A Gathering of Brothers
“Gramma,” Sam came in through the back door, “Dad won’t let us in the barn.”
“Then why have you come to me?”
Michael and Mikey were right behind him and waited.
“It’s your barn.”
“Well boys I gave them permission to go to the barn and close the doors, so I’m afraid I can’t help you there.”
“But we want to play in there,”
“Michael you’ll have to find somewhere else to play, the big boys have got the barn for awhile. Why play in an old barn anyways, if I was you I would go build me a fort and I know just the place want me to show you?”
“Yeah a fort.” Mikey liked that idea.
Anne turned to Donna and Delia who both were smiling, “Do you mind putting the groceries away?”
“Not at all Mama go play with the boys.”
Anne set out with her grandsons to the edge of the woods, far away from the pond site, where her own boys had once had a big fort.
“Now look here, see all these boards and limbs, your daddies had a fort here when they were little, so I think you can find enough stuff here to make a good one.”
“Dad used to play here?” Michael asked
“Yes he did, they all played here, now do you want me to help or can you handle it?”
“We can handle it,” Sam answered.
“We’re gonna need some tools, a hammer and nails.” Mikey had his hands on his hips.
“All right follow me I know just where to look.” Anne took them to the utility room and found a hammer and a box of nails, “You be careful with this hammer now, I don’t want to have to be binding up a big sore thumb.”
“We’ll be careful Gramma, thanks.” Sam ran off with his cousins in tow.
Anne watched them run toward the old fort and smiled hoping they wouldn’t knock each other in the head, these boys hadn’t grown up in the country they were all city children.
“I give them a hammer and some nails,” she said coming back in the kitchen, “hope that was the right thing to do.”
“Mikey knows about hammers Mama.” Donna had Joey on her lap
“Well, look who’s awake, reckon he’d let me hold him?”
It was Jeff’s time in the barrel, “Plumbing huh, plumbing the depths are ya?” Colin smirked.
“I make a living.” Ignoring the obvious.
“What do you do with yourself Jeff, go out?” Cal asked.
“Yeah I go out, I uh have a friend.”
“Somebody special?” asked Steve.
“I think so. I hope so.” Jeff took a swig of his beer.
“Good for you, hope it works out for you.” Zack crossed his legs, he was on the floor, back against a stall.
“What about you Colin, got anybody special?” Jeff asked.
Colin thought about the little Japanese girl he was seeing, “Maybe.”
“Well that leaves Cal and Richie.”
“What about Zack?”
Zack spoke up, “I gotta girl.”
“Richie’s got too many, that’s his problem, anything in a skirt.” Steve giggled.
“Hey watch your mouth.”
“Well it’s true you know it.”
“You should talk Steve, yours walked.” Richie knocked back his drink.
“What about you, Cal,” Ben asked sipping his drink
“What do you want to know, that I don’t have a girlfriend?”
“Still carrying a torch, Cal?” John asked.
“No, not anymore I’m batchin’ it, suits me.”
“Probably a good idea,” Richie spoke up reaching for the bottle.
“Well that takes care of women and politics, what else can we talk about?” Colin opened another beer.
“Let’s talk about you.” Jeff looked up from his place on the floor.
“Hey dull subject, find another.”
“I wouldn’t say you were dull, just the opposite,” Zack quietly said.
Colin shot him a look.
“You don’t live in a vacuum, Colin,” Ben leaned back on the wall.
“Yep, lawmen all over the place here,” Jeff straighten out his legs
“What, what’s going on with Colin?” John asked.
“Nothing,” Colin rounded his eyes.
“Tell them, Colin.” Zack stared at him
“Nothing to tell, I run a car lot, selling used cars, little repair shop out back.”
“Where do the cars come from, Colin?” Zack persisted.
“All over; I don’t know, I don’t check.”
“You should you know, especially if they’re stolen.”
“I don’t steal.” He said through his teeth.
“You receive stolen merchandise and resell it.”
“I told you I don’t know where the shit comes from.”
“Yes you do, you sign the damn receipts, shit coming from Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Texas…want me to go on.”
