Sins of the Father: Chapter 6

silhouette3Elijah couldn’t believe all the food the Sheriff and her husband had served for dinner. They sat at a round, shiny wooden table in the kitchen and used napkins and everything. He didn’t want to take his hands out of his pockets but the food was too tempting. As he ate, he found himself forgetting about his hands. They ate in silence except for Drake, who kept offering him cheese or sour cream. He noticed that Madison and Drake both picked at their chili. He guessed that they were upset over what his father had done. He wished he could help the sheriff, but he didn’t see what he could do. He didn’t want to be with his father anymore, but that didn’t mean he was going to help the sheriff catch him. His father said he would die before he let any police near him and that he would take any police with him if they tried to capture him. He didn’t want anything to happen to the sheriff even though he felt bad about what his father had done.

As they were finishing dinner, Drake said, “Madison, why don’t you go take a shower? Buddy and I will clean up.”

Elijah didn’t know how he felt about being called Buddy. It sounded like a name you would give a puppy. He wished he could tell them his real name, but he hadn’t spoken in so long he thought he had probably forgotten. He helped Drake carry the dishes to the sink. He was careful to hold the dishes carefully between his fists so he didn’t drop them. Drake seemed nice, but you never knew what might set him off. One time, he had pissed his father off and his father had put him to sleep. When he woke up…he glanced down at his fists. He never knew what he had done wrong, but he was always careful to do what his father said after that.

His father didn’t like it if he talked or asked too many questions, so he learned to stay silent. It was easier that way. You couldn’t gave anything away if you didn’t talk. No one knew what you thought or how you felt. You could stay safe in your own head. That was how Elijah liked it. Even his father couldn’t always tell what he was thinking even though he could always find him when he took off.

This time he had outsmarted his father. His father would never, in a million years, imagine where he was now. His father had taught him to avoid police at all costs and here he was, staying with one.

Drake finished putting the dishes in the dishwasher and finished cleaning the table and the counters.

“You want to see the rest of the house?”

Elijah nodded. He’d never been in a real house before. He used to live in an apartment a long time ago but that time had grown fuzzy in his mind. He remembered his mother living there, too, but his mind always skittered to a stop when he tried to remember to much about that time. It was like his father said, “Some things were better left in the past. Just forget it.”

He followed Drake into the living room. A giant TV was mounted to the wall. Drake turned on a black box on top of a brown chest under the TV. A jumping figure appeared on the screen.

“Do you like video games?”

Elijah shrugged. He’d never played a video game. He had seen one in a store once with his father, but they were always on the move. They could barely afford food. His father never would have bought him a video game. Drake made the figure jump around. Elijah had to admit it looked kind of fun.

Drake showed him his office. It was behind some doors with glass in them. Drake had a large desk with several screens on his desk. He had seen computers in the store too, but he didn’t know people owned more than one.

“This is where I work. I’m a cybersecurity consultant. I help companies make sure that no one can get into their computer systems.”

Elijah nodded. Drake showed him the diningroom and then they walked down the hall.

“This is your room.”

Drake turned on the light switch. A large double bed was covered with a bright quilt. A blue chair stood in the corner with a yellow blanket draped over it. It was a nice room.

“You can decorate it if you want.”

Drake went to another door.

“You have your own bathroom, too.”

Elijah could see a blue and white bathroom. His own bathroom?

“I’m going to go get you some soap and shampoo and find you something to wear to bed.”

Drake left the room. Elijah looked around. The dresser was shiny wood just like the kitchen table. There was a bouquet of dried blue flowers in a yellow basket on the dresser. He liked this room. It was cheerful and he suddenly felt safe.

Drake returned with soap and shampoo and some clothes.

“We’ll take you shopping tomorrow and get you your own things. This will do for now. Do you need any help?”

Elijah shook his head.

“I’ll come back to tuck you in when you’re out of the shower.”

And he was alone. He was getting tired. He wasn’t used to interacting with people he didn’t know. It was a little tiring. He got undressed and left his dirty clothes on the floor. He didn’t want to get anything in this fancy room dirty. He made the shower nice and warm and stepped in. He didn’t get to shower very often. He didn’t like being dirty, but it was hard to stay clean on the road. He and his father washed up when they could, but it had been a while since they had been able to find a place to wash up. When he got out of the shower and dried off, he slipped into the t-shirt and gym shorts Drake had left. Luckily, the gym shorts had drawstrings or they would never stay up. He tied the drawstring as tight as he could and then sat on the edge of the bed.

Someone knocked, but he couldn’t answer. They waited a minute and then said, “We’re coming in.”

Madison was with Drake.

“Ready for bed?” Madison asked. He nodded.

“Drake,” Madison called.

Drake came into the room.

“He needs a comb for his hair.”

Elijah shook his head a little. His hair had gotten matted in the shower.

Drake gave Madison a comb and she combed his hair. As she bent near him, he inhaled her scent. She smelled clean with a hint of flowers. Unbidden, a memory of his mother flashed in his mind. As Madison gently pulled the comb through his tangled hair, he closed his eyes. His mom used to comb his hair like this, only she would hum a little song. Sometimes, she would trim his hair so it wouldn’t get too shaggy. She hated it when his hair got too long like it was now. A lump formed in his throat, but he didn’t give in to his tears. That would be weak, and he wasn’t weak. His father had taught him to be strong, to push traitorous emotions away. Suddenly, he sat up and snatched the comb away from Madison. She wasn’t his mother. She had no right to comb his hair. He dragged the comb through his hair regardless of the snarls that pulled his scalp. He threw the comb down and buried himself under the covers of the bed. He knew what she was doing. She was trying to get him to like her so he would help her find his father, but it wasn’t going to work. He turned his back on Drake and Madison and pulled the blanket above his head.

The light went out and he heard Drake whisper, “Good night, Buddy.”

Sins of the Father: Chapter 5

silhouette3The silence in the car was smothering but Madison didn’t know what to say. How do you make small talk with a boy who had been sitting by a corpse just a few hours earlier? Besides, he probably wouldn’t answer her anyway. He was good at staying quiet.  She stole a look at him out of the corner of her eye. His head was nodding as he struggled to keep his eyes open. His hands were still shoved in the pockets of his hoodie. She wondered about his hands. How had that happened? Was he born that way? When she cuffed him, she could see that he had all his fingers, but they seemed to be permanently curled into fists.

Mandy had said that Madison and Drake would need to take him to the doctor as soon as possible. That would be interesting. She didn’t know anything about him. She didn’t know his name or how old he was. What was she supposed to tell the doctor? She hoped that as he got to know her and Drake, he would trust them enough to at least tell them his name. What was she supposed to call him? Boy? That seemed heartless, but she calling him a pet name, like honey or sweetheart didn’t feel right either.

She cleared her throat. As she adjusted the heat, she asked, “Are you warm enough?”

The boy started a little and then nodded.

“I can turn the heat up if you want.”

The boy shook his head no.

“We’re almost there. We only live a few minutes out of town.”

