My interest in becoming a writer started around my twelfth birthday. My mother gave me a book, “Little Men,” by Louisa May Alcott.
Paul stood on the front porch of his home in the late afternoon when they drove up. He had been pacing for most of the day, and the spent energy etched darkened circles under his eyes. When Paul saw Kevin sitting in the front seat, a tremendous sense of relief swept over him. He thanked God silently for the answered prayer and slowly released the grip he had on the porch rail.
Kevin could not mistake the look of relief and joy that flooded his father’s eyes. As the car pulled into the driveway, a new sense of guilt swept over him for having worried the man. He did not realize earlier how old his father had aged in the last ten years until that moment. He also felt how much he was loved, which made him glad Robert had found him. Kevin wondered if Paul had been standing there on the porch ever since he had left early that morning.
“Think about what I have said, Kevin,” Robert said as he pulled the car to a stop near the porch. “You must find a way to forgive yourself.”
Kevin exited the car just as Robert did. The two of them walked toward the front of the vehicle. Paul approached with a look of bewilderment to them. For a moment, he seemed about ready to embrace his son, but the uncertainty between them would not allow that occasion yet.
Kevin offered a warm smile and said, “Thank you, Mr. Murchison.”
Robert smiled as he looked at Paul. “There is the boy I used to know.”
Kevin approached Robert for a cautious handshake. The man surprised him with a hug instead. Kevin returned the hug after a reluctant pause, then Robert stepped back as Paul looked on.
“Both of our boys are lost and hurting,” Robert explained to Paul with hope. “I would hunt through the night to find them.”
“Robert…” Paul started to ask something of which he did not want to have answered. “Are you okay?”
“I am now.” Robert clapped Kevin on the shoulder. “I’ve found one of our lost boys.” He cast a glance back at the pile of paperwork in the backseat of his car. “Maybe he can help me get closure over Robbie.”
Robert shook Paul’s hand and then entered back into his car to drive away. Paul ushered Kevin toward the house, but the young man had to pause to watch the other man go away. Something was still disconcerting about the afternoon. He followed his father slowly toward the house.
Paul searched for positive words that would not send Kevin running again. “The girls were afraid that you would not come back.” He wanted his son to know someone cared about him. “They are gone now. Terri came by and picked them up earlier.”
Kevin struggled with his apprehension. “I have to finish Momma’s garden.”
Paul effectively hid his relief. “You do. Come on. Let us get started.”
Although it was Sunday morning, the Houston city streets in low-income neighborhoods were busy with human activity. A group of children played a game of street basketball in the hulk of a shattered building. Although Pablo Sanchez was trying to keep a low profile as he walked the sidewalk, he flipped a sign to one of the boys he recognized. The teen shouted at him but was more interested in the game and quickly lost interest in him.
Pablo Sanchez pressed on to a specific destination. Boyo, Cheeto, and Chavez were waiting for him just around the block. He could not risk having them wait for him in his neighborhood. The police officers would probably be crawling all over, waiting for him to show up. Two of the men were leaning against a car when he approached. It was apparent that they were members of his gang as they stepped out to greet him. Pablo exchanged gang signs and fist pumps just before all three men get into the car, Pablo getting into the front with the Chavez.
As the car was driving away, Pablo turned in his seat to face Boyo and Cheeto. Although the felon had a plan, he forced a smile to talk to his comrades.
“So, where is he?” Pablo asked with a sinister threat.
“Back at the crib.” Boyo tried to remain suave. “Soon as we heard you was out; we knew you were coming for blood.”
Cheeto punched the back of the seat in anger. “The fool thought he could hide from us!”
“Didn't nobody touch him, did they?” Pablo spoke with an even lower threat of violence.
“He put up a fight.” Boyo grew nervous. “We might have scratched him a little, but we didn't do no severe damage.”
“Yeah, Pablo. We knew he belonged to you.” Chavez was just as nervous, sitting less than an arm’s length from a man known for sudden violent outbursts.
Pablo turned back in his seat, slightly perturbed. “You got my bags and my equipment ready?”
“Man! I just got the car detailed!” Chavez whined.
“Do you want to join him?” Pablo made no effort to hide his homicidal thoughts.
Chavez fell silent. Cheeto and Boyo looked at each other with silent accusations. They filled with dread at what they had done already done to Raul. They were even more afraid when they realized what was about to happen. In just a short amount of time, they entered Pablo’s old neighborhood.
Old row houses sat on cramped lots overgrown with weeds already early in the spring. On many of the homes, foil covered windows not busted out or affixed to abandoned, condemned structures. Pablo and his three companions drove up in front of one such place. Parked halfway up the curb, the men got out and walked up to the front door.
Inside the darkened house, daylight seeped through the foiled-over windows. Raul sat in the chair in the center of the room. He could see shadows as the men approached the front door. Terror filled his eyes as he sought a way to escape. Sunlight brightened the room temporarily as Pablo, and his friends entered the house through the front door.
When Pablo saw Raul tied to the chair bound and gagged, he grew angry. Raul appeared beaten horribly. He was slow to recognize Pablo as he looked around at his different captors. The men surrounded him. One of them closed the door and darkened the house once more. A dim light came to life, replacing the darkness.
