The Long Road: Book Three ~ Aaron's Journey Down The Long Road

Chapter Twenty~Three

Two hours earlier….

"Iukekini, we have a call. Want to tag along? You'll get some EMT field experience." One of the paramedics asked him.

"Yeah, let's roll." He responded enthusiastically as he jumped into the back of the ambulance and they sped off to the destination given them by the nine-one-one dispatcher. Pulling into an alleyway they spotted a man lying face down. The paramedics looked him over carefully, Iukekini stood back, filling out paperwork as instructed. After a few minutes, he held the man's head as they gently rolled him over. He gasped in shock at the ruin of the man's face. He had been beaten to a bloody pulp and his facial features were unrecognizable at first. No wallet or any other form of identification was found so his identity remained a mystery until Iukekini took a closer look.

"I know this guy. His name is Jerry…Jerry…" He snapped his fingers a couple of times trying to remember his last name. Eventually, it came to him. "Martinson. He's in the Navy over at Barber's Point."

"He won't be much longer if we don't get him to the hospital and fast. He definitely has a broken eye socket, head trauma and God knows what else. I don't like his pallor and his pulse is a little on the weak side but he's in normal sinus rhythm according to the monitor so let's load him into the bus and I mean like right now!" Iukekini thought fast as he ran to the ambulance. Head trauma. Multiple lacerations. Broken eye socket. Better be safe and grab a cervical collar. He thought to himself as he grabbed it along with the backboard. They soon had him at the hospital where he was pronounced critical, but stable.

Back in the present….

"Jerry. Someone used his face for a punching bag. He's critical but stable, and probably going to lose his eye. The socket was shattered and some of the bone was embedded in his left eye." Aaron just sat there in shock. As much as he hated Jerry for what he'd done, he wouldn't wish that on anyone. "Aaron? Baby?"

"I'm here. Did they say whether or not he's going to die?"

"No, they're pretty sure he'll make it."

"That's good news."

"Good news? I never expected to hear you say that about him."

Aaron was silent for a moment. "Despite the bullshit he pulled, I wouldn't wish that on him. In fact, in a way I owe him."

"Wait. What?" He replied, shock very apparent in his voice.

"Yeah. Think about it. If he hadn't forced me to out myself, I might never have enlisted and would never have met you. So in a way, I owe him." Aaron sighed, letting go of his hate. Life was too short and Aaron was never one to carry a grudge. "I think I'll go see him."

"You'll WHAT?"

"I think I'll go see him. Thank him for making it possible for us to meet."

"You're nuts, you know that? I think you're asking for trouble."

"Maybe. My other line is ringing. See you tonight?"

"Bring some shrimp and I'll get the steaks."

"Sounds good, baby. I love you.

"Love you too. Bye."

"Bye."

The visit never came to pass as a couple of days later officers from the Honolulu Police Department were escorted into his office. "Aaron Suarez, we have a warrant for your arrest on charges of assaulting a one, Jerry Martinson. You have the right to remain silent…" Aaron was forced to his feet and handcuffed as he was read his Miranda rights and escorted out of the building and into a police car. A half hour later he was sitting in an interrogation room being interviewed by a detective.

"Petty Officer Martinson identified you as his attacker. I understand there was some bad blood between the two of you."

"A long time ago he caused serious problems between me and my family, but it's over and done with. I have nothing to do with him. The last time I saw him was when I was conducting a special class for Navy firefighters on how to deal with the F-16 fighter jet auxiliary power unit's hydrazine fuel.

"Where were you last Tuesday at two o'clock?"

"I was at work. My unit Commander, First Sergeant, and supervisor can all verify that I was there all day. In fact, they threw a promotion party for me and my Commander gave me my E-6 stripes."

"E-6 stripes? What's that?"

"My new rank insignia that goes on the sleeves of my uniform."

"I'll need their names and phone numbers."

"Sure." He wrote them down just as another detective walked in and whispered something in the first detective's ear.

The detective interviewing Aaron sat back in his chair with a sigh. "Your First Sergeant just arrived with sworn statements from your Commander, Supervisor, himself and your co-workers all corroborating your story. You're free to go. We may have further questions for you, so it would be in your best interest not to disappear, if you know what I mean."

"I do." He got up and was escorted out of the building by a uniformed officer.

