A minivan pulled into the parking area at the trailhead and three excited teens piled out and began unloading their gear for a three day hike and camping trip. The three had been camping alone before, but their parents had never let them go far from home. Now that the boys were fifteen, their parents had consented to a three day, two night hiking trip through the national forest. They would be on their own in an isolated area and even though their parents had some misgivings, all had agreed that the boys were mature enough to take the trip.
Jason and Jared Turner were identical twins, and Logan Matthews was one of the few people outside their family who could tell them apart. The three had lived their entire lives on the same cul-de-sac in Circle City. When they were five and in kindergarten, something had clicked in Logan's brain and he just knew which twin was which.
When they reached seventh grade and were no longer in a single classroom all day, Jason, who was a math wiz, and Jared, who found history and other social studies to be no problem, would exchange clothes in the boys’ room and take tests for each other in the classes they were good at. As far as they knew, Logan was the only person who was onto their little scam, and since they were all so close, he'd never said anything. In fact, he thought it was cool that they were able to fool the teachers like that. Logan was no slouch in school, either, and all three got decent grades.
The twins’ dad watched as the boys unloaded the car and piled their gear on the grass. “Have you got everything? You won't want to be out in the woods and find that you've forgotten something crucial.”
“Yeah, Dad. We're sure. We've triple checked the list and packed everything.”
“Okay, boys, have fun and remember the rules. Stay together and stick to the route you marked out on the map for us. Remember, there's a lot of bears out there and they're filling up for the winter. We don't want any of you to become bear chow.”
“Awww, Dad, we’re not little kids anymore.”
“I know,” he said, grabbing the twins into a hug, “but you’ll always be my little boys no matter how big or old you get.” Then he reached over and grabbed Logan, pulling him into a group hug. “You’ll all always be my little boys.”
Jared was the first to pull away. “So, Dad, don’t you think it’s about time for you to leave?” he asked, grinning.
“Ha ha ha. Okay, I can take a hint. You boys have fun and stay safe. Logan’s dad will pick you up the day after tomorrow at the Willow Lake trailhead at four pm.” As he was pulling out of the parking area, he gave the boys a honk and a wave.
“Jeez! I thought he’d never leave.” Jared said. “Come on, dudes, the wild is calling us.”
The climb was easy for the first couple of hours, but then the trail became steeper. The easy chatter and joking that had passed the time in the beginning were replaced by heavy breathing and an occasional grunt as the trail wound its way to the top of the ridge. As they passed a milepost, Jared pulled out the trail guide and looked at it. “Just about a mile left to the ridge, guys. We can have lunch there.”
“A mile?” Jason moaned. “Oh, God, why did I let you guys talk me into this? I can’t go any farther until I rest some.”
“Come on, Jase, it’s only a mile and then it’s an easy hike to the trail fork for Devil’s Canyon. We can rest awhile after we have lunch,” Logan said.
“No way! I’m not moving another step until I rest some. Why aren’t you guys as wasted as I am? I know I’m in as good condition as you are.” Jared never answered; he just smiled. Jason frowned at his brother. “Okay, dickhead, what’s in my pack?”
“Just regular camping stuff.”
“Regular camping stuff like what?”
Jared shrugged his shoulders. “You know, just regular stuff. Toilet paper, ground cloth, some dried food, a couple bricks, canned food…”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. A couple bricks? You put a couple bricks in my pack?”
“Well, actually it was three.”
Jason glared at his brother and dropped his bag on the ground and started unpacking it. “Why the hell did you put bricks in my pack?”
“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” Jared said, shrugging his shoulders.
“You are such an ass sometimes.”
Logan was sitting on his pack and laughing at the twins’ antics. What made it even funnier was that he knew that if Jason had packed the bags, he would have done the same thing to Jared. For over ten years he’d been watching the twins pull dirty tricks on each other. They’d fight about it, and as soon as they calmed down, they’d just go on like nothing had happened.
He envied them for the closeness they shared. He had a younger sister and they were close, but theirs was a different kind of closeness. It was more of a protector/protected closeness and not a companion/confidant closeness. Logan and the twins were the best of friends, but even that paled next to the relationship the twins shared. He often wondered what it would be like to be so close to someone that you could share secrets without worrying they’d tell someone else. His laughing stopped as soon as the word “secret” manifested itself. He couldn’t laugh anymore.