The boy nodded, but still didn’t speak. He continued to stare out of the window, and, soon, his eyelids began to drop again. She wondered when the last time was that he had gotten a good sleep, or meal for that matter. He had wolfed down the sandwich and chips Mandy had brought him like he hadn’t eaten in a long time. She wondered what to do when she got him home. Should she offer him more food? He desperately needed a bath. She could smell him from the driver’s seat and the heat wasn’t helping matters, but she was used to strong odors. As a former homicide detective, she had dealt with a many gruesome death scenes and their accompanying odors. At least, body odor meant someone was alive.

By the time, she pulled into their driveway his head had fallen against the window and he was asleep. She drove down the tree-lined drive until she reached the two-car garage. The garage door was open and she could see Drake silhouetted against the light from the kitchen as he stood in the door leading from the garage into the house. She pulled slowly into the garage next to Drake’s Jeep. The garage light came on as she pressed the button on the garage door opener. Gently, she shook the boy’s shoulder.

He jumped up with a cry. His voice was hoarse as if he didn’t use it very often. At least, she knew he had a voice.

“It’s okay. We’re home.”

The boy shook his eyes and looked out the window. Drake was approaching the passenger side door and the boy frowned at him.

“That’s Drake. He’s my husband.”

Drake opened the door.

“Hey, buddy. My name is Drake.”

Drake had a way with people, including kids. With his large blue eyes and curly brown hair, he oozed charm. There weren’t many people he couldn’t make like him. Even Hal, who was even more anti-social than she was, liked to hang out with Drake. He had taken Drake hiking and mountain-biking several times. While she had been stymied over what to call the boy, Drake had naturally come up with a name that didn’t sound forced or insincere. She supposed “Buddy” was as good a name as any until they figured out what the boy’s real name was.

The boy slid a hand out of his pocket and clicked the seat belt off. He seemed to get along with his damaged hands. He had no trouble picking up the food he had been given at the office. Ignoring Drake’s hand, he slid out of the tall SUV and backed away from Drake. She saw him look back toward the closed garage door. Was he thinking of making a run for it? Already? She got out of the SUV and used the starter remote to lock the car and set the alarm.

She came around the SUV to stand beside Drake. She wanted to slide against Drake’s broad chest and let him hold her, but she felt awkward in front of the kid. The boy looked at her and Drake with solemn dark eyes. Drake slid his arm around her waist and she had to settle for a little side hug.

“I just made some chili. Are you two hungry?”

Even though she hadn’t eaten all day, Madison wasn’t hungry. When she worked homicides in Denver, she often forgot to eat. The boy’s pinched face and hollow eyes told her that he was probably still hungry.

“I’m starved. How about you…buddy?” She stumbled over the nickname but it wasn’t too bad.

The boy nodded.

Drake stepped away from Madison to show the boy the door.

“Let’s eat. The kitchen is through that door. We’ll eat after you two wash up.”

The boy climbed the steps leading up to the kitchen from the garage. He paused when he reached the doorway and stopped to look around the room. He seemed to be looking for danger as if he expected someone to jump out at him. Drake and Madison held back letting him take his time. Finally, he took a deep breath and stepped into the golden light of their kitchen. Madison and Drake followed him into the house.

Madison showed the boy the guest bathroom just around the corner from the kitchen.

Turning the light on for him, she said, “You can wash up in here.”

He turned and looked at her.

“We’ll be in the kitchen.”

The boy went into the bathroom and closed the door.

Madison returned to the kitchen and washed her own hands in the kitchen sink. She was looking forward to  a warm shower. When she was working a case, she often felt as if she couldn’t get clean, as if the dirt from the crime scene clung to her. Drake came up behind her as she wiped her hands on the red-checked kitchen towel. She turned and leaned into him. Exhaling his spicy scent, she rested against him for a moment.

“I’m sorry, Madison,” Drake murmured against her hair. She nodded and took a shuddering breath. She wanted to cry into his shirt, but the boy would be back any second. She contented herself with the brief hug and then stepped away from Drake. His blue eyes looked blood-shot and his skin was stained with tears.

“We’ll talk after we take care of…”

“You don’t know his name?” Drake asked.

“No, he won’t talk. I think Buddy might work until we can get him to open up.”

Drake nodded.

They heard the bathroom door open, and then the boy stepped back into the kitchen.

“Hey, buddy? Are you hungry?”

The boy looked at Drake.

“Is it all right if I call you, buddy? I don’t know your name.”

The boy nodded his head.

Drake tried again. “Can you tell us your name?”

The boy shook his head and began to scowl.

“That’s fine,” said Madison, “We’ll just call you Buddy until you’re ready to tell us your name.”

The boy relaxed and stared at the table. The table looked warm and inviting with three red bowls heaped with chili. Large bowls of sour cream and tortilla chips were set in the middle of the table and Drake had completed the setting with large glasses of milk. Madison looked at the milk and then toward the fridge. She really wanted a beer, but she supposed it would look bad if she started drinking five minutes after she brought the boy home.

They sat down together and began to eat. The boy had no trouble scooping the cheese out of the bowl with a spoon. He looked at the chips with longing as he began to shovel chili into his mouth. Drake noticed and sprinkled some crushed chips on top of the boy’s chili.

“Do you want some sour cream?”

The boy made a face and continued to eat. Drake smiled.

“I didn’t like sour cream either when I was your age, but it’s the best on chili,” Drake said as he spooned sour cream onto his own chili.

Madison picked at her chili and ate as much as she could. She kept picturing Andie and smelling the odors of the crime scene. She swallowed a few bites of chili and washed it down with the cold milk. She saw the boy eyeing the milk with a frown. Drake noticed, too.

“Now, I’ll have to draw the line at the milk. Milk is good for you. Give it a try.”

The boy picked up the glass with both of his fists and took a sip. He smacked his lips a little and then downed half the glass.

Drake smiled at him. “I knew you would like it.”

Sins of the Father: Chapter 4

silhouette3Madison watched the boy eat his sandwich through the window of the interrogation room. Even though he couldn’t use his fingers, he seemed to manage with his thumbs. He had attacked the sandwich as soon as Mandy had given it to him. Madison wondered when was the last time he had had a full meal. As much as she wanted to hate him, she couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. His black hair was shaggy and he needed a shower badly. She wondered where he had come from and who took care of him. Why was he sitting by Andie’s body? She remembered the bruises around Andie’s neck. Andie was 5’8” and this boy was barely five feet. She didn’t think that he would have been able to strangle anyone so much taller than he was, nor could he have lifted the tub onto the counter. And his hands. He could only move his thumbs, and, while he seemed pretty dexterous with his thumbs, she didn’t think that he could wrap them around anyone’s neck.

She knew that he was the key to this, though. Or otherwise, why would he stay by the body? He had wanted to be found. She was sure of that. She stepped out into the hall. Mandy was using her office to find a placement for the boy. When she entered her office, Mandy was just ending her call.

“Any luck?” Madison asked.

Mandy shook her head.

