Zeke Reynolds was a sixteen year old junior at Stonewall Jackson High School and a shortstop on the Varsity Baseball Team. He was carrying a 'B' average, though just above a Gentleman's 'C'. He really didn't have many friends, because his Uncle kept him on a very short leash, as he didn't think many kids were good enough for his nephew. His Uncle was a Deacon at the local Four Square Church and believed mightily in the prayer and the rod. Unfortunately for Zeke, his Uncle had custody of him, due to the fact that his parents had been killed when the Little Erehwon River overflowed near its confluence with the Ohio River just outside of Darkstar, WV.
Living with his Uncle and thirteen year old brother was quite a bit different than living with his family. At first, things were okay, but then once he turned sixteen things took a turn for the worse. It was just before his sixteenth birthday when his Aunt died of a sudden stroke. It actually wasn't the stroke that killed her; it was when she drove her car into the bridge abutment that she actually died. The stroke had caused her to lose control of her car.
The fact that she was just leaving their Pentecostal Church was enough to send her husband into a tailspin. He didn't pull out of the tailspin until a kind soul at the local dive bar just casually mentioned that his church was having a special meeting that could help him. From that day on, Zeke's Uncle was a changed man, and not always for the better.
Zeke's Uncle had to go on a three day 'Spiritual Retreat' to learn more about the doctrines and policies of the church he had just joined. Since Zeke was sixteen, he was left at home in charge of the house and his thirteen year old brother Josh. Zeke was absolutely shocked when his Uncle told him that they were going to be left home alone and that he was in charge. Then the other shoe dropped.
"You are to stay in the house, no friends, and no phone calls. You are to read the Bible for at least an hour each day, and you must watch the 700 Club at least two hours a day. If you watch anything else on TV, you will have to read another hour of the Bible for each half hour of TV! Sister Brenda and Brother Mathias will be checking in on you at various times of the day."
There were more rules, as you might imagine, but you can get the gist of the overly structured life they led. Knowing that they had no privacy, the two boys ate dinner that night dressed exactly as they would have, had their Uncle been home; long pants, white shirt and tie. Friday night, not willing to tempt the fates, both boys were in bed by their normal 9:30 PM bedtime.
'At least I can sleep all night without my Uncle barging in at the odd hours checking to see if I am "abusing myself" and shouting scriptures at me. Woe unto me if my body would happen to betray me when he would come in. I don't think I could take another night of the pain and humiliation, as he would, in his words, "use my scepter and Holy Seed to drive the devil right out of you. So saith the Lord!" The worst thing is he has noticed that Josh is nearing puberty and he has said that he would be keeping a closer eye on Josh!! I can't bear to have Josh go through what I have gone through.' Before Zeke could come up with a plan, his thoughts faded into the night as sleep overtook him.
The next day, the two boys dutifully performed their assigned chores. Zeke mowed the lawn while Josh raked the flower beds and pulled all the weeds. Josh then edged the lawn in front while Zeke was in the backyard mowing that lawn. The boys were hard at work when Sister Brenda stopped by to check on them. As they had been taught, both boys bowed their heads when greeting Sister Brenda and offered her some tea. Sister Brenda declined, but thanked the boys for their courtesy, and then was on her way. The afternoon was spent vacuuming and dusting the house from top to bottom, doing the laundry and mopping all the floors. They had just finished all of their chores when Brother Mathias arrived to take them to the evening service.
Unlike most Saturday Evening Services, this one was fairly short, and there was as much damnation as usual. The reason for the shorter service was quite simple, as the majority of the clergy was at the same retreat as the boys' Uncle. However, that didn't mean that the sermon was any shorter or less filled with vilification and damnation of all those not of their church. For the uneducated and uninitiated, theirs was the Church of the One True God, and only those true believing members were the chosen who would inherit His Kingdom on Earth and ascend to Heaven and sit at His right hand. Sister Brenda, Brother Mathias and the other minders left home this weekend would be attending the retreat at a future date. Presbyterians, these folks definitely were not.
Brother Mathias took the boys home to his house for dinner with his family, something each boy would have gladly done without. They had suffered through several dinners there, and they were just like being in church. Grace was nearly a half hour long, and there were prayers before each dish that was brought in and served. There was no conversation other than quotes of scriptures or answering questions about their Bible reading and religion classes. The only saving grace for Zeke and Josh was Brother Mathias' sixteen year old son, Dennis.
Zeke and Dennis had some of the same classes at school, and while they weren't the greatest of friends, they were at least acquaintances. They both had similar rules regarding their home life and, as such, were basically cut off from their peers. When Brother Mathias had sent the children to wash up before dinner, Dennis had taken Zeke to his personal bathroom to clean up. Like all of the rooms in either household, except for the parents' bedrooms and the fathers' studies, Dennis' bathroom had no lock.
