Hello everyone, welcome to my new page, Adventures in Connellsville. This special page features a book-like story set in installments which is set in Connellsville and features many Odyssey characters. I will be posting a new installment sometime every week. Enjoy!
Stealing food from the grocery store, Maxwell thought, isn’t that bad. A guy’s gotta eat after all. And I didn’t even steal that much.
Maxwell stared guiltily at the candy bar and apple he had stolen and shoved into his pockets. But, because he was so horribly starving, he devoured both of them quickly.
After throwing the apple core and candy wrapper away, he strolled innocently down the alleys he knew so well, looking around to see if anyone had followed him. It wouldn’t be the first time he got caught for stealing some candy.
He checked his watch that his best friend had given him for his birthday, and then with a jolt realized that it was 4:25! But just as Maxwell was about to leave, he was startled by a noise behind him. It was like someone was creeping up on him. He wheeled around, hoping it wasn’t a policeman.
Oh no. Maxwell thought. Even worse. For standing right there in front of Maxwell was Mugshot, the leader of the toughest gang in Connellsville, The Brothers.
“Hey, Maxwell!” Mugshot said with false cheerfulness. “How’s my ol’ pal Tony?”
“A lot better, now that he stopped hanging around with you. He’s a lot smarter now,” Maxwell retorted with a smirk on his face.
“Flattery will get you no where. Just because I’m not smart and you are doesn’t mean you have to beat yourself and your friend up like that. Oh, did you hear? I brought the gang with me.”
Suddenly, three shadowy figures stepped up and stood behind Mugshot, looking very serious.
“Great. Hey Shotgun, Renegade, Bobby,” said Maxwell through gritted teeth. He remembered what Bobby had done to him during their last run-in.
“What’re you up to, Maxwell?” asked Renegade jokingly. “Are you still working at Whit’s End Connellsville part-time over the summer?”
“I work there full time, Renegade.”
“Nah, you work there part time. The rest of the time you’re stealing groceries. Am I right, Max?”
“It’s Maxwell, Ren. Are you still staying - I mean working at the Juvenile Detention Center full-time?”
“Yeah. The people there are real nice,” said Renegade sarcastically. “I’m so glad I get to help out the troubled youth of Connellsville.”
“This witty banter has gone on long enough!” interjected Bobby in his signature British accent. “Remember how low on cash we are?”
“Oh, that’s right,” said Mugshot. “We’re a little low on cash. And since we hear your friend Tony lent you some, we’d like to have it now. Shotgun, will you do the honors?”
“Uh,” Shotgun said slowly. “Sure! The money. Give it here, Max!”
“How did you know I had it?” Maxwell asked suspiciously.
“Tony told us, naturally. He’s still loyal to The Brothers, you know.”
“Yeah, that’s why he beat you to a pulp after you stole his sister’s bike last week.”
“Exactly. Shotgun, do it!”
“Here goes,” Shotgun said clumsily. Maxwell knew what was coming, and he didn’t want it. But he didn’t like to fight, so he would just have to brace himself for…
“What’s going on, Shotgun?” an unknown voice that seemed to come out of nowhere said.
“I’m just following orders,” replied Shotgun.
“Well, how about you follow my orders, and don’t do anything to the kid.”
The strange young man finally stepped out, but he was wearing a hockey mask and he obviously was trying to disguise his voice. Shotgun stood there looking confused, and Mugshot was trying to identify the kid. But Maxwell knew his voice! He knew who it was! It was, of course, Nick Mulligan.
Brian Brooks, rookie policeman, didn’t want a lot of things. He didn’t want Detective Polehouse scolding him. He didn’t want his pushy brother to keep demanding things of him. He didn’t want to live in Oswald Heights. And he certainly didn’t want to have to deal with the infamous Connellsville gangs.
And as he stood in his ratty, bug-ridden Oswald Heights apartment, he thought of his job. He thought of his job, his brother, his home, and his life in general. He thought of all the things he wanted to change, and thought of him having the power to change them. He wanted more than anything to have his life changed, he wanted to have power. I’ll have power if I’m police chief of Connellsville, Brian thought.
Suddenly, the phone rang. Brian picked it up and looked at the number displayed on the tiny screen. Brian sighed. It was his brother.
He reluctantly picked up the receiver and listened for his brother’s persuasive voice. He didn’t have long to wait.
“Hey, Brian! It’s me, Hank! How’s my little brother?”
“He’s fine,” Brian replied dryly.
“What’s the matter? Tough day on the police force?” Hank asked jokingly.
“Well, that’s okay, cause I’ve got news that’ll make your spirits soar! Annie and I are going on a second honeymoon!”
Hank seemed enthusiastic, so Brian decided to be enthusiastic as well. “That’s great! Where to?” he asked enthusiastically.
“Where else? Hawaii! It’ll be great to get away from Columbus for once! How’s life in the Chicago of Ohio? How’s Whit’s End Connellsville?”
Brian snorted. He hated Whit’s End Connellsville. He had protested it ever since that Whittaker guy had torn the hangout down. Not that he ever went to the hangout. He just didn’t think Oswald Heights was a good location at all.
“Like I would know. You know I hate that place Hank.”
“Have you ever been there? I went there a few times when I came to visit. Cameron loved it!”
“Yeah, I went there a couple days ago to get a shake. The kid at the counter made me my shake and then spilled it all over the cash register. Talk about bad customer service.”
“Oh, it was probably his first day on the job. Listen, I didn’t call you to argue.”
“No. I called because I want you to watch Cameron while Annie and I are in Hawaii.”
“What? Oh Hank, I don’t know. My apartment is pretty small, and -”
“It’ll be fine,” Hank reassured him. “You have a fold-out couch, right? You can sleep on that and Cameron can use the bed.”
Brian cringed. The fold-out couch was about as big as a body pillow.
“But Cameron is pretty little. He could probably just use the fold-out couch.”
“Nonsense. He needs something comfortable. He’s my boy, after all.”
“Well don’t I need something comfortable? I’m your brother.”
