“It’s a bust!” someone cries out…and thus starts a series of adventures for thirteen year-old Reason Nelson that takes him into the dark world of drugs and serious crime.
Based on the actual unsolved murder of a real-life narc, this is the heart-tugging story of how Reason copes with the attraction and subsequent addition of alcohol and drugs.
Written from personal experiences, this is a must reading for anyone who is fourteen, was fourteen, or will be fourteen.
Individuals looking for more information about becoming a partner in publishing this book, ordering a copy, or advertising your business in conjunction with a new printing, should check out the PDF Information Sheet.
The party ended when a drunken boy shouted, “It’s a bust!”
A moment later, a company of cops stormed the house. Several kids inside the living room were so wasted they simply stared at the flashlight beams shimmering through clouds of pot smoke drifting in the air. Several other beer-chugging boys belched like frogs and laughed like lunatics as they plowed into a liquor cabinet, sending it crashing to the hardwood floor. Two other kids trampled over the cabinet’s broken bottles, and glass shards crunched beneath their feet, sounding like gunshots.
Startled by the loud pops and convinced that the cops were shooting at him, thirteen-year-old Reason Nelson snatched up his black leather jacket and fled down a narrow hallway. Three strides later, the long-haired, little kid kicked over a case of beer, spilling cans across the floor in front of him.
Beer cans spinning beneath his feet, Reason fought hard to keep his balance. But he was so ripped on the Everclear and THC coursing through his system that it was not easy to do. For long moments, small, shaggy-haired Reason looked like he was per-forming a bizarre version of Riverdance. He kicked. Stomped. Shuffled. Then plowed through the hissing cans. Until finally, he fell down, his leather jacket flying from his grasp.
Reason’s black shirt and jeans made him practically invisible there in the hallway, but as he reached down to pick up his jacket, the white Harley emblem on his shirt flashed in the shadows, catching the attention of a black detective two feet away. Detective Shepherd latched onto Reason, when suddenly, a large, muscular black man came hurtling into both of them. The detective and the man went down in a tangle of arms and legs, sending Reason crashing into the wall behind him.
Scooping up the leather jacket beside him, Reason scrambled back to his feet and darted into the kitchen. Swinging the jacket up and holding it like a shield, he hurled himself through a screen door and tumbled off the porch beyond. He landed in front of a Rottweiler chained to a doghouse.
Gasping in alarm, Reason threw up his hands to protect himself, but the huge dog merely glanced at him and continued to gnaw on his bone. Sighing in relief, Reason latched onto the jacket and scrambled into the doghouse.
Back inside the house, Detective Shepherd lost his grip on the large man. “Brooks!” he shouted. “Stop, you’re under arrest!”
But Brooks darted past him and through the mangled screen door. Two steps later, the Rott lunged at him, grazing the crotch of his pants with his teeth. Brooks leaped back, directly into the detective’s flying tackle. They fell in front of the dog.
Brooks came to his feet, a gun in his hand, and even as Shepherd sprang up and latched onto him, a fiery blast erupted from the muzzle of his pistol. Four more bullets passed through the air as Brooks repeatedly pulled the trigger.
The Rott bolted into his doghouse and slammed into Reason.
Stunned by the impact, Reason heard the thwacks! of the bullets plowing into the wood directly above his head. He then sank down beside the cowering dog and promptly passed out.
In the yard, Brooks poked Shepherd hard in the gut with the barrel of his gun, dropping him to his knees. Sprinting past the fallen detective, Brooks then vanished into the night.
Two hours later, Reason began to slowly come back to life. Small and scrawny as he was, the alcohol had royally kicked his butt, leaving the long-haired little kid fairly toasted. A deep dimple creased his chin and he scrunched up his freckle-spattered nose. He then sneezed, and awoke to find himself gazing at the Rottweiler. The dog stared at him, then gave him a friendly sniff.
Suddenly, golden light streamed through the bullet holes in the wall of the doghouse, grazing Reason’s face.
“Reason?” came from the yard outside. “Reason?”
