The Little Pipsqueak

© 2012-2013 Matthew Templar

This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

This story is copyrighted by Matthew Templar, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.

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Chapter Forty-two

The car moved away from the junction of the two country roads when two boys came out of the house. It's driver decided to drive to the spot he'd pinpointed before, waiting for just the right moment. After all, in this area, an Audi would be conspicuous. When he got to the place where he usually waited he saw a young boy about to go into the store. He saw it as a great opportunity.

"See you after later, El. Just come right over. We'll still be there if you survive your ride."

"Thanks, Daniel, but, heh, it isn't the ride that will do me in."

With that they parted at the end of the driveway, the boy on his bike making good time toward his goal. The other boy just moseyed along to his great grampa's place without a care in the world.

Elliot's ride was exhausting that day. Though early in the morning, it was already getting warm out and he was sweating quite a lot. He had two different routes that took him in separate directions, just for variety. The ten miles he rode that day took him past several neighbors' farms and up to the small store at the junction that led to the city. It marked the far end of his ride, the place where he usually turned to start back home.

He grinned to himself when he thought about his new home and a loving family. It was the first time he could ever remember that he wanted to be home, surrounded, finally, by people that loved him. He laughed when he thought of the parties they'd all just enjoyed. Something he thought of made him laugh so hard he almost lost his balance and fell off the bike. Then he realized that he had never laughed so hard as just then. It was truly wonderful.

As Elliot approached the store, a kid from his school was waving at him. He wasn't a friend; Elliot had none at their school except Daniel. So, he almost didn't stop.

"Hey, slow up, hair-brain. I need to give you this," the kid shouted, holding up something in his hand.

Elliot stopped and waited for the boy to approach him. The kid literally threw something white at Elliot, barely slowing down as he passed him in a big circle.

"Elliot, some guy said to give this to you. What a creep. He almost knocked me off my bike. But he gave me ten bucks. Not bad, I'd say," the kid boasted as he turned and pedaled away. "Nice car, too."

Stooping down, Elliot picked up the envelope. It was an ordinary legal sized envelope with no writing on the outside. He ripped one end off and pulled out a plain piece of white paper with three sentences on it.

'I'll be coming for you. It's either you or the McGills. Don't do something stupid that will put their lives at risk.'

He gasped when he read those words. He looked over his shoulder toward his new home and, with tears in his eyes, rode the other way.

The drive to the doctor's office started out to be a very quiet ride. Soon, I couldn't stand the silence that was so unlike my little guy, sitting as close as he could, next to me.

"How are you feeling, AJ?"

"Dad, that's 'bout the fortieth time you've asked me this morning."

"Oh, AJ, I'm sorry but I worry about you so much when you aren't your chipper self; when you don't feel well."

"'Kay. I, uh, I feel okay for now. It's just sleepin' and then when I do stuff; almost anything anymore. Everything makes me tired. Dad, who is gonna be my doctor and what's he gonna do to me?"

As he said that he turned to me and looked very serious. He was obviously as worried as we all were for him.

"Well, we were lucky enough to get Dr. Strauss, Tyler's doctor. Do you remember him?"

"Oh, yeah. Good. Thanks, Dad. I liked him." AJ leaned back into the seat and gave a sigh of relief. I'm glad I was able to get someone he was already familiar with.

"He liked you too. He thought you were far from shy when you two met. I suppose he'll do a lot of poking with his finger asking if this hurts or does this."

"He will? Why's he gonna do that?"

"Well, that will give him an idea of what's bothering you. He'll also have you sit up and breathe deep while he listens to your lungs with a stethoscope and then to your heart to make sure it's still ticking away."

"Da-ad!" said my boy with one of the best smiles, though weak, that I'd seen in a while.

It didn't make me smile when I thought of the seriousness of that sentence. I just hoped AJ didn't sense that in me.

"Then what?"

"Well, since we're here, we'll find out in a few minutes, okay?"

"Oh, um, well, okay I guess then."

Dr. Strauss' office was next to the hospital in the city. It didn't take any time to find his suite. AJ was a little reluctant to go in, of course. As far as I knew it would be his first time in a doctor's office for his own reasons, not someone else's.

The receptionist was pleasant enough, handing me a form to fill out and pointing to several chairs that lined the wall of the waiting room. There was only one other family there, what I assumed was a mom, a boy about AJ's age and a much younger one that kept by his mom with his hands on her knees, obviously new enough at walking that he wasn't about to let go for long. There was one other young lady there who smiled at us when we entered. She was reading one of the magazines from the stack on the end table next to her.

