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This story contains scenes of violence and coarse language.

It is almost midnight when David drives back to Kieran’s house again. He steps out of the car while Kieran removes his seat belt, then opens his door for him. Kieran gets out and closes the door. David puts his arm around him for comfort as they walk up the walkway.

“Man, Mom is never going to believe what I went through tonight,” Kieran says. “When she hears about this, she’ll want to hire a real bodyguard to look out for me day and night.”

“Hey, if she does, you tell her to call on me, all right?” David says.

Kieran laughs a little bit. “David, you’re a policeman. Your job is to serve and protect the public, not certain individuals.” He hugs David, then tries opening the front door, but it’s locked. He stomps his foot on the top step.

“Nuts!” he lashes. “Well, at least we saw a couple of my relatives’ cars. Someone has to be home.” He rings the doorbell and stands back with David to wait.

A few minutes later, Mrs. Camp answers the door. She is overjoyed to see David bring Kieran home again. She runs outside and embraces Kieran right on the steps. David smiles and wipes away a single tear as he watches the reunion.

As the three of them walk into the house, Mrs. Camp cries, “Kieran, where have you been all this time? I thought you’d never come home again! I thought I lost both of my sons for good!”

“Well, let’s just say that I wouldn’t be here if David hadn’t busted me,” Kieran says.

Mrs. Camp widens her eyes and cries, “Excuse me?!” She is shocked to hear that from him. She looks at David. “What in the world was Kieran up to tonight? Did he get arrested for something?”

“Sort of, yes,” David answers. He tells Mrs. Camp about the drive-by shooting, the car he found Kieran lying in, and what Kieran said to him and Chief Markham at the police station.

Mrs. Camp thinks this story is very unbelievable. “Wait just one second, David,” she says. “Are you telling me that after the Fire Soldiers took Kieran back to their hangout, this Jasper person tried enforcing some rules in order to make him stay?!”

“Exactly, Bev. And his part in the drive-by wasn’t even his fault, either. In fact, he was probably the only innocent one of the whole gang.”

“And I don’t know if I mentioned this in the interview or not,” Kieran adds, “but they made me take on a stricter oath, too. They made me promise to not ‘betray or escape the Fire Soldiers’, as Jasper put it.”

“No, you didn’t, actually,” David says. “That could’ve been useful tonight. Information like that can come in really handy in court.” Then he assures him, “The important thing is, Jasper and the others are safely in captive for the night, Kieran. So trust me, you have nothing to worry about.”

He wishes both Kieran and Mrs. Camp a good night as he leaves the house. Kieran goes to the living room window. He watches his adult friend walk to his car and drive out. He waves goodbye to David, and wonders if he’s going back to deal with more Fire Soldiers.

Mrs. Camp goes over to Kieran and whispers, “Hon, maybe you should get ready for bed now. It’s late and you need your sleep.”

