Copyright © 2006-2018 Boudreaux. All Rights Reserved.
When I got to the restaurant, raw blinding pain and horror struck me as devastatingly as the car had hit the building. I parked as close as I could get and ran to the police line blocking off the accident scene. A young cop intercepted me as I was about to duck under the yellow tape around the parking lot.
"No one's allowed past this point, bud," he snarled unpleasantly. "Sightsee from here like the other sickos."
"My family is in there," I snapped back. "I go past you, or I go through you."
"Is that a threat?" the cop snorted as he fingered the baton at his side.
"I don't make threats, I issue warnings," I cautioned him as calmly as I could. I don't know if it was my tone of voice, or the look on my face that convinced him, but he took a step back before speaking again.
"If I promise to get you information, will you stay there?" he asked.
"I promise," I vowed sincerely. He asked for the names of my family and then took a few steps away. "Mr. Ragland, I'm sorry to tell you that the area where your family was sitting was the exact spot that the car hit," he said as he walked back up to me.
"Oh no!" I begged.
"Another officer is on her way over with a baby, sir," he continued. "The baby is fine, but his mother was taken to the emergency room already. She identified you as the baby's father."
"Andy is ok?" I gasped.
"Yes sir, there was a physician seated in another part of the restaurant, and he has checked the baby," I was told. "The baby is fine," he repeated. "Your wife is on her way to the hospital. Her injuries are quite severe."
"I don't have a wife," I told him quickly. "Who went to the hospital, Janice or Beth?"
"She's not your wife?" the officer asked me pointedly.
"Janice and Beth are the baby's mothers, I'm the biological father, but I doubt my life partner would appreciate me marrying a woman," I told him. I probably shouldn't have worded it quite that way, but I wasn't thinking clearly. "Now can you please tell me what happened to my family? You said a woman was taken to the hospital; which woman? Where is my life partner, Edan Draper?"
Just then, a female officer walked up to me, holding Andy. His blanket and clothes were a bloody mess, literally. I felt weak as I realized that the blood had to have come from someone close to me. Anger replaced my weakness as I wondered why they would keep Andy in such nasty things. It took all of my mental discipline to remain calm as I spoke to the woman. "Do you have his diaper bag, so I can change him?"
"I'm afraid we don't have it yet, sir," she replied. "It may still be under the car with one of the…. I mean we haven't located it. A description of the bag could be helpful."
"It has a blue background, like the sky, and has little rainbows all over it," I told her. "Please hurry with it; he needs a diaper change."
"Life partner, what's that mean?" the male cop asked stupidly as the woman walked away.
"We just got back from Vermont where we had a civil union," I explained impatiently. "He is as close to a husband as I can get in this country right now."
"I see," the cop said icily. "Well, I'm afraid we can't give out information to just anyone. You have to be a family member."
"Did you not listen to me?" I exploded. "I just told you that I am his life partner."
"Having deviant sex with someone doesn't make you family," he snarled.
"You will answer my questions now, or in addition to having you fired by the end of the day today, I will file a discrimination and harassment suit against you. When I get done with you and the city, my grandchildren will still be collecting money when they are my age."
"You pansy-assed liberal fags are always yelling discrimination and bitching about your rights," he bellowed. "If you acted right, you wouldn't have to ask for special treatment."
"Mr. Ragland, I beg you not to let the rash words of this former city employee upset you." I turned to face the source of this plea and saw the police commissioner. "I assure he won't be able to get a job as a security guard at the city landfill by tomorrow."
"See there, giving special privileges to the perverts and the crooks," the young guy snapped. "If that's what this city is coming to, I don't want to work for it."
"You won't, believe me," the commissioner barked. "Turn in your badge to the sergeant on duty at the station as you leave the building." He then turned to me and said, "I would ask you, sir, not to judge my whole department, or our city, by the example of one redneck rookie."
Before either of us could say another word, the female officer returned with a dinner napkin from the restaurant and some safety pins. "I'm really sorry about this, but the diaper bag is a complete loss. This was the best I could do. The restrooms were out of disposables." I thanked her for her efforts and proceeded to undress poor little Andy, who was mercifully sleeping peacefully.
