Incoherent memories play in his mind.
“When I grow up, I’m going to be a dreamer like you.”
He laughs.“You don’t have to wait to grow up for that, buddy. Be a dreamer right now.”
Alexander twists his fingers in James’ hair, playing with it. “How?” he asks.
James closes his eyes. He can feel Alexander’s heart beating. Astro Boy plays in the background, long since forgotten. A bowl of popcorn sits on the couch beside them.
“It’s easy,” James says, looking down at him. “You just think of what you want the most in the world, and you say it out loud. Then you do whatever you need to do to get it.”
Alexander rests his head against James’ chest.
“I want to stay with you,” he says, still tugging James’ hair. “I want to stay with you forever.”
“Let the boy go,” and officer says, pointing his gun at Grady. Grady tightens his hold on Alexander. His arm is wrapped around his neck. Alexander stands there staring straight ahead. There’s a puddle around his feet.
“I’m in charge here,” Grady snarls. He turns the gun to Alexander’s temple. James grips the boatshed beside him for support. “Put down your weapons or I’ll paint the boatsheds brain-matter pink.”
James feels like all the blood has left his body. He clings to the side of the boatshed, frantically trying to make his slow-motion brain formulate a plan, terrified that charging at Grady will make him pull the trigger. The officer lowers his gun.
“Okay,” he says, gesturing for the other officers to do the same. “Okay.”
“Kick them over here,” Grady demands.
“Do it,” the officer in the front says. They all kick their guns across the gravel.
“There,” the officer says. “Now let the boy go. He’s just a kid, Grady. You can’t do this. I know you. You can’t hurt a kid.”
Grady sneers. “You all think you know me. You all think you understand me but you DON’T! NOBODY UNDERSTANDS THE PAIN I FEEL!! NOBODY!!” He takes a deep breath, composing himself. “But,” he says, cocking his gun, “Axton will. He will. And world will have to listen. The world will finally see what their narrow minded views have done. It doesn’t matter if I live or die tonight. My message will be heard. This moment will never be forgotten. His death won’t fade into the background like Ella’s did. This is how it starts. This is how it begins.”
“NOOOO!” James roars, springing from the shadows. All thoughts of making a plan disappear and he charges towards Grady and Alexander. “TAKE ME!” he screams. “KILL ME!! IF YOU WANT YOUR FACE ON THE NEWS AND YOUR STORY TOLD, THEN KILL ME!! Nobody forgets the people who kill celebrities! Lennon was shot nearly 25 years ago and they are STILL making movies about it!” He slows to a halt, aware that if he tries to get any closer, he might push Grady to shoot Alexander. “You want your message heard?” he asks breathlessly, holding up his hands in surrender. “Then take me. Kill me. Shoot me right here. I guarantee it will be all people will talk about for a very long time.”
Alexander gasps at the sight of him. “James,” he says, beginning to cry. “James, no.”
“It’s okay, buddy,” James says, reaching out towards him. His hand hangs in the empty space between them. “I’m right here. I’m here. Close your eyes, Alexander. Close them. This will all be over soon.”
Alexander shakes his head. “No,” he sobs.
James nods, blinking faster to clear the tears in his eyes. “Yes, buddy. Close them. It will be alright. I promise you it will be alright.”
They look like lies.
“Fine,” Grady says, turning the gun towards James. “I’ll kill you both. Who gets to go first, hmmm? Let’s let little Alexander choose, shall we?” He leans down, putting his filthy, blood caked lips near Alexander’s ear. “What do you think, buddy?” he says, keeping the gun trained on James. “Shall I shoot you or your daddy first??”
“Me,” Alexander says without hesitating. He stifles a sob. “Shoot me and leave my daddy alone.”
Grady raises his eyebrow in surprise.
“Brave little thing, aren’t you?” he says, turning the gun back towards Alexander’s head. “As you wish.”
“NO!” James screams, sprinting towards them. “NO!!”
Several things happen at once.
The officer in the front dives for his gun, grabbing it and bouncing to his feet. James reaches Grady and tackles him to the ground. Michael appears out of nowhere and snatches Alexander out of Grady’s reach.
A gun goes off.