“Oh, Brian, you’re an adult. You can make a few sacrifices. I’ll bring him over in three days, okay? I’m only about an hour away. You’re the closest relative to Columbus. I can only turn to you.”
“And take him to Whit’s End Connellsville a lot, okay? You can take work off for a week, right? Great. Thanks, Brian. I’ll see you in three days. Sorry for springing Cameron on you, but Annie and I have been looking forward to this for a while. Bye.”
“But Hank, I -” It was too late. Hank had hung up. It was no use. Brian had already chosen to take this week off for vacationing to Chicago, but he wouldn’t be able to do that now.
And the worst part of it was that he would have to go to Whit’s End Connellsville, where Ed Washington and the milkshake-spilling kid would be waiting for him.
“Nick?” Maxwell said, bewildered that his friend was wearing a hockey mask and disguising his voice.
“Nick who?” Nick asked.
“Never mind,” Maxwell retorted with a smirk.
“Who are you?” interjected Mugshot.
“Oh, I’m just here for the kid. Catch ya’ later!” Nick forgot to disguise his voice when he said this, so The Brothers knew he was one of their sworn enemies.
“Hey, hey Mulligan!” shouted Bobby with a British accent. “Come back here!”
But it was too late. Maxwell and Nick were already well on their way. Maxwell checked his watch again. 4:32. They would be late.
“Maxwell, let’s go! We’re gonna be late! Tony’s probably waiting. You got your maracas?”
“Yeah. You got your tambourine?”
“Yeah. Have you ever noticed that Tony’s the only one with a legitimate band instrument?”
“Yeah,” Maxwell said with a chuckle.
But before they could go any further, they halted, because, standing in front of them, in the alley, was Detective Don Polehouse, looking as if he had stumbled upon Jesse James after he committed a robbery. He straightened his police badge and spoke coldly.
“Looks like you boys are lost.”
“Yes,” Maxwell replied. “Yes, sir we are lost. Very lost sir.” What he said sounded like a quote, but he didn’t know where if came from.
“What were you just doing?”
Nick spoke up. “Oh, nothing. Maxwell was just being bullied, and I rescued him.”
“Then why are you wearing a hockey mask?”
“I - uh, I’m on the hockey team. Their best player.”
“Uh-huh.” Detective Polehouse frowned suspiciously.
The alley was deserted except for Maxwell, Nick, and Polehouse, but Maxwell felt as if a million eyes were fixed on him. Detective Polehouse made his suspects intimidated by staring hard at them.
“Why don’t you boys move along?” Detective Polehouse asked in a seemingly kind manner.
The boys didn’t hesitate. The second Polehouse said it, they rushed to The Mulligan’s house. It was only about five minutes away, but, when they got there, Maxwell checked his watch and it was 4:41. They were eleven minutes late.
Nick knocked, but, as usual, no one answered. They were all busy out taking care of the animals. And there were lots of animals at The Mulligan’s. Maxwell remembered being amazed at the number of animals. Some, depending on many factors, including their size, even slept in the house!
Nick opened the door and entered his room, which was the first door down the hallway on the left, only to discover Tony, practicing guitar.
Nick’s room, unlike most teenager’s bedrooms, was tidy and neat. Everything had a place. There were marshmallow shooters in one corner, music CD’s in another, and video games in yet another. But Nick spent a lot of time outside, so he didn’t use the video games more than once a week.
“Hey, guys. I know why you‘re late.” Tony greeted them. “Ready to start practice?”
“Sure thing.” Nick said. Nick got out his tambourine from his special case, and Maxwell got his tiny maracas from his pocket.
“You know, I think we should drop ‘Mexican Ragdance’ from our first album. It‘s not 10W40‘s style,” Tony, the band leader, said.
“But that’s the only one where I get a maraca solo!” Maxwell protested.
“Yeah, the 7-second maraca solo. Alright, we’ll keep it. But we have too many songs, we gotta get rid of one.”
“How bout we get rid of ‘The Silent Moonlit Metal Guitar’? Maxwell and I aren’t in that at all, except at the very beginning.”
“No, that’s my best one as guitar!” Tony said.
The band meeting went on for another hour, but drifted into other topics.
“Hey, uh, Maxwell? Why are you working at WEC?” asked Tony. For some reason, Tony always called Whit’s End Connellsville ‘WEC’.
“Extra money. The Brothers were stealing the few bucks I got from you guys. I needed the money.”
“Yeah, but, WEC? You know I don’t like that place.”
“Yeah, yeah, because Whittaker left. But Whittaker’s got his own business. That’s why he put Washington in charge.”
“Washington isn’t right for the job. Whittaker shoulda stayed here!” Tony said a little too loudly.
Maxwell raised an eyebrow. He’d never seen Tony get that angry over Whit’s End.
“What’s that about, Tony? You gotta problem with Xav’s uncle?” asked Nick. Xavier Washington was the nephew of Ed, and one of Nick’s friends.
“No. Don’t worry about it. It’s getting pretty late. Let’s just end the band meeting. You staying here tonight, Maxwell?”
“Yeah,” Maxwell said with a weak smile. “If your parents’ll let me.”
“I’m sure they will,” Nick said. “Mike’ll let you stay here anytime.”
“Cool,” said Tony. “Let’s go to bed a little earlier tonight.”
“Why?” both Maxwell and Nick said. Both of them loved staying up late.
“It’s just - we’re gonna have a big day tomorrow. I can feel it.”
The doors of Whit’s End Connellsville swung open when Cameron Brooks opened them.
Why can’t it be closed? thought Brian, frustrated.
Ed Washington was on the phone. He’s obviously too busy to greet us.
And then Brian saw him. The kid who spilled the milkshake. He was taking some kids order. Brian wished he could get back to his apartment. But Cameron seemed to be enjoying himself.
“Can we go to the puppet show room, Uncle Brian?”
“Maybe later,” Brian replied with a forced smile. “Do you want a milkshake or something?”
