What is it like when those closest to you are not there any longer?
Monday, March 25, 2019; Bedtime
Before Kevin got in bed, he decided to check the voicemail on the house phone. There was a message from someone saying he was with the FBI. The speaker gave his name, George Branford. At first, Kevin thought it was one of those phishing messages, but he listened to the rest of the message anyway, then replayed it from the beginning.
The FBI and Walnut Creek police wanted to meet with him to give him a status report covering what they’d found about the death of his family. The message said he should phone Lieutenant Mack Richardson at the Walnut Creek Police Department and discuss a date and time when they could meet.
Kevin sat back and thought about what he’d just heard. His tears began. Just tears. No sobs. Tears and anger. Now it was real. He couldn’t suppress it any longer.
It. Was. Fucking. Real.
They were gone. His family. Now he would finally find out who killed his family. No, who murdered his family. What was the term the cop shows used? ‘In cold blood.’ That was it. His family was murdered in cold blood. And the perpetrators should get the death penalty.
But people who got the death penalty ended up with appeal after appeal. And sometimes they would get a new trial. Dragging it out without Kevin ever finding out that the appeals were over and what the result was.
How about life in prison without possibility of parole? Maybe that was better. Knowing they could never get out of prison. They’d be in prison for as long as they lived. Until they died. Thinking about what they did. And knowing they made a mistake that let them be caught by the police and the FBI. And they could never undo whatever mistake they made.
On the other hand, maybe it would better if they got the death penalty. Being on death row. So what if there were appeals over and over. That would make it worse for them. Thinking that maybe an appeal would clear them from getting the death penalty. Until the final appeal failed, and they were scheduled to be executed. Then waiting to find out when their death penalty would be scheduled.
In order for that to happen, the police and FBI would have to find out who killed his family and arrest them. Then there would be a trial. Then they would be found guilty. Then they would be sentenced. But they had to be found first.
There was the message left by a guy claiming he was with the FBI. Kevin thought about it. Since the caller hadn’t left a phone number, that meant he would have to call the police department using the phone number in the phone book or from directory assistance, and ask for Lieutenant Mack Richardson. That would prove it was a valid call, not a phishing call.
Maybe they found who did it. Maybe the FBI actually had something to report. Or, maybe they didn’t have anything to report, and that’s what they wanted to tell him. But if there was nothing to report, why wouldn’t they just tell him on the phone?
Whatever it was, he had to call Lieutenant Mack Richardson of the Walnut Creek Police Department and find out about the meeting he and the FBI want to have.
This was not the kind of meeting that Kevin was willing to attend alone. He wanted — actually, he needed — people who he knew who could be there with him to provide support. Support that he’d absolutely need.
But whom could he ask? He didn’t have any relatives in California. The closest were his Uncle Graham and Aunt Beth, but they lived in Vancouver, British Columbia. That wasn’t close, but not as far as his other relatives in Boston and Florida. He looked up the flight time from Vancouver to the Bay Area; it was about two and a half hours. Round trip was about $400.00. $800.00 if Aunt Beth came. $1,200.00 if Don came, too. That wasn’t a problem because he supposed that he could pay for their airfare. But it meant they’d have to be away from home to be able to attend the meeting.
He’d also have to set up the guest bedroom for his aunt and uncle. Don would have to stay with him. They’d have to sleep together. That would be awkward.
Also, Don had to go to school, so it was doubtful that his folks would let him come. Still, if he asked if Don could come and the answer was ‘no’ then the disappointment wouldn’t come from Kevin. And, maybe Uncle Graham would say ‘yes’ — that would be okay. Don would remember that Kevin was the good guy in either case.
Aunt Beth probably couldn’t come; her job at the hospital would limit her ability to travel.
Okay, Uncle Graham was one possibility. Maybe.
As he thought about it, he realized that there was someone else. Dr. Ranse. That made more sense than asking a relative from Vancouver to come to hear an FBI report that might only last an hour. Or maybe even less. Kevin thought for a few seconds. She knew Kevin better than any of his relatives. Her office was nearby. And after the meeting, she’d know what was discussed at the meeting and they would be able to talk about it when they had their next session.