"Mr. Ragland, I realize that this is hardly the time or place, but I have been hoping for a chance to thank you," the commissioner said after she walked away again.
"Thank me?" I asked as I continued to clean Andy.
"Not that long ago, I felt about gay… I mean homosexuals, much the same as that idiot you were dealing with earlier. Your rescue of your brother and foster son were a wakeup call for me. It made me realize that I was failing my own son as a father. He came out to us on Christmas Day and I had thrown him out of the house. He was an adult with his own apartment, but that doesn't mean that I hurt him any less." He paused for a moment, obviously struggling with his emotions as well as his words.
"After learning of your heroism, taking a bullet for your foster son, I was shamed into facing myself in a mirror and asking if I would have done the same for my son. When I called to talk to him and beg his forgiveness, I interrupted him from taking his own life," the commissioner whispered as tears came to his eyes. "You saved my son's life."
"I didn't save your son's life, you did," I pointed out to him. "At best, all I did was to remind you that as a father you were supposed to be there for him when he needed you."
"Your partner obviously felt the same way." The fact that he spoke in past tense wasn't lost on me. "Professor Draper apparently saw the car coming. He shielded this baby with his body."
"Edan wasn't taken to the hospital, was he?" I asked for confirmation. My heart already knew the answer.
"Cameron, are you all right?" I turned to see Scooter running toward me. When he reached us, he immediately grabbed me in a tight embrace. "I am so very sorry. All the way here, I was praying that the name was wrong."
"Will you be taking care of him?" I asked hollowly. I had my confirmation.
"We were actually called in because the owner of my firm is also the county coroner, but I will tell them that you want us to handle things if you want it that way," he answered.
"Please," I managed to croak. My voice didn't seem to want to cooperate with my brain anymore. No part of me wanted to believe what my mind was trying to accept right then.
"I will see to it personally," Scooter vowed. "As much as I would like to stay with you right now, I do have a job to do for you now. Call my office number in about two hours to make more arrangements, ok?"
"I appreciate this, Scooter," I told him.
"I'm glad I can help out," was his response. "Edan and Beth were family, Cam. Tell Janice when you see her that I don't want her as a customer too," he added as he left.
"Wait a minute!" I called, but he was too far away to hear me. I turned back to the commissioner. "Did Beth Prevett also die?"
"Yes, I'm afraid so," he answered. "I take it you were acquainted with Ms. Prevett."
"She was the birth mother for Andy, here," I explained. "I have to get to the hospital, but is there anything you can tell me about what happened?"
"Well, you have to understand that we are still investigating, but these are the facts so far," he began. "A car traveling at high speed crashed into the solarium wall of the restaurant. Your partner and friends were seated at the table nearest the point of impact, which explains the severity of their injuries. Ms. Prevett and Prof. Draper are to be regarded as heroes, Mr. Ragland. They both sacrificed themselves for the others at the table."
"Thank you, commissioner," I said quietly. "I have to get to the hospital now."
"Who's in the hospital?" I turned to see Brendan and Derek running toward me.
"Dad, are you all right?" Derek asked me. "Where are Pop, Janice, and Beth?"
"Janice is at the hospital, boys," I told them. "We have to get over there. She's going to need us."
"Cameron, where are Edan and Beth?" Brendan demanded. I hadn't wanted to answer because it would mean that I was admitting that it was true.
"They're gone, guys," I whispered. I couldn't stop the tears that flowed across my cheeks. "We've lost them."
"NO!!!!" Derek screamed.
"Bro, what happened?" Brendan pressed as he clutched Derek's hand.
"Edan apparently saw the car coming and shielded Andy from harm with his own body," I began to explain. "Beth did the same for Janice."
"No, Dad, no…." Derek sobbed.
"Boys, we have to get to the hospital," I repeated. "Janice needs us there."
"I'll drive," Brendan said firmly.
"No, my officer will drive," the commissioner interrupted. "Leave your keys with me, and I will have your vehicles delivered to the hospital in a few minutes."
"Thank you, commissioner," I told him. "You're very kind."
"The least we can do," he shrugged. "It's all under protect and serve. Take care of your family, Mr. Ragland."
