Not as it seems
It was half past eight o'clock in the morning. Thirty minutes left to change one's mind before the transport would pick the two up for their journey to re-union.
Peter looked down at Ethan and was still unsure if he made the right decision to go there and take his son with him. But he couldn't back down now and tell his boy, who was sitting on the stairs in the hallway, that this has only been a dream. Ethan's eyes were so full of hope and happiness about seeing Darren again that it would break his heart if they changed their minds now. Beside's Peter hasn't seen a smile on his boy's face since his mysterious new friend had been taken away. So there wasn't really a choice for him.
"I need to make some phone calls. Stay inside the house - I guess we'll hit the road in a couple of minutes."
"Okay." Ethan said and after a moment asked, "Uhm Dad?"
"Right here buddy."
"You won't be telling anyone where we go, right?"
"No, of course I won't, besides I don't even know where we are going."
"No, I mean, you remember that we can't tell anyone, right?"
"Yeah, I know...what's wrong?" Peter inquired while he squatted down and stroked through Ethan's hair.
"You can tell me. Are you scared?"
"Nooo..." The boy looked up into his father's face. "...little bit perhaps."
"I don't know. It's Darren, I hope he's alright....and all that."
"Me too, but I'm sure he's okay and is waiting for us."
"I hope you're right, Dad. I really miss him."
"I know you are even though I don't have the faintest idea how the two of you became such fast friends and connected to one another in only a few days."
Ethan shrugged his shoulders, looked up at his father and tried to explain. "It's just that I like him, Dad, and he likes me. Sometimes I know what he feels or needs - I mean, don't ask me how, but it's like as if he talks to me."
"Yeah, he's special, just like you."
"But what if he doesn't want to see me anymore?"
"Don't worry son. I'm sure he is looking forward to seeing you again."
Ethan so much hoped for this to be true and searched for the right words. He was incapable of explaining what and how he felt. The only thing he was sure about was that he wanted to die right away if Darren didn't want to see him anymore. The expression on his face became more and more distressful looking and thinking about it nearly made him cry in anticipation.
"Ethan, don't worry your little heart too much. Everything will be fine, I promise."
"He needs me Dad...and I need him."
"What do you mean?"
"When Darren feels good, I feel good. When he feels bad, so do I. As if I've known him forever and I have no idea why. I can't do anything about it and I feel stupid, but still I'm scared."
"You don't have to feel stupid. It just shows that your heart is in the right place and that you care for Darren. Besides, it's not important how and why, because just like between your mom and me we have always been one in a simple but mysterious way."
"What would she have done?" Ethan asked with mixed feelings and looking for approval. He didn't even understand all of this himself.
"I guess she would have adopted him right away; especially, after the news about his parents."
"Oh yeah," he sighed, "I didn't tell you....we'll talk about that later, okay?"
"No Dad, what happened? Are they...?" Ethan didn't dare to say it.
"Yes son, unfortunately. They died trying to find him."
"What? Why did that happen?"
"I don't know." Peter lied to protect his son.
"Does Darren know?"
"I don't think so. We have to be very careful with this information okay? You have to keep it to yourself. Remember, I'm the one who has to decide which information Darren gets and which information he doesn't get, Okay?"
"Okay Dad, but what can we do about it?"
"I'll tell you later. I've got to make those phone calls, before our transport arrives."
"But Dad, if he has no home anymore, can't he stay with us, I mean forever?"
"It ain't that easy, buddy. I wish it was."
"Why not, I can go without birthday and Christmas presents...and you don't have to give me pocket money....please Dad!"
"Later, okay? Now relax, I'm on the phone!"
Ethan seemed to be a little distracted by the news - his head was spinning about his own feelings and what he could do to help Darren cope with all of this.
Peter noticed this so turned back and once again squatted down in front of his little man. "I know how much you like Darren. And I also know that you would do anything to help him, but we have to work as a team here, okay?!"
Ethan slowly nodded while his father continued.
"I'll talk to some friends now. If anybody asks I'll tell them we are going for a little vacation after what happened the past few days, and when it comes to school, you're sick, alright?"
"Yeah, thanks dad."