“Can I have Raspberry Ripple?”
“Sure. Let’s go ask the kid behind the counter for it.”
Raspberry Ripple. That sounded disgusting. But Brian got it for his nephew and paid without protest. He noted that it was quite cheap.
Cameron let Brian have a small lick of his cone, and Brian was overcome by a delicious sensation of raspberries, raspberries, and more raspberries. It was blissful oblivion, and Brian ordered a cone for himself.
“Hey, Mr. Washington?” shouted the other employee, a girl who looked about sixteen. “Can you finish your call soon? I know it’s important, but you need to fix a display upstairs.”
“Sure, McKenzie. In fact, I’m done.” Ed turned to Brian and Cameron. “Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure.”
“Oh,” said Brian in a friendly tone. “My name is Brian Brooks and this is my nephew Cameron. We’ve come here a couple times before.”
“Hmm…” Ed scratched his chin as he said it. “I’m afraid I don’t remember. Oh, have you met my employees? Maxwell, McKenzie, this is Brian Brooks and his nephew Cameron.”
“Hi,” said the milkshake-spilling kid, Maxwell.
“Nice to meet you,” said McKenzie, turning to greet them.
“I hired them as part of a teen program that we’ve started here. It’s supposed to give teens the experience they need to go out in the real world when they get to college.”
“Sounds great. But I haven’t really been in this entire building. Maybe I could have a tour - “
But before Brian finished his sentence, who should come in but Detective Polehouse, with Nick and Tony Mulligan trailing behind him.
“Polehouse? What are you doing here?” asked Brian.
“I came to escort these teens to Whit’s End. And to get a decent cup of coffee. Ed?” Polehouse said with a smile.
“Sure, Don. It’s coming right up! Maxwell, would you get that for Don while McKenzie and I give our two customers a little tour of the shop?”
“Sure Mr. Washington,” said Maxwell.
Brian couldn’t believe it. His boss, the toughest, sternest man in Connellsville, was a regular at Whit’s End. Maybe I’m wrong about this place, he thought.
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to join your tour,” Detective Polehouse said.
“Fine. Do you boys want to join us?” Ed gestured towards Nick and Tony.
“Sure, why not?” both Nick and Tony said unanimously, as if they were waiting to say that ever since Ed mentioned the tour.
“Ok. Maxwell, you can stay behind the counter for a few minutes. You can handle it, right?”
“Sure. Bye Nick, bye Tony!”
“Bye, Maxwell!” said Nick. “See ya later!”
“Bye, Maxwell!” Cameron yelled back. Brian saw Maxwell smile.
As Brian walked along the many hallways and rooms of Whit’s End Connellsville, he discovered that it was a much bigger building than even he had known.
“And this is the Bible room,” said McKenzie, leading them into one of the largest rooms in the whole building. “It was modeled after the original Bible room, which is located in the Whit’s End in Odyssey.”
“You sure seem to know a lot about this place,” said Tony.
“I’ve loved it ever since it opened five years ago. I was eleven then, and I thought it was amazing that there could be such a place in Oswald Heights, the part of Connellsville ridden by gangs.”
“Have you ever been to the Whit’s End in Odyssey?” asked Nick. It was common knowledge that he worked there.
McKenzie laughed. Brian wondered why. “Don’t you know your girlfriend at all? Of course I have! You work there, you dummy!”
“Hey!” Nick retorted. “No namecalling allowed. Are we still on for pizza tonight?”
“Yeah. But let’s get back to the tour. Anyway, the Bible room is the biggest building here, so…”
And as McKenzie kept talking about the Bible room, Brian gazed around. It was all there. The stories that he had learned when he was a kid: David and Goliath, Noah’s Ark, all the things he had left behind when he moved to Oswald Heights. But here was something so pure, so good, so amazing, in the middle of the worst part of Connellsville.
Brian slowly shed a tear. He was definitely coming back to the Bible room with Cameron.
Maxwell handed out yet another cone of Raspberry Ripple, by far their most popular ice cream. He looked over at the policeman guy: Brian.
Why is he still here? Maxwell wondered. He had been at Whit’s End Connellsville with Cameron and Detective Polehouse for hours. Polehouse made Maxwell very nervous.
Maxwell felt a longing to go to The Puppet Room or The Building Room, or somewhere. The longing had nagged at him ever since Brian and Cameron had arrived.
Maxwell finally asked McKenzie to take over the counter, and he sped over to The Bible Room where Cameron and Brian were.
“Hey, uh, Cameron,” he said rather awkwardly.
“What?” responded Cameron. His eyes were fixed on a display showcasing Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit.
“Do you want me to, uh, show you another room? There’s a room that Mr. Washington created where you can build anything you can think of!”
That room had always been one of Maxwell’s favorites. He never liked The Bible Room much. That was probably because he never could understand any of the displays. He got the impression they were old bedtime stories Mr. Washington or the owner of the Whit’s End in Odyssey liked when he was a kid, so he made them into displays in his shop. That didn’t explain why it was called ‘Bible’, however. Maybe that’s what the book was called, Maxwell thought.
After much careful thought and deliberation, Cameron finally responded to Maxwell’s question. “Can I go, Uncle Brian?” he asked, looking up at his uncle.
“I’ll go with you,” he replied with a grin. “Polehouse, do you wanna come too? Polehouse, where are you?”
Maxwell looked around for Polehouse. He was lurking by the display called Noah’s Ark.
He stepped out. “Sure, Brian, I’ll come,” he said, pursing his lips and looking at Maxwell suspiciously.
“Okay, great!” Maxwell said eagerly. “Right this way.”
Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, Nick and Tony appeared.
“We’ll come too,” Tony said.
“Yeah!” Nick exclaimed. “It’ll be fun to interact with the little people of this day and age.”
“Alright,” Maxwell replied.
As they walked, Maxwell noticed that Polehouse was getting farther and farther away from the rest of the group, Cameron Brooks speed-walking right beside him. Maxwell couldn’t make out what they were saying, but, for some reason, he thought it could be about him. Polehouse suspected him after all. Could he be telling Cameron that he, Nick and Tony were hoodlums?
