Weren't you relieved to find he wasn't dead?
No!—and yet I can't say: it's hard to tell.
I went about to kill him fair enough.
You took an awkward way. Did he discharge you?
Discharge me? No! He knew I did just right.
From “The Code – Heroics” by Robert Frost
~ 32 ~
Howie, don’t be a Hero!
Kevin felt torn, he wanted to follow Howie right out that door but at the same time he couldn’t leave Nick alone, not as his eyes were beginning to open. “Nick, can you hear me?” He asked gently caressing Nick’s forehead.
Nick looked up at his friend and then panic set in as he grasped at Kevin’s arm, “leave me alone!” He tried to sit up but couldn’t. “Please…” He was crying until the moment of recognition, “Kevin?” He asked.
“Shh…it’s okay. I won’t let him hurt you. You’ll be okay.” He tried to reassure his friend as he shook in his arms. “What happened?”
“Where is he?” Nick still looked terrified which Kevin couldn’t deal with. Up until this very moment, even though Tim was scary, in his head he had really never showed himself to be violent. Sure, he had talked about doing things but he never actually acted on any of it. That was then. Now it was a whole different ballgame.
He gripped Nick even tighter to make him feel safe, “He’s in the other room. I need to know what happened, why did he hurt you, Nick?”
Nick looked him in the eyes, they were horribly bloodshot, “He knows…” He whispered, “He knows who we are.”
“The radio…” Nick swallowed hard a couple of times, “They were talking about us on the radio….” Once again he had to stop to catch his breath which was even choppier than before. “AJ and Brian they were found…the police are looking for us.”
Kevin nodded and felt a few tears fall, “They were found?”
Nick nodded and tried to smile, “Yes…” His expression turned back to freight, “I thought he was going to kill me…he was so mad…” He started to shake and cry again but was having difficulty breathing. Kevin was trying his best to calm him down all the while trying to peer through the doorway. He saw Tim standing still and talking to Howie. He seemed to be calm but he had to be ready to move, just in case things changed.
“He won’t hurt you because I won’t let him anywhere near you. Got it?” He stared into the eyes of his baby brother with the same intensity he did whenever he meant what he said so help him…
Nick slowly nodded and then looked around the room, “Howie?” he asked once again panic returning to his face.
Kevin really wanted Nick to stay calm, he didn’t like the way he was breathing or looking. It was clear he was much worse than he had previously thought and the added anxiety wasn’t helping him at all. “He’s fine…relax, okay?”
“Where is he?” He wasn’t buying the ‘he’s fine’ line and once again tried to sit up only to start coughing and groaning in pain as he was guided back down by Kevin.
“He’s talking to Tim and trying to calm him down.”
“No, you have to go out there, don’t leave them alone.” He scrunched his eyes closed and winced grabbing for his stomach and letting out a small cry, “Kevin…” He grabbed at his older friend’s hand. Kevin grasped and held firm.
“We’re going to get you out of here, Nick…you just have to hang on a little longer. Can you do that?” Kevin’s eyes grew wide as he noticed a trace of blood coming out of the side of Nick’s mouth, “I am going to get you out of here!”
He thought about trying to get Nick out of the window and to the truck and then he could double back and help Howie. If D could keep Tim occupied long enough to not bring attention to the bedroom, it might work. He wasn’t sure how he would be able to get Nick over to the window in the first place but seeing that blood after he coughed and knowing how urgent this situation was, he had to try.
“If I helped you, do you think you’d be able to walk?”
Nick’s eyes were half closed as he clutched his stomach. He was trying his hardest to remain conscious but he was struggling. Kevin felt Nick’s grip on his hand loosen. “Nickolas?” Kevin didn’t mean to sound angry but he knew that it might elicit a quicker response, “I need you to focus. Can you walk?”
“I don’t know…” He answered honestly, “But I can try.”
Kevin nodded and then glanced over into the living room once again. This time Tim seemed to be more animated with his movements more erratic as he paced slightly back and forth while talking. He wished he had a better view of Howie from where he was, but all he could see was just a small side view of his friend. “Don’t make him mad, D.” He found himself saying in a quiet whisper. “And don’t let him look this way.”
“Okay, let’s try to get you up…” He grabbed both of Nick’s arms and hoisted him to a sitting position. Nick moaned as he was moved but once sitting, Kevin shifted all his weight to his good leg and managed to get himself up onto the bed. From that angle he was able to see a little bit better into the living room, where Tim was now sitting on the couch as he listened to whatever it was Howie was telling him. The one positive thing he noticed was the coffee cup. Tim was holding it in his hands, nursing it as if it was warm.
“Kevin…” He turned his attention back to Nick who was staring up at him.
“Yeah little man?”
“I’m not going to be able to stand. I can barely stay like this. It’s too painful and hard to breath.”
“I’ll help you, okay? Let’s at least try to get you onto the bed.”
Nick nodded and braced himself for the discomfort more moving would cause. Kevin ironically did the same knowing that he would have to put weight on his ankle in order to lift Nick. He bent down, placed his arms under Nick’s and pulled him up with all his might. Pain shot through Kevin’s leg as if he was being stabbed but he held in his discomfort. Luckily Nick did the same thing as he laid half on the bed, with only his legs dangling off the sides.