Carefully pushing the dog out of his way, Reason crawled out through the door, dragging the jacket with him. The dog growled at the black-haired kid shining a flashlight into Reason’s eyes. “Reason!” the boy yelled. “I’ve been looking all over for you!”
Reason said, “Not so loud, Vince. Don’t rile the dog.”
Vince skidded to a stop ten feet away, his long, black hair curling up on the collar of his flannel shirt. “You need to get home! The party here at Walker’s got busted tonight! Everyone got arrested, except you! Randy and the Colverts think you narced!”
Hardly believing he was serious about something so absurd, Reason said, “Me? A narc? Get real!”
“Just go!” Vince said. “Get on my bike and ride like hell for your house, Reason! I’ll meet up with you later.”
Baffled by his attitude, Reason patted the dog one last time, then joined Vince in the alley. “Just chill. Take some Ritalin or something, and settle down, Vince.”
Reason Nelson and Vince Kelly had started first grade together, their antics bonding them in a strange way. They ended this last year at elementary school, expelled for staging a fire extinguisher fight, and as they entered seventh grade, the boys had been arrested for driving carts into a pond at a local golf course. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time the juvenile judge had dealt with them, and after this latest incident, he had sentenced them to probation.
The boys lived in a small suburb of Lincoln, Nebraska, called Havelock. In its early days, Havelock had been a bustling railroad town for the Burlington. In their time, the area housed a lot of rowdy juveniles that they found them-selves attracted to. They hung out together at Havelock Park. It was there one hot summer night that they’d been introduced to their first joint. Which is where their current troubles started. And little did they know, things were going to get worse.
Shivering in the chill night air, Reason slipped on the leather jacket, noticing at once that the sleeves were too long.
As they neared the end of the alley, Vince became even more insistent, saying, “Just take my bike and go, Reason!”
It was then that Reason stopped to examine the long sleeves of the jacket. The leather jacket he’d taken to the party fit him perfectly. The one he now had on was three sizes too large and looked to be fairly new. Reason slipped out of it, wondering whose jacket he’d picked up in all the chaos.
He searched the pockets, thinking they might have money in them. In the first, he dug his fingers inside to find it empty. In the second pocket, how-ever, he discovered a small blue key.
“Let me see that,” Vince said, reaching out to grab it.
Instinctively, Reason withdrew his hand, and fumbled and dropped the key. He cursed as it bounced in the street and vanished into the mouth of a nearby drain sewer.
Focusing on the manhole situated in the grass next to the street, Reason dropped the jacket beside it. Stabbing his middle finger into the small hole of the heavy, metal cover, he said, “Help me lift this, Vince. It weighs a ton!”
“Oh, hell!” Vince cried. “It’s Randy!”
Glancing back at the three older boys stepping out of the alley behind them, Reason quickly rose to his feet.
Tall, lanky Randy Farnbrook, with his short-cropped blond hair and pimply face, was a major bully who had made Reason’s years at elementary school a living hell. The other two boys, Dan and Monty Colvert, were large, stocky twin brothers who followed Randy like obedient guard dogs.
Without warning, Randy struck Reason on the chin. The sudden blow caused him to reel backwards, directly into Dan and Monty.
“What’s the going rate for a narc?” Randy asked, his bad breath invading Reason’s nostrils. “How much did the cops pay you?”
Stunned by the blow to his chin, Reason said nothing.
Randy snarled, “Walker’s party got busted tonight! The only one that didn’t get arrested was you! I say you narced for the cops! You big pussy! Just admit it! How much did they pay you?”
“Randy,” Vince said, “just leave him alone!”
As Randy glanced back at Vince, Reason rammed Monty in the gut with an elbow, and then threw a rapid-fire punch at Randy, sending him staggering into the street with a bloody nose. Reason then snatched up Vince’s bike and hopped on the seat. “Just go, Reason!” Vince whispered.
Nodding at him, Reason swiftly pedaled away, setting his sights on the ball-field of Ballard Park three blocks ahead of him.