“We don’t have very many foster homes in this area. They are all full right now. I’ll have to place him in a home nearer to Grand Junction.”

Madison didn’t want him that far away. She needed him close if she was going to gain his trust and get him to talk to her.

“Can you hold on a minute, Mandy? I have an idea.”

Mandy nodded as Madison left the office and headed to the interrogation room. She opened the door. The boy had finished his sandwich and was working on a small bag of chips. He had dumped them out onto the plate so he could grip them between his thumb and the side of his index finger. He stopped eating and looked at her. His eyes looked so old in his young face, as if he had witnessed countless tragedies.

She pulled a chair next to him and sat down.

“I need to know something, just between you and me.”

He raised his eyebrows.

“Are you the one who hurt my friend?”

He shook his head no.

“But you know who did.”

He nodded slightly.

“Did you see it?”

He shook his head no again.

“Why did you…?”

But the boy put his head down and shoved his fists into his frayed pockets. He was done communicating. His clothes were tattered and torn. She could see his big toe through a hole in his sneakers.

“I’ll be back in a minute. You won’t be here much longer.”

Madison returned to her office. Mandy was swiping her phone screen. She looked up as Madison entered the room.

“I’ll take him.”

Mandy gasped.

“What?”

“I said I’ll take him home with me. My husband, Drake, can take care of him while I’m at work.”

“I don’t know, Sheriff. The boy is a suspect in a crime. You can’t have 24-hour, unsupervised access to him.”

“I don’t think he’s a suspect. He may be a material witness, but I don’t think he’s physically capable of committing this crime.”

She had to be careful. She didn’t want to talk about crucial evidence with anyone outside of the department.

“So you’re not charging him?”

“No, but I want him somewhere close by, somewhere safe. Is there a problem with me and my husband fostering him?”

Mandy shook her head.

“I don’t think so. You’re the sheriff, after all. And this is an emergency. We can place him with you, but I’ll have to make some visits to make sure everything is up to standard.”

Madison nodded.

“That will be fine. I’ll call my husband.”

Drake’s phone rang for a long time, but he finally picked up.

“Hey, babe, what’s up? Are you having fun with Andie?”

She hadn’t had a chance to call him until now. A lump rose in her throat. If she were going to cry, it would be with Drake, but she couldn’t let herself cry here, at the office.

“Something’s happened, Drake.”

“What? Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

As the husband of a police officer, he sometimes had a hard time dealing with the risk involved in her job. If she didn’t check in with him, at least once during a shift, he tended to assume the worst. She had called him right before she had left the office, but she hadn’t had a chance to call him before now. Truth was she hadn’t even thought to call him. That was one of the problems that had led them to move. When she worked in Denver, in the homicide unit, she would get so involved with a case that she would forget to call him. By the time she did call him, he would be frantic with worry, wondering where she was and if she were safe.

“I’m fine. It’s Andie.”

“What? Did you two get in an accident?”

“No, Drake, Andie is dead.”

She heard him draw a breath and then he fell silent. After a few seconds, he asked, “What happened?”

She gave him the bare details of what had happened. She couldn’t risk divulging key information, but she told him enough to help him understand the situation.

“I don’t know, Madison. This is a pretty big responsibility. How do you know he’s not the one who did this.”

“He’s too small. Besides…” She paused not knowing how to explain the boy’s hands.

“What?”

“His hands are deformed.”

“Deformed?”

“Yeah, he can’t open his fingers and all he can move are his thumbs. The evidence at the scene indicates that the suspect was a large man, not a small boy.”

Drake sighed.

“All right. Bring him home.”

Elijah was stunned when the sheriff told him he was coming home with her. His face stayed, blank, though. He didn’t want her to know what he was feeling.

She asked him, “Is that all right if you come home with me?”

He nodded his head. He didn’t really have a choice, did he? He didn’t know where else he could go. If he didn’t go with her, would they lock him in a cell? Would they send him to one of those children’s homes his father had told him about? He didn’t know. Without his father around, the world had become uncertain. He didn’t know how to act or what to do.

“All right, then. Let’s go”

The sheriff got up and motioned for him to follow her out of the little room. He was glad to be moving at least. He had gotten tired of sitting in the little box of a room. He didn’t like the big mirror on the wall, having to stare at himself for hours. He shoved his fists into his pockets and followed her into the hallway. They met the big guy that had helped her cuff him at the flower shop. He didn’t like him. He had cold gray eyes that seemed to look through him. The deputy’s eyes reminded him of his father’s eyes. When the deputy looked at him, he looked down at the work brown carpet.

“Are you really going to do this, Madison?” he asked her. His voice was low and sounded mad.

“Hal, I have to. We already talked about this. You’ve seen the evidence. You know this boy couldn’t have done that to Andie.”

Elijah was surprised. She really didn’t think it was him? His father had told him over and over to avoid the police. He said they wouldn’t understand him and that they would blame him as well as his father for the things his father had done. He supposed he was as much to blame. He never tried to stop his father. He never tried to get help for any of the women his father had killed. He just hid and waited for his father to come get him when he was over.

“He’s a material witness and he needs to be somewhere I can keep an eye on him.”

“We have plenty of cells that are available.”

“We can’t hold him without charging him. You know that, Hal.”

Hal signed and rubbed his hand over his face. He looked tired like the Sheriff.

“I suppose you’re right. And you’re the boss.”

“Go home. Hal. You need to get some rest.”

“I’ll go home as soon as I get the evidence ready to send out for testing. I want to send it out first thing in the morning.”

The sheriff nodded.

“All right. I’ll see you in the morning.”

After the sheriff picked up a messenger bag from her office, she walked with Elijah out the front of the station. A large black SUV was parked in a spot right by the door. Mandy was waiting on the sidewalk. Elijah wanted to warn her about waiting outside in the dark. It was a dangerous thing for a woman to do. The shadows surrounded her and he knew that the shadows hid danger.

“Are you all set?” Mandy asked Elijah. He nodded and she gave him a quick hug. He stiffened. He wasn’t used to being hugged. She held out a business card. He pulled his hand out of his pocket and grabbed it between his thumb and the side of his hand, and thrust his hand back into his pocket.

“My number is on that card. You call me if you need anything, okay?”

He nodded.

“Okay, then. I’ll see you in a couple of days to make sure you’ve settled in.”

Mandy turned to the sheriff.

“I’ll call you to set up your first home visit.”

The sheriff nodded.

“Drake is always home. You can talk to him if you can’t get a hold of me.”

Elijah wondered who Drake was. The sheriff must be married. He hadn’t thought of having to deal with a man. He was tough, though. He could deal with anyone. His father had taught him that.

Mandy walked him and the sheriff to the SUV. She hovered over Elijah to see if he needed help, but he was used to taking care of himself. When he was buckled in, Mandy nodded at him and shut the door. She spoke to the sheriff for a few minutes more. Elijah looked at the radio mounted to the dash and the laptop stationed between the two large seats. There was a grill separating the front seat from the back seat in the SUV. He had sat in the backseat of the other SUV. He remembered how the other deputy, Hal, had kept turning and staring at him with those cold eyes. Now, he was sitting in the same seat the deputy had sat in. He turned and looked at the empty seat behind the grill. The sheriff finished her conversation with Mandy and came around the SUV to get into the driver’s seat.

