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This story contains scenes of violence and coarse language.

When the Fire Soldiers bring Kieran back to their alley, everyone except Jasper prepares to give him more beatings. But Jasper stops them all, saying, “Don’t even bother, you guys!” The other Soldiers stare at him, more confused than outraged about his decision.

“Jasper, what’s going on?” asks a sandy-haired Soldier named Brayden. “Kieran’s gone running to that cop buddy of his too many times. He’s a fucking backstabber, dude! And it was his foolishness that got Brock killed in the first place! Don’t tell me you’re not pissed at all the things he’s done! C’mon, why can’t we beat him?” The others shout and cheer in agreement, but Jasper silences them.

“Oh, I’m quite pissed at all the shit he’s put us through, believe me,” he assures them. “But, let’s face it, people! All the beatings we gave him obviously weren’t enough to keep this little brat from straying. We’re gonna have to take turns guarding him, so that he stays with us at all times. We’re also gonna have to start getting him involved in some action, even if he refuses.”

“Fat chance, you arse!” Kieran screams. “I’m not following orders from a bunch of school dropouts!” Marcus slaps his hand over his mouth.

“I’m afraid there ain’t nothing you can do about it, boy,” Jasper says to him. “You’re all ours now, and guess what? That little cop friend of yours ain’t here to save you this time.”

He tosses Kieran’s gang jacket to Marcus and Ricky. Marcus grabs Kieran’s legs so he can’t run away. Ricky puts the jacket on him and zips it up. Then, Jasper approaches Kieran with his gang bandanna, and puts it back on his head. Kieran hangs his head in self-pity, ready to cry. He’s back in the gang again, and this time, he’s feeling more trapped than he ever felt.

Jasper brings his head up so the two face each other. He coughs up a smoker’s cough, spits and says, “Repeat after me, Kieran – ‘From this day forward, I, Kieran Camp, will not betray or escape the Fire Soldiers.’”

“From this day forward, I, Kieran Camp, will not betray or escape the Fire Soldiers,” Kieran repeats softly.

“No, I didn’t like that,” Jasper says, displeased. “I thought that was quite wimpy for a gang member. Say it louder!”

“From this day forward, I, Kieran Camp, will not betray or escape the Fire Soldiers,” Kieran’s tone is only a little higher than before.

“Oh, you can do so much better than that, I know!” Jasper barks. “Louder!”

Kieran then barks out in a military fashion, “From this day forward, I, Kieran Camp, will not betray or escape the Fire Soldiers!” He looks at Jasper with emotional rage, as if he wants to beat him and cry at the same time.

That makes Jasper smile. He says, “Welcome to the Fire Soldiers, Kieran. I hope you will follow your brand new oath from now on.” He looks around at the rest of the gang. “Now, if that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business. I was thinking, maybe we should all go on a drive-by shooting spree tonight. Who’s up with me?” All the Soldiers, except Kieran, smile at that idea. They all raise their hands eagerly. But not Kieran; Jasper has to force his hand up.

“That would be so cool,” an amber-haired girl named Paigan comments. “We haven’t done nothing like that in so long.”

“Then it’s settled,” Jasper says. “Our shoot-up starts at ten o’clock tonight. But before that happens, we’ll need to raid a car dealer’s for the wheels. Any volunteers?”

Everybody except Kieran raises their hands, but Jasper chooses Travis, Paigan, Brayden and Tony to steal the cars. All four of them slap high-fives, then Roscoe says, “Hey, I think we should use the same firearms we had to raid Brock’s funeral.”

“Good call,” Jasper replies. He begins to think about those terrifying moments at the funeral home that afternoon. While he snickers, he says, “Man, you should’ve seen the looks on those people’s faces when we burst in there and yelled, ‘Surprise!’ They were looking all scared and shit. Maybe we should do that again sometime, only this time, we can blow some heads off!”

