Not as it seems
High above in the bright and cloudless blue, planes were cruising through the seemingly endless sky, producing a gentle rush that softly covered the Morningstar Championship golf course in Parksville. Trails of condensation looked like curly brush strokes within a simple painting of a perfect day.
No car was heard, no dogs barked. Birds were singing, as they went about the task of feeding their hungry brood to the sound of a breeze that was softly stroking through the rustling leaves and the rich green pastures at hole number one. This wonderful warm August day was an invitation for an enjoyable round of golf for Mark Serrano and his club mate Phillip McGee. They both had taken the day off and were the early birds at 7:30am.
The metallic sound rushed through the area as the biggest club in Marks bag hit the freshly unpacked Titleist golf ball and drove it high up in the sky on it's way down fairway number one.
"Good shot buddy!" Phillip congratulated before teeing up his own ball, going through his pre-shot routine and tried to follow suit.
"Not bad either! Looks like we're going to have fun."
"Definitely, but you're gonna cry when you see where my drive landed!"
"Not really. You wanna bet on it?!" Mark Serrano challenged his mate.
"I guess five will do?!"
"I'm in, let's go!"
The men put their clubs back in their expensive leather bags and walked about 220 yards to search for their golf balls and make the next hit. Mark found his immediately in the center of the fairway. Phillip on the other hand was less lucky. He didn't find it anywhere on the fairway and therefore had to search for it.
'Hopefully it isn't out of bounds' he thought.
After searching for a while he stepped into the rough and looked under one of the trees for his ball.
"Awww I hate it when that happens, especially at the first hole."
"Come on cry baby, give in – you owe me five bucks!" Mark threw at him.
"What the fuck???? MARK, come here!" Phillip said with a worried voice.
"Did you find it?"
"No, but....you won't believe it....a boy, I found a boy."
Mark rushed over to where Phillip was kneeling, checking the pulse of a probably ten or eleven year old boy who was lying on the ground. In disbelief he searched his pockets for his mobile phone to call an ambulance. He had never seen a child like this - his body looked lifeless and the clothes he wore were covered with blood.
A strict voice was heard in the modern gray painted house on Hampstead Street.
"ETHAN! Will you please come down now? We're gonna be late."
"DAAD, we ARE late already." A boy shouted back from upstairs.
"That doesn't mean we have to make it any later does it?"
With his athletic body and his clipped brown hair eleven year old Ethan jumped down the last couple of stairs, grabbed his backpack and ran into the kitchen where he found his father searching for the car keys.
"Dad I did it!"
"Ok, I hope I got everything...you did what?"
"The cube; in under one minute."
"Dad? The 3x3 Rubik's cube I've been working on for weeks now? The one you bought me?"
"Yeah sure, great buddy. Can we talk about that later, I'm a little distracted this morning."
"What do you mean by THIS morning?"
"Don't be so cheeky, come on, we have to go!"
"Dad? Where's my lunch?"
"Oh fuck me, I knew it....I'll give you some money on the way."
"You said fuck!"
"Yeah I know, sorry."
"Sorry won't do, that's a dollar!"
"Can we please talk about that later, too?! Now go!"
A moment later Peter and Ethan Bennet - usually a good team in managing the daily routine - left their home, jumped into the car and drove off. On a normal day, they would give Matthew - the neighbor boy a lift - but this was all but a normal day and they were too late - Matt had already been brought to school by his mom.
The first stop was at Parksville's District 69 where Stonewood Middle School was located. With a five dollar bill in his hand the young gun left the black Chevy SUV in a hurry.
"Love you son."
"Love you dad. And remember, you don't need to pick me up early, I HAVE KARATE TODAAAYYY!" Ethan shouted, but his father didn't hear him as he drove off to the Promises Childcare Services, where he was the social worker on duty today.
As Peter finally arrived in his sun flooded office he let down the shutters, dropped his bag on the floor and sat down rubbing his eyes. It was all a bit too much for him some days; this was one of them. He looked at the picture of his wife Susan, softly stroked it and got himself a cup of coffee from the kitchen, taking a moment to unwind before the day could get a grip on him.
"Morning Peter. Wow you look....wild."
"Please Carol, not today! I've really had a bad start. Ethan wouldn't get up and then I forgot his lunch and my tie and..."
"Ok Peter, calm down" Carol said smiling and continued "at least you're here and that's all I ask for."
"Thanks, any news?"
"Frank Miller called and asked for you. He's at WCG and needs your help. They found a boy and....well, I don't know exactly."
"A boy and what? Okay, I'll call him back. But I need that mug of hot black gold first."
