Micah's Precious Christmas Gift

by Hunter Woods

Chapter 1

Street Urchin

WARNING: this story contains sexual content, and contact between young boys. If the subject matter offends you, is not to your tastes, or if you are under legal age for your area, then find something else to read. In the following story all names and events are completely fictional. Although I may mention specific locations, places, or persons any resemblance to said people, locations, or places is completely unintentional.

This work is copyrighted © by Hunter Woods. No part of this story may be transmitted or reproduced in whole or in part in any form including mechanical, electronic, photocopying, and recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written consent of the author. For those of you who just blow this off and decide to steal anyway keep these thoughts below in mind:

"Intentionally using the quotes of others without author attribution is plagiarism and contributes to illiteracy."

- Rain Bojangles

"Most plagiarists, like the drone, have neither taste to select, industry to acquire, nor skill to improve, but impudently pilfer the honey ready prepared, from the hive."

- Walter Colton

"Borrowed thoughts, like borrowed money, only show the poverty of the borrower."

- Lady Marguerite Blessington, Countess of Blessington


NOTE TO READERS:

This first chapter is written in a different perspective on purpose and will switch to first person beginning in chapter two.

Stepping out the side door, Harry Miner paused long enough to close up his warm lambs wool lined trench coat and adjust the strap on his across the shoulder canvas style briefcase. Most of the businessmen Harry knew always had those fancy leather briefcases, but he preferred the messenger bag style because it had a flap closure securing everything in place as it hung across his side. It was secure enough so no one could simply get inside, yet also accessible enough for him if he wanted to get something out. These days it only carried a few documents, his lunch that his wife packed for him every day, and a large thermos of hot chocolate. It was Christmas Season after all so his wife thought it cute to make him hot cocoa for work instead of his usual coffee. He actually didn't mind it in the least, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate as a change in pace, but these days he was so busy he rarely got around to enjoying it not to mention the lunches she packed. Most of the day was spent pilfering cookies and snacks along with coffee or juice that the staff had laying around as he scuttled along trying to keep customers happy and putting out any little fires this time of year tended to produce as emotions began to run high.

It was cold and very late on this night, one day before Christmas Eve, and the snow was beginning to come down in huge fluffy flakes, which was starting to stick on the ground. The large white puffy frozen crystals floated and swirled around in the gusty chilly breeze that currently wafted through the low lit alleyway along the side of the building making the man shiver involuntarily.

Harry was the district manager for one of the largest retail stores in the region, but always chose to work through Christmas Eve in the store where he got his start. He lived just on the outskirts of Altoona, Pennsylvania, so taking the forty minute drive to the downtown store wasn't too much of a hassle for him. He always worked in this particular store in the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve so the manager, a good friend of his, could spend Christmas with his own family. In turn, Harry took time off beginning Christmas Eve leading into the New Year's holiday celebration. It worked fine for the two men because the store was closed on Christmas day which allowed them both to spend time with their families during the holidays leading up to Christmas, or in his case afterwards.

The crunch of ice beneath his feet was a friendly reminder to Harry how he needed to be cautious or he'd fall flat on his butt. It's happened a time or two over the years as he smiled recalling how one time he literally fell flat on his back with the wind knocked from his lungs. These days he carried a bit more padding on his rump, not much more because he was still in very good shape 'for an old man' as his kids would say. He really wasn't old at all though, only thirty eight, but with his oldest boy being fourteen and his youngest only ten, to them thirty eight was like ancient. Harry's eyes squinted in the dim lighting of the alleyway as he stepped through the narrow passage cautiously because a little extra padding or not on his posterior wouldn't do much if he fell in this weather since it could still sting.

He used to live in downtown Altoona years ago, and made this very trek each and every day, but when he became district manager he had packed up his family and moved them all to the outskirts of the small city. Now, other than routine official business, and the couple of weeks during Christmas, he rarely made it out here. The store really hadn't changed all that much over the years with many of the employees still working at the store when he was the manager.

This wasn't a bad place to live with Altoona being the eleventh largest city in Pennsylvania having a population of over forty six thousand people, but Harry never much cared for urban life. So when opportunity knocked he took it and moved his family to a nice quiet little town just on the outskirts of the metropolis. His two boys had still been young enough so the adjustment wasn't a big one for them, and like him, his wife Maria had also grown up in a small town or rural type of atmosphere. So it just made sense that they moved out of the city giving their boys room to play, roam around, and ride their bikes out in the fresh air and in a setting which wasn't so crime ridden.

The snow was coming down in earnest now when Harry stepped onto the wide clean sidewalk that ran along the main strip of 10th Avenue in the downtown district area. Glancing to his left he could see a throng of people rounding the corner of 12th street all bundled up against the cold weather wearing their postal carrier uniforms beneath their jackets. He didn't recognize any of them, not even the store's recent little display helper.

The main Post Office with its large columns on the outside and famous murals on the inside was just a block or so up on 12th street in a different direction which he now took and would lead him to his car. Harry looked at his watch figuring the post office workers must have just finished up their shift in this the busiest time of year for them. He knew even as this shift ended another one was already working hard at sorting the mail and packages preparing to get them all to their destinations before Christmas which was only two days away.

It was late already, but this was downtown so there were still plenty of other people scurrying around as Harry glanced to his right heading in the direction where he parked his car. He slowed down and paused in front of the huge display windows admiring the handiwork the store employees had completed this year for the Christmas season. They had really outdone themselves with the decorations and it showed as some of the postal worker also paused having caught up to me pointing out some of the features amongst themselves.

This year in the first large display window, a group of employees had set up the traditional home setting with a lit up Christmas tree and all its decorations. Spread out below the branches were many of the hot toy items for customers and kids alike to look at, along with some mannequins wearing some snazzy clothing outfits, all of which were sold in the store. There were even power tools with several other peripheral types of items inside the exhibit. It was done in a very classy kind of way, but something most people had become used to. It was the other display window though which captured most of the people's attention.

Somehow one of the employees had stumbled across an extensive and elaborate scenic display setting somewhere downstairs in the basement warehouse section, all complete with a model train system meandering through villages and mountain ranges. It had been packed up in large crates and stored away for years, probably since the 1950's. It was only recently discovered by a store employee because of a mandatory region wide in-store inventory accounting which had been handed down by corporate headquarters. Since this location has been in operation for close to a hundred years it had been a nightmare to inventory, but as always, the employees pulled together and managed to pull it off. In return Corporate Headquarters had rewarded all of the employees with a nice bonus package just in time for Christmas.

