The Nineteenth Year by Jevic, The Tarheel Writer    The Nineteenth Year
by Jevic
The Tarheel Writer
Chapter Four
"The Head"

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The Nineteenth Year by Jevic, The Tarheel Writer

Action Adventure
Sexual Situations
Rated Teen 13+

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Daniel and Cody stood in the middle of the living room. Cody's mind was racing. What the hell did he walk into? He stood there and watched as Daniel looked intently out the front window. Cody's eyes scanned the boy who stood beside him.

"I don't know what the hell's going on, but as long as I've got this hunk beside me, I don't care," he said to himself.

"Oh shit, here it comes," Daniel whispered. He ducked down, dragging Cody with him. They peered intently out the window. The big black SUV cruised by the house slowly. As soon as it passed, the boys saw Teri sit up in the seat and start her car. The Mustang's engine roared to life. She looked up at the living room window, gave a thumbs up sign, then popped the clutch, slinging gravel all over as the car shot out of the driveway. She whipped the wheel to the right and slid the car to a stop in the middle of the road.

"God, how'd I ever let her talk me into this?" mused Daniel.

Teri looked up in her rearview mirror to see the taillights of the SUV come on. It immediately swerved into a driveway. Teri shifted into first gear and revved the engine. The SUV burned rubber as it backed out of the driveway and started toward Teri. She quietly smiled to herself, revved the engine again and popped the clutch. The Goodyear Eagles bit into the pavement and launched the Mustang forward.

Daniel and Cody watched as Teri's car roared down the street. Then the black SUV came screaming by the house just seconds later.

"Shit!" exclaimed Cody.

"Shit is right. Let's get the fuck outta here!" Daniel said as he stood up. But that's as far as he got. He immediately felt dizzy and reached his arm out for support. The blackness was closing in fast and Daniel groped for anything to check his fall. Cody turned his attention from the street just in time to see Daniel wavering. Quick as a flash, Cody was at Daniel's side.

"Whoa there," Cody said as he grabbed Daniel's arm. But Daniel never felt him. He went out like a light and kept going down. Cody quickly grabbed Daniel around the waist and eased him down to the carpet. Daniel's limp head rolled neatly into the space between Cody's neck and shoulder.

"Daniel. Daniel!" Cody said as he shook the boy in his arms. "Come on, Daniel. We've gotta go!" Mere seconds, that seemed like minutes, passed and Daniel finally moved a bit, then groaned.


"Come on, Daniel. We've gotta get out of here. Can you stand up?"

"I-I think so." Cody wrapped his arm around Daniel's back and caught him just under the arm. Struggling, Cody pulled Daniel up. Daniel's legs, even though they were still wobbly, pushed and the boys stood up.

"Are you OK?" Cody asked.

"Still dizzy, but, yeah, OK."

"Let's get to the car," said Cody as he helped Daniel toward the front door. As quickly as he could, Cody helped Daniel down the front steps and toward the car. Daniel looked ahead and saw the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

"Nice Jeep."

"Thanks." Cody helped Daniel to the passenger's door, but not before Daniel noticed the rainbow sticker on the Jeep's bumper. With his new friend safely in the front seat, Cody helped with the seatbelt. Then he ran around to the driver's side. After jumping in behind the wheel, he paused and looked at Daniel.

"Where should we go?" Daniel looked at Cody with a blank expression and finally shrugged.

"I don't know. Anywhere but here." Cody looked at him for a minute, and then smiled slightly. He turned the key and backed out of the drive.

"Why don't you call Teri," suggested Cody, handing his phone to Daniel.

"Good idea." Daniel dialed the number and pushed the send button. The line rang once, twice, then three times. Finally, it was answered by a breathless Teri.


"Are you OK?" Daniel asked.

"Fine. Just fine. I'm in the parking lot at the police station. The asshole is circling the block."

"We're just leaving. I kinda passed out for a minute."

"Are you OK?"

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"Where are you going?"

"Ummm, hang a sec." Daniel turned to Cody. "Where are we going?"

"My house."

"We're going to Cody's house."

"Where's that?" Daniel once again turned to Cody. "Where do you live?"