A quick kiss on Ethan's forehead later, Peter was on the phone and told his lovely neighbor Vivian, his assistant Carol, and Frank about the plans. They all thought that this was a good idea and wished for all the best. Frank was a little wary about the vacation story because Peter didn't want to tell him where they would be going. But in the end, he could only wish for them to have a wonderful time and offered to be there in case he was needed for a talk.
After school was informed that Ethan was sick and would not be attending classes for the week, Peter took a seat at the kitchen counter and wrote some things down. It was a kind of insurance backup plan in case something happened and somebody needed to know why they left and where they might be. Time would show if this would end up being a smart move.
A couple of minutes later, the door bell rang and a taxi driver stood in front of the Bennet's house.
"Taxi for Mr. Bennet?"
"A taxi? Well, yes wait a minute! Come on let's go buddy." Peter nodded to his son to grab his backpack.
"Where are we going?" Peter asked the old and musty smelling taxi driver.
Both father and son looked at each other with a questioning look. Wembley is a shopping mall in Parksville in the middle between the Morningstar Championship golf course and Hampstead Street, where they lived.
Arriving at the parking area, a black suited man with sunglasses and a bulge under his jacket, obviously from a gun, was waiting for them in front of a van. It was, of course, black. The taxi had been paid already so drove off right after the two got out.
"Yes, and you are?"
"Can I see your ID please?!"
"Sure." Peter handed over his identification.
"Thank you Sir. Would you please give me your cell phones?!"
"Can I see your identification first?" Peter asked.
Without a word, the Agent showed his badge.
"Thanks, Agent....Rodriguez. Why do you need our cell phones?"
"Cell phones can be tracked very easily Sir, and we don't want that. I'm gonna make sure that this is not gonna happen."
"Understand, when can we get them back?" Peter turned towards his son. "Ethan, please give the man your cell!"
"You'll get them back, when the job is done, Sir. Now please take a seat in the back of the van! I'll take you and your son to the safe house."
"And that is where?" Peter asked before they climbed into the van.
"The reason why we call it a safe house is because it's a secret and if I tell you where we are going it no longer is safe, right?"
"Yeah, right, I just meant if it's very far away... Whatever, Ethan come on!"
"Can I get something to drink, Dad?"
"We prepared something for you in the back of the van so feel free to help yourself." The agent added as an afterthought.
"Okay thanks, hop in buddy!"
The van didn't have any windows in the back. They were blind and couldn't see where they would be going. The interior was clean and very comfortable for an agency van. It even had a little refrigerator in the middle, which made a weak buzzing sound. However, it was an odd situation and one could read that in both of their faces. But Peter and Ethan focused on what this all was good for, still hoping for the best.
Thank god the van had air conditioning, because it was about to be a hot day on Vancouver Island, and the journey was going to end up being quite long.
Three and a half hours along with a short stop for peeing later, the back doors of the van opened once again. Immediately after leaving the vehicle, they both stretched and yawned while Peter's mind tried to estimate where they could be. It was a peaceful place at the foot of a mountain and in the middle of an unknown forest.
It was colder than at home. Not much colder, but somehow fresher. The air was clear, the sky was blue, and the smell of forest crept up their nostrils. A mix of Fir needles, Oak trees, and Canadian spruce, which in combination with the snowy tip of the mountain in front of them, reminded them a little bit of Christmas or at least winter holidays.
But they had no time for memories, so the two Bennets grabbed their bags and as they had been advised, walked about half a mile on a stony trail, before they reached a large glade with a little inconspicuous wooden house in the center of it.
The outside of the house was painted white and it had dark brown window frames which complemented the roof. With the large wild grass surroundings and the smoking chimney, this was the perfect place for a holiday getaway, or for a safe house. Nobody was able to come close or run away without being seen from one of the large windows.
As they came closer to the house two men opened the front door and waited for them to arrive at the veranda - surprisingly they didn't wear any black suits - normal jeans and shirts. What a pleasure to see.
"Who are you?" One of the men asked.
"I'm Peter Bennet and this is my son Ethan."
"Mr. Bennet, can I see your ID please?!"
"Of course, wait a moment....here it is."
"Okay, thank you, we expected you a little earlier."
