The 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.