"Wait a minute," interrupted Teri. Daniel held up his hand indicating for Cody to hold on. "Don't say where on this phone. They could be monitoring it. Oh shit!"

"Teri! What? What's going on?" asked Daniel.

"The SUV just took off back toward Javan's house. You guys get the hell away from there NOW!" Daniel looked over at Cody.

"Step on it. The SUV is on its way back." Cody's eyes widened and some of the color drained from his face.

"W-who are those people?" Cody asked as he sped up.

"They're the bad guys, Cody. I'll tell you more later, just get us out of here."

"OK." The Jeep Grand Cherokee's V-8 roared to life as they barreled down the road.

"Teri? Are you still there?" asked Daniel.

"Yeah, I'm headed back toward Javan's."

"Teri, no. You can't do that. They must be monitoring our conversation. That means they know I'm not with you. It's me they want." Daniel paused a moment and then continued.

"And you fuckers have no idea where I'm at, so leave us the fuck alone!" Daniel said speaking to whoever was monitoring the conversation. "Teri, do you remember where Cody works?"


"Oh shit!" Daniel gasped and grabbed on to the handhold above the window as Cody slid the Jeep Grand Cherokee through an intersection. He looked over at Cody. Cody was smiling.

"Well, you said to step on it. So, I'm stepping on it," said Cody calmly.

"Yeah, OK. Just don't step through it." Cody snickered.

"What's going on?" yelled Teri through the phone.

"Just getting used to Richard Petty's driving," Daniel said chuckling.

"Sounds like I need to give him a few pointers," said Teri.

"Anyway, you do remember where Cody works?"


"Well, go there and we'll call you when we get where we're going," suggested Daniel.

"Good plan. I'll be waiting for your call. You guys be careful."

"We will. Talk to you in a bit." Daniel ended the conversation and handed the phone back to Cody.

"We'll be there in about five minutes."

"Good, and thanks, Cody. You have no idea how much this means to me."

"It's really no problem, Daniel. I'm glad I can help. I just wish I understood more about what's going on." Daniel sighed, realizing that he owed some kind of explanation to Cody, but just how much of an explanation remained to be seen. Cody raced up one street, turned down another, and then zipped through a few intersections, finally ending up at his apartment complex. He pulled the Jeep into a parking space and turned it off.

Daniel looked around at all the different cars in the parking lot. The landscaping was particularly nice. Having spent so much time in his own yard, he admired the extra touches the complex had done. Cody opened the passenger door and helped him out, and then steadied Daniel as they walked up the sidewalk. After unlocking the door, Cody turned to his new friend.

"It might be a bit of a mess. I didn't expect to bring anyone home." Daniel smiled.

"It's cool. Don't worry. I'm sure my place has been in worse shape." Cody pushed the door open and stood back for Daniel to step in first. "By the way, I like the rainbow on your Jeep," Daniel commented as he walked through the door. Cody's face instantly went blood red. He hesitated a moment, totally embarrassed, then followed Daniel through the door.

"Cody, can we call Radio Shack? I want Teri to know we're all right," Daniel said as he sat down on the couch. Cody stood in the doorway. "Cody?"

"Ummm, huh?"

"Ya wanna close the door?" Cody looked surprised. He looked and saw that he was standing in the doorway.

"Oh, yeah," he said sheepishly as he quietly closed the door.

"Can we call Radio Shack and let Teri know we made it OK?"

"Yeah, let me get the phone." Cody walked toward the kitchen and grabbed a cordless phone. He dialed the number while walking back toward the couch.

"Hey, it's Cody. Is there a person named Teri there? Yeah. OK. Great, can I speak with her please?" He handed the phone to Daniel. "She's picking up the phone." Daniel nodded and held the phone up to his ear.


"Hey, Teri. It's Daniel. We're fine. We're at Cody's apartment."

"Great. I was starting to get worried."

"No problems. What are you gonna do?" asked Daniel.

"I don't know, but I'm not going to risk coming there. You just sit tight with Cody and I'll check in with Javan."

"Cool. Do you think it would be a problem to get me some clothes?"

