Protecting David-Finding Christopher 4
Larry and I showered, got into sweats and went looking for food. Mei was sitting with Christopher in the little kitchen dining area and Larry and I sat on either side of them.
Christopher was wolfing down a huge bowl of Mrs. Colby’s incredible lamb stew. He was freshly showered and I could finally get a good look at him. His hair was a warm rich brown and fairly long but sitting there in one of my oversized tee shirt he looked waifish because he clearly hadn’t been eating regularly. I had about a million questions that I wanted to ask but I wanted to ask them when we were alone because I didn’t want to embarrass him. He looked to be about ten years old and that’s getting to be a touchy age. Mei was trying to look relaxed and happy but it was obvious to me that something was bothering her a lot.
Finally she got up and said, “I be back, I call for medicines.” None of us knew exactly what she was talking about but it wasn’t unusual. Sometimes Mei’s Chinese sensibilities left things as unclear to us as ours, no doubt, did to her.
Mrs. Colby brought Larry and I salads of mixed greens, a bottle of wine and fresh baked bread to begin the meal.
Larry reached over and touched Christopher’s shoulder. “Pretty cool, Dude! Ya look better in that than Alex does.”
Christopher grinned around a mouthful of stew. It was nice to see that he was able to smile and his smile brought out mine.
While I might have been worried about Christopher’s delicate nature Larry didn’t seem to feel the same and jumped in with both feet.
“So, Chris, how come you were living there by yourself?”
The boy’s eyes seemed to dull for a moment but then he recovered. “My mom and dad died.” Once he got that out he immediately stuffed more food into his mouth, it almost seemed like a defense.
I asked, “How long ago did they die?”
After a minute of exaggerated chewing and swallowing. “A couple of years ago.” There seemed to be a wall of pain behind his eyes and his voice dropped to a whisper. “They were in a car wreck.”
Larry said, “You couldn’t have been staying in that apartment by yourself, the landlord would never have allowed it.”
Chris looked paralyzed for a moment but then said, “I lived with my sister and her….well….first her husband but then when he left, her boyfriend. She died too. That was just a little while ago so I just stayed in the apartment.”
I didn’t have to look at Larry to know what he was thinking because I was thinking the same thing, Chris was lying. After I finished my salad and before I started on the stew I went into our office and called Ann. I explained about Chris and asked her to fax me a copy of a photo of Charlene that we had.
“Okay, Alex, I’ll just attach it to an email and send it to you.” She paused for a moment. “You do know that you’ve got to turn the boy over to the police or family services, don’t you?” I really hadn’t thought of it, I hadn’t had the time.
“Oh crap! You’re right of course. I’ll call Chuck Stanner right now. Maybe they’ll let us keep him for the weekend at least. I mean, fuck, it’s almost eight o’clock on a Friday night.”
“Alex, my guess is that they will, especially if Stanner calls them. He’s got a lot of clout so they can’t ignore him.”
“I’ll call him now but get me that picture, okay?”
“Gimme two minutes, Doll and it’ll be in your email.”
Stanner told me that he was telling the cops that we were keeping the boy till Monday morning when we’d meet with Family Services. “Alex, your better off telling them what you’re going to do. I’d be amazed if they even knew exactly what the law was in this area.”
I stopped at my computer and retrieved the photo but decided to wait until after dinner to ask Chris if that was his sister.
By the time I had finished my dinner Chris was looking pretty tired. I slid the photo across the table to him. “Is that your sister, Chris?”
He looked at the picture with panic and yelled, “No! That’s not her! My sister is dead!” But he couldn’t keep it up and started to cry and then tried to run but Larry stopped him and wrapped his arms around him.
Larry’s voice was soothing and his hands rubbed Chris’s back. “It’s okay, Chris, it’s okay, we’re on your side.”
His body was wracked with sobs and his fists were pressed against his eyes. “It’s not my fault! I didn’t know what to do!” Larry pulled Chris’ head to his chest and his sobs were muffled.
I held the photo up so that Larry could see it and Chris couldn’t, while I mouthed the words, “That bitch!”
Just then Mei appeared in the doorway holding a brown ceramic jar. She looked at Chris and then gave me a really dirty look. I just shook my head.
She went over to Larry and took Chris by the shoulders. “You come with Mei now. Mei gets medicines. Make you feel wery much better.” Chris looked like he was glad to make his escape.
Larry looked at me, grinned and kidding me said, “Shit, you sure can be a prick, Alex! Pickin on the little guy like that.”
I groaned. “Why am I not surprised that that woman had a hand in this? And why would she send us there knowing the boy was still around. Unless of course she didn’t know it.”
Larry said, “The kid’s been on the street for awhile and there were no clothes at the apartment. I’d say she ran him off and figured he was gone for good.”
“You saw the look on Mei face? I hope for Charlene’s sake that she’s innocent because Mei isn’t somebody that I’d want mad at me.”
After thirty minutes we walked back to the bedroom Mei had put Chris in and slowly opened the door. The boy was lying on his stomach with the bedding covering everything but his back and even though I couldn’t see his face I was certain he was asleep. Mei had just finished rubbing some god awful yellow salve on his back and was wiping her hands on a towel. We walked slowly over to the bed and looked down at the scars on Chris’ back. Somehow I wasn’t surprised to see them.
