Protecting David-Finding Christopher 5
My right hand held the back of his head to my chest and I could feel him shaking with fear. I bent over hin and talked softly. “It’s okay, Chris. Nothing’s gonna happen. You’re okay.”
Mei, who had been standing away from us while she watched the crowd had seen Chris’ reaction to the boys and had already moved between them and us while the other security guy moved in front of us too.
I rubbed Chris’ back and without letting me go he twisted his head around and looked over towards the boys who were now just shopping. He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand, his breathing was still labored. “I thought it was CC. I guess that’s pretty stupid cause he’d never be here.”
“He’s the guy that Larry punched.” He smiled and looked down. “That was pretty great.”
“Was he mean to you, Chris, did he hurt you?”
His voice now had an edge that was pure scared little boy trying to act brave. “I dunno..I..I guess he didn’t like me.” He looked back over at the boys that had scared him. “That’s why when you take me back I can’t really go back there. The other place is better. He never goes there.”
I took his face in my hands and lifted it up. “Chris, you’re never going back to that.” I stared into his deep blue eyes and saw disbelieve there. “There’s a lotta stuff that Larry and I can’t control, a lotta stuff that’s up to Children’s Services and the police and people like that. They make a lot of the decisions, Chris, and Monday you’re gonna have to talk to them.” He began to look terrified again and I put my hand on his shoulder. “You won’t be alone, I’ll be there and my lawyer’ll be there.” I looked around and the store was really beginning to fill up. “We’ll talk about this some more later, Chris. Right now we probably oughta get outta here.”
Larry came out of the changing room wearing yet another pair of new jeans. He looked at himself in the three way mirror. He looked at Chris and me and said, “Do I look cool or what?” He walked over and ruffled Chris’ hair and then gave him a tight straight guy hug.
I said to Larry, “Hey, cool guy, we’re ready to leave, are you about done?” We had been at this for three hours.
He turned to the mirror and held up his shirt so that he could see his pants again. “The hard thing about living in Denver is knowing whether to dress western, which would be tight Levi’s or cool guy, which is loose like these.”
I said, “Do I get a vote?”
He tilted his head and grinned. “Always.”
“I like these. They’re a little loose but still tight enough that I can still see your body.”
Leaving the store Chris made sure that everyone was between him and those two guys even though neither one of them had shown the slightest interest. So basically he was in the middle of a group of four guys all well over six feet tall being led by a Chinese lady who, even in unbelievably high heels, could barely make it to five feet.
On the way home as the car climbed into the mountains, Larry said, “We gotta see Becky and Bob or she’s gonna kill me.”
I put my arm around Chris’ shoulders. “Okay but let’s do it next week. I don’t want Chris ODing on a lotta new people.
Larry smiled down at Chris who was trying to pretend that he didn’t hear what was said. “Cool. Maybe we can do a cook out for Wednesday.”
Then he said to Chris, “They’re really nice, Chris. Not scary at all, you’ll really like em.” He wasn’t buying that but he was pretending that it was okay. The feeling that I was getting most from him was of a boy who didn’t know what was going to happen to him next and it was like every nerve in his body was on alert for whatever it was. I was pretty sure that nothing I could say was gonna make that immediately better.
The first normal little boy reaction came when we turned in thru the gate at the bottom of our property and started up, our drive can actually be pretty dramatic and the views are wild. Chris leaned over me to look out the window and actually giggled with delight. Then he looked at me like he wasn’t sure that he should have done that.
I said, “Pretty cool, huh?”
He grinned and said, “It’s awesome!”
“How about going swimming this afternoon?”
“Swimming?” He glanced out the window again. “Where?”
I ruffled his hair and remembered how often that used to happen to me and how much I hated it. “The other side of the house. There’s a pool.”
We were just pulling up in front of our house and he said, “There is no other side. It just goes off the mountain, right?”
I laughed, “C’mon, we’ll show you.”
