It had been three months since Charlie and Billie arrived, and during that time, neither Face nor Murdoch had experienced any nightmares. As long as their furry companions were with them, their nightmares had disappeared.
The team was on a case that took them out of the state, and Face had brought Billie to stay with Mrs. B and himself. Face was enjoying the company of both puppies. During the day, while he was at school, Billie and Charlie romped and frolicked in the pen BA had built. Both puppies usually shared the one doghouse when they napped. The pen contained all that was needed, an automatic water system that kept their water bowls full. Face also left toys in pen for their playtime. The pen had a wire top to prevent hawks or eagles from trying to hurt or kill the puppies. He had enforced the outside of the fence, where it touched the ground with concrete to prevent any digging out by the puppies or digging in by any predator. There was a shaded area in the corner on hoy days. All in all, it was a sturdy well, made pen that would keep the puppies safe whenever they were in it.
It was about 3:30 when Charlie looked towards the driveway expecting his human to appear and started to wriggle and jump with excitement when Face drove in a few minutes later. The first thing the boy did was to run to the pen and greet his puppy and Billie. "Hey, did you miss me as much as I did you, too?"
Their joyful barks answered him. "Let's go in, and I hope Mama has some homemade cookies available, and you two can have your treats, too."
"MAMA! I'm home…do you have anything good that I can snack on?"
"I'm in the kitchen, baby, and I have a plate of chocolate chip cookies just out of the oven waiting for you."
Face hurried into the kitchen, dropping his books on the couch as he made his way to the kitchen. He first gave Charlie and Billie their treats before sitting down with a glass of milk to enjoy his snack.
"How was school, son?"
Face mumbled something around the cookie he was eating. "Swallow first, dear, and then reply," admonished Mrs. B.
Face swallowed before answering. "Okay, I guess. We have a new History teacher, our regular one is on maternity leave, so this guy is filling in for her. His name is Philip Denton."
"Do you have any homework?"
Face nodded, "some, but it won't take me long to complete. I'll get on it after supper. I want to play with Charlie and Billie first."
Mrs. B nodded her approval as she returned to finishing her supper meal. It didn't take Face long to consume his snack, and soon he and the pups were headed back outside to play, and after he had tired them both out, they headed back in for supper.
"Face, are you finished with your homework?" Mrs. B asked as she walked into his room. He was writing something at his desk.
"Almost, Mr. Denton's assignment was to write about the Viet Nam War. I thought I would write about some of my experiences with the team. It is something I don't have to look up." A moment later, he put down his pen and put the puppies' leases on to take them out for the last time before bed.
"We will be back in a few minutes."
When Face returned, his bedsheets had been pulled down, and his pajamas were on the bed just waiting for him. In no time, the boy and puppies were in bed with him, and they were sleeping soundly.
Everything was going great for Face the next day at school until he walked into his last class of the day…History. The course turned their assignments into the teacher. They were supposed to be no longer than two pages, so it didn't take Mr. Denton long to glance over them. Most of the papers were only a few paragraphs, a few were one page long, and they said about the same thing. That is until he got to Face's, which was exactly two pages in length. As he read, Mr. Denton's face changed into one filled with anger. "Mr. Smith!"
Face looked up as his name was called out. "Yes, sir?"
"This assignment was supposed to be truthful, not a work of fiction! I will see you after class!"
"But it is truthful. I wrote it from the viewpoint of a soldier that fought in that war, and that was me!"
"You fought in the Viet Nam War? I find that hard to believe…you would have to be…."
"I was twelve when I enlisted, sir."
"Are you telling me that the recruiters allowed a twelve-year-old to enlist?"
Face nodded. "I had the enlistment papers of someone trying to get out of going. I had no trouble substituting a photo of mine in his driver's license and presenting myself. They didn't care; all they were interested in was sending soldiers to fight. I told them that I was eighteen but looked younger than I was, and they let me join," Face explained.
It was obvious that Mr. Denton didn't believe one word of Face's explanation and thought the boy was trying to make a fool out of him. He brought the bamboo cane he held in his hand down hard on Face's desk, causing him to flinch. "I will not be made a fool of…you will stay after class!"
"But, I am telling the truth; I brought a picture of myself in uniform along with the soldiers I served with," Face added as he brought out the picture of himself with Hannibal, HM, and BA. He showed it to the teacher, who glanced at it before saying, "Sit down, Mr. Smith!". Face had unintentionally embarrassed the teacher when he showed him the picture, and Mr. Denton wouldn't forget it.
The rest of the hour was spent on Mr. Denton's version of the Viet Nam War, which was not wholly truthful. It was all Face could do not to protest, but he now knew how volatile his teacher was at that moment and wasn't going to make the day worse.
At the end of the class, Face tried to slip out with the rest of his classmates, but Mr. Denton grabbed him before he could step out. "Did you forget the part about staying after class?"
"I was hoping that you had changed your mind once you saw the picture."
Mr. Denton jerked him back into the room and locked the door behind him.