“How do you know all this, Zack?” John asked.
“It’s his case…ain’t it little brother?” Ben smiled.
“Why haven’t you acted on it?” Richie asked.
“It’s ongoing.” Zack answered taking a swig of his beer.
“The fuck you say, you’re sitting on it aren’t you?”
“Hey Rich, chill out, it ain’t happenin’ in New Jersey.” Ben said quietly.
“You’re covering up for Colin?” John asked.
“No, I’m not covering for anybody, I’m keeping an eye on him that’s all. I kept hoping he’d move on.”
“Well he hasn’t, you’re gonna lose your job, Zack.”
“It’s my case, I’m working it you know about that Richie, ever turn an eye when one of your buddies is in sight eh?”
“No I don’t.”
“Hell, he’d arrest Mama for goin’ five miles over the speed limit cause that’s the LAW.” Ben spat out.
“You’re right, Ben the law is the law; there’s a line between legal and illegal.”
“And you don’t cross it do ya?”
“No,Ben I don’t, I don’t make many friends by being this way but that’s how I am.”
“Now wait a minute, you can’t do this, Zack my God man you’re FBI. Ya see Colin what trouble you’re causing?” John twisted around in the old desk chair he’d found to sit in.
“What I choose to do is my own damn business and none of yours,” he indicated the whole barn.
“Wrong there, Colin, it’s my business when stolen cars cross state lines. I could reel you in today, one phone call.”
“Well then do it.” Colin yelled. “Do it, Zack.”
“Is that what you want, federal prison?” Zack yelled back.
“Why don’t you do it, Zack?” John asked.
“Cause it’s his blood brother that’s why, ain’t that right Zack, blood tells.” Ben said.
“You’ve got a son out there man, he’s all you got you better think about that.” John kicked a pinecone across the floor.
“What are you waiting for, Zack is Ben right?” Richie asked. “Would you still be doing the same thing if it was Steve here or Jeff?”
It was silent in the barn for a long time until Cal spoke up, “You have a job to do, Zack and I don’t envy you but you can’t let this go on. You’re putting yourself and your son in jeopardy here by protecting a brother who can take care of himself. If he wants prison let him keep on, you can’t save him, Zack.”
“Why don’t you just disappear, Colin?” Steve asked, “take a vacation and don’t go back.”
“You could come home.” Jeff added.
“No not home, he’d put Mama in an awkward position when they finally catch up with him.” Cal answered.
Zack stood up and tossed his can in the bucket, “I am not covering for Colin, it is still an ongoing investigation, who I want is the man responsible for the theft, it’s an organization countrywide, complicated and convoluted. I can’t say anymore than that, but let that put your fears at rest, it ain’t blood. I had hoped Colin would move on out of the picture. I do believe when he started the business it was legit, but it ain’t now and he knows it.” He looked at Colin.
“Looks like I’ve been tried and convicted here, once a criminal always a criminal that’s the way of it even here in this barn among my family.”
“Truth is truth, sometimes it’s hard to swallow, question is what are you going to do about it?” Cal asked.
Colin looked up and smirked, “Maybe I’ll take Steve’s advice, take a vacation and don’t come back.”
Ben ran his finger around the edge of his glass, “I know a little place, safe and secure.”
Colin looked at him, “You bastard you set this up.”
“Nobody set anything up Colin, we all care about you and what happens to you.” Jeff stood up and tossed his can in the bucket.
“I appreciate your concern,” Colin opened the barn door and walked out.
“What kind of place are you talking about, Ben?” Richie asked.
Ben smiled and tilted his head, “Well now, if I told you it wouldn’t be safe and secure now would it?”
“So what are you going to do, Zack?” John asked.
“Close him down.”
“You’re going to take him in?”
“I don’t expect he’ll be there or anywhere I could find him.” He glanced at Ben and left the barn.
Jeff looked at Richie, “You wouldn’t really arrest Mama would you?”
Richie chucked, “Fuck no Jeff, what kind of an asshole do you think I am?”