Mrs. Colby insisted that everything we bought needed to be washed and ironed before Chris’ new clothes would be fit to wear. We realized that the one thing we forgot was a swimming suit but we figured a pair of his new cargo shorts would work fine. So we pulled that out of one of the bags while she carted the rest off.
Larry and I changed into some board shorts and then got Chris and took him out to the pool. If you look up at our house from the base of our little plateau you can really only see a couple of concrete balconies jutting out over the side of the rock, you really can’t much see the house at all. But to the left of the house and chiseled into the rock is a pool with a lounging area around it. It’s totally surrounded by the house on two sides and the other two sides are a shear drop of a hundred and fifty feet. During warm weather it’s where we spend a lot of our time swimming and cooking out. In winter the pool is enclosed but for some reason we rarely seem to use it then.
Chris had come out of his bedroom wearing the shorts and a tee shirt and I grabbed the shirt and was about to tell him he didn’t need it and pull it off until I saw the look of horror on his face and I remembered the scars. I let go of the shirt and smoothed it back down.
“The sun’s pretty hot...maybe you should just leave that on.” Looking into his eyes I was certain that he knew why I said that. It was something that we’d have to talk about eventually but not now. Today was a day for him to be a little boy.
Larry took Chris’ hand and said, “Know how to swim?”
Chris shook his head and looked worried. “I…I just seen it on TV. Is it hard?”
Larry bent down in front of him. “Trust me?”
Chris giggled nervously. “Whadya gonna do?”
“Put your arms around my neck.” Chris wrapped his arms around Larry’s neck like he was hanging on for dear life. “Okay, wrap your legs around my waist.”
Larry lifted him and walked slowly into the water carrying a wildly skeptical Chris. He walked around the shallow end of the pool and then after telling Chris what he was doing he slowly knelt down in the shallowest area and the water came slowly up to Chris’ waist.
Larry stared into his eyes and smiled. “Ready to climb down?”
Chris turned and looked at me standing at the edge of the pool. He laughed and said, “I never did this.”
I yelled, “You’re doing great, Chris, just relax, we won’t let anything happen.”
It was a great afternoon, the sun was hot, the pool was warm and Chris really seemed to have a good time. It seemed like he got closer to forgetting his past than at any other time since we met him.
Mrs. Colby fixed all of the side dishes like close slaw and potato salad but she left the steaks for us to cook. Later she brought out a fresh baked apple pie and a bucket of homemade vanilla ice cream.
I guess at first I dreamt it or maybe it just seemed like that. At two o’clock in the morning dreams and reality can blend together. But then as I woke more I knew that what I was hearing wasn’t a dream but was coming from inside of the house. A scream, a blood curdling scream that seemed to slice thru the walls like a light saber.
I glanced down at Larry and like a puppet out of a music box he sat bolt upright. “What, Alex! What’s….?”
The scream came again and we were both out of bed at the same instant running buck naked for the bedroom door. I was sure that it was Chris. By the time we hit Chris’ door the scream had started again and Mei was running down the hall.
Chris was standing pressed into the corner of the room tears streaming down his cheeks and his hands held up in defense, his body shaking in fear. Whatever or whoever was making him scream was only in his memory.
Mei said, “He still asleep.”
We moved to him and he seemed totally unaware of us. I think that all of us were uncertain about what to do. We didn’t want to make it worse. Larry reached out and put his hand gently on Chris’ shoulder and he stopped screaming instantly and then just seemed to collapse in slow motion. Larry scooped him up as he fell.
His pajamas were soaking wet and we changed them as Mei brought a wash clothe from the bathroom and cleaned him up. He never woke up and seemed to be in a very deep sleep. Larry and I went back to our room and put on sweats and then came back to Chris’ room. Mei had already put him back into bed.
Larry lay down next to him and said, “I’m not leaving him, not tonight.” So we moved Chris to the middle of the bed and we lay down on either side of him.
