Heart Strings

Chapter Thirty

Sunday's light shone through a gap in the curtains of Connor's room and he rose carefully to avoid waking Terri. It didn't work and he turned back and gave her a loving kiss.

"Did you sleep okay Connor?"

"Yes actually, and you?"

"Like the dead, I feel guilty but I suppose we were both exhausted and knowing that Liam was okay was all I needed to just blank out," Terri admitted.

"Much the same for me Luv, I was pretty sure once I saw the wound; mostly I'm worried about his mental state. He had to cripple that boy to make himself safe, but he hates having to hurt anyone."

"I know a good counsellor if you think he needs it."

"I'll discuss it with him. I need to call me Mam and tell her, at least I've good news to give her after the bad. I think I'll soften it a bit and tell her about you and Danny. She'll want to come for a visit but I think you'll get on well," Connor speculated.

"Well you should absolutely call her; it'll be afternoon there won't it?"

"About one-thirty I make it, but she has to be told, otherwise she'd feckin' skin me."

"You do that and I'll shower and start breakfast," Terri grinned.

On his way down Connor bumped into Jim leaving the boy's room.

"Amanda's in the kitchen with Terri, I've roused the boys so they can shower. My boys aren't interested in going to Universal at the moment. Can we impose on you another day?" Jim asked.

"Certainly Jim, I understand. The boys seem to have really meshed well and become close, I imagine we'll have a tough time keeping the lad's friends away, so there'll be visitors as soon as he's home," Connor surmised.

"Well, let me know what I can do to lighten your load and I'll do it," Jim declared.

"We're okay for now but having someone here would be good in case of visitors or the detectives showing up.  Let's get some breakfast and I'll tell you what I know about the whole thing."

Connor explained the altercation Liam had with Dave in the school restroom and Dave's reputation and Liam's worries that Dave would go after someone he loved.

He couldn't say much about what happened in the bathroom at the restaurant because Liam had only told him that Dave had come from the stall with a gun in his hand. Mostly he asked about Doug being safe.

The boys listened and little Doug looked ready to cry until Connor recounted what Liam had said in the recovery room after his surgery.

"The doctor said he might get to come home today if there's no other problems," Danny supplied.

"That's one courageous boy you have Connor, and we'll be forever in his debt, the way he thought of our Doug first is just unbelievable," Amanda said in praise.

"He's a Dubliner, they're all like that," Danny said smiling for the first time in hours.

Connor left the table and packed a pair of Liam’s warmups and fresh underwear. He presumed the hospital had cut his clothes away first thing and they were a bloody mess in any case.

Danny joined him and hugged him hard. "Thanks for letting me come along to the emergency room last night."

"I figured you needed to be there and it felt good to have you there. You and yer Mam are very important to us, I love you as much as I love Liam, I mean that," Conner said quietly.

Danny wrapped his arms around Connor's neck and sobbed. "I love you too, Connor, I hope I can call you Da someday."

"And me, I'll be havin' a word with yer mam about that very thing, and soon. Let's go check on Liam and see if he's comin' home today.

Connor, Terri and Danny said goodbye to their guests and drove to the hospital.

They checked in at the nurses’ desk and a pleasant woman signed them in and mentioned that a detective was talking to the doctor.

Liam was propped up in bed watching a soccer match on TV but clicked it off and grinned at his visitors. Hugs were exchanged and Danny gave him a powerful kiss.

"Sorry Danny, I've not had a chance to brush today."

Danny's answer was to kiss him again.

"So how are you feeling?" Terri asked.

"Grand Terri, me leg hurts a bit but they took out all the tubes and even had me on me feet and walkin'. They said it would heal faster if I didn't lie about."

"We brought you some fresh pants and a set of warmups if yer keen to get out of that robe. I suppose we should wait for the doctor to approve though," Connor informed him.

"The doctor already told me I won't be here to have lunch so I think he'll be fine about it, but we can wait."

They didn't have long to wait; the doctor knocked and entered the room.

Good morning folks, I'm sure Liam has told you we're anxious to get shed of him. I can't have people who aren't sick lounging around in a hospital bed," Dr. Decker joked.

"He did say you had him up and walking," Connor agreed.

"Yes, but he needs someone to be close by so he doesn't fall. He can use the toilet alone but someone needs to walk with him to and from at least for the first two days. The more he moves around the quicker his wound will heal. He'll need help with stairs also, it helps that he's quite fit," the Dr. finished.

"He is that, will he need physical therapy?" Terri asked.