Neither of the twins noticed that Logan had stopped laughing as they continued to bicker. “Look at all this canned stuff,” Jason complained. “This is way more than I can eat. You’ve given me two of everything.” The realization hit Jason like a slap at the back of the head. “You turd breath! I’ve been carrying your food, too! You are so gonna die!” Jared just smiled sheepishly and then started ducking the cans being thrown at him. “If you’re gonna eat it, you can carry it!”
Jason carefully replaced the gear from his pack while Jared picked up cans and dumped them into his. Although the twins were so much alike physically that few could tell them apart, there were pronounced differences in their personalities. Jared was more impatient and tended to jump into things, as well as being on the hotheaded side and a poor loser. Jason was more reserved and tended to be calmer in his reactions to new or unusual situations. Jason also tended to defer to his brother nearly all the time. It wasn't that Jason was a follower as much as he disliked confrontation.
Jason put his pack back on and fastened the belly strap while Jared was kicking through the weeds beside the trail, as if he'd lost something. “Come on, Jared, Let's get moving.”
“I can't yet. I can't find my fruit cocktail. You know I like it…where the hell did you throw it?”
“How am I supposed to know where it is? If it'd been in your pack, where it belonged, you wouldn't have lost it.”
“Damn!” Jared said, pulling his own pack on. “What kind of camping trip will this be with no fruit cocktail?”
“Hello, Earth to Logan. Anyone in there?”
Logan was still lost in his thoughts when he realized Jared was talking to him. He looked up into Jared’s smiling face. “Sorry, I guess I was daydreaming.”
“Well, wake up then, dude, and let's get a move on.”
Jared started up the trail and Logan fell in a few paces behind him, with Jason bringing up the rear. They'd gone a couple of hundred yards when Logan noticed that Jason was walking beside him.
“Hey,” Jason said.
“You okay, dude?”
“Yeah, I'm doing okay. Why?”
“Well, you just seem a little out of it today. If something's bothering you, you can talk it over with us, you know.”
“No…I'm fine. I've just been thinking about some things lately.”
“Well, when or if you need to talk, we're here to listen.”
“I know, dude. Thanks.”
It took the boys a half hour to reach the ridge, and they stopped there to eat the sandwiches their mothers had fixed for their first lunch.
“What did you get?”
“Peanut butter and jelly and a ham and cheese. What about you?”
“She made me the opposite.”
“Yeah, ham and cheese and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
“You guys are so whacked!” laughed Logan.
“Yeah? Well, at least we have some variety in our lives, mister roast beef sandwiches.”
“I don't always have roast beef.”
“Oh yeah? What have you got then?”
“I haven't looked.”
“Well then, look.”
Logan was laughing inside because he knew what he'd find. His mom always made roast beef sandwiches when he needed a packed lunch. He pulled out a sandwich, unwrapped it, and took a bite.
“Well, what is it?” Jared asked.
“I’m tasting it to see, right now.”
“You don’t have to taste it, just look at it and you can tell.”
“It looks like a piece of meat in between two slices of bread.”
“Quit stalling, asshole. What is it?”
“Okay, okay, it’s roast beef,” Logan said, laughing.
“YES! Jared is right once again! When will you losers learn not to disagree with me? I’m not wrong very often, and even when I’m wrong, I’m more right than either of you.”
Logan just rolled his eyes and continued eating his sandwich, but Jason was giving Jared an angry look. “You know, your crap gets really old these days. Why don't you grow up?”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Your attitude. Jeez, Jared, you act like a two-year-old. If you're right about something or win a bet, you gloat. If you're wrong or lose a bet, you go berserk and accuse people of cheating just to make you look bad. You seriously need to grow up.”
“It's called self confidence, li’l bro.”
“No, it's called arrogance, and being five minutes older doesn't make you my big brother. We're the same size, and those five minutes don't count because you used them to tell the doctor what you thought he’d done wrong in delivering you. You're a know-it-all that can't stand to be wrong about anything.”
