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This story contains scenes of violence and coarse language.

Over the next few days, up until Brock’s funeral service, Kieran spends nearly all his time with David. David insists on this, and he tells Kieran this just as they make up that Monday afternoon.

“I will pick you up at eight-thirty each day, and you’ll be spending more time at my house when I am off shift,” he says to him. “You will be coming along with me and Virgil on more patrols. I even want you with me as I work out in the gymnasium we have in the station; you’ll love that. When I’m off duty, if I take my wife and son somewhere – anywhere – you’re coming with us. And I’m keeping you with me until I think it’s safe for you to go home. Do you understand me, Kieran?”

“So, what you’re saying is that I’ll go anywhere you and your family go, right?” Kieran guesses. “The only thing I’ll do under Mom’s roof is sleep, and that may not be until midnight, right? Is this what you’re trying to say?”

“Yes,” David says. “I want to be more than just your Big Brother. I want to be your main security against the Fire Soldiers, too. I’ve wanted that from the first moment I knew about it. Kieran, do you know what you are to me? You are a precious gem, a priceless jewel that just can’t be stolen.”

Kieran gasps and backs away from David a bit. He leans in closer to him and says, “Oh my God. Now I see a growing passion between the two of us. It’s a passion that I can’t escape, and yet, I don’t want to.” He thinks of that morning when he declared his hatred for him, and shudders violently. “Oh my God, David, what was I thinking when I told you I hated you? I should’ve known that you still loved me even after you killed Brock. I should’ve known that you never meant it.”

David brings Kieran closer and holds him. “I’m not going to let them take you from me, or your mother. You’re much too important for that, do you understand? I want to do whatever it takes to keep you away from those Fire Soldiers. You and I are one, and now we must be inseparable.” They look at each other, and have thoughts of kissing, but they don’t do it. They are afraid of what everyone else will think if they know they did.

Kieran nods instead. “All right. I think I’d better stay with you.” He knows he needs David more than he believes now.

Kieran tells Mrs. Camp about this plan at dinner. She doesn’t sound very pleased with it at first.

“You still want to be with this man after what he did to your brother?!” she exclaims. He tries to convince her by telling how he and David made up.

“Besides,” he adds, “just because Brock’s gone, it doesn’t mean the Fire Soldiers aren’t still after me. I still need David to look out for me, Mom.”

“Oh, all right!” She sounds a little reluctant as she eats some potatoes and chicken. “But I still don’t like it. Kieran, when David comes, I want you ready and outside for him, you understand me? I don’t want to see or talk to him!”