“Speaking of funerals, Jasper,” Kieran says, bewildered, “how in the world did you know about Brock’s service?”

Jasper gives him a funny look. “You are so fucking brainless. What do you think we do with all the newspapers we find in the alley dumpsters? We read them, you goof! And we happened to notice Brock’s obituary in the paper the other day. That’s how we knew about his service.”

“Nice of you to come just to get me,” Kieran says sarcastically. He gives angered looks to all the gang members. “You guys never even said goodbye to Brock while you were at it! Your own Fire Soldier brother! What, you guys don’t care about him anymore, now that he’s not here, huh? Is that it?!”

“Oh, we still care about Brock,” Elizabeth says. “We just don’t care for all that Jesus Christ Thy Saviour bullshit, that’s all.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought!” Kieran sneers.

“Oh, and speaking of obituaries, Kieran,” Jasper comments, “that’s exactly where you’ll end up if you’re not careful next time. And we won’t even think about coming to your funeral. But we will go to the cemetery every year on the anniversary of your death – just to spit on your grave!” He and the other Soldiers start laughing spitefully.

That threat scares Kieran greatly, as if it is eternal damnation. He goes into the alley to sit by himself. He buries his face in his hands and starts sobbing.

~~~~~~~~~~

David drives to the police station at a little after four that afternoon, after watching Brock get buried in the cemetery. He drops Mrs. Camp off at her house before going to work.

David has a gloomy look as he drives. He can’t stop thinking about the Fire Soldiers’ raid in the funeral home. He thinks of that scene when Jasper told him off, after they took Kieran out. It will bother him for a long time. As a result, David has a lot of trouble concentrating. He tries hard not to cry, but he can’t help it. He feels like a failure as Kieran’s Big Brother.

David parks the car in his usual spot. He turns off the ignition and sits there for a few moments. He rests his head on the steering wheel and starts crying.

“Oh, Kieran, I’m so sorry,” he sobs. “I should’ve known they’d take you. And I knew they were too much for me to handle alone. I never should have looked away.”

Minutes later, he stops crying, brings his head up and gets out of the car.

A lot of questions are active in his mind as he walks into the station, questions he can’t answer. How did the Fire Soldiers know about Brock’s service? How could they endanger lives like that just to get Kieran? And why did they choose something so solemn as a funeral to do their deed? Why couldn’t they have waited until the gravesite service? Maybe he could’ve fought them off while the coffin was being lowered.

He walks slowly to Chief Markham’s office and knocks on the door. “Come in,” Markham says. David opens it and walks inside.

Markham is surprised to see him. He says, “McBain, what in the hell are you doing here? Didn’t you want to take the day off?”

David doesn’t answer, so Markham asks more questions. “Did you come back from the service already? How did things go?”

“Oh, things were going great until we got through half the service,” David answers as he sits down. “That was when trouble started brewing.”

He tells Markham about the Fire Soldiers’ impromptu appearance at the service, and how they were determined to take Kieran away. He tells him that Jasper endangered lives, shooting all around the funeral home with a machine gun. He tells about the demands the Soldiers made, how they wanted him to surrender Kieran, the diversion Jasper made, and how he kidnapped Kieran while David was distracted. Finally, David tells Markham about his confrontation outside the home, just before the gang left with Kieran in that stolen school bus.

Markham is stunned by the story. He says, “I don’t know what to say to you, McBain. You went against my orders to leave that kid, yet you tried to protect him, and ended up failing. I hope you’ve learned a lesson in all this. Leave the wild in their wilderness where they belong.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Chief!” David fumes. “Kieran is not wild! How many times must I get that through to you before you…” Then, he notices Markham’s unconvinced look, so he shakes his head. “Never mind, sir. If you hadn’t listened to me before, you probably won’t start now.” David gets up quickly and walks out, leaving the door open.