"You do the same, sir," I told him. Moments later, I sat in the back seat of a patrol car with a sleeping Andy on one arm and a weeping Derek on the other. Brendan rode in the front with the female officer who had brought Andy to me and found him something clean to put on, such as it was.
As soon as we asked at the emergency room desk for Janice, the nurse jumped up. She asked if I was Cameron Ragland. When I nodded, she grabbed my arm.
"Come with me, quickly, sir," she begged. I handed Andy to Brendan and followed the nurse as she kept talking. "Ms. Wehrmann has been asking for you. She is refusing treatment. Please help us to explain that she may die or at the very least be permanently impaired if we don't operate soon."
"Stubborn witch," I murmured.
"You can say that, we can't," the nurse said with a wry smile. She grew serious as she added, "I do need to tell you that even if we do operate, there is still a high chance of paralysis, possibly permanent."
"I'll knock some sense into her," I promised.
"Now don't make our jobs more difficult," she warned with a smile. "Anything short of that, however, is fair game."
"If Janice weren't the patient, she'd like you," I smiled back. Just at that moment, we got to the room. The nurse tried to enter first.
"Get the hell out of here!" Janice screamed. "Leave me alone so I can die, damn it."
"Shut up and let the woman do her job," I yelled as I walked into the room.
"Cameron, is that you?" Her head, including her eyes, was bandaged so that she couldn't see me.
"I'm here, Janice," I told her as I walked up to the bed. I reached for her hand, and found that it was strapped to the bed. "What have you been doing, Janice?"
"Beth's gone," Janice sobbed. "I can't live without my babe. They won't let me die. Make them unhook all this crap."
"You selfish witch!" I snapped. "Where the hell do you get off talking like that to me? Do you think you're the only one that lost someone today?"
"You're stronger than me, Cameron," Janice blubbered. "You're a stinking samurai. Beth was my strength. She was all I had."
I couldn't help myself. For once, I reacted before my mental discipline could kick in and calm me down. I slapped her hard.
"Don't you ever let me hear you say that again!" I snarled. "If you do, so help me I'll show what a stinking samurai can do to you. If Andy had heard it, I would slap you again."
"Andy!" she gasped. "Where is he? Is he all right?"
"What do you care?" I countered. "You're too busy lying here trying to kill yourself to worry about your son. That precious life that Beth gave you and that Edan died to protect will never know about the woman who carried him for nine months if you don't get your head out of your ass and think about him instead of yourself."
"He's got you and the boys," she mumbled.
"And so do you," I reminded her. "You're not alone, and neither am I, even if it does feel that way right now."
"Cameron, call that doctor back in here," Janice whispered. "My baby needs to know that he had another Mommy who loved him very much."
"That's more like it," I told her. "Don't ever make me slap you again. Your hard head hurt my hand."
"You wimpy little fag," she teased.
"I love you, too, Janice," I said as she got wheeled away for surgery. She stopped them at the door again, however.
"Cameron, Edan loved you very much," she told me. "As we were laying there after the crash, I heard his last words." I felt the tears on my face as she quoted, "I love you, Cameron, forever and always. Take care of our boys." Her own sobs joined mine as she asked, "Why? Why? Why?" I couldn't have given an answer even if I had known one.
When I got back to the waiting room, I discovered that the family had already made it there. Ephraim flew into my arms as I walked in. Brendan and Derek soon joined us. The four of us hugged silently for a moment as Karen, Brooke, Daniel, and Peter stood nearby. I looked up and motioned them into the hug and Gramps and Grandma were next to join. None of us were sure how long we stood there crying and hugging, but when I managed to look around again, I saw a few more faces that were familiar. Among them was the dean of the college.
The family hug broke apart as these newly arrived friends came up to offer support. One person stood out from the rest, literally and figuratively. Richard Hartman, Senior slowly approached me.
"Mr. Ragland, I am truly sorry for your loss," the man said quietly. "I will make any amends that I can. I have already spoken to Dean Marenger about a gift to the school in memory of Professor Draper."
"I'm not sure I understand," I told him. "Why would you…."
"I assumed you knew," the man said sadly. "Ritchie was driving the car that crashed through the wall of the restaurant."