“Good job, little man.” Kevin said as he helped Nick sit up, “Good job, are you hanging in there?”
Nick couldn’t talk but nodded as his older friend held on to his back to make sure he didn’t fall over. “Now we just have to get over there.” He said pointing to the window which was only about half the room’s length away but between both of their injuries; it might as well have been two football fields.
Kevin was just about to stand when he heard Howie, “No! I can’t let you do that!”
“It’s too late, I made up my mind!” Tim said.
Kevin and Nick both looked up as Tim started walking towards the bedroom door.
When Howie walked out of the bedroom, he honestly had no idea what he was going to do. It’s not like he even thought to bring his stupid piece of wood out there with him or one of the arrows. Nope, just like he had done everything else thus far, he just impulsively went for it and when Tim stopped his pacing and stared at him, he realized perhaps this wasn’t the best of ideas.
“Didn’t I just say to not…”
Howie placed his hand up, “I know and I’m sorry…I just wanted to come out and apologize and see how you were doing.” He was surprised at how easily the words just flowed out of his mouth as he said them. Just say whatever you need to say to calm him down and get him to drink that damn coffee were his thoughts as he took a few hesitant steps towards the madman. “Is there anything I can do to make you feel better? Maybe I can reheat that coffee for you?” He pointed at the untouched cup on the table.
Tim let out a sigh and rubbed his red eyes, “I shouldn’t even be mad at you, Howie. You are the only one who didn’t lie to me. Nick and Kevin…especially Nick…how could he do that?” He balled his right hand into a fist and rubbed it against his own cheek.
“I don’t think he meant you any harm.” Howie still had no idea what Tim was talking about and what lie Nick was caught in. “Sometimes when Nicky gets nervous he tends to exaggerate or lie. It’s nothing personal; he’s done it his whole life.” He moved closer to the cup, “What did he say exactly?”
Tim sighed and wrapped his arms around himself, “He lied about how you all know each other.”
“What did he tell you?”
“That you all grew up in the same neighborhood. Your other friend said the same thing, well he said you all went to school together but when I caught him in the one lie he lied again!”
Howie nodded and took a huge gamble, “But then you found out about our band?” He grabbed the cup off the table as Tim started pacing back and forth again.
“I can’t believe he would lie like that!” Tim said as he stopped pacing and looked at Howie, “You wouldn’t lie like that to me, would you?”
Howie thought about saying no, but something made him take a risk, “To be honest Tim, probably. You have to understand something about being famous. It gets hard to figure out whom to trust. So many people want to get to know us just for our money and our fame and not because they care about us as people, so when Nicky and I first met you, we kept it from you. I’m sure we would have told you the truth soon enough because we’re family and that’s what family does for each other. Did he tell you in the truck?”
Tim shook his head as he sat down on the couch, “No, I heard it on the news. They found your other friends. The ones I helped save!”
Howie tried not to show his relief when hearing the news and instead just tried to keep feeding Tim the words he needed to hear. “You were certainly a hero for doing that and I’m sorry you found out the way you did.” He walked closer to Tim and handed him the coffee mug, “Drink this maybe it’ll make you feel better. I can warm it up for you if you’d like.”
Tim took the mug in his hands and shook his head, “No, that’s okay. I actually like my coffee cold.”
“Tim, I know you’re really angry at Nick right now, but he still needs help. He’s really in bad shape and now he’s probably even worse off than before.” At this point Howie felt his own anger rising once again but took a small exhale of breath as he continued, “He needs to get to the hospital before it’s too late.”
Tim nodded, “I feel so bad for hitting him, Howie. I didn’t mean to, but he made me so mad.” Right after he said that he went to take a sip of his coffee but stopped himself, “Think he’ll forgive me?”
“I’m sure he will as long as we get him the help he needs, otherwise he’s going to die, Tim.” This time he did let his emotion come out. “He’s my best friend and he’s in so much pain.”
Tim looked up at Howie, “I can’t bring him to the hospital. He’s famous; they’ll never let him come back to me. Maybe if we just give him more pain medicine he’ll feel better. I mean I have been really sick before but have gotten better. My mom thought I was going to die once.”
“Tim, aspirin isn’t enough. He’s got internal injuries, things that only surgery will be able to fix.”
“He’s in pain?”
Howie nodded once again feeling like he was going to lose it. “I can’t stand seeing him hurting like that. You know how it is, when people you love are in pain, we need to try everything we can to take that pain away.” He did feel a few tears escape, “Please Tim, help Nicky.”
Tim just sat there for a few minutes as Howie watched and tried to read what might have been going through his mind. He then took that coffee cup to his mouth and took a chug of the cold concoction before putting it down on the chest and standing up.
“You’re right Howie. If Nick is in pain and we love him, we need to make the pain go away.”
Howie felt hopeful for a mega second before Tim continued and ruined that feeling in a hurry, “Maybe it is for the best if I put him out of his misery myself. I can do it quick and painless.” He then started crying, “I don’t want to but it’s the only way. I guess my father was right, we need to go back to the campsite.”
“No! I can’t let you do that!” Howie shouted.
“It’s too late, I made up my mind!” Tim said as he started walking towards the bedroom.
In a panic, Howie ran to the fireplace, grabbed the fire poker and charged at Tim full force.