"I would defer that question to his regular physician, he's an active boy and his doctor will want a range of motion study made at least but PT is his call or hers as the case may be," Dr. Decker explained. "There's a detective outside that would like a word with Liam; may I send him in?"

Connor agreed and Detective Graves was welcomed in. "Good morning folks, I just have a few questions for Liam unless you would prefer an attorney to be present."

"Well for the moment let's proceed and if needs be we'll invoke Liam's rights to counsel," Connor suggested.

"The evidence at the scene and the statement from a Douglas Powell is pretty conclusive. Doug saw the gun in the hand of someone exiting the toilet stall in the restroom. He indicated that Liam told him to run and get help. The revolver was traced to a neighbor of the suspect and we're trying to ascertain how he came to be in possession of it."

"Liam, how good is your memory of the events in the restroom last night."

Liam explained what had transpired as he recalled and why he felt it was necessary to break Dave's wrist and knock him out. 

"After he fired the first time I didn't have much time. He tried to shoot two more times, I heard the gun click, was he out of bullets?" Liam queried.

"No, he just didn't know anything about revolvers. The gun he had was a Smith and Wesson copy, when the trigger is pulled the cylinder rotates counterclockwise. With a Colt, it's reversed. He probably didn't know that so after the first round went off there were two empty chambers before the next round. For some reason there were only four rounds in the weapon. If he had a chance to pull the trigger again it would have discharged."

"I guess I'm lucky he's stupid, will he be released until his trial?" Connor asked.

"He's being committed to a psychiatric hospital, so there won't be a trial until he's deemed mentally fit. If there is one he'll be tried as an adult  according to our D.A. This case has a lot of people asking why this kid wasn't already in custody."

"Well I only have very little knowledge of his past deeds but he certainly shouldn't be near other kids," Connor stated.

"I agree, but I don't get a vote. In any case we'll contact you in a few days to get a formal statement from Liam, we have one from Douglas since he's just visiting here," The detective noted.

"We also have a statement from Officer Bryce Royal regarding a previous altercation you had with David Parker at your school," Detective Graves added.

"How bad is Dave hurt sir?" Liam asked gently.

"Well his jaw is fractured and also his right wrist, and he has a bruised larynx but other than that he got off light," The detective told Liam.

"I warned him not to come at me again, he didn't listen."

"I will keep you folks up to speed of any developments in the case. Liam, I want to shake your hand, getting that little boy out of harm's way was heroic and there's no arguing about that." The detective shook Liam's hand and bade everyone goodbye.

Shortly after that, a nurse came in and announced that Liam's discharge papers were ready, so Danny was left to help Liam out of his gown and into his clean clothes.

Connor handed Liam a plastic bag with a few dollars, a guitar pick and a glass tube he used for his slide guitar. Those were the only contents of his jeans that were cut from his body in the ER.

They drove to the pharmacy to pick up Liam's pills and headed home.

Little Doug was beside himself with happiness at seeing Liam hobbling through the front door. Liam hugged the younger boy tightly. Doug sobbed and clung to Liam.

"No need for tears Doug, we're both okay. I want to thank you for not arguing or waiting to get out of the restroom, if you had stayed Dave would have used you against me and I might have had to… well it wouldn't have been good," Liam explained.

"I felt like I abandoned you but I understand now, Danny said he might have used me to hurt you but you’re still my hero and I love you," Doug gushed.

"I love you too, Doug, you're a good mate. Can you help me to the loveseat over there?" Liam asked"

Doug beamed with pride as Liam leaned on him to hobble the short distance to have a seat.

Danny prodded Doug to sit on one side of Liam while he sat on the other. He promptly leaned over and kissed Liam sweetly on the lips.

"Um…could I kiss you too, not the same way but could I?" Doug requested.

Liam pulled Doug close and told him to go ahead. Doug responded with a kiss at the corner of Liam's mouth and smiled sweetly. Liam returned the kiss and it seemed to have a calming effect on Doug.

The adults moved to the kitchen to talk. 

"I'm so glad you're okay, thanks for looking out for my brother, I'd die if I lost him," Shane told Liam.

Doug rose and announced he needed the toilet and would return in a bit.

Once he was gone, the boys giggled at his disarmingly frank nature.

"Let's talk about something besides Dave or me getting shot okay guys, like Shane, how did you get on with Pearce," Liam requested.

Shane blushed vividly. "Is it that obvious?"

"Yeah, mostly. Pearce is gorgeous by anybody's standard and he seemed pleased to meet you," Liam speculated.

