The next day, before school began, Sam talked with Daniel about the science project. She asked if he could come over so that they could work on it some more together.
"I was going to go over to Mister Greer's tomorrow and Sunday," he told her. "I want to get the frame finished tomorrow so that I can put the modeling clay on Sunday. I need to put all the clay on in one day so parts of it don't get dry."
"Wow, you'll have your whole part done this weekend."
Daniel shook his head. "I'll still have lots of things to do after the clay sets, like painting it. I want to make it look real."
"When you get it all done, you need to bring it over to my house so that we can do the other stuff to it." Sam grinned. "I can't wait until we get everything all finished."
After school let out that afternoon, Daniel headed over to Mister Greer's classroom, as usual.
"I'm sorry, Daniel, but I'm going to have to cancel our tutoring session today," the teacher said when he came in. "A last minute teachers' meeting has been called. I'd have told you sooner, but I didn't find out until just a few minutes before lunch ended."
Daniel was disappointed, but made an effort to hide it. "That's okay, Mister Greer. I understand."
Quentin smiled. "I will see you tomorrow, though. That hasn't changed. I'll pick you up at nine, all right?"
After saying goodbye to the teacher, Daniel headed for the school exit. He'd be taking the bus home today. He just hoped that Mrs. Underwood would be home. She wouldn't be expecting him so soon.
Daniel was still several yards from the exit when he saw Bud. The boy was standing right in his path.
"Where do you think you're going, retard?" Bud asked.
Daniel clutched his book bag tighter to his chest. "I need to catch the bus."
Bud sneered. "Yeah, no going home with Mister Greer today, huh. Teachers' meeting."
Daniel's eyes darted about, hoping to see an adult nearby, but there weren't any, just children hurrying to catch their buses.
He turned back to Bud. "Please let me by," he said.
Bud shook his head. "Uh uh. You can't go out this way. Go another way."
"But I might miss my bus," Daniel protested.
"Aw, then the poor retard would have to walk all the way home." Bud's face hardened. "Tough. I'm not letting you by. Why don't you go crying to Mister Greer like the little baby you are?"
Daniel hesitated, then turned away. He toyed with the idea of going to Mister Greer and telling him what happened, but then he really would be a baby. He'd just go out one of the other exits. The one that went out onto the playground and lunch area wasn't far away. He'd still make it in time to catch his bus.
Daniel hurried down the mostly empty hallway toward the other exit, glancing back a couple of times to make sure Bud wasn't following him.
He reached the door and swung it open, walking out into a cold drizzle. He'd barely made it four feet beyond the door when he was roughly grabbed from behind. His startled cry was muffled by a hand over his mouth. He struggled in vain against the arms that held him. After a few seconds, he heard the door open again.
Whoever was holding him turned him around to face the door. The person coming through it was Bud.
The older boy smiled nastily. "You walked right into that one, didn't you," he said. "Such a retard."
Another boy came trotting up. Daniel recognized him as one of the kids he'd seen with Bud at lunch a couple of weeks ago. The person holding Daniel was probably the other boy he'd noticed that day.
"The coast is clear," the newcomer said.
Bud nodded and turned to Daniel. The hatred was back in his eyes.
"Because of you and that geek Air Force brat, people are laughing at me and saying I'm a coward and dumber than a couple of eight-year-old brats. They used to all be afraid of me until you came around." He drew close and put his face right up to Daniel's. "So, now, I'm gonna teach you a lesson about messing with me. By the time I get through with you, you'll do anything I tell you to from now on."
Daniel's heart was racing with fear. The hand had been removed from his mouth, and he stammered, "Y-y-you'll g-get expelled."
"No, I won't, because you're not gonna tell anyone. If you do, I'll hurt your little friend Kenny. I'd hurt the Air Force brat, too, but there's no way she wouldn't go running to her dad and tell him."
"Bud, we need to get out of here before someone sees us," the boy holding Daniel said.
"Right. Let's go."
