As soon as he answered the telephone, I said, "It's me, Cornelius."
"Don't hang up." I turned away from the FBI agents trying to stand close enough to overhear Harry's side of the conversation and focused on the man inside the house with a gun. "How are you doing?"
"I've been better."
"How is David?"
"He's sleeping like a log. This is his nap time."
"Harry, I missed you at the bowling alley last night. I had to accept Marvin as a partner. We were trounced."
"I was busy. Planning."
"Planning what, Harry?"
Harry was holed up with a gun and his three-year old boy, surrounded by local cops, state police, and the FBI. He perhaps should have spent a little more time planning.
Special Agent Davis hissed at me, "Send him out unarmed."
"Harry, this is not the best way to resolve your differences with Emilee."
"You should see him, Cornelius. David must weight fifty or sixty pounds. You know what he said he had for breakfast this morning? Chocolate pie. He ate two pieces and she finished the rest."
"Kidnapping your son is not a solution, and that's how the law sees what you've done."
"You know how I got away with him? I didn't want to run from the house because I thought it might scare him. I walked fast. Emilee couldn't keep up. She couldn't even scream, couldn't catch her breath."
"Harry, you need to come out."
"So they can return David to that monster?"
"Emilee has legal custody."
"She's killing him with that junk she eats, setting up eating habits that will stay with him forever. It's wrong."
"I understand what you're saying. You're concerned about your boy's health. You're a good father."
"I turned a blind eye to her food issues for as long as I could but this is different. He's just a child. It's abuse how she feeds him."
"Not according to the law. Since about sixty law enforcement officers are encircling the property, the law is what we need to keep in mind."
"What does the law know about raising a boy?"
"Not much. But sometimes the law is all we have."
"The price is too high if it comes at the cost of little David. Little. That's a laugh. I only have furniture in two rooms here. You think David wants to run around and whoop it up like a normal kid? He lays on the couch and complains that I don't have more channels."
A helicopter was flying overhead. I didn't look up to identify it, didn't want to break my concentration. "Perhaps he's fighting a cold or something."
"Perhaps he doesn't want to lug around all that extra weight." Harry sighed. "You remember Emilee from back when we were all in school together? She was as thin as a rail."
"Yes." I'd even dated her once or twice before she and Harry became an item. "She was."
"Her brother drank himself to death. He killed himself without breaking the law and Emilee is doing the same thing only she's taking David down with her."
"Harry. Why did you tell Officer Banks that you had a gun when she knocked on the door and announced herself?"
"I thought she should know."
"Your statement has been interpreted as a threat. Against the police officer. Against your son."
"I don't want to hurt anybody."
"That's good, Harry. We don't want to hurt anybody either. We need you to put down the gun and come out of the house with your hands in the air."
Special Agent Davis whispered urgently into his headset.
"And then what?"
"We'll take you into custody."
"What about David?"
"He'll go back to his mother. That's the law."
"It's not right."
"I'm not disagreeing with you, Harry, but we need to take this one step at a time. I can try to schedule a meeting between you and the judge so that you can state your case. But first you have to give yourself up."
"The judge didn't listen to me last time and now I'll be presented as a kidnapper. You can't really believe that anyone is going to switch over to my side."
"I'm on your side, Harry. I'm on David's side too."
"I thought you were on the law's side."
"I represent the law but the law is big enough to take care of itself. I'm here to help you and your boy."
Special Agent Davis grinned at me. "Marksmen are in position. Either send him out or move him towards a window."
"Harry, the FBI wants to wrap this situation right now. Unload the gun and place the ammunition in your pocket so that David won't be in danger if he wakes in the new few minutes. Place the unloaded gun on a flat, visible surface and come out of the house with your hands over your head. Ignore the other officer and walk straight towards me."
Special Agent Davis grabbed my arm. "What if he's wearing a bomb."I closed my eyes. "Harry, are you wearing a bomb?"
"A bomb? You know me better than that."
"I had to ask."
"Cornelius. Promise me that David will get to see a professional therapist to help him deal with his mother."
"I can try. I can't promise."
"That's what I thought. Chocolate pie for breakfast doesn't make him a victim. The judge won't order therapy just because the kid is obese."
The line went dead.
Seconds later, there was a single shot from inside the house.
David would get that therapy.
BIO: Over six hundred of Stephen's stories and poems have been selected to appear in more than a hundred publications. His website, www.stephendrogers.com, includes a list of new and upcoming titles as well as other timely information.