Monday morning, Madison called Hal to check in on the case. No one had seen the silver Honda or the man fitting the description they had released.
“Maybe, he’s left the area,” Hal speculated.
“Maybe,” Madison agreed. “We need to stay on the look-out, though. We need to start thinking about places he might hide if he is still in the area.”
“I’ll talk to Kurt and some of the other deputies. They would have a better idea. There are a lot of cabins outside of Fruita that are out of the way.”
“Thanks, Hal,” Madison said, “I need to take care of some issues with Elijah. We have to get him to the doctor, and I want to find a psychologist.”
“Good. I’m glad you liked my suggestion.”
“You’re always full of good advice, Hal.”
Hal laughed and hung up. “Steward out.”
Madison called CPS in Grand Junction. With Mandy gone, she needed to see if Elijah had a new case worker. She also needed to get information about getting him medical attention and finding a psychologist. The receptionist put her through to the Director of CPS.
“This is Jack Hammond.”
“Hello, Mr. Hammond. This is Sheriff Rhodes in Fruita. I was calling about Elijah, the boy who was placed with me and my husband.” “Yes. Sheriff Rhodes. I was just going to call you. We need some information about this case. Since Mandy was never able to file her report, the boy hasn’t been officially assigned to you yet.”
“I understand. I was calling to see about taking Elijah to the doctor and I think he needs to see a psychologist.”
“I think we should meet. Are you and your husband available today? I understand you’re the Sheriff and you have a lot to deal with right now, but we need to get everything settled officially.”
“Yes. We’re both available today.”
“Let’s meet at 9:30. Will that work?”
“Yes. We’ll be there.”
Child Protective Services was in a modern, streamlined building that was home to the Department of Human Services. The multi-hued brick building was located in the complex for Mesa County Community Resources. The area was surrounded by large trees that showed a faint haze of green as their leaves began to open. She drove Drake’s minivan, so Drake could keep Elijah occupied. They had brought the Nintendo 3DS games that Drake had bought Elijah yesterday. As soon as they told Elijah where they were going, he had shoved his fists in his pocket and shook his head. Drake and Madison had noticed that whenever Elijah felt threatened his first instinct was to protect his hands by shoving them in his pockets. Since Elijah still didn’t trust Madison, she left Drake alone to talk to him. Whatever Drake said had worked, because Elijah emerged from his room a few minutes later ready to go.
As she parked, Drake said, “Okay, Elijah. We’re here. You can bring your game in, because the meeting might be kind of boring.”
Drake closed his game and stuck it in his hoodie pocket. The lobby of the building was decorated in the same earth-toned hues as the outside of the building. Overstuffed chairs stood in clusters throughout the lobby. There were also bins with children’s toys and books. Elijah and Drake sat on a large couch opposite the window as Madison went to the receptionist’s desk to check in. They only waited a few moments when a tall balding man came out to meet them.
“I’m Jack Hammond,” he said holding his hand out to Madison and, then, Drake. Elijah kept his hands deep in his pocket. Jack kneeled down to look Elijah in the eye. “This must be Elijah. How are you, young man?”
Elijah looked at Jack with solemn eyes, and gave a slight nod.
“I’m going to assume that means you’re doing all right.”
Elijah nodded again and Jack got to his feet.
“Let’s meet in my office. Elijah can wait in the children’s room.”
Jack scanned his card over a black scanner and the door clicked open. Elijah’s eyes went wide when the door clicked back behind him. Drake patted him on the shoulder. “It’s all right, Elijah. We’re right here.”
Elijah stayed close to Drake and Madison as they walked down a long hall with a shiny tile floor and doors along its length.
Jack paused at a double door with a sign that said, “Children’s Room.” The sign was made with sparkly letters and had stickers decorating it.
“Elijah, let’s take you to meet Ms. Jackie. She has a lot of things to do in here. There are video games or you can read a book.”
Elijah pulled his 3DS out of his pocket.
“Ahh, a 3DS. You can play that, too. We have some games in there that you could try out if you want.”
A young blonde woman opened the door.
“Ms. Jackie, this is Elijah.”
“How are you, Elijah?”