"We talked a lot before and during the party and we exchanged phone numbers and email, so you know it's pretty good. It's really weird that I had to come out here to meet him. At least I got first shot at him. He's not just beautiful, he's really smart and he'll fit in at Payton really good," Shane related.

I'm so glad for you Shane, you have so much to give and you deserve someone who can appreciate you," Liam affirmed.

Danny's phone rang and it was Cheri.

"Hello Cheri, how are you doing?"

"I'm fine how's Liam?"

"He's great, I'll let him tell you himself."

Danny handed Liam the phone and Liam listened as Cheri talked for quite a while.

"Why don't you and Amber come over and we can talk in comfort?" Liam suggested.

Cheri spoke a bit more and they disconnected.

Danny's phone beeped and Liam handed it back trying to remember where his phone was.

"Shane could you do me a favor and grab my phone from my room, it's on the charge pad next to my bed," Liam asked.

Shane jumped up and raced up the stairs.

Todd and Darren want to come over and see you, Cheri must have sent a text broadcast to the whole bunch.

"Ask them to bring Pearce if he's still with them please," Liam suggested.

Moments later Danny told him that they were all on their way over.

"It'll be a nice surprise for Shane," Liam grinned.

Shane returned with Liam's phone and Liam thanked him. He dialed Karl Sheddler's number.

"Hi Karl, I wanted to let you know that I'm home and my wound isn't that bad. The bullet hit the sink and the floor first so it didn't go very deep."

"I'm really glad to hear that Liam, we were all worried about you," Karl's gravelly voice intoned.

"We had a great time on stage with you and the guys, thanks so much for taking the gig and thank Benny for his help," Liam continued.

"We were honored to do it, will you be back in school tomorrow?"

"No sorry, well at least not in the morning, I have to go see my doctor for his okay before the school will let me come back. I might be there in the afternoon but I can get up and walk as it is now."

"That's good son, we all look forward to seeing you on campus so don't mess up," Karl growled cheerfully.

"Got it, no screwin' up. Thanks Karl. We'll see yas soon."

"You know he's a big old softy don't you Liam," Danny said.

"Yeah, he's a right decent fella'," Liam answered.

"What does daysent mean?" asked Doug who was just returning.

"He means decent Doug, it's just his accent comes back a little when he's been stressed out," Danny explained.

"Oh okay, I get it," Doug nodded.

In the kitchen, Terri and Amanda were speaking quietly.

"Connor and I had a long talk and we've decided to get married. Once it quiets down a bit, we'll tell the boys. I know Danny will be super excited but Liam is an open question. He seems to like me but as his stepmother I'd be around him full time and he has a terrible relationship with his birth mother."

"What's the story there?" Amanda inquired.

"She abandoned him when he was a newborn to run off with a girlfriend. They married after the divorce and she only recently surfaced and wanted visitation and custody of Liam. Connor says Liam can't stand her and he's always been standoffish with adult women," Terri explained.

"How has he reacted to you so far?" Amanda probed further.

"Actually he's very affectionate, I think it might be because of Danny but I don't know. When we told them we'd be dating they were both happy."

"I don't see him resenting you, I've been a children's counsellor for thirty-five years and Liam is the most serene young man I've ever met. I don't think you have anything to worry about," Amanda encouraged.

"He's been a tremendous influence and confidence builder for my Danny, I've never seen Danny so happy or outgoing."

"Dougy is pretty taken with him too, he idolizes his brothers and now Liam is in his pantheon along with them," Amanda chuckled.

He really seems to bring out the best in the younger boys, little TJ is very fond of both of them."

"Will you be comfortable if he calls you Mom?" Amanda asked.

"Absolutely, I know Danny would love to call Connor Dad or Da as Liam does," Terri mused. "My worry is that he's so self-sufficient that he just won't need me. He cooks, he cleans and does laundry, he could easily survive without supervision for quite a while."

"He's had to grow up early, and it's good that Connor hasn't given him a free ride. If he goes away to school he'll be a lot better prepared than most of his classmates." Amanda posited.

"True, Danny is the same way for the same reasons, I suppose you're right and I'm worrying for nothing, but I can't help it," Terri agreed.

The doorbell rang and Danny raced to open it, he fully expected it would be Cheri and Amber at the door..

Doug appeared in front of Liam. "Would it be okay if I used that guitar again and practiced a little, it helps me get calm and I'm kind of weirded out right now," he requested.

"Sure Doug, and I want to hear you play that piece before you leave. I'll be up later to dress proper and I'll check on you then," Liam agreed.