The top executives all knew it would be a major undertaking for this particular store branch since it was a huge building and had been in operation for such a long time. So they had been pleasantly surprised when they had received such an in-depth inventory list of everything including what's been stored for years down in the basement section and the top warehouse storage floor.

When some of the employees suggested setting up the system, Harry had been a bit doubtful about it, but agreed to let them try. It was a huge rail system complete with to scale buildings and towns, bridges, trees, and mountains which confounded just about everyone because they couldn't figure out how to put it all together. There was no one around anymore that they knew of who had put it together in the past. There was just so much to it, not only because of the landscape but also because of the elaborate electrical track system, yet they kept at it determined more than ever to get it done. Customers would stop and gather around just outside the window to watch as they worked on it interested just because it was a railroad system and that sort of thing always seemed to capture people's imagination.

Then one day a postal worker from around the corner stopped by on his way to the bus station for a few moments to take a closer look and ended up staying for several hours helping out. He was an avid model train collector and had a nice system of his own, but nothing as elaborate as ours, which of course had piqued his curiosity. He did seem familiar with all the workings of it letting everyone know that the system was a very nice old one and something about it being an S gauge style track whatever that meant.

As the landscape and tracks came together he continued explaining all about the system getting everyone excited because it truly was amazing watching entire villages and surrounding mountains come to life. After the workers had the entire structure up he came back the following night and helped them rewire the entire thing since it was really old and needed some work to get it working properly. He helped them get all the switches and everything set into place so that the trains wouldn't collide at crossings. In the end the entire model was automated making it possible to leave the trains on throughout the entire day without worrying about them crashing together or anything.

The railroad system and landscape was so large the workers had to leave the back panel off of the display window that led into the store, and allow it to spill into the shoe department itself a good fifteen feet if not more. There were mountains, trees, tunnels, bridges, and just about anything you can think of including rivers and a couple of lakes. It was a huge rail and landscape system, almost like an entire separate country, and in the end the employees had to move things around in the store to make room.

It actually worked out really nice because it attracted customers into the store as families gathered around with their kids having fun watching the trains zipping through the villages, bridges, tunnels, and mountains. Everything was automated with sensors stopping trains at various different crossing areas so they wouldn't collide into one another allowing one engine to move unimpeded before letting the stopped one pick up speed and once more sending that locomotive on its merry way. Harry had to admit it was truly an awesome thing to watch, and he even found himself taking time every day to gaze at it in awe while having fun chatting with customers who reminisced about days gone by. It simply amazed Harry that the store would even have such an elaborate model train system, but then again it really shouldn't have been such a surprise.

After all, Altoona was a major railroad town founded by the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) in 1849 as the site for a shop complex. The demand for locomotives during the Civil War stimulated much of the city's growth, and by the later years of the war, Altoona was known as a valuable city for the North. It was considered by Confederate General Robert E. Lee, as a target during the Army of Northern Virginia's mid-1863 entry into Pennsylvania before being repelled at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Of note, in the area just outside of Altoona is the Horseshoe Curve, a famous curved section of the track owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad, now a tourist attraction and National Historic Landmark. The Curve was used to raise trains to a sufficient altitude to cross the Allegheny Ridge to the west, beyond the steel town of Pittsburgh, and the rest of the western United States. Because it was the industrial link to the western US, Horseshoe Curve, just west of Altoona was a primary target of eight Nazi saboteurs who infiltrated the United States in 1942 during the early years of World War II after being dropped off by U-Boats.

In the early twentieth century, the Railroad's Altoona Works complex employed at its peak some fifteen thousand people and covered three miles in length. There were two hundred and eighteen acres of yards and thirty seven acres of indoor workshop floor space in one hundred and twenty two buildings. The PRR built many of its own locomotives at the Works, some 7,873 in all, the last being constructed in 1946.

In our modern era, Altoona is a major center on the Norfolk Southern Railroad's Pittsburgh Line. This is where helper engines are added to heavy trains to give them extra power up and over the Horseshoe Curve west of town. The Juniata Heavy Repair Shop Complex, originally built by the Pennsylvania Railroad, is the primary repair and maintenance facility on the Norfolk Southern.

Today, Altoona is also served by Amtrak trains daily, and on average there are sixty to eighty trains passing through the city. The historical importance to the railroad industry and the current high level of railroad activity has made Altoona a Mecca for rail fans for over sixty years.

Voices chatting away brought Harry back out of his musings as he glanced up noticing the rest of the main group of postal workers had now caught up to where he was standing. Some of them continued to chat amongst themselves as they walked by, while a few slowed down a bit to take a look at the display window with a train currently slowly working its way up a steep rise to crest one of the mountain ranges. Adjusting the strap across his left shoulder Harry turned to continue his short trek to where he had parked his car.

Suddenly he felt a slight tugging on his bag and looked down just in time to see a small hand pulling on the leather shoulder strap. He immediately reacted by slapping the offending hand away and grumbling noticing a flash of blue in a small smudged like face with long wispy blond hair poking out from beneath a dirty stocking style cap.

"Damn thieving street urchins." He hissed hastily checking his bag to make sure it hadn't been somehow pilfered before narrowing his eyes and glancing around for any sign of who had tried to get into his case.

There had been reports on the news over the last few weeks regarding a group of street kids that have been hanging around the downtown area stealing people's wallets and purse contents. They would walk along the crowded sidewalk expertly pick pocketing unsuspecting people before once more vanishing into thin air. Now as he looked around he caught a brief glimpse of a small shadowy figure before it ducked into the small alley he had just come from a few moments earlier. Something seemed a bit odd to Harry, but he simply couldn't put a finger on it as the last of the postal workers moved passed him unconcerned with what had just happened and simply eager to get home. Pausing for another moment he finally shrugged off whatever was bothering him letting out a silent breath of warm air which immediately clouded up to swirl around his face before he slowly trudged silently behind the group of people who had just walked passed him.

His car wasn't all that far away, just at the end of the block where the large Amtran bus stop and Altoona Amtrak station were located. When he lived in the city and worked at the store he used to walk this way after work every day and caught the bus which took him home. Since the Amtrak station was located here it was also a main bus hub with a large area devoted to the influx of buses coming and going throughout the day and night.