Okay, he’d ask Dr. Ranse instead of Uncle Graeme.
Another person Kevin wanted at the meeting was his attorney, Jonathan MacIntosh. He’d call him and ask if he’d be available.
Those calls and the one to Lieutenant Mack Richardson would have to wait until he got home from school tomorrow. Trying to schedule everyone would be a hassle. He’d have to figure out who would be the most difficult to schedule; he realized it would probably be both Dr. Ranse and Mr. MacIntosh. He’d get the dates and times they would be available. Then he’d contact the people from the FBI and police and see which of the available dates would work for them.
For now, Kevin was tired and decided it would be best if he went to bed. Then he remembered his list; he needed to update it before going to bed. He did, wondering if dinner with Alex’s family counted. He thought about it. It was a big deal, going to someone’s home for the first time since… since his folks were killed. That was another major item: he’d actually used those five words, since his folks were killed, for the first time, ever. He added that to the list. Then he added, ‘worrying if they would like him’ to the list. They did like him, and he wanted to include that since his worries were unfounded and everything about the dinner turned out to be positive. And they invited him to dinner on Sunday, too.
After adding dinner with the Burneys to the list, the next item was the meeting with the FBI and the police. He added it and marked it as unscheduled. Then he needed something easy to complete that was real and related to his family. Dr. Ranse would expect it to be on his list. He decided to open Kathy’s bedroom door.
He walked to Kathy’s bedroom and opened the door. He had to step in to open it all the way. He noticed that the room smelled musty. That was because it had been closed up for almost eight weeks; he’d told Connie that he didn’t want her to go into any of their rooms. Maybe that needed to change now.
Kevin knew that the next item on the ‘List of Things to Do’ was to spend time in Kathy’s bedroom. Not tonight. Later. Maybe much later.
He turned around and left her room. Then he went into his bedroom, updated and printed the spreadsheet, and got ready for bed. He went right to sleep as soon as he got into bed.
Tuesday, March 26, 2019; Morning
In Algebra 2/Pre-Calculus Ms. Arnold returned the make-up exam that Kevin had turned in on Monday. It was marked 100% — he was elated that he’d solved all of the problems and used the right steps to do them. And it had been different problems than the practice exam that he’d done with Laura.
Today was the day the reports for World History were due. He’d already uploaded his to School Loop on Sunday. Mrs. Weston announced, “I’ll post my commentary with each student’s grade as I receive your reports. Everyone who submitted their report last week should check their School Loop account today or tomorrow. Those who submitted their reports today should get their results by next Monday.” That left Kevin hanging, wondering if Sunday would be considered as last week or this week. Whichever, Kevin’s result wasn’t on his School Loop account yet.
In English 2 they continued reading the responses to A Rose for Emily. Kevin was surprised that he and Evan Yun were able to read their responses, which meant they were the last two students to do so. Most responses were shorter than his, so they got through them sooner than he had expected. Actually, that was good. It meant he didn’t have to wait around another day to read his response. Listening to the nineteen other students read their responses to one story got rather boring, and that was in addition to the eight students who’d read theirs on Monday. He thought it would make more sense to read original stories instead of responses to the same short story over and over.
It also gave him time to reread the Prologue and Chapter 1 of The Dream Weaver. When he got to the end of Chapter 1, he turned to the questions and read them, most of them several times. He was making one list, the one for Doctor Ranse. Maybe he should make another one, for himself, with the questions from the book and his answers — for the few he was able to answer.
Kevin thought about the assignment for a couple minutes. He realized that he didn’t have to make a new list. He could write notes in another notebook. Or on his laptop; maybe that was even better. Instead of hand-writing his notes, he could type them; he was both much faster and more accurate using a keyboard. And there was both a spell checker and a grammar checker built-in so he could avoid typos. After all, this was an English class. He could refer to his notes on his laptop and to the Dream Weaver book when he wanted to review the material with Dr. Ranse.
Tuesday, March 26, 2019; Noontime
Kevin spent lunch partially listening to a discussion about a traffic accident in the school’s drop-off area. Two kids, one a student at Edison the other a seventh-grader from Alturas Middle School, had been injured and were in the hospital. No one at the lunch table knew what had happened. They assumed it would be on the nightly news shows on TV.