The boys began dragging Daniel across the empty playground. His struggles against them were useless, his cry for help silenced by the hand back over his mouth. In the distance, Daniel could see the school buses being loaded with kids, but it might as well have been a hundred miles away.
He was taken to the fence that separated the schoolyard from an empty field that was being cleared for a housing development and pulled roughly through a hole. His pant leg caught on something and ripped.
As Daniel was dragged away across the field, he wondered if he'd live to see Sam and the other people he loved again.
Out of breath, Sam got at the end of the line of kids loading onto her bus. She'd almost forgotten one of the electronics books she'd brought to school with her and had to go back to get it. She was going to need it for this weekend. She had plans to work on the science project all Saturday and Sunday. If she and Daniel did a really good job, maybe they'd win first prize at the fair!
A squeal of laughter made Sam look over her shoulder at a couple of girls. She was about to turn back when her eyes caught some movement in the distance, at the far end of the playground. Three older boys were there. As she looked more closely, she saw that they were fighting with or dragging a younger child. In the second after that, Sam recognized the bright blue jacket the younger boy was wearing. It was Daniel's.
Sheer panic filled Sam's mind. Not stopping to think, not considering that the wisest thing to do would be to go get an adult, she broke from the line and began running as fast as her legs would carry her, intent upon saving her best friend.
By the time she reached the spot where she'd seen the kids, they were nowhere in sight. Sam looked around frantically. Her eyes spotted a jagged opening in the fence a few yards away and went to it. Caught on the fence was a piece of cloth. Sam saw that it was the same color as the pants Daniel had been wearing.
Dropping the bag that held her books and other things, Sam squirmed through the hole. She saw footprints in the muddy ground and followed them.
A cry of pain froze Sam in her tracks, her blood going cold. A second outcry broke her immobility and made her dash headlong toward a bulldozer a few yards away. When she came around the other side it was to the sight of Daniel being held by one boy, his arm twisted behind his back, as Bud punched him twice in the stomach.
"Leave him alone!" Sam screamed, launching herself at Bud. Taken by surprise, the boy fell under her weight. He threw Sam off of him, and she landed beside Daniel, who'd been release and had crumpled into a heap on the ground.
"Hey, it's the geek Air Force brat!" Bud crowed. "I guess maybe I'll beat you up, too, after all."
"Leave . . . her . . . alone," Daniel gasped, curled into a fetal position around the pain in his stomach and side.
"My daddy's going to kill you!" Sam yelled, more furious than scared. "He'll take his gun, and he'll shoot you and kill you!"
The declaration made one of Bud's cohorts nervous. "Maybe we should just go, Bud. I don't want no psycho Air Force guy coming after me."
"Maybe Wayne's right," said the other boy. "We did this because we figured nobody'd find out. Now that she's here, it's all changed."
"I'm not done teaching the retard a lesson yet," Bud declared. He reached down and grabbed Sam by her hair and lifted her up, making her cry out in pain. He glared into her eyes. "You're not going to tell your dad. You're not going to tell anybody. If you do, I'll hurt your boyfriend Daniel so bad that maybe he'll die."
That made Wayne even more nervous. Nobody had said anything about killing someone. He didn't want to go to jail for murder.
"I'm outta here," he said, turning and running away.
The departure made Bud even angrier. He grasped Sam's arm and twisted it painfully, wrenching another cry from her.
Fighting past the pain in his body, Daniel struggled to get to his knees, to try to stop Bud from hurting Sam, but the other boy held him down. Tears that he'd held in while he was being beaten fell from his eyes as Sam's arm was twisted more, making her whimper.
"Please leave her alone," he begged. "Please."
Bud never got the chance to respond. There was a sudden blur of motion, and, in the next second, he was on the ground, another boy on top of him, pummeling Bud with his fists. Sam, who suddenly recalled what Randy had said about dealing with Bud if he ever tried to hurt her or Daniel, looked at the new arrival, expecting to see the blond boy. But it was not Randy who was in the midst of beating Bud to a pulp – it was Sam's brother.