“Sure, Mom,” Kieran said, then walks from the window, takes off his shoes and goes to his room.

~~~~~~~~~~

At around one o’clock the next afternoon, Kieran and several cousins go to do some grocery shopping. Mrs. Camp is out of town for the day, spending some time alone with the family. They take the transit to the store, Kieran paying for him and his accomplices. One cousin, Gwen, looks at him and says, “You’re in a cheerful mood today, Kieran.”

“That’s because my gang leader and his friends are sitting in jail as we speak,” Kieran tells her, grinning. “They wouldn’t bust out if they knew what’s good for them.”

At the store, Kieran and his cousins buy everything on the list, and it comes to almost forty dollars. Each cousin gives ten dollars, then they leave with three plastic bags.

They are sitting at the bus stop, waiting for their bus home, when they see an unfamiliar car driving up beside them. They watch the window roll down, then Kieran becomes shocked and horrified. Jasper’s angry face is staring at him.

“Hello, Kieran,” Jasper says. “Remember me?”

Another cousin, Paddy, looks at Kieran, points at Jasper and asks, “Kieran, who is that?”

Instead of answering, Kieran jumps up, drops his grocery bag and screams. He can’t believe that Jasper really escaped from jail. He tries to run, but it doesn’t work for him. Jasper jumps out of the car and grabs him almost right away. He brings him to the car and throws him in the trunk.

The third cousin, Bailey, screams and cries, “Oh, God, please don’t take any of us!”

Jasper looks at the cousins and says, “No, I ain’t taking you three. I’ve got who I want. Besides, the trunk’s already full.” And before they can ask him his name, or where he’s taking Kieran, Jasper gets back into the car and drives off.

Kieran is horrified to see what’s in the trunk. There are six time bombs, probably stolen from a weapons shop. He wonders what Jasper is going to do with them.

Elizabeth, Travis and Marcus are in the car with Jasper, all four of them in their gang gear. At a stop sign, they slap high-fives as Jasper says, “All right, we’ve got the backstabbing bastard. Now on to step two!” He pumps the gas pedal and speeds up around the corner.

Jasper and his friends go to an old, abandoned warehouse in the south end of the city. On the way there, he tells them, “You take the bombs inside, I’ll bring Kieran.” When they arrive, Jasper throws the keys at them, and they get out of the car and open the trunk. Elizabeth and Travis retrieve the bombs, while Marcus opens the warehouse doors.

“I’m guessing that was a stolen car!” Kieran spits as Jasper takes him into the building.

“Shut your goddamn mouth!” Jasper shouts back.

Once they’re all inside, Jasper closes the doors so Kieran can’t escape. He flips the power switch, and all the lights come on. Marcus, Travis and Elizabeth line the bombs up in a corner farthest away from the door. Then, the four of them go over to Kieran and crowd around him.

“All right, you fucking punk, we want some answers,” Jasper says to Kieran. “Now, what the fuck did you tell that bastard cop friend of yours at the police station last night?”

“I only told them the truth, Jasper,” Kieran replies, defending himself. “I told them that you forced me into that drive-by, and wanted me to kill those innocent people, and why I decided not to run with you guys! I’m not going to have my ass thrown in jail for you, all right? I only did what I knew was right for me.”

“It’s always you, ain’t it?” Jasper shouts. “You, you and you alone. Well, no more, my friend. You’ve fucked us for the last damn time. This time, we mean serious business.”

“What are you going to do with me?” Kieran looks both angry and scared.

“We’re gonna do what I never had to do before. We’re gonna kill you, a fellow Fire Soldier, for continuous gang treachery.”

Jasper and his friends go over to the bombs and set each one to go off in ninety minutes. When they’re all set, they run to the warehouse door and open it. Jasper orders to Kieran, “You stay where the hell you are,” talking as if he’s the Lord Almighty, and Kieran frightfully obeys him.

“See you in hell, punk!” Jasper puts the door down and locks it with the set of keys. Then, the four Fire Soldiers go back to their hangout.

Kieran becomes really scared. Desperate to get out before the bombs go off, he runs over to the door and tries to open it. Unfortunately, the door is already locked. He searches all over the warehouse for a key, but doesn’t have any luck.

Kieran goes over to inspect the bombs. They all have about an hour left on them. He walks away and finds a glassed window three feet above his head. Then, he has an idea. If he can only find a big rock to break the window with, jump up and climb through, he can avoid being blown up with the warehouse.

He looks over to the wall opposite from the window and sees a large wooden table. Luckily for him, there’s a medium-sized rock sitting next to it. He runs to the rock, picks it up, takes a few steps forward and hurls it at the window. He manages to put a big hole in the bottom of the glass.

Kieran runs to the window from the point where he threw the rock. He jumps to reach it about a foot away, but he can’t grab the ledge. He understands he can’t jump up and down at the window, so he has a clever plan.

He drags and pushes the table to the window and places it directly underneath. Once he does that, he goes to inspect the bombs again. Fifteen minutes left. He climbs on the table and punches out the rest of the glass with his fist. His knuckles start to bleed, but he doesn’t have time to think of that. Now he needs to climb out.

The window frame is only a few inches thick. Kieran grabs the bottom, then clutches his way to the top, putting one hand over the other. When he is clutching the top of the frame, he pushes himself up so he’s sitting on the bottom. He puts both his legs over and through the window, one at a time. When both his legs are outside, he shifts his body through and jumps out. He lands right on his rear end. It only hurts a little, because he is wearing blue jeans. He runs quickly from the warehouse, running like he’s doing a hundred-meter dash.

