Ethan had dozed off in the den while ‘watching’ a TV program when he was jerked out of a sound sleep by the phone. They still had only one phone—getting a wireless with several handsets was on the list, but not a top priority—so he rushed to the kitchen and grabbed the phone. As he picked up the phone, he glanced at the clock and saw it was a quarter of six. He barely got “hello” out of his mouth before Sally Ann said, “Ethan, Andy and Jamie are in Braggton jail and I am going to start kicking asshole police in the balls in about half a minute. You need to get down here and bring the troops!” She hung up the phone. “What the hell?” Ethan asked, as he hit speed dial to call Mr. Edwards.
When Mrs. Edwards answered the phone, Ethan said, “Mrs. Edwards I need to speak to Mr. Edwards. It’s urgent!”
“Davis, get the phone. It’s Ethan and he’s really upset.”
“What’s going on, son?”
“I don’t know. Sally Ann called and said Andy and Jamie were in Braggton jail and she was going to start kicking asshole policemen in the balls. She said I should call out the troops and get there.”
“Come down and get Scotty and Doug and Rich. I’ll take Dek, Jeff and Art.”
Ethan hung up the phone and remembered he didn’t have his truck. He called Randy, told him the situation and Randy said he was on his way. As soon as Randy and Ethan pulled up to the house, Doug, Rich and Scotty piled in. Jeff, in the driver’s seat of Davis’ truck, waved, and took off, driving like a madman. Randy, half blinded by the dust kicked up by the truck, took off, going as fast as he could on the gravel road.
“What’s going on, Ethan?” Scotty asked as he fastened his seat belt.
“I don’t know,” Ethan said and told him all he knew.
Randy was approaching the highway when he caught up with Jeff. As they pulled into the highway, a sheriff’s deputy pulled in front of Jeff, blue light and siren going. Randy was right behind Jeff when another deputy pulled up behind him, lights and siren on. Ethan drove to Braggton every Tuesday and Thursday and knew it was about a fifteen minute drive from where the gravel road ended and the paved highway began. The caravan made it in just over ten.
The deputies’ cars pulled up to the Braggton police station and jail, the two trucks between them. Ethan was surprised when Sheriff Jackson stepped out of the car which had been running interference. Ethan and the others piled out of the truck and joined the Edwards and Art and Dek. Sheriff Jackson stepped up to Mr. Edwards and said, “Davis, Clyde—Clyde Shepherd was Mr. Edwards’ lawyer—is here already. Now you keep a cool head. Anything not on the up and up here, let the two of us handle it.”
All the Arkadelphia folks together with the two deputies stepped into the police station. It was a tight fit. Ethan exploded when Sally Ann tried to stand, but was handcuffed to a chair. “Son of a bitch,” Ethan shouted. “Officer, you have less than ten seconds to get the handcuffs off my sister.”
“I don’t know who you think you are, but she tried to kick me. She stays ...”
“Junie, you have wasted five of your seconds. Now free her while I consider just what charges beside unlawful confinement I am bringing against you,” Clyde said.
The officer looked like a character from a rural comedy and even more so when he tripped over his feet getting to Sally Ann. When she was free, she ran to Ethan and buried her face in his shirt front. Ethan held her close.
“Okay, Junie, what’s going on here?” the sheriff asked.
“Them two boys back there started a riot in the park.”
“You saw that?”
“’Course not,” the scrawny man tried to puff out his chest without luck, and said, “I’m duty officer.”
“So who brought them in?”
“Officer Rudy Ballock.”
“Rudy Ballock is on the police force now?”
“He’s Officer Ballock.”
“And just where is Officer Ballock. Is he off-duty?”
“No, he just went home to eat supper.”
“Where’s the chief?”
“He’s home too.”
“Get him on the phone.”
“He told me not to call him.”
“Call him or I’ll send a deputy to arrest him.”
The duty officer was shaking in his boots when he called the chief. After time for six or more rings, he finally said, “C-c-c-chief. Sheriff wants to speak to you,” and practically tossed the phone to the sheriff.
“Roscoe, you have really screwed up this time. You hired Rudy Ballock knowing what you know about him. You better get yourself down here now and try to straighten out this mess. As it is, I suspect Braggton is looking at a substantial lawsuit and maybe someone doing hard time. You have six minutes starting now.” When he hung up, he said, “Junie, get that cell open.”
“I can’t do that.” Junie was quaking again.
When Junie opened the cell, Ethan and Dek went back. When Ethan saw Andy and Jamie he called out, “Mr. Edwards, call 911. We need an ambulance.”
Minutes layer the chief came storming in and shouted at the sheriff, “Who the hell do you think you are? Get your ass out of my office!”
“Everybody out of our way, we have an emergency here,” an EMS medic called out as he and a second tech came in carrying their bags. Where’s the patients?”