The group of postal workers seemed to split off in different directions as some hopped onto an idling bus or slipped off to the side waiting for theirs to show up. A few of the stragglers seemed to make their way into the large parking area to find their cars and Harry wasn't far behind. As he approached his car and fished out the keys from his pocket he noticed his hands begin to shake from the biting cold weather. Looking around he was surprised to see a layer of white snow already on the ground in the short time it had taken for him to walk from the store to his car.

At least he wouldn't have to scrape off the snow and ice from his windshield as he climbed in and started the ignition. Harry's car immediately came to life and he adjusted the heat setting on the dashboard thankful that he also had heated seats. Turning on the windshield wipers to clear off the thin layer of snow, Harry put the car into gear and slowly made his way out of the parking lot.

He took a right turn out of the parking lot on to 10th Avenue thankful that at least the main roads were still clear for now. A few blocks later he drove under the overpass of 17th street taking the ramp afterwards off to the right which looped around sharply dropping me on the same overpass he just drove under. A few miles later he took the exit ramp off to the right and popped on to I-99 south. It took only five or ten minutes to get to the main freeway, but he knew it would be a good half hour or longer before he made it home.

It was pretty much a straight shot home from here as Harry glanced over to the passenger seat where he had dumped his bag. he thought about digging out the thermos and maybe grabbing a bite to eat from the lunch his wife had packed, but the wind suddenly picked up and buffeted against the car forcing him to focus back on the road. It was really snowing hard now so he turned on the radio and began to concentrate not wanting to take the chance of fumbling around with any food and drink at the moment.

Surprisingly enough the time seemed to slip away quickly with Christmas music playing in the background as Harry's mind seemed to wander around with the day's events. Yet, throughout it all there was a sort of nagging feeling the entire drive as he began to get near the exit which would lead to the small town suburb on the outskirts of Altoona where his house was located. Harry's mind kept drifting back to the store and when he getting ready to close it up for the evening. There was something Harry was missing and he couldn't figure it out.

His thoughts kept wandering to the store's model train display, and then over towards the small crowd of kids in the security play area the store always set up during this time of year. Every year at Christmas the store implemented a secure play room where parents could drop off their kids while they went shopping for gifts. The staff would cordon off an area, which also included the game room where many of the video games were located and then set up plenty of toys for kids to play with while their parents went off shopping. Of course there were plenty of security cameras, security guards, and staff helping to look after the kids with parents having to register their children when they dropped them off. Then when they were done with shopping they had to produce an I.D. card along with their corresponding ticket stubs. It was all a safety type of issue to ensure that nothing would happen. The kids were happy and so were the parents.

Now as his mind wandered to the security play area at closing time about an hour ago this evening Harry kept seeing a small group of children playing inside as he began his ritual of getting things ready to close down the store. There were always stragglers inside the big department store at this time of year so nothing seemed out of place. Then something began to click into place as Harry's thoughts turned to a particular boy who seemed a bit out of place in the play area. Harry figured he was probably nine or ten years old because he looked to be about the same size of Harry's youngest son, Tim.

The reason why Harry thought he seemed out of place was because the boy still had on his jacket and sort of kept to himself. His clothes looked a bit dingy and on the worn side of things; not exactly filthy or anything, simply well used and a bit dirty. This in of itself hadn't really made Harry think anything was out of the ordinary at the time because he thought maybe he had put his jacket on to prepare for his parents to pick him up. Now though, as Harry began to focus more of his thoughts on the boy he seemed to recall seeing him a few minutes later hanging around the big display landscape admiring the trains. He was wearing a stocking style cap with long straggly blond hair sticking out along the edges. It was then that things began to click for Harry as that nagging feeling once more overcame him with his stomach clenching in a sinking type of feeling.

Harry's thoughts were so absorbed with the store closing and this kid that he almost missed my exit catching it just in time. It really wasn't a big issue because he could have taken the next exit further up the freeway entering the back way into the suburb where he lived, but it would have been a roundabout way of getting home. Taking the off ramp from the freeway at the last moment had Harry's heart pounding because his car began to fishtail a little from the suddenness of the new direction he had forced it to go. Normally it wouldn't have done that, but with the snow now packing some of the side streets where there wasn't as much traffic it had gotten a bit icy and slippery on the off ramp. Harry had the switch inside of his car positioned to the no sliding setting, and to his surprise it actually worked because it had immediately engaged when the back end began to swerve and righted itself.

There had still been enough traffic on the major freeway to keep the road clear of any snow sticking, but it was beginning to lay firm on that stretch of roadway as well. As Harry took the exit he got a better sense of just how much it was snowing because it was already piling up and getting packed down making things a bit slippery. He began slowing down and came to a stop at the top of the small rise. The light was red, but he needed to take a right turn so he could go if he wanted. The road to the right would eventually take Harry to his house about five or ten minutes away, but he simply sat there in his car deep in thought. There weren't any cars behind Harry so he wasn't worried as he gripped his steering wheel staring down the road which would take him home.

Glancing towards his bag in the passenger seat Harry sighed shaking his head and reached over untying the strap which held the flap in place. Once it was released he flipped it open and pulled out his phone from one of the front pockets. As Harry dialed the number he came to a decision and turned left on the overpass taking another quick left at the green light which put him back on to I-99, heading north now though, and back towards the store.

"Harry?" he heard his wife's voice on the other end sounding as if she had been in bed already.

Glancing at his watch Harry noticed it was close to eleven already so figured she had probably just climbed into bed and was waiting for him to get home.

"Yeah Maria…it's me. Listen, I'm at the exit off of I-99 a few minutes from home, but I just remembered something and need to head back to the store. Sorry sweetie, but I'll probably be home really late now." Harry told my wife hearing a long pause on the other end along with some shuffling realizing she must have climbed out of bed to take a look out the window.

"Can't it wait until tomorrow honey? It's really been coming down hard and all the roads around here already have an inch or two of snow on them. I'm a little worried with how deep it is going to get before the night is over with." She responded with Harry nodding his head even though she couldn't see him.

"Yeah I know sweetie. The freeway is still pretty clear though, but it is starting to stick on here as well. I don't think I-99 will get too much snow sticking with all the traffic on it, and the house isn't too far off the main freeway here so I'm sure it will be fine on my way back home. If I think it is too dangerous I'll simply stay at the store and will call you to let you know. This is important sweetie…I'll explain it to you later." Harry offered up seeing her face in his mind knowing in situations like this there would be a small smile creeping to her lips.