Taken totally by surprise by the sudden attack, Bud's friend just stood there, mouth hanging open, and watched as the big, tough Bud, overwhelmed by the mad dog attack of Mark, started blubbering like a baby, screaming in pain at every blow.
At last, Mark's fury cooled enough that some sense returned to his brain. He got to his feet, hands still clenched into fists.
"If you ever hurt my sister or Daniel again, I'll kill you!" he yelled down at Bud. He grabbed Bud's coat collar and yanked him partway off the ground. "You got that?!"
"Yes, yes," Bud whimpered, cringing away.
Mark let him go. His face a bloody mess, Bud staggered to his feet, then ran away, his friend right on his tail. Mark turned to the younger kids.
"Are you guys okay?"
Sam, who was cradling her arm against her chest answered, "I'm okay, but Bud really hurt Daniel a lot."
Mark knelt beside the boy, who was still lying on the ground. "Where did he hurt you?"
"In the stomach and my side," Daniel whispered, starting to feel sick, his stomach burning like fire.
Mark got to his feet. "I'll go get help."
He ran as fast as his legs would carry him back to the school and went hurtling inside, the sound of the door banging open echoing down the hall. He looked around and didn't see anyone. He remembered hearing something about a teacher's meeting today and headed at a run for the room in which he knew they had such things. The sight and sound of him bursting into the room startled everyone there.
Mark's eyes fell upon the biggest person in the room. "Mister Greer! Bud Whitman's hurt Daniel! I think it might be really bad!"
The adrenaline of fear rushed through Quentin. And then he saw the blood on Mark's shirt and hands, and his fear heightened to terror. Was that Daniel's blood? He exploded to his feet.
"Where?" he snapped out.
"He and Sam are in that field behind the school. Bud hurt her, too, but I think she's okay."
"Call an ambulance," Quentin called over his shoulder to the other teachers as he hurried to the door. "And the police."
As the man ran with Mark across the school grounds, horrifying images were marching before his mind's eyes, pictures of a critically injured Daniel lying bleeding on the ground. By the time they reached the bulldozer, Quentin was feeling physically ill. And then he saw the real Daniel on the ground, and his gut clenched painfully. Getting control of himself, he saw that there was no sign of any blood. Even so, that didn't mean that Daniel wasn't seriously injured.
Quentin knelt before the boy and gently touched his face. "Daniel? Daniel, tell me where it hurts."
"My stomach and my side. I feel sick."
Quentin brushed a lock of rain-dampened hair from the child's brow. "Help is on the way, Daniel. You're going to be all right." He turned to Sam, seeing that she was holding her arm against her body. The wrist looked slightly swollen. "Sam? Are you all right? What's wrong with your arm?"
"Bud twisted it really bad," Mark spit out, his anger returning.
"Let's see." The teacher gently examined the arm. "I don't think it's broken, but it might be sprained. Try not to move it."
Quentin looked back down at Daniel and saw that the boy was shivering. Lying on the cold, wet ground, the chill of the earth was penetrating through his clothing, the light rain making it even worse.
Though there was some danger in moving him, Quentin decided he couldn't leave Daniel lying on the wet ground like that. He took off his jacket and wrapped it around the boy, then very carefully lifted Daniel's upper body onto his lap and chest, taking the utmost care not to jostle any ribs that might be broken. Putting his arms around the child, he rested a hand on Daniel's hair, closing his eyes for a moment against the tears that were threatening to fall.
Perhaps a minute had passed when they all heard the sound of approaching sirens.
"Go flag them down, Mark," Quentin said. The boy ran off. A few moments later, the sirens stopped. Minutes after that, two paramedics and a police officer came running up. The paramedics got busy examining both Daniel and Sam.
Quentin and Mark stood a few feet away, watching anxiously. The cop approached them.
"We were informed that another child did this," the officer said, notepad and pen in hand.
Quentin nodded. "Bud Whitman. You can get all the information on him at the school. He's eleven, and this isn't the first time that he's harmed Daniel. He's the school bully. I just never thought . . ." his eyes went to Daniel, "I never thought he'd go this far."
"He had another guy with him," Mark said.