“Sure thing, Mom.” Kieran sounds very disappointed. He’s hoping his mother will stop being so angry with David. All he did was try to keep the Fire Soldiers, including Brock, from taking Kieran again.

~~~~~~~~~~

Unfortunately for them, this idea does not please Chief Tom Markham at all. Markham still doesn’t approve of David being a Big Brother to Kieran. So, whenever he sees the two of them together, there is a frenzied argument. Markham tells David to get rid of Kieran, and he refuses to do so.

As if having Markham bother him about it isn’t bad enough, David also starts getting harassed by other officers at the station. Whenever they see him with Kieran, they yell out insults at him – insults meant to hurt his reputation as a policeman. They call David such names as, “traitor,” “backstabber,” “criminal lover,” and other things more offensive. They give out such comments as, “Hey, I thought cops were supposed to turn in young offenders!” and, “How the hell could you turn your back on us, David McBain?!” Only Virgil will not harass him about the relationship.

On Tuesday, Kieran is with David and Virgil as they get a call about a group of young kids stealing bicycles from open garages in a neighbourhood. When they find them, Kieran rolls down his window to look at them. He is concerned they might be Fire Soldiers. They’re not; they’re just some kids in hooded sweatshirts, plaid vests with T-shirts underneath, and baggy jeans, who aren’t in school and causing trouble. He sees some of them are wearing black, but nothing of orange and green. That means the Fire Soldiers are somewhere else, he thinks. Hope the other cops are looking in on them.

When the kids are arrested and handcuffed, Kieran gets out of the car to make room for two of them. Just then, backup officers, Constables Larry Twain and Paul Justman, arrive to take the rest. As soon as they see Kieran, however, they run over to him and Twain orders him, “Place your hands on the car, mister! You’re being placed under arrest with the rest of them!” He and Justman slam Kieran’s head on the trunk of the car.

Kieran’s head is hurt by the banging as they place him in handcuffs, too. “What the hell?!” he cries. “I didn’t do anything! I was just getting out of the car for some criminals!”

“Well now, you’re going to jail with them, Fire Soldier punk!” Justman says.

David sees what is happening and tells Virgil to handle the criminal youth. He runs over to rescue Kieran. He pushes Twain and Justman away and screams at them, “Leave him the hell alone, all right, you guys?! He’s just along for the ride!” He gets his handcuff keys and frees Kieran. As David opens the back door, he says, “Get in and buckle up, Kieran. We’ll be back in a minute.”

Twain and Justman look vexed at David, and take him away from the car. “What the fuck is with you, man?!” Justman cries at him. “You’re just gonna let that Fire Soldier go free?!”

“And I’d like to know just what the hell Kieran did to deserve that!” David cries back. “For just being a Fire Soldier, which you know he wants no more of?!

“Bullshit, McBain!” Twain says. “You obviously need a crash course in reality.” He points at Kieran in the car. “In reality, that kid is a Fire Soldier, a gang member! And gang members don’t want out of that lifestyle! You know that!”

“I’m trying to keep him away from that gang life!” David yells. “And I obviously need to keep him away from you and other cops! What the hell gives you the right to arrest Kieran as soon as he’s in your radar?”

Justman shoves David, and the three of them get into a physical fight. Virgil sees it from his and David’s car, and he runs over to break it up.

“This is neither the time, nor the place!” he yells at them. He looks at Twain and Justman and points at the other three kids. “Larry, Paul, you go over to those three, put them in your cars, and talk to them! Get some answers!” He turns to David. “And, David, you come with me to deal with the other two. These ones aren’t cooperating! And we’ll talk about this when we get back to the station and finish this, believe me!”

As they walk away, David glares at both Twain and Justman. He almost calls them, “crooked punk cops,” but stops himself. He doesn’t want to get into any more trouble with Virgil.

Later that afternoon, after David and Virgil come back from a call at a high school about a knife-wielding student, David and Kieran go to the station’s gymnasium. It’s a small gym, filled mostly with bench-pressing equipment, mats and some workout machines. They see that there is no one else, so they change into some workout clothes, and find an unoccupied mat. They do ten minutes of stretches, then fifty push-ups and sit-ups each. Afterwards, they go to a big punching bag in the corner, and David encourages Kieran to do some punching.

“It’ll help defend yourself against the Fire Soldiers if you ever need it,” David says. “Hopefully it won’t be necessary, though. Try it.”

Kieran punches the bag a few times. He can’t believe how powerful his punch is. The bag rocks back and forth in a quite steady motion.

“Wow,” David says. “That’s pretty good.”

It encourages Kieran to keep going. He punches the bag harder, envisioning it to be Jasper, or another one of the more hardcore Fire Soldiers. He pretends the bag is Brock. Kieran would’ve loved to give him a few hits after all the misery he put their mother through.

“Wow, you could be the next Sugar Ray Leonard there,” David comments when Kieran finishes. “Or maybe Muhammad Ali. How about if I call you ‘Sugar Ray Ali’ from now on?”

