Chapter 8

I hoped there would be an article in the paper the next morning about the arrest of Derek and Charlie but there was nothing.

At Pete’s pool, all the others were mystified too, but we couldn’t say a lot because Wally and Roger were there swimming with us.

At one point, Mrs. Allen stepped out, looked around, and said, “Goodness, the group seems to be growing.” I introduced her to Wally and Roger, who were both very polite and thanked her.

At noon, we all went home for lunch. After all, we couldn’t expect Mrs. Allen to feed us every day. If we got into that habit, she might start charging admission to the pool!

I was very tempted to call the police department and ask if there was any news, but I decided they might not appreciate it, so I resisted.

In the afternoon, we met at the park to play some soccer. Wally and Roger came with us. I noticed that Derek was not on his usual bench.

Hmmm, I thought, maybe a good sign.

Both Wally and Roger were good soccer players while I remained probably the weakest of the group. We played across the field, again using our T-shirts to mark off goals. With three on a side, that was more than enough field for us.

Having worked up a good sweat, we left the park for the pool, but we took a little detour on the way and walked past Charlie’s store, which was locked up tight.

“What’s going on with Charlie?” Wally asked. “Do you guys know something we don’t?”

“You’ll just have to wait and see,” I replied. “There may be something going on or there may not be.” I could see he wasn’t satisfied but he knew he wouldn’t get any more out of me.

With the two additional boys in the pool, our playing around became a little more challenging. They were both quick at tag, and Roger excelled at water polo. Most of the time, there was a lot of splashing and ignoring of any rules of the games.

At one point I heard my phone ringing, so I climbed out of the pool and answered. A woman who introduced herself but I didn’t understand what she said told me she was a social worker and needed to talk to Dad.

“Is this about Oliver?” I asked. She said she couldn’t tell me what it was about until she’d talked with Dad, so I gave her his number.

Around 5 o’clock, we all headed for home. Wally and Roger biked part way with me until Roger split off towards his home. Before he left, Wally gave him a big hug. Hmm, I wondered, is this simply friendship or is something else going on? Of course, I didn’t say a thing to Wally.

When we got to our house, Oliver burst out the door and ran to me, giving me hard hugs and even kissing me on the cheek. Tears flowed freely from our eyes as Wally watched, looking surprised.

Finally the three of us went into the house, said “Hi” to Bonnie, and then went upstairs to my bedroom, where we could talk.

Again, Oliver hugged me and this time he kissed me on the lips. A funny look came over his face before he asked, very quietly, “Oops. Does Wally know about us?”

I looked at Wally, who was sitting in my desk chair with his mouth open. “I guess he does now,” I said, laughing. “Wally, in case you haven’t figured it out, Oliver and I are boyfriends. You’re the first person to actually know. I haven’t told Dad yet, and I think I don’t want to for a while, so don’t say anything outside this room. Okay?”

Wally just nodded. Then he came to the bed where we were sitting and gave us each a nice, warm hug. I couldn’t remember the last time he and I had hugged, and it felt good, making us seem closer than we had been for a while. I considered asking him about his friendship with Roger, but decided against it, thinking that if there was anything going on, he’d tell me when he was ready.

We all sat together on the bed and I asked Oliver if he could tell us what happened while he was gone. He was reluctant at first. It seemed as though he didn’t want to talk. He just wanted me to hold him.

At last, he said, “You saw when the cruiser came, and I assume that your dad told you all about what had happened.” I nodded. “The woman in the car was Mrs. Hatcher, and she was a social worker. She did her best to comfort me, but I was inconsolable. I still am.”

He stopped for a bit as tears poured down his face. Finally, he wiped his face with the back of his hand and said, “Sorry. All this is still overwhelming, and I don’t know if I’ll ever really accept what happened to my family.”

I held him close and gave him the time he needed.

Then he began again, talking so quietly I had to lean in to hear what he was saying. “They took me to the police station in Knoxville, and the detective there asked me some questions, but I could barely speak. He asked if I had any idea who had done it, and I shook my head, although I did have an idea. I just didn’t want to talk, especially about that, because I didn’t have any evidence.

“Mrs. Hatcher and the detective talked about where I might stay for the next few days and she suggested that I go home with her. Nobody in Wallaceville knew her and she thought I’d be safe there. So that’s where I was until today, except that one time a police officer took me to the hospital to see Father. He was very weak and seemed to be unconscious most of the time I was there, but when I held his hand and talked to him, he squeezed my hand.

“Around noon today, the detective told me that Charlie and Derek had been arrested for the murders so he thought I was safe, but he didn’t know where I would stay until Father was strong enough to go home, if he ever would be. Mrs. Hatcher suggested a temporary foster home for me, but I asked if I could come here. She told me that unless my father approved, I couldn’t stay here because this wasn’t a licensed foster home.”

He stopped again and wiped away some more tears before continuing.

“Mrs. Hatcher asked how we could get in touch with your father. I didn’t know his number, of course, but I gave her yours, telling her who you were. I know that she called you and then called your father. When she finished talking with him, she took me to the hospital.