Mei said, “You call if is troubles.” We assured her we would.
Larry lifted his head and looked at me over Chris’ outline. He said softly, “Doctors.”
“Yeah…but not until Monday. Let’s give em a little time off from shit.” Then after a moment I had to tell him what was going thru my head, “Larry….I wanna kill whoever did this to him.”
He whispered back, “I know, I do too. I kinda hope we never find out who it was.”
In the morning I felt Larry’s warm lips on mine for a moment but when I reached for him he was already on his way out of the door. Morning coffee, a very big deal in our house. But I wasn’t fully awake and stared at the ceiling while status reports were coming in from the various outlying regions of my body. I turned my head to the right and Chris was lying on his stomach and facing me but sound asleep. His right hand was formed into a loose fist and pressed lightly to his mouth. If there were any ill effects from last night they weren’t obvious.
I knew that we needed doctors, a good GP and a good kid’s shrink. When Connie called I’d ask her to find out who was the best.
Larry poked his head back into the room and signaled me to follow him. I slid slowly away from Chris and rolled out of bed. In the hall Larry wrapped his arm around my shoulders and pulled me to the family room. He dragged me down into a large overstuffed chair that faced the large plate glass wall then reached over to an end table and handed me a cup of steaming coffee.
He slid his hand up under my sweatshirt and rubbed my chest. “How’s he doin?”
“Still sleeping. You think we shoulda called a doctor last night?”
“I can’t imagine what a doctor would have done. I really just think he’s haunted by something. Some terrible shit happened and it looks like he either doesn’t remember it when he’s awake or forces himself not to think about it. But during sleep it comes out.”
I said, “He’s gonna need a shrink.”
He stared at me for a moment and then said, “Is this freakin you out? I mean does it make you afraid of….well…a commitment?”
“No. I really dunno what my problem was but it’s gone now. Connie’ll be calling me in an hour or so and I’m telling her to get Stanner to work something out so that we can be his foster parents.”
“Just foster parents?”
“Don’t ya think we should give him a chance to get used to us? Besides, wouldn’t the courts pretty much insist that we do that first?”
“I guess.” He shook his head and grinned. “A family full of international lawyers but nobody who knows how to do normal stuff.”
While I was staring out the window I saw Chris’ reflection appear in the doorway behind us. He just stood there quietly watching.
Finally I said, “C’mon in, Chris.” He seemed to jump a little but then came slowly forward.
I held out my hand to him and said, “There’s quite a view over here.” While there’s a great view from practically every window in the house the view from the family room with its glass wall is really spectacular with a shallow valley beneath us and a deeper one farther out and then the high Rocky mountain peaks beyond.
Chris moved slowly towards the window like he was afraid that somehow he’d fall over the edge. It is a little weird at first. He stood about two feet from the glass and leaned forward never letting go of my hand.
Then he yelled, “There’s deer! Honest, there’s a deer down there!”
Larry and I both grinned because that had pretty much been our reaction the first time. Larry said, “There’s a whole herd of em, Chris. Just wait a bit and you’ll see the rest.” He stood by the glass for ten minutes watching and saw the rest of the herd. Finally I pulled him back and we made room for him in the chair.
I said, “Do ya like this house, Chris?”
He nodded and said, “Oh yeah! It is so cool.”
Larry asked him, “Would you like to live here, Chris, if we could arrange it, if we could get Family Services to agree?”
His head dropped immediately. “They won’t agree. They’re the cops right? They won’t agree.” He was shaking his head back and forth hard. “They won’t agree!”
Larry flashed me a warning look. Then he said, “Maybe they will, Chris.”
Chris’ back was beginning to shake and I felt a tear land on the top of my bare foot. I put my hand on the back of his neck. “They might, Chris. Actually there’s no reason that I know of why they wouldn’t.”
He tried to pull away but I wouldn’t let him go. He wasn’t really crying now but he sounded so sad. “The cops don’t like me. Because of CC, they think I’m bad.”