She didn’t say anything to Elijah as she started the SUV and backed out of the space. Mandy stood in the beams of the head lights and waived at Elijah. Then, she turned and started to walk toward a silver car parked a few spaced down. Elijah lost sight of her as the sheriff put the vehicle into drive and headed down the street.

He stood in the shadows outside of the sheriff’s department. It had taken him a while to find it in the dark. He had to stay in the shadows and make sure no one saw him. A young woman came out of the building. Her brown hair shown in the street light, but he did not move. He was satisfied for now, and she was safe. She appeared to be waiting for someone. Maybe, she was a secretary or something and waiting for her husband or boyfriend to pick her up. She was pretty, he had to admit. She was petite, but he had found out first hand that women were too much trouble to deal with. They always wanted something from him, something for themselves. They were selfish. That was their nature. He didn’t have the patience to deal with them long-term. When he wanted a woman, he took one and spent no longer than he needed to satisfy his urge.

Was his boy somewhere in there? Probably in a police cell. Stupid police. They couldn’t see what was right in front of them. There was no way his scrawny boy could do what he could do, he had seen to that, but he figured they were in there celebrating how easy it was to solve this case. After all, the killer was waiting right in the shop with the body. His fists tightened. They better not hurt his boy. He would kill them all if they even touched them.

The woman continued to wait as she checked her watch from time to time. Whoever was coming must be late. She was easy pickings right there in the light. She couldn’t see him across the street in the shadows. The door to the station opened and the woman he had seen at the crime scene stepped out. The boy was following her. Two defenseless women and a boy. He could rush them and grab his boy, but the woman was a cop. She could be armed. He didn’t want the boy to get hurt. They stopped and talked to the other smaller woman. The woman cop was tall with long dark hair. The woman walked them to the SUV parked in the space marked for the sheriff. The small woman helped the boy get into the SUV and then she and the sheriff, apparently, stood talking for a few more minutes. He could hear their voices but not what they said. Then the sheriff got into her SUV and drove away. The woman began walking toward a silver car. She must know something. Maybe, she worked for the sheriff. Whoever she was, she had information that he needed. Now, he knew what he had to do.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 3

silhouette3The woman who called herself Mandy brought him a hot chocolate and a blanket. The deputy stood by the door and glared at him.      As Mandy wrapped the blanket around him, Elijah grasped the cup between his fists and let the warmth seep into his fingers. When they got cold, his fingers ached. Warmth made them feel better. Slowly, he brought the paper cup to his lips and drank. He could feel the warm liquid flow all the way to his stomach, but he still felt cold.

He tried not to look at the deputy. Brushing his hair out of his eyes, Mandy continued to fuss over him. He wondered if his mother were here, if she would act the same way. He had only hazy memories of his mother except for the last one. He blinked hard. He better not think about that. He had to stay strong. Never show weakness. His father had taught him that.

“Are you okay?” Mandy asked.

Elijah looked at Mandy. She looked tired. Maybe, she had had to work all day and now she was having to look after him. He nodded silently, and she smiled.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

Elijah shook his head. He didn’t talk, ever. He hadn’t talked since that night.

“You don’t want to tell me your name?” Mandy said, a little frown creasing her forehead.

Elijah didn’t want to disappoint her. She was so nice, but he shook his head again.

“Okay, but the sheriff is going to want to know your name. She is going to ask you some questions. It’s important that you answer them.”

Elijah shook his head again.

Mandy placed her hand on his arm. He flinched a little. He wasn’t used to being touched. Sometime his father would grab his hoodie, but he never really touched him.

“Do the best you can, okay? No one is going to hurt you.”

The door to the little room opened. The woman who had pointed her gun at him stepped into the room. Mandy stood and introduced herself.

“Sheriff, I’m Mandy Cosgrove.”

The sheriff shook her hand. “Sheriff Madison Rhodes.”

Elijah looked at the sheriff from under his bangs. He didn’t know that women could be sheriffs.

As the sheriff sat down, she asked, “Has he said anything?”

Mandy shook her head.

“No. He’ll nod or shake his head, but he won’t say anything.”

He saw the sheriff’s mouth tighten into a grim line. He told himself to stay strong. No one could make him do anything, not even his father. He had proven that tonight. He had finally gotten away. The sheriff had no idea who his father was.

Mandy spoke to him again.

“Okay, the sheriff is going to ask you some questions. You need to answer them, okay?”

Elijah wondered for a moment if Mandy knew how many times she said okay. Did she say it all day long?

The sheriff pulled out a small card.

“I’m going to read this to you. I need you to listen.”

The sheriff didn’t end her sentences with a pleading okay. He looked at the sheriff and she began to read to him.

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”

Mandy and the sheriff looked at him expectantly. Mandy gave him an encouraging nod. He shook his head.

“You don’t wish to speak to me?”

He shook his head again. He wasn’t going to speak to anyone. He felt bad. The sheriff seemed upset. But he couldn’t help her. He couldn’t help anyone, but himself.

The sheriff sighed and stood up.

“Ms. Cosgrove, can I speak to you a moment?”

Mandy followed the sheriff out of the room. They were gone a few minutes, and then they came back in. The sheriff  had a small box in her hands.

Mandy sat down next to Elijah again.

“The sheriff wants to collect some samples from you. It’s not going to hurt, and you don’t have to let her if you don’t want to, but she can use the information to help you.”

Elijah looked at her. He didn’t know what to do, but Mandy nodded.

“It will be all right. I’ll be right here.”

The sheriff used some cotton swabs to scrape the inside of his cheek. She swabbed his thumbs. He tensed when she touched his hands. No one touched his hands, ever, but he made himself keep still.

“I need to get his thumbprints.”

Mandy nodded and stood up. She held her hand out to Elijah. He didn’t take her hand, but he followed Mandy and the sheriff out into the hall. They took her to another small room with a camera and a counter. The sheriff took his right hand again and rolled his thumb in some ink and pushed it down onto a card. She also inked the front of his fist and pushed them down on the paper. She did the same to his left fist. As soon as she let go of his fist, he jammed both of his fists into his pockets.

His hands were throbbing and he didn’t want anyone else touching them. She held a wipe out to him.

“You need to clean the ink off your hands.”

He pushed his hands deeper into his pockets and frowned at her.

“Mandy, take him to the bathroom so he can wash his hands.”

Alone in the bathroom, Elijah pulled his hands out of his pockets. Ink was smeared all over them. Looking at the window high on the wall at the end of the bathroom, he turned the faucet on and thrust his hands under the warm water. The ache subsided under the heat of the water. He pumped a dollop of soap onto his fist and used his thumbs to spread the soap around. Even little things like washing his hands could be a chore, but he had learned how to use his thumbs to grab things. He could get by. When he was done with his hands, he scrubbed his face. His dark brown eyes looked wide and afraid and his freckles stood out against his pale skin. He smoothed his spiky black hair down the best that he could and dried his face and his hands.