Because of his quick thinking, Kieran escapes in time before the bombs go off. He’s about thirty feet away when he hears simultaneous explosions. Kieran looks back to see an orange haze and flames in the window, then starts running again. He runs to the nearest bus stop, and quickly catches a transit to the Assiniboine Park, to avoid being seen by any Fire Soldiers.

At around quarter to five, Jasper, Elizabeth, Marcus and Travis decide to go back and check on Kieran at the warehouse. When they get there, they see the burnt metal exterior, smoke coming from the inside, and some police officers doing investigations. Assuming that Kieran is already dead, they start hooting, hollering, singing and dancing in their car. Two officers, Detectives Margo Gunn and Chet Knoxson, see the commotion in the car. They go over and knock on Jasper’s window. He rolls it down and Gunn asks, “Would you all care to step out, please? We want to ask you some questions.”

Jasper and his friends step out as requested. Neither Gunn nor Knoxson can tell they are Fire Soldiers, because they aren’t wearing their gear; instead, they look like normal people. Gunn looks at the ruined warehouse and asks them, “What do you guys know about what happened here just now?”

Jasper looks at the warehouse and explains, “Well, officer, we’d been having some problems with a friend of ours lately. Seems like he couldn’t do anything we tell him to. He was a guy with his own free will, always doing whatever he wanted, whenever. He even went so far as to lie to everyone about us. Some of the things he said were so evil, so hateful, we can’t even repeat them to you. So, this afternoon, after he fought with us in front of our other friends, we took him down here for a private chat.

“We tried to have a nice, reasonable conversation, but he kept bad-mouthing us, like he always did. So we started calling him names and stuff, just to make him shut up and listen. We left him alone to think about what he did, but judging by what happened here, he might have locked the door, set that whole place on fire and killed himself.”

Knoxson is shocked. “Oh my goodness,” he cries. “And who might this friend of yours be?”

“His name was Kieran Camp,” Jasper replies.

Both Gunn and Knoxson become fully alert at that name. They start thinking about their colleague, David McBain. They learned from other officers about his Big Brother relationship with Kieran Camp, the Fire Soldier. Neither Gunn nor Knoxson were pleased with it, but they are stunned to hear this from someone else. They understand how much David loves Kieran, and they know how devastating this will be to him.

Jasper sighs and says, “Yeah, Kieran was a brat at times, but other than that, he was a very special friend. Is there anything else you want to ask us?”

“No,” Gunn says. “That’s all we need for now. You can go. Thank you very much.”

Jasper, Elizabeth, Marcus and Travis smile and get back in their car. Jasper turns on the ignition and drives off, nobody bothering to fasten their seat belts, and everybody laughing like hyenas.

“Good one, Jasper!” Travis says with enthusiasm. “Even I couldn’t think up a better lie than that.” He slaps him a high-five.

“I just can’t wait to break everyone else out and tell them what happened!” Jasper says in amusement. “Boy, are we going to have a party tonight!”

“Hey, let’s rip off a cell phone and call Kieran’s mom to tell her,” Marcus suggests.

“No, fuck her,” Jasper says. “I can still remember Brock telling us what a bitch she was. Let’s not bother with her.”

Meanwhile, a suspicious Knoxson tries to connect Kieran’s days as a Fire Soldier with the story Jasper told. He turns to Gunn and says, “Margo, I’ve got this funny feeling we just spoke with a bunch of Fire Soldiers.”

“Let’s not worry about that now,” Gunn says. She sighs and sounds depressed. “God, David’s going to be crushed when he hears about his friend.”

They hear an extra police car pull in. They turn to see David and Virgil step out to join the investigation. They go up to Gunn and Knoxson, and David asks, “What did you find out about this?"

Gunn places her hands on his shoulders and gives him a sympathetic look. “David, we’ve got some bad news for you,” she tells him. “It’s about your little friend, Kieran.”

David gasps and twitches away from her. “Does it have anything to do with this fire?”

“Yes,” Knoxson says. “Some kids who knew Kieran said that he locked himself in this warehouse, and set it on fire as a suicide attempt. We were told he had already died.”

David starts to shake, and his eyes become watery as he looks at the warehouse. Hearing that Kieran is gone has made him sad, angry and upset. He starts to cry, and Gunn, Knoxson and Virgil all give him hugs of sympathy.

“I’m so sorry, David,” Virgil whispers in his ear.

David lets go of his colleagues then. He runs to his car and cries, pounding on the roof. He lifts his head up to scream Kieran’s name in the air over and over again. Gunn and Knoxson grab his arms to restrain him, but he releases himself from them and runs to the driver’s side. He gets into the car and drives off quicker than a desperate fugitive. Virgil and the detectives are amazed at his actions.

“I can’t believe he did that!” Knoxson cries. “He left us when we need him the most! The chief is not going to like this.”

“Leave him be, Chet,” Gunn says. “Someone he really cared about just died. He’s going to need time alone to sort out his emotions.” She turns to Virgil. “Come on, you can go back to the station in our car.”

David decides to go to the Assiniboine Park. He tries hard to control his crying while he drives, but he can’t help it. He feels miserable about Kieran. He sheds a tear, but quickly wipes it away. He stops at a red light and turns on a radio station playing fast music. But he can no longer control his emotions. He immediately starts bawling loudly, all the while pounding his head on the steering wheel.

