Title: That Boomerang Thing
This story is part of the Glimpses of Ben Series.
Robert Fraser stood next to his horse and held the letter he had just received from his father in shaking hands. As he read the letter a smile flitted across his face swiftly followed by a scowl and then a chuckle. The postscript his mother had added at the bottom of the letter drew a sigh from him.
"September the 18th, 1976
It is with a great deal of regret, Robert that I have to inform you of Benton's latest escapade. I will not bore you with commonalties, but will get right to the point.
I decided that with the passing of Benton's 16th birthday that it was high time that he learn to drive a motor vehicle. He has been doing excellently in his studies. His proclivity for inane episodes has diminished greatly over the last year. At least I thought he had come to terms with some of the odd kicks to his gallop he has displayed over the years. It seems I am sadly wrong.
But to the point: Buck Frobisher left his daughter, Julie, with us several weeks ago. I know you are acquainted with Julie, and probably find her as nice a young lady as can be found any where, as do your mother and I.
Benton and Julie spent the first weeks of her visit gallivanting over the area and visiting every nook Benton knows. I continued teaching Benton how to drive on a daily basis, usually during the time your mother spent with young Julie. Since the children seemed to get on so well, your mother and I decided to relax a bit. It seems that was a grievous error on our part.
To be blunt about it Robert, Benton took my pickup truck, a can of gasoline, the boomerang he was making and Julie up to the old Garrick Gold Mine. There was an explosion of some sort. Both children are OK, I assure you. However, there was quite a bit of damage done to the mine and to my pickup truck.
While it is a fact that your mother and I have raised the boy, he is still your son. Benton returned Julie to our cabin and took off, leaving no word of explanation. We have no idea where the boy is. This is one time, Robert, that you cannot shirk your paternal duties. Get leave and go after him. These old bones of mine cannot follow a 16-year-old boy into the forest. He must be found and brought home.
Please bring him home Robert.
Robert, you bring that boy home as quickly as you can. And don't coddle him, Robert. This time he has to face what he done. I love you both. "
Robert drew the letter closer to his face and folded it swiftly and stuffed it in the first available pocket on his red serge jacket. He sighed, looked up at the heavens and said, "Caroline. That boy sure knows how to attract attention. I'll find him. You can count on it."
He mounted his horse and headed towards home.
From the pages of Robert Fraser's Diaries:
September 28th, 1976
Ben's dog Toby lies beside me as I lay here writing this by my camp fire. Ben's done it this time and I know the only way I will find the boy is by following Toby. I arrived at my parents cabin early morning two days ago. Father took me up to the mine to show me the damage that was done to his pickup truck and the mine. When we returned Mother and Julie were up making breakfast.
Lovely girl, that Julie, Robert thought to himself. Buck's lucky to have her for a daughter. When I questioned her, the only response I could get out of her was, "I never saw anything happen so fast before." Then the girl gets this dreamy look in her eyes and refuses to tell anything more about the incident. I fear she is protecting young Ben.
Some of the scrapes that boy has gotten into defy description. Luckily the entrance to the mine escaped irreversible major damage. Father's pickup truck on the other hand is a burned up mess. I can heartily see why young Ben would take off. That pickup truck was Father's pride and joy. I've got to find that boy. I could see it in Mother's eyes that she is afraid he has been hurt. Well, if he wasn't hurt in that conflagration, I'll have to see to his backside. Perhaps that will slow down his shenanigans.
The stars are shining brightly this evening; I certainly hope Benton can see them. Egad, boy. Where are you?
Robert closed his journal with a snap and slide down further into his bedroll. Toby woofed and settled his head on Robert's stomach. Robert fell asleep stroking the dog's fur.
Martha Fraser stood at her kitchen counter washing vegetables along side Julie Frobisher. They worked in companionable silence.
"Your parents will be here at the end of the week." Martha struck out at the vegetable in her hand with a heavy knife stroke. "You know what you're going to tell your father?" She turned sideways to watch the girl's reception of her words.
"Yes, Mam." Julie put her knife down on the counter and rested her hand holding a vegetable on the counter next to the knife. She drew in deep breath and bit her lip before asking, "Just how much trouble is Ben in?"
Martha put her arm around the girl's shoulders. "I won't lie to you, Julie. Benton is in more trouble than he's ever managed to get himself into before this. And the dratted boy has just made it worse by disappearing." Taking note of Julie's obvious distress, she pulled the girl close and smiled at her. Martha threaded her fingers through Julie's lovely golden tresses that she wore tied back with a simple blue ribbon. "Julie, was Benton hurt? I mean, did he get injured in the explosion?"
Julie grinned, "No Mam. He got knocked off his feet but he got right up and pulled me away. He wasn't hurt."
"Can you tell me what happened up there?"
Julie looked down at her feet and gritted her teeth. She looked Mrs. Fraser directly in the eye and said, "I can't. Ben made me promise not to tell."
"Drat the boy." Martha turned away and wiped her hands on her kitchen towel. "Well, come on girl. We have a lot of work to do if we we're going to have dinner on the table on time."
George Fraser sat in his rocking chair on the porch with his feet tipping back and forth to keep the rocker moving. The door to the cabin was open and he heard every word that passed between the two women inside. When he heard Martha ask Julie if the boy was hurt, the steady cadence of the rocking rocker was broken. When he heard Julie say that the boy was fine, the rocking chair returned to its steady rhythm.
September 29th, 1976
Robert Fraser sat astride his horse ready to begin the day's search for his son. Benton's dog Toby was yapping and demanding that they get on their way. He gave the dog a smile and tapped his heels to his mounts sides. Robert rode his mount as proudly as he rode it on any other day of his life as a Mountie. But today, his heart wasn't it. Today there was a weight of desperation sitting in his chest, making his breathing stiff and hard. "Drat it boy, where are you?" He leaned forward in his saddle and yelled at Toby.
"Find him. Find Benton boy!"
George Fraser remained sitting in his rocking chair on the porch of his cabin for very long time after he heard the words spoken by his wife, Martha, and their young guest, Julie Frobisher. He closed his eyes and put his head solidly against the back of the rocker while keeping the chair momentum going with the soft movements of his feet. His thoughts roamed over his memories of the early days of summer when he began teaching young Benton how to drive his 1932 pickup truck.
He sighed remembering Martha's words when he bought it. She had slowly smiled, given him an exasperated look and said, "Old isn't always better, George." Then she had let him have his way for the vehicle he would use when not driving the 'family' car.
He remembered the look on Benton's face clearly the day he had first suggested the boy get behind the wheel. George still marveled at how the boy's face was always an open book to read to those who chose to read his expressions. He had seen the emotions of delight; followed by fear, nervousness and sheer astonishment fly quickly over the boys face in mere seconds. George chuckled at the thought as he recalled the events of the boy's first lesson behind the wheel.
Ben had rather cautiously slid into the driver's seat of the pickup truck and nervously wipe his fingers over his jean-clad legs. The tip of his tongue darted out to wipe his lips quickly before he turned to watch his grandfather get into the truck next to him.
"I'll let you get the hang of this slowly." George pointed to the stick shift. "This is the shifting mechanism, it takes time to learn, but I don't have any doubts about your capabilities here." He grinned at the boy. "On the floor at your feet are the brake, clutch and gas peddles."