"You will write on the blackboard one hundred times, I Will not Embarrass My Teacher."
Face looked at him in shock, "you can't be serious. I wasn't trying to embarrass you."
"or would you like to feel my cane against your backside!"
Face looked at him a minute before walking to one of two blackboards in the room, picking up the chalk, and doing as instructed. It took him an hour to fill both boards before he was allowed to leave. His hand was so sore from writing, and all he wanted to do was go home. He needed Charlie.
"I'm home Mama," he cried out upon entering the house with Charlie and Billie following.
"You're late," began Mrs. B before looking at her boy's face.
"What happened, Face?"
"He didn't believe me, Mama," cried Face as he picked up Charlie to cuddle.
"Who didn't believe you, dear?"
"Mr. Denton, my history teacher. He said that the assignment I turned in was a work of pure fiction, and when I tried to explain what happened, including showing him the picture of BA, HM, Hannibal, and myself in uniform, he accused me of trying to embarrass him in front of the class. I had to stay after school to write on the blackboard one hundred times, not to embarrass my teacher. It took me an hour to complete. That is why I'm late," Face replied angrily.
"As soon as Hannibal returns, he will visit your teacher and explain it to him. He will have to believe a Colonel as famous as Hannibal. In the meantime, try not to do anything your teacher might construe as trouble," comforted the older lady.
" Come and sit down; supper is almost ready, and for dessert, I made your favorite…chocolate pudding."
Face went out into the family room and sat on the couch with Billie on one side and Charlie on the other. They stayed in that position until supper was ready, and when he got up, he did feel better.
Face was only half listening to Mr. Denton as he continued to butchered the truth on the Viet Nam War, but looked up when he heard his teacher say,
"We have the honor of having someone here to tell us what really happened during the Viet Nam War. She even visited some of the troops…Jane Foster."
The lady in question walked into the classroom.
"Class, I want you to give her a warm welcome," ordered Mr. Denton, and the class did except for Face, who glared at both the teacher and Ms. Foster, something that did not go unnoticed by the teacher.
He stalked over to the boy and asked, "why aren't you applauding?"
"She's a traitor. The troops she visited were the Viet Cong, the enemy, and I won't applaud her for that. The Viet Cong used her for their propaganda at the expense of the American soldiers' morale," Face replied.
The silence was overwhelming as the students took in what their classmates reported. Mr. Denton's face was red with rage, and Jane Foster hurried from the room.
"I'll deal with you when I return," he snarled at Face before running after Ms. Foster.
Timmy, one of Face's friends, said urgently, "you had better leave Face before he returns. I don't like the look he gave you; I fear that he will punish you for your words."
Face nodded and got up to do just that when Mr. Denton and Ms. Jane Foster returned. "Ms. Foster has agreed to overlook this outburst if the boy who said it will apologize for his lies."
"NO! I won't apologize for telling the truth about Ms. Foster's treacherous activity when she visited the Viet Cong!" Face replied adamantly.
Mr. Denton turned to the class and said, "Class is dismissed…all except for Mr. Smith. He will stay after school."
Face watched as his classmates left before facing his teacher and Ms. Foster. He was expecting to do more writing on the blackboard. He was unprepared when Mr. Denton grabbed him and struck him with his bamboo cane. He hit him repeatedly on his back and backside, yelling, "apologize" with every cane stroke.
Mr. Denton paused when there came a pounding at the door. He motioned for Ms. Foster to open it. Timmy was at the door and saw his teacher with bamboo in his hand and Face bent over a desk. "Stop beating my friend," cried Timmy as he tried to go to Face's side.
Ms. Foster grabbed him by the arm and pushed him back out of the door.
Timmy stood outside the door, hoping that his interference had stopped Mr. Denton, but when he heard the beating resume, he bolted for the Principal's office.
As soon as the beating resumed, Face was back in the jungles of Viet Nam, being beaten by his captors. They were yelling "confess" with every stroke of the bamboo rod. Back then, he wasn't strong enough to fight back, but now he was, and he kicked back, catching Mr. Denton in a most sensitive part of his anatomy and dropping him like a stone.
Face grabbed up the bamboo cane and struck his teacher repeatedly before Ms. Foster's yells and screams brought him back to see his teacher writhing on the floor in pain and himself holding the bamboo cane. With the echoes of "punk," "attacker" and being "arrested" in his ears, he dropped the cane and bolted from the room.
He hopped in his car and sped away. He was in a total panic by the time he arrived home. Mrs. B wasn't there; she left a note stating that she had to go to the grocery store. Face was scared, and no one was there to help him. "I got to get away," he thought as he ran to his bedroom. He grabbed his backpack and began to load it with supplies, survival gear, and a sleeping bag. He then went to the kitchen to grab food for himself and the puppies. He left a note briefly explaining what happened and left, taking the puppies on their leases with him.
He heard the sounds of sirens in the background getting closer as he ran from the house and into the woods nearby. He was going to build a shelter and stay there until Hannibal returned.