Kieran laughs. “I think that’s going over the mark a bit,” he says. “I don’t think I could be a professional boxer.”

“You never know. Maybe with a little practice, you can. Maybe when you get out of the gang, I can start bringing you here more often.”

They go to the one of the bench presses next. There are already two five-pound weights on the barbell. Kieran gets on the press, and David spots him as he takes the barbell. Kieran is able to do three sets of eight with the five-pound weights. When he finishes, he gives the barbell to David.

“That’s a good start,” David says. He adds on some ten-pound weights. “Now let’s see if you can handle this.”

Kieran is able to do two sets with fifteen pounds of weight on each side. He is halfway through his second set, when two more police officers come in, Corporal Brian Malone and Sergeant Kenny Nesbitt. They can hear Kieran counting, and when he gets up, he’s about to tell David, “Let’s take a break for a bit so I can rest my arms.” But he notices David’s colleagues standing there.

Nesbitt points at Kieran and says, “David, is that Kieran Camp with you? That Fire Soldier?”

David sighs harshly and cries, “Oh, stop it, Ken! It’s not what you think at all.”

Malone goes over to the bench press, grabs Kieran’s arm and pulls him off. He shoves Kieran so hard, he almost goes into the mirrors. He orders him, “Get out of here, you fucking criminal punk! You don’t belong here! Move it! Get out of this station if you’re gonna hang around!”

David goes over to get Kieran before the other officers can do something more harmful. He holds the boy like a mother eagle shielding her babies. Malone and Nesbitt look shocked and angry at this.

“God, David, will you quit coming to that kid’s defence?” Malone says. “And look at how you hold that kid. It’s pathetic! Is that how you got him past Markham’s office?”

“How can you say that Kieran doesn’t belong here in this station?!” David demands. “At least he belongs with me, as opposed to all the Fire Soldiers who want to steal his life.”

Malone throws his towel onto David and Kieran’s bench press. “David, get real! He doesn’t belong here in this gym to fuck around, and he sure as hell doesn’t belong with you. You know where he belongs? Prison! And as a cop, it’s your duty to make sure he goes there.”

“But he hasn’t done anything wrong, at least not anything he regrets!” David protests. “I can’t put Kieran in jail, especially since he’s trying to reclaim his innocence. Ever heard of false imprisonment?”

“David, there is no false imprisonment when it comes to the Fire Soldiers,” Nesbitt argues. He points at Kieran. “And that is a Fire Soldier, right?” David starts to say something, but Kieran is now ready to leave the gymnasium.

“Let’s just get out of here, David,” he says. “There’s no point in fighting cops who are as bull-headed and stubborn as your chief. They can have their little gym. They’re ruined all the fun for me.”

When Kieran has left, David shakes his head at Malone and Nesbitt. In a low voice, he says to them, “You make me sick. It’s a wonder how you all can function as productive cops with attitudes like that.” He turns and leaves the gym.

“It’s a wonder how you can function as a productive cop when you’re being overly friendly to young offenders!” Malone calls to David. But David is already gone when he finishes his sentence.

Wednesday is David’s day off. Kieran spends the morning at his house. David and Kieran have eggs, pancakes and sausage for breakfast, then they do the dishes together.

“David, I just want to thank you for spending all this time with me,” Kieran says as he puts his plate in the drying rack. “I feel that we’re already more than best friends. In a way, I feel like I’ve got another father.”

Deep down, Kieran is feeling a bit regretful for saying that. He’s glad that Dylan is at school when he’s said that. He’s worried that Dylan might think Kieran is stealing his father away. Though Dylan has never shown those feelings, Kieran is worried Dylan might tell his father that he doesn’t like him spending all his time with Kieran. He doesn’t want that. Kieran wants David around as long as he still needs him. He’s hoping that David can handle taking care of two boys at once. He believes David can do it.

After lunch, David and Kieran go to Tim Horton’s for donuts. At the counter, David orders a coffee, and Kieran, a medium root beer, and both order a dozen honey glazed and chocolate donuts. Kieran agrees to take the chocolate ones and leave the honey ones for David. Chocolate has always been Kieran’s favourite treat.

As they eat, David says to Kieran, “Kieran, I’m so sorry for the harassment you had to go through yesterday. After this, I say we spend some time at the video arcade until we pick Dylan up, or wherever else you want to go.”

Kieran suggests, “What do you say we go to the movies this afternoon? I saw this ad for this great movie last Saturday night, and read about it in the papers. It reminded me of the two of us. This boy and his mother run away from their abusive, negligent father and husband, and settle in Miami. One day, while at the park with some friends, he wanders into a police picnic and meets four really cool cop brothers. He decides to take them all home to his mother, and three of them who are single fall in love with her – and her son! The oldest one is married, and isn’t interested in her.”

He bites into a chocolate donut. “Anyway, so the mother dates around with the single three, and she tells her sob story about her first failed marriage. Now both mother and son have to decide which one they want as their new husband and stepfather.”