Logan listened to the brothers arguing but didn't say anything. He'd heard that argument before, and he wasn't about to take sides, although he did agree with what Jason was saying. Jared's temper was legendary at school and in the neighborhood, and it had landed him in detention more times than he could count.
When they were ten and in fifth grade, Jared had gotten angry over a lost dollar bet on the World Series and had broken Jonny Walker's nose, giving it a permanent crook. Jared ended up in anger management counseling, and after only three or four sessions, he convinced the therapist it was just two boys fighting and the therapist gave him a clean bill of health and allowed him to return to school. That incident gave Jared a “badass” reputation, and even though he wasn't a bully, most kids steered clear of antagonizing him.
The twins finished their argument and sandwiches and the three boys put on their packs and started up the trail along the ridge.
“Only about an hour to the Devil’s Canyon trail spur, so we should get to our campsite for the night with plenty of time to spare,” Jared said.
The boys made sure to make plenty of noise as they walked, to warn bears and other wild animals they were there. It wouldn't be much fun to surprise a bear that was eating berries along the trail. Jared was in the lead and was singing “99 Bottles of Beer” over and over. Logan was next in line and he occasionally joined in the singing, but mostly he was quiet. Jason brought up the rear and nervously kept checking the trail behind them. He wasn't so worried about bears, but he knew that cats were curious and he was afraid some cougar would decide to see what all the commotion was about. He was last in line, so if the cougar decided it needed a teen for dinner, he would be the most likely target. The fact that no cougars had been seen in that area for twenty-five years didn't impress him. He thought cats were sneaky and were only seen when they wanted to be seen.
“Looking for cougars?” Jason hadn't realized that Jared and Logan had stopped, and he was startled to hear his brother's voice so close. Jared knew of his brother's fear of cougars and delighted in teasing him when they were camping. Jared was standing there smirking at him and even Logan looked amused.
“Screw you, Jared.”
“Come on, guys,” Logan said. “You can argue later. We're at the cut-off and we still have an hour to go to get to the camping area.”
“Cut-off?” Jason asked.
“The Devil’s Canyon trail,” Jared told him.
“We're not supposed to take that trail. We told our parents we'd stay on the main trail.”
“The main trail's for little kids and old people,” Jared snorted. “We took a vote and decided to take the Devil's Canyon trail.”
“No one asked me to vote.”
“You weren't there when we voted and it wouldn't have mattered if you were because you'd have lost since we both voted yes. That's how democracy works, li’l bro. The majority rules,” Jared said.
“I don't like this, guys. Our asses will be in the wringer if our parents find out.”
“They won't find out.”
“What if something happens to one of us? If the rangers have to come rescue us, they'll find out.”
“The only thing that might happen is that you'll get eaten by a cougar and Logan and I can just say it carried you up there to eat you,” Jared said, laughing.
“Come on, Jason,” Logan spoke up. “It'll be okay. That trail's shorter and has more to look at. All the main trail has is trees.”
“Okay, but I want it clear that I'm only going under protest and because Dad told us to stay together.”
“Gotcha, bro. Your protest is noted and your ass duly covered.” Jared laughed.
“If we get there before it's too late, we can pick some berries for desert with our dinner,” Logan said.
Jason looked at him in shock, “You have got to be kidding! You want us picking berries in bear country? We might as well print some signs in bear talk, and hang them on our backs. 'Today's special meat, teen boys to go along with your naturally sweet berries'.”
“We'll sing while we pick.” Jared laughed. “Come on, guys, the devil awaits us.”
“God, I hope not.” Jason said.
* * *
“Hey, look up there.” Jared was pointing up at a dark opening in the canyon wall.
“It’s a cave. Big deal,” Jason said. He was still unhappy about going into Devil’s Canyon, though he privately conceded that it saved them a considerable amount of walking.
“What do you suppose is in it? I think we should take a look.”
“What are you trying to do? There could be a bear in there, and you want to go disturb it?”
“Don’t be stupid. There’s no way a bear could climb up to the cave — it’s too steep. The only animal that’s likely to be there is a cougar.” Jared was smirking.
Logan stared up at the cliff wall. “I think I can see a way up, but it won’t be easy. We’d have to leave our packs down here.”