"Take your time Peter, perhaps we are lucky and Frank only wanted to invite us for a barbecue or something. Policemen do these kind of things, right?"
"I'm off. Talk to you later!"
Peter was a good looking guy, short brown hair like his son, sporty figure and a cool clothing style. Today was different. Unshaven, messy hair, no tie; he looked like some guy from the street rather than the responsible social worker for Parksville, not to mention the father of a wonderful and lively eleven year old boy.
Before anything else happened, he called Frank Miller on his mobile. Frank was one of the local police detectives and a friend of the family. They had been friends for more than 12 years now and Frank awaited his call at the West Coast General Hospital - also known as WCG.
"Hey Frank, it's Peter."
"Hi Peter, thanks for calling me back."
"Sure, what's going on? Carol said something about a boy you found?"
"Actually it wasn't us who found him, but yes. He's approximately ten years old and was found near the golf course."
"What do you mean by found?"
"He was discovered lying under a tree, unconscious, clothes in tatters, looked quite neglected and had lots of dry blood on his body."
"He's in shock but awake now, doesn't move a lot, doesn't talk. He's not been hurt or anything besides some bruises. I don't know what to do with him. No file about a missing child during the last weeks and he doesn't fit into any of the older reports."
"Where's the blood from if it's not his?"
"I don't know yet - can you come by and help me out on this?!"
"Of course, when do you want me to be there?"
"Ok, give me a few minutes and I'll be there."
"Are you ok? You sound a bit upset."
"Yeah, I'm fine. It's just the morning....it was...I don't know, bad day. Expect me in 30 ok?"
"Ok and you know I'm here for you right? See you then!"
"I know, thanks. Bye."
Ten minutes after the talk Peter was on the road again. This time heading towards Port Alberni where the hospital was located - about 12 miles away. Parksville and Qualicum Beach didn't have anything like a hospital. There was nothing besides a first aid station and the WCG was quite large with all kinds of specialized departments like pediatrics.
Peter always tried to avoid going there, because there were bad memories bound to this very place. His last time there had been for a knee surgery which had been difficult enough. The time before that had been when he had held Susan's hand and told her he loved her for the last time. But this time he had a job to do and he felt that he had no choice - no one else besides him was on duty and he couldn't just skip this case.
When he approached the main entrance of WCG his legs became weak. The words he had once heard here, which he would never forget, played out again in his head.
"Mr Bennet, your son is alive and uninjured, but unfortunately your wife will not make it. We have done the best we could, but there is too much internal damage. She doesn't have long. I'm very sorry."
Peter shook his head and tried to ignore the memories of the worst and equally happiest day of his life.
With an effort he put one foot in front of the other and crossed the threshold, stepping on to the gray sprinkled linoleum floor, which was typical for hospitals, as the smell of cleaner and disinfectant crept up his nostrils.
He easily found the pediatrics ward, since he had been there before and walked to the nurses room where he expected to find his friend Frank.
"Oh great, there you are." The detective greeted him.
"Hi Frank, any news?"
"Nothing except that he fell asleep after eating nearly everything they gave him. He was pretty starved out."
"Can I see him?"
"Sure, but Peter, be aware, he looks a little bit like Ethan. I know you still have a hard time being here."
"I'm ok Frank, thanks though. Where is he?"
"I'll walk you."
They both stopped in front of the room where the little boy was napping his mind free from his current situation. The room had a large window so the nurses were able to watch what was going on inside. Frank was right, he looked like Ethan; very handsome, same hair, same facial features, same chin and nose; only his face was a little thinner than Ethan's. Peter swallowed hard and for a second imagined that it was his boy who was lying there, feeling lonely and unprotected.
"I need to talk to him, Frank."
"I know, he hasn't said a word or reacted to anything so far. However he does pay attention to what's happening around him. Should we wake him up?"
"No, let me go in, alone. Okay?"
"Okay! But I'll be here if you need me. You know that I have my own questions to ask if he begins to talk. Anything that helps me find out what happened or where his parents are, is urgent."
"Yeah, just give me some time to gain some trust!"
Peter silently entered the room and walked over to the bed. The boy was lying on his back, breathing slowly in and out. His eyes were closed, his arms resting on the blanket. He had dark brown short cut hair, a little button nose, perfect white teeth and smooth immaculate cheeks that were covered with a little fuzz.
Looking into the child's face, Peter felt the guardian inside of him rise up; he wanted to wrap his arms around the vulnerable body and offer protection and comfort from whatever had happened. But as a professional he sat down and softly blew some air into the boys hand, so that he might wake up without a stranger touching him.