~~~~~~~~~~

That night, the Fire Soldiers are busy preparing for the drive-by shooting. Jasper, Elizabeth and Roscoe are reloading the gang’s weapons until they’re all fully loaded. Some others are giving Kieran tips on whom to shoot, and from what angles. Kieran is trying hard not to pay attention. He’s giving off signals to the gang, telling them he’s not interested. Shooting up people is not he wants to do tonight.

Kieran spends much of the time thinking about David. He wonders when he will come and save him, if he ever comes at all. He can’t stop thinking about his mother. It’s bad enough she has to suffer through Brock’s death, now she also has Kieran’s kidnapping as well. He thinks of the two months of school he’s missed, and the job opportunities he’s not going to have if he gets caught in this shooting.

Then, Kieran thinks about being shipped off to military school at a judge’s request. They’ll do whatever they can just to instil some discipline into him. Soon, a military career will be the only thing left. Kieran can never see himself in the military. As a child, he promised himself to stay out of there. They could ship him off to another country to fight a war. They’ll make him do anything. Any thought of a lack of freedom terrifies him.

One Soldier is trying to teach him the basics, and notices that Kieran might be daydreaming, so he says, “Kieran, are you paying attention?”

Kieran jerks his head, stares at the Soldier and says, “Uh, yeah. Yeah, I was paying attention.”

The curious Soldier then asks, “Well, what was I saying?”

Kieran tries to think of the exact words, then he guesses, “You told me that when the firearm comes right to me, I point out exactly whom I’m supposed to target and then go nuts until he’s passed out.”

The Soldier thinks about what he said. “Well, I suppose you were paying attention.”

A few moments later, Travis, Tony, Brayden and Paigan come back with the cars – four 1970’s Cadillacs in different colours, stolen from the nearest automobile dealership. Jasper, Elizabeth and Roscoe have already finished preparing the guns. Soon, they’re all set. The weapons are ready, the cars are revved up, and the gang is prepared to start the action. Jasper gets into the black car, driven by Travis. Marcus, Ricky, Elizabeth and Kieran all get in with them. Jasper wants Kieran in his group, so he can watch him at all times.

“You do exactly as we tell you, Kieran,” he tells him.

Once everyone is settled, Jasper yells out, “Let’s ride!” and all the cars drive off.

Jasper stands up in the front seat, takes careful aim and begins firing. He shoots a lot of bullets from his gun, and they hit a woman in her forties, as well as a few others walking alone. Kieran watches, frightened, as the woman’s husband catches her in his arms, screaming for help. Oh, God, those poor people, he thinks. What can I do?

Everybody except Kieran is celebrating Jasper’s first hits, hooting and hollering with their fists in the air. Kieran wants to protest, telling Jasper he had no right to hurt those people, and that he may have killed them already. But he decides against that. He’s afraid of getting shot himself.

Jasper tosses the gun at Kieran, and he manages to catch it. Travis makes a sudden halt at a red light, then Jasper screams, “Aw, goddammit, why the fuck did you go and stop?”

“’Cause the damn light is red, and there’s a fucking transit bus ahead of us!” Travis complains. He honks the horn and screams, “C’mon, you bitches and bastards, move it, will ya? Go, you damn hippies!”

Jasper soon spots another target. He points at a Negro man walking down the sidewalk. He says to Kieran, “Okay, Kieran, there’s a target. Shoot it out for all it’s worth! Go on, do it! It’ll be great!”

Kieran prepares himself, then he stops. He thinks about what would happen if the police get involved, and he is caught. What if they take him to jail? What if David or Virgil, or perhaps both, take him to jail? He worries that neither one will trust him ever again. And what if this goes on his police record? Nobody will hire him for anything because they’ll know he’d be capable of murder.

Jasper can see that Kieran is stalling, so he bellows, “We’re waiting, Kieran!”

But after thinking about the consequences, he throws the weapon back at him right away and says, “I’m sorry, man. I can’t do it!”