Elijah nodded again. “Did you want to check out the DS games we have? We might have some that you don’t have.”
Elijah looked at Drake who gave him an encouraging nod.
Jack said, “We’ll be right down the hall in my office, Ms. Jackie, if you or Elijah need anything.”
Ms. Jackie nodded and led Elijah to a bin full of small cartridges. Drake and Madison followed Jack down the hall to a large office at the end. The office was painted a soothing light gray and had windows looking out onto a greenbelt. Jack motioned towards two dark gray chairs placed at the front of his desk. Jack sat down behind his desk and pulled out a file.
“Elijah seems to be quite comfortable with you,” Jack said.
Madison replied, “I think he is more comfortable with Drake. He and I didn’t meet on the best of terms.”
“As I told you on the phone, I don’t have any of Mandy’s notes, just the original report on the boy. Can you fill me in on what happened?”
Madison and Drake both told Jack about how Madison had found Elijah as well as Madison’s decision to foster him. Jack asked about Elijah’s hands and his refusal to speak.
“He told you his name. I think that’s a good sign. He’s only been with you for two days. The fact that he’s starting to speak is a good sign.”
“Drake has been working with him to develop a relationship.”
“And what about you, Sheriff Rhodes?”
“Well, it’s been rocky. I’ve made some mistakes. I still believe that Elijah is the key to all this. I’ve learned some new information about him that makes me believe that Elijah is much more than a witness.”
Drake looked at her questioningly. She hadn’t gotten the chance to talk to him about what she had discovered. She wasn’t in the habit of talking about her cases at home. Drake had accepted that a long time ago, but this was something he should know.
“We have several witnesses who saw Elijah travelling with the man who we believe committed the two murders.”
Drake looked shocked, but he tried to pretend that he already knew all about it. She loved him for that. She should have told him the minute she got home, but she had decided to leave the case at work and try to separate it from her interactions with Elijah.
“But you don’t know how Elijah is connected to your suspect?”
“No, and I don’t want to question Elijah about it any further right now. Plus, if the Sheriff’s office needs to question him, he needs to have his guardian present. That appears to be me and Drake right now. As the sheriff, I can’t recuse myself from the case, but I can avoid discussing the case at home.”
“Will you need to question Elijah about his involvement?”
“I don’t think that Elijah was personally involved in the first murder. The evidence doesn’t support that, but he may have seen what happened. The Sheriff’s office will need to question him at some point, but, if that is necessary, I will have my deputy, Hal Steward, question him. He’s taken the lead on the investigation. Drake can be the guardian that accompanies Elijah, and we can also seek legal counsel if that is necessary.”
“It sounds like you have this all planned out.”
“I do, Mr. Hammond. When we get this guy, I want to make sure we can convict him, but I want to make sure Elijah is protected as well.”
Jack nodded, and continued taking notes in the file. When he was finished, he gave Madison and Drake referrals for a pediatrician and a child psychologist.
“I think Dr. Roberts, the pediatrician, would fit him in today. He sees a lot of the kids in our foster homes.”
Jack walked Madison and Drake back to the Children’s Room. When they stepped into the room, Elijah was focused on his video game. Ms. Jackie was sitting next to him.
Drake called to him.
“Elijah, we’re finished. It’s time to go.”
Elijah looked up and smiled at Drake. Madison thought that when Elijah smiled, he looked like a completely different boy. The fear that haunted his eyes left for a moment.
Closing his game, Elijah walked over to Drake and Madison. Ms. Jackie followed him.
“Good bye, Elijah. It was fun spending time with you.”
Elijah nodded silently at her.
Back in the car, Madison turned to Elijah in the back seat.
“Elijah, we have the name of a doctor that can see you today. He’s just going to give you a check-up, okay?”
Elijah nodded, but his eyes grew dark with apprehension.
“It’s all right. Drake and I will be with you.”
Madison called the number Jack had given her and made an appointment.
“They can see us at 1:30.”
Drake looked at his watch. “It’s 11:00 now. How about some lunch?”
Elijah was nodding his head vigorously. Drake pulled out of the parking space and headed back onto the road.
“I saw a diner that looked kind of fun down back the way we came.”
