Shane pulled into the drive of Bert Thorton’s two-story home but couldn’t see the well-manicured lawn in the dark. The three hundred dollar a month extravagance made Shane just as irritated now as it had two months before when he’d investigated Bert and heard about it. It wasn’t that he begrudged anyone the right to spend their money as they wanted, but knowing what he’d done and how Kyle was suffering and would continue to suffer while Bert Thorton wasted money on trivia made it an offense to his sense of justice.
He knocked on the door, ignoring the grapevine wreath and wooden butterflies that decorated the wall beside it. He noticed the doorbell and pressed it, hearing the chime inside. After a minute he pressed it again. Then a woman’s voice came over an intercom. “Who is it?”
“I’m here to see Bert Thorton.”
“Bert is sleeping right now. May I give him a message in the morning?”
Sleeping! While Scott suffered. “No. I need to see him now.”
“Tell him it’s about Scott Alexander.”
“Oh, Scott.” The door opened to reveal a middle-aged woman in a long, blue bathroom. “You’re not Scott.”
“You’re not Carol Thorton. I need to speak to Bert.” Shane took the opportunity to get into the house before she could close the door.
“Wait! Wait! Carol and Bert are in bed.”
“How nice for them. Where’s their bedroom?”
“Oh, you wouldn’t! Please. You must go.”
Shane glanced around the living room with its plush white furniture and crystal accents, walking through it to the large room behind it — a chandeliered dining room. To the left was an open staircase and right before it a hallway. He turned and almost ran into the woman again.
She placed her hands on his chest. “Please, stop. Carol will be so mad if she knows I let you in. Please.”
“Is his room up or down?”
“Look, you really don’t need to see Dr. Thorton tonight, do you?”
“Yes, I do.” Shane walked around her and down the hall until he came to a closed door. He glanced at the woman whose hand now covered her mouth. She shook her head. Shane tapped on the door. “Hey, Bert. I need to talk to you.”
“Who’s out there?” came Carol’s sharp voice.
“Bert, I start talking now or with you privately. Your choice.”
“Wait! I’ll be right out.”
“Who is that? Let me call the police, Bert. How’d he get in here?”
“No! No, Carol. I’m sure it’s important.” A groan followed.
“Nothing is important enough to bother us in our own home. Where’s Della?”
“Carol, please. Let me take care of this.” The door opened, and Bert slipped out into the hall, wearing his robe.
The woman rushed up to him. “I’m so sorry. He said he was Scott Alexander, and he pushed his way….”
“It’s okay, Della. I know him.” Bert motioned Shane further down the hall and into a study trimmed in oak. Bert closed the door after Shane entered. Then he leaned back against it and waited.
Shane sat in one of the two leather armchairs. “Nice place you’ve got here.”
“You could have come earlier, and Carol would have given you a tour. What do you want tonight?”
Shane shook his head. “I want you in jail, but that’s not my decision. Scott hasn’t slept at all since he found out you’ve been stringing him along.”
“I didn’t string him along. He initiated friendship.”
“And you’re sleeping sound while he’s staring at the ceiling, having a breakdown from lack of sleep.” Shane leaned forward. “He needs something to get to sleep with. You do know something about that, don’t you?”
Bert face lost its hardness. “You need a prescription for Scott?” He went to the oak desk and took a pad from the drawer. “What’s he taking now?”
“Not even the Atarax he had before?”
“No. He said he doesn’t have anything now.”
“You didn’t call his doctor?”
“I did. He won’t help him until tomorrow. Meanwhile Scott’s not getting any sleep at all.” Shane hesitated. “Kyle said he needed a Valium.”
Bert shook his head. “No. The Atarax helped him. I’ll give you a prescription for that, and some Ambien for tonight only. He shouldn’t drive tomorrow though. In fact, this may make him sleep for twelve to eighteen hours.” He scribbled and then tore off the sheet and handed it to Shane, before putting the pad back in the drawer. “Anything else?”