"Agent Jones said, that we would be picked up by 9:00 am and well, here we are."
"Ahh yeah, I see. So, welcome again. Please come in!"
"Uhm, can I see your badge first?" Peter asked being a little bit leery about the guy.
"We don't carry our badges around here, Sir. You know for security reasons. I'll show it to you inside."
An hour passed after they had been shown their bright and large corner rooms on the left and right side of the first floor.
Sprinkled brown carpets, old fashioned wallpapers, neat wall lamps, wooden rockers, and two large windows with white curtains - the rooms seemed to mirror each other. And the little musky smell which was noticeable everywhere in the house suited the situation perfectly. All in all it was a warm and comfortable place.
"Dad, when can we see Darren?" Ethan asked while he sat down on the edge of the freshly made bed in his Dad's room and becoming a little bit uneasy about all that waiting and the strange guys. The mix of excitement and anxiety built a strong tension in his little body for being so close to Darren, yet still not being able to reach for him.
Peter also seemed to be a bit nervous and walked around in the room waiting for something to happen.
"I'm not sure Ethan, the agent said we should wait for him to get us. I'll ask if no one comes within the next ten minutes, okay?"
Ethan nodded and began a fast rhythmic tapping with his right foot, which didn't really help them both calm down and relax. Peter tried to act cool and sat down in the dark old rocker closing his eyes for a minute.
The dark wooden door opened and the agent, who had welcomed them in front of the house, asked for Peter to follow him. Ethan had to stay inside the room for the time being. He didn't understand why he couldn't see Darren for as long as they talked about this or that, but gave in after his father explained that he had to see Darren first.
They way downstairs and into what meant to be the living room, was accompanied by squeaking sounds from the wooden stairs and the floor.
"Take a seat Mr. Bennet!"
"Thank you. What's your name?"
"My name is Terry Walker, here is my badge Sir. I'm the responsible Detective and here to protect Darren Anderson, you, and your son."
"Hmm, no agency?"
"No, RCMP, Sir."
"From who or what are you protecting us?"
"I can't tell you from who we are protecting you, Mr. Bennet, but believe me you wouldn't feel any better if I told you, so let's just leave it at that for the moment."
"Ok Detective Walker, I understand that you can't tell me all the details and in fact I don't really want to know everything, but I'm here to help you, right?"
"Okay and I'm going to do my very best, but believe me I can help you even better if I knew at least what this is all about?"
"The only thing I know is that Interpol needs to ask Darren a couple of very important questions."
"I don't know."
"Are you searching for something or someone?" Peter tried to find out as much as he could.
"I don't know Sir, and if I knew, I wouldn't be allowed to tell you."
"Agent Jones told me that Darren might be able to identify some important people, is that true?"
"As I said Mr. Bennet, I don't know anything about it or Agent Jones and what he might have told you. My only job is to protect Darren Anderson, you, and you're son."
"Oh come on, help me to help you! I'm here with my son and I definitely want to know if we are in any kind of trouble."
"Nothing we can't handle Mr. Bennet. The only thing we need you to do is to make the boy talk. When this happens I'm going to call a specific telephone number and somebody from Interpol will come by and talk to the boy."
"And what if he doesn't talk at all?"
"If he talks we all can go home soon, if not, we'll have to stay here until further instructions."
"And if I would want to go home with my son?"
"That could be a problem, but let's focus on the next step first, okay?"
"Okay.....what will happen to Darren afterwards?" Peter's uncertainty was readable in his face, but the detective didn't respond to that.
"Usually they are given a new identity and transferred into another state."
"The boy and his parents."
Peter thought about what he was being told before he continued.
"Oh yeah, his parents. Did you ever talk to Agent Jones or anyone from Interpol about this case?"
"No, we only got a small amount information about it and only follow direct orders."
This could explain it all, but was it the truth? Peter felt uncertain about what to do or say - so he decided to focus on what was best for Darren.
"Did you tell him anything about his parents?"
"No, we didn't tell the boy anything....Listen Mr. Bennet..."
"Okay, listen Peter, you have to trust us! This is our daily business and we know our jobs."
