Heart Strings

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Sorry this is so late in appearing, my editor was temporarily sidelined because of wild fire issues

Thank you for your patience and Emails.   Juju

 

“Hi Richard, how are you?” Liam called out upon seeing the man at the door of the restaurant.

“Just great buddy; come give me a hug, you too Danny."

"Richard, these are Admiral Powell's sons. They've been staying with us along with their parents."

"Nice to meet you, so you're Jim's boys?"

"Yes sir, that's our daddy," Doug responded.

"Well, you can just call me Richard, okay?" 

"Okay, um… are you Chinese?"

"Ah, well yes, I'm ethnically Manchurian.  Manchurians are ethnically different from most Chinese and to confuse the issue even more, I was born and raised in South Africa."

"I'm sorry Richard, my brother didn't mean to be rude," Shane explained.

"That's not rudeness Shane, it's curiosity. Most Asians you've encountered are considerably shorter than I am and Doug was probably reacting to that. Is that correct Doug?"

"Yes Richard, thanks for answering my question. How did you know my name?"

"Your dad and I have talked and he is proud of all three of his sons. He said you were all constantly on the search for knowledge and I can see that it's true."

"Richard works with me da Doug, he's part of our little family," Liam informed him.

A man and three boys approached the door and Liam waved. Todd, Darren and a third boy all looked like they were ready for a party.

"Hi Liam, hi Danny, this is my cousin Pearce," Todd said, gesturing to a very attractive boy with almost gold colored eyes. He had a shy smile and heavy lashes and was just really stunning to look at. Shane's mouth was agape until he realized he was staring. He put his hand out and shook Pearce's hand and said hello.

"Hi,” Pearce returned, “what's your name?"

"Oh um, it's Shane and this is my brother Doug." Doug extended his own hand and smiled at the boy.

Liam, Danny and Richard introduced themselves.

"This is Todd and Darren and Todd's dad; sorry I don't know your name sir."

"I'm Kurt Traeger and yes, Todd is my son. I'm afraid I can only stay long enough to meet some of the other parents here. I have an appointment I can't cancel."

"Well come on in; Connor, Terri and the Powells are over by the stage," Richard instructed cheerfully.

"Where are you from Pearce?" Danny inquired.

"Mount Airy outside of Baltimore, it's nice there. Much better than being in the city," Pearce replied cheerfully.

"We live in Mount Airy!" Shane chirped, "not far from Watkins park."

"What street, we're on Bellview just before the curve," Pearce returned.

"We live on Oak just a few houses from the park, how can we not have met before?" 

"Probably because I board at Lockhart Academy, I barely know the kids on my block."

"Oh too bad, we day school at Payton Boy's Academy. It's a little far, but I get most of my work done in the van if I'm not distracted."

"Is it a good school, I mean are the guys cool? I'm supposed to transfer there next week?" Pearce asked anxiously.

"It's a great school, the jerk ratio is very low. If anybody gets rough, we get together and convince them not to be. 

We had three black students and a couple of guys thought we shouldn't have any and were being assholes. Ten of us got together and caught the crackers in the restroom and told them to cut the shit and keep their stupidity at home with aunty mom and uncle dad. We explained that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us and they wouldn't like our response."

"Nobody picks on us little guys either cos they know we'll tell on them and they'll get worse than they're giving us," Doug confirmed.

"That's a relief, I was kind of worried. I get a lot of crap at school for just looking like me."

"Why? You look pretty! Why would they bug you about that?" Doug asked.

Shane poked Doug gently in the ribs, Doug got the message, "Sorry Pearce."

"It's okay Doug, let's talk about it later okay?" Pearce smiled.

"Okay you guys head on in, you're blocking the door," Richard grinned at them."

"Hey boy, you ready to knock out a few tunes with us, I have your National on the riser mic'd and ready to go," Karl Sheddler growled pleasantly.

"Oh Cool, Hi Mr… um Karl," Danny yipped.

"Hi Karl, good ta see yas," Liam added.

"That sounds good Karl, just let us know when you're ready for us," Liam smiled.

"I got a stick up there for you too, Daniel," Karl added.

"Wait, us? He asked you not me!" Danny protested.

"It's your party too love, you'll kill it," Liam assured him.

"I guess I'm not getting out of it am I, is that why you've been teaching me all those blues numbers, Liam?"

Liam just smiled.

"No you can't, I'll give you the word and you guys come up and join us. Oh, and I have a surprise for you boys," Karl grinned.

Liam grinned at Danny and Danny smiled back, knowing he was stuck.

Shane and Pearce moved off to a back table and talked, presumably about Payton. They seemed earnest in their conversation and Doug stayed with Liam and Danny who were chatting with Todd and Darren. 

"I think my cousin is really interested in Shane. What's your brother like, Doug?" Todd asked.