David frowns and replies, “That sounds pretty trampy of her.”

“Well, I think it’s sweet.” Kieran finishes his donut.

David thinks about it, then says, “All right. We’ll go home, see where it’s playing and when, then we’ll go. I’ll call Debbie and ask her to pick Dylan up.”

Just then, David and Kieran see Twain, Justman, Malone and Nesbitt come in. The officers who harassed them the day before. Kieran’s mood is sour now, and he keeps eating his donuts while ignoring the officers.

David notices them, and calls on them after they give their orders. They turn to his table, frown at him, and say nothing. David watches them, and when they get their orders, the officers leave quickly.

“Well, that was rude!” he remarks. “The least they can do is say hello.”

“Ignore them,” Kieran says. “They’re just like most of the other anti-youth officers in the city. Sad and pathetic, I say.”

After the movie, David and Kieran go to Kentucky Fried Chicken to pick up dinner. When they get home, they are greeted by Debbie and Dylan. Kieran looks at Dylan, and he tells David and Debbie to tend to dinner.

“I need to have a private talk with Dylan,” he says. “I want to ask him something really important. I promise I won’t be very long.” The parents smile and nod, and Kieran takes Dylan to his room.

In the room, the boys sit on Dylan’s bed, and Kieran says to him, “Dylan, I’m going to ask you something really important, and I want you to be honest, OK?”

“Sure,” Dylan says. “What is it?”

Kieran shifts himself closer to Dylan. “I know that I’m spending all this time with your father, and that you must feel a bit angry and resentful. I know you think he should be spending some more alone time with you, seeing that you not only his son, but also his only child. But you must understand that our relationship is going through some really bad times, as far as our peers go, and we really need each other right now.”

“I understand you, Kieran,” Dylan replies. “Dad told me once that you have no Daddy of your own. I think you’re really nice, and you deserve one. I think you need Dad just as much as I do. I don’t mind you spending time with my Dad.”

“Thank you, Dylan.” Kieran hugs him, and the two get up to go to dinner.

As they leave the bedroom, Dylan tells Kieran, “Just don’t call him ‘Dad’ or ‘Daddy,’ OK? That’s my job.” Kieran laughs as they go to the dining room.

After dinner, David and Debbie take the boys to the ball park outside Dylan’s elementary school. Dylan’s school baseball team is playing against a rival team from a school across town. The stands are full that evening, full of parents and family members cheering on their boys as they play.

Throughout the game, however, David and Debbie notice that some parents are staring at them and Kieran. They are whispering and pointing at the three. The parents who are sitting close to them suddenly move away. They don’t talk to them at all. Meanwhile, Kieran looks over at Dylan, who does not notice what is going on. He’s hoping it stays that way throughout the game.

Around the third inning, the parents start getting louder. David, Debbie and Kieran start overhearing some of their comments.

“Is that David McBain with that Fire Soldier friend of his?”

“Who the hell does he think he is, bringing a criminal teen into a children’s environment. That kid should be in jail. And that man calls himself a cop and a father?”

“I heard they’re carrying on something of a romantic ‘father-son-like’ relationship. A cop and a gang member – is this right?”

“I hope that teenager doesn’t come over here. He might take my money, maybe my whole wallet.”

“I see Child and Family Services heading their way if David doesn’t stop this. Poor Dylan, he’s going to end up in a government group home.”

Kieran can’t believe what is happening, all the other parents gossiping like that. He turns to David and says, “Why is this happening to us now? This never happened when we were at the movies.”

“These must be parents who know my colleagues,” David suggests. “I don’t like how the word is going around.”

He keeps looking around the stands instead of concentrating on the game. Parents talking about him as if he’s doing something scandalous. When he can no longer take this, he stands up and screams, “Dammit, will everyone just shut up and leave me and Kieran Camp alone?! Please?!”

The game stops suddenly, and all the attendants, coaches and players are staring at David and Kieran. David and Debbie look at Dylan; he looks like he wants to cry. But it’s David who’s most embarrassed, or so he thinks. Kieran just feels sorry for Dylan, who must have his share of embarrassment.

David just sits back down and sobs silently. He has been humiliated enough, and he doesn’t know how he’ll be able to handle further harassment, rumours and malice. After a few moments, the game continues. Dylan’s team wins, seven to four, but it doesn’t matter to David. He’s very upset about what is happening to him and Kieran.

As they go back to the house, David says to Dylan, “Son, I’m sorry for what happened out there. I hope you can forgive me.”

“It’s all right, Dad,” Dylan replies.

As David tucks Dylan into bed that night, he says to him, “Son, I’m really sorry again for what happened at your game this evening. It’s just that Kieran and I are fighting for everyone to accept the two of us. You know that, right? I really want him to get out of the gang he’s in. And what we’re going through right now isn’t helping anything.”

