Camp Refuge

Chapter 27 - Camp Refuge

July 06, 2018 (Friday, 10:22 AM)

Mason heard the tinkle of the bell on the door of Gary's little shop. He looked up, and there were a couple of young men there who had just entered.

One was athletic and pale, while the other was a little shorter, slim, and had a slightly darker, almost olive complexion. They both had very expressive dark brown eyes and dark hair.

"Hi. Welcome to Flemming and Son's Goods. Can I help you find something?" Mason smiled at the good-looking men.

They both returned the expression. "Hi," the pale fellow said and stepped up to the counter. "Thanks for the offer, but we're actually here to help you."

Mason frowned. "Sorry?" He looked back and forth between them. "What do you mean?"

"Harlan called us." The pale man put his hand on his own chest. "I'm Bruce." He jerked his thumb at his partner in crime. "This is Jenoah. We're here to handle his dad's shop while they're in San Francisco. They'll be in the city for a while."

Mason had worked the shop all week, and he didn't know the plan for the rest of the time Gary would need. But this is the first time he heard Gary was not coming home soon.

"Uh … okay. So how do you guys know Harlan?" Mason was obviously suspicious.

Jenoah spoke up. "We work with Harlan. At the resort." He shrugged. "He called for help, and we're here. We owed him a favor."

"Oh." Mason thought through the information given to him by Jenoah and Bruce. "Okay. Well, I'm going to need to call Gary to make sure this is all fine with him."

The young men shared a glance between them. Jenoah cleared his throat. "He may not be able to answer. Gary's not doing so hot right now. He has leukemia, and he was admitted to UCSF for a bone marrow transplant. Luckily, Harlan matched, and is donating his bone marrow to his dad."

"What?" Mason's voice was a little shocked. He blinked then shook his head. "We didn't … we didn't know."

Bruce nodded. "Yeah. Harlan wanted to keep things in the Family." He smiled at Mason. "But it's obvious you care about Gary, and you've already helped him out a lot, so you should know."

Mason blew out a breath. "Wow." He looked at both of them. "Is there anything we can do to help?"

Both young men smiled at him.

Jenoah looked at Bruce. "Harlan aveva ragione. A loro importa," he said, his smile still on his face. Bruce smiled and nodded in agreement.

Mason made a face. It wasn't Spanish, but a lot of the roots were the same. "Yes. I care. We all do."

The young men wore surprised expressions.

"Ah, apologies. It's easy to slip into the habit of my native language." Jenoah said. He sketched a small bow toward Mason. Then he raised his eyes and grinned. "I guess it's good I didn't talk about how handsome you are, no?"

Mason flushed a bright red. "I … uh," then he laughed, "that's fine, but I'm taken." Despite his earlier misgivings he began to warm up to these two.

Bruce put an arm around Jenoah and rolled his eyes. "So's he." The pale man kissed Jenoah and grinned. "You scamp."

Jenoah laughed, then he shrugged, free of guilt or worry.

Mason giggled at them, the smile still on his face. "Ah, okay. So if you guys are gonna run this place, I need to show you some stuff." Mason started to walk around the counter. "Oh. Where are you guys staying? Did Harlan tell you about …"

"The campground? Yep, he told us. We got a cabin there. It's nicer than a lot of places in town, and a LOT cheaper." Bruce made an ornery face and elbowed Jenoah. "And we already christened it."

"Bruce!" Jenoah tried to appear scandalized, but he failed utterly.

Mason laughed again. "Cool. Then I'll see you guys there tonight." He made a motion with his hand. "Come on. Let me show you what you'll need to know."

Mason turned around. Behind him, the two young men looked at one another. And they shared a small, secret smile.

___________________________________

July 06, 2018 (Friday, 7:21 PM)

Harlan grimaced and he gingerly sat down on the chair in the hotel room. He just got back from the hospital and needed a little downtime away from the sterile rooms and halls. Yesterday they did the procedure to collect the bone marrow from his hip. Harlan was very sore, but after they examined him today he was told it was normal, and that he would heal just fine.

They hoped he would be a match for Gary, and he was. The major cell markers all lined up, and there should be a low risk of rejection or another adverse response.