The boy that was AJ's age was looking through the same stack and finally tossed down the top magazine and looked over at his mom.

"There's nothing for me to read here, Mother. It seems," he said, in almost a sneer, looking toward the receptionist, "that they only care about the parents who are paying the bills." With that he sulked over and plopped down next to his mother, knocking her magazine out of one hand with his elbow.

"Simon Burrows! Shame on you!" She looked up at the receptionist and started to apologize.

"Think nothing of it, Mrs. Burrows. I'll just put his attitude into his record so the doctor can deal with him when he decides where the injections will go." Her smile at the boy could have taken paint off.

The boy immediately sat up in his chair and leaned into his mother. His mother as we all were, except AJ, was trying her best to keep from laughing out loud, by the look of her.

"Mother, are you going to let her talk about me like that?" said the boy, no less frightened looking.

"Well, yes, Simon. I am. You were very rude, young man. In fact, I'll be going in with you to make sure the doctor knows how much you like shots," she said, poking the boy as close to his butt as she could since he was sitting on it.

"You're not really. Going in with me?"

"Of course. We wouldn't want the doctor to deviate from a full examination, would we, son?"

The boy looked to be in sheer panic mode.

Meanwhile AJ had attached himself to my arm and was whispering, "Dad, is she really?" He was not smiling.

"Simon," said Mrs. Burrows, finally, calmly, "You don't have to worry. There shouldn't be anything that requires a shot and I would never suggest that the doctor hurt you if there was any way to prevent it. You should know me well enough by now."

"Okay," said a much quieter, respectful boy to his mother.

"But, I want you to go up and apologize to Nurse Denton. You were very rude and accusatory to her."

He snapped his head up and looked as frightened as before. He'd just opened his mouth when his mother touched his lips.

"Yes, you do have to. Now, please."

He did go up to make an act of repentance and then stood there talking with Nurse Denton for a while.

I looked down at AJ, who seemed mesmerized by the whole display, then he looked up at me and smiled.

Simon walked back to his mom with a great smile.

"Mother, she said she'd ask both doctors if it was okay with them to order a subscription or two just for children. Isn't that wonderful?"

"It is wonderful, Simon. Now, see what good behavior can grant you?"

"Yes, Mother. Thank you for reminding me. I asked that one of them be The New Yorker."

"Oh my, Simon," she said laughing, "You are your father's boy you know."

At just that moment a young boy ran from the door that opened next to the receptionist window and practically jumped into his mother's lap.

Behind him, a nurse walked up to the boy's mom holding what appeared to be a prescription.

"Okay, apply this salve twice a day, Mrs. Wallace, right on the rash. The doctor said it isn't uncommon to see this crop up this time of year. Your son may be developing some allergies. We'll monitor it and see if there seems to be any more making their way into his system."

"Oh, thank you, nurse. We'll call if something shows up or this doesn't go away. His daddy has some allergies. Maybe that's where he gets them."

She gathered up her purse and walked up to the receptionist's window with her son.

"Simon, are you ready to see Dr. Barton?" the nurse asked.

"Ye-es, Ma-am," answered a reluctant boy.

He started for the door and then turned and signaled with his hand for his mother to come as well.

"No, Simon. You're big enough to be on your own. It's just routine anyway. They just want to make sure your cut is healing properly. I told you that."

"And no more shots?" Simon asked, turning from his mother toward the nurse with a hopeful expression.

"No more shots, Simon," the nurse assured him. "You've been through quite enough, and did it all quite bravely I might add."

Simon then walked through the door with his head held high, as proud as he could be.

"Best behavior, Son," said his mother as the door closed.

She had just turned to me and said, "That boy. Some times . . ."

But the door opened and another nurse came out and called, "Andrew James?"

"Come on, Dad. You are comin', right?"

"Absolutely, son. You can count on me."

I got a nice smile for that, mixed with a generous helping of relief, as we followed the nurse into the hallway beyond the door. I only had to push AJ a little to get him to go through that first door.

Before we got very far the nurse pointed to a scale and asked AJ to step onto it. She recorded his weight, then had him stand up straight to record his height with a measuring stick attached to the scale and an arm that rested on his head to give a level reading. She had to tell AJ to quit looking up at it until she was done taking his measurement.

We were shown into a typical examination room which had a few chairs along two walls, a counter with a small sink and a laptop on one side. In the center of the room was the padded examination table with its required roll of paper down the middle and a small pillow on the high end.