Harry's wife was a very beautiful woman with long honey colored hair and smooth features with curves in all the right places. Just thinking about his wife and her warm firm fit body had him getting all hot and bothered. She always affected Harry in that kind of way and he didn't know how he ever lucked out with her, or his two wonderful boys for that matter. Harry's two sons, just like his wife, both had a very sweet disposition; especially, Harry's eldest fourteen year old son, Chase, who had more of a calm and gentle demeanor just like his mother. Tim was a bit more on the wild side, almost like a whirlwind in their lives, where Chase tended to be a bit more on the calm side helping out tremendously with keeping his little brother in check at times. Both of Harry's boys were a bit on the small side for their age, but not so it was real noticeable, and both were very active kinds of kids in regards to sports and other activities which occupied their time and kept them busy.

"Alright honey…if you feel it is important." Harry heard his wife's voice bringing him out of his musings. "Give me a call though later to let me know if you are going to drive home or stay at the store." She offered up as Harry shifted in his seat to get more comfortable.

"I will sweetie, but I'm not sure how long I'll be. It'll probably be late though so don't wait up. I know you have a big day with the boys since Tim will be singing in the choir at church tomorrow for Christmas Eve. I'll give you a call back later to let you know." He replied as they both blew kisses into the phone before hanging up.

The image of a small smudged face with a flash of blue eyes and long straggly blond hair sticking out from beneath a dark colored stocking style hat kept invading Harry's thoughts. It was the same image from the brief glimpse he had just outside of the department store on his way to the car. Everything had happened so fast and the kid had simply vanished before Harry got a good look so he couldn't be sure if the boy he had seen inside the store was the same as the one he had seen outside. Still, the nagging feeling inside his gut was enough to get him to go and try checking it out. Harry knew if he didn't go back now it would worry him to no end and he'd never get any sleep. More than likely it was nothing, in which case he'd only lose a couple of hours of sleep versus tossing and turning all night long at home with worry.

The trip back to the store went by rather quickly considering the weather. It was still snowing, but had slowed down during the drive on the main freeway before once more coming down in big huge crystal like flakes. The main freeway had remained relatively clean of snow, but once Harry got off onto 17th street it had gotten a bit deep with several inches of snow covering the roadway. He could tell the trucks had gone through earlier dumping chemicals on the road designed to keep them clear, but it was just snowing too fast and too heavily to stop it from piling on and sticking. It wouldn't be long before all the roads in the entire city would be completely covered. It would then be up to the city's snowplows to keep as much of the ice and snow on the roads clear.

Getting on to 10th avenue Harry slowed down the car when it began to slide around a little on the snow covered street becoming a bit more cautious. Passing the store on the left side he made a U-turn at 12th street and parked his car on the side of the street right in front of the store. Because of the weather and late hour there wasn't any traffic now so he wasn't worried that he had parked illegally. He was sure though that the buses were still running on the streets with chains on their tires now, but there was more than enough room so they could get by his parked car.

Harry grabbed his bag from the front seat, got out, and locked his door looking up and down the main sidewalk for any signs of the kid he had spotted earlier. It was really cold now outside, and his breath clouded up in huge puffy vapors like a steam locomotive from a train. On any other occasion he'd try his hand at creating a smoke ring with his breath like he always tried on these types of days. For as long as he could remember he always tried to create one of those types of smoky rings with his breath, but never with any success. At the moment though, he wasn't in the mood for those types of games as he walked up to the display windows and looked in the alcove area of the main entrance. The entire front main entrance of the store for about fifteen feet from side to side had a small cover that extended over the sidewalk a couple of feet managing to keep the sidewalk clear of any snow.

It seemed kind of warmer this close to the store, but Harry knew it was an illusion and simply due to it being a nice dry spot from the wet snow that had piled up already just outside of the protective barrier. Shaking his head he didn't know what he had expected coming back to the store this late in the evening. If there was a kid hanging around he was probably long gone by now. Still, Harry didn't want to give up just yet so made his way to the corner of the building before ducking into the dimly lit alleyway which led to the side entrance.

It was really quiet now at this late hour which only managed to amplify the crunching noise beneath Harry's feet as he trudged through the soft powdery snow. In the last couple of hours over three inches of fresh snow had piled up on top of the old packed snow and ice in the alleyway making everything seem fresh and clean. At this rate there would be another several inches by the time morning arrived. During this time of year it wasn't unusual for Altoona to get anywhere upwards of ten to eleven inches of snow in the month of December. It's been snowing on and off now for a couple of months, but this was shaping up to be one of those major overnight snowfalls.

As he approached the side entrance to the building Harry noticed a large rectangular shape butted up against the side of the building. One of the workers must have set it off to the side on the platform by the baling machine which crunched up cardboard into one large compact square bale. Earlier in the day a refrigerator had been installed in the office break room because the old one had finally given out on them. What Harry was looking at now must have been the box it was in, which now lay lengthwise on the ground in a horizontal position.

Currently the box was completely covered in a three inch layer of white snow, the weight of the powdery substance making the box sag a little in the middle. The wind must have knocked it on the ground so Harry approached thinking he'd set it back closer to the compactor for the workers to get it all crunched up in the morning. As he approached he suddenly saw the box move slightly making him wonder if a dog or another animal may be using it now as a shelter. He then paused in thought because there could also be a vagrant inside, and he didn't want to disturb whoever was inside while he was out here all alone. Then he heard a soft sniffling noise which sounded way too young for a real vagrant.

Cautiously he approached, the snow beneath his feet sounding very loud in the stillness of the darkness. Even the wind had died down with the snow muffling all outside noise making the crunch beneath his feet sound deafening. As Harry approached he saw movement through the front opening of the container as a small figure seemed to scuttle back into the shadows at the back end of the box. He couldn't be sure, but it had to be the kid he saw earlier.

Scrunching up his face he started to speak up but didn't know what to say. He hadn't thought about what he would do or say if he actually found the kid as he hesitated a moment longer trying to think. The kid must have known someone was outside the box now, and the sudden scared little whimper confirmed it for Harry making him feel awful now because the kid was obviously terrified.

"Hey…um…kid…it's me…you know from earlier…uh…outside in front of the store. You were tugging on my bag." Harry started out rolling his eyes at himself because it sounded so lame.

"P…please…d…don't hurt me." Came the soft reply followed by a little scared hiccup and sob.

"W…what…I mean…n…no…of course not…why would…," I began a bit confused and stumbling over my tongue trying to figure out what to say.

"I…I didn't steal nothin mister…honest." Came a meek reply followed by another whimper and more sniffling.

