Chapter 5

 You Can't Go Home

Ben's mom and dad arrived a few minutes after the attorney left. Ben didn't tell them about the lawyer or the
cabin - or about Isaiah, for that matter. There was no need.

He walked out quickly to meet them as they parked the car. His mother was smiling - and crying. She jumped
out of the car and embraced him. "Oh, Ben," she sobbed. She took him by the shoulders, held him at arm’s
length and looked him over, and said again, "Oh, Ben! My Benny!" Then she pulled him back into another tight

Ben hugged her back and began to sob, "Oh, mama. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry for what I've put you through."
"Benny," she cried, "I don't know what happened, but we love ..."

Ben interrupted as the words erupted from him, "I don't know, mama ... I don't know what happened either! I'm
so scared. I lost control. I'm so scared." He broke down into sobs. They held each other for a long time.
Nobody noticed the car that had followed the Wilsons from their home in Georgetown. The driver was on his cell

They loaded the trunk and the back seat of the car with Ben's things. Then they all piled into the front seat and
started the twenty-six mile drive to the Wilson home in Georgetown. They stopped at a fast-food restaurant for
a drive-through lunch. Ben didn't want to risk being recognized and bringing public embarrassment to his
parents. Ben and his father ordered burgers, French-fries and sweet tea - all super-sized. Mama Wilson
ordered a grilled chicken sandwich with light mayonnaise and a diet coke. They ate in the car under a shade
tree at the corner of the parking lot. Then they drove toward home.

As they neared the Wilson home they noticed a mass of activity ahead. Ben spotted a couple of news vans
from the Charleston TV stations. There must have been fifty people or more in the street. Neighbors were
streaming out of their houses and onto their front lawns.

"Daddy, pull off the road where they can't see us," Ben said. Fred Wilson turned into a side street and drove
back into the neighborhood. He pulled the car over into a secluded spot and switched off the ignition.
He looked straight ahead. "Son, what do you want to do?

"I can't go to the house, daddy ... mama. I don't want to talk to the news people. I don't want to put ya'll through

"Ben," Mary Wilson said, "we'll stand by you whatever ..."

"No, mama," Ben interrupted. "I won't let this happen."

"Son," his dad suggested, "we can drive over to Andrews and stay with Uncle Bob until things quiet down."

"And when do you think that will be, daddy?" Ben caught himself. "I'm sorry," he apologized. "I didn't mean to
snap at you. It's been really bad the last few days. I'm kind of on edge."

"It's okay, Ben. I understand. Do you want to go see Bob?"

"No! They'll find us over there, too. Can you take me back to Murrells Inlet?"

"Why? Where can you go? You can't go back to the apartment," his dad reasoned.

"Well," Ben said thoughtfully, "I have an idea. Please take me back to Murrells Inlet. Just head up Route 17. I'll
let you know when we get there."

"Okay, son," Fred said resignedly. His mother began to cry again. Ben put his arm around her shoulder as Fred
drove back onto South Island Road and north on Route 17 toward the inlet town.

They crossed the bridge, passed the paper mill, and continued up South Frazier Street. Traffic was light, as
usual, so the driving was easy. A gentle breeze was blowing off the Winyah Bay bringing in the salty smell of the
Atlantic Ocean. Gulls were skimming the inlet water in search of fresh fish. The paper mill was pumping out
billows of white smoke. The odor, of course, was intense. They drove past 'Fred's Garage', Fred Wilson's bread
and butter.

"Daddy," Ben said, "stop at the hardware store just ahead on the right. I'm going to need a few things."
"Okay," Fred said. He turned on the signal and pulled over in front of the store.

Ben opened the door and hopped out. "I'll be just a few minutes." He went into the store.

Fred looked at his wife and said, "I'll go in and see if he needs any help or money or anything." He followed Ben
into the store.

Ben walked to the counter with two cane fishing poles, a box of fishhooks, and a hunting knife. The man behind
the counter was Leo Brown, the owner of the store.

"Sorry," Brown said, "I can't sell you the knife."

"Why not?" Ben asked.

"Can't sell a deadly weapon to a convicted killer," Leo snapped with a resolute look on his face.

"Leo!" Fred Wilson bellowed as he walked in, "This is my son, Ben."

"I know who he is, Fred. I've seen his face all over the news. Everybody knows who he is."

"But Leo, you've known me all of my life ..." Fred started.

“Yeah, I have. But I never expected you to raise a kid who would ..."

"See you around, Leo!" Fred grabbed his son's arm and pulled him out of the hardware store. "I never liked to
shop there anyway," he said bitterly as they walked back to the car.

As they climbed into the car, Mary Wilson looked at her husband and son and asked, "What happened?"
"Didn't have anything we wanted," Fred mumbled. He spun his tires and left a cloud of dust and a spray of
rocks behind him. His tires squealed a little as he hit the pavement. People stared. Fred didn't care.

They drove up Route 17 and went straight at the traffic light onto Route 701 to Wal-Mart. Ben and Fred went in
and picked up the items in the sporting goods department without incident. A few people gawked as Ben walked
through the store, but Fred held his head high as he walked beside his son.