“Hey, Maxwell!” Tony said. “You feeling okay?”
“Yeah, you look pale.”
“I’m - I’m fine.” Maxwell had been thinking of Polehouse calling the police, or telling Cameron to stay away from the supposed ‘hoodlums’.
“Hey, uh, Maxwell?” Brian interjected. “When will be there? We’ve been walking down hallways for a few minutes.”
“We’ll be there soon,” Maxwell replied. Indeed, Polehouse and Cameron were already there. Maxwell decided to do a little spying to find out what they were saying. He crept right by the entrance to the building room and planted his ear right in the middle of the conversation.
“What are you building there?” the detective asked Cameron.
“A little house. What are you building?”
“A police station with 14 squad cars complete with officers with guns, working sirens, police badges, rooms, offices, and even a life-size jail with 22 criminals all begging for help from a rookie policeman. Why?”
“I was just wondering.”
Suddenly, Polehouse got that suspicious look that he was so infamous for. Maxwell sensed trouble.
“Hey, uh, Cameron? Do you know those boys?”
“You mean Maxwell, Tony, and Nick? Yeah, I know them.”
“You might want to be a little careful around them. They, uh - could do something to hurt you.”
Detective Polehouse lowered his voice when he spoke these words: “I’m not quite sure. But all I know is that they’ve been seen with a gang called The Brothers, the toughest and most violent gang in Connellsville. I just think you should be careful, that’s all. If I were you, I wouldn’t get too chummy with any of them.”
“But you’re not me!” Cameron interjected.
That’s right! Maxwell thought, getting more and more nervous.
“That’s true. You can do what you want. But they’re hoodlums, and I would stay away from them!” Detective Polehouse rose from his pathetically built police station. Maxwell ran out of there.
As he was running back to the front counter, waiting for closing time, Maxwell did some deep thinking. He would try not to have a hoodlum image. He would try as hard as he could to make Polehouse trust him. But that was by no means going to be easy.
As soon as the man stepped into his nice Hawaiian condo, he took off his shoes. That was always, no matter what, the first thing he did when he entered a house or a hotel. He didn’t want the polished floor to get muddy after all.
The second thing the man did was kiss his wife. His wife was beautiful, smart and nice. She was the wife every man in the world would want, and the man tried not to take that for granted.
After a long conversation with his wife about the beach, sand, pools, chlorine, food, seagulls, their condo, and Hawaii in general, the man decided to call his brother, who was watching his son in a place that the man called the Chicago of Ohio, or Connellsville.
He walked over to the home phone and picked the receiver up and started to dial his brother’s number, but he hesitated to call his brother. After all, they had never really been on the best of terms. The man had never liked fighting with his brother, which he unfortunately did often. Ever since they were children, the man was always better than his brother. Better at sports, better at games, better at art and music and school.
When they went into their teen years, the man continued to beat his brother at everything. While the man was elected student body president in high school, his brother was being bullied. While the man was popular and talented, his brother was forgotten by everyone. And while the man took the prettiest girl in the school to the prom, (who would later become his wife) his brother didn’t even go.
And now that they were both adults, the man was still more successful than his brother. And all that greatness and popularity had gone to the man’s head, and he felt as if he could and should push his loser of a brother around. But, for the first time in his life, the man realized that his brother was a person. And not just a person, he was the man’s flesh and blood. The man decided he needed to treat his little brother as an equal, not as a misfit under his rule. The man resolved to settle all their conflict right there on the phone. He dialed Brian’s cellular number. Suddenly, the phone rang. It was his brother calling him! Both brothers had called each other at the exact same time. Hank answered Brian’s call.
“Hello? Brian? Yes, it’s Hank. I wanna talk to you about our um, relationship.”
Brian’s visit to Whit’s End made him see things in a whole new light. After seeing how nice people could and should be, he wanted to mend all his broken relationships. The first one that came to mind was his relationship with his brother Hank. Hank had always been better at everything, and Brian was jealous of Hank. But, after understanding that relationships don’t have to be nasty and cold, Brian wanted to make things right. So he picked up the phone and dialed Hank’s number. But just after he did that, his cell phone rang. It was Hank! What a coincidence, Brian thought. But, even so, Brian waited to see if Hank would answer his call.
“Hank? Is that you?”
After a few minutes, Hank answered.
“Hello? Brian? Yes, it’s Hank. I wanna talk to you about our um, relationship.”
Brian’s mouth dropped open. Another coincidence.
“Wow, Hank. Believe it or not, that’s exactly what I wanted to talk about.”
“Really? Well, alright then. I just wanted to say - I’m sorry. About everything. I was being a bit of a jerk. I - I hope you can forgive me.”
“I can. And I hope you can forgive me for trying to make your life miserable out of my stupid jealously.”
“Sure. That’s pretty remarkable, that we called each other at the same time about the same thing, isn’t it?” Brian heard Hank chuckle.
“Yes,” Brian replied. “Some would even call it a - miracle.”
And so, the two brothers talked. Not coldly or harshly, but in a friendly manner. It was as if the dam between them had broken. And for the first time in Brian’s life, he was happy that he had an older brother to talk to.
Over the next couple of weeks, Maxwell spent a lot of time with Cameron Brooks, Brian Brooks, and, of course, Ed Washington. He grew to love Cameron as his own little brother, and Brian seemed to trust him more as well. He even told him about a phone call he made to his brother Hank. Ed Washington continued to counsel Maxwell on everything from The Brothers to Christianity to girls. He seemed to know a lot, and he could relate to kids like no adult Maxwell had ever met. He even acted like a kid himself sometimes.
Maxwell also spent more and more time at Whit’s End Connellsville and the Mulligan’s house than his own house, where he only had a hermit of a grandfather. One day, Maxwell was at band practice with Tony and Nick, discussing their band and other things.
“How are we supposed to get a gig?” asked Tony. For the past 10 minutes, the band had been discussing gig options.