~~~~~~~~~~

Kieran is standing at a pay phone in the park, trying to contact his mother. The time is five-thirty. He looks both desperate and frustrated. He’s tried several times to reach her at home, but one of the cousins kept answering, saying she’s not home yet. This time isn’t any different. He is talking to his seventeen-year-old cousin, Dustin, and isn’t having any luck with him.

When he hears Dustin’s voice, Kieran says, “Dustin, it’s Kieran. Listen, Mom and the others aren’t home yet, are they?”

“No,” Dustin answers. “You still at the park?”

“Yeah, can you come pick me up?”

“Sorry, man. Mom said I couldn’t take her car while she’s away.”

“Dustin, please? I’m dying of boredom here! You’re the only one there who has a driver’s license!”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t take the car out unless Mom says so, and she told me I couldn’t while she was away. That’s why I couldn’t drive you guys to the grocery store, and gave you money for a bus.”

Kieran is now disgusted. “Forget it.”

He hangs up and checks his wallet. He no longer has enough change to make another call. He doesn’t have any more money, either, so he can’t buy anything to eat. He fumes as he puts it back in his jeans pocket and leaves the phone. How does he expect to last another few hours with so little money? Moreover, how is he supposed to get home? It’s too far to walk, no one at home can pick him up, and he can’t accept a ride from a stranger.

Kieran walks around for a few miles, and sits down at a bench to rest. He looks at a pond inhabited by little ducklings. A few minutes later, he sees two mallards landing right in front of him. The ducklings are soon swimming behind them. Kieran coos, then turns his head. There isn’t anybody sitting next to him. He starts to wish that David was with him. This is something they might have enjoyed together.

Kieran gets up and walks alongside the pond. He walks to the waterfall where it starts out. He looks at the water falling on and through the rocks. Such a beautiful sight, he thinks. He goes to the other side, kneels down, dips his palms in the water, and lets it flow through his fingers. Kieran sighs happily at this nature scene. Now he starts to really wish that David is there. He feels a little depressed because he isn’t.

Kieran stands back up and continues his walk around the pond. He doesn’t notice David’s police car parking on the side of the roadway, not far from him.

David slowly gets out of the car, walks to the passenger side and leans up against it. He folds his arms just below his chest, and puts the sole of his foot on the car door. He looks sad and depressed as he stares out into nothing. He can’t stop thinking about that warehouse fire, and what Detectives Gunn and Knoxson told him about Kieran. There are a lot of things that don’t make sense to him. He doesn’t know why Kieran would kill himself, of all things. Sure, he was unhappy as a Fire Soldier, but that isn’t any reason to commit suicide. He starts sniffling and cries several more tears.

Meanwhile, Kieran is kneeling at the pond, looking at his reflection, unaware of David’s presence in the park. He is on the opposite side of the waterfall. He looks up to see it from a distance, and notices the police car on the road about fifty meters away. Kieran stands up and stares at the car, and the person standing beside it. The person’s back is turned to Kieran, so all he sees is the dark-coloured hair, shoulders and upper back. He can’t identify the person from the distance. Who is that, he thinks, and what is he or she doing standing on the edge of the road?

Kieran runs down the walkway and onto the grass. He runs until he gets to a tree nearest to the road. He hides behind that tree and sticks his head out to see who’s there.