The interviewing detective looked at the other detective. "Just as well. I don't believe the kid did it. There were no marks on his hands, and even after a week there would be some visible bruising."

"Assuming he used his hands."

"I checked into his Air Force training while waiting for the arrest warrant to be issued. He's an expert at hand-to-hand combat and a trained Firefighter. I doubt he'd use anything but his hands. Besides, there was nothing found anywhere in or around the alley that could have been used as a weapon."

"Something just doesn't add up. Why would Martinson name him as his assailant?"

"To get back at him for something. There was bad blood between them."

"I think another talk with him is in order. Hopefully this time he won't be so doped up."

"You think it was the drugs talking, making him give us the wrong person?"

"It's been known to happen."

"Let's head over there now."

Two months later, there was a knock on the door. Justin opened it to reveal Jerry on their doorstep. "What the fuck do you want, Jerry? You have a lot of balls coming here after what you did to my brother" He snarled.

"I have some information on Aaron you might want. I know where he is."

Overhearing Justin Alison came to the door. "What the hell happened to you?"

"Aaron beat the shit out of me when he found out I was going to tell you where he was."

"First of all, Aaron's not the type to resort to physical violence for any reason unless there was extreme provocation" Justin began.

"You don't know him like you think you do. He's changed a lot since he went into the military. He's become a mean, miserable bastard who loves to pick fights with anyone for any reason."

"And just how would you know that cocksucker?" Alison said, garnering a surprised look from Justin.

"We were stationed together before he did this to me and got me kicked out of the Navy."

"He did this to you? Good for him. Get lost, creep." Alison said.

"Poor fucking baby. Guess what? You deserved it. Come near us again and what he did to you would be like foreplay compared to what I'll do to you." Justin growled, flexing his considerable muscles before slamming the door in his face.

"Justin, wait a minute. Why would he claim that Aaron beat him up?"

"According to him, Aaron beat him up because he was going to tell us where he is."

Tears started flowing down her cheeks. "He knows where Aaron is?"

"Apparently, though I'm not sure I believe him."

"We need to get him to tell us where Aaron is. We need to go to him and find out what went wrong between us."

"Alison, even if he would tell us the truth, Aaron could be anywhere. How would we get to him?"

"I'd spend every dime I have and if that wasn't enough, I'd sell my car and everything I own. I miss him so much." Her voice broke on that last statement.

Justin pulled her into his arms. "I do too, Ally. I do too. You have to remember, though, he's made no effort to get in touch with us."

"He couldn't. Dad had our phone numbers changed after he got that god-awful restraining order."

"He still could have written to us. We haven't changed our address."

"True." She conceded. "I guess we'll never know. It just hurts so much, Justin."

"I know, Sis. Believe me, I know."

"So what do we do now?"

"The only thing we can do. Pray for a miracle."

Back in Iukekini's apartment, the buzzer rang. "Yes?" Iukekini spoke into the intercom.

"It's us. You asked us to come over this afternoon, remember?"

"Yep. Come on up." He hit the button to open the door to the building. A minute later he was ushering Cameron and Mitch into the apartment.

"You got the tickets?"

"Yes, and Aaron doesn't know a thing about it. I'm pretty sure I've been able to keep him from knowing about the concert. He's going to shit his pants when he finds out. I managed to get the owners to reserve us a table by telling them that Aaron was an Air Force Firefighter and that it was his birthday. Apparently, the owner has a thing for men in uniform." He laughed.

"You are so getting lucky tonight," Cameron said giggling.

"Well, it is his birthday, after all."

"What about my birthday? That's not for another week. Hey everyone" Aaron said coming through the door with his arms full of groceries.

"Well, since I can't get off duty on your birthday, I thought we'd celebrate it tonight."

"Okaaayyyy, what are you up to?"

"Oh, just this" He reached into a roll-top desk drawer and produced an envelope which he handed to Aaron. "Go on, open it. It's an early birthday present." Aaron opened up the envelope and stared in shock at the tickets it contained. Wordlessly he handed them to Mitch, not knowing that they already knew about the tickets, who handed them back.

Aaron practically knocked Iukekini down when he jumped on him. "I can't believe this! I love Kyle Matthews. His music is incredible. I can't believe I'm actually going to see him in concert."

"Happy birthday a week early, baby. Now go and get changed. We need to get going."

"What about dinner?"

"There's a buffet at the club. Now if you don't go get changed I'm going to rip your clothes off right here in front of everyone."