"You'll never guess what I heard on AOL this morning," Dennis said to Zeke, as they were washing their hands.
"What did you hear, and why are you so excited?" Zeke asked.
"There was this awesome concert from Switzerland on, and it was co-hosted by a bunch of thirteen year olds from Pennsylvania. Stranger yet, they also own a foundation for gay kids. How gay is that?"
Zeke, not wanting to give anything away, decided to be a little subtle.
"Nah, kids that young can't own or run a foundation; it ain't legal."
"Yes, it is, 'cause they got adults on the board, or something; they even own Juvie, only they call it Phoenix House, and their foundation is, believe it or not, the Phoenix Youth Foundation, Inc. If that wasn't enough, they have a website, and they said that the money from the concert was going to be used to help fags whose parents had beat them or thrown them out. But don't worry, my dad says the Church will fix them. Fags don't deserve to live."
Dennis' words gave Zeke hope, but at the same time chilled him. And, if he hadn't been looking at his hands, but at the mirror instead, he would have seen that the look on Dennis' face didn't match his words.
Trying not to give anything away, again, Zeke chose his words carefully;
"So, what's their website, addy phoenixyouthfoundation.xxx?"
"Nah, silly, it is .org, cause they are a philantropic organization or some other big word that means they are crazy and throw money away at fags!" Again, the look in Dennis' eyes didn't jive with what he was saying.
Before anything else could be said, they both heard:
"Boys, dinner is served. Get down here, now!"
Needless to say, both boys followed orders; their growling stomachs led the way.
The next morning, promptly at 6:45, Brother Mathias arrived to pick up Zeke and Josh for the Sunday Service. They had an hour long prayer session, then the adults headed to their Bible Study, and everyone below 18 headed to their religious indoctrination classes. 'Brainwashing', as Zeke called it.
When Zeke arrived at his class, there were only a few kids there, and no teacher. A few minutes later, one of the college age kids arrived.
"Y'all know me; I'm Luke, and I am here to baby-sit you for the next two hours, before we all go to the service."
Luke then, having not a clue as to what they were supposed to be studying, told them to read the Old Testament Book of Leviticus and, if there was time, the Book of Malachi. Their homework for the week would be to draw comparisons between the two books. Luke then buried his head into his Applied Sociology textbook and promptly blanked out the class.
Zeke knew that once Luke had his nose buried in a book, it would take Armageddon to awaken him. So he waited for a few minutes for Luke's attention to focus on the book and then he asked to be excused to attend to a necessary bodily function. His ploy worked perfectly, as Luke said yes without raising his nose out of his book, completely forgetting that no one was to be out of class without an adult chaperone.
Once out of the classroom, Zeke quickly headed to Brother Samuel's private office. Knowing that the office was always unlocked, he knew he would have no problem gaining entry. He chose Brother Samuel's office, as that had the only computer that didn't have the church's private brand of Nanny Spyware on it. Because Brother Samuel used his computer for private and confidential exchanges with other Four Square Churches, his computer had a direct Internet Connection. All the other computers had to go through the main server, where every keystroke was stored and filtered. Brother Samuel's computer had its own spyware that tracked all the other computers, so he had plenty of blackmail material. Of course, the computer was passworded, but the password wasn't hidden very well. Every wall in the office was covered with the phrase "We Are the Chosen!" It was also Brother Samuel's personal mantra. Zeke had been in Brother Samuel's Office, cleaning it as one of his tithes to the church, while Brother Samuel was working at the computer. Brother Samuel had done something wrong and had to restart the computer. Zeke just happened to overhear him muttering the phrase, as he typed in the password. 'Gives new meaning to the phrase "hidden in plain sight"', Zeke thought, as he dusted the room.
Zeke quickly logged in and proceeded to launch Internet Exploder, then typed in the URL for the Phoenix Youth Foundation's website. Once there, he found that everything that Dennis had said was absolutely true. In fact, Dennis had only told him a quarter of the truth. Knowing that he didn't have a lot of time, he searched the site for contact information. He didn't have to look very far, as there was a big red button that said 'Contact Us'.
'Well, here goes nothing,' Zeke thought and then clicked on the button. Another window popped up and words appeared in it, along with a picture of an old geezer.
I am 'Philip' how may I help you?
Shocked, Zeke didn't know what else to do, so he just started typing, and before he knew it he had told his and Josh's life story.
Suddenly the screen blanked, and a new face appeared, a much younger and friendlier one. Then new words appeared.