When Reason drew even with Ballard, he stomped hard on the brakes, causing a spray of gravel to pepper the park’s metal sign beyond the street. Thoroughly liking the plinks of the gravel bits striking the metal, Reason leaned the bike against the curb, intending to vent his rage on the park sign by hammering on it with his fists.
“Narc!” he yelled instead, flexing his knuckles that were still sore from punching Randy in the nose. “Sure, I ditched the cops! But what was I sup-posed to do? Stay there and get arrested?”
Tires screeched from the street behind him.
Reason looked back to see a green Thunderbird pulling up to the curb. The car’s front bumper struck Vince’s bike, sending it sailing through the air. As the bike crashed to the ground thirty feet away, the car stopped and an older kid madly clawed at his door handle to exit the vehicle.
Reason darted toward Ballard Park.
Bolting onto the ballfield, he passed through the chalk lines of the diamond etched in the dirt, leaving tiny puffs of white dust trailing behind him. He ran the length of the field and hastily scaled the tall chain-link fence blocking his path on the opposite side. He then plummeted to the ground, cursing in frustration as the Thunderbird screeched to a stop in the parking lot in front of him.
The driver immediately climbed out of the car and approached Reason. The beefy, older teen casually walked over and placed the tip of a pocket knife against Reason’s left cheek. “You the little punk who narced?” he asked.
Grinning, he poked the tip of his knife into Reason’s cheek.
Reason flinched and tears trickled down his face, seeping into the shallow cut. At the sight of his own blood on the knife, he stood there in a daze, barely listening to the guy rant about him narcing on Walker’s party. The older boy then slapped him, forcing him to drop to his knees. Reason doubled over, fully expecting to be attacked, but instead spotted a blue Continental coming across the ballfield parking lot. The car glided up beside the Thunderbird and a huge black man stepped out, armed with a shotgun. “Move on, Wolfe!” he ordered.
Backing away from the large man, Wolfe said, “But Walker sent me to find him.”
“Now I found him,” the man said. “So go away, Wolfman.”
Wolfe wisely backed off and walked back to his Thunderbird. He didn’t even glance back as he drove away down the street.
Lowering his shotgun, the man walked over to Reason. “Little white dude,” he asked, “is your name Reason Nelson?”
Pulling himself to his feet, Reason said, “Who wants to know?”
“Brooks,” the man said, casually. “Ever heard of me?”
“Yeah,” Reason said, wiping blood from his cheek with the back of one hand. “Kids say you’re the biggest dealer in T-town. They say that you caught two other dealers selling drugs in T-town, and that you shoved them into a garbage truck and turned on the trash compactor. Kids say that you just stood there and laughed when those guys started screaming and getting crunched.”
“Oh,” Brooks said. “Do I look that threatening to you?”
Trying not to flinch as he met the man’s fierce gaze, Reason said, “No. Maybe. I don’t know. Why you asking me all this?”
Brooks smiled. “No need to get all fidgety on me. But I’m glad you know who I am. You see, I was at Walker’s party when that bust went down.”
“I didn’t narc!” Reason firmly declared.
Still smiling, Brooks said, “Walker claims you were at his party, but didn’t see you after the bust went down.”
Reason lied, “It wasn’t me.”
“Walker says it was,” Brooks said. “In all that chaos tonight, I lost my leather jacket. When I went back to Walker’s to get it, he gave me another jacket that was too small to be mine. I’d say our jackets got swapped and you ended up with mine.”
Reason said, “I was too busy running from cops to worry about my jacket. But I know most of the stoners from the party, so I could ask around for you. Any chance of a finder’s fee?”
“Finder’s fee?” Brooks snapped. “Yeah, fifty bucks. But you need to come with me and we’ll go look for it.”
“No,” Reason said. “I’ll just find out who took your jacket, then snag it and take it over to Walker. Okay?”
“Kid,” Brooks warned, tapping the barrel of his shotgun with one finger. “Don’t play games with me.”
Alarmed by the hostility he saw in the man’s eyes, Reason was just thinking how much it would hurt to be crushed in a trash compactor, when three bikers came roaring into the parking lot.
“Damn!” Brooks spat in disgust as the three men parked their Harleys beside his car.