“Back here in the cell,” Ethan yelled.
The EMS medics went into the cell and examined both Jamie and Andy. One of them came out and motioned for Jeff and Art. “Fellows, can you give me a hand?” The two went out with him and they came back with two gurneys, got the two young men—their necks in braces, IVs in their arms—and rolled them out to the ambulance. “We’re on the way to Audubon hospital,” a medic said and climbed in the back of the ambulance. As soon as he was aboard, the ambulance left, blue lights flashing and siren wailing.”
“Scotty, will you take Sally Ann and Dek to the hospital and stay with them?” Ethan asked.
“Of course,” Scotty replied. Ethan kissed him on the cheek and sent him on his way.
“God damn queers. Get the hell out of my office!” the chief thundered. “God damn niggers and queers are taking over.”
“Oh, are you going to regret that,” Rich said, as he whipped out a card and handed it to the chief as he continued, “Richard Long, US Attorney’s Office.”
“Holy shit,” Ethan said. Doug looked at him, winked and smiled.
“You said that right,” the sheriff said, having overheard Ethan. “All right, Roscoe, let’s get this straightened out. First off, you’ll have some explaining to do to the GBI because you knew Rudy Ballock had been suspended from the sheriff’s department. He was suspended rather than facing serious charges in exchange for never being in law enforcement again. You knew that because I sent you a letter. Secondly, he charged two people with inciting a riot and I heard nothing about a riot and I suspect we’ll find there wasn’t one. Then, the two boys are on their way to the hospital. Your officer threw them in jail without having them checked out. In spite of their obvious injuries, Junie sat on his lazy ass and did nothing. Well, that’s not true. When we arrived here he had Sally Ann Taylor, clearly a minor, who had been charged with nothing, handcuffed to a chair. I don’t know how many charges that will result in, but I suspect Shepherd can reel off enough to keep you up all night. Now, where the hell is Ballock? Junie was supposed to have him down here ages ago.”
Half an hour after the ambulance left, the sheriff told Ethan to go on to the hospital. Jeff and Art went with them. On the way over, Jeff said, “I don’t know how, but race was involved in this somehow if Rudy Ballock is involved. He has always been a racist bully. He is three or four years older than I am, but was only two grades ahead of me. He always had a bunch of bullies around him and they got off on doing things to black kids, especially black guys who dated white girls.”
When they got to the hospital, Sally Ann and Dek had heard nothing. When Ethan went to the nurse’s station to ask about Jamie, he was told the next of kin needed to sign some papers. “I am the next of kin.”
“No, we need his father or mother to sign.”
“That’s going to be difficult,” Ethan said through clinched teeth. He was close to the breaking point. “They are dead.”
“Then his guardian ...”
“Lady, I am his guardian. Now give me the frigging paper.”
“You can’t be his guardian. You’re not old enough.”
“Lady, if you want your fucking paper signed, give it to me now. My brother was beaten and tossed into the fucking jail. He is in the hospital and you want to hassle me because you in your infinite knowledge and wisdom have decided I am not his guardian. Well, I sure as hell am and you get your fucking paper now if you want it signed or stick it up your ass, I don’t care which, but I am about ready to raise enough hell to get someone here that has some sense. Now do you want your fucking paper signed or not.”
“Well, I never!”
“Given your attitude I am sure that is true!”
She finally handed Ethan a paper, he signed it and said, “Now you get someone out here to tell us what’s going on or suffer the consequences.” A few minutes later a nurse came out and asked for the parents of James Taylor and Andrew Hickey.
Dek walked over to her and said, “I’m Andy’s father.”
“I’m Jamie’s guardian,” Ethan said. “Our parents are deceased.”
“I’m sorry. Both boys are doing okay. Both had to have a few stitches and have multiple bruises. Andy has a cracked rib where it appears he was kicked while he was down. No danger to his lungs from it. He did get a pretty serious blow to the head which is one reason he needed stitches. There is, however, no sign of a concussion. He will, just to be on the safe side, be kept overnight for observation.
“Jamie escaped the kicking, but took two blows to the head. His and Andy’s were both made from the same blunt instrument. Could have been a inch, inch-and-a-half pipe, something like that.”
Recalling what Jeff had said, Ethan asked, “Could it have been a nightstick?”
“Sure. Sure it could have been. As I said, Jamie took two blows. He does show signs of a slight concussion and the doctor is convinced he was unconscious for a short time. The doctor is sure there’s nothing to worry about, but we will keep him overnight, maybe for forty-eight hours. We’re putting them in the same room since they seem to be friends ...”
“They are,” Ethan said.
“You can see them when they are in the room. It’ll probably be half an hour or forty-five minutes.” The nurse left.
