Chapter Eighteen

The Horrible Truth

Warning: This chapter contains scenes of death and violence that some readers may find upsetting.

People were screaming and running in every direction as I sat there with Tyler in my arms. A closer look at him told me that the wound was in his shoulder, but I still worried about the amount of blood loss. When I looked around I saw two things that made my heart feel cold and heavy. Leo was lying in a pool of blood. I could see that he'd been shot in the back of the head. He was lying there dead while people were running around, stepping over his body as they went. The other thing that caused a horrible moan to escape me was the site of Noah. He was lying on his stomach, face down on the ground. There was an awful hole in the back of his neck, and I knew that he was dead as well.

Wendy's screams drew my attention away from the Hartman brothers. She was sitting on the ground not far from where we were. Her left leg was bloody and I knew from the way she was screaming for help that she'd been shot as well. I just couldn't believe it was happening. Four people that were important to me had been shot, and each of them had been standing very close to me. There was no way anyone would be able to tell me that this had nothing to do with me.

Police and paramedics began to arrive and I started to scream for them to come and help Tyler and Wendy. I knew there was no use in trying to get help for Leo or Noah. The very fact sickened me but it was true. Then there were paramedics taking Tyler out of my arms. He wasn't conscious but I heard him moan as they lifted him onto a stretcher. I tried not to get too hysterical. Instead I looked over at Wendy. They were helping her as well but she was still screaming. I looked around for the rest of my friends but I didn't see anyone that I knew. They had all fled.

I couldn't blame them really. I would have if I hadn't been so focused on Tyler. I would have given anything if my friends and I were not there to begin with. I would have given anything to have never come to Storyville in the first place. My friends were dying and it was all because of me.

The next thing I knew a paramedic was looking me over. He ignored my repeated insistence that I was not shot. It was really starting to annoy me until he started to dress a wound I didn't even know I had. I hadn't been shot but a bullet had grazed the side of my face it seemed. I hadn't even noticed but as soon as he started to clean the wound it made its presence known.

I was walked to an ambulance and helped inside. I was about to protest until I saw that I was in the same ambulance as Tyler. He looked pail and small. My heart twisted as I thought of how close that bullet had come to his heart. He could have been killed. I had to shut my eyes and force my mind to clear to keep from going down that road.

Then we were back at the hospital and they were taking Tyler into the Trauma Center. I climbed down off the ambulance and tried to follow them, but a nurse informed me that I couldn't enter through that entrance. I had already been treated by the paramedic and she had been assured that I was in no need of further medical treatment. That meant I was brushed off. I didn't mind. I wanted them to focus on Tyler.

I walked around to the main entrance and made my way up to the waiting room where I knew I'd find people. I stopped at the Trauma desk to ask that they notify us in the waiting room when there was any information about Tyler Beckett. The nurse told me that information would only be given to family. I then had to tell her that Tyler's family lived in Canada. She asked me for a number but all I had was Tyler's cell phone number. In the end they contacted the school and got his home address and phone number.

"Tommy!" cried Shirley as I came into the waiting room. She ran over to me and wrapped her arms around me so tight that I thought I would pass out from lack of oxygen. "My God we were so worried!"

"Wendy and Tyler were shot," I said when she let go. "Leo and Noah are dead."

It was like all of my limbs had gone numb after I'd said that. I made it to a chair and just sank into it. Then I couldn't even speak. All I could do was cry. Shirley and Meg were seated next to me in a flash. Both had an arm around me as I continued to sob. I couldn't control myself.

"Why?" I moaned through a sob, and then Shirley applied another bone crushing embrace.

I don't even know what happened after that. It was like my mind shut down for a while. I did notice that Brian and Greg came into the waiting room and were treated to the same bone crushing hug from both Shirley and Meg. Then they both sat on either side of me.