Reason decided that their business with Brooks had nothing to do with him. He waited until Brooks began talking to the men, then casually stood up. “Kid,” Brooks said, glancing back at him. “Stay put. I ain’t through with you yet.”
But the moment Brooks turned back to exchange heated words with the three bikers, Reason darted across the ballfield.
“Fifty bucks for his jacket?” he whispered as he picked up Vince’s mangled bike. “I think not! He’s after that key I dropped! And he’s gonna pay more than fifty bucks to get it back!”
Reason thought about returning to the sewer drain three blocks away, but he figured he’d need a crowbar to pry up the heavy manhole lid so he simply headed for home.
He traveled down the next two blocks, constantly glancing back to see if Brooks might be following him. He was tempted to dump Vince’s bike, but he simply kept moving, fixing his sights on the tall stone cross in front of Saint Patrick’s church four blocks ahead of him.
In a few short minutes, he trudged past Saint Pat’s and spotted the two-story Nelson house half a block away. It stood out for it was the only blue house on a block full of plain white houses.
Reason lived there with his older brother and their mother, who supported them by working at May’s Cafe in Havelock. She worked long hours leaving Reason unsupervised. As a result, he was always finding himself in trouble. His probation officer said he lacked proper motivation to get his act together. His mom claimed it was the lack of a father who had died when Reason was three. She also said he needed constant attention and constantly made vibes to get it, and that he had a big hole in his heart from lack of love, and he was determined to fill it.
Reason respected his older brother and listened to him, when he didn’t interfere with his own plans. But despite this, he set his own limits on when he came home at night, and if he would go to school or not. This sometimes caused a conflict with his brother, not to mention the constant fights about how much liquor and pot came into his life. Boone was always lecturing him and confiscating his bags, claiming that he would end up a burnout because of his constant use.
As far Boone was concerned, the Nelson house was a drug-free zone, and he meant to keep it that way.
Reason cut across the yard but came to an abrupt halt when he spotted Vince sprawled out on the porch swing. “I’ll be go to hell!” Vince snapped when he saw his mangled bike. “Damn, Reason! What did you do? Crash?”
“Sorry,” Reason said, wheeling the bike up beside the porch.
Vince descended the steps, staring angrily at his broken handlebars. He then noticed the cut on Reason’s face. “Whoa!” he said, his anger quickly fading. “You did crash!”
“Did you pick up that jacket I dropped?” Reason asked.
Pointing up at the leather jacket on the porch swing, Vince said, “Yeah, but what the hell happened to you, Reason?”
As Reason told him about his encounter with Wolfe, Vince stared at the cut on his cheek, looking like he was going to faint. He shook his head in amaze-ment, however, when Reason told him about being rescued by the notorious Brooks.
“Brooks?” Vince said. “What was he doing in Havelock?”
“He was at Walker’s party tonight, too,” Reason said. “Somehow I ended up with his jacket. Now he’s offering fifty bucks to get it back. But what he really wants is that key I dropped down the sewer. We need to go nab it. Once we do, we’ll contact Brooks to negotiate a better deal.”
“A better deal?” Vince asked. “Brooks ain’t someone to mess with, Reason. Fifty bucks sounds good to me.”
They both fell silent as Reason’s older brother stepped out onto the porch. Tall and slender, nineteen-year-old Boone Nelson wore his black hair in a long, braided tail. Most folks assumed that he was a biker or a stoner, but he didn’t own a bike and he didn’t do drugs. In fact, after their father died in a motorcycle accident ten years ago, Boone took it upon himself to supervise Reason. If he wasn’t constantly scolding him about breaking his curfew or skipping school, he was cutting off his supply of weed.
Reason grimaced when Boone asked, “How did you get that cut on your cheek? Have you been in another fight?”
“He got stabbed,” Vince said.
“Stabbed?” Boone said in disbelief.
Shooting Vince an annoyed look, Reason allowed his brother to guide him toward the door. “Vince,” Boone said, “grab a wet wash cloth from the kitchen, okay?”