Elijah looked one last time at the high window. The glass was black against the white tile, but he wished he could disappear back into the darkness. He had made a huge mistake. He didn’t want to be with his father anymore, but he didn’t want to be here, either. He didn’t know where he belonged. Even if he could leave, how could he get up to the window? There was a large metal trashcan next to the paper towel dispenser. Maybe, he could turn it over and stand on it. But that lady, Mandy, was standing right outside the door. She would hear and come running in. With a sigh, he stepped out of the bathroom back into the hall. He would have to face whatever came next.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 2

silhouette3Madison set the forensics kit on the floor by the door and pulled on blue latex gloves. Andie’s floral Toms were laying on the floor next to the counter. She hadn’t noticed that before. She could also smell the faint odor of feces. Her eyes focused on the metal tub sitting on the counter. It was the only thing out of place besides Andie’s shoes. She didn’t know what had happened to Andie, but the tub bothered her. She wanted to make sure that Kurt took pictures of the tub and of Andie’s shoes. At an early point of an investigation, it was crucial to take note of even the slightest detail. She also wanted to make sure that they tested the tub for fingerprints.

She could see the flash of the camera as Kurt took pictures of the tarp-covered body. She moved around the counter and stood in the doorway. The body was still covered. All she could see was Andie’s foot, her red toenails gleaming under the light. Hal came over to stand by her.

“I called Mesa County. They’re sending someone.”

The Mesa County Coroner was located in Grand Junction. It would probably take someone twenty minutes to get to Fruita. She watched as Kurt continued to take pictures of the tarp and the way it covered Andie’s body. As he finished his last shot, she told him to go take pictures of the tub on the counter and Andie’s shoes.

“Do you think that’s significant?” Hal asked.

“I don’t know Hal, but I know Andie couldn’t lift the tub. And I don’t think she walked around her shop barefoot.”

Something about the tub was bothering her. She thought for a moment. The tub was on the counter. How had it gotten there? What was she missing? She looked at the clock on the far wall. It was after 6:30. She and Andie should be having dinner at Guthrie’s right now. Then it hit her. Guthrie had said something about someone helping Andie with the metal tub. Someone big. She started toward the front of the shop. Someone had to question Guthrie while his memory was still fresh.

Hal followed her.

“What’s going on?”

“I think Guthrie may have seen the killer.”

“What?”

Madison pointed at the tub. Kurt’s flash went off illuminating the tub with the fingerprint powder on it.

“That tub is too big for Andie to lift. She always kept it just inside the door. She could drag it that far from the sidewalk.”

Hal looked perplexed. “So?”

“It’s on the counter. Only someone with a lot of strength could lift that tub onto the counter. Guthrie said he saw someone helping Andie bring in her flowers.”

Finally, Hal understood what Madison was saying.

“I’ll get right over there.”

Hal pushed through the front door. A small crowd had gathered outside the police tape. Hal pushed by them without acknowledging them and headed up the street. Madison went back to the back room. She wondered why anyone would kill Andie. She wasn’t dating anyone right now and all her break-ups had been amiable. She didn’t think Andie had any enemies. Maybe, the motive was robbery. They would have to check the cash register for fingerprints as well as the tub. She turned to look at the register on the counter. It looked secure. She got out her little notebook, and started making notes, of the shoes, the tub, the register. She looked around the store room. She took notes on the tarp, on how the boy had been sitting near the tarp. What did the boy have to do with this? He wasn’t big enough to have lifted the tub, and she didn’t think he could really grip anything with his deformed hands. She wrote down another thought in her book. They would need to fingerprint the boy’s thumbs as well.

She heard the bell above the door tinkle as someone came into the shop. She turned to see one of the deputy coroners entering the shop. Like Madison had, the coroner paused for a moment and looked at the shoes on the floor. Then, she headed for the back room.

“I’m Deputy Coroner Katie Schultes.”

Madison shook her hand. “Sheriff Rhodes.”

Schultes surveyed the body.

“Has anyone been in here yet?”

“Yes. One of my deputies took pictures of the position of the tarp. When I came in, I found a suspect next to the body.”

“A suspect?” Schultes looked surprised.

“A kid. He was crouched by the body against the wall by her…” Madison stopped and swallowed. “…by her head.”

Schultes eyes softened.

“You knew her?”

“Yes. I came by to pick her up for dinner. We were heading up to the café up the street.”

“Are you going to be okay?” Schultes was looking at her with sympathy, but also appraising her.

Madison straightened. She took a deep breath.

“I’m fine.  I’ve worked a lot of homicides in Denver.”

“But no one you knew.”

“No, no one I knew, but I’m the sheriff and I’m going to do my job.” She stared into Schultes blue eyes. Her green eyes glinted with anger.

“All right, Sheriff.” Schultes turned to the body.

“Have you taken pictures already?”

“Yes, we were waiting for you to remove the tarp, so we could take pictures of the body.”

She hadn’t noticed any flashes for a while, so she assumed Kurt was finished in the front of the store. When she turned around, he was standing by the counter loading a fresh roll of film into the camera.

“We’re going to need you in here again, Kurt.”

Kurt nodded. His eyes were a little shiny, but he seemed steady. He, like a lot of the deputies, had gone to school with Andie. He knew her better than Madison did. She didn’t ask him if he was up to handling the case even though he probably knew Andie better than Madison did. They were all going to have to put their emotions aside to find Andie’s killer.

Madison retrieved some larger evidence bags from her kit by the door. The deputy coroner was standing over the body.

“Can you help me lift it?”

Together, the two women lifted the tarp off the body and carefully folded it. Andie opened a large evidence bag while the coroner held the folded tarp. While Andie held the bag, the coroner slid it into the bag. Andie marked it and set it next to the case.

She hadn’t looked at Andie’s body yet. Steeling herself, she looked at Andie’s legs. She noticed her pants were stained and the smell of feces and urine was much stronger now that the tarp was lifted. Her eyes travelled up to Andie’s face. Her neck was beginning to bruise and her eyes were wide open. Her tongue protruded from her mouth. Madison could tell that it had not been an easy death.

As Schultes began to check the body, Madison moved back and stood in the doorway. She hugged her arms tightly to her chest.        Light began flashing as Kurt took pictures of Andie’s body. Schultes would point something out and Kurt would focus on it and take pictures. When the coroner was finished, she brought out a black body bag and laid it on the floor next to Andie. Steeling herself, Madison helped Kurt and Schultes move the body into the bag. After Kurt finished taking pictures of the floor where Madison had been laying, Schultes took samples from the fluids that had collected underneath her body.

When Schultes went out to her van to get her gurney, Madison followed her.

“When will you know cause of death?” she asked Schultes as she pulled the gurney out of the back of the van.

“I can have preliminary results to you by tomorrow night. It will take several weeks to finalize the autopsy and make a report.”

