Can You Spare a Quarter

by Tigerpaw

Chapter 16

A New Beginning

By the time that Frank had been returned to the waiting room by Melody the number of police had thinned somewhat but Logan was still there along with the sergeant overseeing the case and several corporals that were assisting with the investigation. Working with the hospital staff they were coordinating the various reports that had to be filed on Jamie's case, cataloguing evidence samples for analysis, and ensuring that the necessary statements were taken from the doctors that had initially examined Jamie and those that were with him in the operating room saving his life. Frank saw that Graham had laid down and fallen asleep on the sofa and sat down in a chair next to him.

About twenty minutes later another corporal ran into the waiting room the group had appropriated and went up to the sergeant and began talking quietly but urgently with him. The corporal was arguing with the sergeant in heated but quiet tones and this caught Logan's attention and he went over to listen. Several times they glanced in Graham's and then Frank's direction while continuing to argue. At one point the corporal pointed directly at Frank but the sergeant shook his head and it was clear that the corporal did not agree. Finally, his efforts to convince the sergeant exhausted, the corporal left. Logan spoke to the sergeant for a moment then looked at Frank and finally motioned him off to one side with a sideways nod of his head.

"I thought you might be interested to learn that a raid was just carried out on Jamie's parent's house and the investigators found something very curious inside," said Logan quietly.

"What would that be?" asked Frank innocently.

"Seems they found Jamie's father there. He was beaten up pretty thoroughly, knocked out cold, and whoever he was fighting gave him a busted jaw," began Logan. "In one of the bedrooms they found a big collection of movies and pictures with Jamie in them being abused by his father as well as other people. They also nabbed the mother who was making a break for it out the back way with a fully packed suitcase. A nice tidy package all wrapped up like it was still Christmas. They're not going to have a prayer at trial between what we found and what the doctor's here have for us."

"You don't say," remarked Frank. "That is good news."

"I don't suppose you would know anything about any of that would you?" asked Logan gently. "The father was a very big guy I've been told. It would have to have been someone that was pretty strong themselves to be able to manage doing that to a guy his size."

"I'd never do anything that wasn't appropriate to the situation," said Frank keeping his face expressionless.

"That's what the sergeant thought too," whispered Logan. "By the way, did you know that soft earth retains footprints? Unfortunately however it seems that one of the fellows didn't watch where he was walking and messed them up so it wasn't possible to get a proper set of impressions."

"That's too bad," said Frank looking at Logan with surprise.

"You might also want to get your hands looked at. You don't want to get an infection from having touched anything unpleasant," added Logan.

"Yes I'd better go talk to one of the nurses," said Frank. "I cut myself shaving this morning."

"If it'd been my boy I'd have cut myself shaving too," said Logan quietly as he walked away to get himself a cup of coffee.

Frank breathed a sigh of relief and looked up to see the sergeant looking pointedly at him. Frank nodded nervously at the sergeant who smiled, returned the nod, and then turned back to the report he was working on.

After a few more hours of pacing, dozing, and leafing aimlessly through old magazines Melody and Frank finally managed to convince Graham that he needed to go home and get some rest. Graham only relented when Frank pointed out that when Jamie did finally awake it was not going to do Jamie any good if the first thing he saw were Graham's bloodshot eyes from having had no sleep. Graham was emotionally as well as physically exhausted from the traumatic series of events and he let Frank drive him back to the small basement apartment.

"Wake up," said Frank shaking Graham's shoulder.

"I'm tired ... what do you want?" said Graham groggily. Then suddenly remembering everything Graham sat up and said quickly, "What's happened? Is Jamie OK?"

"You better believe he's OK," said Frank with a big smile. "He's awake and we're going to go and see him."

Hearing the news Graham stormed out of bed and set a new record for getting ready. While Graham was organizing himself Frank folded the sofa bed back together and then rolled up the sleeping bag that he had used during the night which had been laying next to the bed. Then Frank picked up Jamie's backpack which was sitting on the floor next to where he had slept and took it outside and put it in the back seat of the car.

"Where'd the sleeping bag come from?" said Graham coming out of the bathroom.

"You were out like a light when we got here," said Frank. "So after I opened up the sofa and dumped you on it I called up Dave and he had a spare sleeping bag he brought over for me. He keeps one tucked away at the office for emergencies."

Less than half an hour after being woken up Graham and Frank were out the door and getting into the car. Graham fired up the engine and the little car's tires screeched as they turned onto the street and then headed for the hospital.

"Take it easy! We want to be going in the front door of the hospital and not end up being taken in the rear entrance," joked Frank.

In less than ten minutes Graham was pulling into the parking lot at Children's Hospital and parked the car. Frank reached into the back seat and grabbed Jamie's backpack and then Graham locked the car up.

"Why are you bringing that with you?" asked Graham.

