Inspired by Com: Rainy Night by vtas on DeviantArt.
“Must be one messed up kid.” Johanson said, shaking his head as he made a final note on the files.
“Consider what they were doing, though.” Corington said. He was sitting on the desk, ‘helping’, and smoking one of those cigarillos.
“Oh, yeah. I’ll give you that.” Johanson snapped the files shut, like the crime scene images would leak back out. “But that doesn’t actually argue for the kid being saner.”
“‘Cause he turned them in?” Corington said, disagreement marked by the force of his words. “I think that speaks to his courage!”
Johanson waved him away, unlocking the filing cabinet and picking up the folders. The metal slider was bent, so he had to jerk the drawer open, rocking the huge cabinet ominously. It came, but only up to So. He needed Sr. “Sure, courage, yeah.” Johanson said. He put the files on top of the cabinet and leaned into the drawer. “But raised by people like that?” His voice echoed, muffled by paper. Sure enough, the drawer had caught on the bend.
Corington made a grunt that sounded like a shrug. “Just ’cause your parents are messed up doesn’t mean you will be. Take my good self.”
“Yeah.” Johanson said, pulling his head back out of the cabinet. “We all known how great you turned out.” He tried to lift the drawer over the bump, but the drawer was three feet long, four feet deep, and very full. “Here, help me with this.”
Corington laughed and slipped off the desk, cigarillo in his mouth. With the two of them, it was easy enough to get the drawer open, and then closed again.
“Where is the kid going, anyway?” Corington asked.
“Dunno.” Johanson said. “He’s sixteen. Foster care, I suppose. Unless he gets himself emancipated or something.”
“Doesn’t that require guardian signatures?” Corington asked.
“Yeah.” Johanson said. “Only that’s us now, since they’re, you know, dead.”
Johanson wasn’t sure why he was drawn back to the site. That happened sometimes, after long, grueling and bloody cases. A bit of closure, maybe. Or a chance to see who else was grieving.
Tonight, or this morning really, it was no one. The headlights of his cruiser showed broken down and rusting chain link, caution tape, and rain. Nothing else. The rain spurted and spiraled in the gutters, dripped off of the broken holes in the chain fence. Made the caution tape shine.
Behind it, barely, he could see the shadow of a big, old, house. Empty even of corpses now, just a twilight silhouette on the edge of the beam of his headlamps. Johanson circled, thought about stopping.
There was another shape. An unexpected shadow by the shrubbery that partially blocked the front gate. Johanson slowed his cruise and looked, carefully.
A boy, couldn’t be older then seventeen or so, huddled in a leather jacket that was over a hoodie. Black and grey against the dark green and grey. Johanson rolled his window down.
“Hey, son.” He called, friendly and warm.
The boy looked up, rain pooling off the hood. There was too much for it all too soak in. Blond hair framed a thin, pale face, and blue eyes shone in the yellow light. Oh. It was the kid, the Sranora kid.
The one who had turned his parents in.
“You alright, son?” Johanson asked.
The kid wasn’t. He’d been crying. Red rims on his eyes, and a kind of half-ashamed look. But he nodded his head anyway. “Yes officer. Just taking a walk.”
It was four in the morning. It was pouring rain.
Where was the kid supposed to be? Wasn’t there an emergency foster care house he’d been set up with? Johanson tapped the computer on his dashboard awake and called up the protected minors list. “You’re a bit far away from home, aren’t you?” He asked, remembering the home had been on the other end of the city.
But he knew by the silence that ‘home’ had been the wrong word. He looked up from the keypad where he was typing in the kid’s name.
The kid had looked down again. Shrunken back into himself.
The program had come up with an address, all the way over on West Side avenue. He was supposed to be under ‘close observation’, in case there were other people involved that they’d missed. The kid had said there weren’t. Johanson believed him. There was no room for other people in the operation his parents had been running. But he was under close watch anyway.
He’d been declared ‘missing’, just ten minutes ago. Last seen that evening at eleven pm, when the house mother had poked her nose in to check on him.
Which raised several interesting questions about his current location.
Like, how the hell had he run away? Because Johanson knew they expected that kind of thing on a first night. And how had he gotten all the way from West Side at this time of night? It was way too far to walk.
Johanson waited. He knew he needed to take the boy back, or at least report his location. But he looked so miserable, just sitting there. The boy didn’t move, just stayed looking at whatever world he was seeing in his knees.
After a while, Johanson cleared his throat. “You want a ride back, son?” He asked, as kindly as possible. The kid didn’t lift his head, just shook it.
“You want some coffee and a doughnut?” Johanson tried.
Hesitation, and then the boy looked up. Scanned his face. But then he nodded. “Sure.” He said, very quietly.
Johanson leaned over and opened the passenger side door. He turned on the heater and tapped the screen, to the let the guys know he’d picked up the kid.
The boy stood up, letting the excess water drain off of his leather jacket, and then slipped into the passenger seat, closing the door behind him. “I’m gonna get your car soaked.” He said.
“It’s alright. Helps me remember to get it cleaned.” Johanson pulled out of the long driveway and started heading toward Tim’s All Night All Day Caffeine and Sugar Hot Spot.
The boy was looking at everything, eyes catching the shotgun between the seats, the massive panel for controlling the radios, the big old touch screen computer, with his name and address on it.
“They called me in missing?” He asked. Johanson could hardly hear him over the roar of the heater.
“Yeah. About ten minutes ago. You’re on special watch, so they don’t have to wait as long.”
Johanson signed the papers. His signature looked cramped and alone. There were three lines there, and only one of them was filled. He’d tried different things, throughout the years. Signing all three lines, signing across them, huge, as if one signature could fill all those spaces.
Nothing had ever worked.
So now he just signed the one for legal guardian, and tried to keep it all on the line, so it wouldn’t fall off the other end like a drunk man wandering off a cliff.
“You’re letting him go?” Corington said, cigarillo smoke curling around his head. “I thought you thought he was going to be a crazy murderer.” He said it like it was a joke, to hide the challenge.
Johanson shrugged. “At least this way it’s not the poor foster family that gets it.” But the cynicism tasted foul in his mouth.