The light soon turns green, and Travis is speeding down the street. Meanwhile, Jasper is yelling, “Dammit, Kieran! You had a good target there, and you just let it get away!” He tosses the gun to Ricky. “Here, Ricky, you take the next one. Show Kieran here how it’s done!”

Ricky chooses his target – a small business owner who just closed up shop – and immediately starts firing at him. Again, Kieran stays silent when the others cheer, as they watch the man fall on the sidewalk, bleeding.

Kieran becomes horrified, frightened. He starts thinking, I can’t believe I let these assholes talk me into this. What have I done? He buckles up the seat belt and buries his face in his hands, moaning. He’s nearly crying.

Suddenly without warning, the gang hears loud sirens. Everyone except Kieran turns, and notices the police right behind them. The Fire Soldiers jump out of their cars as the drivers pull over and escape. They run down the street like they’re fleeing a fire. Instead of running, Kieran unbuckles his seat belt without being seen, then throws himself down on his stomach, his face buried in the cushion. He is cowering in the seat, afraid of being caught.

He starts thinking of David. Again, he wonders what might happen between them if David is the one who catches him. Will he conclude that Kieran is just like every other bad teenager in Winnipeg? Will he finally start believing Chief Markham, and his colleagues? He prays that none of that will happen. He hopes David will still see the good Kieran after he finds him, but the odds of that now are almost nothing.

After about a few minutes, Kieran hears the back door open, then feels someone grabbing his arm. An officer takes him out of the car. That officer is Constable David McBain. He turns Kieran over so he can look at his face. He stares at him suspiciously for a few moments.

“Kieran?” David says, letting go of his jacket.

He takes off Kieran’s bandanna without untying it, then shines a flashlight on his hair and face. Kieran looks and acts like he wants to die. He moans as if his stomach is hurting, his face flushed. David nearly drops his flashlight.

“I can’t believe my eyes,” he mutters. “Kieran Camp, taking part in a drive-by shooting.”

“David, do me a big favour, please,” Kieran says weakly. “Just take your gun and shoot me with it.”

“Why?” David asks. “Are you too embarrassed to live?”

Kieran turns his head away and groans in humiliation. “I’m not the person you want to be dealing with right now. You’re not very happy to see me, are you?”

“Are you happy to see me now?”

“Not this time, no.”