“That’s that, then. We can’t leave our packs where something can get them, and there’s no way I’m going anywhere that a cougar could be sleeping.” Jason walked past the others and took the lead. “Come on.”
He had taken several steps before he realized the others weren’t following. He glanced back to see them contemplating the climb.
“You can’t be serious!”
Logan grinned. “Why not? You never know what we’ll find.”
Jared shrugged off his pack. “I’m going to give it a go. Who’s with me?”
“I’m staying here,” Jason said firmly.
“Scaredy cat. Why don’t you grow some balls, li’l bro?”
“I’ve got balls, but I don’t see the point in being suicidal. We’re not supposed to be here in the first place, remember?”
“I’ll do it,” Logan said, “but I think we should climb up one at a time. Would you like me to go first?”
“I’ll go first and show Jason that there’s nothing to be scared of, and then maybe he’ll join us once we’re up there.” Jared rolled his shoulders and stretched out his arms before putting a hand to the wall.
“Someone has to mind the packs if you two are going to be crazy. Don’t expect me to rescue you, either,” Jason said.
Jared laughed as he started to climb. He quickly fell silent as he maneuvered his way up the wall. A couple of minutes later, he pulled himself into the cave’s entrance.
“It looks like it might be fairly deep,” Jared called back. “No sign of animal droppings, Jason, so it looks like you’ll be safe for a while longer.” He chuckled.
Jason’s scowl deepened when he saw Logan smiling.
“It’s a bit dark in here, but I can make out something. It looks like a… ” Jared’s voice cut off in mid-sentence.
“Jared? What’s wrong?” Jason glanced at Logan, whose smile was starting to slip. “Stop playing games, Jared. It’s not funny.”
In the silence that followed, Logan and Jason stared at each other.
“He’s probably trying to scare us,” Logan said quietly, but Jason knew his friend was concerned, too. “I’m going up.”
“LOO…” Jared’s voice was cut off again.
Logan started climbing immediately, while Jason slipped off his pack and looked around for another place to ascend. Taking more risks than he normally would, Jason clambered into the cave at the same time as Logan.
“Jared?” Jason called out.
Logan and Jason stepped cautiously into the darkness, letting their eyes adapt to the dim light. They saw what appeared to be a prone figure about ten feet in.
“Jared!” Jason moved forward and knelt next to the body. He rolled it over to confirm it was his brother. Jared was unconscious.
A scream from behind him, that was cut off almost immediately, had Jason spinning around. Logan and an orange figure were silhouetted against the light from outside. The other person had a hand over Logan’s mouth and was holding something that glinted against Logan’s neck.
“Don’t move, kid, or your friend gets a new mouth.” The gravelly voice sent a shiver through Jason’s body. He had previously liked the Australian accent, but when the stranger used it, it sounded ominous.
“What did you do to my brother?” Jason blurted out before realizing he might be putting Logan at risk.
“Just a little bump on the head. He didn’t stay quiet when I told him to. Now, are you going to behave, or should I use your friend here to teach you a lesson?” The guy took his hand away from Logan’s mouth, but kept the knife firmly against his throat.
“Do whatever he wants, Jason!” Logan’s voice held more than a small note of fear.
“What do you want?” Jason asked, holding up his hands to show he wasn’t doing anything.
“You can start by taking off your shoes.”
“What?” Jason just stared. As his eyes adjusted, he saw that the guy was wearing orange overalls that he belatedly recognized as a prison uniform. There was a medium-security prison about twenty miles to the west.
“Don’t talk back to me if you want your friend here to stay healthy. TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES!”
Jason hurriedly fumbled off his hiking boots. He tossed them towards their captor.
“Pick them up and take out the laces, you stupid idiot. Once you’ve got the laces out, you can toss the shoes away. You can do the same to the kid’s on the floor, too.”
Jason’s mind was churning while he did as he was told. He realized that he wouldn’t be able to run away without shoes, but he didn’t understand what the guy wanted with the shoelaces.
“What’s your name, kid?” the guy asked Logan.
“And the other kid’s Jason, is that right?”
Jason glanced up from where he was removing his brother’s boots to see Logan giving a small nod.