"I don't know. I told that cop I'd be right back and that was three days ago. I'm sure they're probably looking for us too."

"I didn't think about that."

"We'll do something, babe. Just try to relax and get your strength built back up. I'm sure Cody will take very good care of you."

"And what's what supposed to mean?" Daniel asked incredulously.

"You know exactly what I mean, so don't even try to cover it up, mister."

"OK, ya got me."

"No, he's got you." They both laughed. "Give me the number so I can call you later." Daniel got the number from Cody and gave it to Teri. Then they hung up.

"Thanks, Cody," Daniel said as he passed the phone back. Cody took the phone and walked back into the kitchen to put it back on the charger.

"You want something to drink?"

"That'd be great."


"Perfect." Cody walked back into the den, handed Daniel a coke and sat down on the far end of the couch. Daniel watched him silently. Something had changed with Cody. Things had cooled off a bit. There was no more warm feeling. Something was bothering Cody. And what's up with this sitting on the far end of the couch bit?

"Aaah, you OK?" asked Daniel. Cody jerked up and looked at Daniel.

"Yeah, sure, fine, why?" he stammered.

"You kinda seem distracted."

"Oh, just ... it's nothing." But Daniel knew there was more.

"Was it my crack about the rainbow on your Jeep?" Cody immediately blushed. "I thought so. It's cool. I'm gay too." Cody snapped his head around and looked at Daniel, his mouth agape. Daniel smiled. "And I think you're really cute." Cody blushed even more and dropped his gaze back into his lap. "Look, Cody. I know you need an explanation of what the hell's going on here..."

"I think you're cute too," interrupted Cody. Now it was Daniel's turn to blush. Cody looked up into Daniel's red face. "And I'm worried about you. There's lots of serious stuff going on and I don't want to see you get hurt. I just met you and I don't want to lose you before I get to know you."

"You've got me right now," Daniel said softly. Cody stood slowly, moved closer, and then sat down right next to Daniel. Their legs brushed up against each other and remained there. The two faces turned to each other. The blue eyes met the chocolate ones. Warm breath cascaded down necks. Body heat radiated as the distance grew less. Moist lips parted slowly. What had earlier been at either end of the couch was now mere inches apart. The silence of the room was suddenly rudely shattered by the ringing of the telephone. Both boys jumped.

"I better get that," whispered Cody. Daniel nodded. He watched as Cody got up to get the phone. He also saw the signs of excitement in the front of Cody's pants. Eyes widening suddenly in self realization, Daniel glanced down at his flimsy shorts. The reaction to being close to Cody was quickly covered with a pillow. Daniel blushed to himself as he heard Cody answer the phone in the background. No sooner than he answered, he hung back up.

"Who was it?"

"A fax I think. Sounded like my old dial up before I got a cable modem," said Cody as he made his way back into the den. Daniel couldn't help but notice that Cody had taken time to rearrange his excitement to a less exciting appearance. Just as Cody was about to take his seat next to Daniel, the phone rang again.

"Damn it!" Cody said. He jogged back into the kitchen and answered the phone. Then Daniel heard him slam it back down.

"Fax again?" called out Daniel.

"Yeah." Cody brought the cordless back into the living room and sat back down. Just as he got comfortable, the phone rang again. "Here, see what you make of it." Daniel took the phone and answered. Once again, the sound of a computer or fax was on the line.

"Have you got a fax machine?"


"Let's hook it up to this line. At least once the fax prints, we'll get a break from the phone ringing."

"Good idea. The fax is in my office." Cody stood up, and then helped Daniel to stand. They made their way to Cody's office, where the fax machine was promptly hooked to the house phone. As soon as Cody plugged in the phone line, the phone started ringing and the fax machine picked up. They both sat quietly and watched as it printed out the fax. The hand written words on the paper slowly appeared.

Hey, Danny.

The sight of his name immediately sent Daniel into a panic. But it was the words that followed that got the attention of both boys.

I know where you are. Even though you've been a bad boy, I still want you back. It's just about time and I'm beginning to run out of patience. Make sure your passport is up to date. By the way, you've got a pretty boyfriend. It would be a shame to see something happen to him. And there's a package for you at the front door. I'll be in touch.