Ben turned nervous eyes towards his grandfather. "I've been watching you Grandpa." Again he wiped his hands on his legs.
"Good. Then we can start easy. Here's the key, put your foot on the brake, put the key in the ignition and start her up." George held out the key. "Remember, the clutch disengages the flywheel, the brake stops the vehicle or keeps it in place. The gas pedal sets the flow of fuel to the engine. Put your right foot on the brake and turn the key."
The boy's nerveless fingers took the key and tried inserting it into the key lock with fumbling success. George smiled. "Relax boy."
Ben jerked his head up and tried to return his Grandfather's smile. He put his foot on the brake, turned the key and started the pickup truck. They sat there in companionable silence while the purring sound of George's well-kept truck engine softly wafted about their ears.
"Now set your mirrors so that you can see out of them." George watched the boy adjusting the rearview and drivers door mirror. "Can you see out of the passenger door mirror, Ben?" The boy nodded. "OK. I want you to put your hand on the stick shift. Feel it carefully." Then George put his hand over the boys and began to show him how to push in the clutch and change the gears.
Five minutes later, they drove jerkily out the cabin road. Martha stood on the porch watching them go and smiled but muttered, "That clutch will never be the same."
Julie Frobisher sat quietly eating the meal that she and Benton's Grandmother had made earlier. She listened to the booming silence of the cabin and her heart quailed and beat rapidly in her chest. Her lovely blonde hair cascaded down onto her shoulders; the bulk of if held off of her face by a pale, blue scarf the ends of which after exiting the knot at her neck lay gently on her shoulders. She glanced up at her hosts meekly from time to time as she took smaller and smaller bites of her meal.
She couldn't keep her mind off the silence she had heard since the explosion. Although she had heard words flying by her since her arrival at the Fraser cabin after the 'disaster', the only thing to register on her was silence. She was still in shock at how fast one small thing had led to another before Benton screamed her name and had body slammed her to the ground. Her body shook slightly as if a chill passed over her and she remembered the white shocked look on Ben as he had finally pulled her up from the ground and then turned to stare at the wreckage of what had been his Grandfather's pride and joy. She'd heard him murmur some whispered words and heard him telling her to please keep her mouth shut about this. The next thing she remembered was Ben taking her arm and dragging her away as he walked towards home looking back over his shoulder at the smoldering ruins behind them.
Benton hadn't spoken a word to her the entire time they made it down from the old mine road. He'd kept his hand tightly grasping her's and had doggedly kept them moving. By the time they made it to the cabin road and stood about 100 feet from the Fraser cabin, she was exhausted and was unprepared for the sudden loosening pressure on her hand as Ben dropped his steel tight grip. He starred into her eyes with his own pain filled ones, his lips barely moving before he took off running. She had stood watching him run from her with tears running down her face until he was out of sight. Only then did she turn and make her way down the cabin road.
Martha Fraser watched their young guest eat. She mentally castigated herself for her own lack of tenderness towards the girl. She'd known the girl since she was born and loved her dearly, but until the girl would give her some answers about Benton and what had happened up at that old mine, she found it hard to talk to her. For Martha found the silence deafening, heart wounding and she dearly wanted her exasperating boy home again.
George Fraser pulled out his watch and noted the time for about the fiftieth time that morning. He'd started out counting the seconds, and minutes Ben had been gone; those minutes had turned into hours and now into days. Each time he looked away from his watch he said a silent pray that Robert would find the boy. He lifted another forkful of whatever it was that was on his plate and ate it mechanically.
There were trees and sparse spots grass and live things crawling all over the place where the boy sat huddled with his knees drawn up to his chin near the edge of a very tiny creek of clear running water. His clothing was singed and dirty but still mostly all in one piece. His once beautiful, dark and curly hair was singed across the back of his head. His dark lashes closed over his gray eyes as he gritted his teeth and shook his head as his brain reran the explosion for perhaps the millionth time in his head. Tears began running down his pale face making soft tracks through the sooty dust that covered him. He settled his head down further into the well formed between his head and knees and took in a long ragged breath.
Robert Fraser tensed in his saddle as he watched his son's dog Toby sniffing through the underbrush for traces of his master's scent. The two of them had been on Benton's trail for days. Robert's eyes crinkled up at the noonday sun and sighed. He shook his head to clear the vision he had in his mind's eye of his mother as she had watched him ride up to get Toby. 'Gad,' he thought, 'She's smaller and frailer than I remember.' He found thinking of the image of his father gave him no more peace than the image of young Julie Frobisher standing behind his parents on their cabin porch. He tried shutting those images off from his thoughts for they wouldn't help him find Ben.
Toby suddenly lifted his head and turned to put his back towards another patch of grasses. The young dog let out a howl and took off rapidly; his quickening gate suddenly turning into an all out run with his tongue hanging happily out the side of his mouth.
Robert's head snapped up as his horse sidled towards the direction Toby was running. He set his horse to a slow trot and followed hoping the end of the trail was near.
Toby skidded to a halt before the huddled figure lying on the ground. He approached slowly at first and then quickly ran up to put his nose to the boy's back. The dog put his nose to the air and let out a soft whine that turned into an all out howl. The boy didn't move and the dog then tried licking what he could reach of his master's neck and face.
Robert Fraser's horse negotiated the narrow opening down the creeks edge and halted quickly at Robert's hard pull on the reins. He searched the edge of the creek quickly with his eyes before he head the whine and howl of Ben's dog. He scrambled down from the saddle and grabbed his canteen. He was unmindful of the mud and wet creek debris his well cared for boots met as he ran towards his son. Great breaths of air escaped him with each running step before he slid down to his knees next to the still figure huddled in a tight ball. He held out a shaking hand to touch the boy. He pulled the hand back in fear before extending it out again to touch the boy's shoulder.
There was heat there; therefore, there was life. Gently he pulled the boy onto his back before pulling the sleeping form to his lap. Tears ran down his face at the sight of his son's tear streaked face and with trembling fingers he brushed the boy's hair from his face. Robert's eyes searched the boy for injuries that were visible and audibly sighed when he determined the boy was just suffering from days on the trail with little more than minimal survival kit. He took a second to wipe the tears from his face and then tried shaking the boy gently awake.
At first, it seemed as if the boy would remain locked away from him in sleep. But as Robert shook the boy a little harder, the boy's lips parted and soft words escaped his lips.
"No, No!" The boy opened his eyes and faced his father's eyes above him. His lips set in a firm and obstinate line. They stayed still for several moments with their eyes quietly locked together.
Robert broke off the starring match to dip his handkerchief in water he dribbled from his canteen. He began wiping the tear-streaked face as he said, "Well boy, you have any words to get off your chest before I take you in?"
Leaving his son on the ground with the dog Toby nestled in a crouch next to him, Robert went to his horse and retrieved his canteen and then led his horse closer to where Ben lay on the ground. Kneeling down Robert stretched out an oddly tremor-free hand and opened the canteen. He gently offered the boy a drink of water and then looked around the area. "We'll stay here for the night."
Ben closed his eyes and remained still though he desperately wanted to grab his father and hold on tight. Toby licked the boy's face and whined and inched closer to his master's side. Ben reached out and pulled his dog closer and let his hand grab onto the dogs coat. He wanted to let his body relax. He needed to let his body relax. But the tension he had felt since the explosion still gripped his youthful body.