Most of his attention was thinking about how to approach Dr. Ranse and Mr. MacIntosh about sitting in on the meeting with the FBI and the police. He tried to think of why he wanted them there and the reasons why they should be there.
The reason for both was he needed support, and he might need legal advice.
Dr. Ranse was a good choice. He wasn’t sure about Mr. MacIntosh because he was a family law attorney. Maybe he needed a different kind of attorney. Maybe it should be a criminal law attorney since what happened to his family was a crime. Even better, he should have both kinds of attorneys. Maybe Mr. MacIntosh could recommend a criminal law attorney.
He kept thinking about what the meeting would be like. When it was over, he’d have to go home to an empty house. If he actually found out how and why they’d been killed, being by himself afterward would be terrible. Maybe he should ask Laura or Jeff to come over. No, not Laura. He’d want someone who would sleep with him, and that couldn’t be Laura. Maybe not Jeff, either; they’d never slept together. The one guy he’d slept with was Alex. Of course, it had to be Alex! He added Alex to his mental list of people he’d call once he was home.
Kevin realized it might be difficult to get in touch with both Dr. Ranse and Mr. MacIntosh after he got home from school. Maybe he should call them after lunch, give a brief explanation of why he was calling, and ask if they could be at the meeting. Then they could call him back. Trouble was, he might be in class when they called back. He could go to the office and get a cellphone permission slip for the next few days. That way he could put his phone on vibrate and know if there was a call from one or both of them.
Alex was sitting at the lunch table with the guys from the lacrosse team. It looked like he’d finished eating; maybe they could walk to the office together. That way he could ask Alex if he was willing to stay overnight the day he had the meeting with the FBI and police. And maybe he could sit in on the meeting, too. That would be very heavy-duty, though. Maybe he’d drop that idea and just ask him about staying over the night before the meeting and the night following it as well.
He stood up and announced that he had something to take care of in the office. He said, “See you later,” to his lunch group and walked to where Alex was sitting.
“Hi, Alex. Do you have a few minutes?”
“Sure. What’s it about?”
“Can you walk with me to the office? I’ll explain it on the way.”
After they left the cafeteria, they went outside. Kevin described what he would be doing with the FBI and Walnut Creek police and that he wanted his therapist and attorney to go with him because he expected the meeting to be intense, and he wanted a friend who could stay with him after the meeting and who could stay with him overnight. He wanted Alex to be that friend.
“Of course, I’ll do it. I’ll be there for you, Kevin. If it’s as tough a meeting as it sounds, I can hold you in my arms when we go to bed to help you get to sleep. And I’ll be there if you have nightmares.”
“If you’d be willing to do it, I’d like you to be at the meeting, too. I think you’ll have to get your folks’ okay to be there.”
“No problem. I want to be at the meeting, too.”
Kevin grabbed Alex’s shoulder. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. Thank you. This meeting is probably going to be very emotional for me. I hope that won’t bother you.”
“It won’t bother me, and I’ll be there so you’ll have my shoulder to cry on. And I mean that literally.”
They arrived at the office, and Kevin explained to Mrs. Wong why he needed to use his cellphone during the school day for the next two weeks. She gave him a permit valid through a week from this coming Friday. She also gave him a sheet explaining what was involved, including putting the phone on vibrate-only, he wasn’t to place calls until period breaks, and he was to show the permit to each of his teachers each day and remind them that he’d have to step out of class if he got a call.
There was still time before their next class, which was PE.
“Okay, I’m going to call my therapist and my attorney. If I don’t get through to them, then I’ll leave a message to call me back.”
“Who’s your attorney?”
“Jonathan MacIntosh. He’s a family law attorney,” Kevin replied.
“Not to butt in, but I think you should have a criminal law attorney with you in the meeting. There’ll be a lot of legal stuff involved in what they’re going to tell you, and I’m not sure a family law attorney would know a lot about it.”
“What legal stuff?” Kevin asked.