"He's really nice to me, some of my friends don't get along with their big brothers but I love both of mine."

"That's how Pearce is with his little brother Gabriel. We call him Jabs because he talks all the time, even when he's alone," Todd supplied.

"Jabs? Oh! Jabbers, Jabs I get it. Funny how people get nicknames, huh?" Danny laughed.

"Do you have a nickname or even a middle name Liam?" Danny inquired?

"Me middle name is Rory for a great Gran who died in the first war. And I'll tell you me nickname some other time; I don't want it gettin' about."

Danny and Liam were suddenly set upon by a giggling TJ. TJ wished them both a happy birthday and they cuddled and kissed him and passed him to Todd and Darren who did the same. Liam and Danny greeted Bryce and Greigh and introduced them to the others.

Duane and little Arthur arrived with Jason. Most of Liam and Danny's mutual friends were present along with several from Hart. Mike Hanlan and Sarah arrived and greeted the boys and their friends before joining the growing crowd of adults.

After another thirty minutes passed, all the guests had arrived and chatted waiting for the kickoff.

Rick Sowell took the stage and got everybody's attention.

"Hey there, Chumps and Chumpettes pray silence for the incredible Bender Bending Rodriguez so he can introduce the Perfessor Dr. Connor Dennehy, he's okay for a human. Of course he won't be nearly as entertaining or attractive as me, but he's a meatbag like you so I guess you'll make out okay."

As they passed the wireless mic, Rick gave Connor a stage whisper, "Remember your line, meatbag."

Connor took the mic and announced in a wavering voice, "Good news people! The party is starting!"

"I want to thank Rick, aka Bender, for the great introduction, and for his coaching on getting the professor's voice nearly correct, at least I hope.

"We are gathered here today as family and friends to celebrate the birthdays of two remarkable young men and to enjoy the community of our family and friends.

"If you've never eaten here before, prepare to have your idea of Chinese food completely deconstructed. I urge everyone to try everything and enjoy. There will be live music and dancing after dinner and many of you are familiar with some members of the band.” 

Liam felt slender arms encircle his neck and a kiss on his cheek.

"Hi Cheri, glad you made it."

"I snuck in the back with Karl and the band, did you think there was any chance we'd miss this?

Liam turned to find Cheri and Amber grinning at him and they looked great. Liam gave each a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

"You two are knockouts, you're really going to disappoint a few boys."

"We'll try to be humane," Amber joked.

Liam led them over and introduced Shane and Doug, hugs and kisses were exchanged and Doug looked overwhelmed.

"I never met anyone with pink and blue in their hair before, it looks cool," Doug exclaimed.

"Thanks sweetie, we could set you up with some highlights if you want." Amber offered.

"That would be cool, but my dad's an admiral and it might cause trouble," Doug tailed off.

"Dad's in the Navy, not us, he wouldn't care, you should do it if you want," Shane urged.

"What wouldn't I care about? Jim Powell inquired.

"We offered to give him some highlights in his hair if he wanted," Cheri supplied.

"So what's stopping you Doug?" his dad asked. "Shane said it, I'm in the Navy, you guys are kids and kids don't have to follow navy regs. If you want it, let the girls have a go."

"It's all temporary stuff, it washes out with your shampoo." Cheri encouraged.

Doug shrugged his shoulders and nodded and the girls hauled him off to do their magic. Doug didn't even get to say thanks to his dad. Adm. Powell chuckled as he watched the two girls carry him off.

Dinner was served at seven and everyone raved about the food. People who would never go to Peking Panda really enjoyed the food that Richard's wife supplied. 

Each table had a lazy Susan with several sauces and each sauce was labeled well so that someone with a peanut allergy didn't eat peanut sauce. Lots of pork, poultry and a wheat sorghum dish that Liam especially liked.

With everyone well fed it was time for some entertainment and Rick returned to the mic to introduce Karl and his band, "The Katz." In honor of Karl he used the voice of Scruffy the janitor, and it went over big. Karl and the band launched into a B.B. King number and lots of people hit the dance floor.

The next number was Write Me a Few More of Your Lines, with Cheri doing the vocals and playing a little slide on her Fender. She still sounded like Bonnie Raitt and she got a lot of applause. She sang with Karl on Kokomo Blues and then Karl leaned into the mic and summoned the birthday boys. Liam picked up his National and positioned himself in front of a mic while Danny plugged in an old F hole Gibson. Karl didn't cut them any slack because he just said It Hurts Me Too, and they launched into the Elmore James classic. Karl pitched in with the harp and Butch handled the vocals. Without much of a pause it was time for Crossroads. Danny understood why Liam had taught him that tune and he just killed it on the breaks. Cheri and Amber joined in for Walkin' Blues, and once they were done they all hugged and shook hands with the band and let Karl and the guys do their thing.