"Jamie is going to want it," said Frank simply without further explanation.

The two men then ran towards the hospital entrance. Less than a minute later they were both standing in front of the admitting desk slightly out of breath.

"Is Melody on duty today?" gasped Graham.

"Yes she is," replied the duty nurse. "I'll page her for you."

Graham paced back and forth while waiting for Melody to come downstairs and seeing that he was preoccupied Frank walked over to the waiting room and spoke quietly to a police investigator who was still sitting inside the waiting room cataloguing the various reports related to Jamie's case. The investigator listened carefully to Frank and then picked up his radio and made a quick call. Frank then walked back to the entrance to the hospital and waited just outside. Several minutes later a police car pulled up and the sergeant in charge of the investigation got out and talked quickly with Frank. Both of them then went back into the hospital and waited with Graham for Melody to arrive.

About ten minutes later the elevator doors opened and Melody emerged.

"How is he?" asked Graham anxiously.

"The improvement is remarkable," replied Melody with obvious pleasure. "He's off the ventilator and breathing on his own now. He's still very weak but he's awake and responsive. We still have a nasal cannula attached but that's just to give him some extra oxygen to make his breathing easier. He's a hundred times better than he was when he was brought in."

"Oh that's wonderful!" exclaimed Graham while Frank and the sergeant stood nearby with big smiles on their faces.

"Can we go and see him?" asked Frank.

"If you don't he's going to drive the staff in ICU crazy," joked Melody. "He's pressing the buzzer every couple of minutes asking if you've arrived yet."

"Sounds to me like he's definitely on the mend," said the sergeant with a grin. "It's when they don't say anything that you have to worry."

"Jamie's voice is going to sound a bit raw," cautioned Melody. "It's nothing to worry about however, it's just a temporary side effect of him having been on the ventilator."

The group walked to the elevator and went up to the intensive care unit. While they were putting on the protective gowns and masks they all looked up as an electronic tone sounded.

"You'd better get in there," chuckled the watch nurse. "He's going to wear out that button if you don't."

Melody led Graham, Frank, and the sergeant into the restricted area and they walked down the row of beds. This time Graham had no problems knowing which one was Jamie's. It was the only bed where there was a patient who was trying to sit up, let alone moving at all. Approaching the bed they could hear a nurse admonishing Jamie to not move around so soon after surgery.

"You've got to be still," she said anxiously. "Your doctor's going to skin me alive if he sees you moving around like this."

"Jamie!" said Graham, perhaps a bit too loudly for the environment.

"Graham! Frank!" said Jamie with a very hoarse voice which while weak was only slightly less enthusiastic.

"How's it going there Tiger?" asked Frank.

"They've got me all wired up," said Jamie huskily. "If I move my fingers just right I can change the channel people are watching on the TV in the waiting room."

"That's so they can monitor you while you get better," said Graham with a gentle laugh.

"You look just like the back of the computer in Jason's bedroom," chuckled Frank.

"The way they've got you hooked up if I get you a headset I think you'll be able to help take our police calls," said the sergeant.

"We're so relieved that you're doing better," said Graham. "If you keep on improving like this it won't be long before you'll be able to leave."

"The doctor said he has to do a couple more things but he wants to wait for a few days before he does them," said Jamie.

"They need you to be a bit stronger first," said Graham. "Then you'll be able to handle it OK."

"It won't be too bad," said Frank. "They just want to give you a new coat of paint and polish up the chrome on your bumper."

"I think my bumper could use some polishing after what happened," said Jamie with an embarrassed smile.

"I brought this for you," said Frank pulling Jamie's backpack out from underneath his protective gown. "I think there's something in it that you meant to give to the sergeant here."

"You have it!" exclaimed an enormously relieved Jamie. "I've been scared that I'd lost it after everything that happened. Can you get it out for me?"

Frank reached into the backpack and pulled out a dog-eared notebook and passed it to Jamie.

Jamie took the notebook, quickly opened it, and checked inside briefly. Then he closed it and held it out towards the sergeant and said, "When you talk with my dad ask him about some of the people that I've got written down in here. That should keep him busy trying to explain everything."

The sergeant took the notebook from Jamie and opened it and read the first few entries and his eyebrows went up. He then flipped a few pages and read some more.

"You made these notes?" asked the sergeant. "These entries are records of what these people were doing to you?"

"Yes sir," said Jamie. "I wasn't able to all the time, but when I could I tried to write down the people's names and what happened."

"This is why you went back isn't it," said the sergeant clearly impressed.

"I wanted to make sure he knew I hadn't forgotten him", said Jamie darkly. "I hoped that one day I'd be able to pay him back for what he did to me."

"You're an incredibly brave young man," said the sergeant. "I'll make sure that this is put to good use immediately."

"I think Jamie needs to rest now," said Melody.