"Did you see everything?" the cop asked him.
Mark shook his head. "I was in PE playing basketball, but I tore my shorts, and the coach told me to go change. When I was at my locker, one of the other kids told me that they just saw my sister running across the playground. She should have been on her way home, so I went to see what was going on."
For the first time, Quentin noticed how the boy was dressed. Underneath his jacket was a loose T-shirt. His legs were bare, his lower body clothed only in a pair of torn gym shorts.
Mark continued. "When I went out into the playground, I saw Sam's bag lying on the ground near the fence. There was a hole in the fence. I figured she went through it, so I did, too, to go find her." His expression darkened. "I heard her cry out, like she was in pain. When I came around the bulldozer, I saw Bud Whitman holding her by her hair and twisting her arm like he was going to break it."
The policeman jotted everything down. "What happened next?"
"I beat him up," Mark replied bluntly. "He hurt my sister. He and his friend ran away. I think the other kid's name is Carl."
"Carl Prescott?" Quentin asked.
"Yeah, I think so."
The teacher nodded. "He's one of the kids who pals around with Bud."
The cop wrote down a few more things, asking for the full names of everyone involved and the names and phone numbers of the people to contact regarding Sam and Daniel. "All right. I think I have everything I need for now."
"Are you going to arrest Bud?" Mark asked.
"Well, he is a minor, so there are limits to what the courts can do, but he did commit assault on two other children, so I'm guessing that he'll be spending some time in Juvenile Hall. It all depends on how serious the children's injuries are."
That comment made both Quentin and Mark turn back to Bud's two victims. Sam's hand and wrist were being wrapped in an Ace bandage. Daniel was still lying on the ground, being examined by the other paramedic.
Needing to know how the boy was, Quentin came forward. "How is he?"
The man attending to Daniel looked up. "There doesn't appear to be any fractured ribs, and, so far, there's no indication of internal bleeding, but he took some nasty blows to his abdominal area, so we need to have him checked out at the hospital."
"Is Sam okay?" Daniel asked, looking over toward his friend. He couldn't see her because his view was being blocked by the man working on her.
"She'll be fine," the paramedic assured him. "Her arm is just hurt a bit."
At that moment, two other men arrived with a gurney. Daniel was loaded onto it and was wheeled to the waiting ambulance, Sam walking behind.
As the group reached the emergency vehicles, Quentin said, "I hope you have room in that ambulance, because I'm coming, too."
The medical personnel took one look at the expression on the face of the six-foot-five, two-hundred-fifty pound man and decided that arguing might not be a wise course of action.
"Oh, man, I gotta call Mom!" Mark exclaimed. "She's probably freaking out because Sam wasn't on the bus."
"Go on back to the school and call," Quentin told him. "And ask her to call Daniel's foster mother. She wasn't expecting Daniel home because I was supposed to be tutoring him today, so she'd have no idea something is wrong."
That's when the guilt hit Quentin. If he hadn't had to back out on today's tutoring, Daniel would be sitting safe and sound in his library. True, it wasn't Quentin's fault that he'd had to cancel, but that didn't stop him from feeling guilty anyway.
All the way to the hospital, Quentin's eyes never left the small figure on the gurney. Daniel was clearly in pain, but he hadn't made a sound, suffering in silence. At last, the teacher couldn't stand it anymore and gently took the boy's hand. Blue eyes fluttered open to meet his brown ones.
Quentin forced a smile to his lips. "Hey there. How are you doing, Danny?" he asked softly.
"It still hurts, but not as bad as before."
"I don't want to go to the hospital again."
"No, I bet you don't, but the doctors need to make sure that you're okay."
"Is Sam really all right?"
Quentin glanced over at the girl, who was sitting on the bench, close to the cab. "Sure, she's fine. She's right there." He pointed at her.
Daniel craned his neck to look at her. Seeing her bandaged hand and wrist, his face filled with distress.
"Is it broken?" he asked in a trembling voice.
"No, it's just sprained," Sam replied. "It hardly hurts at all." Actually, it hurt quite a bit, but she didn't want Daniel to know that.
