Stream of Consciousness

Hank Olsen frowned in disapproval. He had only joined the group three years ago, so had missed the whole incident with the boys having gone missing though he had heard that they had run away whenever anyone had spoken of them. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to sweep this sort of thing under the rug, and I can’t believe you didn’t notify the FBI when the boys had gone missing. All of this could have been avoided…”

The Sheriff interjected, “Hindsight is always 20/20. We did an honest search for those boys and it was the consensus that they were probably better off where they were, believing they had run away from home, considering who their father is. No way three young boys would have gone past the notice of authorities, and we all thought they were in foster care. So, we saw no reason to report it…”

Hank cut in, “What did you have to lose in reporting it? Other than Floyd perhaps being charged with child endangerment? Maybe some jail time might have helped him with his drinking problem. I just don’t understand, but as you said that was in the past,. This situation is new, fresh and if Lloyd is a serial killer or was, and considering what he did to those boys, the authorities should be armed with all the information they need. I get your trying to cover your own asses at this point, but I think you’re just digging a deeper hole. And what about the boys themselves? If the authorities come here to question the town, they’re going to ask questions about their condition…”

The Judge interrupted. “We’ll keep the boys hidden. No reason the authorities even need to know they’re here.” Before Hank could counter, Caroline put a hand on his arm. “Please, Hank. We do things differently here.” Hank looked over at his wife. “I’ve noticed Caroline, and I honestly don’t like it. Because of it, three young boys just spent the last five years of their lives at the hands of a psychopathic serial killer being tortured and raped. You can’t honestly sit there and think this is okay. This is not the sort of thing you can just sweep under the rug. Ultimately it’s going to come back and bite us all in the ass.”

Aberly interjected. “I agree with you Hank, but at this point, we’re in too deep. Some of us will likely lose their jobs, and might even do jail time. We might all do jail time for not reporting those boys missing. I won’t deny that it was a bad decision, and at the time I thought it was bad and said so, but I was outvoted.”

Hank glared at Aberly. “Outvoted? You could have stepped forward and done the right thing yourself, Abe. It’s one thing saying you don’t agree with something, and quite another to just stand aside and do nothing about it. Well, I’m not having it. The authorities have a right to know the truth, and those boys deserve the truth to be known. They need professional counseling, and Jarrel is not exactly qualified for that anymore. Mike killed a man and Luke tried to, and both are going to need therapy for that. All of them need real therapy for what they’ve been through. If you’ve done wrong and know and admit that you’ve done wrong, then you need to be willing to pay the price for that in order to turn things right.”

Hank glanced over at the Pastor. “Isn’t that right, Pastor? Isn’t that what Christianity preaches? You can’t just ask for forgiveness. You need to set things straight with God in order to receive it. This town’s negligence in regards to those boys put them and kept them in a dire situation, and you all need to make that right now. And I’m saying right now that if you don’t, I will. I won’t have any part of this secrecy crap. Not in this kind of situation. I get that some things can and should be handled in-house, but this is not one of them.”

The Judge interjected, “Full disclosure at this point would expose those boys to a media circus. Do you think that’s what they need?” Hank held the Judge’s eye. “No. I don’t think that’s what they need, but I think that is preferable than forcing them to keep silent about what happened to them. And what about their future? Being brought up by a drunk? From what I understand Floyd was abusive with them, to begin with. The man’s got a bad temper and when drunk even worse. Is that the life those boys deserve?”

The Sheriff spoke up, “We’ll keep Floyd in line.” Hank rolled his eyes. “You people are in serious denial of what is going on here. I have nothing more to say. I’m leaving, and I’m going to get those boys some help. Some real professional help. No offense, Doc but I know your clinic isn’t fully capable of giving those boys the treatment they need based on the condition you say they are in. Can you honestly stand there and say that they have all the treatment they need? You said you might not be able to save Luke’s leg. Is it possible that a professional surgeon might be able to with the right equipment and expertise? You’re a general practitioner, a specialist might be able to do what you can’t. Are you going to sacrifice a boy’s leg for your own self-preservation? And who is to say without proper therapy that those boys don’t turn out to be killers themselves. Who knows what they’ve been exposed to. If they were forced to witness or even participate in killing other people while living with Lloyd…”

Doc sighed. “I tend to be of Aberly’s opinion. I know we did wrong, but I’m not sure at this point that reporting this would be the best or right thing to do all around. Who is to say where those boys will end up? If they’ll even end up together? Right now, they are strongly bonded to one another and if the State separates them it might very well be detrimental to their emotional and mental health. Everything you say you are trying to avoid for them might come to be from that aspect alone. I am truly torn because I feel you are right about their medical treatment being superior at a hospital, but I don’t know where to draw the line and weigh the positives and negatives at this point, Hank. I think we need to take care of our own at this point. The boys at least have family here. Yes, Floyd is heavy-handed and a drunk, but everyone in this town, except for Aberly are blood-related or related through marriage and Aberly’s like family too. I think there are times where the family is the best place for children to be, as long as there are caring members present, and there are.”