"I'm really sorry, daddy," Ben said with regret in his voice.

"Son, we're in this together. We're family. I guess, in the long run, we'll find out who our true friends are."

"But daddy, you can't blame them. What I did was ..."

"Son, what you did was wrong. It was awful. But still ... son, you don't have many real friends in life. There are
plenty of fair-weather friends, you know, people who are there when everything is fine. But when you mess up;
when you make a serious mistake; when you do something bad ... like you've done ... well, that's when your real
friends will stand with you and help you get back on track. They help 'restore you' as our pastor would say. Hey,
son, why don't we go see him?"

"Who?" Ben asked absently.

"My pastor. He's a good man, Ben."

"No, not right now, daddy. I just have to get away for now."

They finished their shopping. Ben picked up two cane poles, fishhooks, and the hunting knife as planned. He
also decided to get a large backpack. That would prove useful for transporting supplies as needed for now and
for future supply runs. Ben didn't know how successful he would be at living off the land. His father suggested
he get a spool of fishing line and a flashlight and a supply of batteries. He wanted Ben to be well prepared.
"Ben," he said, "I'm not sure what you have in mind, but it appears to be an escape to the wilderness. Do you
think you'll need a tent?"

"No thanks, daddy," he responded. "I'll explain on the way."

Then something caught his eye - a slingshot. That might come in handy for scaring off pesky critters.

When they got to the car, Mary wasn't there. They looked around to see her coming out the store with a bag of
popcorn and a couple of soft drinks. She smiled and said, "I thought you boys might like a snack on the way."
Fred grinned at his son. "She thinks I'm a boy." He poked Ben in the ribs and winked at him. It felt good to act
like a normal family. Ben knew that, after today, he might not see his parents for a while.

They headed back out to the Ocean Highway and on toward Murrells Inlet. In Pawley's Island, they stopped at
the Hammock Shop to get a rope hammock. Ben got the lightest one he could find. He was accumulating quite a
load for his upcoming hike.

As they eased back onto the road, Mary finally asked, "Ben, what are your plans? Where will you go?"
"Mama, somebody told me recently that when people make you feel unwelcome and you make them
uncomfortable, sometimes it's just better to be by yourself. I understand now what he meant."
"But where will you go? How will you live?

"Daddy and I were talking in the store about friends who will help you when you're down and out. I met
somebody like that recently ... when I was on the run ... a man who tried to help me."

"The old black man!" his father said.

"Yeah! He tried to advise me. He let me stay in his cabin in the woods. He told me to turn myself in. He even
came to see me in jail. Then ... he stepped out in front of me ..." Ben choked back tears. "He thought he was
helping me, but he only made things worse."

"No, Ben! Don't say that. He gave you a second chance. He kept you alive," his mother quickly replied.

"Well, I don't know what kind of life I'm going to have. I can't make up for what I've done."

"Son, we're just glad you're alive," his dad inserted. "By the way, where are we headed?"

"Take a left on Route 707," Ben instructed.

"Socastee Road? That goes out to nowhere."

"Exactly!" Ben responded.

"What's out there, Ben? Is that where you were hiding?" Mary asked.

"Yeah!" Ben answered. "Isaiah had a cabin out in the woods out there. He left it to me."

"What? How?..." both of his parents said in unison.

"A lawyer came to see me this morning before you picked me up. The old man, Isaiah, made a will last week
leaving me his cabin. I guess he knew I would need it."

"But, how will you survive out there, Ben. It's dangerous! What will you eat? How ..." his mom asked.

"I don't know, mama. I guess I'll just have to learn to live off the land."

"No, Ben," his father broke in. "Listen," he looked at his wife, "we'll ..."

Ben interrupted, "Here's 707.  Take a left here."

Fred made the turn and continued, "... we'll move ... relocate ... far away from here and start over."

Mary nodded in agreement.

"No, daddy! I can't let you do that. You've lived all your life in Georgetown. You've built your business here. No
offense, but at your age I couldn't let you start over. Besides, with this 'firing squad' thing, it'll be national news.
There's nowhere we could go that this thing won't follow us. I'll be okay out in the cabin."

Fred drove until they reached Longwood Drive. A sign pointed left to the golf course.

"Turn left here, daddy," Ben said. "Then turn right on Waterhall."

They made the turn, and then Ben asked him to pull over. Fred parked on the side of the street.

"This is it?" Fred Wilson said. "This is where you're going?"

"I hike the rest of the way from here. I don't really want you to know exactly where it is for now. Probably the less
you know the easier it will be. I don't want anybody coming here looking for me."

"Oh, son, I'm worried," Mary cried.

"Don't, mama. I'll stay in touch."

"How? Do you have a phone out there?"

"No! No electricity. Probably not even cell phone reception. But even if there was, with no electricity, I couldn't
keep it powered up. Listen, I'll be alright. I'll contact you soon."

With that he packed a few changes of clothes, toiletries, fishing supplies, flashlight and batteries, and a few
other items in his backpack. He kissed his parents goodbye, and then donned his pack and headed off across
the field with his fishing poles in one hand and his hammock in the other. His parents sat in the car and watched
until he disappeared into the woods.