"You take it easy Jamie," said Graham with a smile. "We'll have you up and out of here before you know it."

"And stop flirting with the nurses," said Frank with mock seriousness. "We're getting complaints from their husbands."

"Awww," said Jamie with a good imitation of a pout.

Graham, Frank, and the sergeant began to leave when Jamie said, "Can Frank stay for just a minute? I need to ask him something."

"Only for a minute," said Melody putting just strong hint of mother- knows-best into her voice as she escorted Graham and the sergeant out towards the observation room.

"What is it Jamie?" asked Frank leaning over Jamie's bed.

"I heard one of the nurses talking and I sort of remember something but I don't know if I was just dreaming or not," began Jamie. "Did you ... I mean, did ..."

Frank understood what Jamie was asking and placed one of his hands on Jamie's and said, "You will never have to worry about him again now."

Looking down at the cuts and scrapes on Frank's hand, which was resting on his own, and his bruised face, Jamie said softly, "You didn't have to do that. I know you're not that kind of person, not like he is. You're going to feel bad about it later."

"I wanted to make sure it would never happen again," said Frank. "It's worth it to know that you're safe and that it's over with for good."

"Thanks," said Jamie feeling a massive weight lifting from his shoulders. "It's going to be good to not keep wondering when the next time is going to be."

"Never again Jamie," said Frank with kindness. "Never again."

Jamie's progress was rapid and word spread quickly through the hospital staff about the newest patient in ICU. When he had first arrived the staff that had worked to save him had fully expected the worst but now it was as if a dark cloud had lifted from hanging over the hospital and the positive feelings quickly spread throughout the entire facility. With Jamie improving each day and now able to receive visitors for short periods of time he was being visited frequently by police investigators. Graham or Frank always sat with Jamie while the questions were being asked so he would not feel alone and it hurt them to hear what was being said but they never left his side. Even some of the older well-seasoned officers sometimes had to pause as they took notes based on the information that Jamie was giving to them. After a couple more days in intensive care with no signs of complications appearing Jamie was transferred to a private room. This afforded him with more privacy and also gave more space for visitors.

The morning after Jamie had been moved, Graham and Frank arrived at the hospital only to find Pony and several other members from Pony's tribe all standing just outside the door to Jamie's room. The men were all tall, well-built, and had stern expressions on their faces. They scanned the hallway with their eyes constantly watching everyone that was walking on the floor.

"Hello Pony," said Graham. "I didn't know you had come over from the island. Have you been in to see Jamie?"

"We came last night after we were alerted," said Pony. "Then this morning we went in to see Jamie after he was awake."

"What's going on?" said Frank immediately sensing that something was not right.

"We're here to make sure that Jamie remains safe," said Pony. "We won't let one of our own stand alone against danger."

Just then the door to Jamie's room opened and out came a police superintendent in full dress uniform, brown boots shining, and buttons blazing. Inside the room Graham could see three other officers in regular uniform, one talking with Jamie, and the other two standing off to the side, one taking notes while the other was talking on the telephone.

"What's happened?" asked a worried Graham. "Something isn't right here."

"You are Graham Martin?" asked the Superintendent.

"Yes, I'm Graham Martin and this is Frank Tomlinson my neighbour," replied Graham.

"You have a very brave boy in there," said the Superintendent. "I came in this morning to congratulate him personally. I thought putting on the full uniform with all the bells and whistles would be a nice touch for him after everything he's been through."

"That's very kind of you," said Graham. "Can you tell me what's happening?"

"That notebook that Jamie gave us a couple of days ago is causing quite a stir," said the Superintendent. "We got right on it and began quietly investigating and identifying people based on Jamie's notes and from the things that we found at the house. Starting last night we began to pick people up for questioning and now charges are starting to be laid. Some rather important people in this town are beginning to get very nervous and we don't want anything to happen to Jamie. Your boy has helped us to uncover a very nasty mess. I was going to assign a couple of men to stand guard outside the door as well but your friends arrived last night and after talking with them we feel comfortable that they will handle things appropriately. I'll also have one of my men stay here for a few days as well, just in case."

"Is it that dangerous?" asked Graham anxiously. "You're expecting that someone might do something to Jamie?"

"No, you don't need to worry," replied the Superintendent in a reassuring tone. "By us making a big show like this, no one will be silly enough to even think about trying anything. Besides the big fish are too busy now trying to cover up their tracks and come up with explanations for their involvement. It won't help them however. We've already got a couple of the key figures and they are trying to save their skins by talking. That combined with what your boy has given us means that it's not going to take very long to get to the bottom of what's been going on."