They arrived at the hospital a minute later. As the kids were taken out of the ambulance, Quentin didn't know what he should do. He wanted to stay with Daniel, but Sam couldn't be left alone. Though it was a tough decision to make, he decided that he needed to remain with Sam, who would be spending some time in the emergency waiting room, her injury not bad enough to rush her into the ER ahead of more serious cases.
Sitting in the waiting room, Quentin looked down at the little girl, who appeared to be fighting tears, an expression of fear on her face.
"Hey. Daniel's going to be okay," he told her.
A pair of tear-filled blue eyes looked at him. "But what if he's not? Bud was hitting him really, really hard." The tears slipped free. "I heard Daniel scream."
A muscle in Quentin's jaw twitched as his teeth clenched. If Bud Whitman was an adult. . . . The teacher calmed his anger with an effort.
"I'm sure Daniel will be fine, Sam, although he's probably not going to be feeling so well for a while."
At that moment, Mark and a frantic-looking Laura came hurrying in. The second she saw Sam, the woman rushed over.
"Oh, Sam, honey. Are you all right?" she asked in a shaking voice, her hands gliding over her daughter's hair and face.
"I'm okay, Mom," Sam assured her. "I just have a sprained wrist."
Laura touched the bandages. Then she pulled the girl into her arms, holding her tight. There were tears on her face when she pulled back and turned to Quentin.
"We're not sure yet. The paramedics didn't think there was any serious damage. Did you call Diane Underwood?"
Laura nodded. "She should be on her way soon. She was going to see if a neighbor could watch the other kids."
Diane arrived around ten minutes later, immediately asking how Daniel was. Not even a minute after that, Jacob came rushing in, looking nearly as frantic as Laura had. The second he saw his daughter, he was across the room in a flash and holding her tightly.
"Are you all right, sweetheart?" he asked in a voice that trembled slightly as he scanned her face.
Sam nodded. "My wrist is just sprained."
Jacob looked down at the injury. The knowledge that it had been inflicted by another person made fury begin to burn deep inside him. He looked up at the others.
"We're still waiting for word," Quentin told him. "Apparently, Bud punched him several times in the abdomen and sides."
The news made Jacob's anger grow to an almost unmanageable level. "So, it was that kid again," he growled. "The message I got just said that Sam and Daniel had been attacked and were in the hospital. So, what's the whole story?"
Jacob was filled in on what was known about the incident.
"Bud was crying like a baby," Mark declared with his chin high after recounting what he did.
Normally, Jacob would not be pleased by the news that his son had attacked another child, but, this time, the captain wasn't the least bit unhappy about it. Mark had bravely rushed in and saved Daniel and his sister. Who knew how badly the two children might have been harmed if not for his actions?
Jacob put an arm around his son. "You saved Sam and Daniel, Mark. You should be proud of that."
A doctor came walking up to the group. "Which of you is a parent of Daniel Jackson?"
"I'm his foster mother," Diane replied. "Is he all right?"
The man nodded. "He'll be fine. There were no internal injuries, as far as we can tell, and no cracked ribs. He got off lucky."
"Thank God," Quentin murmured.
"He is very bruised and sore, though, and he has some mildly strained muscles in his left arm from having it twisted behind his back. We've got him on a mild pain reliever. We'd like to keep him overnight just for observation, but he got very upset when we mentioned it." The doctor turned back to Diane. "Perhaps you can talk to him." He looked down at Sam. "And what about you, young lady? How does that arm feel?"
"It hurts a little," Sam admitted.
"Well, we need to get you x-rayed to make sure everything is in one piece."
Sam was taken into the ER, Laura accompanying her, as Diane was taken to be with Daniel. Quentin wanted to be with the boy, too, but he needed to call his wife and fill her in.
"Oh, no!" Kathleen cried upon hearing the news. "Are they sure Daniel is okay?"
"Yes, they're pretty sure he's fine. They want to keep him overnight to be on the safe side, but he's understandably upset about another stay in the hospital."