They processed the bone marrow, and this morning they administered it to his father. It took bribes, cajoling, and even one case of an outright threat of violence, but they moved forward with Gary's treatment in what amounted to record time.

Now they kept Gary in near isolation to avoid exposure to infectious agents. Thanks to the necessity to eliminate Gary's blood-producing cells, he had almost no immunity, other than the physical barriers of his body, such as his skin. A few bacteria could infect him, go septic, and kill him. So it was a very nerve-wracking time for Harlan.

For his part, Gary was in good spirits and showed such appreciation for what Harlan did for him. "Thank you, son." He thought back on that moment when they came to take Harlan back for the bone marrow sampling. He stood over Gary's bed, and his dad held his hand in a tight grip. "I want you to know that I appreciate this. No matter how it ends."

"It ends when you're better," Harlan said. There was no other option. "See you soon, old man." He patted Gary's hand, then they took him back for the procedure.

He shifted and hissed. His hip throbbed with a strange, deep pain. He knew it would go away soon. And he would pay the price again if he had to.

He pulled out his phone and he dialed.

"Ciao, Harlan." The peppy and smooth voice of Jenoah said on the other end. "How are you and your father?"

"We're fine, Jenoah." He got right to business. "How did it go?"

"Good. We had to tell Mason about Gary's cancer, but you knew that was likely."

Harlan nodded to himself. "Yes. That's fine. And you're running the shop now? I don't want to owe anything else to Mason or to the campground."

"Yes. Mason was suspicious, but we worked our charms on him."

Harlan snorted. "Whores."

"Not those charms!" Jenoah laughed. "Seriously though, all is well. This campground is amazing! I think the Don would like to see it."

"Probably. And speaking of things the Don would like to see … did you take a look at the work in what they call the "Clay" cabin? The boy, Elias, is producing something truly spectacular."

"Ohhhhh yes." The wonder in Jenoah's voice was easy to hear. "He has fired the pieces he has completed, and he only has a bit left to go of the wings. The head alone is a masterpiece! The boy will be done in a few days. Then he will just have to glaze it all, and fire again. There are so many pieces! This thing will be huge! And Harlan, once complete, the Costa Family would kill … LITERALLY, kill for this thing."

Harlan inhaled in realization. "Raven." The raven was the symbol of one of the crime families. The Costa would indeed kill for such a prize. "Jenoah, there's no possibility they know, right?"

"Oh no. They are not the Giovanni! They don't have the spy network needed for such knowledge. They don't know it exists."

'Yet,' Harlan thought. 'Word is bound to get out. All of the campers that come by see and gawk over that boy's work.' Harlan set his jaw. 'Elias is in danger, because of his gift.' "Jenoah, I must go. But I want you to tell me if there are any complications, or if you need help."

"I will. Bruce and I have things in hand. Take care of your father. Don't worry about anything else."

"All right." Harlan licked his lips. "Jenoah, thank you and Bruce for helping. I … ah, I owe you."

"We're Family. You owe nothing. Ciao, Harlan."

The man smiled. "Ciao, Jenoah."

He hung up and his thumb traced a circle on the glass face of his phone. Then he dialed another number.

"Harlan, how is your father?" The Don's voice was earnest, and Harlan knew he truly wanted to know.

"He is as well as he can be, my Don. Thank you for asking." Harlan took a breath. "The boy nears completion on his project. And I fear word will eventually get out it exists. The Costa would be …"

There was a sharp intake of breath on the other end of the line. "Dannazione. Hai ragione." The Don swore. "It's worth their attention? Is the rest as good as the beginning?"

"Yes, my Don. It will be a world-class piece of art. One of a kind."

There was more cursing in Italian. The Don cleared his throat. "The Costa are not big fans of our Family." His voice grew thoughtful. "Once they discover this, I don't know how much influence I can have over them. I don't know if I can keep this boy, and those around him safe. Theft is likely the least of our worries. The Costa are not above kidnapping, particularly of one with such talent." He was quiet for a bit, then he said in a heavy and disappointed voice, "Harlan, once this art is complete, something will need to be done. That may include destroying it."