The following couple of weeks were active ones for the police, Graham, and Jamie. The police were no longer stationed inside the hospital but that was because they had cast a wide net over the community based on the information they had collected from Jamie and elsewhere. The danger to Jamie had passed because those that might have been in a position to do something were now in windowless rooms trying to explain away their activities to unsympathetic ears. In more than one instance there had been desperate offers to trade information for leniency but the police and the Attorney General's office knew they had the upper hand and no lack of evidence. What some former pillars of the community failed to realize is that they had very little with which to bargain and those on the other side of the table were in no mood to go easy. They had all seen the pictures of what had happened to Jamie and other boys and several of the officers now asking the questions had been at the hospital.

A few days after Jamie had been attacked Graham took a couple of hours and went to his office to request an extension of his vacation time. While the request had been granted it had also been the source of a significant amount of grumbling on the part of Graham's boss. Later that same night after leaving Jamie at the hospital Graham and Frank had talked over dinner. The last lingering doubts were swept away and Graham finally knew for certain what he wanted after so many years of sitting behind a desk. All that remained was whether or not Jamie would ask. If he did Graham had his resignation written out and it was ready to be sent in.

Jamie had been kept busy as well during this time. While he had been moved out of intensive care Jamie was still being watched closely. Each day there were tests, dressings being changed, examinations, and yet more tests. At first Jamie submitted without complaint but over the last few days he had become increasingly irritated with the constant poking and prodding. For the doctors however this had been the final sign they were waiting for before scheduling the necessary follow-up surgery. Once a patient was well enough to start complaining that confirmed they had regained sufficient strength to handle a second procedure. The initial hasty job of internal repairs to Jamie had done the job of keeping him alive but now it was necessary to tidy things up so there would be no difficulties in the future as Jamie grew into a young man.

The next morning after being moved back into his room after the follow-up surgery Jamie was resting in his bed with Graham and Frank sitting next to him. Jason had sent over a card which Frank had picked up from Dave and Jamie blushed as he read it but refused to let Graham or Frank see it.

"You know you're probably going to be able to be out of here very soon now," said Graham. "Yesterday was the last of the surgery that they needed to do."

"I hope so," said Jamie. "Everyone here is really nice but I'm getting tired of just laying here all the time and being a pin cushion."

"I talked to Jason on the phone last night," said Frank. "He said he's been getting in a lot of practice on that computer game you both like and he said he's going to finally beat you when you get back."

"No way," said Jamie with a laugh. "I'm going to toast him good."

While they were talking the door to Jamie's room opened and in came Jamie's doctor and a nurse. Jamie looked up and groaned as he realized that he was going to have to submit to the inevitable once again. Graham and Frank got up and stepped outside of the room to give Jamie some privacy while he was being examined. After about twenty minutes the doctor and nurse came out of the room. The doctor stopped to talk with Graham in the corridor while the nurse continued on towards the elevator.

"So how is Jamie doing Doctor?" asked Graham as they stepped away from the door and stood nearby.

"The sutures are healing very nicely," said the doctor. "I'm very pleased with his progress. He has excellent recuperative powers especially considering everything he's been through."

"We've been doing our best to keep his spirits up," said Frank. "It's not always easy of course."

"I just told Jamie some good news," said the doctor. "We just received the final results of the second set of STD tests we did and they're all negative. So there won't be any lingering issues like that for him to worry about."

"Oh that's wonderful," said Graham with a visible sigh of relief. "I've been afraid to ask about that."

"He will have ongoing nutritional issues however," said the doctor. "He's been mistreated for many years and then when he was on his own, his food was irregular and not at all well balanced. So he'll need nutritional supplements for some time to come in order to try and make up for those years of neglect. Overall however I think he should do quite well. I'll be giving you some prescriptions and a list of the things you'll need to get for him."

"He's going to be eating properly from now on," said Graham. "I'm going to do my very best to make sure things are completely different for him."

"I have no doubt at all about that," said the doctor kindly. "If the next few days continue like this I think we're shortly going to be able to consider when Jamie can be released."

"Really?" said Graham.

"It will all depend on Jamie's progress continuing as it has after this final bit of surgery and of course where he's released to," said the doctor.

"What do you mean?" said Graham. "He's going to go back home with me isn't he?"

"Yes of course he is," said the doctor hastily. "I didn't mean that. It's just that for the first little while Jamie's progress will need to be monitored regularly and so it will be important to have a doctor nearby."

"That's going to be a bit of a problem then," said Graham with disappointment. "I live on Valdez Island and it's not exactly the big city there."

"I had a brief chat with Mr. Twofeathers about that and we think that we might have a solution to the problem figured out for you," said the doctor with a smile.

"What's that?" asked a mystified Graham.

"He told me about how Jamie hurt himself a few weeks ago and then had to go to the little clinic that they have in their village," said the doctor.

"That's right," said Frank. "He hurt his ankle and the village doctor fixed it up for him."