The Doc looked around the group. “I’m not proud of my part in all of this, but I think we should play out Lance’s plan, as it’s already been initiated, but we need everyone on board in order to do that.” Hank closed his eyes and shook his head. “I wish you all had left me out of this discussion. I don’t want to betray family, but I can’t live knowing what I know and do nothing about it. So, you are going to either have to lock me up to keep me from reporting this, or deal with the consequences.”

As Hank stood up, the Sheriff pulled his gun and pointed it at him. “I can’t allow you to do that Hank.” Hank’s eyes went wide. “Seriously? You’d kill me in order to keep this quiet, Lance?” Lance shook his head. “No, but I would wound you and lock you up as you say. Now the choice is yours to voluntarily go along with the decision of this town, or become a prisoner here.” Hank glanced around at the others. “No one’s taken a vote yet. Is everyone in agreement with this plan? Aberly? Are you honestly going to stand there and let the Sheriff shoot me and lock me away in order to keep me quiet? Doc?”

Hank pleaded with the two he thought to be the most reasonable of the group. He knew the others would follow the Sheriff. “What about you, Pastor? For someone who’s always launching into sermons, you’re awful quiet. What do you think God is thinking right now about this little plan? If you ask me, you’re all cowards afraid to face the consequences of your actions. You are willing to sacrifice the physical, mental and emotional well-being of three young boys who have been put through Hell and back again for your own sakes. It’s disgusting. So, you go ahead and shoot Lance and lock me up, because otherwise, I’m walking out of here.”

“Don’t push me, Hank. I’m not kidding.” Hank held the Sheriff’s eyes. “Neither am I, Sheriff.” The Doc suddenly stood up. “I agree with Hank. I’m willing to pay whatever consequences I have to pay for my past negligence on part of those boys. If it means losing my license or even doing jail time, then so be it. We did those boys wrong and doing another wrong isn’t going to make it right. Are you going to shoot me too, Lance?” Lance glanced over at the doctor. “If you force me to, Doc. I’ll shoot you both in the feet if I have to and place you under lock and key.”

The Doc widened his eyes. “Seriously? And what if Aberly joins us?” The Doc looked over at the large man. “You going to shoot him too and lock him up?” The Judge pulled a gun at that point. “Yes, as many as needed. Now sit down. both of you.”

“THAT’S ENOUGH!” Aberly’s booming voice suddenly filled the small-town hall. “No one is going to shoot anyone. We’ll go peaceably. Where are you going to lock us up? I’m with Hank and Doc. Hank is right. It’s time to set things straight, regardless of the consequences to ourselves. Anyone else willing to do the right thing? Pastor? You with us?”

“Oh no, you don’t!” Martha suddenly grasped the Pastor’s arm and yanked him back down into his seat as he started to stand up. “You’re not throwing away everything and landing us in jail. You can do more good on the outside praying for our souls.” The Pastor looked at his wife. “And what condition will our souls be in if I go along with this? I can’t decide for you, but I’m going with Hank, Doc, and Aberly. I’d rather be locked up and ensure a place for myself in Heaven, then to be free in life and end up in Hell.” Martha scowled. “You can find some good to do and be free. All you have to do is keep your mouth shut. Treat the situation like a confessional.”