“You know, Ed Washington’s son Marvin had a garage band that I heard about a while back,” said Nick. “He got a gig at a birthday party.”
“Do you know anyone who’s having a birthday?” asked Maxwell.
“Well, me,” Nick replied. “In just a couple of weeks, I’ll be 17! We could have a special concert in honor of me, Nick Mulligan, the hero of Connellsville. We could invite like - all of Connellsville. I’m sure the mindless city folk would come out to celebrate the most masculine teenager in town’s birthday, wouldn’t they?”
Maxwell stared at Nick blankly, while Tony coughed sarcastically.
Maxwell finally broke the silence. “That was a joke, right Nick? Because if it wasn’t - “
“Alright, alright,” said Nick. “Forget I said anything. You know, I think we could have a gig at Whit’s End Connellsville. Ed is very supportive of our band, you know.”
“Hmm… That could work,” said Tony. “But we’ll have to decide which songs to play. I think Me & My Honey would be great for that gig.”
“Honestly? A song inspired by a kiddy romance? Who would want to listen to that? I don’t know why you wrote that song, Tony!”
“You wrote it, Maxwell.”
“Oh, yeah. I forgot. Well, don’t we collaborate with our songwriting? When we get our album on iTunes, we’ll say the songs we’re composed by 10W40, not Maxwell Anderson or Nick and Tony Mulligan.”
“Who said we’re getting it on iTunes, Maxwell? I’m not even sure I could get our computer working, it’s so old.”
Their conversation went on for hours. Maxwell felt great, being with Tony and Nick, just - talking. They weren’t really there for band practice, Maxwell realized. They were there to be kids. To talk and to play, to joke and to generally have fun. Maxwell wished it could go on forever.
But eventually, Maxwell said goodbye to Tony and Nick and went home. He eagerly awaited going to Whit’s End in the morning.
Maxwell stumbled groggily into Whit’s End at 6 o’clock in the morning to prepare for opening. Ed Washington greeted him from the counter.
“Hey, Maxwell! How’s it going?”
“Pretty well. I’m tired, though. I stayed up til midnight, so I only got about five and a half hours of sleep. I can still work though.”
“Are you sure? You can take the morning off, McKenzie’s here.”
“No, it’s fine. When do you think the kids’ll be here?”
“Well, since it’s a Saturday, the first ones should come in in about three hours. The shop is a mess though, in case you hadn’t noticed, so we have a lot of work to do until then.”
Maxwell hadn’t noticed the mess. But now that he looked around, he saw dust and crumbs and even pots, pans, and buckets everywhere. Apparently, some kids saw Whit’s End as a free-for-all when it came to horsing around. There were also several broken and knocked-down items, and they were out of ice cream.
“Yeah. I’d better get to work,” Maxwell said, though he wanted to keep talking.
“But we haven’t finished our ‘Saturday morning talk’.”
Maxwell and Ed called the conversation they had on Saturday morning their ‘Saturday morning talk’. Maxwell always enjoyed it.
“Alright, I suppose we can finish it. Mr. Washington, where’s your family?”
“Well, my son Antoine went off to college, but my younger kids, Marvin and Tamika, are still at home with my wife Elaine.”
“What about your brothers and your sisters?”
Ed sighed heavily and suddenly had a sad gleam in his eye when Maxwell mentioned his siblings.
“I had two brothers, Ben and Manny. Ben was always the one getting into trouble. I mean, serious trouble. He was part of a dangerous gang by high school. He got off on the wrong track and went to prison. My mom cried over him for days after they locked him up. He tried to break out of prison and they kept him in longer. We prayed for him every day, but he just kept giving into the Devil’s temptations.”
Maxwell saw a tear come down Ed’s cheek. “That’s horrible, Mr. Washington,” he said sympathetically. “What happened to him?”
“Well, they finally let him out of prison, since he hadn’t murdered anyone, and he went off again with his gang. They got in a tussle with another gang, and -” By this point, Ed couldn’t keep away the tears. He was sobbing. But he went on with his story. “A gun went off, and my brother was dead.”
Maxwell attempted to suppress a tear himself. He was horrified by all this, and it made him fear The Brothers all the more.
“I’m - I’m really sorry, Mr. Washington. That was your older brother?”
Ed nodded, still with tears in his eyes.
“What about your other brother?”
“Well, Manny was always the one to try to talk Ben out of his misdeeds. But he never succeeded. He was the littlest in our family, and he was the only one who knew about Ben’s gang activity until he went to jail. But Ben made him swear not to tell anyone. I hear he once threatened Manny with a gun. Manny and I were very close, but Manny never told me about Ben. We would play together and make jokes and do pranks, I was quite the prankster. And after Ben died, we wanted to spend as much time with each other as possible, in case that happened to us. But one day, about seven years ago, Manny was diagnosed with heart cancer. He died soon afterward. It was very sudden. But he had a wife and son. So before he died, I promised to him that I would look after his son because his wife couldn’t. I kept that promise, and, for a few years, his son lived in my house.”
“What was his son’s name?” asked Maxwell, but he figured he already knew the answer to that question after talking to Nick.
“Xavier. He’s in college now, doing very well. His mother remarried and they had enough money to send him to a good school.”
“That’s really sad, Mr. Washington. You lost both your brothers in just several years time.”
“Yes, it’s very sad. Why did you bring this up, Maxwell?”
“Well, lately I’ve been thinking about what it would be like to have a family. I mean, I have Nick and Tony, and they’re like brothers, but sometimes I wish I had a real family. My parents died and I hav eto leave with my Grandpa Gypsy, but he’s practically a hermit.”
“I’m sorry, Maxwell.”
“It’s okay,” Maxwell said. Suddenly, the bell rang. Someone was coming in! It was Brian and Cameron Brooks.
“Hi, Maxwell!” said Cameron.
“Hi, Cameron, hi Brian. I’m glad you guys are here,” said Ed. “But I’m afraid we don’t have any ice cream. Maxwell and I have been talking.”