"This is just horrible. How could any child do something so cruel and brutal?"
Quentin sighed. "I wish I knew, Kat. We were aware that Bud had a mean streak and problems with anger, but I had no idea that he could turn that vicious. He could have killed Daniel. According to Sam, he threatened to do that very thing, if she told anyone about what happened. This was premeditated, Kat. According to Sam, there were two other boys helping Bud, and one of them said something that makes it pretty obvious this whole thing was planned out in advance. Bud targeted Daniel and made plans to harm him."
"But why? What could that sweet little boy have done to make Bud hate him so?"
"I have my beliefs and suspicions. Hopefully, we'll learn the whole story once we talk to Daniel and Bud is in custody."
"Are you going to stay there a while longer?"
"Yes. I want to see Daniel. I also need to contact the police and let them know that there was a third boy involved. We only knew about Bud and Carl when I talked to the police before."
"I hope Bud goes to prison," Kathleen said in an angry voice. "I know he's just a boy, but he deserves to be locked up for what he did to Daniel and Sam, for what he could have done to them, if Mark hadn't shown up."
"Well, that'll be up to the authorities. I'd guess that he will be spending some time in detention at Juvenile Hall. I do know one thing for sure. He will be expelled for this. I'll be pushing for an expulsion for Carl Prescott and Wayne Banks as well."
After hanging up with Kathleen, Quentin called the police and told them about Wayne. He asked if they'd caught Bud and was told that they hadn't. The boy apparently hadn't come home yet.
The teacher was entering the waiting room when a nurse came up to him.
"Are you Mister Greer?"
"Could you come into the ER with me?"
Quentin grew concerned. "Is something wrong?"
"Well, yes and no. It's nothing serious."
Quentin exchanged a glance with Jacob, then followed the nurse into the emergency room. He was taken to one of the exam areas. The curtain was pulled back to reveal Diane and a very upset Daniel. The teacher immediately stepped up to the examination bed.
"Hey. What's wrong?" he asked the child in it.
"I don't want to stay here," Daniel replied, nearly in tears. "Please don't let them make me, Mister Greer."
"It would only be for one night, Daniel. That's all. The doctors just want to keep an eye on you and make sure you really are okay."
"But I am okay," Daniel insisted. "It doesn't hurt nearly as much now, and the doctor said nothing was broken." His eyes filled with tears. "Please, Mister Greer. I want to go home."
Quentin's heart almost broke at the plea. He turned to the doctor.
"Is it really necessary for him to stay? Daniel was in the hospital for several days with pneumonia a few months ago, and, before that. . . . Well, let's just say that he's been seeing way too much of hospitals."
The doctor frowned slightly. "Well, no, it's not absolutely necessary. It would just be a precaution, in case we missed something. If he goes home, I'd have to insist that he be taken to a doctor in the morning."
"I'm sure that wouldn't be a problem." Quentin looked to Diane for confirmation.
"I can take him to the clinic if his regular doctor can't see him," she said. "And I'll check on him during the night to make sure he's all right."
The doctor nodded. "All right, then. Let me just get some prescriptions written for him and take care of a few other things."
Quentin turned back to Daniel, who looked immensely relieved.
"Thank you, Mister Greer," the boy said.
Quentin stayed for several minutes, then decided to go back out to the waiting room to fill everyone else in. He was surprised to see that Laura and Sam still weren't back.
"Still waiting?" he asked Jacob.
"Yes, and I'm beginning to wonder what's taking so long. So, what's up with Daniel?"
"He's gong home. Not surprisingly, he really didn't want to stay here. The doctor relented and is letting him leave under the condition that he be taken to a doctor in the morning."
"Well, I sure can't blame him for not wanting to stay. That poor kid has spent way too much time in hospitals."
Quentin nodded. "My car is still at the school, so I'll catch a ride with Daniel and Diane and have Kathleen pick me up from their house."
Several more minutes had passed before Jacob caught sight of his wife and daughter. And then he saw the cast on Sam's arm. He was on his feet immediately.
"It was broken?!" he exclaimed.