“What about that first brat? What’s his name?”
“Twins with names starting with ‘J’. How cute.” The sneer in the man’s voice was obvious.
There was silence while Jason finished his task. He tossed Jared’s boots into the corner where he had already thrown his own and stood up, the laces in his left hand.
“Good boy. Now rolled him back onto his stomach and tie his hands behind his back with some of the laces. Then lie face down in the corner over there while I check what you’ve done.”
Jason did what he was told. He wondered if they were going to get out of the situation alive, but he knew that he had to do what he was told, while watching and waiting for an opportunity to escape.
Once he had tied Jared up, Jason moved to the side and lay on the ground.
“Hands behind your head.”
Jason did what he was told. He turned his head so he could watch what was going on.
The guy made Logan kneel next to Jared and then he pulled on the cords. He pushed Logan away and quickly put his knife to Jared’s throat.
“Your turn, Logan. Shoes off, laces out, and tie up your friend.”
A few minutes later, all three boys were lying face down with their hands tied behind their backs. Logan had tried to resist when the guy started to tie him up, but stopped when their captor calmly reached over and put the knife against Jason’s throat.
“Now what should I do with you? The smart thing would be to finish you off so you can’t tell anyone I was here.”
“No! We’ll do whatever you want. Don’t kill us!” Jason and Logan were frantic as both spoke at once. Jason yanked his arms apart to see if he could escape his bonds, but the heavy boot laces showed no signs of breaking.
The guy laughed. “Don’t worry — I’m no murderer. Now, if Pete had caught you, that would be different, but I’m a nice guy.” He sneered. “There’s only one person I’d happily kill, and you’re not on that list.”
He moved over to the entrance. “I’m going to check your packs to see what you’ve got. I won’t be long, and if I find you’ve moved or tried to escape, I won’t be happy.” With that, he was gone.
“Is Jared still out?” Logan whispered.
Jason turned his head to check his brother. “Yeah. Hopefully not for too much longer, though. What are we going to do?”
“I don’t know. Wait a sec.” Logan rolled over and flipped himself up onto his feet.
“What are you doing? What if he comes back?”
“Cool it, Jason. He’s not going to be back right away. I’m going to watch from the entrance. That’ll give us a couple of minutes warning as he climbs up. You check Jared.”
Jason rolled over and nudged his brother. Jared moaned and shook his head. Jason continued to try to wake him up while Logan kept a lookout.
* * *
The boys watched as Bruce Coleman devoured the food from their packs. Bruce had given his name after a tentative query from Jason, after the Australian had carried the backpacks up into the cave.
“Don’t want to leave any evidence around,” Bruce said as he dumped the packs and sorted out the food.
In between bites, Bruce had told them that he and two other prisoners had escaped the night before. They had then split up to go their own ways.
“To be honest, I wouldn’t put it past Pete to have slit some throats if he had the chance, and I don’t want to be involved with that.”
“You were quick enough to threaten to cut our throats,” Logan said.
Jason nudged him. “Shhhh”
Bruce laughed. “I was bluffing… at least I think I was.” He frowned. “I don’t want to go back there, I really don’t.”
“What were you in for?” Jared asked.
Jason tensed. He didn’t know what Logan and Jared thought they were doing, but he was afraid that they would provoke Bruce into doing something violent.
Bruce scowled. “It was all the bitch’s fault. We had a good time, but the next day she must’ve had second thoughts. She went bleating to the cops, telling them stories about how I raped her.” He snorted. “She was squealing while I was nailing her, but I could tell that was with delight. You watch my words, boys — women are bitches. The judge believed her lies and put me away.”
After Bruce had finished eating most of their food and drinking their drinks, he sat back and stared at the boys. Jason stiffened at the calculating look on the older guy’s face.
“Now, what am I to do with you?” Bruce mused.
“You could just let us go,” Jason suggested.
“True, and I probably will. The question is when, where and how? I can’t let you set the cops after me, so I have to make sure I’m well away before you get free. On the other hand, I could use you to negotiate a getaway vehicle. It’s a pity none of you are girls, or I could have some fun, too. It’s been too long…”
An evil leer appeared on Bruce’s face. He rose to his feet, walked over to Logan, and grabbed him by the hair. Bruce pulled Logan’s head back. “You’re a pretty one. What would you be willing to do if I offered to let your friends go?”