“That’s fine. I wanted to take a closer look at the Bible Room,” said Brian.
They walked up to the Bible Room and studied the displays. Everyone was captivated by the stories, and Maxwell wished he could learn more about them. He would have to ask Ed Washington sometime.
After work, Maxwell decided to visit Tony and Nick’s house again. But as he walked in, he saw a strange note written on a Post-It! Note. This is what it said:
Cameron and I are going to the alley. There’s a snow cone stand there, and we were wondering if you wanted to come along for snow cones.
The alley? Maxwell thought. Why would Brian want to go to the alley? Then Maxwell realized what was going on. The Brothers. He had to talk to Tony and Nick.
“So…” said Detective Polehouse, scratching his chin with a mockingly thoughtful expression on his amused face. “You haven’t seen Cameron in an hour. My, that sounds serious. You know the 24 hour rule, don’t you Brian?”
“Yes, but this is my nephew! Don’t you understand? An hour for a child is like ten hours for an adult! It’s a dangerous world out there, and I’m afraid Cameron is lost or has been nabbed or worse!”
“Alright, fine. I can understand that.” Brian still felt as if Polehouse didn’t understand his plight. He had lost his nephew, and his mentor was still acting like nothing was wrong!
“You can?” Brian inquired skeptically with his eyebrows raised.
“Yes. So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to check in to this. All the other officers are on other jobs but you, and since you have a personal interest in this, you need to come with me.”
“Connellsville! Where else would we go? That‘s where we live, isn‘t it?”
Brian didn’t know what to say to that, so he followed Polehouse out of the police station, heading into who knows what.
Brian and Polehouse emerged from the station optimistic about finding Cameron, though they would later emerge from an alley exhausted but victorious.
“So, where should we go first?” Brian asked from the passenger seat of the sleek police car.
“Well there’s a gang that’s been stirring up trouble for me, my officers, and the entire town. They hang out in an alley. I have a sneaky suspicion that they’re behind it all.”
“Where’s the alley?”
“Not far. Not far at all.”
Brian waited for a few minutes and looked out the window nervously. What if they didn’t find Cameron? Brian had just mended his relationship with his brother, and this could destroy it. And more importantly, Brian could very well lose an important person to him.
Detective Polehouse suddenly stepped on the brake. “And… we’re here,” he said anticlimactically.
Brian looked out the window. They were at the grocery store. “Here?” he said incredulously. “At the grocery store? I hope the alley is close by.”
“It is. But if The Brothers are there, they’re not going to take kindly to a police car speeding into the alley. These guys are dangerous, so we’re going to have to be shrewd, at least at first.”
“Got it,” Brian said. “Shall we go?”
“Of course.” They both stepped out of the vehicle and crept to a seemingly abandoned alley. It was dirty and had graffiti splattered on its walls. Brian could see why it was a great gang hangout.
“Alright,” said Polehouse. “There’s no one here, but I - “
As Brian and Polehouse stepped closer, they saw something that they couldn’t believe.
There, standing in the alley, were The Brothers, Mugshot, Shotgun, Renegade, Bobby, and Maxwell. Brian gritted his teeth. So Polehouse was right. The kid really is bad. Nick and Tony were tied up, but Brian couldn’t see anyone else.
Polehouse decided to take matters into his own hands. He leaped out and looked disapprovingly at the gang. “Hi kids,” he said smirkingly. “As much fun as this is, I’m afraid we’re gonna have to break it up. We apologize for any unwanted inconveniences.”
“Apology unaccepted,” said Mugshot, also with a smirk.
“You call that shrewd?” Brian whispered.
“Your nephew’s tied up, I had to do something!”
“What?” Brian took a step forward, and then he saw him. Cameron Brooks, his beloved nephew, was tied up with Tony and Nick, near tears. And Maxwell was standing right next to him, doing nothing to stop The Brothers. Brian’s heart filled with anguish. He was going to get that kid.
Maxwell’s heart stopped when he saw Brian and Polehouse, Polehouse sauntering over casually and somewhat bemusedly, and Brian looking furious and heart-stricken. Of course he wasn’t really part of The Brothers…
The second Maxwell saw the note at Tony’s house, he knocked on the door, said hello to Lisa, the one who answered it, bolted through the door and rushed into Tony and Nick’s room. They were both sitting on Tony’s bed, talking to each other.
“What’s up?” asked Tony.
“Well, the ceiling,” said Nick with a smirk. Tony simply ignored him.
“I found this note.” Maxwell held the note up, and Tony and Nick didn’t have to do much thinking after reading it to know what was going on.
“So The Brothers have kidnapped him?” Tony had a hint of concern in his voice, but he wasn’t incredibly worried. He was tougher than any of them, after all.
“It would appear so,” said Maxwell in true detective fashion.
“Alright.” Nick’s voice seemed half worried, half unconcerned. “I’ll go tell Mike and Traci about it. They can call the police, and -”
“Nick,” interjected Tony.
“The power’s out, remember?”
“It is?” Maxwell didn’t realize the power was out. That could complicate things for him.
“It’s been out for hours. You didn’t know?”
Nick seemed undaunted, even after this new information. “We can still ask Mike and Traci if they can do something,” he said. “And we could even go to the police station.”
“But we’re running out of time. We need to do something ourselves!” exclaimed Maxwell.
“Calm down, kid,” said Tony jokingly. “I think we just need to -”
“No! One of us needs to go to the alley and see what the situation is! Right now. And that someone is going to be me! Bye, guys!”
Maxwell ran out of the room, with Nick and Tony yelling at him behind.
He ran and ran without stopping, not even to catch his breath. He wanted to stop The Brothers not only to save Cameron, but for revenge. The Brothers had beat him up for years, and now it was time to stop them.
Suddenly, Maxwell heard people running behind him. He turned his head and saw that it was Tony and Nick.
“What are you guys doing here? I thought you were going to tell Mike and Traci!”