The comment made Harry wince inside as he recalled his quick sarcastic rebuff a short while earlier. He felt really bad about it now as the reality of the situation began to sink in. He didn't know why the boy was out here all alone, but something was most definitely out of place here, and somehow he would need to try figuring out what it was.

"N…no…I mean I know you didn't…um…you know steal. I'm really sorry about it now, and I shouldn't have done that…accusing you of trying to steal something." I responded softening my voice as a silent pause settled over the area. "Um…that was you out front wasn't it? And also you were hanging around inside the store too?" I asked not getting a response other than a sniffling coming from inside the box as the boy cried softly hoping I wouldn't hear him.

Looking around Harry spotted a crate and snatched it up setting it in front of the box opening and taking a seat. He heard the boy immediately trying to scurry back even further as he whimpered in obvious fright.

Holding up his hands Harry tried to calm the boy down. "It's alright…I just needed to take a seat. I've been on my feet all day today without even a break. It's kind of a bit hectic you know for me at this time of year. Everyone seems to be in such a hurry running around and complaining just about anything. You see it's my job to help those people out if they have a problem, and as you can imagine there's a lot of that going on at this time of year." Harry chuckled trying to set the boy at ease.

Squinting his eyes, Harry tried to peer inside the box, but the meager amount of lighting barely penetrated the dark depths. He could just make out the scuffed and ragged worn sneakers the boy was wearing. It looked like they had a couple of holes to boot, and appeared to be a bit on the wet side making Harry wonder if the shoes even helped out or not at this point. The boy was in a sitting position and had moved all the way to the back of the box. All Harry could see for the most part was the outline shape of the boy with his arms wrapped tightly around his knees effectively pulling his bent kneed legs up close to his chest.

The meager amount of light only let Harry see some of the bottom area of the box. He could make out the boy's shoes which were pulled up tightly against his seated butt and part of his lower legs. There was just enough light to make out that like with the boy's shoes he was wearing a pair of worn and frayed jeans. The bottom of the pant hems were hiked up around the boy's calves indicating he had probably outgrown them. Even the crotch area looked thin and worn; so much so he thought the boy's little boy bulge would burst through at any moment. He could see the white fraying typical with most jeans as they begin to wear out around the outline of a small oval shaped bulge which obviously had to be one of the boy's testicles as it pushed up tightly against the fabric of the threadbare material.

He didn't want to get caught staring at the boy's private area so tore away his eyes from the boy's crotch. It wasn't like he was perving on the kid or anything, just that the state of the boy's threadbare clothing had him musing about it. Harry had boys of his own after all, and he was always amazed at how the first areas to become worn out in his kids' clothing were the crotch and knee areas on their pants. Without a fail those were places that always seemed to thin out and fray. His own boys never seemed to take notice, but thankfully his wife always kept up on that sort of thing making sure to get rid of the worn clothing replacing them with new ones as our kids grew.

It's been his experience that most often it was his boys' knees which would poke out first from their pants legs. If this kid's shoes and crotch area was this frayed he wondered if the kid had any knees left on the jeans he was wearing. Harry had to confess he hadn't looked all that closely earlier, either inside the store or even later outside; although, to be fair to himself he had been busy inside the store and then later outside it had been such a brief encounter.

He could hear the boy's heavy almost panicked breathing as he took a seat in front of the kid's only real route of escape, and Harry knew he would have to do something to gain the boy's trust. There was a frightened little boy out in this cold weather all alone, and right now Harry was the only one who could help. Rubbing his hands together and blowing on them he tried to warm them up a bit, but it really was too cold to do any good. He wondered how awful it must be for the kid. It looked like the boy had a warm jacket on, but it was still wet and cold this evening, way too cold to be out no matter what kind of clothing you had on.

"Man, this weather tonight really sucks, and it's like freaky dark here in this alley." Harry tried to make conversation as he placed his bag on the ground in front of his feet in plain view of the boy.

Opening up the strap Harry rummaged inside the bag and pulled out a small foil wrapped tubular item about six inches long and about as thick around as his finger. Even though he couldn't see the boy's face he knew the kid was watching intently to what he was doing because he seemed to have calmed down a bit. Holding up the small packet Harry rolled it around in his fingers a few times as if he were looking at it critically before cocking his head towards the boy trying to peer inside the dark box.

"I…um…well…I know it isn't Christmas yet or anything, but I figured since it was kind of dark out here and all…," Harry paused looking at the wrapped item once more and shrugging his shoulders. "Well…I'd like to give this to you…as a sort of apology and kind of like a pre-Christmas gift…if you know what I mean." Harry offered holding it out to the boy.

The kid started to reach out for it and then hesitated shrinking backwards once more in his box. Shrugging his shoulders Harry tossed it inside the box hearing it bounce off the back and land next to the boy. After a short pause the kid finally picked it up with his right hand and rolled it around in his fingers as if he were studying it in the dark confines of his box. It was obvious to Harry the kid didn't know what to make of it.

"You've never seen one of those have you?" He asked noticing the boy pause as if he were studying the man. "Um, well I guess you will have to unwrap it first then." Harry offered up watching as once more the boy seemed to pause before finally tearing open the foil like wrapping revealing an opaque like tube.

It really didn't look like much of anything, but the boy seemed to study it closely and Harry let him for a few moments before offering some more guidance. "Well the way it works is that you have to bend the tube until you hear something snap." He began before quickly adding. "Don't worry it won't break on you or anything. The snapping noise is the tube on the inside of the big tube you are holding cracking open. Go ahead and give it a good bend." He offered up noticing the boy hesitate for a moment before he slowly bent the tube but only a little with nothing happening.

"Trust me…it will bend a lot and won't break on you. Just give it a good go." Harry encouraged watching as the kid finally gave in and practically bent it in half before gasping and jerking in surprise when he heard a distinctive snapping sound indicating something had broken.

The boy immediately jolted thinking he had somehow broken the tube in his hands and spilled the contents, but Harry chuckled and gave the final instructions. "Now give it a good shake and see what happens." He offered up watching as the opaque plastic tube slowly began to emit a soft blue light which made the boy's eyes bulge in pleasant surprise as his thin lips curled up into a brief smile before it disappeared once more replaced by a more guarded look as he glanced over towards Harry. It was obvious the boy was pleased, but he was still wary of Harry.