Robert walked along in front of his horse loosely in his hand. He casually let his eyes roam to the ground to see Ben's shadow moving along atop the large horse. His heart swelled with concealed pride for every time he looked surreptitiously at his son's shadow he could note the well held shoulders and upright head position. It surely looked like Benton was done with running from his problems and was set on riding straight into whatever lay ahead.
They had been traveling for three days and would be at the elder Fraser's cabin before the sun set that day. Robert spelled his horse from their combined weight load for 1 hour out of every three that they rode together. Robert wouldn't let the boy do any of the walking for he had carefully gone over Ben the first night they camped and he'd found that the boy had a swollen ankle, along with a long, deep cut under the jagged tear in his jeans. Robert had cleaned the boy up and watched him sleep in the light of their campfire after eating a light meal. Robert found himself worried over the fact that the boy seemed to take it for granted he was a prisoner and barely moved unless bidden to do so.
Robert wasn't aware of the fact that while he slept each evening Ben lay awake watching him sleep. Each night Ben watched his father until he could no longer keep his eyes open. And so it was that Ben's exhausted body had no chance to begin recovering. Each following day in the saddle it became harder and harder to sit up on than the day before had been.
And so it happened that when the father and son made the turn into the long Fraser drive that Ben began to slip from the saddle. Robert felt his horse misstep as Ben began to lose his balance. Robert was quick enough to spring forward and take Ben's lightweight form onto and over his shoulder. The boy was breathing normally as Robert dropped slowly to his knees and let the boy's weight down slowly into his arms. When Robert determined that Ben had only fallen into an exhausted sleep, he gathered the boy into his arms and slowly got to his feet. He shifted the boy's weight to a comfortable position and whistled softly to Toby and his horse. The animals followed him quietly down the cabin road.
Julie stood in Benton's room facing her father who had arrived that afternoon to take her home. She watched his face carefully and listened to him speaking his thoughts out loud. Julie was well aware that her father had a fierce and tenacious loyalty to Robert Fraser's family. She also knew very well that her father had a deep and serious affection for Benton. She listened while he stormed about the room throwing out remarks aimed at carelessly willful youths.
Julie placed her hands behind her back and crossed as many of her fingers as she could. "Benton's not careless Poppa."
Buck stopped pacing the small room and marched over to stand in front of his daughter. "You were almost killed Julie. Has that fact escaped your attention?"
"Benton saved me Poppa."
"Yes, after he started the conflagration." Buck drew his eyebrows together as he watched his young daughter's face turn bright pink. He put an affectionate hand under her chin and looked directly into her eyes. "What don't I know child?"
Julie broke down and rushed into her father's arms. She began blubbering through a downpour of heavy tears. Buck only caught one word in ten, but he was sure that the last thing he heard was, "Ben's a hero Poppa."
Buck drew her over to Benton's bed, drew out his handkerchief and smiled as he began drying her tears. "Now, lets start again. Shall we?"
Martha Fraser stood by the door of the cabin, her shoulder leaning in to the wood frame. She held her kitchen dishcloth in her hands; twisting it absently as she gazed down the cabin road. She noticed George off towards the barn working as hard as he could to fix a bit of fencing. She tilted her head and suddenly stood rigidly still. She listened, head turned slightly to the road. She was sure that was Toby she heard. Walking out onto the porch she tried peering down the road with one hand to her forehead shading her eyes. She heard the distinctive howl again and ran down the porch steps.
"George!" She yelled towards the barn and raised her arm to swing her kitchen towel through the air above her head. "George, it's Toby!"
George raised his head at the first sounds of his wife's voice. When he saw the kitchen towel waving above her head, he threw his hammer down and began a slow trot towards her.
By time George reached Martha they could both see Toby running full tilt down the narrow road. They stood immobile next each other, both of them hardly breathing.
Robert walked slowly down the path holding his sleeping son tightly in his arms with the boy's gangly limbs dangling free. He kept his eyes straightforward as he walked. He was barely aware of the sound of his horse's hoofs plodding slowly behind him. He had long since dropped the mare's reins, but she was well trained and followed him from affection as well as from the training he gave her.
When the cabin came into view, Robert gave an audible sigh and held the boy in his arms closer to his chest. He kept walking.
Martha put her hands to her mouth and tears began streaming down her face. She put her hand on George's arm and whispered fiercely, "Not one word, not now anyway." She looked up at her husband with pleading eyes. "Please."
It wasn't often that Martha asked for anything. She was usually the more stalwart of the two of them in most things; and when it came to Benton, she was usually molten steel; bendable but unrelenting. He looked down at her hand on his arm and placed one of his own hands over hers. "I'll wait." George smiled, "That is I'll wait until after I've tanned that boy's backside. I just want to know why he took off."
Martha smiled through watery eyes. She knew as well as he did that Benton hadn't been spanked since he was about 7. She watched as Robert was almost next to them. When Robert stood next to them holding the boy in his arms, Martha gasped out, "He's all right, isn't he?" She held out a hand to almost touch the sleeping boy's dirty hair then pulled it back quickly.
With a smile lighting his brightly shining eyes, Robert nodded. "He's just asleep. I don't think he's gotten much sleep since he took off."
George put a hand on Robert's shoulder and gripped hard. "He's home."
"I better go and get the tub ready, looks like the boy's one big lump of dirt." She took one last close look at the Ben's face before she turned and ran up the cabin steps.
Martha entered the cabin and smiled at Buck and Julie who were sitting quietly by the large cabin window. She could see the girl had been crying. Before leaving the room, Buck looked at her enquiringly and she answered him with a quick, "Boy's exhausted."
Following his mother, Robert entered the cabin and followed her down to the bathroom. Water was already gushing into the tub. Martha laid out some towels on the counter and hurriedly left Robert alone with his son.
Robert set the boy down gently on the sturdy bath counter and propped him up against the bathroom wall. Ben started to open his eyes and looked vacantly around the room. He sighed when he recognized where he was and started to sit up away from the wall and began to try and undue his shirt buttons. His father batted the boy's hands down and began disrobing the boy.
A few minutes later Robert knelt by the edge of the tub washing the boy's hair. Robert's heartbeat pounded loudly in his head. He thought of all the times he had missed with Benton and of all the times Caroline had bathed the infant Ben when he wasn't around to help. As he rinsed the soapy water out of the boy's hair, he had tears running down his face. He quietly sniffled and staunchly stopped the tears before Ben noticed them.
Ben hardly reacted to the ministrations his father was putting forth. Robert found himself handling a human rag doll. Whatever he told Ben to do, the boy did all through half closed eyes.
Just as Robert was pulling the plug from the drain of the old tub, his mother knocked on the door and handed him a clean nightgown for the boy. She smiled as Robert noted the garment. "It'll be easier to get him into." She smiled and closed the door softly behind her.
Robert dressed the unresisting boy and then used the medical kit to clean and bandage the cut on Ben's leg. He noted sadly that Ben hadn't looked him in the eyes the entire time they were in the bathroom. The boy let himself be led out of the bathroom on wavering feet and helped him down the hall to his room.