Madison nodded. The diner was only a few blocks away. It was a retro fifties-style diner with silver siding and neon lights. When they stepped into the diner, 50’s music was playing. A hostess seated them in a shiny red vinyl booth. Drake fed some quarters into the jukebox selector on the table. An old Elvis song came on. Madison rolled her eyes.
“C’mon, Madison. It’s Elvis. You have to respect the classics.”
“Don’t they have any Five Finger Death Punch or Nine Inch Nails in there?”
Drake pretended to look shocked. “Those aren’t real names. You made those up! C’mon, Elijah, who’s going to name their band after a punch or nails?”
Elijah shrugged, and looked at his menu. Madison and Drake continued to argue about music while Elijah watched them with a confused look on his face.
When the waitress came, they all ordered large cheeseburgers, curly fries, and shakes. As soon as his food arrived, Elijah began to eat. It seemed like he was always hungry, but Madison hoped that would lessen as he began to eat more regularly. She thought it must have been hard travelling with that man on the road. His clothes were so tattered they couldn’t save them, so they threw them away. They showed evidence of having been mended time after time. She wondered who had taken the time to fix his clothes. Not that man, surely? She didn’t think Elijah could hold something as small as a needle, but she couldn’t see a cold-blooded killer taking time to fix Elijah’s clothes.
When they finished eating, they still had some time left, so they took Elijah to the Mesa Mall. They bought him a few more clothes and a second pair of shoes. When they passed the GameStop, Elijah’s eyes lit up.
“Why don’t you take him in there to look while I call the office,” Madison suggested, “I better check in.”
“What do you say, Elijah. Do you want to get some more games?”
Elijah’s head bobbled up and down in excitement. He’d only had his video game for a day and he was already hooked. While they went into the store, Madison sat on a bench in the middle of the concourse.
“How are things going, Sheriff?” Hal answered his phone.
“Fine, Hal. We have a doctor’s appointments in a half hour. I wanted to check in.”
“Everything is quiet here. I issued a state-wide bolo on the silver Honda, but no reports have come in.”
Drake and Elijah came out of GameStop with yet another shopping bag.
“All right, Hal. I have to go. I’ll come by the office when we finish up at the doctor’s.”
Madison stood and met Drake and Elijah.
“Ready to go?”
They walked out to the car and stowed everything but the GameStop bag in the back of the SUV. As they drove to the doctor, Elijah busied himself with his new games. After a few minutes, they could hear electronic music and the sound of explosions. When they reached the doctor, they allowed Elijah to bring in his game.
“Make sure you turn the sound down when we get into the waiting room,” Madison said.
Elijah nodded and muted his game.
The doctor’s waiting room was not very full. A large aquarium sat against one wall near some blue chairs. Orange and blue fish swam among coral. Elijah sat near the aquarium and watched the fish swim in and out of the coral. Madison checked them in and sat near Drake and Elijah. When Elijah’s name was called, they followed him into the examination room. The nurse took his height and his weight. She took his temperature and placed a clip on his thumb.
Elijah looked askance at the clip on his thumb.
“That just tells the amount of oxygen in your blood. See that number, there?”
Elijah looked at the read digital readout. After a minute, the nurse checked the monitor and wrote the number down in his chart.
“You’re fostering Elijah, correct?” the nurse asked.
“Yes,” Drake answered.
“How long has he been with you?”
“Just over two days. He came to us the night before last.”
The nurse continued to take notes in her chart.
“I have a note here from the receptionist. It says that Elijah doesn’t speak?”
“Well, he doesn’t speak very often. He told me his first name, but that’s all he’s said so far.”
“Okay. The doctor will be in to speak with you in a moment.”
The paper on the examination table crinkled as Elijah wiggled around. He jammed his hands back into his pockets and jiggled his foot nervously. Madison fidgeted as well. She felt strange and out of place while Drake seemed calm and relaxed. Finally, the doctor knocked and stepped into the room. Dr. Roberts was a short, round name with salt and pepper hair that stuck up on the top of his head.
“Good afternoon, folks. How are you today?”
Drake spoke up as he had with the nurse.
