mark," I said. "I trust him."

"Would you tell him about what happened to you?" Dr. Everhart asked.

"Some of it," I said. "You don't think I should go into detail, do you? I mean about the embarrassing parts."

"That shouldn't be necessary," the doctor said. "You can share what you feel comfortable sharing. If your friend asks questions that cause you anxiety, be honest with him. Just say you're not ready to talk about some of the details. Is there anyone else you want to see?"

I thought about asking to see Justin, but I decided not to do that. I wasn't ready to talk with him about how he had betrayed me by sharing my personal information with his brother. I still thought Justin was at least partly responsible for the article in the Jonesboro Examiner. And I was questioning if that article in the paper may have led Darryl and Zeke to kidnap me for ransom.

An hour after Dr. Everhart left, a new nurse came into my room. She introduced herself and asked me the same questions that I had answered before. She said that the psychiatrist had approved me to have one visitor. She plugged in the phone and told me I could call one friend. I was excited that I could call Mark, but at the same time, I felt like I had just been arrested, and now I was being allowed to make my one phone call.

I dialed Mark's phone number, and Mrs. Salinger answered. When I asked to speak with Mark, she seemed hesitant. "I'm very sorry for all you've been through, James," she finally said. "But maybe we should wait a while before you talk with Mark. His father and I think that there has been too much – trouble - in your family. We don't want Mark around any of that."

I felt as if the floor had just given way under my feet, and I teared up. "Why is everyone so mean to me," I thought to myself. "It's not fair!" But I wasn't about to argue with Mrs. Salinger.

"Will you tell him I called?" I asked.

"That would just upset him, James," she answered. "You don't want that, do you? Anyway, we all hope you get better soon. Bye." Then she hung up the phone.

I was devastated.

The nurse put her hand on my shoulder. She must have figured out what had just happened. "Why don't you call another friend?" she said.

"Can I think about that?" I asked. "I don't know what I want to do right now."

"Of course," the nurse said. "I'll tell the other nurses that you can make one more call. But I still have to take the phone with me."

I debated as to whether or not I should call Justin. I knew he would take my call, and I thought he'd come to see me as soon as he possibly could. And I knew he loved me. Still, I wasn't sure if I could see him without accusing him of causing my problems. I decided, however, to risk it. I needed someone I knew to be with me. I buzzed for the nurse. She brought the phone to me and stayed in the room.

I dialed Justin's phone number, and he answered. "James!" he exclaimed when he realized it was me. "Are you alright? Where are you? I've been worried sick!"

"I'm in the Pike County Hospital," I said. "The doctor says I'll be fine. But the Sheriff won't let me see Aunt Gretchen or Uncle Nathan. The psychiatrist said I could have one friend visit me. Could you come and …"

"Of course!" Justin said before I could finish my sentence. "Can I come tonight? I can be there in about an hour."

I smiled to myself before answering. I was pleased that Justin seemed excited about seeing me. "I'd like that," I replied. But I felt like teasing him. "I mean, that will be okay – as long as you don't bring CeCe."

"Hey!" Justin said. "You know I'm not interested in CeCe! I only went out with her because my brother put me on the spot."

"I know. I was just pulling your leg," I said.

Justin was quiet for a moment. "James," he finally said. "There's something I need to tell you – about my brother. I feel terrible about it now, but I told him about your real Dad and how rich your parents are. I don't know why I did it. I promised you I wouldn't say anything, but I broke my promise. I'm so sorry."

"We can talk about that when you get here," I said.

"Okay," Justin said. "But I hope you can forgive me."

"See you tonight," I said. I hung up the phone, and I felt a big knot forming in my stomach.

About an hour later, a lady brought my dinner. I was starving! I devoured the Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, and succotash. I finished every bit of the tiny serving of fruit compote on my tray. After eating, I felt much better. I was less jittery, and I was ready to see Justin.

A nurse's aide was taking my vital signs when Justin walked into my room. I knew we couldn't greet each other as lovers desperate to see each other. But that couldn't stop me from lighting up when I saw him. Yes, I was still upset that he might have unknowingly contributed to my humiliation from the newspaper article and possibly to my kidnapping. But I loved him, and I wanted to feel his arms around me.