David picks Kieran up. “We’ll talk about this when we get to the station, believe me.” He takes the bandanna, puts him in handcuffs and escorts him to Virgil’s police car. As the door slams shut, Kieran lowers his head and sulks in silence. Neither David nor Virgil say anything to him on the way there.

~~~~~~~~~~

At the station, David takes Kieran to Chief Markham’s office to have him reported. When Markham sees Kieran placed under arrest, he is overjoyed. He gets up to close the door, then goes over to shake David’s hand.

“Congratulations, McBain!” he says. “You’re finally becoming the cop I always knew you could be.” He points to Kieran. “I hope you told this scumbag that you didn’t want to be his Big Brother anymore. That could get you a medal of honour.”

David releases himself from Markham’s grasp, displeased by that comment. “Actually, sir, I didn’t,” he replies. “In fact, this is the same ‘scumbag’ who was kidnapped from his brother’s funeral this afternoon.”

Markham puts on a peeved look. “You’re kidding me, McBain. Are you saying that the Fire Soldiers raided the funeral and held it all up, just to take this little punk and leave? Are you sure he didn’t go with them voluntarily?”

“I’m positive.” David stands Kieran up, releases him from the handcuffs, and tells him, “Take your jacket off for me, Kieran. I want the chief to see what you’re wearing.”

Kieran doesn’t hesitate. He takes off his gang jacket, and models the outfit he wore to Brock’s funeral. He gives the jacket to David and says, “Burn that. I never want to see it ever again.”

Markham looks thoughtful as David says to him, “See, Chief? That’s the same sport jacket and turtleneck he wore to the funeral today. And look at those pants. He also wore them to the service. I knew that the Fire Soldiers were kidnapping Kieran, because I heard his mother scream as I retrieved my gun in the hall. Also, outside the home, Kieran was obviously frightened as I saw him being boarded onto a bus. Clearly, he didn’t want to go with them.” He tosses Kieran’s gang gear on the chair.

They hear a knock at the door. Markham opens it to see more police officers. They have Jasper, Elizabeth, Travis, Marcus and Ricky in custody, as well as police reports in their hands. Markham takes the reports and says, “Leave them here with me. I’ll deal with these ones as soon as I’m through with Constable McBain and his little buddy.”

Markham takes the rest of Kieran’s group into his office, places the reports on his desk, then goes back to David. “McBain, I want you to take this little critter to the confrontation room. I’ll join you later as soon as I deal with these guys.” David nods and escorts Kieran out of the office, while Markham sits down and reads the reports.

When they get to the confrontation room, Kieran looks around. There is a table with four chairs in the middle, and a video camera on each wall, installed about a foot below the ceiling. He looks at the cameras and sighs.

“Great,” he moans as he and David sit down. “I’m going to have cameras on me at all times. I feel so guilty. Why don’t you guys just shine a spotlight on me, like they do in the cartoons?”

“Those cameras are used to record the confrontations,” David explains. “The video comes in handy in court, in case we have any confessions.”

About fifteen minutes later, Markham meets David and Kieran. He has Kieran’s gang gear in one hand, and some videotapes in the other. Markham looks at them solemnly as he sets up the video. “Nice of you to wait for me, McBain,” he says. He drops Kieran’s gear onto an empty chair.

“I felt I had to,” David replies as Markham puts the cassette in the camera. “I thought maybe you should listen to what Kieran has to say about what happened tonight. Every word, Chief.” Markham looks smug as he presses the record button and sits down.

David focuses on Kieran and says, “All right, Kieran, now I want you to tell me everything that happened to you, from the time the Fire Soldiers took you out of the funeral up until right now.”

Kieran takes a deep breath to keep from breaking down, then starts explaining. “Jasper drove the school bus back to the garage he got it from, then the Fire Soldiers took me back to their alley, about a few blocks away. Some of them wanted to beat me up like usual, but Jasper went against it, saying that it wasn’t helping me. Instead, he told them that I’d have to be watched over 24-7, so I don’t stab them in the back again.”

“Does this include stepping out of their sight to see me?” David asks.

“You better believe it, buddy,” Kieran answers.

“What did the Fire Soldiers say they would do if you disobeyed them again, if anything at all?”

“They threatened to kill me, David. Jasper said that I’d appear in the newspaper obituaries, just like Brock did these past few days. He also said that they would go spit on my grave, and make it some annual tradition.” Kieran pauses for a moment. “I think they’d actually want to spit on my grave when I die, because of the way I’d been treating them lately.”