After the coroner left, Madison went back into the shop. She wanted to make sure that the rest of the scene was processed correctly. Hal entered after her. The metal tub was still on the counter and Andie’s shoes were laying on the floor.

Kurt came out of the back room.

“Did you get pictures of the tub and the shoes?” Madison asked.

Kurt nodded.

“Do you need any more pictures?”

“You got pictures of this room, right?”

Kurt nodded.

“Including the tub and the shoes?”

“Yeah. I also took pictures of the scuff marks by the door.”

Madison looked at the scratches on the floor by the door. She knew that Andie had to drag the tub over the threshold and into the shop. She wondered if there were scratches on the concrete outside.

“Kurt, take some pictures of the sidewalk. You know where Andie keeps the metal tub?”

Kurt nodded and stepped outside. Flashes again filled the room from outside.

Madison retrieved the forensics kit from the back room.

Hal was looking at the tub and the shoes on the floor.

“What did Guthrie say?” Madison asked as she removed the fingerprint powder and brush from the kit.

“He was holding the door open for Ida Mae Parker and looked down the street. He said Andie was pulling in her plants and flowers for the night. She was pulling that old tub across the cement when a big guy walked up to her. He lifted the tub and carried it into the shop for Andie. Guthrie didn’t think anything about it. He thought is was a customer.”

“Did he give you a description?”

Madison began to brush the powder gently along the handles and the rim of the tub. She hoped that not too many people had touched the tub. It wasn’t for sale and held geraniums that Andie didn’t sell. No one would have a reason to touch the tub. She dusted the handles and the sides of the tub. Several distinct fingerprings emerged. Hal handed her the tape and she lifted the prints carefully. After labelling the evidence bags, Hal handed her each bag so she could secure the fingerpint tapes.

Hal’s radio crackled.

“Steward, over.”

“Tell the Sheriff I have the boy in an interview room. CPS is on their way.”

“Roger. Steward out.”

Madison had just finished bagging Andie’s shoes and marking the spot where they were on the floor. She handed the bag to Hal. Next, they dusted the register and the countertop next to the register. Andie’s purse was on the top shelf under the counter. It looked like it was untouched. The bag was leather, so they couldn’t take fingerprints here. Madison carefully pulled the bag off the shelf. It was zipped. They would need to lock the shop up. Madison unzipped the purse and found Andie’s keys. Andie’s wallet was still in her purse and also looked like it hadn’t been touched. After extracting Andie’s keys, she and Hal bagged the purse.

After locking Andie’s door, Madison and Hal finished loading everything in the SUV.

“Are we going to question that boy?” Hal asked, as he slammed the hatch closed.

“Yes, as soon as CPS is there. I want to make sure everything is handled appropriately.”

“Do you think the kid did it?” Hal asked.

Madison walked around to the driver’s side. She shook her head.

“I don’t know, Hal. He’s really small and his hands…”

“Yeah. I saw them.”

“But if he didn’t do it, he knows who does. I’m sure of it.”

Madison got into the SUV and waited for Hal to climb into the passenger side. He handed her the keys and she drove them back to the station.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 1

silhouette3Madison paused as she turned the corner from First Street onto Main. Warm spring air caressed her cheeks and the spicy scent of geraniums tickled her nose. The Garden Club had just finished planting the tubs along Main Street. This year, they had planted geraniums in the half-barrels that lined Main Street. Andie had helped design the arrangements that contained impatiens as well as the geraniums.

Madison looked across the street to Andie’s flower shop. Andie had already pulled her plants in. She usually closed at 5:30, but waited to pull her plants in after closing. Tonight, though, she and Madison were having a girls’ night out. She had turned her front light off, too. Madison frowned. That was unusual. All the businesses along Main Street kept their front lights on at night even though in such a small town there was little crime. Andie loved the brass fixtures that highlighted her red and white striped awnings. She never turned them off.

Looking both ways, Madison crossed Main Street. The only cars on the block were pulled in front of the parking spots in front of the café. Madison had walked over from the Sheriff’s department, because, normally, on a Friday night, all the diagonal spots close to the café were taken. Madison shook her head as she passed the cars. She still couldn’t get used to pulling her car into a parting spot on a major thoroughfare. She was from Denver. If you wanted to park downtown, you had to parallel park or find a lot.

Guthrie stepped out of the café. He owned the café and did most of the cooking.

“Are you and Andie coming down to eat, Sheriff?” he called.

“We’ll be down in a minute,” Madison called back.

“I’ll save you a table by the window. Andie closed up early tonight. I noticed she had help with that big metal tub she keeps out in front.”

“Who was that, Guthrie?”

“I don’t know. A big guy. I’ve never seen him before. Probably a tourist or something.”

“Yeah, probably.” She waved at Guthrie. “We’ll be down in a minute.”

“Okey doke, Sheriff.”

Madison smiled at Guthrie’s favorite expression and stepped into the shop. The top of the door hit the brass bell Andie had hung above the door. The metal tub was sitting on the porcelain tile of Andie’s front counter. That was odd. The metal tub was really heavy. Andie could slide it into the shop, but she usually kept it just inside the front door. She wouldn’t want it on the counter, because the metal could scratch the fine porcelain tiles. The light was off in the front part of the store, but the light in the back room was on.

Madison heard a scuffle in the back. The hair on the back of her neck stood up and her stomach clenched. Something was wrong. Quietly, she slid her gun out of her shoulder holster and switched the safety off. Holding the weapon in two hands pointed at the floor, she moved along the shelves lining the wall and edged around the counter. As she sidled up to the door, she could see a green tarp on the floor and Andie’s foot sticking out from under the tarp. She heard the rustle again. The sound wasn’t coming from Andie. Her foot was completely still. Andie was sure it would never move again.

Pulling a deep breath into her lungs, she stepped into the room with her gun up. A little boy was crouched next to Andie. His hands were jammed into the pockets of his black hoodie.

Madison leveled her gun at the boy.

“Don’t move.”

Before she could call for back-up, she needed to make sure the boy was unarmed and immobilized. He was small, maybe twelve or thirteen, but she didn’t want to take any chances. She was off-duty, so she didn’t have any handcuffs with her. She’d search the boy and get him on his stomach, so she could call her deputies.

“Take your hands out of your pockets.”

The boy frowned and looked at the ground. If anything, he pushed his hands deeper into his pockets.

“I don’t want to hurt you, but I will unless you show me your hands.”

The coldness in her voice made him look at her again. She gave him what Hal called her “dead eye.” The one she used when she was ready to shoot someone. The boy studied her for a moment and then pulled his hands out of his pockets. They were both balled into fists.

“Open your hands.”

His thumbs splayed out from his fists, but his fingers stayed curled shut.

She was losing her patience. Her friend was laying there cold and this fucking kid was messing around. She quickly chambered a round. The boy’s eyes widened. He began wiggling his thumbs and fists. He didn’t speak, but he had begun to sweat.

“Hold still.”

The boy stopped moving his hands. Slowly, she moved closer to him. As she got closer, she realized that something was wrong with his hands. The knuckles and fingers seemed to be deformed.