Smiling warmly Harry tried to exude a sense of calm and peace in order to put the kid at ease. "I always have a few of these on hand. My youngest boy, Tim, loves them. I'd say he's about your age. He just turned ten a couple of months ago in October." I offered up trying to gauge the kid's reaction and see if I could maybe get the kid to open up a bit with some forthcoming information, but the boy remained silent watching Harry through carefully guarded pretty blue eyes which seemed to be accentuated even more with the soft blue lighting coming from the glow stick in the boy's hand.

The younger boy didn't know what to make of the man who was now sitting in front of the box opening where he had managed to find refuge. Today had simply been one of those horrible kinds of days, one of the worst in his young life, but not quite the worst. That day was reserved for the one when his mother had died a few years back.

When his mother got sick Uncle Jay and Aunt Dee had promised her to look after him. They weren't his real Uncle and Aunt, but his mom didn't have anyone else. At the time they all were living in this run down apartment complex barely scraping by. The couple had promised his mom to look after him and for several years they did the best they could, even after they finally lost everything and were tossed out on the streets. Once that happened, and Uncle Jay could only find odd jobs from time to time, they ended up living in the run down station wagon for the most part. Sometimes they'd find a shelter to stay in for a while before having to leave once more for whatever reason the boy never could figure out or understand because he was too young to know about such things. When they could scrape together enough money for gas from whatever odd jobs could be had they'd travel from place to place in the beat up station wagon looking for a better life somewhere else.

Still, it's tough once a family ends up falling that far down on hard times. The boy didn't mind though and adapted just fine simply happy to have someone who was looking after him. He felt the couple loved him too in their own way, but things began to change once they had a baby of their own. It was all they could do to scrape enough money together for not only the baby but for him too. He'd hear them talking quietly about it late at night when they thought he was asleep. They didn't know what to do, and he could tell it was hard on them.

The boy supposed it finally must have been too much for them to look after him because today they had gone to the department store telling him they were going shopping. He knew they didn't have much money to speak of, but even though it was very rare for them to do so they did go shopping from time to time so he didn't think much of it. The previous day they had all gone to one of the local shelters where they had paid a small amount so they could all take a hot shower and get cleaned up. The hot water felt like heaven to the boy and it was the first time in a long while that he's felt warm through and through. Of course he had to climb back into his dirty clothing because that would cost more money to get cleaned, but he didn't mind and was used to that sort of thing.

Then earlier today they had bundled him up in his dirty but nice toasty warm wool jacket, and they had all gone to the department store. They dropped him off at the play area with other kids telling him to behave and not attract any attention, and they'd be back after they did some shopping. The boy was used to not creating a scene having learned over the years it paid to be a bit cautious and quiet about things, so had simply wandered over to a corner keeping to himself. Kids would come and go and some even tried to get him to play with them, but he always kept to himself.

As the time began to slip away the boy's worst fears began to creep into his thoughts. He couldn't believe that Uncle Jay and Aunt Dee would actually abandon him, but the hours simply flittered by. He didn't know what to do, but he also feared if he stuck around in the play room for any length of time it would become obvious that he had been abandoned and then the police would be called in. If there was one thing he was truly afraid of, that was the police. Uncle Jay and Aunt Dee had always warned him to be very careful and avoid the police whenever possible.

He had seen first hand how they could come in and tear families apart. He had heard horror stories from others how kids and parents would be tossed into some little cage and taken to court to be separated. There were all sorts of horror stories, and he had seen the amount of panic the police had created when they came to take people away.

So throughout the day from time to time he would sneak out of the play area when the store workers who looked after everyone were distracted. It was really easy to do for someone like him who had grown up to watch out for himself. When he got out he then wandered about a little looking around in awe at all the families with their kids in tow, and how they seemed to be dressed so nice carrying all sorts of packages he knew must have cost a fortune. He didn't wander far, and especially enjoyed watching that model train set up with all the villages, mountains, lakes, and rivers as the many different trains made their way through some sort of foreign like country. His thoughts would run wild for a while allowing him to forget things for a bit as his imagination wandered and he pictured himself traveling on one of those trains in a far and distant land.

Then reality would set in once more as he looked around at the throng of people. When there was a shift change he would sneak back into the play area for a while. Uncle Jay and Aunt Dee never showed up, and as time kept slipping away his heart began to sink more and more as the realization set in that he really was on his own now. He really couldn't blame them because they had their own little boy to look after, but it still stung, and he had felt so alone and abandoned as if no one in the world cared. Then he began to notice a man who seemed to be all over the place all the time. He always seemed to be helping people and seemed really nice. The boy found himself watching the man closely throughout the rest of the day imagining what it would be like to have him as a dad.

The hours simply vanished and it got really late. The boy had long since given up any hope of Uncle Jay and Aunt Dee coming to pick him up. As closing time approached the boy didn't know what he should do, but he knew he couldn't stick around so had snuck away and exited the store just as it was closing. He found a spot in the alley and tried to think of what to do when he noticed a side door opening up and the man he had been studying earlier step out. He watched as the man gingerly made his way to the main walkway careful so as not to slip. The boy found himself following and before he knew it was tugging on the bag strapped across the man's bag.

He didn't know why he had done it, but when the man yelled at him he quickly scurried away his little heart pounding in his chest. It was a reminder of how dangerous it was for a kid like him to be all alone now. His Uncle had been very clear over the years how dangerous it could be for him. It was even simple things like taking a shower. He always warned about getting into the showers alone when there were only adults around. Even if he got in with other kids he needed to be careful of older boys.

His Uncle never really explained why, but the boy knew it had something to do with sex. Of course he really didn't know what sex was all about, but from experience he knew that other kids in his situation had been raped and hurt. He didn't know exactly what that meant either, only that over the years he had seen some kids get hurt and was told later that they had been beaten or that this kid or that kid had been raped whatever that really meant. All he knew is it had to do with sex, and not in a good kind of way.

He was old enough to know sex was supposed to be something nice and special, but in some cases it was a bad thing and his Uncle always cautioned him about hanging around alone with older boys. When he had asked why the only answer he got was something about how older boys' bodies were changing and it sort of made them a bit crazy at times. If that was the case he never wanted to get older and become some sort of monster. Of course he understood not everyone was like that, but he also knew he had to be very careful because they were poor and the rules were different for poor people versus rich ones.

After his encounter with the man, he had paused in the shadows watching for a while longer and crying at how he had been accused of trying to steal. He never stole anything in his life making him think that Uncle Jay had been right and he needed to be extra careful around strangers.