“We tried,” replied Tony. “But Traci was on the phone, and Uncle Mike was playing golf. We tried to explain to Traci about The Brothers, but she was apparently talking to her sister, who she hadn’t seen in 6 months, and she said she would be with us once she was done. We had a feeling she would be a while, so we decided to come with you. We could probably stealthily rescue Cameron and then get out of there.”
“I still think I should stay home. One of us needs to,” said Nick.
“No, we need all the manpower we can get. But you know, you could go to the police station and tell them about this.”
“Okay,” said Nick. “See ya!” But someone blocked his way. Renegade. And Shotgun was with him.
“Oh no,” he said slowly. “You’re not going anywhere. Take him away, Shotgun! I’ll get the other two.”
“Sure thing, Boss.” Shotgun grabbed Nick. Nick tried to squirm out of his reach, but Shotgun was much stronger than him. Renegade got Maxwell, while Tony tried to flee. But as Tony was running away, Mugshot stood in his way and grabbed him too. Apparently the boys were closer to the alley than they thought.
The treacherous gang led them to the alley, where Bobby was waiting for them. With Cameron. Maxwell kept trying to struggle out of Renegade’s hold, but the more he struggled, the tighter Renegade held on to him.
Mugshot ordered Bobby to tie them up, which he did. Maxwell smiled. He could undo any knot. He only needed the chance.
And he got it. A few minutes went by, with Maxwell, Tony, and Nick doing nothing but sit and feel stupid. Maxwell didn’t converse with Cameron, as he was devising a plan. Bobby had tied them to chairs. All Maxwell had to do was distract the gang by pushing himself out of the alley, and then Tony and Nick, also great at undoing knots, could slip away.
Maxwell waited until all the gang left to do other things, (or beat up other people) until only Mugshot was left. Maxwell started scooting his chair forward, inch by inch, but Mugshot didn’t seem to notice. He wasn’t very bright, it seemed.
Suddenly, Mugshot turned around and saw Maxwell scooting out of the alley. He ran for him, and called the rest of the gang over with a whistle. Maxwell untied his knot in just a few seconds, and he jumped out of the chair.
“Well, well,” said Mugshot with obvious fury. “It looks like Mr. Houdini escaped from his chair. Grab him, Renegade!”
Renegade, who had just appeared, lunged for Maxwell. The rest of the gang filed in the alley, all glaring at Maxwell like a lion glares at its prey.
That was when Polehouse and Brian appeared.
And now, Maxwell was untied, standing with The Brothers, watching Nick and Tony attempt to escape. And Polehouse and Brian were watching him as if he had just broken the Sixth Commandment. They thought he was a Brother. They thought he helped kidnap Cameron. Maxwell gulped. He didn’t know who he should worry about more: The Brothers or the policeman.
"And what, may I ask, are you doing here?" asked Detective Polehouse.
"Tr -- trying to stop the Brothers," Maxwell replied nervously.
"Why are both your friends locked up in chairs while you're roaming around this mudpit like a hoodlum?"
"I just got out of the chair."
One of the Brothers hurriedly hid the chair Maxwell had been sitting in deep in the alley.
"Right," continued Detective Polehouse. "Let me ask your gang about that. Brothers!"
The Brothers perked up their attention, waiting for the detective to ask his question.
"Is this boy Maxwell a member of your gang?"
"Yeah," said Mugshot slyly. "He's second in command, behind me of course."
"That's a lie!" burst out Maxwell.
"Shut up, kid," barked Mugshot. He was obviously pleased by this new turn of events. At least Maxwell will share the jail with us, he thought. "A Brother can be a lot of things, but one thing a Brother isn't is a liar. You're a liar, aren't you, Maxwell?"
"Maybe," said Detective Polehouse, but he sounded pretty convinced.
"Nick, Tony, tell them! Tell them I'm not a liar!" Maxwell's pleading seemed to make no impression on them. Nick and Tony averted the eyes and said nothing.
"Come on, guys! Help me! Can't you see the kind of trouble I'm in?"
"Look, Maxwell," said Polehouse, putting an arm on Maxwell's shoulder. "Your friends won't help you, your gang won't help you, no one will help you. It's time to give up."
Maxwell was getting very angry now. In a rash move, he pushed Detective Polehouse into the garbage cans and turned away. Brian, who had remained silent until now, lurched forward. Maxwell turned around, but the thing that met him was a fist: Brian's fist. He had just gotten punched by one of his only friends.
"That was for my nephew!" shouted Brian angrily. Maxwell was feeling gritty, and he flew at Brian and punched him too. It was something he later regretted very much. Cameron, sitting in his chair, watched all this in horror. Until then, he had been sticking up for Maxwell, but now that he saw him punch his uncle and shove a police officer into a garbage can, he believed Polehouse was right: Maxwell was a hoodlum.
Cameron was untied, as were Nick and Tony, and the Brothers, along with Maxwell, were captured. The Brothers and Maxwell were taken into a police car, driven by Polehouse, and everyone else went home. Maxwell didn't know what would happen next. It had been one wild night.
Interestingly enough, Maxwell did not spend the next night in a dirty jail cell, nor in a police car, nor in an alley. He and The Brothers spent it with the Mulligans. Maxwell was surprised at the kindness of Mike and Traci after what had happened. But they agreed to take all 5 of them into their homes until the Polehouse could sort things out. The kidnapping was not a big deal in the police department; all 5 people accused were under 18 and there was little harm done to Cameron (a couple scratches and some emotional instability was all).
But to Brian and Maxwell, it was quite a big deal. Brian had had his nephew kidnapped by someone he trusted, and Maxwell was being falsely accused. There was very little evidence in his favor: the only thing that he held on to was the fact that there had been an empty chair with untied rope on it. The police took that into account, but the very next day, the Brothers were questioned, and evidence in Maxwell's favor became scarcer.
"So boys, I trust you had a nice night," sneered Polehouse in the desolate environment of a police station.
"Uh... yeah. Kinda," replied Mugshot sheepishly.