“Can you open your hands?”

The boy closed his eyes and shook his head. He stayed still as she moved closer. When she grabbed his wrist, his eyes flew open, but he didn’t try to resist her. She tugged his wrist forward until he was laying on his stomach. Since he couldn’t lace his fingers behind his head, she had him stretch his arms way above his head. Placing her foot against the small of his back, she finally felt safe enough to use her phone. As she hit her speed dial for Hal, she kept her eyes focused on the boy. She knew that she would have to look at Andie, eventually but she couldn’t bring herself to face her friend just yet.

Hal’s phone seemed to ring forever. Madison wanted to scream, but her hands remained steady as she pointed her gun at the boy’s back. Instead of screaming, she removed herself to that dark, quiet place. In that place, she was safe and the horrors of the world couldn’t touch her. Her nerves steadied. She had a job to do. She couldn’t let her feelings get in the way of finding Andie’s killer.

“Deputy Steward.” Hal’s voice grounded her. He was the first person she had worked with since leaving the homicide unit in Denver. While he wasn’t her partner, she was his boss, after all, he was steady and logical. She could bounce ideas off him and he would tell her what he really thought.

“Hal. I’m at Andie’s. I need back-up.”

“What? What happened?”

“She’s…” she stumbled over the words. She couldn’t say it; she couldn’t believe it. Taking a deep breath, she snapped, “She’s dead. Bring the forensics gear and call the deputies in. We need to secure the scene.”

She heard Hal exhale and then his voice, calm and steady, “Roger, Sheriff. Steward out.”

It seemed like she stood over the boy forever, her gun aimed at the back of his head. She wanted to kill him for hurting Andie, but she kept herself still. Finally, she heard sirens. They stopped outside Andie’s shop. She heard the murmur of voices. She hoped her deputies were gearing up to come into the scene. When she’d first taken the job, they had been pretty lax about securing crime scenes—coming into the scene without booties and touching things without wearing gloves. She’d been drilling them the past couple of months. She hoped they remembered their training.

The bell tinkled above the door. Someone had just entered the shop. She hoped it was Hal or another deputy. Hal peeked around the corner of the door much like she had. When he saw her standing over the boy, he pulled his gun. Under her foot, the boy trembled as Hal chambered a round into his Glock.

Hal growled, “I’ve got him covered.”

“I need cuffs.”

Keeping his gun trained on the boy, Hal moved closer and handed Madison the cuffs. He leaned down.

“The Sheriff’s going to cuff you now. Don’t move or I will shoot you. You understand?”

The boy nodded his head. Madison holstered her weapon, reached down and grabbed his wrist. As she pulled his arm behind his back, she noticed her thin his wrist was. Up close, she could see his deformed hand. While the thumb could move, the fingers were curled into his palm. The skin was mottled and looked inflamed. She pulled his other arm behind his back and cuffed his wrists together.

“We’re going to get you on your feet. When I say, you’re going to get you on your knees and then to your feet.”

She gripped his forearm.

“Get on your knees.”

She helped the boy maneuver onto his side so he could pull his knees up and then lifted him up. He was surprisingly light. Hal holstered his weapon, and helped Madison pull the boy to his feet.

“I’ll take him outside. I need gloves and booties.”

Madison was happy to see that Hal had put on gloves and booties. She had already contaminated the crime scene, but there was no help for that. Keeping a firm hold of the boy’s arm, she walked him out the front of the shop. Lights blinking, Hal’s SUV was pulled up to the curb. Two other deputies were securing the front of the store with crime scene tape.

Randy, one of the veterans at the Sheriff’s office, marched up to her. Scowling at the boy, he said, “Is he the suspect?”

“He was sitting next to the body when I came in the back. I need you to search him and take him to the station. Call Child Services. He will need an adult with him until we can question him.”

Randy took the boy’s arm and led him away. Opening the back of Hal’s SUV, she grabbed gloves and booties and slipped them on. She grabbed the Forensics kit and motioned to the other deputy who had just finished securing crime scene tape to the corner of Andie’s shop. He stepped under the tape and hurried over.

“Kurt, I need you to handle the camera tonight.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

In Denver, she would call in one of the many professional photographers who worked with the Crime Unit. She would also have access to a mobile crime unit and specialized forensics technicians. Here, in Fruita, she and the other officers were responsible for securing the scene, collecting and cataloguing evidence, photographing the scene, and investigating the case. She should recuse herself from the case. Andie was her best friend. For that matter, all the deputies were compromised. They’d all known Andie. Some had even dated her. Most of them had known her since they went to school together.

As she slammed the hatch, her knees began to shake. She had to sit down on the bumper. Her eyes blurred with tears. She wanted to run away from the scene. She took several deep breaths until her emotions were under control. She had to stay strong for her deputies and for Andie. If she gave into her grief, there would be no one to lead the investigation, to make sure that everything was done by the book. Slowly, she stood. Once her knees were steady, she made her way back into Andie’s shop.

He watched from the shadows. When he was finished at the flower shop, he had headed to the convenience store they had passed on their way into town. Brightly lit, the store was big for a small town like this, but it seemed to be a popular stop for truckers. He had stayed out of the lights, approaching the store from the vacant lot behind it. His boy wouldn’t be standing out in plain sight. He’d be hiding in the shadows. They always stayed in the shadows.

But he couldn’t find the boy. The boy wasn’t in the shadows behind the store or to the side. He scoured the dark edges of the parking light, but no boy. No boy crouched in the grass or behind the dumpster. He wouldn’t be in the light. He had trained him to stay out of the light, but he couldn’t always trust the boy. The past couple of times he had found him in different places. Places where he shouldn’t be. But he always found him. He was always in the next store down the road. Or in the park just a little further than he should have gone. He didn’t think the boy would really leave him. He was just rebelling. He would always find him. The boy knew that—he knew that he would never leave without him.

Crouching in the dark grass, he looked toward the light shining out of the store. He would have to go in. People would notice him. That’s why they always kept moving. People always noticed him. He was big. His muscles stood out even though he never worked out. When he walked down the sidewalk, people were afraid to look him in the eye. They looked away or crossed the street when they saw him coming.

Taking a deep breath, he stood and stepped out of the shadows. He kept his hood up as he stepped into the store. It was busy. Truckers were buying snacks and paying for their gas. People crowded the snack bar. He took a quick walk around the store. No boy. He stepped out of the light and back into the comfort of the shadows.

He had to think this through. If he were the boy, where would he go? What was the boy thinking? Was the boy trying to get away from him? Why would he do that?

He had to consider every possibility. If the boy really meant to leave him, there was only one place he would go.

The police lights sent blue and red streaks across his face as he stood in the darkened doorway of the bank across from the flower shop. He should leave. He could hunker down behind the convenience store. The boy would show up eventually. He tried to turn away, but his feet wouldn’t move.

The door of the shop opened. The boy stepped out of the shop. His hands were cuffed in front of him. A wave hit him and he almost vomited. Taking deep breaths, he clenched his fists. His boy was being brought out in handcuffs. Didn’t they see his hands? He stepped out of the shadow. A tall bitch of a woman held the boy by the elbow. Who was she to touch his boy?