As soon as Justin and I were alone, I had him draw the curtain around my bed. That didn't provide much privacy, but it was better than nothing. "Oh, my God!" Justin said. "I had no idea that you were so beaten up! Are you going to be okay?"

"I'll be fine," I said.

He reached out to me, and I leaned over and hugged him as tightly as I could. Justin held me for a long time. He seemed to know how much I needed to feel some security, warmth, and affection. It was as if I were a young child again - back in Connecticut and craving some love and attention from my parents. Justin's loving arms, cuddling me, and responding to my needs, was better medicine than any the doctors and nurses could ever give me. I realized at that moment I would forgive Justin for any act of indiscretion that may have contributed to my problems.

When I released him from my death grip of a hug, he leaned over and kissed me. That kiss was like a breath of fresh air after emerging from a burning building. All of a sudden, I wasn't scared anymore. I knew someone cared about me and had my back. Justin loved me in a way no one ever had, and I would be loyal to him forever.

We heard someone come into the room. We separated as quickly as we could. Moments later, Dr. Everhart called out, "James, may I talk with you for a minute?" I told her to come in, and she drew the curtain back.

"This is my friend, Justin," I said. "Thank you for letting him come to see me. I feel better already."

"Well, you are most welcome," Dr. Everhart said. "Justin, I'm Dr. Everhart. It's a pleasure to meet you. I can see that you've picked up our patient's spirits already."

"I'd do anything for James," Justin said. "He's my best friend in the world."

Dr. Everhart seemed surprised at such a strong declaration of friendship from Justin, but she moved on to the business that brought her to my room. "The Sheriff's department wants one final interview with you tomorrow morning. I'd like to sit in if that's okay with you. Your parents' lawyer will be there, too. Hopefully, after the meeting, Dr. Desmond and I will sign your discharge papers, and you can go home to your parents."

I noticed Justin react to Dr. Everhart's mention of me going home to my parents.

"How does that sound?" Doctor Everhart asked. "Are you ready to get out of here?"

"Yes," I said. "And I'd like you to be there with me when I talk to the Sheriff. He makes me nervous."

"I'll arrange a time for the meeting, and Dr. Desmond will contact the attorney." She turned and shook Justin's hand. "It was nice to meet you," Dr. Everhart said as she left the room.

Justin looked at me and asked, "What's going on, James? Aren't you going back to our aunt's house?"

I teared up as I shook my head. "They won't let me. They're making me go back to Connecticut."

"Why?!? Why would they do that?" Justin asked as he began to get upset. "Is that what you want?"

"No!" I said. "I want to stay here – with you."

Justin was quiet for a moment or so. Then, he asked, "So, what are we going to do?"

"I have to go home to my parents. But I'll talk them into letting me come back here," I said. "I promise! Just don't give up on me!"

"I won't," Justin assured me. He looked around the room to make sure no one was listening. "I love you, James. And I'm so sorry I told my brother about what you asked me to keep to myself. I don't think Tom told anyone, but I should have kept my mouth shut."

"Might as well get this out in the open," I thought to myself. "Better here – in person, rather than later on the phone."

"Tom told his girlfriend," I said, trying not to show any emotion. "Then, Babs told her grandmother, Mrs. Carter – the one who goes to our church – the one who hates me. She's the one who called the Examiner."

Justin immediately realized the full implications of what I had just told him. His jaw dropped, and he looked horrified.

"Oh, my God!" he said. "It was all my fault! I started the whole thing with the newspaper!" Then, Justin looked even more aghast. "And that's how the kidnappers found out about you! I did this to you!" Justin broke down crying. "I'm sorry, James," he said as he sobbed out loud. "Oh, God! I am so sorry!"

"Come here," I said as I reached for him and pulled his shaking body into my arms. "It's all right, Justin," I said. "You didn't do anything on purpose. You didn't mean any harm. It was Mrs. Carter who wanted to hurt me. And it was the kidnappers who took me against my will. I don't blame you for anything."

Justin pulled free from my arms and looked at me intently. His blue eyes were filled with tears, and he looked devastated. "I'll never forgive myself for hurting you," he said as he broke down again. I held him in my arms, and he clung to me.

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