Larry leaned forward and said, “We know that you probably had to do stuff to survive, Chris. Did this CC guy have you stealing stuff?” He rubbed Chris’ shoulder. “You’re not gonna get in trouble, Chris. We know that it hasn’t been easy for you.”
Chris wiped his eyes with his hands and his face went back to the same kind of detached look that pretty much characterized the way he was obviously trying to keep it. I’m no psychologist but it sure seemed like it was his way of dealing with a life that had done nothing but go from bad to worse. I was determined to end that cycle.
I stood up and pulled Chris back against me while I looked down at him and said, “Whadya say that we get some breakfast?”
I looked at Larry and he smiled and nodded, then got up and led Chris into the small dining room where we ate almost all of our meals. Now that she had an honest to god little boy to cook for, Mrs. Colby had begun putting out a buffet with eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, potatoes, and three different kinds of fruit. We knew that Chris had been thru hell but he sure had a good appetite and put away a ton of food and it was great seeing him eat.
Despite his great appetite Chris looked out of it, like he was deliberately trying to imagine himself somewhere else. Then just as the meal ended Connie called.
“Alex, I’ve got a little news but first, can I send a courier over with some things that need your signature?”
This was a common occurrence. “Sure, what do you have?”
“Gerhardt’s people need signatures for Las Vegas, Palm Beach and Hilton Head, oh and the Hammersly Estate papers came thru and I’ll also include Richard and Darleen’s report on the hotels. The brief version is that they like em.” We were building huge apartment complexes in all three of those cities plus seven more and it would be our second for both Palm Beach and Hilton Head Island. The Hammersly Estate was literally the estate of an elderly New York couple who had died within days of each other and left a substantial portfolio of real estate both in New York City and Palm Beach. We had been given the opportunity to bid on it and we were successful.
“Sure, send it over but have you been able to get anything on Chris? I really didn’t expect anything this quick.”
“I have a friend in the police department and he did us a favor. By the way, that’ll probably cost you a donation to something or other. The police benevolent….whatever. Anyway the boy was telling the truth about his parents. They were both killed instantly on the freeway about three years ago. Their will left everything to Charlene and Christopher. That boiled down to about $50,000 after the debts were paid.”
“After that it gets a bit fuzzy. They had been living in a decent part of the city but Charlene moved them. Now not all of the records are complete but it looks like she moved them four times and each time it was to a worse place. Glen, he’s my cop friend, checked with the precinct that covers the apartment where you found the boy and apparently they were always being called to that apartment and for each time that they had a record there was a different mans name involved. Charlene apparently got around but there was no official mention of the boy.”
The tone of her voice told me there was more and I said, “And unofficially?”
She sighed, paused and then said, “This gets bad, Alex and it’s all pretty fuzzy.” She paused like she was gathering herself. “Alex, apparently the local cops felt that he had something to do with…prostituition…male on male prostituition that he was being abused.”
“Prostitution! But he’s just a boy for Christ’s sake!”
“I know, Alex. Apparently there’s a big market for that. According to Glen, my cop friend, a man that lived in that area, ah, Cory Conway, if I remember the name Glen gave me correctly, apparently he makes a living providing boys for that.” I was so angry that I was almost dizzy and I had to force myself to breathe normally. “The cops have been trying to nail him but haven’t really gotten anywhere.”
I must have been making some sound because Connie said, “Alex, are you okay?” I forced the anger down and it choked me.
My voice even sounded strange to me. “Chris called him CC…gotta be the same guy….he’s terrified of him. He’s the guy that Larry punched.”
“Well, Alex, I’d say that you guys were lucky to get outta there alive.”
“Larry and I want to foster him, Connie. I want you to get with Stanner. Tell him to make this happen. And get back to those investigators, I want everything and I want it fast. I also want to know everything that there is to know about Cory Conway, especially his address.”