Sara Fricke was in Natalia and Shasta’s class. Unlike her brother, she was quiet and rarely in trouble. At nine, she was afraid of what her brother’s friends could do to her. She knew that they were capable of anything.
But she was fairly lucky. They had not tried anything with her. She felt that part of it was because her brother wouldn’t allow it. But now, what little protection she’d had was now being taken away from her. Stanley was going away.
Her father had gone to the sheriff with something Stan had told him. The sheriff had taken him to Mr. Morrow and Mr. Folger. As a result, she was also being removed from school and being enrolled into home schooling. But Stan was being sent away. Something about making him responsible for his actions.
She knew that Stan and his friends did things that were wrong. She heard Stan crying every night, begging for forgiveness. For what, she had no clue. Whatever it was, it must have been pretty bad.
He muttered the names of girls. He whispered names of little kids, some of whom she knew. He mumbled about buildings, businesses, as if he’d done something there. Had he done something awful? Was that why their father was doing what he was doing?
Whatever was going on, her father loved her enough to try his best to protect her. He was willing to do whatever it took to keep her away from those who would harm her. She was the only child he would have left once Stanley was gone. She felt bad for him.
Poor Stanley. Poor Daddy. Poor Mama. It made her sad to think about how this was affecting them.
It was affecting her, too. She wasn’t losing just her brother. She was losing her friends too. Especially Natalia Morrow. She liked both Morrow girls, but Nattie was her favorite.
Nattie was like the sister she never had. She was always kind and always quick to help her if she was stuck on an assignment. Nattie even picked her for her teams at recess. And she stood up for the others.
Natalia sat in the dining room. Things were changing. Sara Fricke was no longer going to be in school. Something Stanley had done had changed everything. Or was it something he’d said?
Shasta patted her on the shoulder as she walked by. “Everything will be alright.”
She smiled. “I know. But what happened?”
Shasta looked at her sister. “You remember what Marina was saying last night? About Toby and the boys that hang around with him?”
Natalia nodded. “Yes.”
Shasta sat down beside her. “From what I overheard this morning, it has a lot to do with that. Stanley admitted that they were doing those things.”
“Oh God,” Natalia muttered.
Shasta looked away. “I know. I can imagine what this news is going to do to Marina.”
Marina entered the room. “What news?”
Shasta motioned for her to take a seat. “I overheard a conversation between our fathers, sheriff Wycross, and Mr. Fricke about Stanley. Seems Stanley made the confession of doing some really horrible things. They were all discussing what they should do about him. Your father advised them to send him away.”
Marina tried to smile. “They will have to, for his safety. Now that he has admitted to it, Toby will be out to silence him any way he can.”
Shasta looked at her. “You don’t seem happy.”
Marina looked away. “I will never be happy until Toby is put away. As long as he is roaming the streets, no one is safe. Stanley, at least, tried to get them not to do most of it. But he was silenced by Toby. Called weak. A coward.”
The horror was finally out in the open. Not what had been done to Marina per se, but the truth. Stanley was willing to end his freedom for things he tried so hard to prevent. Things he ended up doing anyway to silence Tobias. Things that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
Michael, Frank and John returned to the hospital. Michael and Frank wanted to find out just how terrible the crimes had been. Had they been initiations? Had they been spur of the moment? What was the full story?
What they would learn would make them sick. At the same time, it would give them full insight on how Tobias French’s mind worked–and ultimately how Toffer’s worked.
Frank, being the lawyer, sat where John would have normally been as the father, next to the bed. Stanley’s eyes glazed over at the sight of him. Frank smiled reassuringly. “You don’t have to worry, Stanley. I no longer work for Toby’s father. I left his employ yesterday. Who knows which hungry newly minted law hawk they got to replace me. I am working with your father and Michael, here, to do what is right. I need to know everything. ”
Stanley looked nervously at him. “Like what?”
Frank gathered himself. “Were the crimes used as an initiation of sorts? Were they spontaneous? Were there certain prepicked victims? Things like that.”
Stanley took a breath. “Some, like your daughter, Toby picked beforehand. Same with all the girls. They were prepicked. Targets from the word go. Simply because they were girls and he thought no one would believe them.
“The littler kids were spontaneous. As were some of the adults. The 47 were targeted because they were a mixed group. We shouldn’t have, but Toby thought they were scared of him.
“The businesses were a mix of prepicked and spontaneous. But the businesses were the initiation, as were the fires that were lit.”
Frank looked at him. “What was your part in this? Were you willing? Or reluctant?” He pushed gently, professionally.
Stanley looked him in the eye. “I was reluctant. Against it. I didn’t like what he was doing. I tried to stop it, but was powerless to do so. He forced me to do things just to prove my loyalty.”
Frank smiled. “Would you testify in court if we could put you where you’d be safe?”
Stanley’s fear was evident. “Jail?”
Frank shook his head. “No. We would see to it that you were far from here and far from the reach of the French family. A safe house, under guard. You might have to change your name for a while, though.”
The youth looked at him. “Can you find a way to help me get rid of the nightmares?”
Frank drew in a breath, then nodded. “We can try. But if you cooperate, it will be the first step in getting rid of them. I promise.”
Stanley nodded. “Then I’ll do it. Just get me as far from here as you can. Please.”