June 12, 2018 (Tuesday, 9:45 PM)
Danny stepped inside, his eyes on Elias as if he would look at a possession. His mouth curled into a smile.
"Honey, I'm gonna freshen up. You've been asking about Elias, so you guys catch up!" His mom disappeared into the bathroom.
'I can't. Not again.' Elias licked his lips. He held the plate and the jar in his hands. They still shook.
Danny stepped forward, and he looked at the trembling boy. "Are you cold?" His smile devolved into a leer. "After I'm done with your mom, I think I can probably warm you up."
He reached for Elias.
And something snapped.
Elias' eyes went wild, and he swung his hand with the jar at Danny. The man was surprised and took the glass on the side of his head. It made a hollow, thudding sound, and Danny staggered back. Elias took the plate in both hands and raised it above his head.
"You little piece of shit!" Danny snarled. He lunged forward, and his hands went around Elias' throat. The man squeezed. But Elias rode the wave of adrenaline, and he brought the thick ceramic plate down on Danny's skull with all the force he could muster.
It broke, and Danny crumpled to the ground. He bled profusely from a couple of long gashes, and there was a nasty cut with a bruise already forming on his right cheekbone from the jar. Elias stared wide-eyed down at his groaning form on the floor.
"What's going on out there?!?" The voice from the bathroom jolted Elias into action.
He fled outside, and down the stairs. It was starting to rain, but that didn't register at all to him.
'Away. Away.' He looked frantically around. It was dark, wet, and his eyes landed on a spot where he liked to hide when he knew Danny was coming. It was a cluster of bushes nearby, and he crawled underneath, into a tiny space where only a kid his size would fit. He lay there and listened as his mom called out his name. She sounded almost panicked and definitely angry.
'Not worried about me. Worried about Danny.' Elias shed silent tears and rubbed his neck.
Eventually, his mom disappeared back into the apartment. Elias lay under the bush and tried not to cough. His throat hurt now that the adrenaline ebbed, and he felt exhausted. He was dressed only in a t-shirt, pants, and sneakers. So he crossed his arms over his chest, and he lay in the dirt under the foliage. He thought of Orson and the camp, and he tried not to cry anymore.
After an hour he dropped off to a dismal, shivering sleep.
June 13, 2018 (Wednesday, 9:15 AM)
He waited until his mom left the apartment. Then he crawled out. Danny wasn't with her, so that meant the man was still inside. Elias looked up at the bathroom window - the only one in their apartment that bordered this side of the building. No face was there watching for him. He quickly got himself out of the parking lot, and he almost ran toward the main road out of town.
Elias began to walk. He knew the way to Hiouchi and the campground. Though it was a long way to go on foot. But, he didn't have a choice.
At least, he thought he didn't.
After he had walked for an hour, an old, rusted, multi-colored truck came to a halt on the road beside him, outside of the city as he headed north on the highway. The vehicle stopped even though Elias wasn't trying to flag anybody down. "Son, do you need help?" The man looked at him as he spoke, and his eyes lingered on the bruises on Elias' neck, and his filthy clothes.
Elias shook his head. "I just need to get to Hiouchi." He looked hopefully at the middle-aged fellow. "Are you going that way?" It was still wet and raining, and water dripped off of his nose. He shivered in his cold, muddy and wet clothes.
The man had an expression that said he didn't quite believe what Elias told him. But he nodded. "I am now." He jerked with his head. "Get on in. I'll get you there."
The man revealed his name as Gary. He eyed the boy as he shivered on the passenger side of the truck cab. Elias was watchful, and he noticed, but he kept quiet.
"Son, do you have someone in Hiouchi to look after you?" They came to a stop at a light for one-way traffic in a construction zone. Gary turned kind eyes on him. He shook his head. "I can't just leave you somewhere without knowing if you're going to be alright. If you want, I can call the police, and …"
"No," Elias answered quickly. He licked his lips as the truck made its way east toward Hiouchi. "Please, no police." He remembered how much Danny was bleeding last night, and he was sure his mom had called the police to report him. "I have someone at the Campground near Hiouchi. I just need to get there."