“What did you do to him?” Pablo tried to control his rage. “Who did this to him?”
The three men standing took a step back away from Pablo. Upon hearing Pablo's voice, recognition came to Raul's eyes. It was a mixture of long-lost devotion and pure terror.
Chavez was still too nervous. “It's his fault, Pablo. He would not come with us.”
Boyo was afraid of Pablo’s wrath. “Yeah, Pablo. The kid put up a heck of a fight.”
“He sucker-punched me,” Cheeto added in defense.
Pablo stepped closer to Raul and ran what could have been a loving hand through the young man's hair. “Who did this to you, my love?” He spoke in a soft voice as if trying to soothe a child after a nightmare and seemed to show a small amount of compassion.
Raul was more afraid of Pablo's gentle touch, which drove a subdued revulsion and mounting terror shuddering through his body. He knew he had no other choice. Already, Cheeto was trying to back away toward the door. With little hesitation, Raul nodded his head to Cheeto.
Boyo and Chavez gave themselves a distance away from Cheeto. Pablo hung his head for a moment, then turned and looked at Cheeto as his face twisted with rage.
“Please, Pablo!” Cheeto tried to reach back for the door as he pleaded for mercy.
“Raul belonged to me!” Pablo drew a gun and fired without hesitation.
Raul’s breathing became fixed. He did not want to see someone killed and was not expecting it. Cheeto dropped to the floor dead. Boyo kneeled at his side as Chavez collapsed onto the couch.
Pablo struggled to bring his trembling rage under control as he turned back to Raul and kneeled to eye level with him. “You didn't forget about me, did you?”
Raul shook his head in terror as he was crying, his voice muffled by the gag. “I…I didn’t forget.”
Boyo looked at Cheeto’s lifeless body in shock. “You killed him!”
“No, you couldn't forget about me.” Pablo placed a hand on Raul's knee and leaned in close. “What was that you told me? You and I were supposed to be together forever. Wasn't that it? Answer me!”
Raul closed his eyes while he nodded. He lowered his head and cried uncontrollably. “Please don’t hurt me.”
“I never forgot about us either.” Pablo gently lifted Raul's chin so that they could look at one another eye to eye. “You meant a lot to me. I especially enjoyed the time we went down to Galveston and camped out on the beach. Those were good times, weren't they?”
Raul’s terror began to ease as he thought that they might be connecting again. He slowly nodded his head. “I know I made some…bad choices…”
Pablo bowed his head. “You helped them send me to prison! I never forgot about you, Raul. Many nights, when I could not sleep, I thought of you. You had my heart in your hands all those years ago, which was why it hurt when you turned against me, and the rest of the brothers and turned us in. You turned against me, Raul, when I needed you most, and I could understand why. You were still a boy, and those white pigs promised to take care of you. Wasn’t that right?”
Raul began to blubber when he realized that no new connection would happen, and he began to plead for mercy. “I’ve had a lot of thinking to…”
Pablo set the gun down. “I'm not gonna shoot you, my friend.” He stood up to walk around Raul. “I spent a long time in that prison thinking of the day that you and I would meet again. I kept thinking about the joy we would share when I saw you.” He stopped walking when he was directly the young man. He leaned forward so that he could again look Raul in the eyes. “You owe me for every day that I spent in that prison because of you.” He produced a knife, cut off the gag, and spoke in a lower menacing voice. “I want to hear you scream.”
Raul shook his head in terror. “Please, Pablo! I'm sor…” His words broke into terrible screams of agony as Pablo began to slice into him with the knife.
Chavez looked out through a tear in the foil and saw the police officers. He looked back at Pablo and tried to ignore the disgusting thing done to Raul. The young man was still barely alive but unable to breathe anymore. His throat was filling with blood. Boyo was vomiting his guts out.
Chavez shouted in a panic. “Pablo! It's the cops!”
Raul's screams could be heard on the street outside when unmarked police cars began to arrive. A SWAT team arrived and closed off the neighborhood. Police officers and Special Units started to file out of their vehicles and secure the area. They had the house surrounded just as Raul screamed out his last breath of life.
Pablo wiped Raul’s blood on his shirt as he looked for himself. “Is the tunnel ready?” he asked, wasting no more time as he sheathed the knife.
Chavez frowned in disbelief. “Are you crazy? It leads to the sewer. There's all kinds of rats and snakes down there!”
Pablo punched Boyo in the shoulder. “Give me your cell phone.”
Boyo controlled his vomiting long enough fish through his pocket for the phone. He tossed it to Pablo, who then grabbed a pistol and turned to a back room.
Chavez shouted through the window at the police and then fired his gun. The police immediately fired back. Loud pistol reports and ricocheting bullets sent the morbidly curious onlookers scurrying for cover, all the while holding up their cellphones to capture the moment.
Pablo used the mayhem to escape as the gunshots multiplied. Raul, who was still dying a slow, painful death, received a merciful bullet to the head. Chavez took a shot in the arm and decided to take Pablo's lead, but as he was running to the other room, he died with two bullets through his neck and shoulder. Boyo died not long after the shooting started.
To be continued...