Shane looked around the room, but could think of nothing, except the sooner he got the medicine to Scott, the sooner he’d get relief. He stood. “No. That’s it. Thanks.” Then Shane wished he hadn’t thanked him. He owed them. Then he decided the courtesy was just that. He didn’t need to be a jerk like Bert Thorton was.
He followed Bert out of the study and down the hall. “Wait a moment,” Bert said, entering his bedroom.
He heard Carol. “Who was it? Where are you going? Bert….”
Bert emerged with his wallet. He withdrew two fifty dollar bills and handed them to Shane. “For the medicine. Hope it helps. Call me if it doesn’t.”
Shane stuffed the money and the prescription into his pocket.
Carol opened the bedroom door. “Shane? What are you doing here?”
“Scott’s sick, dear. He wanted a little advice.”
“Why didn’t you just call the hospital?”
“Why do that when you can ask a friend? I’ve asked him to keep me informed.” Bert turned to Della who had come up as they spoke. “If Shane comes again or calls, you get me right away.”
“But you’re not his doctor,” Carol protested.
“No. I’m his friend. I want to know.”
“Thought you might care to know, too, Carol,” Shane said, trying to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.
“I’ll tell her,” Bert said quickly. “You need to get to the pharmacy.”
“Yeah. I need to go.” Shane left without waiting for any of them to politely see him to the door.
He drove to the twenty-four hour pharmacy to fill the prescription and questioned the pharmacist in detail about the medicine and if Dr. Thorton had requested the normal dosage. He didn’t trust him, and although he saw no reason for Bert Thorton to so obviously and traceably poison Scott, he wanted to make sure. Everything checked out, and Shane relaxed, taking the medicine home.
Kyle and Eli were still up when he returned. “Did you get the Valium?” Kyle whispered, coming to him.
“No. Bert says this is better for him.” He showed Kyle the two pill bottles.
Kyle took them to the table and grabbed one of his medical books off the shelf. He motioned Eli to him, and Shane pretended he didn’t see Eli using the index and directing Kyle to the right pages.
Shane stepped into Scott’s room. Scott sat on the bed, watching the door. “I was hoping you were asleep,” Shane said.
“Where’d you go?”
“To get you some medicine.”
“I’ll get you some juice, and bring it in.”
“What is it? I want to see the bottles.”
“Thought you trusted me.” He tried to smile to make it a joke when Scott’s face took on a hurt expression. “I’ll bring them. Kyle’s looking them up in his book.”
Shane got the juice and then took the bottles from the table, bringing them to Scott.
Scott examined them, moving them closer and then further away. “Wish I could see.”
“Atarax and Ambien.”
He squinted at the label again. “You got these from Bert?”
“Your doctor was being a pain. Bert wants to help. Told me to call him if this doesn’t help you.”
Scott looked at Shane’s face as if he wanted to say something but couldn’t. Shane took the bottles and removed the pills for tonight. “You get some sleep. Let me worry about Bert, and I already told Kayleigh you wouldn’t be in.”
Scott finally nodded and swallowed the pills. “I trust you, Shane,” he said, as he lay back down, pulling the blanket to his neck.
Shane slipped the pill bottles back into his pocket.
Shane leaned closer and whispered. “Tomorrow you can find a good place to hide your medicine. Can’t leave anything sitting around in case Kyle gets depressed.”
Scott closed his eyes and nodded. “Right. Forgot.”
Shane rested his hand on Scott’s shoulder for a moment and then left the room. He approached Kyle, still reading the book. “Check out okay?”
Kyle looked up. “Yeah. I guess. Valium would have worked, wouldn’t it?”
Shane shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. I think he went with the Atarax because that’s what Scott was on before. He must have talked with him about it.”
“Yeah. That must be it.” Kyle shut the book and pushed it toward Eli, who took it back to the shelf. Then he stood and made his way to his room.
Shane met Eli’s gaze before they both headed toward their room. He was glad Eli had come home.