“I understand, Dad,” Dylan replies. “Kieran’s too nice to be in a scary gang. Maybe when he’s out, you two can have a normal friendship.” David is relieved to hear this, and he gives his son a very special hug and kiss goodnight.

David goes to the living room to watch television with Debbie and Kieran. Kieran stays at the house for another forty minutes before David takes him back to his home.

David can’t forget the two most vicious arguments he has on Thursday morning. One was in Markham’s office, the other, in the reception area soon afterwards. In the reception area, he fights with two other officers, Constables Chris Paupers and Todd Kingston.

“McBain, I am sick of you toting that goddamn punk wherever you go!” Markham yells, banging his fist on his desk. “When the hell are you going to get it straight?! There ain’t no hope for kids like Kieran! He’ll never want to leave the damn Fire Soldiers because he really don’t care about nothing! You’re only fooling yourself by keeping this up, as well as your damn views on criminal youth! And let me tell you, this ain’t helping you become a better cop! Am I getting through to you?!”

“Get out of my face with that, Markham!” David blasts back. “How many times do I have to say it before you can understand? Kieran is not a criminal! He’s a good kid who’s just been misunderstood! You know, just because he was forced into this gang by his bad older brother, doesn’t mean that you and the others have to treat him like he’s wanted for something!”

“Oh, there you go again with this ‘being forced into the gang’ shit! Why don’t you just get your head out of the fucking clouds?! How is it possible that other peers forced a thirteen-year-old like Kieran into this? Never in the history of criminal gangs has there been such a case! You can ask anyone here!” Markham retrieves his Pepto-Bismol and drinks from the bottle.

“Well, Kieran was forced into the Fire Soldiers against his own will! Before he joined, he was a prized student in school, he stayed at home nights, he respected his parents, and so on and so forth. I’ve met his mother; you can ask her, or even call up his school! Do you honestly think someone like him would join a gang on his own? Kieran was a model child in this town, I’ll have you know! I will not send him back into the streets at your say-so! I might as well tell him to go live the life he doesn't want!”

Markham sighs. “McBain, you’re a valuable player on my team, and I want to keep it that way. I was beginning to see the real cop in you when you turned in those Fire Soldiers that raided that restaurant the other day. And how do you think I felt when you killed that one outside the station? I wanted to give you a medal of bravery, for crying out loud!”

David is offended the last thing Markham says. “If you did, you know I wouldn’t accept it! That shooting was an accident! Cops don’t go around shooting up bad guys like someone hunting deer and ducks! It’s not right and even you know it! And the person I killed was Kieran’s own brother, for crissake! Why do you think I wanted to get off early that day? I had to go reconcile with Kieran because he was so angry with me. I just have to thank God I was able to, or else I would’ve failed in my mission!”

“I only let you go because you kept pestering me for an hour about it!”

David glares at Markham for interrupting him. He continues speaking. “Saving Kieran from a life of crime is something I won’t give up on until I’ve done it! And if you’re a real police chief, you’d back me up on this!”

Markham pounds his fist on his desk again. “Fuck, don’t tell me how to do my job, McBain! You’re coming very close to losing everything you’ve got, you hear me?! Everything! You’d better step out of this little bond while you still can!”

“NEVER!” Soon, both Markham and David are silent. David looks at him bewildered, his hands over his mouth. He’s never screamed that loud in his life. He takes his hands from his mouth to speak again, his voice calm, yet serious. “I have something to tell you, sir. Kieran’s brother’s funeral service is tomorrow! Kieran told me this, and I plan to spend the whole day with him! I’m going to be there as he says his final goodbyes to Brock, and don’t you even try to stop me!”

David stomps out of Markham’s office, slamming the door behind him.

“Is everything all right?” Kieran asks. “I could hear you all the way out here.”

“Nothing’s all right,” David snaps. “I can’t take much more of his attitude! C’mon, we’re out of here!” He grabs Kieran’s hand, and they leave the station for an unassigned patrol, but David doesn’t care.

He is stomping his feet and muttering cursive to himself. Kieran puts his arm around him, trying to soothe him. “It’s going to be all right, David,” he says. “Nothing can go wrong as long as you’re with me.”

Constables Paupers and Kingston are sitting at their word processors, typing up police reports when they overhear Kieran. In a half-second, they look up from their paperwork, and Paupers says, “David, we’d like to see you, please.” He obeys him, bringing Kieran along.

Paupers and Kingston drum their fingers on their desks as they give David filthy looks. Paupers clears his throat and says, “So, David, I see that you’re still with that bad seed.” Kieran knows whom he’s talking about, so he keeps quiet. He pretends not to listen to them.

David brings Kieran in front of him and says, “This is not a bad seed, Chris! This is a supposedly good kid destined to get out of his gang rut. As a responsible police officer, it’s my duty to see that he does.”