Gary took one more moment then he looked back to the road. The light turned, and the line of cars started through it. He followed along behind. "Okay. Do you want me to take you straight to the campground, then? This rain isn't letting up, and you don't have to walk through it if you don't want to."
It was rare for kindness to appear in Elias' world, and he felt suspicious. "No. Hiouchi is fine."
Elias put his elbow against the sill of the door window, and he looked out at the world as it went past.
'I hope Orson wants me there.' His eyes stung as he thought about what he'd do if he didn't.
Either Orson would, or Elias had no options.
June 13, 2018 (Wednesday, 9:22 AM)
Jeremy smiled at the client across from him. The woman had run into some hard times, and now she needed another living situation. Couch-surfing with friends was quickly wearing down her social connections, and her mental health.
"Okay, Rachel. Here are some options for low-cost apartments. Some of these have agreements with the city for even lower rents for folks in your situation." He slid the paper across the desk to the eager woman. "Since you still have a job, I think we can …"
A knock interrupted him, and Jeremy frowned. The clinic staff knew better than to disturb him during client visits unless it was a severe issue. "I'm so sorry for the interruption. Excuse me, Rachel."
Jeremy stood and walked around the desk to the door. He opened it to find one of the front desk ladies.
"Jeremy, sorry to interrupt." She whispered, her voice urgent.
He closed the door behind him. "What's going on?"
She looked at him and bit her lip. "There's a lady out in the waiting room, and she's wondering if you have seen her son. A little boy named Elias? I think he's in your program."
Jeremy felt his blood run cold. Out of all of his kids, he worried the most about Elias. "I'll be right there. We'll probably have to cancel my next appointment, okay? Can you handle that?"
She nodded. "Yes, your 9:30 is already here, but I'll let him know we had something come up. If you have openings later today, I'll push him into one of those."
"Great, thank you."
She left, and Jeremy poked his head back into his office. "Rachel, I'm sorry, but I've had something come up. I'm going to cut this a tiny bit short. Let me know if you run into problems, and we'll sort them out."
His client left with her paperwork and Jeremy quickly walked to the waiting room.
With a grim expression, he opened the door.
June 13, 2018 (Wednesday, 9:50 AM)
"Orson?" A knock on his door and Greg's voice brought Orson's head up. He was at his little desk, looking through options for distance learning programs through the connection on his phone.
"Come in." He turned, so he faced the door. Greg, Clay, and Mason all were there, and all looked as if they bore terrible news.
"What … what's going on?" Orson frowned and stood up, balancing with one hand on the desk. He reached for his crutches which leaned against the wall.
Clay stepped forward. "Hey, Jeremy called us." Clay licked his lips and Orson could see he was nervous. "Buddy, it looks like Elias has run away. His mom went by the clinic, and she told Jeremy that he went crazy and attacked her boyfriend. Then he ran off."
Orson made a face of disbelief. "What?!?" He shook his head. "No, he'd nev …" a shiver went down his spine, and his skin broke out in goosebumps. His eyes went cold as he stared at Clay. "Is the boyfriend named Danny?"
Greg made a face. "Yeah. How'd you know th …"
"That. Mother. FUCKER." Orson's eyes lit with a pure rage. "I'll fucking kill him. I'll KILL HIM!" He started for the door. "I need the keys to the truck. Now." Orson hadn't told a single person what Elias had revealed to him. The boy told him Danny was no longer in the picture, and he was gone. But it sounded like mom decided to start back up with him. And despite his best attempt, Elias refused to speak more about it. It was just too painful for the boy.
"Orson! What's wrong?" Clay stood in his way and shook his head. "We can't let you go into town after you threaten to kill a man!"
Orson couldn't make himself calm. "He raped Elias! He raped him, and it probably happened again, because I couldn't …" he felt a crushing guilt come over himself, "I couldn't convince Elias to tell me more about him." He shook his head, and his face screwed up. "I should have tried harder."
All of the men in the cabin straightened, and they looked at one another. Child abuse was the foulest of all the things a man could do. And sexually abusing a kid was the foulest version of that.