Mei didn’t look at me but said softly, haltingly, “Who..could..hurt..boy? Such..little..boy. Ahhl ex, who do this?”
“I dunno, Mei, maybe his sister, maybe her boyfriend, maybe it happened on the street, I just don’t know.”
She tried hard to sound casual. “Wat is sister name?”
I knew that tone and I had to stop this. I said softly but firmly, “No, Mei! You cannot hurt her!”
Mei’s problems with English pronunciation got worse when she needed them to get worse. “Aeeyah! So suspectitious. Jus sonthing old lady woner bout.” Mei was about as old ladyish as a king cobra.
“Mei, we don’t know who did this, not yet anyway and you can’t go hunting them down, it would only hurt Chris.”
She got up slowly. “I nah hunt. Hunt is for mens. But if gods bring to Mei, tha sonthing else.” I knew that it was futile to discuss this with her but I was pretty sure that she wouldn’t do anything as long as she knew how I felt.
For some reason I was up very early the next morning, that’s unusual for me, normally Larry is the one who’s up at the crack of dawn. As I slid carefully away from the warmth of his body his hot hand traveled over my hip and raised goose bumps over my whole body. I slipped on my boxers and went into the hall. I felt like I really needed to see that Christopher was okay and when I peeked in his room my anxiety soared because his bed was empty.
My first thought was to see if he’d gone outside but then I remembered that he didn’t have anything to wear other than my tee shirt and I slipped into his room.
I tried to think like a scared kid and I found him curled up on the floor of the closet wrapped in a big bath towel. At least he looked relaxed. There was no way that I could begin to imagine the shit that had happened in his life that had brought him to this point but I was damn sure gonna find out. I lifted him carefully and for a moment in the morning light he looked so much younger than he was. I gently put him back into bed and pulled the covers up. He weighed like nothing and barely stirred despite being moved.
Stepping back into the hall I saw Larry, wearing just his boxers, coming back from the kitchen with two mugs of coffee. He walked over and whispered, “I figured you were checking on him.”
I told him about the morning adventure. Larry nodded. “I guess it was where he felt safe. Maybe that’s what he had to do when he lived with Charlene.” The sound of her name made my stomach tighten.
Larry and I took advantage of both of us being up early and made slow love on the floor of the shower but decided to wait for Chris to wake up before we ate breakfast. I called Connie, who is also an early riser and asked her the best place to buy clothes for Chris.
“How stylish are you wanting to be, Alex?”
I laughed, “Connie, you’re talking to the most unstylish person on the planet but Larry said that he’d pick up a few things too so maybe something above Farm and Fleet.”
She laughed. “Pity, cause if you want that authentic cowboy look you gotta go there.”
“Well I think our cowboy wardrobe is pretty complete so maybe something a bit more urban.”
“Well, Larry is always pretty well turned out so I’d say head for Cherry Creek Mall and you can hit Neiman-Marcus and A&F. They’ve both got kids clothes and the stuff you guys’d wear too.”
“Okay, that’s where I’ll be today then. Connie, I want you do find out everything that you can about the boy and his sister. I want everything.”
She said, “Gotcha, Alex. I’ll use Chuck Stanner’s guys, they’re the best. No telling how long it’ll take but we’ll get on it. If you’re going to be hauling a lot of packages do you want me to send a car?”
“No. Mei can take us in one of the Suburban’s. You could haul anything in those.”
“And Connie, I’m pretty sure he was telling the truth about his parents dying, you might start there. And he seemed really afraid of those guys off the street. Not sure how you check that but maybe the investigators will know.”
“Okay, Alex, I’ll call them from the office. You want me to call you later?”
“Yeah, just let me know what they said, what the chances of finding anything out are. Oh and check with Richard and Darleen and see if they’ve come up with anything on those hotels.”
“No problem, Alex. And Gerhardt is sending results of the bond auction Sumitomo led. Looks like a major drop in interest rates.” Krueger et Cie had issued bonds that had been auctioned by Sumitomo to lower our already shockingly low long term interest rates. It was enough to lower our interest costs for all the properties by more than a point and insure low rates for any new projects.
It wasn’t that that was unimportant to me but it was expected and somehow it wasn’t at the front of my brain. “Connie….what will happen to the boy? I mean…check with Stanner’s office and find out what usually happens. I hate to think of him just being tossed to the wolfs on Monday morning. He’s gotta be scared. I’d be scared. Wouldn’t you be scared?”
“Yes, Alex, I would be. But, Alex, if you don’t want that to happen Stanner could probably do something. Have you given it some thought?”
“Connie….if Larry and I were older….but….the thing is that we’re only twenty-five. What the hell do we know about a kid? A kid oughta have a real family, a mom and a dad…a normal life.”
“Not everyone gets that chance, Alex. And I’d trust the two of you.”
“I know…you’re right I know that but he oughta at least have a chance. But we won’t abandon him, we won’t let anything bad happen.” I really felt like I was fucking this up.