Bye, Danny.

Cody gasped out loud at the reference to him and fell back into his chair. Daniel snatched the piece of paper from the fax machine, ripped it violently in half and wadded it up in his hands.

"What the fuck is going on here?" exclaimed Cody. Daniel looked at Cody. He could see all the questions just ready to bubble to the surface, tons of them, and rightfully so. Cody was entitled answers. After all, he had already done more than anyone else would ever do without an explanation.

Like the ringer on the telephone before it, the doorbell shattered the silence. This time, it was Daniel that openly gasped. Quickly taking control of the situation, he looked at Cody again.

"Stay here."


"Stay here. Let me do this. I know this guy." Without any further explanation, Daniel went to the front door. In the whole fifteen seconds it took to get there, he had focused his energy, dulled the pain and narrowed his concentration. After a deep breath, he was ready. As he reached for the doorknob, the bell rang out again. Daniel snatched the doorknob and ripped the door open.

"Package for Danny Simon," the man in the brown uniform said smiling. Then the driver frowned. "Hey, don't you live somewhere else?"

"Yeah I do. Is there any way to find out who sent that package?"

"Let's see." The driver checked his clipboard computer. "Nope. It was a counter drop off."

"What counter?"


"Thanks," Daniel said taking the package from the driver.

"Have a good day," the man said as he jogged toward his brown truck. Daniel closed the door and turned only to run headlong into Cody.

"Oh shit, you scared me to death," stammered Daniel.

"What's that?" asked Cody, pointing to the small package.

"Come on, let's find out," said Daniel, motioning for Cody to follow him to the couch.

"Whatever it is, it can't be good." The boys moved over to the couch and sat down. The package, wrapped in plain brown paper, had the dimensions of a good sized book. Daniel tore off the paper. Both boys looked intently as something blue started to show. Finally the paper was ripped completely away. Daniel sat staring intently at the latest copy of J. K. Rowling's book, "Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix."

"Oh I've been meaning to pick up a copy of that," said Cody. Daniel glanced up at him but was still absorbed in figuring out the meaning of the book. He opened the cover and flipped a few pages. His gasp startled Cody. "What! What's wrong?" Daniel held the book so Cody could see. Right there on the main title page, Cody saw handwriting. On closer inspection, he too openly gasped.


I sincerely hope you enjoy this chapter in Harry's life.

J.K. Rowling

"Oh my God, that's not a copy. That's a real signature. She actually autographed this book for you! Awesome!" Cody was beside himself with excitement. But Daniel was still trying to figure out what it all meant. He thumbed to the next page where he found a small slip of paper. The color drained from his face as he read.


Just like Harry Potter, you're all over the world too! Check the website below. And no, it won't be there long, so don't even think about making any phone calls to the law. There's some extra cash in your checking account. Don't spend it. I've got plans for you and you're gonna need it. Don't fuck with me, Danny or you'll end up like Timmy. I'll be in touch soon.

Daniel looked at the website that was listed at the bottom of the piece of paper. Giant tears rolled down his face as reality slapped him hard. The piece of paper slipped from his hand and floated gently to the floor where Cody picked it up. After reading, he turned to look at his new friend. Daniel was awash with emotion.

"W-what happened to Timmy?" he asked quietly. Daniel's quiet sobs turned into a river. Only two people in the world knew the real truth and Daniel was one of them. The other had written the note. The tears streamed down his face as he looked at Cody. Daniel searched the beautiful chocolate brown eyes. He looked for some sign ... some sign of rejection or hate. But he didn't find it. All he could see was concern ... nonjudgmental concern. Trust did not come easy for Daniel, but today, this day, this moment in time, he felt Cody was the one person who just might understand. Bearing the awful truth solely on his shoulders was taking its toll. It was time to share the burden.

"They killed him."