AJ quickly became fascinated with the huge device and all its handles and gadgets until the nurse asked him to sit on the end of it. She pulled out a step from under it and patted the place where she wanted AJ to sit. AJ was quick to hop up on the neat contraption in front of him and was unaware of anything else until the nurse approached him with a huge black piece of rubber strapping on the end of a hose that went to the wall under a big clock-like thing.

"Um, Dad?"

"Oh, uh, nurse, this is AJ's first time ever in a doctor's office so could you explain what it is you're going to do so he can relax a little."

"Oh, of course, Mr. McGill. AJ, I'm about to take your blood pressure. This strap goes around your arm. Hold out your arm and I'll show you."

AJ wasn't totally sure he wanted to give up his arm but he did stretch it out a bit. The nurse pulled it a bit to straighten it while AJ looked on wide-eyed.

"AJ, sweetie, this is the easiest part. It doesn't hurt at all and feels kind of neat. I think you'll agree."

He looked up at me and it wasn't a look that told me he was ready to agree with her yet.

"Now just relax."

She wrapped the arm band around his arm and started to squeeze the bulb, admitting air into the band.

"What's that do-o-o-o? Oh, weird," said AJ.

"Okay, honey, I have to pump it up until it's a little tighter and then, when I let the air out, see if you can feel your arm kind of pulse which is your heartbeat."

"'Kay," answered AJ, a little more calm and a lot more interested.

"O-o-oh, wow. It does feel weird. Dad, you gotta try this."

"Alright, AJ," the nurse told him, "Just try to relax."

In a few seconds she had his blood pressure recorded into the computer. She looked over at me with concern on her face. She then looked over at AJ, smiled and told him how well he did.

"AJ, the doctor will be in shortly," she started, taking the strap off his arm and putting it away. "He's going to check you all over. He'll start with hearing your heartbeat and how your lungs sound to him. He'll be doing some more things and I just know that nothing he does will hurt. Um, but I will have to draw some blood from your arm when the doctor is through examining you."

"Huh? But you said it wouldn't hurt." AJ was quickly swinging his head back and forth between me and the nurse, looking a bit desperate.

The nurse stepped a little closer to AJ, quickly pulled out his arm again and poked him in the crux of his elbow.

"Ouch! Hey! What's that for?" he asked, rubbing his arm.

"Did it really hurt too bad, AJ?" she asked.

"Um no, it more like scared me. No, it didn't hurt too much I s'pose." He let his arm fall to show that the pain had gone.

"Well, that's all you'll feel when I take your blood. I promise it won't hurt any more than that," she said with a warm smile.

"Oh, um, 'kay I guess."

"So, it has to be done and together we'll make it as easy as possible for you, okay?"

"I s'pose."

"And AJ, she'll put a Band-Aid over a piece of cotton on it so when you get home you'll get lots of sympathy from your brothers. Cool, huh?" I added.

"Well, if I hafta, I hafta."

I don't think he was too convinced yet.

"AJ, Dr. Strauss will be with you in a minute. I need you to take off your shirt. If you're cold you can wear this," she said, holding out a printed johnnie. "I have to tell you, you'll probably be down to your underwear before he lets you out of here."

She made it sound like something horrible but AJ didn't seem to care about that part of the plan. He just started to undress in front of her.

"Um, he's not too bashful about his body, ma'am," I offered.

"Ha, no, I can see that. I'll be going, but I have a date with you in a few minutes, young man," she said in a sing-song voice as she slipped out of the door.

"Dad, should I just undress all the way to my shorts if he's gonna need me to anyway?" he asked, pulling his t-shirt over his head.

"No, pardner, leave 'em on and we'll get to that in just a bit if we need to," said Dr. Strauss as he came through the open door.

We both turned to see Dr. Strauss enter and walk up to AJ, holding out his hand. AJ shook it and smiled up at the doctor.

"Good morning, Tim and AJ. It's good to see you both again. I'm sure we can figure out what's going on and send you home with a pill or something to make you feel better, AJ."

With that, he sat at the computer and looked over the information that the nurse had left on the screen. In just a few seconds he turned toward AJ.

"Well, it seems that most of your readings are pretty good. They could stand to be a little stronger." Then he turned to look at me as he continued, "Usually, when a child comes in they're nervous enough at first that their blood pressure is pretty high. AJ's, however, is a little below normal. That's not unheard of but we'll see if it has any bearing on what's going on.

"Now, AJ, first of all, why don't you jump up on the examination table and get comfortable."

