Part 1 - Chapter 18 - The Search

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The next day, Denholm drove me to the airport. We said our goodbyes, and it surprised me how hard that was. He had been a stern task master but well-intentioned. I learned discipline and how to be a fast draw, and in the process, I learned a lot about myself. In the end, I developed a great deal of respect for the man and sensed that I had earned his respect too. Sir Denholm Stewart was the closest person I ever had as a father figure. If it weren't for my urgency in finding Jacko, I would've stayed at the ranch for the final days of summer.

When I arrived back in Las Vegas, I took the bus to my apartment, cranked up the AC, and flopped onto my bed. I stared at the ceiling. My senior year wouldn't start until next week. I needed to take advantage of the time remaining in my summer vacation to track down my brother.

I called Judge Severn, told her I was back and that I would start looking. From her tone over the phone I knew this upset her. Five minutes after I hung up with her, Dr. Boone called and told me to meet him in his office. Obviously, Judge Severn had called him immediately after our conversation.

I entered Boone's office. He greeted me with a handshake and asked me to sit in his dilapidated leather visitor chair. It still listed to the side and now it had also developed a loud squeak. I leaned forward, at attention.

Boone sat and leaned back, lacing his fingers behind his head. That had become his default pose. Two packages sat on his desk, a small flat one and a larger box. He pointed to the smaller one and told me to open it. A badge of two gold diamonds.

"Well done," Boone said. "Sir Denholm had nothing but good things to say about you. You've made me proud."

The award threw me off balance. "Thank you, Dr. Boone, for this," I held up the badge, "and for sending me away this summer. It did me good."

"Pleased to hear that, Sing. School isn't only about book learning, you know. My job is also to help you find yourself. I believe we are getting closer to that goal."

He asked me to elaborate on my summer, so I gave him a short summary but left out details about the final exam. I didn't think it would get Denholm into trouble but didn't want to risk it.

Boone seemed pleased and glanced at the large box. "Open it."

I peeled away the tape and opened the flaps. Inside were a new leather gun belt, holster, and my Ruger Vaquero.

"A gift from Sir Denholm," Boone said.

I couldn't help it, the grin that formed on my face. Pulling the six-shooter from its holster and holding it in my hand made me feel whole. Until then, I hadn't realized how much a part of me that tool had become. Like one of my hands, an extension of myself.

"Of course, you won't be able to keep it in your apartment," Boone said. "We'll issue you a private locker at the academy's gun range where you can resume daily practice and maintain your skills."

"Gun range? I didn't know the academy had a gun range."

Boone pointed at the floor. "In the lower level. I haven't told you everything about the Gemthe Academy."

What an understatement. "Take me there, and I'll show you how fast I am."

Boone displayed a brief smile. "Not today, Sing. Something else I need to discuss with you. Your phone conversation with Judge Severn."

I knew it. "What about our conversation?"

"She told me you wanted to search for Jacko in your old neighborhood. Give us some credit, Sing. We figured your brother would return to an area familiar to him. It's the first place we looked. The authorities talked to people there. We didn't find him."

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