Ben stood swaying back and forth on his feet while his father pulled down the comforter on his bed. He was fast asleep again before Robert had him settled him on his pillow. Robert leaned over and kissed Ben's hair then quietly left the room shutting the door softly behind him.
Robert walked softly down the hall to the cabin kitchen. Four faces full of questions met his as he settled onto a kitchen chair. He looked up at his mother and let the tears finally have free flow down his face. "He thinks I've arrested him. I can't. I won't. That'll be up to Buck."
Buck let out a ragged sigh. "Well, that's not strictly right either, Bob. Seems there's more to this whole thing than meets the eye at first glance." He gave his daughter a half-lidded look.
Martha, George and Robert Fraser turned questioning looks to Julie who promptly burst into tears and whispered in a tiny voice between sobs about Ben being a hero.
Julie's beautiful blonde hair flew out behind her in a stream of spun gold as she ran into her father's waiting arms and dissolved once more into uncontrollable tears. Buck pulled his daughter into the shelter of his arms and shushed her with soft whispered words. "It's all right honey. Dry those pretty eyes." Buck raised his own wet eyes away from his daughters head tucked in the crook of his arm.
"What's she mean, the boy's a hero?" Robert shook his head in bewilderment reaching out a hand to almost touch the young girl's shoulder. He drew his hand back and stared mutely at Buck.
"I'll make some tea." Martha turned away from the site of Julie and Buck and went quickly to her kitchen sink. She turned on the water and let it run while she rummaged in her cabinets for the accouterments for tea making. The tears gilding down her face seemed to go unnoticed as she poured water into her kettle and laid out teacups and saucers on the counter. While she waited for the water to boil, she turned her head towards the hall leading to Ben's bedroom. She held her kitchen dishtowel in her hands and began twisting it into a tight knot of material. She kept her head tilted towards Buck and Julie and listened as the words began to flow into the room that she knew might seal her grandson's once bright future.
Robert opened his son's bedroom door quietly and snuck inside. He watched the boy huddled under his covers sleeping deeply. He let out a soft groan and almost touched the sleeping youth's face in a gentle caress. He pulled his hand back and reached into his pocket.
"I've got no choice boy. You have to be here when we get back. Julie's told us what happened, but I can't take a chance that you'll take off again. I can't boy." Robert opened one side of a pair of silver handcuffs and gently attached it to the boy's bed frame, the other end he put around one of the boy's thin wrists. He legs began to wobble and he found himself sitting on Benton's bedside chair. He dropped his head into his hands and whispered, "Caroline, watch him."
It had been hours since Buck and Robert left the Fraser cabin accompanied by George Fraser. The three men stood silently looking at the destruction caused by the explosion of the Fraser pickup truck near the mineshaft.
The mine's entrance was all but completely obliterated from the blast of the explosion. George stood in mute silence as he eyed what was left of his 1932 Ford pickup truck. The burned out hulk was distorted and twisted. He walked closer to it with leaden feet and just stood staring. "My God," he whispered. "They could have been killed."
Walking over to the mineshaft entrance, Buck surveyed the area before him. The burned out entrance was blackened and blocked off by fallen debris. He turned and let his eyes wander the area. He smiled and headed to a spot about 15 feet from the burned out area. He leaned over and picked up a brightly painted piece of wood curved into a slight 'v' shape. He ran his hands over the yellow markings and smiled as he noted that the thing had been carved with gentle care. He slipped it inside his tunic and went back to stand beside the Fraser men.
The three men glanced at each other in mutual assent. They wandered the area carefully so that they didn't disturb anything and noted that everything Julie had told them seemed to fit the area. Shoulders that had sagged with worry began to rise as they completed their minute survey.
"Well, now we wait.' Buck said as he found a boulder to sit on and made himself comfortable.
"You told Mac we'd wait, right?" Robert asked as he settled himself on the ground near Buck.
"Yes. He said he'd be here as quickly as he could." Buck grinned at Robert and George. "Mac said he'd drive his 'good' car."
Buck and Robert laughed heartily while George watched them in astonishment. "Aren't you two the least little bit concerned about this?" George used his hands to make a visual sweep of the entire burned out area.
Buck stopped laughing. "We're concerned. But what we see here backs up Julie's story."
George dropped his jaw in astonishment then gasped, "There's nothing here. Nothing here at all!"
Robert tilted his head up at his father and grinned. "Oh, there's plenty here. But we won't discuss it until Mac gets here. He's got to see it for himself. Then if he doesn't, we'll hit him over the head with the facts."
Buck grinned at Robert. George Fraser had the good sense to sit down and make himself comfortable. He could see this was going to take awhile.
Late afternoon shadows fell throughout the room as Ben began to move restlessly under his comforter. He tried to roll over in search of a more comfortable position and found he couldn't move. His eyes flew open and he gazed perplexedly at his right arm to see his wrist encased in something silver. He pulled on it and felt something biting into the flesh of his wrist. He reached over with his left hand and felt the metal around his wrist. Opening his eyes wide enough that he could see the silver circlet around his wrist in the waning afternoon light he stared mutely at his arm. His lips moved silently and then he lay his head back down into the softness of his pillow. He sucked in a deep breath of air and turned his head to the wall.
Julie kept her eyes riveted on the hallway to Ben's room. She sat quietly huddled in the over stuffed chair that George kept by the cabin's largest window. Half a dozen times she lifted her feet and settled them as if to rise and walk. Half a dozen times she stopped and found herself watching Martha Fraser bustling about her small kitchen. The girl turned her head towards the window and missed the sympathetic look Martha Fraser gave her as passed from the kitchen into the hallway.
Martha gently pushed open the door of her grandson's room and halted just inside the doorway to listen for sounds in the room. She could see Ben's curly hair on the pillow as the gentle, yellowing light of the late afternoon sun softly lighted the boy's pillow. She stepped inside the room and pulled the door gently shut behind her. She heard the faint sniffling sounds of muted crying coming from the pillow and nearly turned and left the room. Her heart thudded in her chest and she resolutely turned back to the boy on the bed that she had loved so fiercely since his care was thrust upon her by a horrid turn of fate.
A gentle and cooling breeze touched Martha's check and she felt suddenly relaxed. Soft, quick footsteps took her to the chair by the boy's bed. She sat down quietly and rested her head back against the wall. Ben's breathing halted and his sniffles stopped as she quietly sat in the chair. She watched his shoulders begin to relax as his even breathing once again filled the silent room.
Ben's dreams repeated themselves over and over until the boy lay sweaty and tossing on his bed within the limitations of his hand cuffed wrist. He woke with visions of a huge fire dancing in his head and the ringing sound of the explosion filling his ears. He lay still and turned his head towards the light of dusk coming in through his bedroom window. His heart constricted when he realized his grandmother sat in the chair next to his bed with her head drooping as she slept sitting upright. Humiliation filled his young heart and he turned his head once again to the wall. "It wasn't enough to handcuff me," he thought, "Grandmother has to watch me, too." He wondered if he'd ever have a dreamless sleep again and determined to fight off the desire to hide in deep sleep where he could be alone.
Sleep claimed Ben even though he tried valiantly to avoid it. His body had been through too much in the last two weeks and desperately needed healing sleep. His last thoughts before he surrendered once again to sleep were varied, but the one thought that stood out most was, "Why did Grandfather ever teach me to drive?