This is Karl. 'Philip' said I should talk to you.
It was then that he finally noticed that Karl's lips were moving as the words appeared on the screen.
We can help you, but, first, do you have a headset?
Brother Samuel's was sitting right there, so Zeke picked it up and put it on before typing 'yes'. Because he could still get caught, Zeke only put on one earpiece.
That is very good, as I am going to turn you over to someone your age who will be able to answer more of your questions and get you the help you and your brother need. He will be here in just a second.
As fast as the 'd' appeared on the screen, it disappeared and was replaced by a teenager who could have been his cousin.
"Hello, Zeke, my name is John Miller, but most people here at Phoenix House and Haven know me as John Peters. Before you say anything, yes, I do have the authority to help you, and, in fact, things are already in motion. Once we figure out what is best for you and Josh, the word will be given. Do you understand?"
The first words out of the stunned Zeke's mouth were, "Ahh... yes."
While John was keeping Zeke busy by asking lots of questions, Karl/'Philip' was on a video conference with Nick as well.
"Okay 'Philip' I understand. I will get the ball rolling here. As soon as John gives me the word, the rescue operation will proceed. I will keep this line open for you. Now I need to get a hold of Eddie; he will be a big help."
"Eddie, this is Nick, we have a situation!"
Nick had barely given Eddie the basics of the situation when his computer screen search window started flashing red and a buzzer went off.
"Oh SHIT! This is bad. Eddie, the rescue will be hot, and needs to happen like yesterday! The Uncle's church is affiliated with The Three Crosses Christian Church! According to this, the Retreat that the Uncle is attending isn't a Spiritual Retreat at all it is a planning meeting on how to rid their town of, and I quote, 'the undesirable elements in Darkstar.' By 'undesirable' they mean anyone not a WASP or member of their church. They go on to specifically mention 'homosexuals, Moslems, single mothers...' OK, you get the point. All right, Eddie, I will keep line two open for you. I have John and 'Philip' on line one. As much as 'Philip' can be a pain in the posterior, he is a godsend in times like this. I can have as many open conversations as I need for an operation. You understand your part?"
Eddie's answer was a harshly muttered, "AYE," as he was already dialing a secret phone number. Make that a not so secret phone number, as he had only dialed the first three numbers of SealsRUs. This organization was comprised of ex- and active Seal members to assist those in need when red tape would cause catastrophes.
Five minutes later, Eddie reported to Nick that they would have a team and a plan ready in less than half an hour. In fact, fifteen minutes later, both Nick and Eddie had a complete printout of the Ops plan and the teams involved. Yes, teams, as in plural. It seems that both of those churches and their agendas were intensely disliked in more places than even 'Philip' knew. Not only that, some very high-up military and political types wanted those churches closed down, but their hands were tied. The Ops plan would be carried out by a Seal team, a Marine Recon team, an Army Rangers team and a Delta Force team. The people who were planning the Op were leaving nothing to chance, and all teams would be armed to the teeth. Additionally, there would be several aircraft available for backup, if needed.
Eddie had asked Nick to have John inform Zeke that the rescue would be at three AM, and, if possible, to leave his and Josh's windows unlatched.
While the adults were confabbing their side, John had been busy getting to know Zeke and putting him at ease.
"OK, unless something changes, I will see you sometime tomorrow morning. Keep your chin up."
Zeke signed off, as John had told him to, and then removed all traces of his activities. If that wasn't enough, he then ran the program that Karl/'Philip' had sent him. The program ran and even erased Zeke logging in. In fact, the program set the computer back to exactly as it was when Brother Samuel had last used it. Once it had completed its work, the program then removed all traces of itself and then powered down the computer.
Zeke checked the clock and realized that he had been gone almost fifteen minutes. He quickly put everything back the way it was and then headed back to class. The only one who was awake or paying attention was Dennis, and he just gave him a sly grin.
Everyone was just getting ready to leave the Sunday Service when those who had been on the retreat arrived. Before Zeke’s Uncle could make his way over to harangue his nephews, he was cut off by Brother Mathias, Sister Brenda and, of all people, Luke.
"Deacon Laden, you must be very proud to have two such God-fearing and polite youngsters living under your guidance." Before their Uncle could respond to Sister Brenda's comments, Brother Mathias began speaking.
"I must agree with pious Sister Brenda; your two nephews are paragons of ecclesiastical knowledge and have superb manners. They were able to recite portions of the scriptures that my children couldn't, and even my wife was hard pressed to match their knowledge. Josh was very helpful feeding our young twins. As you know, at four years old, they still think flinging food is funny. Josh was an angel. The twins ate everything he gave them, and for once they were clean when they finished. My eldest, Dennis, was embarrassed by your Zeke, who truly does take after his name sake Ezekiel. God is surely smiling on you and yours, Deacon."