A doctor had accompanied the mother and daughter. "The x-rays showed a hairline fracture of the ulna," he explained. "It's a very small fracture and will likely heal quickly. The cast is mostly just to protect and stabilize the arm and let that bone heal without danger of further stress or injury."
'That little monster broke my baby girl's arm!' was the thought that screamed through Jacob's brain.
Seeing the rage flickering in her husband's eyes, Laura quickly said, "She'll be fine, Jacob."
Sam looked up at the adults with anxious eyes. "Is Daniel okay?"
"He's fine, Sammie," her father assured her. "He'll be going home today." He brushed the hair from his daughter's face. "Come on. Let's get you home."
"But I want to see Daniel."
"You can see him tomorrow, and perhaps you can give him a call this evening, after we've given him some time to rest. He's got a lot of healing to do, just like you."
Tears began filling Sam's eyes. "We won't be able to be in the science fair," she lamented. "It'll be weeks and weeks before the cast come off, and then it'll be too late."
Jacob knelt before her and chucked her under the chin. "Hey. We'll work something out. Between you and Daniel, I'm sure you'll still be able to get your project finished."
"I can help hold things," Mark offered, his brotherly protective instincts coming to the fore again over the sight of that cast on Sam's arm. If he'd known that Bud had actually broken her arm, he wouldn't have stopped hitting Bud's until the guy's whole face was broken.
Daniel and Diane emerged from the ER just a few minutes after the Carters had left. It was obvious by the way the boy was moving that he was very sore.
They stopped by a pharmacy to fill the prescriptions for Daniel. Once they were at the Underwood's place and Daniel was situated in bed, Diane asked if Quentin would mind watching him for a few minutes as she went to get the other kids from the neighbor.
"Sure. I'm in no big hurry," he said. "I'd like to stay and visit with Daniel for a while anyway."
After Diane had left, Quentin called Kathleen to let her know about the change in plans.
"So, how much time should I give you?" she asked before her husband had even told her that he wanted to stay for a while.
"Half an hour. I don't want to stay too long. Daniel needs rest."
"Okay. See you then."
Hanging up, Quentin returned to Daniel's room. He saw that the boy was staring up at the ceiling. He walked up to the bed.
"How are you doing?"
"Okay. I wish I could have seen Sam."
"I believe they plan on bringing her over tomorrow." Quentin paused. "Um . . . it turned out that there was a fracture in her arm after all."
Tears flooded Daniel's eyes. "I-it's broken?"
"It's not serious, Daniel, what's called a hairline fracture. That means there's just a thin crack in the bone. In a few weeks, it'll be as good as new."
Daniel's expression darkened. "I hate Bud."
Quentin sighed and sat on the bed. "I know you have good reason to hate him, Daniel. He hurt you and your best friend. But hate is an ugly thing. You shouldn't hate anybody."
Daniel appeared to think that over. "Is it okay if I just really, really don't like him?"
Quentin smiled and caressed his hair. "Yes, that's okay. I can't say that he's a favorite person of mine either."
"Are they going to put him in jail?"
"Not like they would if Bud was an adult. But there is a place called Juvenile Hall, which is where they put kids who have broken the law. He might be put there for a while."
"And he'll be expelled, right?"
Quentin's voice firmed. "Yes, he'll be expelled."
"Good. I don't ever want to see him again."
Quentin gazed at the face of his pupil. The urge to hug the boy finally reached the point where it could no longer be denied. He leaned forward and gently pulled the child into his arms. As he held Daniel, his emotions suddenly spilled over out of his control.
"Mister Greer, are you crying?" Daniel asked after a moment.
The teacher pulled away a bit, wiping a finger over his eyes. "Yes, I guess I am. This really scared me, Daniel. I was very afraid that you were badly hurt and that you might die." He cupped the boy's face. "I care about you a great deal. You are very important to me."
Daniel wrapped his little arms around the big man. "I love you, Mister Greer," he whispered.
Quentin hugged him back, placing a kiss upon his forehead. "I love you, too, Danny."