“We’re doing fine, Doctor. How are you?”
“Good, good, can’t complain. Very busy.”
“Thank you for seeing us on such short notice.”
“That’s okay. It’s important to get kids like Elijah checked out right away.”
Dr. Roberts turned to Elijah.
“How are you today, young man?”
Elijah looked down at his feet and shrugged.
“Don’t worry, Elijah. I’m just going to check you over real quick.”
The doctor put the ear pieces of his stethoscope into his ears.
“I’m going to put this on your back and listen to your breathing. Just breathe normally.”
The doctor lifted Elijah’s hoodie and shirt up and slid the stethoscope under them to listen.
“Take deep breaths now.”
Elijah breathed deeply until the doctor told him to stop. The doctor then moved the stethoscope to Elijah’s chest. He used a scope to look into Elijah’s ears. He also looked into Elijah’s mouth and his throat.
“So far he looks pretty good. He needs to be seen by a dentist for a good cleaning. I can give you a referral if you would like.”
The doctor paused and looked at his chart. “I see here that his hands have been injured.”
Madison could see Elijah tense. He didn’t seem to like anyone to talk about his hands. The doctor asked Elijah, “Elijah, can you let me see your hands?”
His voice was soft and gentle. Elijah looked at him as if gauge the doctor’s attention. He looked at Drake who nodded encouraging. “It’s okay, Elijah. Let the doctor examine your hands. He won’t hurt you.”
Elijah slowly pulled his hands out of his pockets. The doctor touched them lightly as he turned Elijah’s fists so he could see the fingers clenched into his palms. Occasionally, he would touch a finger or a part of his hand and ask Elijah if he were in pain. Elijah always shook his head, but Madison thought he was hiding what he was feeling. When the doctor was finished examining Elijah, he said, “Elijah, do you want to go to the nurses’ station and get a sticker or something? I just need to talk to your guardians for a few moments.”
Elijah slid off the table and rushed out the door as if he expected the doctor to change his mind.
After Elijah was gone, Dr. Roberts asked, “You don’t know how his hands were injured?”
“No,” Drake answered, “Like we told the nurse, Elijah has only told us his first name.”
“His hands are badly injured and inflamed. I would like to get them imaged as soon as we can so we can look at the damage and work on a plan to repair them. He seems to be in a little pain. I think heat will be the best thing for him if he’s aching. Is he able to take care of himself?”
“Yes,” Drake replied. “He can pick up quite a few things between his thumb and the side of his fingers. Sometimes, he drops things, but he is very independent.”
The doctor made another notation, and handed them the instructions for taking care of Elijah’s hands. “The imaging center will call you within the next couple of days to schedule an appointment. You’re also going to be taking him to see a psychologist?”
“Yes, we’re going to make an appointment as soon as we get home. Is there anything we can do in the meantime to help him?”
“I think you’re doing all you can. I think he’ll start talking after a while. You just need to give him time.”
“Thank you, Doctor.”
Madison and Drake stood as the doctor left the room. “You’re were quiet during the appointment,” Drake said.
“I know. I did all the talking during our last meeting, so I thought I would give you a chance.”
Elijah was anxious to leave when they returned to the waiting room. As Drake and Madison approached him, he got up and moved quickly to the door.
“What’s the rush, Elijah?” Drake asked with a smile. “We thought you might want to hang out for a while in the waiting room. It’s nice in here with the aquarium and all.”
Elijah flashed him a frown and pulled the door open. As soon as they stepped outside, he seemed to relax. Madison thought she and Drake should probably tell Elijah about getting his hands x-rayed or whatever they wanted to do, but Elijah had already been through enough today. As they headed back to I-70, she turned to check on him. He was already dozing.
She whispered to Drake. “I think we should wait until tomorrow to tell him about his other appointments.”
Drake nodded. “I agree. I think he’s a little overwhelmed by everything.”
To tell the truth, Madison was feeling a little overwhelmed herself, but she didn’t tell Drake how she was feeling. She couldn’t really talk about the case and she didn’t want him to know about her screw-up with the Turners. And now she had to make sure that Elijah was protected. They rode in silence the rest of the way to Fruita.