AJ again sat up at the end of the table and put his hands on his knees.

"Good. Now, I've found that the person that knows the most about what's been happening is the patient."

AJ looked at both of us while pointing a finger at his chest.

"Yup, that would be you. So, try to explain as clearly and in as much detail as you can what kinds of things you've noticed lately."

"Um, 'kay, well, I feel really tired a lot. Oh, and sometimes when I stand up real fast-like I get this dizzy feeling in my head. I had to sit back down the last time it happened. I was afraid I'd fall over," he said with a shy laughter in his voice, almost like he was apologetic.

"You've had those feelings more than once?" asked Dr. Strauss. "About how often would you say?"

"Oh, mostly every time I get out of bed, but now they happen at least maybe once a day more than that, sometimes two times more, though."

I noticed that AJ sounded more serious and his facial expression suggested that he was adding up things in his head that didn't bode well as a whole for him.

"AJ, Nurse Emily mentioned poking your arm, didn't she?" asked the doctor.

"Yeah. That gonna happen now?" AJ asked but he looked at me, almost pleading.

"Yes. I'm sorry but I really need to see what's happening in there and your blood can tell me a lot. We want to get you feeling better, right?" he asked my boy enthusiastically.

"Okay, I guess." Unfortunately, AJ didn't sound as enthusiastic.

"Tell you what. I'll be doing the thumping and listening to your chest and stuff, even poking around myself to see if your organs are still there."

"Really?" asked a wide-eyed boy.

"Of course they're still there, silly. I want to make sure they're working properly. Anyway, that will distract you from what Nurse Emily is doing. I don't think you'll feel anything. Oh, maybe a little tug or something."

With that said, he opened the door and asked the nurse to prepare for a blood sample. She came in a few minutes later with a small tray of instruments and set them close to the examination table.

"Nurse, why don't you prepare him and then, before you get too serious I'll begin the examination of his body. That should help distract him."

"Wonderful idea, Doctor."

Nurse Emily and Dr. Strauss helped AJ lie back on the table with the pillow under his head. Then the nurse checked each of AJ's arms to see if one was a better donor than the other. Making a decision, she wrapped a piece of rubber around his upper arm and swabbed his artery with an alcohol pad.

As she was doing that, Dr. Strauss started to do his thumping, being sure that AJ's attention was fixed on what he was doing, not the nurse's activities. Dr. Strauss explained some of what he was doing, which helped distract AJ's attention.

I was surprised at how well it worked out. AJ was busy enough with Doctor Strauss that he barely winced a little when he felt the prick in his arm. He began to look over at his arm but Dr. Strauss quickly averted his attention once again, even tickling him once.

"Hey, you two! Quit moving around before I poke myself," said an indignant nurse, though trying to sound fierce instead of laughing like she wanted to do.

"Oops! AJ, you're getting me in trouble, you know," said the doctor with a worried look.

"Oh, that's okay. I'd be glad to leave so you don't get in anymore trouble," answered my boy with a hopeful smile.

"Ha! Good one, young man. Ain't gonna happen though; at least not for a few minutes."

"All done up here," the nurse said, swabbing AJ's arm and taping a small wad of cotton to protect his new wound.

She finished up and the doctor finished poking about every part of AJ, asking him once in a while, if he left any tenderness. Mostly, AJ said he didn't feel much of anything. Then Dr. Strauss noticed his eyes.

"Tim, how long has his eyes had that yellow tinge to them?"

"I just noticed it the other day, doc. It didn't seem too bad; about the same as now. What does it mean?"

"Well, it can mean a number of things. Luckily, they usually aren't too serious and treatable for the most part. Sometimes it can mean jaundice, which is caused by too much Bilirubin in the system. We'll be able to see when the blood tests come out in a couple of days. Until then, just keep him quiet and relaxed. I'll have you back here in say three days. I'll know more by then, but it may just pass by then."

Then he turned to AJ.

"All done, AJ. You did really well. Hop on down and you can get your t-shirt back on now."

A big smile appeared on my little guy's face as the good doctor swung around to enter some more details into the laptop.

AJ sat up and quickly pushed himself off of the examining table and stood straight up, then he got a weird look in his eyes and they seemed to roll to the back of his head as his lids slowly closed. It would have been almost comical in a classical way if I hadn't been so worried up to that point, but his legs began to give out and he was surely destined for a Tim McGill trip to the floor (Fainting!). I reached out and grabbed him under his armpits before he got too far.

The doctor jerked around and helped to grab the boy.