Luke then stepped up and began his spiel.
"Deacon Laden, Zeke surely surprised me with the depth of his knowledge of the Books of Leviticus and Malachi. He impressed me to no end with his ability to compare those two and to explain why those two books are so important to the sanctity of our life in God and our souls. Because of that I have excused Zeke from this week's homework. Go with God, Deacon, and keep on doing His work."
The Deacon stood there in shock, and the only reply he could make was, "Go with God."
The boys, seeing their Uncle just standing there, decided to go to him instead of making him come to them. They were hoping that would put him in a good frame of mind, and he wouldn't feel like demonstrating the power and might of the rod.
"OK, boys, time to head home; we will stop and pick up dinner on the way home. Then it is straight to bed. I am very tired, and I don't want to hear a peep out of either one of you. And if the house isn't spotless, you won't be able to sit for a week. Am I clear?"
Both boys answered together, "Yes, SIR, completely clear, sir." The boys couldn't believe how lucky they were; they were basically going to be left alone, after eating. No kneeling for hours reciting Bible passages, no standing with their arms straight out, holding a very heavy encyclopedia sized Bible in each hand, while memorizing the passages they had mangled.
John was busy explaining everything to his parents, Nina and Anthony, Uncle Tom, Neal and Uncle Leo. There was a lot of tension and anger in the room; however, none of it directed at John. In fact, John was surprised at how much respect he was getting for how he handled the situation.
"But all I did is what all of you have told me to do, and it is exactly what any of you would have done. Plus, I had 'Philip' helping me, and then Uncle Nick was in one ear and then somehow 'Philip' brought in Uncle Eddie. So all I really had to do was follow their instructions. Do you know how confusing it is to have the computer talking to you and having two separate voices speaking to you; a different one in each ear? On top of that, 'Philip' was trying to drive me crazy, because he kept switching between himself and his 'younger self', Karl. I almost broke out laughing several times.
'Then it worked. Harumph!'
"'Philip'!!!" roared out of everyone.
While everyone at Haven Manor was getting up to speed, Nick and Eddie were meeting in Nick's office, which looked more like something from the Pentagon than a P.I.'s office.
The two planners had just started drinking some of Nick's special reserve coffee when the fax machine beeped into life. When they checked what was incoming, they had a big surprise. The Fax was an updated OP's plan and ROE, and instead of the logo of the Seals organization, it was the Marine Corps logo. The new plan called for a hostile extraction, with absolutely nothing left behind. At the bottom was a personal note from General Harrison.
The two boys and all of their clothing, knickknacks, trophies, CD's, anything that shows they ever lived in that house, are to be removed as expeditiously as possible. There will be a medical professional along to ensure that the Uncle causes no problems. There will be several unplanned Military Exercises occurring in the neighboring vicinity to provide cover and backup as necessary. This mission is of the utmost priority and WILL succeed.
There was even more in the note, but it was all details and not germane for now. Nick and Eddie decided to head over to Haven Manor and get comfortable, as they weren't expecting the two boys to arrive until approximately four thirty or so in the morning. They had decided to stay at the Manor, so they could sleep in and not have to drive while sleepy.
Before they could eat the dinner that they had picked up, they had to suffer through a white glove inspection of the house. They weren't too worried, because the house was the cleanest it had been in a long while. Their Uncle was literally surprised, so surprised, in fact, that he told the boys they could use the dishwasher! However, that was the extent of the niceness, as their Uncle's next words were barked out.
"Bed, now and NO noise! Lights out in half an hour, and if I have to turn them out, you will pay for it!"
With stereophonic, "Yes Sir," the boys headed upstairs to their beds. Zeke made sure that both of their windows were unlatched, but not obviously so.
"Good night, Josh, sleep well." Zeke then headed to his own room, turning the light off as he left and not bothering to turn his own on.
'I wish I could tell Josh what is going to happen, tonight, but he might slip and tell our Uncle. I really hope John is right and that everything will be okay.' Surprisingly, Zeke fell asleep shortly afterward.