The bitch motioned to a deputy standing next to the crime scene tape. She said something to the man and the man took the boy and put him in the police cruiser parked on the other side of the tape. At that moment, he couldn’t take it anymore. For the second time that night, he stepped into the light. They couldn’t take the boy. They could take him instead. The police cruiser pulled out and headed down the street. He couldn’t even see the boy in the back of the car. Couldn’t let him know that he was right here—that he would always be here.

The bitch went to the back of the SUV and pulled some sort of case out of the back. She closed the hatch and then sat on the bumper. He slipped back into the shadows and watched. She didn’t move. She was all alone. He could take her right now. No one was there to stop him. He would offer a trade—the bitch for his boy. He didn’t know who she was, but the deputy had treated her like she was important. She gave the orders and he obeyed. As his nausea welled up, he spit to the side. What kind of man would take orders from a woman?

He stood a moment longer. He had to make sure that he could get away with her, but he waited too long. She suddenly stood and went back into the shop. He faded into the shadows. He would wait. He had no place to go now.

Prologue

silhouette3His mangled hands were proof that his father loved him. Shoving them deep into the pockets of his tattered hoodie, he hurried away from the lights of the flower shop on the main street of the little town and into the darkness of the alley. He didn’t have much time. His father would finish in a few moments and would come looking for him. He knew where he was supposed to go. Find the nearest convenience store and hide in the shadows. Sometimes, he went a little farther than the nearest one, hoping that his father wouldn’t find him, but his father always did. He seemed to have a sixth sense of which direction Elijah would take and where he would end up.

Tonight was going to be different. He wasn’t going to let his father find him. He was going to go to the one place where his father would never return.  He walked to the end of the block and turned left. The alley was just behind the café on the corner. Full of dumpsters, it was clean for an alley. Lights from the rear entrances of the businesses along the street shown on the red brick of the building. Too much light. He was hoping he could hide in the darkness. He would have to crouch behind a dumpster and hope no one saw him.

Elijah walked down the alley, passed the back of the café, passed the back of the dress shop until he got to the flower shop. The back door was propped open. Perhaps, the owner of the flower shop had been getting ready to take the day’s trash out to the dumpster. A breeze lifted his dingy bangs and he could smell the cloying scent of decaying flowers. He heard the rumble of his father’s voice and the woman answering him. Then he heard her cry out. Her voice was quickly silenced and then he heard nothing.

A horrible thought occurred to him. What if his father came out the back way? He hadn’t thought of that. He didn’t know how his father left a building once he’d given into the impulse. That’s what his father called it—the impulse. His father had impulses that he couldn’t always control. When the impulse became too strong, he sent Elijah away and did what he needed to do. Elijah turned and ran back to the café and hid behind the dumpster. He had just crouched behind the dumpster and turned to look at the flower shop when the back light went out and his father stepped into the alley. Elijah squeezed himself between the dumpster and the rough brick wall. He was only twelve and small for his age, but he barely fit into the small space.

He heard the slap of his father’s boots against the concrete bed of the alley, growing nearer to Elijah’s hiding place. Elijah held his breath and stayed still. His father paused at the corner of the café and Elijah tensed. He was sure that his father had seen him, but when he heard his footsteps begin to recede, he realized his father must have paused to check the street before leaving the alley. Elijah gave him a few minutes more and then slunk down the alley back to the flower shop. The door was closed now. Elijah prayed that it was unlocked.

Luck was with him. The door pulled open easily and Elijah slipped inside to visit the aftermath of his father’s latest impulse.

National Novel Writing Month

NaNo-2018-Writer-BadgeNovember is National Novel Writing Month. The website, nanowrimo.org, hosts a novel writing competition to honor the month. The goal is 50,000 words in a month. I’ve had an idea for a novel. I had even finished an outline for it, but had not had much luck progressing on the actual draft. This month, I decided to devote at least an hour a day to writing my novel. My daily goal is to write at least 1500 words. So far, I have written 18659 words. That’s the most I have ever written on a single writing project. I hope by the end of November to have the first draft of my novel finished.

In honor of the month, I decided to begin posting my novel here on my blog.

Taking a Knee

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

As football season begins anew, we are again focused on the players “taking a knee” during the national anthem. President Trump tweeted this week-end that football players who kneel during the anthem should be thrown off the field. In May, the NFL said all players who did not wish to stand for the anthem could remain in the locker room without consequence.

As I watched this debate last season and last week, it seems to me that everyone, but the NFL players, have forgotten that the First Amendment of the Constitution grants the players freedom of expression and the right to petition their government. By taking a knee, during the anthem, they are petitioning their government to take notice of an issue about which they feel strongly. That is their right as citizens of the United States.

While the NFL and Trump worry about ratings, they have forgotten one of the cornerstones of our country’s values–the right to free speech. When they take a knee, the players are peacefully drawing attention to their issue and asking to be heard. They are not interfering with the game and they are doing the job they are paid to do when they are on the field.

According to the NFL and Trump, football ratings are down. They attribute this to the players taking a knee. If this is true, then the viewers are also exercising their right to express their perspective by turning off the game. Again, this is their right as citizens of the United States. If the NFL decides to institute a policy that limits their players’ right to protest, it would be in violation of the players’ rights–and the Constitution. People might argue that the players are employees and have to follow the policies of their employers. Employers’ policies, however, cannot supersede the rights granted by the Constitution.

No matter the issue, we need to support the rights of other citizens to protest. If we allow the president and the NFL to limit the rights of players, we have opened the door to limiting our rights as well.

Regret

 

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Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

At 52 years old, I think a lot about the past. Things that I could have done differently. What if I had pursued psychology instead of teaching? What if I had focused on my writing instead of putting it off?

When I find myself starting to regret the past that is gone, I stop myself and focus on today. The choices I have made for myself have shaped who I am today and the life I have. While I am not always happy with how things are, I have a lot of things in my life for which I am grateful.

Watching my son grow up reminds me of all the possibilities that still await me. In his eyes, all things are new. When I experience things through his perspective, I remember that I still have something to offer the world and the world still holds promise for me.

I have a job teaching community college that I love. When I catch myself dwelling on losing my job teaching middle school or not being able to find another one, I remember that I am valued at the college where I teach. After leaving for a semester, they welcomed me back with open arms. That’s much more than any of the public schools I worked for ever did.

My husband and I don’t always see eye to eye. When I am frustrated with him, I remind myself that he has been my partner for over half my life. We are very different people, but we meet our challenges together.

Sometimes, I beat myself up for not writing. I don’t always blog or work on my novel, but writing is always a part of my life. When I have a problem, I always write about it. It has been the one constant in my life. I have been writing since the third grade. Even if I never get published, I will always be a writer.

Regret can sap my energy and my hope. It’s like a sweet poison. It is so easy to slip into the past and rewrite my life, but when I slip away, I miss the blessings that are right in front of me.