Logan spat in his face. Bruce slapped him — hard. Logan toppled over and hit his head on the ground.
“Lucky for you I’m not into that stuff. I was just playing, but you can’t take a joke — just like that bitch.”
Bruce stepped back. “I’ll be back. Don’t move if you know what’s good for you.” He headed out of the cave and started to climb down.
“You okay?” Jason whispered to Logan.
“Apart from a sore head, yeah.”
“We’ve got to get away. He’s crazy!” Jared said, keeping his voice low.
“But how?” Jason asked.
“Can you reach into my jeans pocket?” Jared asked.
“I think so.” Jason wiggled over and turned his back on his brother so he could use his hands. “What’s in there?”
“My keys… and my Swiss army knife.”
Jason stopped momentarily in surprise, and then redoubled his efforts. He had forgotten that his brother kept a cheap Swiss army knife on his key ring. It was useless for almost everything, but the blade should be good enough to cut the laces.
“Of course! Hurry, Jason. We don’t know how long before he gets back.” Logan looked anxiously at the cave entrance.
“He’s still too big for us,” Jason said just as his hands found the keys. “I’ve got them!”
“It’ll need all three of us, but I think we can take him,” Jared said.
“What if he gets back before we’re all free?” Jason asked.
“We’ll have to distract him somehow.” Logan tilted his head to one side as he thought. “I’ve got an idea — leave me to last.”
Jason found the knife. He had just gotten the blade out when they heard the sound of someone scrambling up the cliff. The boys quickly returned to their previous positions. Jason tried to maneuver the knife so that he could saw at his bonds, but the knife was too short. All he succeeded in doing was cutting his arm.
Bruce clambered over the edge and stretched before entering. “That’s better. I needed a piss.”
“I need to go, too,” Logan said.
Bruce blinked. “Well, go then.”
“How? I’m tied up, remember?”
“Watch it, smartass. Yeah, I suppose you’re too big to want to wet your pants, though I should make you do that after what you did earlier.”
“I’m sorry, okay? I just need to go.”
“Well, I’m not going to get it out for you.” Bruce looked around. “Lets see… nah. Not in here, or I won’t be able to sleep from the stink. Outside it is.” He beckoned to Logan. “Get up and come over here.”
Logan clambered up and joined Bruce at the entrance. Bruce pulled out his knife.
“I’m going to untie your hands, but if you try anything, I’m not going to hold back. I don’t want to kill you, but if you try to get away I won’t have much choice. Understand?”
Logan glanced back at Jason and Jared. He winked, which made Jason realize what Logan wanted him to do. Jason wriggled over to his brother. “Give me your hands,” he whispered.
Bruce grabbed Logan by the shoulders and shook him. “I said DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”
“Yeah, I understand. I’ll be good.”
“Okay. Don’t move until I tell you.” Bruce put the knife between his teeth and then started working on undoing the knots holding Logan.
Jason felt for Jared’s bonds, and then used the blade to saw at them. It wasn’t working.
“Okay, now stand there and piss off the side. I’ve got the knife ready if you try to do anything,” Bruce said.
There was a short pause. Jason wondered if he had the knife upside down, so he tried using the other edge and was immediately rewarded with the feel of the small blade cutting into the shoelace.
“I can’t go with you watching me. Can’t you look away?” Logan asked.
“Nice try, punk. You either go now, or you can go in your pants later. Your choice.”
Jason cut one more lace, and then felt the knife being grabbed out of his hands. Seconds later, he felt the blade sawing at his own bonds.
When his hands were free, Jason started to bring them forward to rub some life into them. The laces had been cutting into his skin and his hands were tingling from the sudden increase in blood flow.
Jared grabbed him. “Wait,” he whispered.
Jason looked and saw that Jared was sitting with his hands behind his back, as if they were still tied.
“Do up your pants, kid, and then go back inside slowly and lie face down.” Bruce held his knife at Logan’s back.
Jason saw Logan glance back towards them. He nodded, hoping Logan would understand. Jason glanced at Jared and saw that he had grabbed a small rock. Jason felt around behind himself and closed his hands on something similar.