"W-what?" stammered Cody. Daniel's arms reached out. He desperately needed someone to hold him, to comfort him, to tell him it was going to be OK. With no hesitation at all, Cody wrapped his arms around Daniel and pulled him in tight. Tears of his own mingled with Daniel's as Cody got caught up in the emotional overload. What was it about this boy that intrigued him so? What power did Daniel possess over him? Why did his stomach have butterflies all the time? He'd never had them before. But ever since meeting Daniel, his stomach was doing back flips. And then Cody realized there was something missing, almost like a hole in his essence, a hole in his very being ... something that had been missing since birth, but until now, had gone unnoticed.

Cody tightened his hug, if that was possible and held on. His cheek lay on Daniel's head ... the smell of the shampoo enticing his nostrils. Daniel's warm breath washed over his neck and chest. And the tears ... yes, the tears flowed there too, wetting his tee shirt. He could feel Daniel's arm wrapped around his back, pulling him in close. Daniel's other arm was across his chest grabbing Cody's shoulder. They were together, but had separate thoughts. Cody's were filled with wonder, longing, and the feeling of ultimate completeness. He held in his arms the person that filled that long time emptiness.

Daniel, on the other hand, was filled with grief for Timmy. He was filled with anxiety, as Cody was about to learn to whole truth. How would Cody feel about him when he learned what he had done? Daniel was ashamed of his past. Baring his soul to this wonderful boy holding him tightly in his arms would be one of the hardest things he had ever done in his life. And he was frightened, yes, frightened. The monster out of his past had returned ... with a vengeance. And all the people that were supposed to be good thought Daniel was bad. There were only a handful of people in the whole world that knew better, none of which knew the whole truth, the complete story. That was just about to change.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Teri downshifted her Mustang and pulled into Javan's driveway and parked beside Javan's car. Teri hastily ran to the front door and found it partially jarred open. She took a quick breath, then pushed the door open. The whole house had been ransacked. Not one piece of furniture had been left unturned, or for that matter, left unsliced. Whoever had gone through Javan's home had been very, very thorough. Teri stared in utter disbelief.

"Javan!" she called out. There was no answer. "Damn," she said to herself. "I wonder where he is." She walked through the house still in disbelief that someone was capable of causing such destruction. She headed down the hall and looked into the guest bedroom where Daniel had slept. The mattress was up against the wall, slashed open. The dresser had been turned over, its drawers scattered around the room. Even the curtains had been ripped off the wall. She continued down the hall and glanced into the bathroom. The toilet had not escaped the rampage. Its tank lay on the floor, smashed into a hundred pieces. Teri continued down the hall and looked in Javan's room. It was in the same sad shape. Teri's heart was pounding in her throat. She knew Javan's car was in the driveway, but where was Javan? Cautiously entering his bedroom, Teri looked for any sign that Javan had been there. Nothing. But something was odd. The closet door was closed. All the others in the house were standing wide open. Slowly, she walked over to the closet door. Gently reaching her hand out, she grabbed the closet doorknob. She could feel every beat of her heart. Her hands were sweaty. The room had suddenly become unbearably hot. Turning the doorknob slowly, Teri slowly pulled the door open. Empty. Nothing. Javan's clothes were piled in the floor. Teri sighed.

"I've been watching too many horror movies," she said chuckling to herself. She closed the door and turned back toward the hall. She stepped over a drawer in the floor and headed back toward the den. The linen closet caught her eye. "What the hell? I might as well check it too," she said to herself. She pulled the door open. The vision of what was inside the closet was, at that moment, forever etched into her memory. It would be the cause of many, many nightmares. Her hand involuntarily covered her mouth. Her field of vision narrowed as she approached a full tilt faint. She slammed the door shut and fell back against the wall. The panic attack that descended on her was like the falling of the World Trade Center buildings. The scream that followed stayed with her as she scrambled toward the front door.

Teri stumbled out the front door and made a mad dash for her car. Tears of fear were rolling down her cheeks. It was one thing to see something like that in the movies, but it was quite another to see it in real life ... or in this case, in real death.

The Mustang roared to life and once again threw gravel in all directions as it backed out of the drive. Teri slammed it into first gear and screamed down the road. It suddenly hit her that she had nowhere to go. She couldn't go home. The police were there. She couldn't go to Cody's. The black SUV might follow her there. But she had to go somewhere and she had to be with someone. She needed her best friend now more than ever.