“If they know who the killers are; what statutes will they use to arrest them; will they be eligible for bail or not, when will the charges be filed, when will they be arraigned, if you need protection, will you have to appear in court, and so on. Even if they don’t know who the perps are, a lot of this may be discussed. I’m not saying don’t invite your family law attorney to the meeting, there may be questions about that, too. But you’ll need to find a good criminal law attorney, too.”
Kevin grinned. “I was thinking the same thing. I thought I’d ask Mr. MacIntosh if he knows a criminal law attorney.”
“You could do that, or you could talk to my dad. He’s a criminal law attorney, and you already know him. That’s better than being referred to someone you don’t know at all.”
“That’s a great idea, Alex. When can I talk to your dad?”
“He gets home around six, six-thirty. Will that work?”
“What I need to find out is when he’s available, like over the next few weeks. I originally planned that I’d phone my therapist who’s always very busy with clients, then my attorney, and I’d find out their availability. Is there any way I could talk to your dad this afternoon? While I’m at school? Maybe I could find out when he’s available, too. Then I can compare all of the days they have time, including on the weekends. I’d call the police lieutenant and tell him, ‘Here are the days and times we will be able to meet with you,’ and they can pick the time that’s best for them and for the FBI,” Kevin explained.
“Sure. I’ll call my dad and explain that you’re going to be scheduling the meeting with the police and the FBI. While I’m doing that you can call your attorney and your therapist and talk to them or leave messages. What if there’s no single time that your therapist and attorney are available?”
“Then I’ll call them back and find out what other days and times they can meet. Don’t forget weekends and evenings, too. In fact, weekends would be best because then you and I wouldn’t miss any of our classes.”
They stood a distance apart in the hall and made their calls. Dr. Ranse, Mr. MacIntosh, and Mr. Burney, Alex’s dad, all said they’d have to check their schedules for the next month and see what dates and times they’d be available. When they had that information, they’d call Kevin.
When they finished with the phone calls, Kevin saw that he and Alex were going to be late to their seventh period PE classes. Since they were still outside the office, they asked Mrs. Wong for late slips. She signed and handed each of the boys a late slip, and they hurried to PE and changed into their gym clothes.
In Kevin’s PE class Coach Grant had the members of the tennis teams spend the first thirty minutes playing several sets against different opponents for each set. After the sets they spent twenty minutes in the weight training room doing slow-motion strength training. Then they did stretches and went outside and did one lap around the track before going in to shower and get dressed.
Kevin liked the mix of playing tennis, doing weight training, and even running a lap around the track.
Coach Grant had prepared a weight training room schedule for Kevin, and discussed the schedule with him.
“I don’t want you to overdo your exercises,” he said. “Here’s what I want you to do. It lists each piece of exercise equipment and the times and the sequence I want you to follow.”
Kevin reviewed the list. “This isn’t very heavy-duty,” he said.
“Turn it over.”
Kevin looked on the other side. “Okay, I see how it increases. I see you want me to start a morning run every day. And I’ll be running a lap on the track before I come in and shower.”
“In the weight training room I want members of the tennis team to do an exercise until their muscles began to fatigue then stop and switch to a machine that would work on another part of the body. The sequence should be upper, core, lower, repeat, and do that for thirty minutes plus five minutes of stretching at the beginning and ten minutes on the track and five minutes of stretching at the end.
“This isn’t heavy-duty like what weight lifters or football players would do. Your objective is to get back into shape. But to do so in a way so you won’t injure yourself.”
“Okay. It looks doable. Anything else?”
“Do you have a fitness watch?”
“Yes. I wear it all the time.” He took it off and handed it to the coach.
“This is an excellent model. You can put your training schedule into your cellphone and link it to your watch. It will tell you what to do and for how long and at what speed. It will record your running time. It won’t measure your use of the equipment in the weight training room, but our equipment lets you have your own profile. I’ll set it up, and you can update it for your schedule each week.”
Kevin looked at his schedule and grinned. “Gee, will I ever get to play a full period of tennis?”
“That’s on your schedule, too. Seventh period on Tuesdays.” Coach Grant tried, unsuccessfully, to suppress a grin.
“I was just kidding. This is great.”