“Maybe you aren’t clear about police force ethics yet, David,” Kingston says. “A good cop trusts no one, and that especially goes for young offenders like your little friend there.”

“Stop acting like the chief, Todd!” David barks. “Not all the juvenile offenders out there want to stay that way! Why can’t you see that? Why do you and Markham, and all the other cops in Winnipeg, have to act like this towards youth?! Goddammit, do you know what all this prejudice says about them?”

Paupers pounds his desk, stands up and yells, “This so-called ‘prejudice’, as you call it, is the fucking truth! If the teens and pre-teens out there aren’t so bad, then why are there so many of them in gangs?! You don’t have an answer to that, do you, David?! Yeah, I thought not!” He sits back down. “I’m sorry, man, but you need to stop being so preachy.”

“What is it with you cops and these prejudices against our city's youth?!” David cries in frustration. “Is it some sort of sixth sense you develop?! They’re our city’s future, for God’s sake! All your opinions about them really say something about society today!”

“Backstabbing bastard!” Paupers and Kingston yell at the same time. Then Kingston adds, “Shit, David, if it weren’t for cops like you, this job would be a lot less stressful! How do you expect to be a responsible authority figure if you’re playing nice to certain people?! Answer us that!”

David sighs, wondering how much longer he can deal with this, then grits his teeth. “I’m only trying to be the best cop that I know how. And one of a cop’s major duties is to help out people who need it! Even you know that!” He rests his hands on Kieran’s head. “I’m only trying to get this young man out of his corner. Maybe you should try it sometime. Yeah, maybe you two should find a couple of miserable gang boys who want out, and see if you can help them. Maybe you’d be a lot better off as cops.”

“David, you’ve got to be the most nonchalant man on the force,” Paupers says. “Now, you know that if we did that, we’d lose our guns and badges for sure. And we’d never be able to work here again.” He looks at Kingston. “Look, Todd and I have dreamed of being cops since we were children, and we worked so hard getting this far. Our reputations would be forever tainted. We can’t afford that, and neither can you. You can’t afford to be a traitor. It’s just not worth it.”

David is more upset with them than he is with Markham, so he and Kieran leave the station in silence.

David’s frustrations with the Winnipeg Police Service have been excessive that day. Now, he’s seriously thinking about leaving the force. He’ll do it as soon as he sees Kieran get rid of his gang colours for good. He talks about it with Debbie over dinner.

“I can’t take this crap anymore, Deb,” he complains. “Everywhere I go, fellow cops are giving me flack for hooking up with Kieran in the first place. I mean, I’m only trying to help him deal with those Fire Soldiers out there. And I have to repeat myself every day about that, and how cops are supposed to help others, et cetera. Is this really against police regulations? If so, then I don’t know what I’m doing in law enforcement. I feel like I’m in the wrong line of work. I just can’t deal with those guys hassling me another day, especially Markham! It’s even gone outside the force now; did you see how all those parents were talking about us at Dylan’s game last night?”

He leans forward and rests his elbows on the table, thinking deeply about his future. “Maybe I’ll go back to college, and study either child psychology or child counselling. Yeah, maybe that would be best.” He takes his elbows off and pulls his chair in. “You know, I’ve learned something in the past few days. I’ve learned that I’d be much better off working with young people than the public.”

“But police work is your calling, David,” Debbie says. “It’s been in your family for generations. If you quit now, then what does that say to your family? It says that you want to throw away tradition just like that, and that wouldn’t be any good. And what does that say to Dylan, knowing that his father wants to stop the only job that’s made him look up to you? Honey, I really think you should reconsider.”

“But, Debbie, these guys are putting biased myths on kids like Kieran,” David stresses. “Do you think it’s fair that our relationship has to be so star-crossed? I’ve spent my whole career putting faith into people like him. Why do you think I’ve been to all these schools, talking to people about serious issues kids face today? I don’t do that for the heck of it. I do that because I can see good in the eyes of all youth. Why can’t the city authorities see that?”

“It hasn’t been so easy for me either, David,” Kieran says. “Look, this bond is no secret to Jasper and the others, and they still don’t approve of it. If I hadn’t been spending so much time with you, I’d be back with those dumb Soldiers now, and they would’ve hurt me, if they didn’t threaten to do so. And if it weren’t for you, I'd be running from the law for the rest of my life. I know that.”

“Well, I don’t know what to do,” David tells them. "I just can’t keep up with this anymore. If I keep doing what I’m doing, I get more harassment about it from my co-workers. And in the end, I’d have to surrender my badge and guns to Markham. Now what does that say to my family? It says that I’m a failure to the McBain family name, that’s what. They’ll think I let them down if that ever happens to me.”

David sighs a heavy, gloomy sigh. He shovels some more food on his fork and takes another bite.

