Oops. Guess who´s back...
Rude language warning, as always.
For a Moment that seems to last forever, the silence in the room is so thick that the City itself should hold it´s breath
Of course, it does not. The muffled sounds of cars and people making their way through the night are ever so present
"Wait, what? You don´t know?"
Dan seems taken aback, but Al is clearly very close to loosing his temper
"No. But hell, got a feeling you better tell me everything now, son"
"... but not in here. It´s not safe- for me. I guess you know that they think I kidnapped that little girl?"
"God knows I do. Right. Let´s go, I know a place"
Wiping the tears from his face, Dan grabs his old army coat from a hook on the wall and sticks his head out on the corridor. As he can see that it is deserted, he gestures the older man to follow him outside, and the both sneak out through the back door
In complete silence, they cross the backyard to another, very clearly still unused building
Dan unlocks the door. Ah yes, he really is the janitor here, apparently. They both take a last look around... all clear... and enter
The room is very small and the only window is broken, but you can tell that someone took an effort in making the place a little liveable, some time ago. Al stares at the makeshift curtain and sighs. Cozy
"I used to sleep here, some time ago. You can use it if you want to"
Dan swallows hard
"If you trust me with that, that is"
No response. Nervously, he starts to fiddle with his sleeves. He must be freezing, as he wears only a Tshirt underneath, and no gloves, and it is so very cold tonight
"You wanted to tell me a story, kid"
Dan winces. Wanting is something entirely different... but yes. He said he would. And he really needs to, too
"Alright then. A few weeks ago, just days before we first met... before you took me into Eddy´s that one night... I had a visitor"
I do have a place, yanno? Where I can... lock the door behind me. Leave it all behind. Anyways, I must have passed out, again, cause I remember that I lay on the floor
I had no idea what was going on. I had no idea what the time was, or who might be knocking. I was pretty damn sure that I had paid the rent, so who the hell?
The fierce knocking and calling did not stop, though. So I finally dragged myself up. And Hell, I was to far gone to even be scared
But whe I saw the guy, trust me, it sobered me up significantly. Significantly... that´s one of his favorite words, yanno
"You?! What ..."
He shoved past me effortlessly and walked in
It was Kris. The piano player. The guy who bangs my cousin Rachel, the waitress. The snotty asshole hates my guts, what on Earth?
"Oh, lovely... Danny Boy, your place is really everything that I ever imagined, and more. Impressive!"
I felt my body stiffen
"What do you want, Kris? Since when do you do house calls when you feel like kicking my ass"
That very moment, I felt a tiny warm hand slipping into mine. I looked down, and could hardly believe my eyes man! He had brought Rachel´s little girl! She glanced up at me, shyly
I went down on my knees to hug the hell out of her. God I had missed the little monster so badly, I had looked after her often before Mr. I will make you a Star one Day had found out that Rachel used to pay me for that. With food. Yeah man she used to feed me because she knew all to well that I was not to be trusted with cash. She even helped me to get that rotten room to live in. And then Kris cut all ties, I lost what little family I still had
Holding the little one now trashed me completely. And what was the only thing I could say, in that brief Moment of Joy?
"... you have grown so much..."
And then, it was over
"What did I tell you?"
".. to wait downstairs. But it´s cold outside?"
"Exactly. Off you go. Wait in the hallway, for chrissake! We adults need to talk"
It was a relieve to see her just roll her eyes at that when she turned around to go, can tell you that. But still, it made my heart burn with anger to witness him talking to her like that
She only just managed to pass the frame of the door before Kris slammed it shut behind her
"Alright then, where were we.. ah yes. Let´s get straight to the point. Out ouf shear goodness of my heart, I grant you a few days with with your beloved niece... cousin... eh, whatever. Bethany. She will stay with you for a bit"
My heart sank
"You must be joking man. Here? This is no place for a kid"
Wrinkling his nose, he took a clearly disgusted yet indifferent look around
" Yeah, well...
"You might want to clean that up, right? Don´t look at me like that. You always wanted to spend time with her, now you can. And I will even pay you in cash. 500§ now, 500§ after, how does that sound to you, hm?"
That very second, I knew things were going pear-shaped. But what could I do?
"... Cash? Kris what are you up to"
"Kris. Look at me. I can hardly take care of myself. I can´t look after a little girl. You can´t drop her off with me like a bundle of rags"
I´ll never forget his reaction. He laughed. Out loud
"Danny Boy, you really don´t get it, do you? I just did. And there is not a thing in Hell you can do about it, because IF you do, I will tell the cops that little old junkie you kidnapped our little girlie- girl"
And that was it. He told me to "look after her" for a few days, during the snow holidays. Not to let her out, and not to ask questions. Then he pushed some Simoleon bills into my hand and went downstairs to get Betty, her and a small duffle bag with some stuff of hers
I took the money, and I took her in. I went shopping for food within the hour, cause I knew damn well I´d better stay in with her during those days... or I would do something stupid, for sure. She is a very bright kid. She understood
He looks up, but he is still talking to Al´s back
"It went well for a day or two. Days were ok. Betty and I cleaned up the mess, that kept us busy, that was ok, really.. nights, not so much... and one night, the craving got really bad. When she was asleep, I sneaked out on the streets, but at the same time I knew I couldn´t do it, than Betty depended on me.
In the end, I fell asleep in that back alley behind Eddy´s Bar. Where you found me..."
Without warning, Al turns around to face him, deadly calm
"Let me get this straight. You are telling me, the parents dropped Bethany off at your place, and you never knew she was reported missing?!"
"No! I have no TV, Radio, not even a phone! I read no newspapers, I did not even leave my place! And when I saw it on the news, I first thought they had put the blame on me, like Kris had threatened!"
His shoulders sag. He sighs
"When I realized what they really did, that they faked a kidnapping and ran off with the ransom money, I knew I had to get my shit together after all. Had to look after Betty. It´s just the two of us now..."
Oh-oh, the Rising of the Eybrow...
"And did you? Get your shit together, I mean? You look like hell"
"Yes, I did. I work two jobs, that´s why. Janitor at night, deliveryman in the mornings. Not much sleep... I try to save up to move to another city, with Betty. She needs to be back in school man. She knows what´s up, we will say she is my girl, and that her mother left her with me. Close enough to the truth, maybe we can get away with that"
Al is thinking hard, and you can tell it. This feeble plan might even work out, but still... he used to be a cop, he knows that the police will very likely not stop looking for the missing child, never, not really
"That´s not enough, son. We need to pick up the loose ends... and I might have an idea or two about that. The question is, how much more are your willing to do for our little girl? How far will you go?"
Dan clenches his fists and grits his teeth
"I´d do anything"