Harlan felt an awful sensation in his belly when he heard those words. The Don continued. "What is the final goal of this boy? Where is the art going to reside?"

"He wants to give it to his teacher, a man named Jeremy. He leads the Raven Project, which Elias is a part of." Harlan had a thought. "Huh. My Don, if I could be so bold as to offer a suggestion?"

"By all means."

Harlan smiled grimly. "I think, perhaps I have a way to kill many birds … with a single raven."

___________________________________

July 07, 2018 (Saturday, 4:08 AM)

Elias turned on every light in the cabin as it was still dark outside. He yawned, and he took another drink of the cold brewed coffee he put in the fridge last night. He made a face at the taste, but he was thankful for the jolt of caffeine he knew was in the liquid. He shook his head and put the mug down within reach.

He had woken up and again he couldn't go back to sleep. His thoughts swirled around his work, and he stared at the two pieces which remained. They were the final bits, the two parts of a wing he had to do over after they blew apart in the kiln. Elias closed his eyes and he could clearly see the final form. He looked again at the clay, and he noted the differences between his vision and the reality before him.

He sat on his stool, and he began to work. Eventually, he found the ability to superimpose his vision onto the surface of the clay itself. Then it was a lot like tracing - his fingers ran along the lines, deepening some, smoothing others. He flicked his fingernails through the material and created the ribs of the feathers, and the small, incredibly important textures he saw. Slowly, his vision and reality grew closer.

He let the moment carry him, and soon his tiredness was forgotten. It didn't matter. The needs of the body didn't matter. He was an instrument, and through him flowed the pure song of inspiration.

And Elias was prepared.

Elias would sing.

___________________________________

July 07, 2018 (Saturday, 8:18 AM)

Jeremy stared in wonder at the work produced by Elias. The boy had just finished the final two pieces of the massive raven he had slaved over for almost two weeks. All that remained was to fire, glaze, then fire again these two last parts. And it would be done.

There were all sorts of connectors built directly into the material. Elias embedded rebar hooks, eyes, pegs, and holes in all of the joints. At one point, they helped him assemble an entire wing. The way he overlapped the pieces meant the connections between the parts were hidden. They merely looked like shadows instead of divisions. Now that the dark glaze was fired onto the parts, even those were gone. And more, none of the joints were totally fixed. The wings could MOVE. There was a tiny amount of articulation at each joining, and that meant over the entire surface of the wing there was potential for posing the work in the desired position.

It was a staggering accomplishment. One Jeremy had never seen.

'No one has ever seen anything like this. There has never been anything like this.' The redhead's eyes roamed over the surfaces of the work. He took in all of the various parts that were carefully placed in the cabin. Elias was out, and he talked with Mason about a final run for firing his last pieces. Jeremy found himself very excited about seeing it all together.

When Elias told Jeremy he was making something for him Jeremy was flattered. But he had no idea what would become of the boy's efforts. And as he stood among the parts of the Raven, his mind began to turn.

'This could be part of a fundraiser. This could save The Raven Project.' He bit his lip. 'I should contact an art museum. Someone HAS to be interested in this thing.'

He felt a little bad about any plan which involved selling the work. But it was massive. It wasn't as if it could reside in a normal house or most structures. They couldn't even assemble it entirely in the cabin unless they turned it lengthwise. It was 8 ½ feet wing-tip to wing-tip, and almost 6' tall.

He took out his phone and took a few pictures of the head of the raven. It was already fired, glazed, and absolutely stunning. It was a great showcase of what to expect of the entire piece. Jeremy slowly nodded to himself and then put away his phone. "Okay. Time to put out the word. I think Elias is about to put the Raven Project on the map, in a huge way."

___________________________________

July 07, 2018 (Saturday, 5:51 PM)

Orson saw Mason's truck return a few minutes ago from his cabin window. They were on the final firing run for The Raven. And many of the campers knew it too. The campground was now at about half capacity, and many of them came specifically because of The Raven. Word was spreading about it, and people marveled at the thing in pieces.

'How much more amazing will it be together?' Orson rested at his desk for a bit, as his right leg was exhausted from his near-constant use throughout the day. He wanted to be there when it was assembled, so he wearily stood up on his left leg.