Then the dreams began again....
Warm, spring air filled his nostrils as he stood near his Grandfather's pickup truck, and he felt alive and young and heady with the need to grow and learn everything life had to show him. He didn't understand everything that seemed to be happening within him lately, he just knew he needed to be out and in the sun and doing things. He felt somehow gawky and untried in the way of life, but that only added to the intrigue of growing up.
The breeze blowing across the cabin's lawn ruffled his overly long hair and made him wish that his Grandmother had not stopped trying to fight nature with her monthly demands for him to go get his hair cut. She'd given up when his hair just seemed to get thicker and thicker. She'd sighed and claimed that he got his hair from the Fraser who left Scotland under a cloud of mystery. He was sorely tempted to pull his hair back from his face with a simple rubber band in the fashion his ancestor had used a piece of men's jewelry. He denied himself the comfort that would bring to his neck in the coming summer heat because he didn't want to ask his Grandparents for the necessary rubber bands. So his hair grew surrounding his head with thick waves of dark hair.
He grinned towards the cabin and almost missed his Grandfather calling him to the pickup truck; to his Grandfather's prized 1932 Ford.
George Fraser sat on his chosen rock stool and glanced from his son's face to that of Robert's best friend and partner, Buck Frobisher. The two younger men sat on similar rough outcroppings of rock where Buck Frobisher seemed totally relaxed. Much to George's chagrin, Buck even seemed to be grinning like a fool. George felt his temper rising. His grandson was in trouble and George couldn't relax even though he now knew the details of the accident that blew his beloved 1932 pickup truck to smithereens. He threw an exasperated look towards Buck.
Off in the distance a clanging and banging with an occasional backfire could be heard as someone drove up the old mine road. Robert's shoulders stiffened and Buck turned his head to watch road. George didn't register the arrival of Sgt. MacPherson until the old black Buick pulled up almost to where they were sitting.
The Fraser contingent rose and watched as old Mac got out and shut his car door with a bang. Mac looked over to the three men with a serious look on his face and then turned to survey the blackened area around the Old Garrick Mine entrance. His jaw dropped and he stood completely still. "A boy did this?" He turned to Robert and said with a deadened voice, "Benton, did this!"
Robert pulled himself straight and faced Mac with a solemn expression. "Yes, Benton did this." Then he clamped his mouth shut and waited for Mac to begin his own investigation of the area.
Benton woke for perhaps the third time in the last half hour and lay stiffly in the darkening shadows of the early midday sun. He turned his head towards the window and saw his grandmother's form still seated there. Hoping she hadn't seen him look at her, he again turned his head to the wall. Biting his lip to keep from making any noise, he let his thoughts once again roam over the accident that had put him handcuffed to his bed.
He remembered the bright sunlight and the light breeze that had followed them that fateful day. Julie's beautiful hair had danced on her shoulders as the breeze from the open window on her side of the pickup truck had played with the soft strands of golden hair. It had just been rotten luck that the old pickup's rear tire had blown just as they pulled up to the large open area around the old Garrick Mine. It had been a lot of work getting that old jack out and positioning it to remove the tire. But Julie had been a game helper and that part of the work went quickly. His one regret was in letting Julie talk him into a bit of relaxation before tackling the job of actually replacing the tire and in not paying close enough attention to all that she had done to help.
The back of the pickup truck always held two spare tires, various tools, the truck's jack, miscellaneous amounts of rope and tackle and two one-gallon gas cans. Between the two of them they had emptied the back of the truck then set up the jack. Benton remembered the woeful lack of level ground under the truck. In hindsight, he now wished he had used something else to level out the footing for the jack.
He closed his eyes and pictured the fun the two of them had had running about the area around the mine's entrance. He remembered his delight with his new wooden toy that he had fashioned out of wood with his own hands and how Julie had clapped her hands every time he had sent it sailing away from him. They had collapsed with laughter after they had lost their first rush of energy and sat on the hard ground with his new toy on the ground between them.
Julie had looked at him so wide-eyed and worshipful that he'd been tongue tied and nervous. There they had been, the girl he thought he loved and no one around for miles and he had been far too nervous to do more than smile an idiotic smile back at her.
Ben felt the corners of his eyes tighten as he tried to remain still on his small bed. The handcuff felt like a huge iron weight on his wrist. He remembered smiling back at Julie and lightly touching her fingers with his own. She'd closed her eyes and leaned towards him and like a fool he'd just sat there. He had raised his hand and gently touched her golden hair letting the strands sift through his fingers like sand grains. She had remained sitting close to him with a soft smile playing about her lips until he had finally leaned forward and kissed the side of her cheek. Her eyes had flown open and she'd put her hand on the spot he'd kissed. A look of wonderment had filled her eyes as she looked at him.
Nervousness had taken over then and Ben had leapt to his feet. "We better get that tire changed. You sit here. It's all set up. I can do the work by myself." He'd turned and nearly run to the pickup truck. As Ben lay remembering the events he wanted to kick himself for not noticing where Julie had put those gas cans. She'd put one down on the ground several feet from the truck, but the second she'd put under the side of the pickup truck bed. He'd pulled off the old tire after taking forever to get the old lug nuts off. He'd wiped his face and let the tire down easily. He'd positioned the spare tire and put one of the lug nuts in place when Julie had screamed. He'd dropped the tire iron and stood up quickly to see a large caribou face to face with Julie.
Ben cringed on his bed moving despite his will to remain still. Remembering what happened next he made both his hands into fists. He'd been well over six feet from Julie when the caribou decided to leave. The great ambling animal took off at a lazy pace back into the underbrush away from the mine entrance. It had been then that an otter had run out from the mine entrance and stopped dead in its tracks next to the truck's jack. Julie had just turned to Ben and was shaking when the small otter decided to get up and run. Ben remembered smiling at Julie and saying, "It's gone Julie." He'd been about to go to her when he'd heard the otter. He'd turned and grinned at the little thing.
But that had been when everything had gone from bad to worse. Every time Ben recalled this portion of the disaster, he found the events running in slow motion in his mind. The otter had moved right over the flat piece of rock that he had put under the jack. But the uneven ground under the rock allowed it to tilt. The otter ran under the truck and was well away from danger when the truck began wobbling on the jack. Benton had only put the first lug nut on and it hadn't been turned more than a half turn when Julie had screamed. Benton had watched in horror as the truck swayed on the jack. He remembered turning to run at Julie and falling. He remembered getting up as quickly as he could and turning to watch as the truck began to lose it's balancing act on the jack. He'd run for all he was worth towards Julie and grabbed her and started down to the ground with her when the truck lost it's quest for supremacy and fell with a great whomping sound unto the jack and the gas can. He remembered the great whoosh of sound as the force of the explosion roared over them. He still couldn't get the smell of his own singed hair out of his nostrils. The whole miserable thing had only taken seconds to happen.
After the explosion the only memories he had were of pulling Julie up, making sure she was OK and then propelling them both down the old mine road as fast as he could. Everything from that point on was a complete blur until he'd left Julie at his Grandparents cabin and run away.
As his wild thoughts ran through his brain, one word kept to the fore. That word was negligent. He'd been negligent; NEGLIGENT and he was going to jail.