"Okay, okay, I'm going. I'll just be a minute."

"Yeah right and I'm King Kamehameha! Go!" He made a grab for Aaron's shirt, who ducked into the bedroom just in time to prevent Iukekini from carrying out his threat.

Arriving at the Nighttown Waikiki Aaron lost some of his excitement as he noticed the crowd waiting in line. This didn't faze Iukekini one bit, however, He led them to the front of the line and handed the bouncer a note. They were immediately let into the club and led to a table right in front of the stage. Soon the club was filled to capacity. The owner got up on the stage and grabbed the microphone.

"Good evening ladies, gentlemen and those in between. Welcome to Nighttown Waikiki on this very special evening for tonight we have a special guest who will be out shortly. In the meantime, please help yourself to the buffet and the servers will be around to take your drink orders." After everyone had full plates and drinks in hand, the owner got back up on stage. "Okay everyone, here is how tonight is going to work. If anyone wants more to eat get it now as once the concert starts the buffet will be closed until the intermission." A couple of people grabbed more food, but most of the patrons remained at their table. As soon as everyone was seated again, the owner continued. "Okay, it is my great pleasure to introduce to you, right from the mainland, Mister Kyle Matthews!" Everyone was on their feet clapping and cheering as Kyle took the stage. He held out his hands for silence.

"Thank you, Tony, for the introduction and thank you, everyone, for coming out tonight. It's great to see you all here. Before I begin, there is something I want to do. Is Aaron Suarez here tonight?" Everyone, including Kyle, scanned the room. Aaron didn't budge out of embarrassment. Iukekini stood up and pointed to Aaron with both index fingers, causing him to sink down further into his chair. "Aaron, come on up here," Kyle said, holding out his right hand.

"If you don't move I'm going to get the bouncers to haul your ass up there." Iukekini threatened. Having no choice in the matter, Aaron got up; accepting Kyle's outstretched hand and mounted the stage.

"I understand that it's Aaron's birthday next week, so I want to give him a little gift." He started singing 'Happy Birthday' and was quickly joined by the rest of the crowd. After the song was finished he said: "don't go anywhere just yet." Kyle ran to the side of the stage, accepted a small package from Tony, the club owner, and returned to Aaron. "I hope you have a great birthday and I want to thank you for your service and sacrifice for this country." He gave the crying Aaron a hug and the package. "Enjoy the rest of your evening."

Aaron returned to his seat and opened the package to reveal autographed copies of both of Kyle's CDs and a framed, autographed eight-by-ten photo of Kyle with a personalized message written on it. The concert was incredible and went for four hours with a break after the first two hours. During the break, while everyone was getting more food Tony approached Aaron. "First off, happy birthday, Aaron and I'd also like to thank you for your service, sacrifice, and dedication to this country. Would you come with me for a moment, please?"

Everyone exchanged confused looks as Aaron got up and followed Tony through the crowded club.

"Iukekini, what's going on? Did you know about the birthday gift?" Cameron asked.

"I have no idea and no, I didn't know about the CDs or picture."

After a few minutes, a dazed Aaron returned and flopped down into his chair. "Aaron, what's going on? Hello? Earth to Aaron. Earth to Aaron. Come in please?" Iukekini waved his hand in front of Aaron's face a couple of times.

Blinking a couple of times, Aaron turned a tear-streaked face to Iukekini. "The owner just took me upstairs to a private lounge and I got my picture taken with Kyle. We were sitting next to each other on a couch just like we were old friends watching a baseball game on TV."

"Oh, wow! That's incredible. Are you going to get a copy of it?"

"I don't know, I hope so."

Shortly after the concert, while Kyle was signing autographs, Tony approached their table with two large envelopes. "This is for you, Aaron." Inside the envelope was an eight-by-ten photo of him and Kyle, signed. He handed Aaron the other envelope which contained another copy of the photo. "Kyle would be honored if you would sign this for him." He handed Aaron a Sharpie.

"Are you kidding? He wants me to autograph this picture of us?"

"Yes, he does. He loves having pictures of his fans."

"I wouldn't even begin to know what to write."

"Write what's in your heart." An oddly familiar voice behind him said.

Startled, Aaron looked up, into a pair of eyes, eyes that he knew so well. Eyes that he never thought he would ever see again.

Comments appreciated at Jim Dunaway