"Daniel!" she screamed through the tears. "I need you!" Teri quickly pulled the car to the side of the road, fished her cell phone out and dialed Cody's number. "Fuck those bastards. I don't care if they're listening. I need my Daniel!" The number rang once, twice ... and then it was picked up.



"Teri, what's wrong?" he asked, immediately sensing the tension in her voice.

"Daniel. Lemme speak with Daniel, please!" she pleaded. In just seconds a familiar, reassuring voice came on the line.


"Oh God, Daniel! He's dead! I can't believe it! They really did it. He's dead. Oh my God!"

"Teri. Teri! Calm down!" Her sobbing was just about out of control.

"Daniel! They killed Javan!"


"He's dead. I saw his ... his ... oh God! Daniel!" Teri emotions shifted from overdrive into out of control.

"Teri," Daniel said as calmly as he could. "Teri. I want you to calm down. We have to talk. Take a deep breath. Concentrate." He could hear the sobs begin to slow. "That's right. Calm. Now tell me where you are."

"I-I'm near Cody's work."

"Good. Go there and park in front of the store. We'll meet you there in five minutes."

"Hurry, Daniel. I'm really just about to lose it."

"I kinda thought you all ready had." That comment caused a brief chuckle.

"OK, I'm headed there now. Please hurry, Daniel. Please hurry."

"We will. See you in a minute." Daniel turned to Cody. "We've gotta go. Something's happened. Something bad."

"What, Daniel? What's happened?" asked Cody.

"It's Javan. Teri thinks he's been killed." Cody gasped and grabbed Daniel's arm.


"She's so hysterical I can't be sure. She's headed to Radio Shack. Come on, let's go." Cody appeared light headed for a moment. "Cody? Are you OK?" Cody blinked his moisture laden eyes at Daniel.

"Javan. Dead?" Cody asked softly.

"I just don't know, Cody. We need to get to Teri right now. She's really upset. Once we get her calmed down, we'll get the story." Cody nodded. The boys got up from the couch and headed for the door. Cody snatched his keys from the table and helped Daniel out the front door.

The ride to Radio Shack was quiet. Neither boy said a word while all kinds of thoughts and visions went through their heads. Cody rounded the last corner and pulled into the parking lot. Teri's Mustang was parked directly in front of the store. Cody pulled the Jeep right alongside and shifted into park. Teri was out of her car in a flash. She pulled the passenger door open and grabbed Daniel. She was crying uncontrollably. Daniel held her tightly and slowly worked his way out of the front seat. Standing next to the Jeep, he held his best friend and whispered words to make her feel better.

"It's going to be OK, Teri. It's going to be OK," he said softly. Cody stood by with his hands in his pockets. Finally, Teri's sobbing came under control. She looked at Daniel and then at Cody.

"It was awful. Horrible!" she said. Her eyes were red, swollen, and wide open.

"Tell us what you saw, Teri," said Daniel. That brought on another round of uncontrollable tears. Daniel looked up at Cody. "We've got to go to Javan's." Cody nodded. Daniel and Cody helped Teri get into the backseat of the Jeep. Then Cody helped Daniel get in beside her. The ride to Javan's house took less than ten minutes. As they turned onto Javan's street, Cody carefully looked for any signs of a black SUV. He pulled the Jeep into Javan's driveway and noted that Javan's car wasn't there. He could see the marks left in the gravel driveway where Teri had sped away. Cody gently put the Jeep in park. Looking at the front door, Cody also saw that it was standing wide open.

"Daniel, the front door's open." Daniel looked up from the back seat and nodded.

"Teri, Cody and I are going inside. You wait here. We'll be right back."

"NO! Don't leave me!"

"We just want to see ..."

"No, Daniel. Don't leave me. Please!"

"We've got to go in and see."

"I'll go in with you, but I'm not going to look again."

"OK, let's go." Daniel looked up at Cody and nodded again. Cody quickly got out and opened the back door. He helped Daniel and Teri out and all three made their way toward the front door. Cody looked into the shadows first.