"Exactly," confirmed the doctor. "I've already had a talk on the phone with the doctor there and he's indicated that they would be pleased to have Jamie come and stay there for a couple of days for some extra observation before he goes home with you. He could also do all of the required follow-up examinations in the weeks to come. That way you wouldn't need to come back here for those."

"Are the facilities there adequate for what Jamie will be needing?" asked Graham.

"Mr. Twofeathers and I talked about that as well," said the doctor. "That was one of the reasons that he went back to the island after things settled down here. We both wanted to make sure that the clinic had everything that might be necessary before Jamie is released. Neither of us has said anything to Jamie yet however, we did not want to presume or force the situation on you. We simply wanted to check that it would be possible if you were willing."

"I think it's a wonderful idea," said Graham with a smile. "It's only about a twenty minute hike from where my house is to the village. When would Jamie be able to come home then?"

"First he would have to be transported from here to the island," advised the doctor. "Then he will need to stay at the clinic there for a few more days just to make sure everything remains OK. After that he could go home with you. The important thing to keep in mind is that Jamie is still quite weak physically and needs a lot of rest. His injuries are all healing well but his body has been through a great deal of trauma and I don't want him exerting himself for a while yet. So that means initially at least you will have to find another way to get back and forth to the clinic than by hiking."

"That won't be a problem," said Frank. "We've both got vehicles and we can drive him down to Salish Bay and then go around to the village by boat from there."

"That should work just fine," said the doctor with approval.

"But when can he go?" asked Graham sounding very much like an anxious child pestering a parent.

"What do you think of this coming Friday?" asked the doctor with a smile.

"That's just five days from now!" exclaimed Graham happily. "He's doing that well?"

"All indications are that he's bouncing back even better than expected," replied the doctor. "When I examined him just a few minutes ago everything was looking great."

"This is wonderful news," said an excited Graham walking over to the door to Jamie's room. "I'm going to go in right now and let him know."

Late Thursday afternoon a gentle knock came on the door to Jamie's room. Graham got up from his chair where he was sitting next to Jamie and went to check. Matty was standing outside in the corridor with a distressed look on her face.

"Why are you knocking?" asked Graham surprised at seeing Matty's discomfort. "Come on in."

"Can I talk to you for a minute out here?" asked Matty quietly with worry written all over her face.

Graham turned his head back in towards Jamie and Frank and told them he would be just a few minutes and stepped out of the room and into the corridor. Matty walked down the hallway a dozen or so feet, stopped, and then finally looked back at Graham.

"I don't know how to tell you this exactly," said Matty haltingly.

"What is it?" asked Graham getting worried. "Is Jamie in danger? They're not going to give him back to his parents are they?"

"Oh no, it's nothing like that," said Matty. "But it is something that's going to upset him."

"What is it?" demanded Graham. "What's happened?"

"His parents were brought into court today for the preliminary hearing," said Matty. "The charges were read out and on the advice of their counsel they've agreed to plead guilty to most of them. The mother has also agreed to assist with testifying against some of the others that have been picked up."

"But that should be good news," said Graham. "That means Jamie probably won't have to testify."

"Yes that is good of course," said Matty. "With all the physical evidence, the depositions we have from the doctors here, the lab results, and everything else that the police have found their lawyer is basically going to plead for the mercy of the court. They'll try to bring extenuating circumstances into play for the sentencing hearing, how their clients had a bad childhood, and all that sort of thing."

"Are you worried that they're going to get off easy?" asked Graham trying to think ahead.

"Oh no. I'm familiar with the judge who's presiding," said Matty. "He'll throw several books at them. I've also talked with the fellow that's leading the prosecution and he said that he's going to apply for dangerous offender status on the father. So that'll basically guarantee he'll never see daylight again in this lifetime."

"Then what is it?" asked an exasperated Graham. "Everything you've said sounds like it's going better than expected."

"It's this," replied Matty holding a sealed envelope in her hand.

"What is it?" asked Graham.

"It's a letter from his mother," said Matty. "After she wrote it her lawyer gave it to the court and the court has ordered that it be delivered to Jamie."

"Oh no," gasped Graham now understanding. "He'll just get scared all over again. Can't we just get rid of it or something?"

"Unfortunately I can't," said Matty almost in tears. "I'm a servant of the court and I've been ordered to deliver it. I don't want to do it and I feel horrible knowing what this will do to him but I have no choice."

"So Jamie has no choice then and has to read it," said Graham with resignation.

"No, I didn't say that exactly," said Matty somewhat coyly.

"You've got an idea then?" asked Graham hopefully.

"I have been ordered by the court to deliver the letter," said Matty with careful precision. "Those are my instructions."

"Wait a minute now," said Graham slowly starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. "You're saying that you have to bring the letter here. Jamie has to know you've brought it to him."