It was nearly midnight when Wendy got out of surgery. She'd been shot in the thigh as she tried to run away. They'd gotten the bullet out of her leg and said that she would recover fine. She would have a small scar but there was very little damage to the muscle in her leg. We heard that Tyler had come out of surgery and would be just fine. I silently thanked the very nurse who said that she couldn't tell us anything unless we were family when I'd asked her to alert the waiting room.

Police came to ask questions around the same time. None of us had any answers that could help them. I told them that someone started firing at us during the dean's speech. I didn't see who the shooter was and I didn't know which direction the shots were coming from. The policemen didn't look happy with my answer but that was all I could tell them. Brian and Greg told them the same thing that I did.

The night wore on as we waited for word that they might know who the shooter was. There was something nagging at the back of my mind but every time I tried to think about it I lost whatever it was. I'd seen someone or something and I couldn't remember what or who it was. I didn't even know if it was important but it felt like it was.

Dean and David Halliwell came to the hospital to check on everyone and told me that my shifts for the next week were covered. I thanked them for coming and told them about Leo. Dean was upset to hear about his death, and we shared a silent embrace after I'd told him. Then they were gone and it was quiet in the waiting room again.

Greg said that we should go home, but I refused to leave the hospital. I didn't know why I was being so bull headed about it. There wasn't anything we could do there and there was no one hanging in the balance. Even Vince had been upgraded to stable condition during the day. Maria was awake and ready for release. The only one still in danger was Dustin, but we were assured that he was improving.

We did go home to change clothes and shower before Charlie's funeral the next morning. Charlie's was in the morning while Phillip's was in the afternoon. I promised Ben that I'd come back to the hospital to see him after Phillip's funeral. He just cried silently and nodded his head.

Andy and Gage drove us to the funeral home. We were all silent the whole way there. It was strange to be going to a funeral for someone who I had talked to recently. None of this seemed particularly real to me anymore. It was like I was stuck in a nightmare and couldn't wake up.

Billy Campbell met us in the foyer of the funeral home. He shook our hands and told us how sorry he was for everything that was happening. I told him that there was nothing he could do but he told me that if I needed to talk he'd be available any time and gave me his cell number.

We followed Billy's car to Mrs. Granger's house where they were having a small get together after the funeral. We each told Mrs. Granger how sorry we were about Charlie and asked about Dustin. She thanked us all and told us that Dustin was still trying to recover. I sat with Greg on the couch and watched everyone for a few minutes until a man walked over and sat beside me.

"You're Tommy Porter, aren't you?" he asked, and I looked over at him. He looked to be in his mid to lat thirties with blond hair and blue eyes. He was wearing a three-piece gray suit with black pin stripes. He looked professional to me.

"Yes," I said, reaching for his hand. "And you are?"

"My name is Chris Decker," he said. "Charlie was my nephew."

"I'm sorry," I said immediately.

"Thank you," he said. "I've been seeing your face on television a lot lately, and I just wanted to tell you that I'm proud of you for standing up and taking a stand last year."

"Thank you," I said. "I don't really think I made much of a difference."

"Oh I'm sure you have to some people," he said. "I'll let you get back to talking with your friend. It was a pleasure to meet you."

"The pleasure was mine," I replied, watching as he got up and walked away.

"That was interesting," said Brian as he walked over and sat where Mr. Decker had been sitting. "I read an article about that guy not long ago."

"Really?" I asked.

"Yeah, it said that he's the youngest CEO of one of the companies here in town," he said. "It also said that he doesn't live here and never works out of his office."

"Must be nice," I said, looking at him across the room. He was talking with a dark haired man that was dressed similarly.

"It also said that he's the first CEO of that company to ever be 'out' publicly," he informed me.

"Seems Storyville is crawling with homosexuals," I said not taking my eyes off the couple.

"Well we'd better get going if we want to get back to the funeral home in time," Greg said, stopping our discussion of Chris Decker and his being an openly gay CEO of a company that Brian couldn't remember the name of.