As soon as they stepped off the riser they were mobbed by all the kids in the place. Hugs, handshakes and pats on the back were plentiful. 

Relaxing at their table with Connor and Terri, the boys glowed from the experience and drank water like camels.

"I go well and truly dry when I have to sing on stage," Liam informed.

"The lot of yas were fantastic up there tonight, everyone enjoyed your music," Connor extolled.

Terri just grinned at Danny; she was completely surprised by his ability to play in a live setting like she had just seen.

"Cheri sure has a great set of pipes, doesn't she, Da?"

"You bet, Lad, I see what you mean about the comparison to Bonnie Raitt, she has that same sexy raspyness in her voice," Connor agreed.

"I'm off to the gents, Da, I'll be back in a few."

Doug intercepted him and decided to tag along chattering all the way about the music and if Liam thought he'd ever be that good and so on.

The stall was occupied so Doug stood next to Liam and unzipped. Liam admired the pink and blue tips that the girls had added to Doug's hair.

Liam did the same and was awhile at it due to a straining full bladder. Doug watched in awe as Liam continued but he managed to drain his own bladder and zipped up.

They washed their hands and Liam was blotting his face with paper towels when the stall door opened. Liam checked the mirror to see if it was someone he knew and saw something that made his blood curdle. The muzzle of a revolver emerged and he yelled at Doug to get out and get help as he turned to engage whoever had the gun. He had a pretty good idea who it was and he was right. Liam grabbed the revolver and the hand that held it trying to fold it back and disarm the shooter. Dave managed to pull the trigger and the gun discharged, the bullet hit the sink and ricocheted Liam felt a searing pain in the back of his left thigh. In his mind, it was kill or be killed and he changed his tack and smashed Dave in the Adam's apple.

Liam heard the gun click twice as Dave pulled the trigger. But now he grabbed at his throat and had only one hand on the gun. Liam grasped the gun with his left hand pinning Dave's hand and wrist to the wall and the stall doorway. With his right fist he punched Dave's wrist hard enough that it folded and Dave screamed, releasing the gun. Liam drew back and punched Dave on the point where his jaw joined his skull and Dave went limp. Liam kicked the gun to the other end of the restroom and tried to reach the sinks. 

The door slammed open and Benny the drummer from the Katz grabbed Liam as he began to fall, Bryce charged in with Connor and assessed the situation. He called in help from the police and fire departments and handcuffed Dave and searched him for more weapons. Pretty soon the restroom was full of people and Bryce had to clear them out to preserve the scene. Connor had ripped Liam's pantleg open and was applying pressure with several clean napkins.

Soon there were enough police and fire people on scene that even Connor was asked to step out while they checked Liam's wounds. Soon they moved Liam to the hallway and hooked him up to oxygen and a heart monitor. The Paramedics were in contact with the ER and started an IV and were ready to transport.

"Are you coming along sir?" one Paramedic asked Connor. 

"Absolutely, where are you taking him?"

"We’ll head for Montclair, they have a good trauma team there and Pomona is packed tonight."

Connor handed Terri his keys, kissed her and then Danny who looked so lost it broke his heart to see it. 

"Liam's going to be fine, I saw the wound and I think he'll be just fine. I'll see you and your mom at the ER, okay?"

"Okay, Connor," Danny choked out. "Can I kiss him?"

"He's out cold son, they gave him something for the pain but I don't see why you shouldn't."

Connor led Danny to the gurney and Danny bent over and kissed Liam's cheek. Connor gave Danny a kiss and hug and told him it would all be okay.

"I'll see you at the ER," Connor said and followed the Paramedics to the ambulance.

Danny and Terri returned to the guests and Terri explained that Liam was on his way to the hospital to be treated for his wound. 

The stunned guests were largely teary eyed and those that weren't were quite somber.

Little Doug and Shane clung to Jim and Amanda, Doug was inconsolable. 

A second group of medics worked on Dave, He was in no danger, although he had a broken jaw and both bones in his wrist were broken badly. The Sargent in charge asked the medics to cut Dave's clothes off him to make sure he had nothing dangerous concealed on his person. The medics complied and Dave's clothes were bagged as evidence. The Sargeant also directed the medics to bag Dave's hands for testing later once he was stabilized. The medics knew the drill and already had the bags ready.

Bryce gave his statement and retrieved his handcuffs from the Sargeant. 

"Has anyone run the gun yet, Sir?" Bryce inquired of the Sargeant.

"No we'll let the detectives do that, there's not much more to do here and we'll probably release the scene soon. Why don't you grab TJ and Greigh and go on home, you've done all you could here tonight.

"Okay, Sir, let me know if I can help in any way."