~~~~~~~~~~

The only time Kieran sleeps over at David’s house is the night before the service. On Friday morning, David drives Kieran back to Mrs. Camp’s house. Kieran has to get dressed for his brother’s funeral. When they walk into the house, they see many of Kieran’s relatives standing in the living room. All the relatives are on both sides of his family. Some of them come from Manitoba, but there are others who live as far away as British Columbia and New Brunswick. Kieran’s grieving mother is standing in the front of the crowd. When she sees David and Kieran together, she gets very upset.

She walks up to David and gives him a deadly look. She still can’t forgive him for Brock’s shooting death. She’s never accepted the fact that it was purely accidental.

Kieran is upset to see this. He steps in front of David and says, “Now, Mom before you do anything rash…”

Instead, Mrs. Camp shakes her head at David and says, “You’re unbelievable. So fucking unbelievable! How could you wreck our family like this? How could you kill my eldest son? Oh, sure, he wasn’t exactly a model citizen, but he was still my baby! Why, David? Why, why, why?!”

The relatives are watching Mrs. Camp. They prepare themselves in case she tries to attack David. But Kieran shields him. “Cool down, Mother. It’s all right. I forgive him.”

Mrs. Camp is shocked to hear this. “You forgive him?!” she gasps at Kieran. “You mean you’re not mad at this monster for killing your brother? Oh, for God’s sake, Kieran! Will you please tell me how you made up with him – again? Frankly, I still don’t believe how you would after what he did!”

“I was mad at David for a little while, Mom,” Kieran explains for a second time, "but just before you came home Monday afternoon, he popped over here and apologised to me. And then, he started giving me this intimate speech about how I meant everything to him. I started thinking about how true that was, and I also thought about how much he means to me. We made up then, and I’ve spent every full day with him since, remember?”

Mrs. Camp folds her arms and shoots a disgusted look. “And what about Brock?”

“David never meant to kill Brock, really,” Kieran claims. “He was just trying to get back control with the Fire Soldiers.”

“It’s true, Bev,” David says to Mrs. Camp. “Really, I just did what I did to keep the Fire Soldiers from going all crazy, after they chased us to the police station. I am truly sorry for what happened, and I take full responsibility. But I would like to keep Kieran in my hands until he’s out of the gang, because they’re now more desperate to get him back. I wouldn’t doubt that. And right now, neither of us can afford that.”

It’s a lot for Mrs. Camp to think about. She takes in what they’ve told her, and the situation now at hand. After much thought, she says, “All right, David. I forgive you. But, I’ll never able to put this behind me for a long time. And I will never forget how you caused it, ever!”

“I understand,” David replies.

Mrs. Camp says to Kieran, “Honey, I think you should go to your room right now. Start picking out what you should wear to the funeral. It starts in just a few hours.” Kieran nods and heads to his room.

When he gets there, Kieran heads for his closet. He takes a good pair of black dress pants off his stand, and a matching sport jacket off a hanger. He puts them neatly on his bed. Then, he starts pondering over what white shirt to wear with it. Maybe that white turtleneck he wore when he first met Chief Markham. Kieran goes back to the closet for it. Sure, it got wrinkled and a bit dirty when the Fire Soldiers attacked him that day, but his mother must have washed and ironed it by now. He finds it mixed in with all the other school shirts. Once his outfit is ready, Kieran does a quick change. Then, after slipping into a pair of black dress shoes, he examines himself in the mirror. He thinks it looks pretty stylish for a funeral. He only hopes it doesn’t offend the family. He saw all his male relatives wearing suits and ties. And he isn’t really the “suit and tie” type.

Kieran goes back to the living room to model for the family. They all think he looks very good. His grandmother even says to him, “It’s the best outfit you could ever wear to this thing.”

Kieran thanks everyone, then excuses himself to go comb his hair. After a few minutes, he’s back in the living room again, properly groomed. At around half past noon, the family starts off for the service. David offers to drive for both Mrs. Camp and Kieran, since she’s too upset to drive herself. She nods, then starts crying again almost immediately.

The service is being held in Klassen Funeral Chapel on Henderson Highway. Kieran spends the whole ride trying to console his mother, but it’s no use. She can’t get over the fact that Brock is really gone. When they reach Henderson Highway, he decides to give up at David’s advice.

“Let her grieve,” David says. “After all, Brock was her first-born. It’s going to take her some time to get over this one.”

Kieran holds Mrs. Camp’s hand as they walk into the funeral home. Nobody can tell that he is upset about his brother. He’s promised himself to get through this service without crying. He wants to be brave for his mother, and the rest of the family. And David will be by his side the whole time to keep him from losing his strength.

Kieran goes into the home wearing a serious look. He is determined to keep his promise, but deep down, he shows a lot of emotion for Brock’s death.

The service begins at one o’clock. The reverend starts off by saying some things about Brock. He says, “Brock Camp will be reunited with God, as well as his own paternal father. He shall be sadly missed by all. He was a wonderful, caring and kind individual who enriched the lives of all he touched.”

Not in the last few years or so, Kieran thinks, but he doesn’t dare say that out loud.