The person’s back is still towards Kieran, but he gets a better description now. He sees a male police officer with short raven-coloured hair, tall and athletic. He looks somewhat familiar to Kieran, like someone he knows really well. He gets a very suspicious gut reaction.

“Could that really be David?” he whispers to himself.

All of a sudden, the answer comes to him very clear. He knows for sure that man is David McBain, because he hears him cry out, “Oh, Kieran, why?! Why did you have to go and kill yourself?! I thought you were so much better than that! You told me you wanted a future! And you went and threw it away because of your peers?! What made you do that, Kieran?! What?!”

David covers his whole face with his hands and sulks loudly. Kieran jerks back a little and poses a questioning look. He can’t believe what he just heard.

“I killed myself?” he whispers to himself. “Who the hell thought that up? Like I would solve my problems that way!”

He decides to forget that for now. He pokes his head out past the tree and calls David’s name. He runs a few feet so David can notice him.

David hears the familiar voice and turns around. He is amazed and thankful to see Kieran still alive. He shouts his name and runs in front of the car.

Kieran quickly looks both ways for oncoming traffic. When he sees nothing, he runs across to reunite with David. The two meet in the middle of the road, engaged in a passionate embrace. David is laughing and crying at the same time.

“Oh, Kieran, thank God you’re all right!” he cries. They let go of each other. “I received word that you killed yourself in that burnt warehouse in the south end.”

Kieran looks at David funny. “Come on, David,” he says. “You know me better than that. I escaped from that warehouse before it burst into flames.”

David jeers away from Kieran in shock. “Burst into flames?”

“Yeah,” Kieran says. “Apparently, this was Jasper’s latest attempt to harm me. See, I was coming home from shopping when Jasper drove up to me, captured me, and threw me in the trunk of what I thought was a stolen car. It was a red 1990 Honda, I think.”

He goes on to tell about Jasper, Marcus, Travis and Elizabeth taking him to the warehouse. He tells about the confrontation they had with him, how angry they were about what he did the night before. He repeats the things he said when he explained his part in the drive-by shooting, and gives Jasper’s response. He tells David that they had bombs, set them to go off, and locked him in the warehouse after they left. Finally, he concludes with his escape before the warehouse exploded.

David is outraged by that story. He’s angry because Jasper broke out of jail again. He’s even angrier because Jasper avenged his jail time by trying to kill Kieran. He stomps his foot and yells, “Then it was all a lie! Dammit, I’d like to get the person responsible for that!”

“That would definitely be Jasper,” Kieran says.

Kieran pauses to check his watch. It’s almost quarter to seven. He says to David, “Listen, it’s going on seven o’clock, I’m starving, and I have no money. What do you say about buying some dinner for us, then taking me home? My mom’s gone all day, and I can’t get a hold of her.”

“No problem,” David replies. They start walking towards the police car.

“And when I get home,” Kieran adds, “I’ll have a bone to pick with Cousin Dustin. He could’ve called his mother, and asked her to loan him her car, so he could pick me up.”