He'd taken off his prosthesis. He loved the device, but it was still an artificial thing attached to his body. And when resting it felt better to be free of it. But he needed to be a part of the process - for Elias.

He hopped over to the futon and picked up his leg which rested against the side of the furniture. He frowned to himself. 'I wish Joseph were here.' The blonde officer worked a swing shift today. The two of them spent a large chunk of the week together, and he would be back to sleep with Orson later tonight, around 11:30 PM.

It bothered him a bit that he now had the need to be around someone. He had always been fine alone. But now he felt a hole when Joseph wasn't nearby, when he saw something Joseph would like, or when something special happened.

'I'll take pictures for him. And he'll see it tomorrow.' Orson shrugged aside his minor gloomy thoughts. He shook his head at himself and laughed. "Jeez, he'll be here TONIGHT. Get ahold of yourself, man." Orson put on his leg.

He stood up and flinched a little. His right leg was sore today. But it was bearable. 'I'll get used to it.' He took a breath and he went outside.

Greg, Clay, Jeremy and a bunch of campers had gathered near the Clay cabin. Mason helped Elias and they hauled the pieces of The Raven out onto a flat area beside the building. Almost everyone had a cellphone and videoed or took pictures of the process. Everyone had smiles and talked excitedly.

"Are we ready?" Mason asked, hands on his hips, and he looked around at the pieces.

Elias shook his head. "No. Where's …" his eyes found Orson as the man slowly made his way over. Elias grinned. Orson smiled back at him, and he walked up to the boy. Orson put an arm around his shoulders.

Elias hugged Orson, and the black-haired man held him against his chest. Then Elias pushed back and looked up at him. "Now we're ready."

"Get to it." Orson grinned and he patted Elias' back.

The boy nodded, and they began to assemble it. It was split into corresponding pieces, and in order to keep it balanced, they had to build it in a specific sequence. Orson marveled at the complexity. Pieces rested on and hooked into others, and as it went together it became more and more stable. Elias calmly instructed Mason on what to do as they both assembled it. The physics and engineering of such a thing were simply beyond Orson. 'How did he know to DO this?' Slowly, The Raven grew.

The wings were next, and they were assembled. They were beautiful, and they sparkled darkly in the sunlight of the early evening. There were only the upper parts remaining, and then the head, which was a single piece.

They had to use a ladder, and Mason awkwardly helped Elias put the chest and back together as the boy stood on the step. Greg was on the other side and helped steady Elias and the ladder. Then, at last, came the head.

Elias held it above him and slowly lowered it into position. It went into place, and suddenly it was finished. He climbed down, and they moved the ladder.

There was stunned silence. The ceramic had a black glaze, but Elias had used a white glaze here and there to create accents and subtle shades of less dark areas - such as on the wing tips, edges, and around the eyes. It was just enough to make the features and the details pop, and look real.

Orson blinked, his leg and his pain forgotten. "Elias, this is amazing." He looked from The Raven to the teenager where he stood beside it. "I'm so proud of you."

Elias swallowed. He started to say something, then he looked at all of those assembled around him. "I want to say that if it wasn't for The Raven Project," he nodded at Jeremy who stood nearby, "and you, Orson," his eyes came back to Orson, "that I probably wouldn't be here."

Orson smiled at him, and his eyes began to water with emotion.

Elias nodded at him. Then he grinned at the group. "So, here it is. 'The Raven'."

Orson felt almost as if he were at an art exhibition. There was applause, actual applause from the campers. Then they broke up, walked closer to the work, and talked among themselves as they walked around it.

"Are you selling it?"

"What are you going to do with it?"

"Why did you build it?"

"Who taught you to do this?"

The questions came at Elias and he calmly answered them all. Orson watched him. It was as if Elias was in his element, and his natural shyness was gone when it concerned his work.

Jeremy came to stand by Orson. "I've contacted a few art museums down in the city. Elias is unknown, but the quality of this," he looked at The Raven and shook his head, "can't be ignored." He looked at Orson. "I'm going to split anything with Elias. To start his college fund. The rest will go to running The Raven Project."