"Not your fault." Greg put a hand on Orson's back. He narrowed his eyes. "Jeremy called here because he thought Elias might try to make it to us." He made a sound of epiphany. "And that's why mom didn't call the cops. Boyfriend probably told her not to. Afraid the truth would come out." He shook his head. "That means Elias is out there."
Orson wiped his face. "We need to find him."
"Okay, that is something we can agree on." Clay jerked his head out the door. "I'm gonna take the van, guys. One of us needs to stay back and watch camp. He might show up while we're out looking, and we shouldn't leave the place unmanned anyway."
Mason nodded. "I'll stay." He looked at the men. "I'm probably the least threatening to him - apart from Orson."
"Okay." Orson's eyes were determined. "Let's go."
The guys walked through the rain which had picked up. It was a downpour, and they were nearly drenched in just the short walk to the van.
Mason waved from the sheltered space on the patio, and the men turned west on the road, toward the town.
"He'd be coming from Crescent City," Orson said from the second-row bench seat. He picked the center of the seat so that he could see out of the windshield. He was obviously worried. "I hope he's okay."
Greg looked over his shoulder from the passenger seat. "We'll find him, Orson." He tried to reassure the man and nodded.
Orson swallowed, and his jaw worked nervously.
They saw the sign for Hiouchi, and they entered the little town. They drove past the Hiouchi Market, and Orson turned to look at the place. His eyes widened. "STOP!"
Clay pulled immediately off of the road. Orson threw open the side door of the van, and now all of them could see a wet, bedraggled little boy who stood under the protection of the Hiouchi Market's porch.
Elias saw them, and he ran to the van through the rain. Wordlessly, he leaped into the vehicle and into Orson's arms. The black-haired man leaned back as he held the boy. Elias had his face against Orson's chest, and he clung to the man.
Greg looked at them, then he sighed, the sound relieved. "Clay, take us home."
Orson held on to Elias as he shivered.
"I've got you, Elias." He looked down at him as Clay turned the van around and they started for the campground. And that's when he noticed the bruises. He set his jaw as he felt his red-hot rage replace relief, and he looked up.
Greg caught the glance, and he saw the bruising. The men's eyes met. Greg only nodded once at him. And Orson knew they would need to deal with this - one way or another.
"I've got you."
Elias felt so much relief. He was so stressed and on edge that he had forgotten what it was like to relax. Once Elias was in the van, and in Orson's arms, his brain released his worry. And as soon as that happened, he tumbled headlong into sleep.
He was exhausted. He only caught bits of sleep last night, and now that he wasn't on the run, his body forced Elias to rest.
June 13, 2018 (Wednesday, 10:15 AM)
"Guys, he's completely out," Orson spoke quietly as they stopped. They were back home, and Clay looked over his shoulder at the two of them.
Elias was definitely out. The small teenager was curled up into Orson, and he slept deeply. Clay shook his head. "Wow." He opened his door and stepped out into the continuing rain. Mason met him there as soon as he did.
"Did you guys …" he saw Elias in Orson's lap, and his face went slack. "Is he okay?"
Orson clenched his teeth. "We need to make sure. Someone hurt him."
Mason looked grim, and he nodded.
Clay walked around and leaned over. "I'll take him." Orson looked at Clay, and the big man could tell he didn't want to give up this duty. "Orson, man … you can't carry him." He nodded toward Orson's cabin. "I'm gonna take him to your place. Meet me over there."
Orson obviously didn't like it, but he leaned back so Clay could get to the limp boy. Clay gently took Elias. 'Hell, he weighs almost nothing.' Mason shielded the sleeping boy with his jacket as they walked over. Orson followed, and they entered. Clay carefully laid him on the futon.
"Okay." Clay looked at Orson. "Do you think you can manage to get him out of his wet clothes? I don't think he'd want any of us but you to do it."
The black-haired man nodded. "I can do it."
Greg stepped toward the door. "I'll get a couple of extra blankets for him."
"I've got some boxers that are a little tight on me. They might fit him." Mason followed Greg outside.