Lance nodded. “There is that. You can consider all of this being imparted in confidence.” The Pastor frowned. “That’s not fair. You didn’t say that to start, but now you’re binding me to silence where I’d prefer to just come clean.” Lance smiled slightly. “If you’d rather be locked up then, by all means, join the others, but now you have an out if this ever does come back to bite us in the ass, but I see no reason that it will as long as everyone cooperates and keeps silent. As for where we’re going to put the rest of you. We’ll lock you all in Jarrel’s mad room, Jarrel included, and move the boys down there as well. We’ll move whatever medical equipment you need to tend to them, Doc. Jonathan set up the basement for when Jarrel needed to be locked up for a bit. It’s got a full bath and refrigerator and everything you’ll all need to be comfortable. We will, of course, be confiscating your cell phones…”

Hank interjected, “What if we have an emergency with the boys?” Lance gestured toward Hank’s walkie-talkie. “Use the walkie-talkie. Its range isn’t long enough to call the authorities from Land’s End, but you can contact me or Bufe with it.” Doc asked, “And if the emergency requires a hospital? What then? Are you going to let the boys die rather than come clean on what we’ve done?” The Judge interjected at that point, “Hopefully it won’t come down to that. Just take care of the boys the best you can. Once everything blows over we’ll let you all loose again.”

Hank eyed the Judge. “What makes you think I won’t go to the authorities after the fact?” The Judge shrugged. “If you prefer a life sentence in Jarrel’s mad room then so be it. You’ll only be let out if you give your word to keep your mouths shut. I really don’t see what the big deal here is. Lance already notified the authorities of the fire so they could find Lloyd and the skulls. Lloyd’s body will be found and his victims will receive justice in the end. None of that had anything to do with any of us. The only thing we’re keeping from them is the boys and our involvement in the affair.”

Hank shook his head. “It has everything to do with you. Because you kept silent five years ago, Lloyd had a chance to not only torture and abuse three young boys, but how many people did he kill in that interim as well? He could have been stopped five years ago. So, don’t stand there and act like you are innocent of any wrong-doing. Just the fact that you are holding us at gunpoint, threatening to wound and lock us up–possibly for life–proves just how far gone and depraved you really are.”

The Judge shrugged. “We made a bad decision five years ago. I won’t deny that, but I’m not going to throw away my life over it. The boys are back and with family and they’ll be cared for by family, not strangers. We all chose to start our own township so that we didn’t have to involve the outside world in our business. That was the agreement we made when Land’s End was established, and I’m not going to let you or anyone else destroy what I put so much work into creating here. Now enough talk. Get moving. We’ll get Jarrel and the boys moved after we get the three of you secure and anyone else who wants to join you. Is there anyone else?” The Judge looked around at the group, but no one else stood up. Buford shuffled uncomfortable but a glare from his father and uncle silenced anything he might have been about to say. However, by the time they got to Jarrel’s place, Buford finally found the courage to speak up as Hank, Doc and Aberly went down the basement stairs. Handing his gun and cell phone to his father, he said, “I’m sorry, dad, but I agree with Hank. We need to do the right thing, despite the consequences to ourselves.”

Lance glared at his son. “Don’t be an idiot, Buford. This will work if we just stick together.” Buford shook his head. “Doesn’t matter if it’ll work or not, dad. It’s wrong and you know it. I thought you were a better man than that. I thought you had integrity but you’re a coward…” Lance suddenly backhanded his son, nearly knocking him to the floor. Buford straightened up, wiping the blood from his lip. He wasn’t used to disobeying his father or uncle, but in this situation, he knew he was making the right decision. “You going to shoot your own son?” Lance pointed his gun at Buford’s foot. “If I have to. I’ll do whatever I have to do to keep this town… this family together and out of danger.”

Buford snorted. “Wonder where that speech was five years ago when the boys disappeared? Seems you didn’t do everything you needed to do on their account. Seems like you’re only willing to do anything you need to do on your own account.” Lance pistol-whipped his son across the head in response knocking him part way down the basement stairs in the process. “Get down into the mad room, boy before I kick your ass good. Mouthing off like that to me. You’ve lost your mind…”

Buford shot back, but only after getting down the stairs and out of reach of his father. “No. You lost your mind, dad.” Lance’s response was to shut and lock the door. He closed his eyes, however, after locking it and blew out a long breath before turning to his brother. “Are we doing the right thing, Peter?” Peter nodded. “A scandal like this will tear this town apart. There won’t be anything left when the dust settles and those boys will be parceled out to strangers, and who knows if they’ll even be in a better situation with the social welfare system as it is. And the rest of us will all be sitting in prison or scattered to the wind, living in the City where none of us want to be. We’re doing the right thing. What is right for our family, whether they see it or not, Lance.”

Lance sighed again but nodded, though he had a nagging doubt at the back of his mind. He hadn’t expected any contest to his decision. Damn, Hank Olsen. If he had only kept his mouth shut, Doc and Aberly would have gone along.

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