Orson smiled at Jeremy. "That's really generous. Thank you."

The two watched Elias. And as he answered questions and thanked people for the compliments they gave, periodically he would glance at them. He smiled each time.

Orson sighed. "I think, maybe, Elias doesn't need me quite as much as he did."

Jeremy looked at him. He put a hand on Orson's back. "Then you have done something right." He looked back at Elias. "You have given him love and support. Once he didn't have to worry about that, then his talent could bloom." He shook his head, still in disbelief. "And this is the product of … you. It's your influence in his life." His eyes returned to Orson. "But he'll always need you. At least a little."

Orson thought about what Jeremy said. He didn't respond. Instead, the two quietly watched Elias as he basked in his moment.

'Nobody deserves this more,' Orson thought. He took a breath. "Come on. Let's congratulate the artist."

He moved along with Jeremy and the two of them showered the boy with praise. And Orson could tell from Elias' eyes, that their words meant more to him than anything else in the world.

___________________________________

Jenoah and Bruce stood back and looked at the group and the stunning sculpture. Jenoah shook his head. "This is bad, Bruce." His dark eyes took in the reaction of the crowd, the number of people recording, taking pictures, and posting to social media.

Bruce looked from Jenoah to The Raven. "Will the Costa really come for it?" He shrugged. "They could just commission someone to create their own."

Jenoah shook his head slightly. "No." He continued to look over the work. "This is something unique. Even if someone else had its exact design, it would be a mere copy." He turned to Bruce. "This piece, it has a soul. It's brilliant, and it can't truly be copied."

Bruce frowned at Jenoah, then he turned back to the sculpture. He didn't have the experience Jenoah had with art and culture. Though he could see the technical skill required for such work, he didn't quite grasp the meaning of it. "I'll take your word for it." He nodded. "It's pretty awesome, that's for sure."

"Yes." Jenoah pursed his lips in worry. "And that might cost these people." He started to say something else when his phone vibrated. He looked and his eyes widened. He quickly answered. "My Don. What can I do for you?"

"Jenoah, pictures are beginning to surface on various social media sites. This is going to spiral out of control quickly. I need you to do something for me."

"Of course, my Don. Tell me what you need."

"Thanks to his reaching out to various art institutions, I now have his email. And I am about to send an offer to this man, Jeremy Adams. Watch him. Tell me about his reaction."

"Yes, my Don." Jenoah heard a few key presses over the phone and he looked up. He watched Jeremy as the redhead frowned, and took his phone from his pocket.

Jeremy's jaw dropped and he began talking excitedly to the man, Orson. And then both of them spoke to Elias.

They all looked shocked, Elias most of all. He blinked and smiled. He nodded at Jeremy.

"They all look thrilled, my Don." Jenoah smiled as he saw Jeremy responding to the email sent by the Don. "What did you offer?"

"$150,000, on the stipulation that I can also have a face to face moment with the artist."

Jenoah frowned. "Ah … are you coming here, my Don?"

"No. We will meet in Chicago, on Costa territory. I'm sure his guardian will wish to come as well, and that is acceptable." He sighed. "There's only one way to protect Elias. I will see to it." The man made a noise. "An acceptance email. Excellent."

He was a little bewildered. "On Costa territory, my Don? Is that wise?"

The man chuckled. "We’ll see."

Jenoah watched as Jeremy and Orson hugged Elias. The boy was sandwiched between them, and all three started crying. He smiled.

"This is … this is good, my Don. From what I have seen and heard, these people are worth supporting."

"I have gotten the same feedback from Harlan. Let's just hope I'm fast enough. Their flights are scheduled. Be watchful. If the Costa come there, let them know who you are. It MAY be enough."

Jenoah didn't like the unsure tone. "I will, my Don. It will work out."

In a small town in rural Idaho, the Don hung up his phone. He turned to look out of the window of the two-story building - the unlikely center of his operation.

"I hope you’re right, Jenoah.

Author's Note:  For anybody interested, here's a picture of how the Raven is posed.  Elias' Raven


Author's Note:

Please let me know your thoughts on the chapter at the following email address link.   Wayne Gray

And thank you for reading! 

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