"So do I Detective Walker. I know how I can help Darren, but to be honest, I doubt that I can make him talk here. Still I'll do my very best to help him because that's why I'm here, to help Darren, just so that we are clear."
"Good, tell me what you need Peter!"
"All I need is time Detective. Where is he?"
"How much time?"
"You won't believe it, but I don't have the faintest idea. If you wouldn't have ripped him out of my house, he probably would have spoken by now, but under these circumstances...." Peter shrugged his shoulders.
"I understand. Talk to him or do whatever you usually do and let me know when you need anything, okay?!"
"I will, if you tell me where he is...oh one thing...did anybody tell Darren about his real name?"
"Yes Peter. The first day we had a child psychologist from Interpol here and she tried to make him talk. She also told him the truth about his name."
"Oh wonderful, the first thing a scared boy needs...how did he react?"
"He was cool. I guess he somehow knew that Michael wasn't his real name."
"Did she talk to him about his parents?"
"No, I mean, I was just observing the interrogation and we didn't know anything exactly, so we just told him that they'd be here as soon as he talks."
"Great, this is getting better and better. And you expect me to remediate your mistakes, right?"
"Peter, this is not helping. We know that we made a few mistakes, but he's still alive and we are safe."
Peter thought about what was just said. Something was mysterious in all of this. Why would Darren still not want to talk; especially, if it meant he could possibly see his parents again just by opening his mouth? He could have ended all of this within minutes.
There were only three possible reasons. First, he knew that his parents were dead already and talking wouldn't change anything. Second, he knew that the Agents or Detectives were lying or had something to do with all of this. And third, that he wasn't able to talk at all.
"Ok, whatever, where is he?"
The Detective walked down the hallway and stopped in front of a book shelf that was located under the stairs to the upper floor. Peter immediately got the idea - a secret room. It was brilliantly done and if you didn't look for the exact structural sizes of the house and the room layout, you wouldn't have seen it at all.
Detective Walker pulled a hidden handle and the door with the complete book shelf opened to the inner side where a tiny room with stairs led down into the basement.
"Wow, never thought there was a basement."
"I guess you didn't expect the book shelf to be a door either?"
"Right you are, but why all this hiding? I mean isn't the house itself safe enough?"
"Do you now understand the importance of the boy? This is all for his protection, and besides life is different than on TV, Peter."
"Yeah, I already got that."
At the end of the stairs was another door. Before Detective Walker opened it, he turned around and insistently whispered "Make him talk Peter!"
He didn't leave any time for Ethan's father to respond as he pushed down the door handle and with a little squeak gave him access to a large room without any windows.
Peter sighed deeply still a little puzzled about the the earlier conversation. He tried to focus on the situation at hand before stepping into the other room. Detective Walker closed the door behind him.
He didn't detect any movement or hear any noise inside the warm hideout. There was a freshly made bed to the left which looked like it had never been used, a couch with a small table in the middle of the room, and some old fashioned floor lamps that brightened the atmosphere. This wasn't meant to be a kid's room. There wasn't anything in the room a little boy would like, any toys or computer, nothing.
"Darren? Where are you?"
Peter listened very carefully and heard a short constant breathing in the left corner behind the armchair. He slowly approached it and found the boy sitting on the floor with his head buried between his knees and arms.
"Heyyy Darren, it's me, Peter." The grown up breathed but the boy didn't seem to listen.
Peter feared that he might have fallen into a state of shock or some sort of trauma and silently prayed to god that he might only be sleeping. After he knelt down and softly put his hand on Darren's left shoulder the boy slightly cringed.
"Darren, I'm here. Look at me, please! Everything's okay!"
Again no reaction to his words or the contact he had made with his hand. Peter waited for about 30 seconds to give the boy some time.
"I know you are angry with me because I let them take you. I would be angry too if I were you, but there was no other choice given to me.....Darren please, I'm really sorry that all this happened, but we are here now, to help you."
At the moment Peter said "we are here", Darren slowly raised his head, looked around the room and finally up into the man's face.
Once again he had no expression in his empty eyes, and on his face - no smile, no grimace, not even the faintest sign of relief. He seemed to be somewhere else.
"There you are. Can you understand me?"