Logan was down on one knee when he suddenly rolled and kicked upwards into Bruce’s groin. Jared and Jason jumped up and started to pummel the momentarily stunned Australian. Logan grabbed a rock and joined in.
A couple of minutes later, Jared and Jason were pulling Logan away. Bruce was a mass of blood and was out cold.
“Easy, dude. We can stop now,” Jared said.
“Let me at him! Let me go!” Logan struggled against Jared’s grip.
“Stop it, Logan. He can’t do anything now. It’s over.” Jared held tight until Logan slumped.
Jason grabbed the shoelaces that had held Logan and used them to tie up Bruce. He took the laces from Bruce’s shoes and used them to bind Bruce’s feet together.
“You okay, now?” Jared asked Logan. Logan nodded, not raising his head.
Jared and Jason exchanged worried looks. Something had come over Logan and they didn’t know what to make of it.
“What now?” Logan asked.
“We need to get our boots and find somewhere to call 911,” Jared said.
“Do we just leave him here?” Jason asked, glancing down at the unconscious body.
“Maybe a cougar will come along and kill him,” Logan snarled, as he gave Bruce a kick.
“Steady, dude! We don’t want to wake him.”
“If he wakes up, I’ll gladly pound him back to sleep.” Logan went to kick Bruce again, but was stopped when Jared pulled him back.
“What’s up with you, dude? You’re going crazy on us!”
“You heard him. He’s a rapist! He deserves anything that happens to him.”
“Logan,” Jason started. He waited until his friend looked at him before continuing. “You kept saying something weird while we were beating him up. What’s going on, dude?”
Logan went pale. “What do you mean, weird?”
“You kept yelling, ‘You’re not my dad’ as you thumped him. You know he’s not your dad.”
Logan looked away. Jason waited a moment and then stepped forward and put a hand on Logan’s shoulder. Logan flinched.
“You can talk to us, Logan. We’re your mates!”
“You have to promise never to tell anyone. I mean it, too. If you let one word out to anyone, that’s it — our friendship is over.”
Jason and Jared raised their eyebrows. “Sure, dude. We promise.”
Logan stepped over to the entrance and sat down, his legs dangling over the edge. Jason and Jared joined him; Jason on the left, Jared on the right. Jason glanced back nervously, hoping that the Australian would stay unconscious.
“I found out a couple of months ago that my dad isn’t my real dad. He’s always treated me like his real son, but I’m not… and he knows it.”
Jason considered and discounted the possibility that Logan was adopted. That left the other possibility that had jumped into his mind. “Your mom had an affair?”
Jason rocked back when Logan snapped at him. “NO! She was raped!”
Jason’s mouth dropped open. On the other side of Logan, Jared’s reaction was the same.
“My real dad is someone like that.” Logan pointed behind them with his thumb. He then spat over the side of the cliff. “Do you have any idea what that feels like? My real dad is someone who treated my mom as a sex object, and then threw her aside. Yeah, that scum back there isn’t my real dad, but he’s the sort of person who is.”
“I don’t know what to say,” Jared stammered.
“Then don’t say anything!” Logan stood up. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
Fifteen minutes later they had put their boots back on, using what was left of their laces to tie them up, and were heading up the canyon. There was a cloud hanging over them that kept all of them quiet. It was only after they had found a place where they could get a signal and had called the police that Jason broke the silence.
“You know you’re wrong,” Jason said to Logan. “Your dad is your real dad. The person you’re thinking of was just a sperm donor. He’s not important. Your dad is the one who raised you.”
“And me? How do you think of me now that you know?” Logan sounded nervous.
Jared laughed. “You’re still a blockhead, so no change as far as I’m concerned.”
Jason smiled. “You’re still our best friend. It could have been worse, you know.”
“Yeah, you could’ve had Jared as a brother. Now that’s a fate worse than death.”
“You’re so dead, li’l bro.” Jared jumped Jason and wrestled him to the ground.
Logan felt a grin slip across his face as a weight left his mind. His friends still accepted him.
Copyright Notice — Copyright © July 2007 by Codey and Graeme
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