It worked; the young lad slowly opened his eyes and first checked the room he was in, before his eyes met Peter's. He had wonderful hazelnut brown eyes which told of happiness, fear and relief. You could have read hundreds of stories in those eyes though you would never have known if even one were true.
"Hello." Peter breathed.
As he had learned, he waited for ten to twenty seconds before he did or said anything else. This way, the boy could think about whether he wanted to answer and wouldn't feel any pressure from an unknown adult. This was very important for the boy's first contact with a stranger; no pressure, relaxed atmosphere and lots of time.
"I'm Peter and I'm here to help you. You're in a hospital and you are safe. And I promise you, that nobody will hurt you here."
Another twenty seconds passed. Peter took the time and intentionally looked away from the boy so the little fellow could look him over without being watched. This way he was able to gain a little trust and showed, that he was no threat.
"Can you understand me?"
The boy didn't answer, didn't move, didn't wink or nod. He just stared into the man's eyes.
"Hmmm, you got any idea how I can find out if you understand me?"
Again no answer, no movement. Now, the only thing Peter could do was to pretend that he was going to leave, even if he hated to play that card. He would say that he was going to leave, but wouldn't move an inch for another twenty seconds. And if there was any kind of reaction - usually in the others eyes - he knew that the boy understood him. When there was no reaction or the boy reacted only on his rising, there was a good chance that he was either deaf, probably from the shock, or didn't speak English.
"Ok then, if you can't understand me, I need to go now and search for someone else who you might want to talk to."
Saying that, Peter didn't move, he nearly held his breath. And there it was! A little blink in his eyes. They also opened wider with a piercing look as he said that. Now he knew that the little boy understood him, but didn't dare to say a word. But to be sure, he decided to cross-check his observation.
"Oh well, I think it's best if I stay here with you for while longer. Talking can wait. I would be scared too for all these people running around and all those machines that are making funny sounds."
And there it was again - a little blink and the obvious relaxation in his eyes. Peter was finally sure that he was understood.
The heavy white door to the room opened and Frank came in, waving to his friend. They got close together and whispered something the boy wasn't able to hear. The detective showed him a little dirty teddy bear with a sign attached to it reading "Michael Krayne".
As they both agreed upon they would perform another test. Peter got on the opposite side of the bed from where Frank stood and made sure that he had full attention of the boy. From the other side of the room, the policeman spoke in a loud, clear voice.
The boy immediately turned his attention to the policeman as if to ask "What?"
"Is that yours?" Frank asked, showing the teddy bear to the little one.
By the boy's reaction it was obvious that he had seen the cuddle toy before and that it was familiar to him. Frank handed the bear to the boy and both men left the room while the child reacquainted himself with his lost friend.
"Where did you find it?" Peter asked.
"It was brought in by a county sheriff who found it in a wrecked car at the scene of an accident on Horne Lake Road, close to Spider Lake. We found two dead bodies, a man and a woman. There were also clothes and toys for a boy inside the car. And I wanted to give it a go and see if it belonged to our lost boy."
"I guess we got a hit there. You think they had an accident and he survived wandering around the country? I mean that must be more than 10 miles to the golf course."
"And here's the best - the accident must have happened yesterday or the day before."
"You mean he spend one or two days wandering the streets afraid and alone?"
"Hard to believe, I know. We'll compare the blood samples on his clothes with some from the car but if you want to know what I think; it's his parents and the little boy saw them die before he took off, wandering through the countryside in a state of shock."
"Can't imagine what emotional state that would leave him in. At least we got a name. It's Michael Krayne right?"
"Right, perhaps you can get something out of him. And if possible, make some notes if he says anything, ok? I'll go and see what we can find out about the Kraynes and who the next of kin are. What a sad day for the kid." Frank said and with a deep sigh looked over at the little boy, who hugged his teddy bear and closed his eyes.
Before he returned to Michael, Peter sat down in the hallway and made some notes to file later on. He would have to propose for temporary custody so he could search for someone the lonely boy could stay with when he left the hospital.
Several hours and some examinations later Peter realizes that he had forgotten to pick up his son at school and hastily searched for his mobile to call his assistant.
"CAROL, can you do me a big favor? I forgot to pick up Ethan, can you..."
"Peter, Peter, stay calm, it's Monday. Ethan has Karate today. You don't have to pick him up until 4pm. Jeez what's wrong with you today?"
"Oh...yeah, great. Thanks Carol, what would I do without you?"
"I guess you'd forget your cute little butt somewhere in the office. What about the boy?"
"Long story, I'll return to the office in an hour or so - we need to make some calls. Here's a summary. Michael Krayne, approximately 10 years old, lost his parents in a car crash and walked 10 miles through the countryside in one or two days while covered in his parents blood. He does not appear to be injured and he can understand me though he doesn't talk."