Darren's eyes seemed to focus and he slowly nodded.
"Thank god, are you okay?"
Another single nod.
"Here, I brought you a notepad so that we can communicate, okay? You still got the pencil I gave you?"
The boy shook his head and threw away the notepad.
"Okay, no problem, I understand that you don't want to talk and that you're confused about everyone calling you Darren but they just told me about it and I can only hope that you're able to remember your real name, which is Darren Anderson."
No reaction from the boy.
The man sighed," take your time - this has been a long journey for you. Listen, would you want to see Ethan?"
Darren's eyes started to glow and his face filled with a questioning look as if he wanted to say "HE REALLY IS HERE?" At least that's what Peter understood from his expression. For whatever reason he slowly began to understand what Ethan had told him about knowing what Darren thinks. He tried to focus and answered the non verbal question.
"Yeah, he is here with me. He definitely wanted to come and see you. There wasn't any chance of holding him back. You want to see him too?"
Of course he wanted to and showed that with a fast and decisive nodding. There even was a little smile on his face - a good way to start even though Peter had wished for an easier one. But after all, he understood that Darren had somehow lost his trust in him and needed some time to re-build it.
"DAAD, did you see him?" Ethan jumped up from the bed and impatiently approached Peter.
"Hey....yes I saw him, but he doesn't want to talk to me."
"Why, I mean, where is he? How is he? Can I see him?"
"Calm down, Ethan! He seems to have lost faith in me and looks a little worn out, but when I told him that you are here too, his face lit up and....well, of course you can see him. I guess you're the only person he really wants to see now."
"Yessss...okay Dad, now?!" Ethan was becoming excited about the upcoming re-union.
"Give me a minute, okay?"
"No Dad, please! Show me where he is and you can do whatever you want afterwards, okay?! Please Dad, I can't wait any longer!"
Peter shook his head and gave in. But before he would walk him downstairs, he had to tell him about the condition Darren was in, regarding his name and the possible hope for his parents to come by soon.
A minute later, they both stood in front of the basement door. Ethan looked up to his father with an uncertain expression on his face. His little body was still filled with a mix of fear, excitement, and hope - all together a worrying cocktail.
"Ethan, you don't have to be scared! Everything's fine. If you need me, I'll be here."
Peter opened the door and stepped back to give his son access to the room. The grown up was as excited as his boy and didn't know what would happen next.
Ethan took a step inside the room. It felt warm and comfortable and besides the steps from the men upstairs, nothing was heard. The light from the floor lamps produced a moody atmosphere, but something was missing.
He looked around and tried to find his friend who was still hiding behind the arm chair. With his soft and melodic voice, Peter's son spoke up.
"Darren, are you there? It's me, Ethan."
Just by hearing Ethan's voice the lonely boy jumped up from his hide-out and like a flash ran over to the door. He put his arms around Ethan as if he never wanted to let go again. Ethan's heart was pounding hard and he felt a bit dizzy, but as soon as Darren pressed his warm body against his, it started to slow down - the fluttery feeling gently faded away.
Nothing was said for a couple of minutes. At least nothing was to be heard. In fact the boys' only form of communication came through their hearts while they both simply stood there and enjoyed the closeness.
Darren pushed himself in on Peter's son while his head rested on his friend's shoulder. This moment meant so much to him that a tear of happiness ran down his right cheek. The wet feeling on Ethan's neck was the silent expression of sadness and satisfaction which made them both forgive and forget about being apart for the last couple of days. Now nothing would able to separate them from each other....just like twin brothers.
Ethan, pretending to be the big brother, slowly began to stroke Darren's back to comfort him, which felt a little odd, especially in front of his father. But the most important thing now was that they could be together again. Even if it was a mystery as to how they grew closer together in such a short amount of time without being able to communicate properly.
While the boys hugged, Ethan noticed a weird feeling in his stomach combined with a little stirring in his pants whenever Darren pressed himself in on him. Perhaps it was the memory of being in the bathroom with Darren and the sensitive touch of his friend as Ethan stood their completely naked.
Whatever it was, it had nothing to do with sex or intimacy. It just felt good to be together again, but not knowing why that feeling was there or what it meant produced more questions than answers.