The raid went off like clockwork. Precisely at 0300, simultaneous entries were made into Zeke and Josh's bedrooms. Zeke was very carefully awakened and then led to Josh's room to wake up his brother and keep him calm. While that was happening, one team had headed downstairs to secure the Uncle, and the other teams were systematically stripping the upstairs of anything and everything relating to the two boys. Murphy must have been sleeping, because the boys' Uncle was passed out in front of the TV, while some TV Preacher droned on and on. The flight surgeon, who had come along for his expertise, quickly removed a small bag ventilator, and attached a small aerosol container to it. Once the container was secure, he very carefully placed the mask over the Deacon's mouth and nose and then gently squeezed the ventilator bag twice. The aerosol container's contents were inhaled by the Deacon, and in seconds his breathing slowed, and he slipped into an even deeper sleep. Less than ten minutes later, the house was silent again and nary a trace of two teenaged boys existed. By the time the house was vacated, the two boys were already in a very fast courier helicopter and on their way to safety and their new life.
Due to the new helicopter being used, it was only 0345 when the needed people were awakened by 'Philip' or, in the case of John and Neal, Karl.
Shortly after 0400 hundred, the lights of the helicopter were seen approaching the Manor. Seconds later, the new lights illuminated the Helipad. The instant the lights came on, everyone but Leo shouted;
'Philiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiipppppppppppppppppp!!!!' Tom was shouting the loudest.
Leo was very quiet and turning every shade of red on the color wheel.
"Daddy Doc, why are you turning red?" Neal asked, while hugging his number two Dad.
"Because they are my lights, so medical evac helicopters can land here at night to pick me up or drop off patients. Don't tell your Dad, because I didn't ask him. I was just wishing out loud one day, and 'Philip' overheard me. Before I knew it, they were installed.
'Harumph!' Philip groused. 'I had to do something with all those red Menorah light bulbs.' Then he actually chuckled.
"Kewl, Daddy Doc, don't you see, it is still 'Philip's' fault, not yours?" Neal's answer was a great big hug and a kiss from Leo. Before they could say anything else, the helicopter began its final approach.
The helicopter landed, and a few moments later it began disgorging its passengers. Seeing a teenager slowly make his way out of the helicopter, John ran to greet him.
"Hello, Zeke, welcome to Haven Manor and a safe haven." While the two of them were hugging each other, Neal had gone over to greet Josh.
Josh was still a little bit stunned at the turn of events, and once Neal had found out what had occurred, he just shrugged his shoulders and said, "Big brothers, they think they know it all, but they really don't know..." Suddenly silence overtook the group, while everyone waited for Neal to continue.
Wisely, Neal didn't continue, just gave a shrug and began introducing Josh to everyone.
While Neal was busy with the introductions, Leo was busy asking questions of John, trying to decide if he needed to do Zeke's physical now or later in the day. He never got the chance to decide.
"Oh Nooooooo, Dennis!" Zeke started to fall, but John and Leo caught him in time.
"Who is Dennis, and what is the problem?" John asked, while hugging the now very distraught teenager.
John began babbling slightly incoherently. "He's gay, that is what he was trying to tell me, that was why he told me about the Phoenix. Oh no, I won't be there to help him!"
I would like to thank the almighty Mr. Str8mayb for allowing me to write in his universe again. I can only surmise that he didn't learn his lesson the last time he let me in. Oh, wait a minute, I remember now; he gets even with me by having 'Goos' co-author chapters with him. Grrrrrr.
I have had several stories going around in my head, driving me crazy, so I finally sat down and started writing; this is what emerged. Mr. Str8mayb was kind enough to give it his imprimatur.
Mr. Str8mayb has kindly volunteered to help with Chapter Two assuming there is one. [Actually, I threatened to stop his subscription to a certain magazine that he uses to torment us, his noble associates.]
That's all for now.
The Story Lover
What else is there to say? Well anyway, this is a very nice beginning to this story. I'm sure 'Goos' and I will have a great time getting our revenge.
It is nice to see how another author understands your characters. I enjoyed seeing the guys in action and am looking forward to more.
The Almighty Most Evilest Author Str8mayb, Lord of the Haven Universe and all its Domains.
Okay, now we have Uncle TSL taking lessons from Str8mayb, on the proper use of Cliffhangers.
It looks as if we have a brand new story in the Haven Universe, and what a wonderful way to start it.
I hope it won't be long before we get Chapter 2, since we obviously still have a pretty devastating situation, with regard to Dennis. Better start planning on rescue number two.
It looks as if AAKD has struck again.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher
I am so relieved to see Zeke and Josh out of their Uncle's clutches. It's amazing what twisted ideas some people have of religion and the Scriptures. But the boys are safe now.
But what about Dennis? Zeke has finally realized that Dennis is more like him than like the rest of the members of the church. Can the group at Haven rescue him before his secret is discovered by the 'good people' of his church? Let's hope we get some answers to these questions REALLY soon!
Aloysius Abercrombie AKA Arli J.