It was closer to an hour when the nurse came to tell Ethan and Mr. Hickey they could see the two boys. “They are in room twenty,” she said. “Keep the visit to twenty minutes or less. The sheriff is just finishing with them and they need to rest.” They met the sheriff coming out of the room. He told them he thought he had a handle on the episode and left.
Jamie and Andy looked terrible. Jamie looked worse, but because Andy was darker, he didn’t show bruises as clearly as Jamie. Both were feeling rotten and sleepy. Ethan just told Jamie he’d be back with Sally Ann in the morning and they would do any talking they needed to do then. Jamie wasn’t ready to let him go and Ethan sat on the edge of his bed, holding his hand, while Jamie talked, not about what really happened, but about how frightened he was and especially for Sally Ann. He finally said, “Love you, big brother.”
“Love you, little brother.”
Sally Ann, Scotty, Dek and Ethan walked out of the hospital together and found the others waiting for them, the sheriff with them. “We all here now?” he asked as they approached.
“We are,” Mr. Edwards said.
“Fine. Let’s go to my office and I’ll fill you in on what’s going on.” Thirty-five minutes later they were back in Braggton, sitting around a conference table with the sheriff. “Okay, I won’t go into details as this is a pretty important investigation. I will tell you the GBI will be here in the morning. Richard has been in contact with his boss. Richard.”
“I’ll keep my eye out for violations of Jamie, Andy and Sally Ann’s civil rights. I’m sure that will involve more than the guys who beat the boys. I’ll be around longer than I expected, not that I am complaining.”
“Sally Ann can tell you the whole story,” the sheriff said. “I have two deputies picking up people involved right now. Why don’t all of you go home and get some sleep?”
Saturday morning Ethan went down to start breakfast and found Sally Ann in the middle of making biscuits. Ethan started a pan of sausage patties and cracked eggs into a bowl. When Sally Ann had the biscuits in the oven, she sliced tomatoes and set the table. Breakfast was nearly ready when Richard and Doug came downstairs, walking like old men and groaning. Ethan had been a little sore from the move yesterday, but nothing a hot shower didn’t take care of, but physical labor was not unknown in his daily life. “Guess there are muscles a gym workout misses,” Rich laughed as he walked in.
“Need to spend a month on a plantation,” Ethan said. “Maybe pick up some money rather than spending it on a gym.”
“Well, I noticed you, Jamie and Scotty seem to get good results from plantation workouts,” Doug said, with a grin. “Where is Scotty?”
“He’ll be along in a few,” Ethan replied.
“He doesn’t live with you?” Rich asked.
“No. We didn’t think it was a good idea. We’re both new at this couple thing and, to tell the truth, a little scared by it.”
“Glad you’re taking it slow. You’re already good friends and that’s good, an excellent basis for a relationship, but a lot of people, straight as well as gay, Sally Ann, rush in to sex and later discover that was all they had going for them,” Rich said as Scotty burst in the back door, grabbed Ethan and gave him a passionate kiss. “As I said, some people rush in ....” Scotty looked puzzled as everyone laughed.
“Breakfast is ready,” Ethan announced as he and Sally Ann took the food to the dining room. As soon as they were seated, Ethan said, “Scotty,” and Scotty said grace.
“About last night, Sally Ann, what happened?” Ethan asked.
“We went to the park where we met Sue. Jamie noticed the playground was empty, I guess because it was too hot for kiddies and mommies. Jamie said he and Andy would push us in the swings if Sue and I wanted to. Four boys came by—Jake Ballock was one of them—and made some comments. We ignored them and then they all four started about black boys get white girls because they are supposed to have big dicks. ‘Your nigger got a big dick, Sally Ann?’ Jake asked. ‘Bet mine’s bigger. Wanta try it? You’ll not need nigger dick after you’ve been fucked with mine.’
“We were all steaming, but Sue and I kept telling Andy and Jamie to stay cool. Jake grabbed me and Tad Hayes grabbed Sue. The two others, Ox Blanton and Tiny Kamp, grabbed Andy and Jamie, but they got away and headed for Jake and Tad. Ox and Tiny hit them from behind and Jamie and Andy were fighting like tigers. Sue and I were screaming at the top of our lungs when two police officers came up. They hit Andy and Jamie with their night sticks. The officer who hit Andy, hit him again in the groin and when he fell, Ox kicked him. The officer hit Jamie with his night stick again and Jake punched him and when he fell, kicked him. The officers then handcuffed Jamie and Andy and took them to jail after telling the four punks they better leave. Sue drove me to the jail. Her dad came and picked her up. He said he didn’t want to get on the wrong side of the chief and Rudy Ballock with the business they had going on. That’s all I know.”
“Business? What business?” Rich asked. No-one had any idea of what Sue’s dad had been talking about.