"I might have known," Karen growled. "You're here to bail your perfect son out of trouble again, is that it?"
"No amount of my money will help my son now, Mrs. Walborn," Mr. Hartman told her. "Ritchie was also killed in the crash." The low rumble of disapproval that had been in the background disappeared instantly. "I know my money can't heal your wounds as it once did for Mr. Walborn, but I insist on taking full financial responsibility for my son's actions. Your husband once told me that one day I wouldn't be able to buy my son's good behavior any more. He was right. My money doesn't mean a thing to Ritchie now." He wiped a tear as he turned to walk away.
"Mr. Hartman, I'm sorry for your loss," I called out to him as he left the room.
"How can you say that?" Brendan asked me. "After everything his spoiled brat of a son has done?"
"He's a hurting father," I pointed out. "Maybe he wasn't a good one, but he was one just the same. I have to think how I would feel if I were in his place."
"You know something? You can incite a guilt trip faster than anyone I've ever known," Brendan said with a sarcastic smirk.
"What can I say? It's a gift," I shrugged.
"Gift?" Derek asked. "Dad, you raise it to an art form." Small laughter began to break the heavy atmosphere of the room.
"For what it's worth, he has made an incredibly generous set of offers to the school," Dean Marenger spoke up. "The memorials to Edan and Beth are the largest ever presented to the school by one benefactor, but he insists that you have final say in the matter."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Mr. Hartman said that if you were uncomfortable in any way with any of the donations, he would withdraw them," the dean answered.
"Relax, Dean Marenger," I replied with a smile. "I have no intention of vetoing such a benefit to the school."
"That was never my concern, Cameron," Dr. Marenger stated sincerely. "In fact, if he had planned to glorify his son with the moneys, I would have turned him down flat."
"What does he have planned?" Grandma asked, as if reading my mind.
"Mr. Hartman would like to honor the two people his son took from us with sizable foundations endowed in their memory," the dean explained. "He does wish to provide a scholarship in Ritchie's name, but the recipient must be studying Psychiatry or Family Therapy. He intends to be completely open and honest about his son's problems."
"So long as he sticks to that, I will have no problems," I told the dean. I then excused myself to make a call.
"First National Funeral Home; Scott Scumachi speaking."
"Scooter, it's Cameron," I replied.
"How are you and the boys holding up?" he asked.
"I'm ok, the boys are taking it pretty hard, of course," I answered. "Janice is still in surgery," I told him, anticipating his next question. "The doctors won't know if she will walk again until after she wakes up from the operation."
"I'll keep positive thoughts flowing her way," Scooter promised. "Cameron, I want you to know how much I appreciate you letting me do this."
"You've always been there for us when we needed you before, I couldn't think of anyone I would rather trust now," I assured him.
"Thank you," Scooter said softly. "If you can provide me with the clothing for Edan, and come down to the office to pick out a casket, we should have him ready for a family viewing this evening unless you'd rather wait until the morning."
"I don't think the boys are up to it tonight," I mused aloud. "I can't leave the hospital right now anyway. I'm not sure if I will even be able to get away at all today."
"Well, we don't normally do this, but you are family to me," Scooter began. "I could take care of everything for you if you just tell me what clothing you want to use."
"He was so happy the day we had the civil union, use the tuxedo he wore for that," I said as I began to wipe tears from my eyes again. "I guess I lost him to Randy after all."
"You did no such thing," Scooter assured me quickly. "Edan loved you and only you. He and Randy may be in the same place or not now, I can't tell, but I do know that he was totally devoted to you and your relationship. He may or may not be in the same place as Randy now, but whether he is or not, Edan will always be faithful to you."
"Thanks, Scooter, I needed to hear that," I told him gratefully. "I guess I'm just feeling lonely already. I feel so empty right now. I always knew that I would probably lose him someday, but it wasn't supposed to happen so soon."
"I know it wasn't," he agreed. "It isn't fair. You're not alone, though, Cam. You've got the boys and the rest of the family. We will all be there for you when you need us."
"I know you will, Scooter," I told him. "My heart may be broken, but I know it's still got a home here with the boys and all of my extended family too."