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With a Little Help

Part 1: Gemini

Chapter 2: Justice; or, Bullshit

“So tell me, Donny Wilson, what you were doing roaring down Brooker Street in an unlicensed and unregistered car five years older than yourself, sailing on through Burlingham, then driving right off the top of Suffock Bluff.”

“I told you,” Donny said. “I don’t remember.” It was a day since his accident; he’d been unconscious or sleeping for all of yesterday afternoon and last night, and was more than a little spooked when he woke up in a jail cell. The local doctor, Jem Ryan, had examined him yesterday — something Donny barely remembered — and said things could’ve been a lot worse; on balance he was in very good health, obvious physical and probable nervous exhaustion aside. Ray Travers, the constable, had given him some breakfast (coffee and a Danish) when he saw Donny was awake, and was now trying to question him. Donny was trying to be uncooperative like the tough guys he saw sometimes on TV. It wasn’t selling very well, and he knew it. Maybe it was because of all the cream and sugar he put in the coffee, but he doubted it. “I must’ve fallen asleep or something.”

“Fallen asleep, in the middle of the day, while driving at fifty miles per hour.”

“I guess I have narcolepsy.”

“And no license to drive.”

“I … must’ve been sleepwalking before I was sleepdriving, and got in the car then.”

“And sometime after that, one supposes you performed a neat trick of sleep-hotwiring.”

Donny blinked at the constable. “Well … yes.”

Ray leaned back and sucked his teeth. The little badge he wore on his overalls glittered. He was the only law enforcement within a hundred miles, and wasn’t all that much older than the boys who’d pulled Donny out of the lake. He’d gone to school with all of them.

The kid talked a good game, but Ray knew it was bluster; Donny was scared and hiding something, but he wasn’t a criminal. Well, not really. He was also a bit of a reed; at five-eight, Ray figured he couldn’t weigh more than ninety-five, soaking wet. Kid wasn’t weak, though; what little muscle there was on his body was wiry and sound. He was built like a runner, lean and toned. He was good-looking, too, with an olive complexion and dark brown eyes to go with his raven tresses. He had a sweet, slightly sad smile, and vaguely androgynous features that reminded Ray of Raquel Welch. His hair was a little on the long side, but not to the degree that it would get a second glance. All in all, a well-groomed handsome young man, whom Ray was sure girls were sighing over somewhere.

Ray was what they called a strapping lad, tall and well-built, good robust farmers’ stock. He had an accent Donny couldn’t quite place, a hint of a classic drawl, modulated with diction and something vaguely northeastern, lengthening and twanging the vowels. His solid frame came with a head that sported an active brain, as well as short-cut brown hair and eyes that seemed to take in everything without attaching undue judgment to anything. Those eyes were on Donny now, and Donny could see the word turning over in them: Bullshit.

“Well, Donny Wilson, despite your reticence, I know a few things already, thanks to the plasticized school ID card I retrieved from your soaking wallet. I know you are from a bit and a piece away, Cliveston, to be specific; I know you are fifteen years of age as of two months ago, and I know that your home address indicates your father is a man named Harold Wilson.” Travers leaned forward, and Donny caught a whiff of aftershave on him, Old Spice, not Brut. It was rather nice. “What I don’t know yet is why, when I called him, he denied ever having a son. That is in addition to my earlier question.”

“I—” Donny swallowed. “He said that?”

“He did. I am sorry, Donny.”

Donny fetched a deep sigh. “Don’t be. Sounds just like him.”

“It’ll keep for now.” Travers reached out and put a hand on Donny’s shoulder. It was gentle, warm, but firm; Donny could feel the strength there. “Doc Ryan says you need rest more than anything else, and I suppose here is one of the best places you’ll be able to find it.” Here was the single cell at the county hall in Burlingham, the little one-horse he’d blown through on his date with oblivion. “I apologize for the accommodations. They are a bit Spartan, but I understand Carolyn is already working to rectify that. You’ll be undisturbed here, I believe, as the truth is that you’re the first guest I’ve had in, oh, three months.”

“When can I leave?”

The hand, callus-hardened after years spent wrangling farm equipment, squeezed Donny a little more firmly. “You’re not a prisoner, and I’ll not lock you in, but Doc says it might be a good idea for me to keep an eye on you for a while longer yet, and given the means by which your advent occurred, I am inclined to agree. My desk, as you know, is over there. I’ll be right nearby if you need anything.” Having neatly avoided answering Donny’s question, he stood and smiled down at him. The smile was soft and almost motherly, wildly out of place on a face masculine and handsome enough to give Paul Newman a run for his money. “I’m guessing it looked pretty bad for a while. Well, maybe it won’t be so bad in a little while longer.”

Bad, Donny thought. He laid back on the bunk. You have no idea, and if you did, I bet those naked dudes would be first in line to make it a lot worse. He turned his face to the wall, a blank expanse of cream-colored firebrick, and quietly hated life, the world, God, his father, and most of all himself.