We filed out of Mrs. Granger's house, after saying goodbye and how sorry we were again. Then we headed back to the funeral home. It was so strange to be going back after Charlie's funeral. I didn't think I could even take another. Then we saw Meg and all thoughts of not attending left my mind. We joined her and walked inside with her.

We took seats behind her and the Meyers. The dark haired boy that had been my room mate in the hospital sat next to me. He looked at me and gave me a sad smile. I returned his smile and then turned my attention back to the front of the room, looking at anything but Phillip's coffin.

"You're Tommy Porter," he said once I'd looked away. "I recognize you from the hospital."

"Were you at the party?" I asked without looking back at him.

"Yeah," he said softly. "I didn't get hurt very badly."

"That's good," I said. "What's your name?"

"Eric," he replied. "Eric Maxwell."

"And how did you know Phillip?" I asked.

"We had class together," he replied. "Listen, I've seen you on the news."

"I'm sure you have," I replied with a sigh. That damned news story again.

"You're pretty famous around here aren't you?" he asked.

"No," I replied. "I just happened to be a target for a deranged minister."

"I remember that," he said. "You and Phillip were close?"

"Pretty close," I replied. "He was my friend."

"I'm sorry," he said, and then the eulogy began.

We sat and listened to the nice things being said about Phillip and it just made it all the more final. It seemed unreal to me. It was a strange feeling to sit and wonder when the next attack would come. Would it be successful? Would whoever it was get me?

We got in line after the funeral was over. I hugged Meg and Shirley and then just turned around and left. I didn't want to see Phillip in his coffin. I hoped the ladies would understand. I just didn't think I could take it. I was outside for only a minute before Greg and Brian found me. We got back in the car in silence and drove back to the hospital.

We all went straight to Ben's room. There was a man in his room with him when we got there and I thought we were interrupting something. Then I recognized him and smiled. Daryl Watson lived down the street from all of us and he'd always been a great guy to us in the past. He was also a very attractive guy. Steve and I used to stare at him. He had a great body, and he would job past our house just about every day. Just thinking about that made me smile. The he turned his dark haired head and saw me and smiled as well. I actually felt my stomach get queasy when he smiled at me.

"Tommy," he said with a smile as we came in. "It's good to see that you're all right."

"Hello, Darry," I said with the best smile I could muster with my stomach betraying me. "Where's Alex?"

"He's back in Chicago for now," he said, losing his smile for a second. "He'll be back soon though."

"Tell him we all said hello," I said.

"Will do," he said with another smile and then he walked out of the room, and I'm ashamed to admit that I watched him go. The man was sexy.

"All right, put your eyes back in your head, Tommy," said Ben, making Greg laugh. "You both have boyfriends."

"Right," I mumbled, turning to face my friends and shaking my head just a little bit.

"Well at least we know he isn't too far gone," laughed Greg.

"Shut up," I said while they laughed.

"So have you thought about where you want to go?" Ben asked when they'd both stopped laughing and I had taken a seat in the chair next to his bed. "My mom and dad said something about moving back to Maine."

That didn't sit well with me actually. I didn't like the idea of Tom and Shirley leaving Storyville. I mean, yeah, I was planning to leave just as soon as I figured out how I was going to do it, but I didn't want them to be gone before I left. It was selfish and stupid, I know, but that's the way I felt.

"When did they say this?" I asked Ben.

"This morning before everyone left for Charlie's funeral," he said. "Mom has been talking to Meg and they both want to go back."

"Both of them?" I asked, near panic.

"Yeah," he said, looking at me evenly. "Tommy, Meg lost her son here. Of course she wants to put some distance between herself and this place."

"I understand that," I sighed. "I don't know what's with me right now. Every little thing just about freaks me out."

"I think that's understandable," he said. "And don't worry. Neither of them are ready to go yet. It'll be a while before they find houses in Maine to buy."

"Right," I said. "Brian and I were talking about moving to Florida."