Kevin enjoyed the running and using the exercise equipment. But what he enjoyed the most was playing tennis, including practicing strokes and returns and so on.
Coach Grant wanted them to choose the special ‘tennis team lunch’ in the cafeteria Mondays through Fridays. The cost was covered by the Booster Club. Unfortunately, for Kevin that meant no more delicious lunches prepared by Connie. But the lunches for athletes were much better than the usual cafeteria food, and they were well balanced with optimal amounts of carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and nutrients.
Kevin felt that he’d be ready to be a member of the varsity tennis team when the match play would start in a couple weeks. Apparently, Coach Grant thought so, too.
“You’re going to be an important member of our varsity tennis team this year, Kevin,” he said. “I want to make sure you’re ready.”
“Thanks.” He looked at his exercise schedule. “I supposed I’d better get started.”
By the time the period was over, and he’d showered and dressed, he felt a lot better. His muscles didn’t ache. Coach Grant was definitely not a believer of ‘no pain, no gain.’ That was something Kevin appreciated.
Tuesday, March 26, 2019; After School
Kevin rode his bike home and dropped his backpack on the floor next to his desk. He sat down and looked at the list he’d made. Lieutenant Richardson. Dr. Ranse. Jonathan MacIntosh. Mr. Burney, and Alex. He knew Alex’s availability; it was the same as his own. So now all he had to do is wait for the calls from Dr. Ranse and Mr. MacIntosh. Alex would talk to his dad when he got home, and that’s when Kevin would get Mr. Burney’s schedule.
Once he had everyone’s information, the next call would be to Lieutenant Richardson about scheduling the meeting.
He went downstairs to the kitchen to pick something from the refrigerator for dinner. Connie had fixed a tuna-noodle casserole. That was one of Kevin’s favorites. It was only three-thirty and too early to eat, so he put it back in the refrigerator. He heard his cellphone. It was Laura.
“Hi, Laura. What’s up?”
“It’s Tuesday, and if you remember, Jeff and I decided that Tuesdays would be mine.”
“Oh-kay. Remind me, what does that mean?”
“It’s my day to come to your house and hang out with you. Jeff will go home with you on Thursdays. We thought maybe on Mondays Alex could hang with you, so I called him, and he said that would work with his schedule.”
“Great. When are you going to come over? Do you want to eat dinner here? I have tuna-noodle casserole, I can cook a veggie and make a salad to go with.”
“Dinner sounds good. My folks are going out tonight, so I’ll be on my own. I’d rather eat at your place because that way I won’t have to cook something. I can help you get dinner together. I make a mean salad. I’ll be there in about ten minutes. Is that okay?”
“That’s perfect. See you then.”
He went upstairs to collect his laptop and textbooks and brought them down to the dining room. They’d do their homework there and eat at the kitchen table.
He went back to the kitchen to see what there was for a snack. There were bananas, apples, chips and salsa, and mini-burritos. He’d let Laura decide what she wanted; he’d have a banana.
He heard his cellphone again. It was Dr. Ranse’s office.
“Kevin, it’s Dr. Ranse. I have a list of available dates. I can give it to you tomorrow when you’re here for your appointment, or I can email it to you now.”
“I’d prefer an email. That way I can copy it to the schedule that has the others who I’m asking to be at the meeting.”
“Who are the others?”
“My attorney, Jonathan MacIntosh. He specializes in family law, and he’s the one who gave me your name when I was looking for a therapist. Alex Burney, you know who he is, he’s my chemistry tutor and my best friend now. We talked about him in my last session. His father is Thomas Burney, and is the criminal law attorney. George Bradford and Lynn Camorly are from the FBI. And, finally, Lieutenant Mack Richardson from the Walnut Creek Police Department. The only other one I’ve heard from so far is Alex.”
“Okay. I’ll send you the email. How soon do you think you’ll have selected the date?”
“It depends on when everyone gets back to me, but I’m hoping it will be by Thursday evening.”
“Alright. I’ll see you tomorrow, Kevin. Bye for now.”
“Okay, bye.” He ended the call. Just in time, because he heard the doorbell. He assumed it was Laura.
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