After the main introductions, the reverend starts by reading the eleventh chapter of John from the New Testament:

Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, of the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
And it was Mary who anointed the Lord, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.
The sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”
But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the son of God may be glorified by it.”…

The readings go on, and Kieran listens closely to them. Such spiritual messages of suffering and death, he thinks. For these moments, Kieran feels as if he is actually touched by God. The family never attends church on Sunday – they never have to – but Kieran is already feeling moved by the Lord’s power.

As the service goes on, Kieran thinks of Jasper and the other Fire Soldiers. He turns around and looks for them. Not one of them has shown up to say farewell to their Fire Soldier brother. Kieran believes it’s because they’re not spiritual, that they don’t keep Jesus Christ in their souls the way he does. Gangs are normally like that when it comes to religion. Maybe if Jasper and the others kept the Lord in their hearts, he thinks, and thought of their Holy Father more than themselves more often, this city would be much better off.

But he is completely unprepared for the trouble he’d be in that afternoon. Halfway through the ceremony, as the attendants finish singing, “Just A Closer Walk With Thee”, in burst Jasper and about fifteen other Fire Soldiers from the back of the home. They are wearing masked toques, and carrying knives, machine guns, and other dangerous weapons. Jasper is yelling orders at everyone as he fires at the ceiling. The firings cause frightened women to scream. Everyone gets down on the floor, kneeling with their heads down, including Kieran and the reverend.

David, however, wastes no time in bringing the service to order. Just as the Soldiers start looking for Kieran, David rises up from his kneeling position, runs over to the gang and flashes his gun. He yells at the Soldiers, “Hold it! Drop your weapons and get down on the ground now! You’re all under arrest!”

Instead of doing as David orders him to, Jasper turns around and flashes his machine gun at him. He doesn’t fire, but he says, “Oh, look, it’s the bastard cop who’s been hanging with that treacherous backstabber. Maybe he knows where Kieran is.”

Zania turns around and looks at David. “That must mean Kieran is close by,” she declares. She starts for David’s row, but he flashes his gun at her and yells, “Stop right there, young lady! Drop it and get on the ground! All of you drop your weapons and get on the ground!” He flashes his gun at Fire Soldiers all over the home.

Meanwhile, Kieran is clutching to his mother, not wanting them to take him away. He had promised to be brave throughout the service, but he never expected to be held hostage by his gang. He looks at his worried mother and whispers, “How in the hell did they get here?”

Just then, Jasper fires his weapon at David. He’s aiming to knock his gun out of his hand, not kill him. It works; Jasper’s bullets hit the head of David’s gun, causing it to fly from his hand. The gun hits Brock’s coffin, then the floor, but it never goes off.

David rushes to the front of the service hall for his gun. While he’s distracted, Jasper runs up to the front row, spots Kieran, and snatches him right away. David hears Mrs. Camp scream as he picks up his gun. He turns to see Jasper grabbing Kieran by his hair in front of his horrified family.

David points his gun at Jasper and orders, “Let Kieran go, Jasper.”

“Not a chance in hell, man!” Jasper shoots back. “He’s coming with us. He belongs with us. He’s a Fire Soldier, man! You know that!”

“No, he isn’t,” David says, still pointing his gun. “He’s not a Fire Soldier, and he doesn’t belong with you. He’s an innocent teenager who belongs with his mother. Now, please put him back where you got him.”

“No!” Jasper fires at the ceiling some more, then he and the other Soldiers leave the home with Kieran.

Immediately, David runs out after the gang. He runs to the parking lot to see the Fire Soldiers boarding onto a stolen school bus. He scans quickly for Kieran, and catches him getting on board. “Stop right there!” he shouts.

He starts for the bus, attempting to apprehend the Soldiers and rescue Kieran. But Jasper is standing outside, and he readies his gun when David is just a few feet away from him.

“Freeze, copper!” Jasper barks. David stops on impact.

“Don’t even try to come after us, man!” Jasper continues. “You’ll never be able to stop us this time. We’ll have Kieran working as a real Fire Soldier by the time we get through with him.” He boards the bus. “See you around, sucker!” Then, David watches helplessly as Jasper starts it up and drives off.

Inside, Kieran is screaming, “Help me! David, help! Save me from the creeps, please!” But it’s no use, for David’s image is fading away from him as Jasper drives the bus further.

Kieran keeps screaming until Elizabeth shouts, “Shut the fuck up, you treacherous bastard! You’re in enough shit as it is!” The other Fire Soldiers cheer at her, like a game show audience after she’s won the big prize.



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