Polehouse was not one to beat around the bush, so he got straight to the point:
"There was another empty chair at the scene with some untied rope. It's the only piece of evidence in your friend Maxwell's favor."
"Actually, that wasn't Maxwell's," said Renegade.
Detective Polehouse raised his eyebrows: "Wasn't it?"
"Nope. Maxwell had been there the whole time, we never tied him up. He was too loyal of a Brother. But this guy, he was a traitor. So were Nick and Tony. That's why we tied them up. But The Shadow... he was crafty - craftier than Nick and Tony. He untied his chair and escaped while we weren't looking."
"Can you other boys confirm this story?" The other Brothers nodded their heads. "Good. I have no doubt Maxwell will deny it. This Shadow... is he a member of your gang as well?"
Shotgun piped up: "Yeah. He was several years older than us, sort of like an adult. He used to be our leader... sort of in the background, you know. Till he went rogue. He started working for another gang. He came here to help with the kidnapping, but by that time, we had already found out. He, Nick, Tony, and another kid had formed a rival gang. We tied them up."
"I see. This case is not my highest priority, so I'll leave now. You can bet all of you will be in Juvenile Detention in a few months. Let's just say we have more to charge you with than kidnapping."
"Like what?" asked Bobby.
"One of you - this Shadow person, actually, has been charged with murder."
"WHAT?!" exclaimed all four Brothers.
"This is bigger than you think, boys. I'd suggest you find something else to occupy your time."
"Yeah," said Mugshot nervously. "Maybe... Maybe we will."
Back at Whit's End, Maxwell felt completely out of place. Ed Washington was trying to be sympathetic, but Maxwell could tell he had spoken with Detective Polehouse and believed everything he said. McKenzie was too busy serving customers to notice him at all, and Cameron was nowhere to be seen. At least, until Brian Brooks burst through the door with him.
"Hello, Brian!" greeted Ed.
"Ed!" returned Brian. "How've you been?"
"Great, just great."
"Ah... hello, Maxwell."
"Hello, Brian - I mean, Mr. Brooks."
A short pause, until Brian broke the silence with a biting comment.
"I've hired something of a lawyer... to sort out the kidnapping."
Maxwell said nothing. He had nothing to say.
"Look, why don't we talk about something else?" interjected Ed Washington.
"If you'll excuse me, Mr. Brooks, I have to work," said Maxwell viciously.
"Fine. Sorry to bother you."
Brian slammed the door and left. Cameron waved. Maxwell didn't wave back.
The next several days were full of depression and bitter feelings for both Maxwell and Brian. Brian continued his work on the police force, but he did most of it halfheartedly. He considered quitting, but he had no where else to go. In the meantime, he awaited the arrival of the lawyer he had called soon after the incidents in the alley. He was supposed to be one of the top men in the business, though he had something of a shady past himself. Brian was told the lawyer used to live in Odyssey, but was framed in a scandal decades before. Since then, Brian's lawyer had made a turnaround, and continued his work with the government to stop crime to this day. He specialized in cases like this and would be a good fit for Brian. He was supposed to come soon... maybe today. Brian hoped he wouldn't have to wait long.
Meanwhile, Detective Don Polehouse discarded The Brothers in his case file, instead pursuing this mysterious Shadow character. He found out a few things about him just from a simple Internet search: The Shadow's real name was Edmund Sharpe. He was 28 years old, and had dropped out of school in 9th grade. Since then, he had been living in the shadows, thus the name, joining gangs only to betray them later and working with crime bosses on projects to get money or stir up the town. He never worked alone, and he generally pushed his colleagues into the forefront of his schemes so they would be caught instead of him. He also gave everyone he was working for one of his many fake names so he would never be incriminated while working with them. He was wanted by the police, but no one could find him. He had been there at the alley at some point, though Polehouse. The detective had already sent out a squad to look for him, but no one knew what he looked like. The Brothers gave him a description, but Polehouse assumed that was fake. The Brothers may have been to afraid to blow the whistle on their murderer friend, or perhaps The Shadow had worn a disguise while in contact with them. Either way, they weren't incredibly reliable witnesses right now. But they were right about Maxwell.
Maxwell, like Brian, lived in despair. He had heard the story The Brothers told about The Shadow. Maxwell remembered The Shadow. He had been a member of The Brothers... about six months ago. Polehouse was now on a wild goose chase to find him when he hadn't set foot in Connellsville in months. He had tried to tell Polehouse that, but he wouldn't listen. Maxwell was also concerned about the lawyer Brian had mentioned during their last meeting. What would happen if he did find some evidence other than The Brothers' testimony that would put Maxwell in JD forever. Tony had told him stories about JD, and it didn't sound pleasant. Maxwell wouldn't think about Tony now, though. Tony had betrayed him, and they barely said one word to each other while Maxwell was staying at his house in the aftermath of the alley incident. Ed Washington had told him to turn to God, but God seemed so far away now. Life would go on, and everyone Maxwell had trusted would think he was a hoodlum. But maybe I am, thought Maxwell solemnly.
Brian was getting restless. He had been waiting for hours, and the lawyer man still hadn't shown up. It was nearly 11 o'clock at night, and Cameron had long gone to bed. Brian had arranged to meet the man at his apartment at 8 o'clock to talk business. The man had insisted he conduct business at night, which surprised Brian. But he still accepted. When will he be here? Conveniently, just as Brian thought that question, there came a knock at the apartment door. Brian opened it, and he was greeted by a professional looking man: cleanly shaved, suit and tie, suitcase, and serious expression. Brian breathed a sigh of relief: at least the guy was legitimate.
"Hello," greeted the man. "I know I'm a little late, but I had some other business to attend to. Can we still talk at this hour?"
"Sure," said Brian, putting his hand out in greeting. "I don't mind staying up late."
"Good. You'll have to. We have a lot to talk about." The man locked the door immediately, and gave a sly smile that made Brian feel uncomfortable.
"What's your name, by the way?" asked Brian.
"Glossman," the lawyer replied. "Phillip Glossman."