Clay put a hand on Orson's shoulder. "Save his clothes. Especially his underwear. If this Danny …"
Orson looked down at Elias. "I know the procedure for rape cases." He said it quietly, but Clay could hear the unmistakable undercurrent of loathing and anger in his voice. Orson glanced back up at Clay. "But, thanks." He shook his head. "Sorry … not upset with you."
"I know, brother." Clay patted Orson's back. "I'm glad you're here for him."
Orson managed a sad smile. "Me too."
Mason and Greg returned. Clay ushered the two of them to the door after they had delivered their items. "Okay. Take care of Elias. Let him sleep as long as he can. Then when he wakes up, you know what to do." Clay implied that Orson would have to begin a hard line of questioning for the boy. Orson was probably the only one among them who had a chance of getting responses from Elias, and they all knew it. "Depending on his answers, we might HAVE to take him in for an exam."
Orson nodded. "I've got it." Clay turned to leave, and Orson put his hand on Clay's shoulder. The big man looked at him.
"Thanks, Clay." Orson's eyes welled with tears, and he looked down at Elias. "I don't know why this is hitting me so hard. But I NEED for this kid to be okay."
Clay smiled. "Well, of course. He chose you. It's your job now." He stepped outside into the rain, and he looked affectionately at Orson. "And there's nobody better for the work."
Clay walked away, and he knew that Elias was in good hands.
June 13, 2018 (Wednesday, 3:18 PM)
Elias was in a fuzzy sort of daze. He was comfortable, he felt clean, warm, and protected. And piece by piece his body allowed his mind to function again and released him from sleep.
He blinked. It was daylight, and though the curtains were drawn in the cabin, there was still plenty of illumination from the natural light. He could smell both the scent of the recent rain, and the faint, yet distinct smell he had come to associate with Orson.
He realized the man lay behind him. Orson was on top of the blankets while Elias was beneath. And a single arm draped over Elias' chest.
Elias rubbed his face, and Orson shifted behind him. "Hey." The man got up on an elbow and looked down at him. "How are you doing, Elias?"
The boy lay there, and he nodded. "I'm okay. Now I'm okay." He curled up a little by pulling up his knees and hunching forward. "Don't make me go back."
Orson rubbed his back. "We're going to do everything we can to make sure you're safe. Okay?" Orson sighed. "There may be nothing we can do about your going back to your mom. Not unless you can help us."
Elias rolled onto his back and looked up at Orson. "What do I have to do?"
The black-haired man gazed down at him. "I'm gonna ask about how you got hurt. And if he did … if he did anything else to you." He bit his lip. "I'm assuming the bruises on your neck are from Danny?"
Elias nodded. But his face betrayed his reluctance to discuss what happened.
Orson's expression was understanding, but he persisted. "Elias, I need you to trust that I'm going to help you. But I need you to trust me." His brown eyes were so earnest as he looked at the boy.
Elias hesitated. "If I tell you, then the police might take me away."
Orson frowned a little. "Why?"
Elias made a face. "I … I hurt Danny."
Orson's face did something Elias didn't expect. The man smiled, the expression genuine and intense. "Elias, did you hurt Danny because he was trying to hurt you?"
The boy nodded.
Orson looked very satisfied. "Good. That's self-defense, and that's okay." He patted Elias' back, and he pushed up to a seated position. Elias did the same, and they sat beside one another on the couch.
He started again. "Will you answer all my questions? No matter what, I'm going to do my absolute best to make sure that Danny NEVER hurts you, or anybody else again." He stared into Elias' eyes. "Okay?"
Elias took a deep breath, and he stared down at his hands in his lap. As he did, Orson reached over, and he took one of the boy's hands into his own. "I'm right here. And I'm not gonna go anywhere," Orson said softly.
The boy took one more look at Orson's eyes. In them, he found what he needed, and he finally nodded. "Okay."
And Orson began.
June 13, 2018 (Wednesday, 10:37 PM)
Danny was not having a good day. He looked into the bathroom mirror, and he pulled back the flap of skin to look at the wound beneath. He hissed from the pain and glared at the injury. "Fucking little faggot." He put some Bactine on a q-tip, and he gently dabbed the stuff into the cut.