"Oh my God. This place has been trashed," he exclaimed. Daniel and Teri followed him inside. Daniel closed the door behind them. Teri was visibly shaking with fear.

"Linen closet. Look in the linen closet," she whispered. Daniel started toward the hall, but Teri refused to move. "I c-can't." Daniel smiled.

"It's OK. Cody and I are just gonna take a quick look. We'll be right back." Teri nodded, but was reluctant to release the death grip she had on Daniel's arm. "We'll be right back, Teri. I promise." Teri's lower lip quivered. Fear was written all over her face. Daniel had never before seen his best friend like this. Something upset her and he was going to find out what. He looked over at Cody. Cody's eyes were wide as well. Looking around at the destroyed furniture, Daniel felt himself getting ... not scared, but mad. He grabbed Cody by the arm and headed toward the hall. They stepped over a broken chair and walked down the hall toward the linen closet. Daniel reached his hand out and grabbed Cody's hand. They held on tightly to each other as they reached the closet door. Both boys stared at the door for a moment. Finally, Daniel took a deep breath.

"Here we go," he said quietly as he reached for the doorknob. Daniel noticed his fingers were trembling as he grabbed the cool metal. Turning the knob slowly, he found himself taking another deep breath and holding it. He pulled the door open.

Cody turned and puked. Daniel fell back against the wall, his eyes glued to the horror in front of him. There on the middle shelf, staring out at him, was Javan's severed head. A note had been nailed to his forehead.

"Give up the software," was all the note said. The anger that had risen in Daniel earlier returned with a vengeance. It coursed through his veins. He reached out to get the note, but something caught his eye. Upon closer inspection, he realized the truth.

"It's a fake," he said softly. Daniel turned to Cody who was looking the other way and wiping his mouth. "It's a fake. Cody! Look!" Daniel put his hand on Cody's shoulder. "Cody, look." Cody tentatively turned to see what Daniel was so excited about. "Watch this," said Daniel as he reached in and picked up the head. "It's plastic!"

"Somebody's idea of a fuckin' bad joke?"

"No, it's a message. I just don't know what this software is they keep asking for."

"Keep asking for? You've been asked for this software before?"

"Long story, but I want you to hear it."

"Believe me, I do."

"Come on," said Daniel as he carried the plastic head back toward the den and the anxiously waiting Teri. The scream was bloodcurdling! And the sound of Teri's body hitting the floor was worse. Daniel immediately tried to run to Teri, but his still recovering body wouldn't allow it. Cody beat him to her. Daniel put the plastic head on the floor and leaned down beside Teri.

"She just fainted, Daniel. Hell, I would have too if I thought you were carrying Javan's REAL head."

"Guess I kinda forgot about that." Teri's eyes fluttered.

"Looks like she's coming around."

"Teri," Daniel said softly. "Teri, are you OK?" She blinked her eyes open and looked up at Daniel.

"Yeah, I'm OK." She turned on her side to get up and was face to face with the plastic head. The scream that followed raised the hair on the back of Daniel's neck.

"Easy babe! It's a fake! It's plastic!" shouted Daniel "It's OK!" he said, this time much calmer. Teri glanced over at the head for just a half second then back up at Daniel.

"Plastic?" she asked. Daniel smiled and nodded. Teri's eyebrows narrowed. "Plastic? It's fuckin' plastic? Is this some sick-o-freak's idea of a joke? If I find the asshole that left that damn thing, I'll fuckin' wring their neck." Daniel started chuckling to himself. "You think this is funny? Damn it! Somebody is fuckin' with us and I don't like it one damn bit! Fuckin'-a-right I'm pissed! Nobody does this shit to me!" It was all Daniel and Cody could do to keep from laughing out loud. Teri continued her tirade all the way out to the Jeep. Tears were running down both Daniel and Cody's cheeks from laughing. The laughter came to an abrupt halt as they watched the big black SUV swing into the driveway.

"We're fucked," said Daniel.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

On to Chapter Five

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The Nineteenth Year is Copyright © 2008 by The Tarheel Writer.
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