David gives an interesting look. “Oh, is that so?”

~~~~~~~~~~

The next afternoon, Kieran leaves his house to be with David. Both he and Virgil are serving a shift together as usual, and David insists that Kieran come along with them.

“We have some business with the Fire Soldiers that the chief wants dealt with,” David tells him. “Apparently, their latest jailbreak was the last straw. We just learned that about two or three Soldiers broke into a jeweller’s shop on Osborne Street. And, another four stole a car, broke into the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and robbed some priceless artwork.”

“I’m not surprised,” Kieran says. “I expected Jasper to break the rest of them out. You know he’s done that before, right?” He pauses and speaks again. “I don’t think I can take much more of this. David, I almost went to jail two nights ago. Yesterday, Jasper nearly killed me because he and the others spent the night in jail and I didn’t. If it weren’t for my quick escape…”

“Say no more, Kieran,” David says. “Today, you’re telling them that you’re leaving the Fire Soldiers. We’re finally going to crack down on them, son. And you don’t have to worry about anything, because you know I’ll be right there with you when you say you’re leaving.” He stops at a red light and looks at Kieran intimately. “I’m all the confidence and strength you’re ever going to need.”

When David parks his car at the station, he says, “Okay, now I want you to stay here and keep quiet while I go in with Virgil and report for duty, all right? I’ll only be a minute or two.” He steps out and walks to the front doors.

Kieran looks outside his window and smirks, giggling a little. “Boy, won’t Jasper be surprised to see that I’m still alive,” he says to himself. “If anyone in that gang even tries to harm me, they’ll be dealing with not one, but two cops! God, do I feel lucky today or what?”

Soon afterwards, Kieran sees David and Virgil walking towards the car. He immediately gives up shotgun and moves to the back seat. When everyone is buckled up, they’re off to the Fire Soldiers’ hangout. Kieran keeps his head down during the ride there, and while the two brothers are confronting them.

When they arrive at the hangout, David and Virgil step out and walk up to Jasper. David coughs a little bit and says, “Jasper, we’ve just learned about some more disturbances involving some of your followers.”

“Oh, is that so?” Jasper asks snidely.

“Yes,” Virgil says. “Police have just arrested three of your gang members for breaking and entering a jeweller’s shop on Osborne, as well as grand theft – about fifteen hundred dollars worth of items.”

“Not only that,” David adds, “but there were more Soldiers arrested for breaking and entering the Winnipeg Art Gallery, robbery from the site, and perhaps even car theft. What do you know about this, Jasper? And while we’re at it, perhaps maybe you can explain why you escaped from jail, and broke everyone else out as well. We put you all there for those drive-by incidents the other night.”

Jasper forms an evil-looking twitch in his expression. “I sent them out to commit those crimes, coppers!” he spits. “They were supposed to bring whatever they got back to me. And if it weren’t for your kind, it would’ve been successful! And as for all the jailbreaks, you know that no jail cell can hold us!”

“What did you plan to do with all that stuff, sell them to buy coke and other drugs?” Virgil asks.

Jasper gives them a smug look. “Perhaps.”

“Well, we just came by with a final warning,” Virgil says. “If we have to meet like this again, you’ll all go to jail and stay there. And we’re not going to care who did or didn’t do what, understand?"

At that moment, David walks back to the car and lets Kieran out. He brings him towards Jasper and says, “And speaking of ‘did or didn’t do,’ can you please explain how you tried to kill this guy?”

Jasper is shocked to see Kieran still alive. He screams loudly and yells, “Oh my fucking Christ! Jesus, what the shit…? Oh, God, what in the fucking hell is going on?!!!” He glares at his gang. “Who the hell got him out? Somebody speak up!! Marcus, Travis, Elizabeth, was it any of you?!”

“God, no!” Elizabeth answers. “We were with you the whole time, remember?”

“Hey, I don’t remember going to that warehouse,” Roscoe supplies.

“Me neither,” all the other Soldiers say together.

“Well, somebody’s gonna pay!” Jasper gives Kieran a long glare. “How the fuck did you get out of that warehouse?! You were supposed to be killed, you bastard!”

“I used my brains and threw a rock at the only window in there,” Kieran answers with hostility. “Perhaps you guys didn’t notice either one! Then, using a table to boost, – you probably didn’t see that, either – I climbed through the window and slid out, sucker! And another thing…”

Jasper screams a loud, “Noooo!” He retrieves a gun from his jeans pocket and points it at Kieran. “I may have failed last time, but I won’t this time, I swear to God! You’re really toast, Camp!”

Right away, David and Virgil flash their guns at Jasper, and David yells, “Drop it, Jasper!”