“He had to ask though didn’t he,” Ben finished his drink, “I’m about ready for one of them hamburgers.”
Richie tossed the rest of his drink on the floor and walked out.
“Yeah a hamburger sounds good,” John got up and stretched, “family reunions, what fun.”
Steve finished his drink and went around picking up glasses and with John left the barn.
“That leaves me and you, Jeff,” Ben walked over and put his arm around his shoulder.
“What are you thanking me for?” they began to walk back toward the house.
“For Colin, I don’t want to know details, just look after him.”
“If I should run across him I’ll do that little brother.”
“Oh John just in time,” Donna and Delia had pulled the grill out of the utility room and were trying to get it started.
“Wait a minute I got to go look at a fort first,” He kissed Donna quickly and jogged off to where Mikey was waiting.
“Hey Dad you gotta come look we made a fort,” Michael was tugging on Richie’s hand.
“Made what, a fort, well okay,” he sighed and followed Michael down to the edge of the woods where John and Zack were standing in the near darkness trying to see what their sons had made.
“Looks pretty good huh?” John said smiling.
“Yeah not bad, we had a roof though didn’t we,” Richie walked around inside the fort, “jeez there’s nails all over the place pick them up boys.”
“Sam knocked them over,” Mickey bent to pick up a hand full of nails.
“Well it was too dark we need a flashlight.” Sam kicked around in the leaves.
“Wait till morning and you can come out here and find all the loose nails.” Zack said and grabbed Sam around the neck.
“Ya did good kid,” Richie hugged Michael around the shoulders.
“Gramma said you used to play here.”
“Yeah I did, we had a rope swing somewhere off of one of these trees.”
“I gotta go light a fire, you coming Mikey?” John moved toward the house.
“Can we stay out here?”
“But we can see the house and the backyard.”
“Come on let’s see if Gramma’s got some flashlights,” Zack started back to the house with Sam.
“Can I stay out here too?” Michael asked.
“Yeah if we can find a flashlight for ya,” Richie smiled thinking about the times he and John had spent the nights out here in the summer, John was terrified of snakes and he had…oh well that was a long time ago.
John had the charcoal going and ran upstairs to the bathroom to wash his hands, he heard something banging next door to the bathroom and stepped down the hall and opened the door to Colin’s room.
“What are you doing?”
“What does it look like.” Colin was packing.
“You aren’t going anywhere.”
“The fuck I ain’t.”
“Colin, you’re pissed I know but don’t do this, think what it will do to Mama. Put your shit back in the drawer and come on downstairs, we’re cooking hamburgers.”
“You think I’m gonna hang around here waiting for the feds to show up, fuck no.”
“You’re fuckin’ crazy if you think that’s going to happen, get a grip Colin. Now sit down.” John pushed him back onto the bed.
“John I don’t wanna hurt you man, but you need to get out of my way.”
“No, you sit and listen, are you so damn hard headed and stupid you couldn’t see that all seven of us want you safe and sound and out of trouble. Nobody is turning you in, hell I could if I wanted to, Richie could just on hearsay for starters but we aren’t, Zack is not going to make a move, not till you’re long gone from LA. Go to Ben for awhile.”
“You don’t know what you’re asking, John.” Colin looked him in the eye.
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing, nothing John.”
“Don’t tell me nothing, it’s something; what is it I’m asking?”
“You don’t know Ben, nobody does, I ain’t saying nothing else.”
John stared at him and backed away. “He’s your brother, Colin.”
“Yeah, he is so are you man, different kettle of fish.”
“Is this something I need to know about, Colin?”
“No, the less you know the better.”
“All right don’t go to Ben, but don’t go back to LA either, we’ll figure something out, yeah something.” What Colin said about Ben shook John, true he didn’t know him anymore he guessed, he’d only been about ten when Ben left home. “So put your things back in the drawer and come downstairs okay?”
Colin sighed and looked up at the ceiling, “Okay…John don’t say anything, don’t say I said anything about Ben.”
“No…no I won’t.” John leaned in the doorway while Colin put his things away and walked downstairs with him.
BACK HOME NEXT