“Besides you having to be watched all the time, Kieran, did Jasper have any other plans to keep you from leaving?”

“Jasper said I had to take part in most of the gang activity. And I’d have no choice but to do it, as he said they would even if I refuse. When I said no, he simply told me, ‘You’re all ours now.’” Kieran leans in closer to David. “He also said that you weren’t going to be there to help me that time, David.”

“All right,” David replies. “Now, I want you to tell me exactly what happened tonight, when I found you lying down in that stolen Cadillac.”

“Jasper suggested that the whole gang take part in a drive-by shooting,” Kieran answers. “I don’t know why he thought of it so suddenly, but I just know I didn’t want any part of it. But, this was one of the things he made me do, anyway. Why, I didn’t even volunteer to help steal the cars needed.”

“What all happened before and during the shooting?”

“Well, some of the Fire Soldiers tried to teach me all the techniques in this drive-by. I don’t remember the last time I did anything like this, maybe I didn’t at all.”

“You don’t remember the last time you got involved in a drive-by shooting?!” Markham asks. “You’ve been in a deadly gang for how long, and you can’t remember the last drive-by you’ve been in?! How is this so?”

“Like I said before, sir, I never liked the gang life from day one,” Kieran tells Markham. “I’ve always done my best to resist gang-related activities, because I was afraid of a criminal record. As a result, I fought with everyone else, and sometimes got beaten up.” He sighs and shakes his head. “Look, can we get back to tonight? I don’t feel much like talking about my past.”

“It’s all right,” David says, clearing his throat. “Who were you with during the shooting? Why did you go with them? And did you hurt or kill anybody in the process?”

“I was with Jasper and Elizabeth; and three others named Travis, Marcus and Ricky,” Kieran answers. “They showed up at Markham’s office just before we came here, remember? Jasper insisted that I go in his group, so he could keep a close watch on me, to make sure I did things right. I never killed anybody in that shooting, not even when the weapon came my way.”

He looks at David. “I was prepared to shoot and maybe kill a black man on the sidewalk at Jasper’s say-so, David. But then I started thinking about you and Virgil, and I thought, ‘What would happen if I killed this man? What if David and Virgil found out? Would they ever trust me again?’ I didn’t want to risk our friendship for anything, or end up with a police record, so I chickened out. That was when Jasper got mad at me.”

“One more thing, Kieran,” David says. “I found you lying face down on your stomach in the back seat of the car. Why? That’s not typical for someone involved in a drive-by when they’re caught by police.”

“I did not want to be among the first ones captured, so I decided to hide myself the best I could,” Kieran tells him. “I thought maybe the police wouldn’t notice me until everyone else was apprehended. I knew I was going to be found eventually, when the car was being searched, but I never thought that you would be the one to do it.”

“Anything else before we end this interview?” Markham asks.

“Yes,” Kieran says. “After Ricky shot a man closing up his store, I just couldn’t go on. So I sat down, buckled myself up, and kept my head low to avoid been seen. I figured this wasn’t worth me getting hauled in by the police, but hey, look at me now.”

“Thank you, Kieran,” David says. “Chief Markham will take you back to his office now.”

The interview ends then. Markham stands up, takes Kieran’s arm and leads him back to his office. He gives him the jacket and bandanna along the way, but Kieran won’t take it.

“I told David I want that burned,” he says, “and I mean it.”

Once they get there, Markham calls for Jasper, Elizabeth, Marcus, Travis and Ricky. All five stand up, and are escorted from the office in single file. Kieran sits down on a small leather couch propped against a wall.

Markham brings Jasper and his friends to the interviewing room. He sees two chairs on the other side of him and David, so he prepares three more for this interview. He tells them all to sit down, and they obey.

“You are to stay in your seats at all times during this interview, and not get up once, do you understand?” he orders. The group doesn’t respond. To make sure they stay, Markham handcuffs them all to their chairs. He sits in his own chair and starts their interview.

However, much to his and David’s dismays, the interview does not go well at all. Jasper and his friends are very uncooperative when they ask them questions, as they expect.

“We’ve heard Kieran Camp’s side of the story, now we’d like to hear from all of you,” Markham says. “Will somebody tell me what in God’s name happened out there tonight? According to reports, you and all your buddies were riding along in stolen Cadillacs, shooting at selected groups of people!”