“Make me, copper!” Jasper blasts back.

David fires three times, trying to knock Jasper’s gun out of his hand. He isn’t successful, as Jasper and the rest of the gang duck out of the way. In turn, Jasper points his weapon at him and says, “You’re dead meat, dude! This is for Brock!”

Virgil pulls Kieran out of the way just as Jasper fires. He’s horrified as he watches his younger brother get mercilessly shot. Kieran never witnesses the shooting, but he hears Virgil call on the CB radio, “Shots fired! Shots fired! Officer down! Officer down! All available units required at Finkelstein and McCreary! This is Sergeant Virgil McBain signing out!”

Kieran screams and runs back to David. He finds him lying on the ground, bleeding, with Jasper’s bullets in his chest. Kieran feels no pulse, so he kneels down and shakes David in attempt to revive him. He screams, “David! David, please! David, wake up, please! Oh, David, please don’t leave me! Don’t leave me to deal with these guys all by myself! Oh, David, please!”

But it does him no good. Kieran realises then that David is already dead. He is devastated, and he holds his friend’s lifeless body as he cries. Virgil watches him for a few moments, then goes to take him off David, only to discover the body for himself. He takes Kieran away from it, to the car, where he holds and consoles him. Then, he starts crying with him.

“It’s going to be all right,” Virgil says through his tears. “The important thing is that you’re safe.”

But being safe isn’t good enough for Kieran. He wants to avenge David’s death by killing Jasper. Just as an ambulance and backup officers arrive on the scene, Kieran runs back to David’s body and picks up his gun next to it. He points the gun at Jasper and yells, “All right, Jasper, I want answers! What in God’s name possessed you to kill my buddy right here?!”

Jasper never answers him. He just gives an unfeeling stare. Kieran responds with a vengeful look in his eyes.

“All right, don’t answer me. But David will have his revenge through me. I will kill you just as you killed him!”

Virgil is shocked to hear that, so he shouts, “Kieran, put the gun down now!”

“No, Virgil!” Kieran barks. “I won’t let this go without evening the score. I must kill the person who killed your brother!”

“I mean it, Kieran!” Virgil shouts again. “Put the gun down! Two wrongs don’t make a right, son!”

Those words hit Kieran hard, like a big wrecking ball that just dropped on him. He drops the gun, turns to Virgil and says, “You’re right, Virgil. If I kill Jasper, I’ll be just like him. And I don’t want that.” He turns back to the Fire Soldiers and glare at them.

“Many times, I’ve told you that I wanted to quit this gang,” he tells them. “Many times, you’ve stopped me, but no more. This time, I mean it when I say that I’m through with you all!”

He breathes heavily a few times, then shouts, “You hear me? I’m through with you all!

Kieran goes to stand with Virgil as paramedics wrap up David’s body. The officers begin making arrests on the Soldiers. Virgil arrests some gang members, too. All the weapons they possess are seized. When the alley is cleared completely, Virgil puts Kieran back in David’s car. He drives to the station, and makes Kieran wait while he reports the Soldiers he apprehended, and tells Chief Markham about David. When Virgil comes back out, they go to David and Debbie’s house.

As they’re driving towards the neighbourhood, Kieran asks, “Virgil, do you want me to be with you when you tell Debbie about David?”

“Yes,” Virgil answers. “Dylan will especially be devastated when he hears about this. I think it’d be nice if you could comfort him, okay?”

Kieran starts to think about how he handled his own father’s death. During that whole time, he wanted to act brave for his family. His relatives would comfort him, hold him, and tell him that things would be all right, and he’d try to resist. He told them they were making him break down. But the relatives insisted on being there for him. Afterwards, he learned that people should not try coping with loss all by themselves.

It was the same thing when Brock died. David was there for Kieran the whole time, to make sure he stayed strong. Did he remember to thank him for the generosity? Perhaps he forgot, and he starts to feel bad.

David had been a wonderful person, and Kieran understands how close he and Dylan were. He knows nothing devastates a child more than the loss of a loving parent. The news will practically destroy Dylan.

Kieran turns to Virgil and says, “All right, Virgil, I’ll do it.”

“Thanks so much, buddy,” he replies. He pats Kieran on the head when he comes to the nearest stop sign.

Virgil parks the car in front of the house. He and Kieran step out together, then they amble up the walkway. Virgil rings the doorbell, and he has a solemn look when Debbie answers.

“Virgil, what is it?” she asks. “What’s wrong?” She is looking sombre, suddenly worried, when he and Kieran walk into the house, and she follows them to the living room. Virgil sees Dylan sitting on the floor watching cartoons. He turns off the television and escorts Debbie and Dylan to the couch.