He went to bed, but found he couldn’t sleep, thinking about the responsibility both Kyle and Scott had given him. Kyle wanted to know what God thought. How could anyone know what God thought? And Scott trusted him to encourage Kyle to make the “right” decision, whatever that was. If they hadn’t both added that part about God, it would have been simple.
Shane got up a few hours later to check on Scott. He was asleep, finally. Shane poured himself a glass of milk and then listed all the people he needed to talk to — Amber, Pastor Joe, God. The problem was that God didn’t just speak back and plainly tell him the answer.
As he went back to bed, he wished he had a human father to talk to as he often had wished as he grew up. The image of Bob Lewis flashed into his mind. No. He’d never talk to him about anything like this. He wouldn’t have the first clue. Then as Shane drifted off, he thought of Amber’s stepfather, Ray Pearson. Yes. Maybe he’d talk to him also. He was an elder, after all. It wouldn’t hurt to get as many opinions as possible on what God was thinking.
He wondered if John Calvin had ever written anything about a situation like this. He doubted it. People didn’t sue each other back in the fifteen hundreds, did they? Why do people sue each other now? Restitution. Wasn’t restitution required in the Bible? Shane got up again, grabbed his Bible and the concordance, and went out to the dining table to study what the Bible said about restitution.
Two hours later, he glanced up as Eli sat across from him. “What are you studying?”
Shane stretched and leaned back in the chair, raising its two front legs from the floor. “Bert is required to make restitution according to the Old Testament law. I’ve determined that much. But I know Scott would ask how forgiveness fits in there.”
“I think it’s two different things. You can forgive someone and still require restitution. Or outwardly say no restitution is required, but not forgive the person.”
“But what ideally does God want the Christian to do?”
Eli shrugged. “Been trying to help Kyle see the difference between forgiveness, restitution, and revenge. It’s hard.” He stood. “Are you taking Scott’s place?”
Shane gave a tired smile and put his books away. “Guess I better get back to bed. Will you and Kyle be home all day tomorrow for Scott or do you have appointments?”
“We’ll be home until two thirty.”
“Good. Call me at work if anything comes up.” Shane went back to his room and finally slept until his alarm went off.
Shane met Amber for lunch at noon and told her about what had happened the day before. He expected she’d gloat when he confessed, she’d been right about Scott, but instead he saw concern.
“How can I help, Shane?”
“Help me decide what Kyle and Scott should do about Bert.”
“Shane, I can’t….”
“I need to know what God would want us to do.”
“I wish I knew,” Amber said, pushing away the last third of her chicken salad. She met his eyes. “Maybe my dad would be able to help. Do you think you could come to our house Friday night?”
Shane hesitated. “Let me check with Eli. If he’ll stay with Kyle then….”
“If not you can bring Kyle. He can visit with my father and brothers when we take a walk.”
Shane smiled and brought her hand up to kiss. “I’ll try hard not to be late.”
“I promise to be understanding… well, I’ll promise to try.”
Shane paid the waitress, and then they left the restaurant. He kissed her again before letting her go back to her office.
Shane managed to get home a little early. Scott lay in the recliner with his eyes closed. He sat up, alert, when the door shut behind Shane, and then he relaxed.
“How are you feeling?”
“Like I’ve been knocked around by Ian again.” Scott gave a slight shrug. “I’m okay.” He focused on Shane as if to ask a question. Scott had never hesitated before.
Shane sat in the closest chair and leaned forward. “What’s on your mind? Don’t have to hold back.”
Shane winced, realizing how deeply his defensiveness had hurt Scott. “I’m really sorry. It’s just that my dad… that….” Shane shook his head as he cut off his lame excuses. “I’m sorry. I should have known after all this time you weren’t attacking me. I knew this thing with Bert would hurt you.”
“Then why, Shane?”
“Why did you wait? Why did you let the friendship grow when you knew it’d just be harder and harder for me?”
Shane stood and paced to the other side of the room, and then into his room, taking off his jacket and hanging it up. Anything to avoid seeing the pain in Scott’s eyes. He took the time to change into jeans, but then knew he had to answer him. He returned and sat back in the chair.