"Ok thanks, I'll prepare the paperwork."
"Great, you're an angel."
"I know, and you know that we've still got a date scheduled?!"
"Yeah, bear with me, next week alright?"
"Alrighty, see you later!"
Peter returned to the boys room and spend some time with him, not saying much, just letting him have some space. He touched the boys delicate hand and Michael accepted the touch. Peter continued to caress the child's hand until he had to leave.
"Okay Michael, I know you understand me. And whenever you want to, you can talk to me. Here's a telephone, something to write on and there's my number. You can call me whenever you want. Or you can ask the nurse to get me if you feel like talking. I need to leave now and get my son from school. His name is Ethan; he's the same age as you. I'll be at that number first thing in the morning."
The grip on Peter's hand became firmer. Michael didn't want him to leave; he didn't want to be alone in this cold and sterile environment. But the social worker was also a father and had to take care of his own little cub. Besides, the nurses would be giving him plenty of attention.
"Don't worry, I'll not leave you alone here for very long. You close your eyes and take a long sleep. Before you know it I'll be here again, I promise."
And there it was, the first real attempt at communication. Michael slightly nodded to Peter. There was still no expression on his face at all, but at least a little sign that the boy had begun to trust him. What a good feeling that was. He had once again made a break through, even if only a tiny one. He was sure that there was lots of work to do with this boy before he could return to something like a normal life, if that was ever possible after loosing his parents in such a traumatic way. But he was worth the try, and not only because he reminded him of his own son.
Later that day after all the paperwork had been done, Peter picked up Ethan at the Shima Karate School, which also was located in District 69. The little 'Bruce Lee' talked about this and that move or kick they had been taught and wanted to tell his dad everything he had experienced today. But Peters thoughts were still with Michael, the little boy whose destiny had been put into his hands this warm August Monday.
Being back home Ethan dropped his backpack in the kitchen and walked upstairs to take a shower while Peter tried to prepare some food for dinner. It was more a light snack than a real dinner, but would do; the alternative was the pizza service.
"ANYBODY HOME?" The neighbor woman and mother of Ethan's friend Matthew shouted, as she opened the back door of the house.
"Oh Viv, hi."
"Hi Peter. I saw you coming home and have some leftovers from dinner. Thought you might like it?"
"Wow, that's more than leftovers and yes that'd be great, I've had an exhausting day."
While the two adults talked to each other Ethan came downstairs in his birthday suit. With his 86 lbs and 5 feet tallness he had a perfect body with a slight tan. His athletic physic was only out shined by the beauty of his face or you could say - they complemented each other. Only the little scar on his forehead from a stair fall broke the unblemished view. But his brown wet, messy hair and his tool flopping around while he entered the kitchen made his appearance very attractive.
Ethan didn't notice Vivian standing there in the kitchen because she was half hidden behind the fridge. He stopped right at the kitchen counter and stood with his hands on his hips.
"Dad, I don't have any clean boxers!"
"Shit, I knew there was something I needed to do. Sorry son, I forgot to do the laundry."
"That's another dollar!"
"I guess I can help." Vivian said from behind Peter.
The moment Ethan recognized her, he squeaked like a little pig, put his hands over his genitals and ran away to the laughter of the adults.
"What a handsome little man."
"Yeah he is. Can you really help me out with his boxers?"
"Sure, I'll bring you one of Matthews, they are the same size."
"What size do you mean?"
"The boxers!!! Gosh, you men always compare your penises don't you?"
They both laughed once again and five minutes later the problem was solved. Ethan had a fresh pair of boxers, the men had their dinner and the washing machine was doing its job.
"How was your day, dad?"
"Well, it was horrible."
"I had so much to do. Listen Ethan, can we talk about that later?"
"Ok, I put it on the list."
"The list of things we need to talk about later - it's getting longer and longer dad."
"Gosh, I was a terrible father today, uh?"
"Not that bad, but you can do better, I know it!"
"You're like your mom." Peter said and stroked through the already dry but still messy hair of his beloved son, who confidently smiled back with his pinkish thin lips and those perfect white teeth. "I love you Ethan."
"I love you too, dad."
"Now, let's grab a coke and talk about what's on the list, alright?"
The two sat down on the couch in the living room and talked about speed cubing, the Karate lesson and Ethan's day at school. Peter also told him about the boy that was found and what was going to happen to him.
They chattered like two little girls; sometimes thoughtful, sometimes with a laugh in their faces, before both got tired and jumped into the big bed in the sleeping room together.
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