She woke with a start and realized that she had actually drifted off to sleep in the chair under Benton's bedroom window. She raised her eyelids slowly and without turning her head or moving watched Benton lying on his bed. Her heart felt swollen and large and heavy in her chest. She dearly wanted to sit on the bed next to him and run her hands soothingly over his hair. But she held back, forcing herself to steadfastly remain in the chair. She closed her eyes tightly against the sight of his damp hair and sweaty face. She waited and remained still.
Julie sat watching the road to the cabin out the window. Her eyes hurt from holding them open for she feared that if she even blinked that she might miss the return of her father and George Fraser. She prayed desperately that they would have found something that would help Ben.
The late afternoon sun finally began descending over the narrow lane leading to the Fraser cabin. Two vehicles drove up and pulled to a stop before the cabin porch. The noisier of the two vehicles pulled up and loudly banged when the ignition was cut off.
George Fraser and his son shared a grin as they exited Buck's car and followed Buck up the porch steps. Buck looked back over his shoulder at Mac's car and sighed. The four men entered the cabin with Mac in the lead.
Julie stood in the room with a hopeful look on her face. She searched each man's face quickly and almost missed the wink of her father's eye. She relaxed and nearly fell back into the chair in which she had been sitting.
Robert gave his father a quick nod and headed down the hall towards his son's room. He kept his steps sure and quiet. He opened the door to the room and moved inside quietly.
George and Buck stood shoulder to shoulder and faced the man they called a friend. "Nice weather we're having, isn't it?" Buck said to no one in particular. And they waited.
Robert moved softly through the waning shadows of his son's room and smiled at the figure of his mother seated under the window. He knew she was watching him and raised a hand to his lips asking mutely for her silence. When he stood beside his son's bed he pulled the key to the handcuffs out of his pocket and gently began removing them. He watched Benton turn his head and stare at him as the cuff fell away from his arm.
"It's time boy. Get up and get dressed. We'll be waiting in the living room." Robert motioned his mother out of the room and the two left quietly.
Benton felt frozen to his bed, but he sat up, pushed his comforter back and drew his legs over the side of the bed. He wondered if this would be the last time he ever saw his room. He wondered if this would be last time he pulled his clothes out of his dresser. He sighed. He took a last around his room and began to dress.
It took him less than two minutes to dress and put his hand on his doorknob. He wondered just how many seconds it would take him to walk down the hall. He opened the door and began walking.
The sounds of his footfalls sounded loudly in his head as Ben walked rigidly down the hall to the main room of the Fraser cabin. His ears hurt with the sounds of his own breathing as he walked towards his fate. But, he kept walking onward to his fate.
Sergeant MacPherson sat rigidly at the head of the Fraser family table with his Stetson planted squarely on the table in front of him. He glanced calmly around the room and noted the expressions on the faces of Martha Fraser and Julie Frobisher. As Robert Fraser's current superior officer and his friend, MacPherson was well acquainted with Benton Fraser's history. He voiced the thought in his head that one couldn't be around Robert Fraser for very long and not hear about his son.
Martha waited in the shadows by her kitchen sink taking in the expressions on the men's faces. She looked from her son's face then to her husbands and back again. Neither man's face gave much away. Then she looked at Buck Frobisher and her heart settled in her chest for she noted the lively twinkle in his eyes as he held a smile from his facial expression. Martha turned her head towards Julie and felt weary again when she saw the anxiety in the young girl's face. She was sure there was more than a case of hero worship going on there. The girl's frightened eyes filled her face. Martha sighed for she was well aware of the pangs of young love in young Benton's heart.
"We'll begin as soon as the boy is here." Mac said to no one in particular. "Officially, this should be done at headquarters, but in view of the facts I think the sooner we get this over the better it will be for all parties concerned."
Robert nodded and held his Stetson against his chest. George stood grimly near the door to the cabin and clenched his hands into fists behind his back. He'd know soon enough if his grandson were going to be marched out the front door. George hated waiting.
Ben found the hallway all too short as he went towards his grandparent's kitchen table. The sounds of his shoes sang in his head like bass drums as he finally came into the room and stood rigidly near Sergeant MacPherson. He stood as solidly and rigidly as he could and waited to be noticed. He was well aware of his grandmother behind him. Her breathing sounded heavily in his ears. Then the silence was broken by a little sob. Without looking, he knew that the sound had come from Julie Frobisher and he turned crimson in embarrassment. He had no wish for Julie to witness his humiliation. But he bucked his shoulders up straight and voiced what he hoped was a solid, "Sir."
Sergeant MacPherson heard the boy's footsteps entering the room and refrained from turning his head in the boy's direction. He made a deep huffing sound in his throat and placed his hands rigidly on the top of the table in front of him as he waited for the youngest Fraser in the room to approach him. Mac didn't move until the boy's shadow fell across his hands. He raised his dark brown eyes set under thick and fury eyebrows to the see the boy. His drooping mustache tilted a little above his lip as he noted the totally serious stance of the obviously worn out boy. Mac raised a hand and gestured towards one of the kitchen chairs. "Have a seat."
"I'd rather stand, sir." Ben's shoulders slipped into a taut, rigidly held posture that would have done any cadet of any branch of any military school around the world proud. His father watched him proudly though the thoughts running through his head were still on the very disgruntled side. Benton's grandparents stood on opposite sides of the room their eyes locked to each other's faces. Julie bit her lip as she sat in her chair by the window and kept her gaze steadily on Benton's face, never noticing that her father watched her and Benton closely.
"Young man these questions may take some time for you to answer and I have no wish to wait while someone scrapes you up off the floor. Be seated."
Ben didn't dare glance towards his father or grandfather; he just pulled out a chair and sat down as stiffly as he could. He licked his lips and waited.
Mac shook his head and cleared his voice. He pulled out his small notebook from his pocket along with his pen and dated the page.
Benton licked his lips, kept his head up and eyes straight in front of him and answered, "Benton Fraser, Sir."
"16 years, 5 months and..."
"16" Mac said as he began to write on his paper.
"You reside with your grandparents, George and Martha Fraser, is that right?"
Ben's eyes darted quickly towards his father's shadow as he replied softly, "Caroline Marie Pinset Fraser."
Four pairs of eyes watched the sergeant write Ben's responses down. Ben studiously kept his eyes fixed on a point slightly above and behind the chair in which the sergeant sat.
Sergeant MacPherson set his writing implement down and ran a finger lightly over his mustache. "Please state your whereabouts on the date of September 10th."
"I was here with my grandparents."
"Were you with them the entire day?"
"I see." Mac again began making notes. "Did you remain on your grandparent's property the entire day?"
Mac looked up and avoided looking around the room before continuing with his questions. "Was there anyone else with you at that time?"
Benton turned several shades of red but held his head erect and steady. "Yes, Sir." The sound of his voice trailed off softly as he continued. "Miss Julie Frobisher was also with me that day."
George and Robert Fraser stood a little taller, both proud of the way Benton was comporting himself. Martha exchanged a happy glance with her husband and turned slightly away so that there was no possibility of Julie or Benton seeing the expression in her face.
"Benton, I'm going to need you to explain in your own words exactly what happened when you and Miss Frobisher visited the Garrick Mine. Do you think you can do that?"
With only the slightest of hesitations, Benton nodded his head and answered, "Yes, Sir.