"I am required to deliver the letter to Jamie," said Matty treading very carefully.

"I think I understand now," said Graham with a knowing smile. "Let's go back in and see Jamie."

Graham and Matty both took a deep breath, opened the door, and walked into Jamie's room. They sat down in the chairs that were on both sides of Jamie's bed. Graham sat up at the top of the left side and Matty sat next to Frank on the right side near the bottom of the bed.

"Jamie we have a bit of a problem," began Graham. "Matty here has been given an envelope containing a letter written by someone. That someone's lawyer gave it to the court and the judge has ordered that the letter be delivered here."

"It's from them isn't it?" said Jamie like he was spitting out poison.

"Yes I'm afraid it is," said Graham. "Matty didn't want to bring it but she was ordered to and so she doesn't have a choice."

"I have to read it?" asked Jamie with obvious disgust as his eyes grew dark looking at the envelope that Matty was holding.

Graham looked straight at Jamie and said, "She was only ordered to bring it here, nothing more."

Jamie quickly noted Graham's phrasing and suddenly his eyebrows went up. Jamie then looked over to Frank who smiled back at him with a devilish grin.

"Get me some matches," said Jamie with a voice that could barely be heard.

Matty opened her purse, reached inside, produced a book of matches, and handed them over. Frank got up and fetched a wastebasket from the other side of the room bringing it around to the side of Jamie's bed.

"Do you need any help?" asked Graham gently.

"No," said Jamie firmly while striking a match. "I'm going to do this myself."

Matty held out the envelope while Jamie put the burning match underneath it. Once it caught fire she let go and the flaming envelope fell into the wastebasket. Jamie, Graham, Frank, and Matty watched as the fire on the surface of the envelope spread and then the sheet of paper inside it began to curl and burn. Graham looked up as he heard Jamie's teeth grinding and saw his lips twisted into a snarl while the envelope continued to burn in the bottom of the wastebasket. Jamie's eyes did not blink once as he watched the flames completely consume the envelope.

When the flames died down and the envelope and its contents had been reduced to ashes Jamie said angrily, "Get that thing out of here."

Frank picked up the wastebasket and began to walk to the door with it. At the same time Matty stood up moving her chair out of the way and held open the door for him.

"How did you happen to have matches with you? I didn't think you smoked," said Frank as he went out into the corridor.

"I don't," said Matty with a meaningful smile on her face. "I just like to be prepared."

The floatplane touched down gently on the surface of the water and Dave guided the craft towards an old wooden wharf that extended outwards from the small native village located on the north side of Valdez Island. Taxiing in Jamie could see out the side of the plane that there were people clustered all along the shoreline and on the wharf itself.

"What is everyone doing out there?" asked Jamie.

Graham looked over at Frank and smiled before saying, "I think they're out here for you."

"For me?" said Jamie with surprise. "But why?"

"Oh I don't know," said Frank with a grin. "Maybe it's because they think something important is about to happen or because someone special is arriving."

The plane slowed and then finally bumped up gently against the side of the wooden wharf. Dave jumped out and tied the plane up securely and then opened the passenger door on the side. Dave helped Graham out first and then Frank. Finally Dave stepped up into the plane, lifted Jamie up, and passed him down to Frank who then helped Jamie to stand up on the wharf. Once Jamie was steady on the wharf, Dave passed Jamie's backpack out to Frank who then held it for him.

Jamie got his footing and looked up to see that the entire village and a good portion of the other residents of the island had turned out and were gathered around the wharf and were also spread out along the shoreline in both directions. Just as Jamie was looking everyone over wondering what was happening, the large crowd of people parted in the middle and Pony began to walk very slowly through the crowd and onto the small wharf where Jamie was standing.

Pony was wearing a blue ribbon-shirt that had yellow and red coloured bands going horizontally across it while others hung down. He also had on a black Navajo-style hat with a beaded hatband that went around it with intricate workings displayed on it; an eagle feather was sticking up from the hatband. In addition Pony wore a hair-pipe choker that went around his neck. When Pony finally arrived in front of Jamie he stopped.

"We are here today to welcome you back from your difficult journey," said Pony in a loud voice that carried and the large crowd immediately went silent. "You were taken against your will to the darkest of places. The Windigo tried to steal you away from us but you fought back. It tried to destroy you but you fought back. You almost left us but you still fought back. You have proven yourself to be strong and courageous and have returned from a place where no man should ever be taken."

Jamie looked up at Pony as he spoke the words and felt their rhythmic tone calm his nervousness at being the centre of attention. There was something about Pony's manner that made Jamie feel as if Pony knew everything about him and his past and respected him all the more because of it. Despite feeling that Pony could look inside him and knew the terrible things that had happened to him Jamie nevertheless felt no shame.