"Let's get him back up on the table, Tim. Will you call out for a nurse, please?" he said as we laid my little one on the paper covered bed.

"Nurse! Can you come in here quickly, please," I asked after going out into the hall. Luckily she was close by.

"Whoa! What happened? That was the best one yet!" said AJ, coming around to greet us, trying to raise his head off of the thin pillow.

"Hold on there, cowpoke," said the doctor, half laughing at AJ's attempts to make sense about what he'd just experienced, almost as if nothing had happened out of the ordinary. "Just lie there while we do a few more tests, buddy. It won't take long."

"Wow! I don't think I could sit up anyway."

The nurse quickly had him strapped into the blood pressure sleeve and was pumping away. The doctor raised his stethoscope to his ears and took the bulb from the nurse to continue the test.

After what seemed like the longest test ever, he took another few seconds to listen to the boy's heartbeat and a few other places. He turned to me with a very concerned look, then he turned to the nurse and whispered something I couldn't hear. He then looked again at me and called to the nurse as she was closing the door behind her,

"And please call the children's ward, Emily. They are about to have a new patient."

'Ah, there he is. It took him long enough,' he said as the boy came racing up the road right toward the parked Audi.

The man had picked a site at the top of a fairly steep hill so the boy would be at his most vulnerable. After all, he'd done this before at least twice.

'Well, this couldn't get much easier,' said the man, quickly looking to see if there were any spectators to what he was about to do.

As Elliot approached the car to maneuver around it, the man simply opened his door making Elliot slam into it.

"Hey! O-o-ow. Whadya think . . .?"

"You had better not have ripped this interior, brat. I'm not getting that much for this little fun. Now, come with me."

He scooped up Elliot before the boy knew what was happening. He literally threw the boy into the passenger seat and took off.

What he failed to see was the kid that he'd paid, barely half an hour before, come riding to the top of the hill just as the man threw Elliot in the car. The only thing left was Elliot's bike on the road where it lay with a bent front wheel.

"Elliot? Shit! What have I done?"

He immediately turned and raced down the hill, unfortunately, never thinking to get the license number of the nice new white Audi as it drove away.

It was almost noon by the time Jeffy got home from Jeb's. We were at the hospital and Elliot, well . . .

"Hey! Where is everybody?" the boy shouted. "Elliot, why didn't you come over?"

No answer.

Jeffy went to the garage, not so much to put his bike away without being told to, but more to see if Elliot's was there. He saw mine and AJ's but that was all.

'Heh! Probably fainted from ridin' so long. It's getting' hot out.'

He walked back into the kitchen and was rummaging for something in the fridge when the phone rang.

"McGill residence. Daniel Jeffrey speaking." He figured that would cover whoever knew him by either name. Luckily, the caller, me, knew him pretty well.

"Jeffy, we've got a bit of a situation here."

"Who? I mean, where are you?"

"I took AJ for his doctor's appointment. He fainted toward the last of the exam and Dr. Strauss admitted him into the hospital. We aren't gonna be home for a while."

"Pop, Pop, is he gonna be okay?" asked a frenzied boy of his little brother.

"Well, I hope so. Thing is, they don't know what's going on. They're doing more tests, then they're going to take him downstairs to do MRI and CAT scans. I wish I knew more but I don't."

"Pop, I don't like that. What can I do?"

"Can you and Elliot make yourselves lunch and maybe even dinner? I should be back before then, I'm pretty sure, but just in case. I may even have the pipsqueak with me."

"But Pop, Elliot hasn't come back from his bike ride yet. He never got over to great grampa's to help . . ."

I could hear the doorbell in the background.

"Oh man! Hold on, Pop. Don't go. Someone's at the door." He must have turned to yell, "I'm coming!"

I heard the phone drop onto the counter, then steps toward the front door. In a few seconds I heard mumbling from someone that I didn't recognize, nor could I understand what they were saying.

"What? What do you mean?" shouted Jeffy.

That I heard clearly.

More mumbling, almost like whoever was talking was too shy to say whatever they were talking about.

"You did what? Oh man. Show me where you were! Show me right now where the guy took him from!" shouted Jeffy.

Then I heard the sound of the front door slamming shut and I was left connected to the kitchen phone with no one on the other end.

Then it dawned on me! 'Take him?' I did hear that, didn't I?

I hung up my cell but it took a few seconds for the line to go free since it was still connected when I pushed 'Talk'. I dialed as soon as I could.

'Come on, Dan, answer the damn phone!'

End of Chapter Forty-two

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