“Also, from what Kieran told us earlier, you forced him to take part when he didn’t want to,” David adds. “He mentioned that you, Jasper, put him in your group just so you could watch him. He also said that you told him to shoot out a black person with your weapon. Now, is that all true?”

“I ain’t telling you jack shit!” Jasper blasts at him.

“Jasper, I must insist that you answer me truthfully and respectably!” David tells him. “Now, did you place Kieran with you just to watch him, and did you tell him to shoot at the black person?”

“I’m not fucking answering you!” Jasper roars at David. “I ain’t gonna tell my fucking gang business to no cop! So why don’t you just let us go, and forget that we ever did this?”

“Jasper, you’ve got two choices here.” David holds up two fingers, then puts his hand down. “We can do this the right way, so we can forward this to court and give you light sentences. Or, we can try you all together when you’re adults, and each of you can serve life in prison. It’s your call.”

“Now, we’re going to ask you again!” Markham says forcefully. “Did you, or did you not, take Kieran Camp on this little joyride so he could be watched? And did you, or did you not, tell him to shoot a black person?”

Jasper is being more stubborn than he ever was. He hesitates for a few moments, then says, “Yeah, we took him with us! And yeah, we told him to shoot out that nigger! So what? He don’t belong on your side of the law! He belongs with us, ’cuz he’s a Fire Soldier. He may not seem that way now, but we’re making him into one. And you ain’t gonna stop us, coppers!”

“So, let me get this straight,” David says. “You’re saying that you took Kieran out of my care this afternoon, just so you could get him in trouble with the law for your own good. Is that what you’re telling me?”

“It ain’t for my own good!” Jasper shoots back. “It’s for his own good! We took Kieran back with us for Kieran! We recruited him to fight in our war against society! But he ain’t pulling his damn weight, so we gotta make sure he does!”

David pounds his fist on the table. “Oh, is that so?! Well, I’m glad you told me that, because we have your confession for the court on videotape! Now, is there anything else you’d like to add before we determine your fates?”

Unfortunately, David and Markham underestimate Jasper’s strength and stamina. He breaks free from his handcuffs, and quickly breaks his friends free. Then, he jumps on the table and starts screaming at David and Markham.

“You fucking assholes!” Jasper yells. “You ain’t gonna do shit to me and my fucking posse! You shut the fuck up about fucking court, you hear me?! I ain’t going to jail! You ain’t gonna take me fucking nowhere!”

Not caring that he’s being caught on tape, he makes a fist and threatens to assault them both. He demands that they let them go and take Kieran with them. This prompts the others to jump from their seats and act as his backup.

Before Jasper can act, however, David and Markham get out their chairs and control him themselves. David pulls Jasper down from the table, while Markham puts him back in handcuffs. And before the others can act themselves, Markham quickly cuffs them all together. David turns the camera off and retrieves the videotape, then he and Markham take Jasper out of the room, his followers right behind them.

“Damn you, coppers!” Jasper screams at Markham. “You fucking bastards won’t get away with this! We’ll make doilies outta all your asses! The Fire Soldiers will have total control of the fucking streets! Criminals will prevail, let me tell you!” He looks at David through the corner of his eye. “And we will have Kieran be part of us, copper! Just you wait!”

“Criminals will prevail,” Markham repeats. “Yeah, we’ll see about that.”

David goes to Markham’s office to get Kieran. He tells him all about the interview with Jasper. He says to him, “Chief Markham will take Jasper and his friends to jail now.”

“On what charges?” Kieran asks.

“Their roles in the drive-by shooting, of course, and also for attempted assault on us officers,” David answers. “Meantime, I think you’re just going to get a slap on the hand, since you seemed to be the only innocent one.”

“Oh, I don’t think I’ll be needing that. I think being picked up by you guys was punishment enough for me.” Kieran is relieved, but now thinks about what he must do. “Now I know I’ll have to leave the gang somehow – and as soon as possible, for that matter.”

David takes his hand and says, “Come on, I’ll drive you home. You’ve been through enough trauma tonight.”

Kieran leaves the station with David, longing for his home, and the safety, comfort and warmth inside it. He doesn’t want anything else tonight. Outside, David opens the passenger door for Kieran, and he steps inside. When both of them fasten their seat belts, David revs up the car and drives off.

After that terrible night, the only thing Kieran can think about is seeing his mother again. He has had enough of the Fire Soldiers using him for their own desires. No more of any of this, he decides. Never again will the Soldiers tell him what he can and cannot do to please them.


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