"It is given to a very few of us by the Creator to face a supreme challenge," said Pony. "This is how the great leaders of tomorrow are selected and tested. Out of difficulty comes strength, out of struggle comes understanding, and out of victory comes compassion. It is only with all of these qualities that a leader has the wisdom to counsel the people. You have shown that you have all of these and we honour you."

"Yesterday you left us as a boy," continued Pony. "Today you have returned as a man. You have proven your bravery and beaten that which tried to conquer you. We now invite you to join us and become one with our tribe. We ask you to honour us by adding your name to the long list of those that have gone before. We ask you to add your experience and wisdom to ours in council. Will you accept to join with us?"

Pony's words were unlike anything Jamie had ever heard before. Despite everything that had happened, everything that he had been forced to do in order to live, everything that others had done to him - despite it all and in fact specifically because of it, Jamie now realized that these people looked up to him for having survived. Shame at what he had been forced to live through had always lurked in the background for Jamie but looking into the smiling faces all around him the feeling now left him. Jamie with the unspoken question on his face looked up at Graham who was standing behind him. Graham smiled back at him and nodded.

"I accept," said Jamie with a voice filled with new-found confidence.

Pony then took out a necklace made of glass pony beads. The beads were in alternating colours of white, yellow, red, and black. Hanging from the necklace was a small circular pendant with regularly spaced spokes that radiated out from the centre of the pendant to its edge.

"With this necklace of the medicine wheel as token of your bond with us I declare you now and forever a member of our tribe," pronounced Pony as he placed it around Jamie's neck. "You are of us and we are of you. An offence against you is an offence against us all. We are now one and will stand together."

"You began your walk on the trail of life alone. It was a long and difficult journey filled with danger and enemies. But now you have friends who will walk with you. You will no longer face the dangers alone. You will no longer struggle without help. The days of pain are at an end.

"We welcome you today as one of our own. From this day forward you will be known as Myeegun, Great Wolf. Your days of walking the Red Road alone are now at an end."

After Pony spoke the final words he whispered into Jamie's ear explaining the background behind his new name and why it had been chosen for him. Pony then placed his hand on Jamie's shoulder and the deep echoing sounds of a drum began to be heard. Jamie looked about for the source of it and saw four men near the shoreline beating on a large drum with what looked like oversized wooden drumsticks. As the men began to beat on the drum the entire village began to chant in rhythm.

"Turtle Island is happy again," said Pony as the drum continued to sound rhythmically and the villagers sang along with the drum. "His heart beats strong as our brave one comes home at last."

Jamie looked around and everyone was smiling at him and he smiled back. Jamie who was normally shy with people he did not know felt comfortable and at ease. Graham put his arms around Jamie from behind in a gentle hug and he could feel the tension leaving Jamie as the sounds of the drum and the villagers continued.

"What's Turtle Island?" whispered Jamie.

"It's what the native people call the North American continent," replied Frank quietly. "According to legend the land is a living being, a great big turtle. We all live on the back of the turtle as it swims along through the universe which is a vast ocean. The beating of the drum represents the turtle's heart beating."

Listening to Frank's explanation Jamie could feel his own heartbeat keeping time with the drum almost as if the drum controlled it. Jamie felt his breathing calm and he looked up at Pony with a surprised look on his face and Pony touched his hand to his heart, nodded knowingly, and smiled.

Jamie looked back towards Graham a bit overwhelmed by all the attention but proud at the same time of the honour that had just been done to him. Graham returned the smile and hugged Jamie again. Just then there was the unmistakable sound of loud barking accompanied by confusion as a young boy in the middle of the crowd standing along the shore finally lost his struggle to contain a large white dog.

"Cindy, come back here!" called Jason but to no avail.

In an instant Cindy had broken out of Jason's arms and went bounding through the crowd of villagers. She ran out onto the wharf barking frantically, rushed up to Jamie, leapt up placing both front feet on Jamie's chest, and began licking his face enthusiastically. Graham quickly put his arms up to support Jamie so he would not fall backwards under Cindy's weight as Jamie was still weak. Jamie for his part returned Cindy's greeting in kind by petting her using his unbroken arm and attempted to hug her with his other arm even though it was in a cast.

"It's good to see you girl," said Jamie happily as he rubbed his one free hand up and down Cindy's back as she continued washing Jamie's face.

While Cindy was busy greeting Jamie, Jason came down and gave his father a hug to welcome him back. Jason's mother Kathy also came out and down from the crowd, gave Frank a kiss, and stood close by.

When Jamie finally managed to get Cindy settled down Jason came up to him and at first stuck out his hand but then seeing Jamie's right arm was in a cast lowered it again. Jason then tried a couple of times to say something and getting more and more flustered finally gave up and wrapped both arms around Jamie in a big bear hug.

"I'm so happy that you're OK Jamie," said Jason while still hugging him. "If you'd been ... I don't know what I would have done. I'm not going to ever let you go away alone again."