"That's a good idea," he said. "After school I might come down and find you. Believe me I've lived in Maine. I don't particularly care for it much."

"What about Andy?" I asked.

"What about him?" he replied. "He's an adult, Tommy. He'll make his own decision. I think he'll stay because Gage can't exactly leave right now."

"Right," I said, thinking about Gage's family. They were very close and Gage wouldn't leave them behind.

"Where is Brian?" Ben asked, looking around the room.

"He had to meet with Ian's mom," I said.

"Ah," he said. "Don't envy him."

"Me either," mumbled Greg.

"We're meeting him at DH3," I said. "He'll call me when he gets there."

"Ready for some good news?" he asked, smiling wide. "I get out of this place in the morning. I have to come back three times a week so the doctor can look at my burns, but he says they won't even scar."

"That's great!" I cried. "Now we'll just hang out at your house. Think your mom will be all right with the whole gang?"

I'd said it without thinking. The whole gang wasn't that big anymore. There was only Tyler, Greg, Brian, Nick and Wendy. The fact that so many of our friends were just gone sobered us again. We got quiet and just let time pass for a few minutes. I didn't think we'd ever get the hang of this.

"It'll get easier," Ben said softly after a while. "It hurts like hell, but it will get easier."

"Yeah," I said just as my phone started to ring. "That's Brian."

"Well I'll see you boys later," sighed Ben. "My mom should be coming back any time. I'm sure that she'll want to talk to you soon, Tommy."

"I'll call her if I don't run into her soon," I said.

I took my call from Brian and assured him that we were leaving the hospital. Greg and I made our way to the elevator, saying hello to others from the waiting room as we passed. We talked about Florida as we walked. Greg hadn't been told that we were discussing moving so I had some explaining to do. We talked about it all the way to the car.

"Well I can definitely understand why you'd want to move away from Storyville," he said when we got in his car.

"Well it isn't like the rest of you have to stay here," I said. "And you'll all be welcome to come and visit any time you want. We just have to get down there and get settled first."

"Yeah," he said as we pulled out of the parking lot.

We made it to the stop light when I noticed the red truck with heavily tinted windows behind us the first time. I'd thought that the tinted windows were against the law. That's what made me notice the truck to begin with. The fact that it made every turn we did stuck out in my mind as well. I thought I might just be paranoid until the truck sped up to stay just on our tail.

"Greg," I said slowly.

"I see," he said, speeding up. The truck sped up as well.

"Who is that?" I asked, turning almost completely around in my seat to look.

"I don't know," he said.

Then the truck lurched forward and hit us in the tail end. I flipped around in my seat and quickly put on my seat belt. This guy had an agenda and I didn't want to get hurt just because I wasn't wearing my seat belt. I thought for a minute that this was the shooter, but then I realized that this information did me no good. I flipped open my cell phone and dialed 911.

I got the message that said that all operators were busy, but if this was an emergency to please stay on the line. I cursed loudly and slammed my phone shut. It seemed the only way we were going to get police assistance was if we happened to pass a patrol car. About that time the truck hit us again. The car swerved hard for a second, but Greg got control again just as quickly. Then the truck hit us again, but we swerved into a turn and turned the corner so fast that I swore the driver's side wheels left the ground. We were two blocks from DH3 and I so wanted to get there.

The truck was about two car lengths behind us after that turn. I don't think the insane driver was expecting us to turn the way we did. Greg stepped on the gas pedal and we shot forward. He slammed on his breaks and we skidded to a stop right in front of DH3. We actually stopped only a few hairs from the back of Brian's car.

"Run!" Greg cried as he threw open his door and bolted from the car.

I pressed the button on my seat belt and opened the door at the same time. In just a few minutes I was running around the car just as the truck came to a screeching halt behind our car. I ran for all I was worth and slammed through the door right behind Greg.

"Call the police!" I screamed as we got inside, and then the mirror behind the bar exploded as a man with a rifle came into the coffee house. The shooter had come for us.

Storyville 3