Vince picked up Brooks’s jacket from the swing and followed the two brothers into the house. Tossing the jacket on the couch, he hurried into the kitchen, while Boone sat Reason down in a chair. “Now what the hell hap-pened?”
Silently stalling, Reason was relieved when Vince came back carrying a wash cloth. “Speak,” Boone said. “I’m listening.”
Reason grimaced, but remained silent as Boone used the damp cloth to gently dab at the cut on his cheek.
When Boone finished cleaning the wound, he pulled up a chair, spun it around backwards and sat down, placing his folded arms on the backrest. “Damn it, Reason! What happened?”
Finally, Reason wilted under his stern gaze, and though he failed to mention the key, the rest of the story came spilling out. The bust. Hiding in the dog-house. The fight with Randy. Wolfe poking him with the knife. Brooks pulling a shotgun on Wolfe. The timely arrival of the bikers and his escape from Brooks.
“I’m calling Rockenbach and Simants!” Boone said as he headed for the kitchen phone. “I know you’re a dumb ass for going to Walker’s party, but you’ll be a dead dumb ass if rumors circulate that you’re a narc! We need to get this straightened out.”
“Rockenbach and Simants?” Reason said, grinning at Vince. “Wolfe is gonna get hurt. They’ll pulverize him!”
“Yeah,” Vince said. “Wolfe’s a dead man. But, Reason? Ain’t you gonna tell Boone about that key?”
“No way,” Reason whispered.
When Boone returned to the living room, he said, “We’ll have to deal with this in the morning. George said he’d round up the guys and meet us at the park tomorrow.”
Reason tried then to slink off to his room, knowing a lecture was soon to come from Boone. He was halfway down the hallway, when Boone snapped, “A damned party? What if you’d been busted? One more arrest and your probation will be revoked! Hell, you ain’t a little kid anymore, Reason! If you violate your terms now, you just can’t use your sad smile and your big blue eyes on your P.O. to broker a deal for pardon!”
“I know,” Reason muttered.
“You can’t,” Boone said, “take advantage of Miss Thurston’s second chance! Last time in court, remember how she tried to convince Judge Sully that you’re not a hardcore delinquent? She even defended you, claiming you were like a modern-day Huck Finn that needed to be rescued, instead of punished.”
Reason shrugged and said nothing.
“But Judge Sully,” Boone said, “didn’t see it that way, did he? Not after the last prank you guys pulled! And don’t blame Vince for driving those carts into that pond! You’ve been blaming him ever since you were a little kid. In second grade when you two were expelled for that fire extinguisher fight at school. In fifth grade when I caught you both smoking that joint. In sixth, when I caught you guys with a six-pack of beer. This past year in seventh grade when you both got sick after too many wine coolers. It’s always Vince! But Judge Sully didn’t give a damn about who the instigator was on this last prank! Because who ended up in the most trouble?”
Reason remained silent. Boone had made his point. After he and Vince had been arrested for the incident at the golf course, Vince had lucked out with probation while Reason had been sent to the detention center for an evaluation. While detained at the center, counselors there nailed Reason with hard facts, reminding him that before he was ten years old he had been charged with vandalism, egging a police cruiser, and stuffing an M-80 in a toilet at a skating rink. Fully convinced that he had a substance abuse problem, the counselors recommended that Reason remain confined to undergo treatment. Despite their evaluation Reason’s probation officer per-suaded the juvenile judge to let him off with probation.
Later in her office, Reason swore to Miss Thurston that he’d never get into trouble again, and as she drove him back to Havelock he assured her she wouldn’t be sorry she’d given him a second chance.
Even as Boone continued to rant at him, Reason remembered he’d swore he wouldn’t screw up again. No way did he want to be sent back to detention. He had begged for a second chance. But unfortunately, despite Miss Thurs-ton’s pardon, once Reason returned to Havelock he continued to get into trouble. For him, it was just too hard not to.
He knew he shouldn’t have taken advantage of her second chance, but he now wished Boone would quit ripping on him about going to the party. “I know!” he suddenly blurted. “I screwed up! Sorry. It won’t happen again!”
“And,” Boone muttered, “just how many times have I heard that before?”