Silence filled the room as Benton took a deep breath and prepared to begin.
The deep breath Benton took in seemed to chill his soul. He let the air out of his lungs and without glancing around the room kept his eyes fixed on the paper that lay under Sergeant McPherson's hands. To his grandparents and father it seemed that Ben's attention was fixated on the top of the pen that was setting in the Sergeant's hand waiting to write down his words. Across the room Julie put her hands together and clenched her fingers into a tight fist. Julie's father, Buck Frobisher, stood leaning against the cabin doorframe with a slightly silly grin on his face and a hand pressed lightly to the front of his red serge tunic. His fingers gently reassured himself of the wooden presence under his tunic.
For a young man with a deeply resonating voice, the words Benton began to speak came out in a soft, almost hushed sound. Each word that was formed on his lips was formed carefully and slowly. George Fraser longed for the quick rushing of words that he knew Benton was capable of when he didn't want to answer a question less than precisely. George glanced towards his son, Robert, and noticed the tight, taught set of his shoulders. George stood taller and straighter determined to show the same kind of pride for his grandson that was demonstrated by Robert's stance.
Martha listened to Benton begin his story and carefully held her mouth shut. She was well aware of her own propensity for taking control of any situation regarding Benton. She was determined that the boy should learn to stand on his own two feet. Everything she had tried to teach since his mother had died had been geared toward teaching him to survive on his own; to survive despite the vagaries of what life could throw in one's path. So she stood watching the gangly boy with the outrageously thick hair and beautiful eyes and remembered the small, frail child that been put in her care after his mother's death. She had taught him self-reliance and given him the tools for helping him become an educated young man. She had watched, listened and taught him everything she knew about self-respect and living simply. She had watched Benton develop into a very serious young boy. Life wasn't easy at the best of times, life itself had taught the boy that. A chill swept her frame as she shuddered at the thought that both children could have been killed so easily. Her eyes wandered away from Benton to Julie Frobisher sitting across the room. This summer had brought Julie Frobisher their way and she had watched her self-conscious grandson begin to bloom into the young man she so dearly wanted him to become. Martha turned back to Benton and listened as he began telling about the explosion.
"My grandfather had said that I might drive his pickup truck now that I knew the basic concepts of driving. On reflection, I know I should have asked for permission to drive out that day and told him where I planned to drive." His eyes darted quickly to Julie with any movement of his head and he continued talking. "It didn't seem like such a big thing. Grandfather had taken me up that road several times to practice. I thought it would be safe as I knew every rock and hole on that road."
George grinned and remembered just how many of those holes Benton had hit the first couple of times they had driven up that road. However, he silently castigated himself for showing the boy the location of the mine. He had no idea that Benton had known about the mine from almost the moment they had moved to this area. The few friends Benton had made when they moved to the cabin had been happy to show the dark mine interior to the newcomer.
"I drove up to the Garrick mine and just before we drove into the clearing one of the tires went flat. Grandfather had drilled me on the importance of having a spare tire and had taught me how to change tires. I knew I could change the tire. Miss Frobisher and I got out of the truck and I looked at the tire and determined that it should be changed out." As Benton spoke all he could picture was the way the soft breeze had lifted Julie's hair and the sun's rays as it raked each strand of her hair. Nervous sweat beaded near his hairline, as he knew he had to keep those images from his mind while he gave the details that would send him to jail to Sergeant MacPherson. "I pulled the spare tire out of the truck, put the jack in place and escorted Miss Frobisher away from the vehicle so I could work on the tire." His tongue licked quickly at his lips; he hoped no one would ask for more specific details. He knew he was turning red and the palms of his hands became sweaty. He halted his dialog for a second as he again licked his lips.
Julie's head lifted slightly as she realized that Benton had eliminated the fact that she had helped him set up to change the tire. She tilted her head and held her fingers so tight that the exposed skin on the backs of her fingers began turning slightly purple.
"I made sure that Miss Frobisher was settled away from the truck and returned to it to begin changing the tire. I realize now that I should have made sure the vehicle was sitting on level surface and that the flat rock I had put under the jack was not sufficient. I believe I should have looked around for a heavier rock. I was negligent in not placing the spare gas cans away from the truck while I worked. I took the gas cans out of the truck as I did everything that added extra weight over the axel and jack but I didn't place them away from the truck. I was wrong. I knew gas to be a volatile liquid. I should have been more careful."
Robert's heart swelled as he listened to Ben speaking. The boy was telling the truth but expurgating just enough of the facts to keep Julie's name clear of fault. He couldn't fault the boy for trying to protect someone.
"I took all the lug nuts off of the tire and replaced it with the good tire. I had put only one lug nut on when Miss Frobisher screamed." Benton's throat was becoming dry and raspy but he was determined to continue.
Buck looked around and realized everyone was too mired in contemplation of Benton's words to realize that the boy needed a drink. He quietly stepped behind Martha and pulled the drinking cup off the edge of the sink and filled it with water. He walked over to the table and placed it in front of Benton's hands. He put a hand on the boy's shoulder and then returned to his stance by the door.
Benton picked up the cup and gulped a drink then set the cup down. "Miss Frobisher was frightened by a very large caribou. When she screamed, I went to go to her aid." He took another sip of water. At about the time I was half way to her the caribou turned and left." Benton looked down at his hands. "I heard a noise and looked back towards my Grandfather's truck." Benton bit his lip, took in a deep bit of air and continued. "I saw Geordie, he's an otter that lives up there, near the truck. He jumped onto the flat rock by the jack. It was his weight that overturned the jack. Well, not precisely his weight, but the force of his jump as he moved off the rock that caused the problem. But there wouldn't have been a problem if I had never taught Geordie to be my friend."
Sergeant MacPherson covered his mouth to hide a smile then made a haruffing noise deep in this throat. "Do all the otters in this neighborhood have names?"
Benton never balked but answered, "The ones that I know do, Sir."
Martha grinned and turned away from the image of her grandson sitting rigidly at the table. This was one time she was heartily thankful for the boy's nonsensical proclivity for naming the wild things in the area. Hearing the men of the family tightly reining in chuckles, she turned back to set her eyes rigidly on Sergeant MacPherson. The man was making an extremely heroic effort to refrain from laughing in young Ben's face. She watched as the Sergeant began scribbling notes on his paper again.
"Let's see. Yes. Witness: one Geordie Otter. Unavailable for comment." The man wrote quickly and missed the startled blink of the young boy's eyes. "Residence, unknown." The Sergeant's eye's crinkled and his lips twitched as he wrote. He turned his gaze from his notes to the boy seated at the table. "Continue please."
"After the explosion, I made sure that Miss Frobisher was unhurt and escorted her on foot back to my Grandparent's property." Benton stiffened the set of his shoulders and tried to maintain a direct gaze into the Sergeant's eyes and avoided the presence of Julie in the chair across the room.
MacPherson lowered his gaze from that of the boy's and jotted some notes on the paper before him. He folded his hands together over his report and spoke to Benton with his eyes maintaining eye contact with the boy's father. "I have but one remaining question son. Why did you run? Have you told the truth here today?"
Benton pulled himself rigidly back and stared gaping into the thin air before him. "I don't know why I ran." His Adam's apple jived up and down in his neck and he stalwartly continued to maintain contact with thin air. "Yes, Sir. I have told you the truth."