Now though he wasn't so sure what to make of things because the same man had suddenly returned and was sitting in front of him chatting away. The man seemed genuinely concerned and had even apologized, but still the boy was very wary of the guy not knowing what the man wanted of him. Over the years he's learned that people in general always wanted something so he decided to wait and see what it was that this man wanted from him. He could tell the man was sort of sizing him up as well, and it made him a little uncomfortable, but right now he couldn't really do anything about it so he remained quiet.

The boy seemed to be distracted in his own thoughts so the man tried to assess the situation of the kid quickly now since the soft blue glowing light provided enough illumination for him to try gathering up the boy's state of being at the moment. He had been right about the kid's pants because both of the boy's knees were poking through holes in the jeans. The small boy was wearing a warm wool jacket though, which also had seen better days, but from experience Harry knew that a good wool jacket would keep a person warm even if it got wet. Beneath the jacket he could tell the kid was also wearing a red colored flannel shirt which probably had long sleeves. Scanning the boy's feet once more, now that there was more lighting, the shoes appeared much more tattered than he first thought with the right one having a big gaping hole where the boy's big toe was located. He at least did have some socks on, but those looked like they had seen better days as well.

Not only were the clothes a bit tattered, but they also looked like they hadn't been cleaned in a while. The boy on the other hand looked relatively clean and healthy. His face was a bit smudged, and his hair poking through the hat around the bottom also looked as if he at least had seen a bath or shower not all too long ago. The kid looked to be a bit thin and lanky, but not in an unhealthy kind of way. It was more like as if he were just naturally built that way because his face, even in this type of lighting, looked like it had some color to his cheeks.

The boy seemed to be watching him again so Harry tried to ease off from staring at the boy noticing the kid seemed to become a bit agitated again. "Anyway," Harry began trying to once more set the boy at ease. "Like I said my youngest boy, Tim, he kind of likes those glow sticks. My oldest son, Chase, well…he's into other things these days. Of course he's fourteen and so way too old for those types of things as he's fond of reminding me." Harry chuckled imitating his older son's voice and demeanor in the typical teenage type of fashion rewarding him with a brief smile as if the younger boy kind of understood about how teenage boys seem to be so self important.

The smile was a good sign so Harry decided to keep talking. "Geeze kid, it's like freezing out here." He observed once more rummaging inside the bag, this time pulling out the thermos. "I don't know about you, but I could use a good cup of hot chocolate." He stated unscrewing the top, which was also the cup, off the end of the thermos and then the stopper before pouring some of the steaming liquid into the cup.

It kind of surprised Harry to see how piping hot it still was, but then again it had remained sealed tight the entire day. Not to mention it was one of those old thermos containers, which for some reason seemed to keep things hot all day long. Holding the cup closer to his nose Harry inhaled deeply enjoying the smell of the contents. He was fairly sure the kid could smell it too because the boy seemed to reflexively swallow.

"I don't know why it is, but my wife tends to make the best hot chocolate ever. I know she just uses those regular packets of hot cocoa and all, but still it's like the best ever. I really can't explain why. Sure she makes it with milk instead of water, but still, it's like really good. Maybe it just is because I know she is making it special just for me. Anyway…here try some and tell me what you think." Harry offered up holding the warm cup of hot cocoa out to the boy.

At first the kid hesitated before caving in and reaching out with shaking fingers to take it in his hands. The boy seemed to enjoy the warmth of the cup before holding it up to his thin lips and taking a sip. He closed his eyes briefly as if savoring the moment making Harry smile before he once more put on a straight face when the boy opened his bright blue sparkling eyes letting his gaze settle on him.

"Well?" Harry asked gently cocking his head slightly to the side.

The boy's lips spread upwards slightly into a small grin, and he nodded his head indicating it was good. Harry also smiled in return nodding his head watching as the boy took another sip savoring the flavor.

"Yeah, like I said, I don't know why but it's always delicious. Maybe it is a wife or mother type of thing, who knows and who cares…right?" Harry asked noticing the boy studying him now a bit more closely before nodding his head.

Then it was like as if something occurred to the boy. "You don't want any?" He asked in a soft shy voice making Harry smile because it was the first time the boy had engaged him on his own.

"Oh…well…you know…there's only the one cup, but it's alright…go ahead and drink up." He offered smiling at the younger boy who now scrunched up his face in thought.

The kid seemed to come to a decision and leaned forward holding out the cup to Harry. "Here…we can share. It really is good." The boy responded allowing Harry to take the cup from his fingers.

Smiling kindly at the little guy he nodded his head and took the proffered cup taking a sip enjoying the warm chocolaty flavor as it exploded on his tongue. He poured more into the cup and handed it back over to the boy so he could have some more.

"Yeah, it's toasty warm, and very tasty." Harry sighed watching as the boy took another sip obviously enjoying it. "Oh, where are my manners. Here we are enjoying my wife's labor of love and I haven't even told you my name. I'm Harry by the way…Harry Miner." He introduced himslef as the boy swallowed the hot cocoa in his mouth and automatically responded back without another thought about it.

"I'm Micah." He offered in return before realizing he had let slip his name which his Uncle had warned him of in the past not to give out information to strangers.

The boy flinched when he realized what he had done and looked at the man critically for any signs of deception. The man didn't even seem to take notice of the slip by the boy and appeared to simply take it in stride as if it was no big deal at all as both of them seemed to fall quiet for a few moments.

Harry could tell the kid felt like he had just slipped up by giving out his name so tried to make it appear as if it wasn't a big deal. He let it get quiet between the two of them for a few moments. He'd let things settle for a minute or two before striking up another conversation.

The two of them simply let the time slip away. It wasn't like there was any awkwardness to the silence or anything, as both seemed to dwell on their own thoughts for now. After a minute or so Harry finally breathed out softly, breaking the silence.

"Well Micah…you know I've been so busy all day I didn't even eat the sandwiches my wife made for me. She always gets upset at me for doing that sort of thing, but at this time of year I'm always distracted. I don't know about you, but I'm a bit hungry at the moment. I know there's plenty here, she always packs way too much if you ask me, so if you want we can have a sandwich together." He offered up reaching inside the bag and fishing out the plastic bag that had a couple of sandwiches inside.

Looking inside the bag Harry had to chuckle which seemed to get the boy's attention wondering what was so funny. "Well it looks like she packed up one cheese and ham sandwich and one peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She must have run out of ham." I snorted because it's been like years since I've eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Harry's youngest boy still loved it while Chase had sort of grown out of that phase. His wife always packed the boys a lunch for school because she felt the cafeteria food was horrible. At least with a sack lunch she could put in some healthy food along with the other stuff for them. The boys were really good about eating their lunches their mother packed up for them. We were fortunate to have kids who enjoyed fruits and vegetables. Of course she packed things like potato chips for them too along with other snacks, but she always managed to pack fruit and vegetables for them as well.