Virgil holds her hand as he says, “Listen, Debbie, I’m afraid that something awful just happened to David. We were questioning the Fire Soldiers about some robberies that took place, and we were giving them a final warning.”

“Then, David brought me up to them,” Kieran adds. “See, Jasper tried to blow me up with some explosives, and as it turned out, he failed. David wanted to know why.”

“That was when Jasper tried to kill him on the spot.” Virgil points at Kieran. “David shot at him before he had the chance, however, and he just got angry. I managed to get Kieran out, but that was when Jasper shot David. And, Debbie, I’m afraid he did not survive.”

Debbie covers her mouth as she gasps. She shakes her head rapidly and screams. She wraps herself around Virgil and holds him tightly as she wails. It immediately gets to Dylan, and Kieran doesn’t hesitate as he holds the sobbing boy. He grits his teeth, trying to brave the situation, but he knows he can’t do it. He lifts Dylan’s head up and wipes tears away from his cheeks.

“Oh, Dylan, I’m so sorry,” Kieran says, his voice wobbling.

Dylan starts to cry again, and he buries his face into Kieran’s clothes. He is calling for his father over and over, sobbing, “Daddy! Daddy, please come home! Daddy, please! Oh, Daddy, why did you have to go away?” His pleas move Kieran, and he starts to cry, too.

They are at the house for another hour, comforting the new widow and her son. Afterwards, Virgil realises he has to take Kieran home and return to work. He tells Debbie, “Listen, we have to leave. Kieran has to go home, and I have to go back to the station. I’m still on shift.” But she begs him not to leave her.

“Virgil!” she screams. “Virgil, I need you!”

“Debbie, I have to go now,” he insists. He brings her up to his eye level. “Listen, whenever you need to talk, don’t hesitate to call us, all right? Mary Lynne, the kids and I are all here for you.” He kisses her goodbye, and gives Dylan a warm, comforting hug. Then, he drives Kieran back to Mrs. Camp’s house.

On the way there, Virgil says, “Kieran, I just want you to know that I’m really proud of you. You did a mighty fine job consoling Dylan. At least now he’ll have some courage to get through this.”

“I sure hope so,” Kieran says.

Virgil parks the car in front of Kieran’s house, then they walk to the front door. Kieran opens it and lets himself and Virgil in. They see Mrs. Camp sitting in the living room, reading.

Kieran introduces his mother to Virgil and says, “We have some news about David, Mom. It’s not too good, let me tell you.”

Virgil tells Mrs. Camp about David. She is shocked, but not too upset. Kieran goes to stand with her. He feels he needs her to comfort him in his troubling time.

“I can’t believe it would happen like this,” Mrs. Camp says. “Your brother was a very good man, Virgil. He certainly didn’t deserve to die this way.” She pauses. “Oh my, this is definitely something the people won’t forget for quite a long time.”

“Mrs. Camp,…” Virgil begins.

“Please, Virgil, call me Beverly,” Mrs. Camp interrupts.

“Fine, Beverly,” he says. “The whole time that David knew Kieran, he sacrificed his life only for him. He was the only one of us who showed any unbiased faith in him. He was determined to get him out of the gang one way or another, and it wouldn’t have happened if he never cared.”

She stares at Virgil, glances at Kieran, then focuses on Virgil again. “Did he really…”

“Yes, Mom,” Kieran replies. “I’m now officially out.”

Mrs. Camp gasps with happiness. She is whispering the Lord’s name over and over to herself, then shrieks. She is blessed to know that Kieran quit the Fire Soldiers. She gives him a tight hug as she weeps with joy.

Kieran releases himself from his mother, then goes over to hug Virgil. “Thanks for bringing me home, Virgil – for good,” he says. “I’ll never forget any of this – or you. And I certainly won’t forget David. That’s a promise.”

“No problem, son,” Virgil replies, letting go of Kieran. “Listen, I have to get back to work. I’ll probably see you around, all right? Goodbye.” He looks at Mrs. Camp. “Nice to meet you, Beverly.”

Mrs. Camp nods and replies, “You too, Virgil,”

“Goodbye,” Kieran says as Virgil leaves the house.

Kieran turns to his mother and gives her another hug. He feels so good to be out of the Fire Soldiers forever. There isn’t anything Jasper can do to get him back now. He, and all the others who are the age of majority, will be tried in court very soon. The rest will be tried when they reach eighteen. Until then, the police are going to make sure they all stay in jail. Kieran is finally free.

He lets go of his mother and she says, “Honey, I know you’re still a little upset about David. You must be. Why don’t you go to your room and lie down until supper?”

“Sure, Mom,” he says, thinking of David just then. He walks upstairs, into his bedroom and closes the door.



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