Bryce joined the other guests and relieved Greigh who had been holding TJ since the trouble started.

Danny patted Doug on the back and Doug grabbed hold of him. "Liam saved my life, he made me leave before that guy could hurt me."

"I know buddy, you did good getting out of there. Liam didn't have to worry about you and he was able to focus on Dave. If you had been slow it would have been different and Dave might have hurt you both."

Shane joined the hug but remained silent. He looked like he was in pain himself.

"Amanda, if you and Jim will follow us home, I'll open the house for you before we go to the ER." Terri suggested.

"Oh yes, I hadn't thought of that, thank you," Amanda responded.

Terri hugged Richard and told him she would keep him informed and he could let the others know. With that she tugged Danny out the door stopping to kiss little Arty and his dads.

Terri unlocked the house and allowed Danny a visit to the toilet. Danny emptied his bladder and then threw up. He rinsed his mouth with mouthwash and joined Terri.

"I have your numbers and I'll keep you informed," Terri told the Powells.

"Would you like me to come along?" offered Amanda.

"I think your boys need you right now, we'll just be waiting for news."

"I suppose you're right, please give Liam our love and Connor too."

"I will Amanda, I'll call you soon," Terri promised.

When Terri and Danny arrived at the ER, they found Connor in the waiting room. He had completed the paperwork and Liam was in surgery to remove the bullet.

They sat with Danny sandwiched between them.

Two hours later a man in scrubs appeared and grinned at them, “I think your boy will be just fine but we could use someone to calm him down and translate.”

Liam had come out of the anesthesia and was protesting being tied down. Connor informed the staff that he was claustrophobic and couldn't cope with being restrained. 

"Liam lad, they'll take the straps off but they'll need to keep your right arm immobile until they can pull all the tubes out of you."

"That's not all Da, they've put one up me old lad."

Connor chuckled, "You won't be able to use a proper toilet for a bit so that tube is needed for now."

The man in scrubs identified himself as Dr. Will Decker. "We will likely take out the catheter tomorrow and the same with the IV's; he may even be able to go home tomorrow. It was a clean wound and the bullet had flattened out when it hit the first impediment and then the floor, so it lost a lot of energy before it entered Liam's thigh, it wasn't deep and there was only slight muscle damage. We only had to repair one blood vessel and no nerve damage was detected. He should heal nicely with a minimal scar. We'll have him on antibiotics for a while but beyond that, there's not much to tell. I will recheck him in the morning and we'll give him something to help him sleep. Why don't you and the family say goodnight and we'll get him started healing."

"Shouldn't I stay the night with him?" Connor asked.

"He won't know you're here if you do, and he won't be alert until around eight in the morning, I suggest you head home and get some sleep, you look like you could use it," Dr. Decker suggested.

"Liam, I'll be back in a moment with Terri and Danny, just relax and do as yer told, Lad."

"Da, is Dave here too?"

Connor looked at the Doctor.

"No Liam, you are our only ER patient at the moment, they probably took him to Pomona," Dr. Decker informed.

Liam nodded and Connor left to retrieve Terri and Danny.

Terri let Danny at Liam first, and smiled as Danny's face turned from worry to tenderness.

"Are you in a lot of pain Liam?" Danny asked.

"I can't feel the wound at all, the only thing that hurts is me hand and me old lad, they've a feckin' tube in it and it's feckin' uncomfortable but it doesn't actually hurt."

"Will a kiss help?" Danny asked sweetly.

"Will yas dry me mouth first, it feels all sloppy like."

Danny grabbed a couple of tissues and wiped Liam's lips although they were quite dry. Then he leaned down and kissed him as passionately as he could under the circumstances.

A nurse poked a needle into one of the tubes and Liam began to feel the effects immediately.

"We'll see you in the morning, Lad," Connor told him and kissed his cheek.

Terri leaned in for a kiss also and Liam was sound asleep.

In the car, Danny sent texts to Todd and Cheri. Terri called Richard while Connor called Jim Powell. They were home pretty quickly and Connor carried an unconscious Danny inside. Danny began to rouse and hugged Connor's neck tightly.

Jim appeared in shorts and a tee shirt. "I'm so glad that Liam is alright. What in the world was that other kid doing there with a gun?”

"I'll be happy to explain in the mornin' Jim, but I am proper shattered. Once I get Danny to bed,I'm turnin' in meself."

"Why don't you let me see to him and you two get yourselves to bed. Doug and Shane have asked if Danny would like to sleep with them tonight."

Danny nodded sleepily and rose to climb the stairs. Jim shadowed him and helped him undress and he crawled in next to Doug. Doug snuggled up to Danny and Jim bent and kissed all three boys on the cheek.

Connor and Terri lay in bed and Connor drew her to him, and they both quickly faded into sleep.