“Well, it was just a thought. I guess you really have no way of even knowing the boy yet.”
“No, Connie, that’s true but…well if you’re talking to Stanner’s office today tell em to put together something for the boy. Tell him we want the boy taken care of…money…whatever. Have him call me.”
I was walking back from the office to our bedroom and saw Chris open the door of his room and step out into the hall. He looked scared and when he saw me he pretty much plastered himself up against the wall, like he was trying to be as invisible as possible.
I stopped in front of him. “You okay?”
He nodded yes and then said, “Are you taken me back to the city today? Cause I don’t think I should go back to the apartment cause of those guys but there’s another neighborhood on the other side of Worth Boulevard that you could drop me off in. I been lookin at it and you wouldn’t have to drive any farther, it’s just the other direction but it’s not any farther.”
I put my hand on his shoulder and squeezed it gently. “Chris, why don’t you take a shower and I’ll get your clothes from Mrs. Colby, she was washing them. After breakfast we’re taking you to get some new clothes….but don’t worry, Chris. You’re not going back where those guys can get you. I promise that you’re gonna be safe from now on.” Why do I feel like such a louse? We know nothing about a ten year old boy!
Larry came out of our room just as I was finishing talking to Chris. He put his hands on Chris’ shoulders and pulled him into a hug. Why didn’t I do that? Chris looked like he was soaking it up. Larry’s fingers were going thru Chris’ hair as he bent over and said, “Whadya say we get some food?”
All thru breakfast Larry was watching me watching Chris but he never said anything and I didn’t want to talk to him about Chris in front of Chris. But then as Mei was getting ready to drive us to the shopping center he dragged me into our bedroom.
“Alex, what are you thinking about Chris?”
“Whadya mean?” I knew what he meant.
He grinned at me and tilted his head. “This is me, Alex.”
I walked over to him and put my chin on his shoulder and his arms came up around me. “I don’t know. We’re too young to adopt him. We can barely take care of ourselves.”
“So we do what? Put him back on the street? Cause if that’s the plan it’s dumb to make him lug around a bunch of clothes.” He kissed the side of my neck. “And don’t think for a moment that I’m agreeing that we can’t take care of him or that we can barely take care of us. What’s jammin you up on this, Alex? I know it’s not cause you don’t care.”
I sighed. “No, you’re right. I guess that I just figure he deserves a regular family…mom and dad and all that shit.”
“You mean like my mom and dad…or like your mom and dad? My mom was a psycho and my dad was disinterested. You have great dads but basically no mom.”
“We don’t know him, Larry. He could be…I dunno…anything.”
“Alex…he needs us, or someone…but I don’t wanna push you to do something that you’re really opposed to.” He pulled his head back and stared into my eyes. “I agree that we don’t know him but we’ve got two days to fix that. Just keep an open mind..okay?”
I sighed. “I told Connie to get Stanner to set something up for Chris…money. He won’t ever go back to living on the street no matter what we decide.”
He touched his forehead to mine. “Okay and I’ll match whatever you put in…but give this a chance…okay?”
“Yes..okay, we’ll see how today and tomorrow go.” It was totally nuts to be thinking that we couldn’t do this. I could afford to hire teachers and tutors and anything that Chris could ever conceivably need.
We hit Neiman-Marcus first because I remembered seeing little kids clothes there and I was a kinda afraid the stuff at A&F would be too big for him. We hussled him into a changing room while Larry and I grabbed pants, shirt, underwear, socks and shoes. Once we got them on him and saw they fit we tore off the labels. We threw his old sweats in a bag and asked the saleslady to toss them away.
Larry held Chris out at arms length while he looked him over. He grinned at Chris who was looking pretty uncertain. “You look great!” He did too. He was Dolce & Gabbana’d from his head to his toes. He lifted Chris’ hair with his fingers. “You need a trim but the long hair suits ya.” Chris was trying to be cool and maybe not even get too much invested in all that stuff because he was still pretty unsure of what was happening. He seemed to be going from the pure joy of lots of new stuff to being totally sure that someone was gonna take it all away.
One minute he’d be tearing thru stuff with Larry and I and the next he’d be standing back with his hands in his pockets looking like he wasn’t even sure that he was wanted.
We bought him everything; shirts for every conceivable occasion, pants, shorts, shoes, underwear, sweaters, a dozen different hats and more tee shirts than the kid could ever wear. The security guys made three trips to the car with packages before we made it out of the store.
A&F turned out to be more of an outfitting Larry trip because the sizes were a little too big for Chris, although we did get him a few things. Chris and I were standing in the aisle laughing about how big Larry’s pile of clothes was getting when two young guys came into the store looking just like the guys from Chris’ old neighborhood. These guys were dressed in a kind of a suburban gangsta look that was a lot like the guys from his neighborhood. I knew right away that they weren’t a threat but when Chris saw them he literally went rigid with fear for a slit second and then ran over threw his arms around me and buried his face in my chest.
I knew what he was afraid of and I knew that there was no danger but my arms went around him automatically…and something changed in me.