“Father was awake and seemed a little more with it this time, but he was still pretty groggy. Mrs. Hatcher introduced herself and told him that I wanted to stay here with you while he was in the hospital. She asked if he agreed. He didn’t say anything, but he did nod.

“On the way here she told me that what she was doing was rather irregular. Legally she had to get Dad’s signature, so she was taking a chance. She told me that she’d check in on me often to be sure I was okay.”

Just as he finished talking, we heard the door beside the driveway close and we all barreled down the stairs to greet Dad.

First Dad hugged Oliver, telling him how glad he was he was staying at our house. Then he hugged me and Wally, saying to me that he needed to ask me some questions. I agreed but suggested that we do it over supper so everyone would hear the same story.

I went into the kitchen to heat the casserole which Bonnie had left for us, while Dad had his beer. When we were all at the table with full plates in front of us, Dad looked and me and said, “Okay, spill it, Trevor.”

I sighed and then began to speak. “I was pretty sure it was Charlie and perhaps Derek who had invaded the Talbotts’ home, but I had no evidence and I knew that I couldn’t just tell that to the police because, if I was wrong, I could be sued for libel. So I had to figure out a way to get the evidence.”

“Didn’t I tell you specifically to leave it alone?” Dad asked.

“Yes sir, but I decided that I had to do what I could, even though I was disobeying you. Oliver is my best friend,” I cast a look at Wally and Oliver, “and I couldn’t just ignore him. I just couldn’t. I had to help him if I could.”

Dad nodded before saying, “Okay, go on with your story but we may come back to this later.”

“Thanks.” I continued, “I knew that Derek usually sat on a bench in the park watching kids play, so I thought maybe I could learn something from him. I didn’t have a pocket recorder, but I did have a very small clip-on mic. I tried using the mic with a receiver hooked to a system that would feed the sound to a tape recorder at Art’s house.

“Fortunately, the system, though jury-rigged, worked and we could record what was said on the bench. So I packed everything up in a box and the next morning I took the box to Art’s house, which is right across the street from the park. I set up the system in his bedroom and showed him how to use it.

“Next, I walked across the street to the park where I met Pete. Sure enough, Derek was on his bench. I waved to him before Pete and I went to the soccer field, where we kicked a ball around for a while.

“Finally, we walked over to Derek and sat with him on the bench, just talking. He asked me at one point if I knew where the n----r was. Sorry Oliver, it was his word not mine. It was so hard for me not to react to it, but I told him I hadn’t seen Oliver since I got home. I asked him if he knew anything about the Talbott murders. He just smiled a little. After a few moments he told us that he wasn’t supposed to talk about it.”

I continued, telling how we’d visited Derek each day, getting a little more information from him every time until he told us about the shootings, about how he had killed Oliver’s sister and really liked that so he was thinking of bringing the gun to the park and killing some kids there.

“We knew we had to get that information to the police before Derek killed anyone else, so we packed up my equipment, went to the police station, and played the tape for a detective. That’s really all I know until I got the call from the social worker asking for your number.”

“Well, that was pretty clever,” Dad said, “but did it ever occur to you that Derek might tell his father about your talks in the park and Charlie might think that he had to get rid of you? That would have endangered me and Wally as well as you.”

“Yeah,” I admitted, “I did think about that. I figured our house was pretty safe because of your security systems. And I knew Derek had been told not to talk about it so I thought he wouldn’t tell his father that he had. I think it’s difficult for Derek to keep several thoughts in his head at once. I do hope that he can get some help instead of just being slapped in jail. I feel sorry for him, even though he did something terrible. He’s just very easily led.”

“Okay,” Dad said, “but the next time you think of disobeying me, we need to talk about it first. I don’t tell you not to do things very often, so when I do, I really mean it.”

“Are you mad at me?” I asked.

“In a way yes and in a way no. I’m very unhappy that you disobeyed, but I’m proud of you that you figured out a solution which you thought was safe, and you carried it out.”

“Can I say something?” asked Oliver.

“Of course,” Dad said.

“You know that Trevor and I are really good friends, so much so that either of us would do just about anything to help if the other was in danger. I guess in a way that’s love. Yes, he should have talked over his plan with you, and yes, I hope nothing like this will ever happen again, but if Trevor hadn’t done what he did, I’d still be in police custody and there might be some dead kids in the park. So there’s no way I can thank him enough for what he did, even if it meant disobeying you. I guess he thought that the end justified the means. If he was wrong, I’m not sorry and I hope he’s not either.”

Dad saw the tears in Oliver’s eyes, so he just nodded slowly and stayed silent. We moved on to talking about other things, until the end of supper.

Later, when it was time for bed, Oliver and I went up together. We did all we needed to do in the bathroom and then went into my bedroom, where his sleeping bag was again on the floor.

“Who’s sleeping where tonight?” Oliver asked.

“If we face each other, or one of us spoons behind the other, I think we can both fit on my bed.”

I thought back to our time in the tent. Then Oliver brought me back to reality by saying, “I’d like that, but I don’t really want to do any fooling around in bed right now. I’m just not up to it.”

I agreed. Oliver got into bed and turned towards the wall while I spooned behind him, with my arm around his shoulder. I knew that he was crying some, but I just hugged him, and eventually, we both went to sleep.