“I couldn’t prove anything. You knew I didn’t trust him. What more could I say? Tell me, and I’ll know better if there’s ever another situation. I never wanted to hurt you. I hate seeing you and Kyle hurting like this. Ever since the accident there hasn’t been anything, I could do to help stop the pain.” He shook his head and leaned back in the chair.
“You helped,” Scott said simply and with no sarcasm.
“You just do. All the time. Like with Kyle Saturday. I couldn’t have done that. Neither could Eli — not alone. I know I can count on you. Even when you’re hurting mad, you care about other people — about me.”
Shane shook his head, ashamed of the anger he’d let loose toward Scott.
“I know what you did way back when we first met.”
Shane sat up. “What was that?”
“You got yourself evicted from the apartment we were in.”
Shane scowled and closed his eyes, remembering back to the crowded apartment where Shane and Scott first met. His anger had gotten the best of him then also, but only he and the other roommate he’d had the punching match with knew the true cause of their fight.
“Thanks for protecting me.”
Shane opened his eyes. “You don’t know that.”
Scott gave a small laugh. “Yeah. He told me he was going to beat the hell out of me if I didn’t surrender my bunk to his overnight friends. I didn’t believe he’d do it. Still didn’t even after the fight, but I knew you’d fought on my side, even though you were mad at me for hanging out with Kyle.”
Shane shrugged and leaned back. So Scott had found out. All these years they’d never talked about it.
“Know something though, Shane.”
“You were right. He would have started a fight. I never believed it until just recently. I hadn’t fought since fifth grade. I thought we were too old for all that.” Scott paused.
Shane remained silent. There was nothing to say, and he recognized Scott’s introspective mood. He wasn’t finished.
“We are too old, but I guess some people don’t realize it.” He shrugged.
“So you’re glad I had to learn how to fight growing up?”
“No. I like your loyalty. You said, ‘let Kyle figure out how to stop Gary from taking your bed.’ But the next day you fought both Gary and his friend when they tried to take it from me. You are loyal no matter how bad you’re hurting or how jealous you are. I have no trouble making friends, but I have few close friends. You know why?”
Shane shrugged. He’d never thought about it. He just assumed Scott chose who he wanted to hang out with.
“None of them had the loyalty to stay with the friendship over the long haul. They were ‘work’ friends, or ‘school’ friends, or ‘church’ friends. All were too busy to get together when the circumstances of life changed, and I never thought to question that either until you showed me true friends don’t let circumstances stop them. Thought you would just go your way and hang out with people from EMU, and I’d find other friends at U of M, but you had to go get yourself evicted just because I was your friend.”
Shane shrugged. “You had helped me fit in over there anyway.”
Scott gave a slight smile. “You won’t get too busy and move on, will you?” Several times in the past Scott had made him promise that they’d never lose track of each other. Even after they married, they were to get together at scheduled times. Scott had always brought it up, and although Shane had promised, he wondered how serious Scott had been at the time. He had attributed it to Scott glossing up life and liking to talk. He hadn’t trusted him.
“We won’t be too busy,” Shane vowed.
“I know. I trust you.” Then Scott looked uncomfortable again.
Shane could see he still wanted to say something. He waited.
“Did you decide anything?” Scott asked.
“No. It’s not an easy thing to know God’s mind on a thing like this, and that’s what both of you want.”
Scott smiled and relaxed back into the chair, closing his eyes. “Yeah. I should have known I could trust you.” He opened his eyes. “I’m sorry about… about anything I said before. The whole thing has had me so messed up. I want to be as loyal to all my friends as you are.”
“You need some more sleep, don’t you? I better start dinner.”
Scott gave a slight laugh and forced himself out of the chair. “Okay. I’ll quit the emotional ramblings and take another nap. Man, that sleeping pill packed a wallop.”
“Sure it’s not just five days of nerves catching up on you?” He watched until Scott left the room before he started dinner.
Go to Chapter 17
© 2014, 1999 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.