"I'm really glad to be back Jay," said Jamie happily. "I lost the bracelet that you made for me though. It got torn off when my dad caught me at the house. I'm really sorry about that."

"That's why you're back here now and safe," said Jason. "It came off so your wish came true. So now you can stay here with me always."

"Well that part is extra special," said Jamie with a smile. "I don't ever want to have to go back there again."

"And I don't want you to ever get hurt again. You're too important to me," said Jason softly as he gave Jamie a kiss right on the lips. Then realizing what he had just done in front of everyone Jason blushed furiously and ran over to his father and hid his face against Frank's stomach.

Frank looked down at his son with surprise while putting his arm around him and then looked over to Jamie who now had a calm happy smile on his face. Then Jamie blushed when he noticed Frank looking at him in a curious yet pleased sort of way.

"Maybe it's about time I had the father-son talk with you," said Frank quietly to Jason.

"Awww Dad," replied Jason now completely embarrassed as Jamie looked up at Frank with a shy grin.

"On the other hand perhaps it's too late," reflected Frank with a smile.

Finally the village doctor that had looked after Jamie when he had hurt his ankle came up and announced that Jamie needed to rest. The drumbeat reached a crescendo along with the villager's chants and then the ceremony was over. Jamie was a little shaky after all the excitement and Pony quickly moved to his side and picked him up in his strong arms and began to carry him off the wharf and towards the clinic.

"Can you teach me the things you taught Jason about your ... our people?" asked Jamie as Pony carried him along.

"Now that you are one of us that is my great honour," said Pony. "I will teach you the ways and stories of your new people. Our history and traditions will become yours and we will be a part of your new family. You have come through a great struggle and bring great honour to us by joining our tribe. Our fathers and our forefathers before them have fought many battles against evil and now your victory will be remembered as theirs have been."

"I've never had a family before," said Jamie softly. "At least not what you'd call a proper one."

The doctor opened the door to the clinic and Pony carried Jamie through the doorway and set him down on the bed that was waiting for him just inside. Jamie's strength was not fully recovered yet and everyone could see that he was starting to get shaky from the exertion and stress of the trip back to the island. It was going to be many weeks yet before Jamie regained his former strength and everyone realized that Jamie needed rest and they all got ready to make their way back home. Cindy settled down on the floor next to Jamie's bed. Graham tried to convince her to leave but she refused to move. Graham put his hand on Cindy's collar to give her a little tug but her lips pulled back slightly and she showed her teeth to Graham along with the gentlest of growls. Graham understood then and let Cindy stay. Now that Jamie had returned Cindy would never leave his side again.

"I guess I should go and get some rest too," said Graham. "I hope you won't mind if I go home and get some sleep. All the excitement this past month has taken a toll on this old guy."

"That's OK," replied Jamie. "I never had a chance to say it before but thanks a lot for looking after me and getting me to the hospital Graham. I knew if I could just get back to your place somehow everything would work out."

"Everything is definitely going to be OK now," said Graham. "I'll ask the boss at work for some more time off so I can be here to help you while you get better. He'll probably get upset about it but you're more important to me than keeping him happy."

"You don't have to do that," said Jamie worried that he was going to be a burden on Graham. "I don't want to cause any problems for you."

"It's no problem and I'm looking forward to it," said Graham reassuringly. "I've been waiting a long time trying to find something that I really cared about but I think that what I'm looking for is sitting here right in front of me. I wasn't positive at first but I knew it for sure when I opened the door to the apartment back in the city and saw you lying there on the ground hurt. Now that everything has been settled do you think you could get used to having me around helping you?"

"I was doing a lot of thinking while I was in the hospital and I was kind of wondering if ... like well maybe if you could ..." stammered Jamie. "What I mean is ... no you'd never want a kid like me. Not after all the stuff I've done."

"Go ahead Jamie," said Graham softly. "Ask."

Jamie took a deep breath and with his head looking down said softly, "Could you like ... be my dad maybe?"

Graham had hoped that Jamie might ask, he had even thought of what he might say if Jamie did ask, but now that the moment had arrived Graham found the enormity of the situation had left him speechless. Graham tried to speak but found that he had to pause for a moment.

Clearing his throat and finally finding his voice Graham said, "It'd be the most wonderful thing in my life Jamie. Matty said that I shouldn't be the one to suggest it to you. She said that I had to wait and let you bring it up if you wanted to. She did say though that if you did ask that it shouldn't be hard to arrange now after everything that's happened."

"I'll be really good," said Jamie tentatively looking up at Graham finally. "Please? Pop?"

Graham's self-control totally left him in that instant. He put his arms around Jamie, held him tightly, and with tears in his eyes said, "Yes Jamie, I'd love it if you were my son."

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