He had two nasty cuts on his face and a raised, bruised lump on his cheek. The skin on that lump had split open. Now it looked angry, and it was definitely painful. Additionally, there was a goose-egg on his head which was obvious to even a casual observer.
"I'm gonna fuck that boy up." He grimaced at the mirror and made ready to put some of the Bactine on the other cuts.
A knock sounded at his door.
He grumbled and walked through his living room. He opened the door, and there standing on his balcony was a man in a ski mask.
"What the fu …"
The man swung, and a large, meaty fist crashed into his face. Danny went down like a sack of potatoes.
He lay motionless on the filthy carpet of his apartment. His assailant entered, shut the door, and nudged him with his toe.
Then the man took out an implement from his pocket, and he began to work on Danny's face carefully.
June 13, 2018 (Wednesday, 11:12 PM)
"Police! Open the door!"
Danny blinked. He sat up, and his head swam with pain and dizziness. A loud knock came from the door. "Police! Open up!"
He stood. "Hang on! Fuck." He shook his head and immediately regretted that decision. He barely stifled a groan of pain.
Danny opened the door. There were five officers out on his balcony, and all looked deadly serious. The one in front frowned and looked at something on his forehead. The rest of them gaped in surprise and looked at one another.
"What?" He glared at them. "Why the fuck are you here?"
The cop in front seemed to recover. "Daniel James?"
"Yeah? Why. Are. You. HEEEERE?" Not a charmer, even on a good day, Danny sneered at them.
"You're under arrest for the assault of Elias Pennington." The man took out a pair of handcuffs. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law."
"What?!" He jerked his hand away as the officer reached for him. And that was the moment it all went wrong for Danny.
The police officers piled in and soon had him under control. He was cuffed, and the rest of his rights read to him.
"Fuck this!" He turned his head over each shoulder to spit insults at the cops. The policemen all had either a look of anger or amusement on their faces - some a mix of both. Finally, he was led from his apartment, and down the awaiting patrol car. And in the reflection of the glass in the door, he saw something on his face.
"What? What is that?" He looked at one of the cops. "What's on my face?"
The young man gave him a smirk of his own and pulled down the visor behind the passenger seat. There was a mirror in it, and Danny bent to look.
Although backward due to the reflection, he could easily read the words. 'Child Molester' was plainly written in block letters in permenant marker across his battered forehead. He gaped for a moment, and then the police officer pulled him back out.
He was tossed into the back seat. "I … I was assaulted!" Danny leaned forward and screamed. "I WAS ASSAULTED! God damn it, you fucking pigs! You can't send me to jail like this! They'll gut me like a fucking fish!"
He continued to yell through the whole trip to the Del Norte County Jail. And he'd be held there until he could have his day in court.
If he made it that long.
June 14, 2018 (Thursday, 11:10 AM)
"So, are we clear?" Clay sat in Ranger Harry Greene's office at the Gasquet Ranger station, and he stared across the desk at the man.
Ranger Greene pressed his lips together, and he nodded. "We sure are." He looked Clay in the eye. "You and I were out checking your campground. Making sure those rumors of rabid raccoons were just that - rumors."
"And we were out from 10 - 11 last night. Right?"
The ranger nodded. "Yep. We sure were."
Clay smiled and stood up. He extended his hand. In it was the plastic baggie with the bark sample Greg had taken. "Pleasure doing business with you, Ranger Greene. The pictures Greg took of your son’s bootprints will disappear after you’re questioned about last night, and if you stick to the script.”
“I’ll stick to the script.” Ranger Greene took the bag, opened it, and made a face when he smelled the contents. He sealed it again. "And I'm holding you to that." He eyed Clay, then he seemed to decide something and stuck out his hand.
Clay shook it. Harry frowned at Clay's hand as he released the big man. "You got a busted knuckle?"
The skin was split over his most prominent knuckle on his right hand. Clay looked down and shrugged. "Ah, yeah." He glanced back up and grinned.
"It happened when I was taking out the trash."
Please let me know your thoughts on the chapter at the following email address link. Wayne Gray
And thank you for reading!
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