Sergeant MacPherson rose from the table and picked up his meager notes. He made a gentle little harrumphing sound deep in his throat and folded the papers before placing them in his breast pocket. "I shall, of course, turn in my report to the adjutant's office. But, at this juncture, I see no reason to detain Benton Fraser." He watched his words settle over the boy's shoulders with unexpected relief. "It would seem to me that although several inadvisable decisions have been made by the young man in question, he did not act with intent to purposefully destroy private property. I do not feel that this is a case of malicious mischief." He looked down at the boy, "You did not at any time intend to blow up your Grandfather's vehicle or the Garrick Mine, did you?"
"Oh No!" Ben almost shouted in relief then remembered his status as negligent and clamped shut his mouth.
Sergeant MacPherson smiled quickly then reposed his face in sterner lines. "I do believe that some reparations should be made; to George Fraser for the loss of his vehicle. " Benton began turning several shades of red. "Young man, implied permission to use a person's property does not give one blanket carte blanche to use said property whenever it suits, understood?" He watched the redness of Benton's skin color begin to pale. Here MacPherson turned to look directly at George Fraser. "I rather imagine your Grandfather or Father will be talking over the finer points of property rights with you. I'm sure some reparation will be settled upon, right, Constable Fraser?"
Robert Fraser smiled at the back of his son's head and replied, "I believe that something can be arranged that will suit all parties involved."
"Well, as I said, I will turn in my recommendation regarding this incident to the Adjutant's Office. Benton should remain on the property until I receive a definitive reply from my superiors, but I don't feel that my report will go against the boy."
Martha turned quickly away from the scene in her home and rushed out onto the porch where she sighed in relief and sank down into her favorite rocking chair. She listened to the men's voices inside as she set her head back against the chair.
A short time later Sergeant MacPherson's 'newer' car pulled away from the Fraser cabin leaving behind two Fraser men standing on the porch watching the car drive down the dirt road amidst loud clanging and banging.
Robert turned to his father and asked softly, "Think he's learned anything from this?"
George laid a gentle hand on his son's shoulder, "If he hasn't, we'll soon know son."
Martha broke into their conversation, "So? Where do we go from here?" Both men turned startled eyes towards her.
Several hours later, Buck lifted Julie's suitcase gently into the trunk of his car. He watched his daughter standing quietly at the top of the porch steps saying goodbye to her hosts. He was very pleased with her shy and polite manners. He grinned at the sight of Benton Fraser standing uncomfortably at the bottom of the porch stairs. Julie tripped lightly down each of the steps and stopped next to the boy. Her golden hair framed her face in the light of the setting sun. He couldn't hear what the youngsters said to each other, but was mightily pleased with the thought that Ben's first instinct in this whole affair had been to protect Julie. Julie quickly touched her hand to Benton's face then turned and ran to the car where she opened the door and climbed in quickly keeping her face turned away from the cabin. Buck grinned.
Slamming the trunk of his vehicle, Buck turned and went up to the steps to talk to his friends. He shook George Fraser's hand, harrumphed at Robert and leaned over to kiss Martha Fraser on the check. When his goodbyes were all accomplished he turned and walked slowly down the porch steps to stand where Benton still stood in shock at the feel of Julie's touch to his face. Buck turned discretely away from the adults on the porch and opened the top four buttons of his tunic. He pulled out a carefully handmade boomerang and shielded it from the other adults as he handed it to the boy. "I'd take better care of something this nice if I were you boy."
Benton shot his eyes up to Buck's face and his pale complexion turned a very bright shade of red. "Thank you, Sir. I will." He unbuttoned his own shirt and slid the wood carefully inside his shirtfront with slightly shaking hands. He watched Buck grin at him and turned to look at Julie seated in the car. He reached into his shirt and pulled his beloved boomerang back out. "Would you give this to Julie Sir? The words were low and whispered softly.
Buck put out his hand and took the wood into his fingers lovingly. "You sure boy?"
"Yes. I'm sure."
"I'm sure she'll appreciate it." Buck returned the boomerang to its former hiding place and walked around his car. With a wave of his hand and a grin he got into the car and started it up. In minutes he and Julie were off down the road.
Two days later George and Robert sat at the kitchen table watching Benton stand twitching in front of them. Robert nodded to his father and said, "It was your property."
George cleared his throat and began, "I care more about you than I cared about that pickup truck Benton. I really do. However, the loss of that vehicle means that there are things I can not bring to the cabin to prepare for the coming winter." He paused for effect. "Although I had given you permission to drive the truck on our property, you drove it up to the Garrick Mine without my permission where it met with a disastrous end. You will be required to replace my truck young man." He watched Benton's eyes broaden in his face but was heartily pleased that the boy made no other indication of his surprise. "You will work for Joe Ginty at his garage every day after your school work and chores have been done until reparation has been made. Is that clear? You will not be paid for this work young man. Joe found an acceptable replacement for my truck but it needs quite a bit of work before I can drive it. You will do that work. You will help Joe at whatever is required to accomplish the repair of this truck. Understood?"
"Yes Sir." Benton stood as still as he possibly could though he felt every nerve ending on his skin quaking. He watched his elders closely waiting for the rest of his punishment. However, the two men remained silent. When it was clear to the boy that they were finished speaking he opened his mouth and asked, "Is that all Grandfather?"
"Isn't that enough?" George asked with astonishment in his voice.
And so it was that Benton found himself surrounded by truck parts and electrical wiring and all manner of discarded vehicular equipment the first day he went to Joe Ginty's place. His jaw dropped as he looked at the burned out hulk of his Grandfather's truck standing just inside the door. Joe Ginty had been waiting for the boy and walked over to hand him a rear view mirror that needed to be mounted on the windshield of an old pickup truck. "Come on boy. You've got lots of work to do." The man grinned as he saw the boy surveying the wreck of the 1932 Ford. "She sure was a beauty." He turned towards a large canvassed vehicle standing on the right side of his shop. He walked over and pulled the canvass off, "Think your Grandpa will like this one?"
Ben gapped, open-mouthed. Somehow Joe had found and acquired two 1932 Ford pickup trucks though the front half of one was in descent shape and the rear half of the other truck was in descent shape neither formed a complete or drivable vehicle. Ben had no idea what to think. Joe grinned, "Son, you are going to learn to build a truck." Joe laughed and began folding up the canvas.
Eighteen years later Constable Benton Fraser sat in his best friend's Buick Riviera about to pull out of a parking place into traffic. He looked at the windshield and realized that there was no rear view mirror. Absently, he picked up the displaced mirror from its resting place on the seat and held it up to check behind him before pulling slowly and awkwardly out into traffic. His hands shook a bit on the steering wheel, but he had no conscious thought as to why he should be nervous.
Addendum: Sergeant MacPherson's report was received and quickly handled through proper channels and quickly filed away. The Garrick Mine owners were contacted and reported back that as the mine was a total loss to them anyway, they did not require recompense. It was at this point that the Adjutant suggested that the owners of said mine properly close it down. A letter was sent to Robert Fraser informing him that nothing further was required of Benton Fraser at this time. It was strongly suggested in the letter that Robert make sure the boy had more direction for his spare time. The Adjutant further remarked in his letter that Benton sounded quite a scamp.