Peter watched them for some time before he finally whispered that he would be upstairs. The man closed the door behind him and let the boys have their time. He knew that this would definitely be the best thing to help Darren feel comfortable again and finally make him talk.
A second before Ethan was about to ask his friend to let go of him, Darren stepped back, turned around, and walked back over to the arm chair. He sat down on it and left enough space for Ethan to take a seat next to him.
Darren still wore the short pants and the shirt he had been given by Peter. His tennis socks were all dirty from the wooden floor and his hair was quite messy. All in all he looked like he could use a shower, but there only was a tiny sink, a little piece of soap, some yellow towels, and a wash cloth he could have used.
Ethan, being unsure about what to say, sat down next to his friend and just began to talk while Darren leaned in and put his head on his mate's shoulder.
"It feels a bit awkward to call you Darren you know, though it's a cool name? I mean, Michael is a cool name, too. I like the short forms like Mike or Mikey. I wish I was named Michael. You can't use any short forms for Ethan or Darren. But that's okay I guess. You can't choose your own name after all."
Darren didn't react on anything Ethan was saying. He just enjoyed the company and continued to listen.
"I hope they have been nice to you. If not, I'm going to kill them. Actually I wanted killed them, when they came for you. I really did, but my Dad held me back."
Darren stood up, picked up the notepad and a pen from the table and wrote the words "I missed you."
"I missed you too." Ethan answered. "It was boring without you and I didn't feel so good."
A little conversation started between the boys. The only thing was that Darren didn't use his voice only the pen and the paper he had been given.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to make you feel bad." The silent boy wrote.
"Why? You didn't do anything."
"I did, but now I'm happy YOU are here. Thx."
"I'm happy to be here, too. What do you mean by you did something?" Ethan asked.
"I can't tell you."
"Don't know, sometimes I can make people think or feel things."
"I knew it. You did that when we met first, right? How do you do that? I mean, it was as if you were talking to me."
Darren pointed his pen to the words he had written before "I can't tell you."
"I don't understand what you mean. You don't know or you don't want to tell me?"
"Don't tell anyone! Promise!" The silent boy wrote and underlined the sentence.
"Not even my Dad?"
"Okay, I promise even if I don't really understand what you are talking about."
Darren ripped off the piece of paper he just used to write down the words he wanted to say, sliced it into smaller pieces and started to eat it.
"What are you doing?"
While he chew on the first slice, he looked at Ethan and put one finger on his lips to indicate that no one should read their communication.
"Oh, yeah, I get it."
With that, Ethan picked a slice from his friend's hand and, with a disgusted grimace, also started to chew on the evidence of talking between the two boys. Whatever it was, that Darren wanted to hide, it was worth eating a tasteless piece of paper.
The next hour the boys spent their time enjoying each other's company without much further communication. It seemed as if they were completly satisfied with just being together and neither one of them knew why, but that wasn't important.
The day slowly passed. Peter brought Darren upstairs for further talks and tried his best to re-establish his trust. He talked and talked, asked questions about how he was and what happened during the time he was here alone, or went through the accident situation once again. But nothing lead to a reasonable conclusion of all the secrecy all around this boy.
Darren sometimes answered with a questioning expression on his face, or a little nod, a head shaking, or shoulder shrugging. Not once did he write down any more words as he had done before with Ethan. Not even when Peter asked about where he was from or where his parents might be now. For some reason the boy seemed to be scared to talk to anybody but his friend and therefore remained silent. So did Ethan.
Detective Walker looked for Peter now and then. He seemed to regularly check that they were still there and sometimes asked the grown up about the progress he made. But he only got unsatisfactory answers and insisted for Peter to keep trying.
Later that evening, just before bed time for the boys, Ethan asked if he could stay in the basement with Darren or if his friend could stay in his room. Peter denied his requested and justified it by explaining that both boys needed a good night's sleep for another exhausting day ahead. But this didn't hold his son back.
At about 10 p.m. Ethan got up from his bed, checked if his father was sleeping, and sneaked downstairs into Darren's hide-out. Both boys wanted to be together and nothing was going to prevent this from happening.
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]