"So…name your poison." Harry chuckled holding up the plastic bag indicating the boy had first choice.

Micah simply stared at Mr. Miner trying to figure the guy out. The man wasn't what he expected, and didn't seem to want anything from him. The guy was nice enough, and he figured since they were out here all alone if the man had wanted to hurt him he could have done that already. It wasn't as if Micah could have done anything about it in this situation. It seemed kind of strange, but for some reason he kind of trusted the man. The boy couldn't really explain why, but figured maybe because Mr. Miner had kids of his own. He seemed very gentle and kind, even willing to share some hot chocolate and his food.

The boy's stomach grumbled reminding him he hadn't eaten all day except for the slice of bread and butter Aunt Dee gave him for breakfast earlier that morning. These days there wasn't a lot of food to go around, but they had always made sure he was fed. That was something he really couldn't complain about. Sure there were times he was still a little hungry, but it wasn't anything like he's seen with other kids who literally had nothing to eat. Today though, he hadn't eaten anything at all except for the slice of bread as a small teardrop managed to escape from the corner of his eye.

He quickly blinked it away not wanting the man to see him cry and swallowed trying to gather up his composure. "Um…," he croaked and gave a little cough to clear his throat. "Peanut butter and jelly please…if it's alright?" He managed to get out seeing the man perk up and smile broadly genuinely seeming happy about it.

"Yeah sure Micah…good choice. It's my Tim's favorite as well. I think Chase still likes it too, but these days…well you know how it is…according to him," Harry set the sandwiches down in his lap and made quotation marks with his fingers, "well he thinks 'he's too old for peanut butter and jelly.' I guess we all grow out of that sort of thing as we get older, but sometimes it's nice to simply enjoy it from time to time too…if you know what I mean." He offered up grabbing a napkin from the bag before getting out the peanut butter and jelly sandwich which had been cut in two handing both halves to the boy.

It continued to snow on and off while Harry sat there in front of the boy's box as they chatted together. Micah seemed to inhale the first half of his peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which is a difficult and sticky proposition to do, making Harry wonder if the boy had even eaten today. He slowed down a little on the second half as Harry scrounged around in the bag setting out some more stuff his wife had packed. He supposed she must have figured he might only have time to do a bit of nibbling so had added a bag of chips, some Christmas sugar cookies she had baked, a bag full of grapes and cherries, and even one of those small containers of chocolate pudding with a spoon attached to it by a rubber band. She was like that, always thinking about the little things.

To Harry it was obvious the boy was hungry so he let him have at it while he nibbled on the one half of the sandwich and taking a few bites of fruit and chips making it appear like he was eating too. Harry left most of everything for Micah as the boy slowly devoured what was set in front of him.

He had relaxed a bit sitting cross legged now and having moved a little closer to Harry. While he ate Harry made idle conversation with him slowly getting him to open up about some things like his age and other more personal topics. It was mostly Harry talking and interjecting questions tactfully from time to time getting only short answers from the boy who seemed to offer up information hesitantly at times. Harry got the impression that he was a quiet kind of kid so tried not to push too hard, but after a while he got a pretty good picture of what had taken place.

It made Harry feel really bad for the boy because by the sounds of things he's had a tough go already in his short nine year old life. He never knew who is father had been, his mother died when he was little, and then being raised from there by people who weren't related to him. From all accounts the people did try to do right by the boy, but life just wasn't in their favor.

Now with their own baby to worry about it appeared the couple had simply abandoned the boy. This really bothered Harry because there should have been a better way to go about it than simply dropping the kid off at a store and leaving him there to fend for himself. Yet for some reason Micah seemed to understand trying to explain that for people like them going to the authorities always meant more trouble and not help in any way.

Harry supposed in a way it sort of made sense because if they had gone to the authorities what might have happened to their own baby? It wouldn't be anything unusual for Child Services to insert themselves into the couple's life threatening to take away their baby for whatever reasons they could come up with that suited their needs. Of course it isn't always like that and the department really was there to help out for the most part. However, for many people who are poor the system can be the enemy in their view.

The boy had somehow managed to down just about everything Harry had set out to eat. The only thing left was the last half of the ham and cheese sandwich. Pouring some more of the hot chocolate into the empty cup he handed it over to the boy.

"Here you go Micah. By the way…I'm totally stuffed already. I was snacking all day on a bunch of junk the staff had put out so I can't eat another bite. It'd be a shame not to put this half of the ham and cheese sandwich out of its misery. How about it? Do you think you can help a guy out?" He asked offering up the sandwich to the boy who looked at it for a moment before grinning and nodding his head.

"Sure Mr. M" The boy replied catching Harry by surprise at how he addressed him.

No one's ever addressed him in that way before, and as he rolled it around in his mind he kind of liked it. In a way it was still a courteous form of addressing an adult by a child, yet also seemed more, well, familial and intimate. For Harry it also indicated a bit of trust the kid was showing towards him.

Brushing some of the snow off of his shoulders that had accumulated while he had been sitting there, Harry watched Micah slowly eating the ham and cheese sandwich. It was a good thing he was wearing his warm trench coat because he'd probably have been soaked through and through by now. As it was, droplets of dampness dripped from his coat as the heat warmed up the snow which landed on it. At times he even felt some slipping down his collar and inside the jacket along his neck making Harry shiver.

He could tell Micah was finally feeling full which made him feel really good inside because he knew the boy had been hungry. While the boy sat there slowly munching away Harry began to get butterflies in his stomach because it was getting to that point where he would have to talk to him seriously about what was next. There simply was no getting around what had to be done.

The boy shoved the last bite into his mouth and brushed the crumbs off of his lap looking completely happy at the moment. "Micah…," Harry began noticing the boy look up towards him. "You know I can't let you stay out here all alone; especially, not in this kind of weather. I just can't do it." He pointed out, seeing the boy scrunch up his face a bit confused by the comment as Harry put on a more serious demeanor getting ready to be both compassionate while also firm with the small guy.

It took some doing, but Harry finally managed to convince the boy to come with him so they could find the proper help. He was really upset about things and even though he never said anything Harry could tell he was wondering why he simply couldn't come home with him. Harry knew it was something he wouldn't be opposed to, so had tried to explain how they had to first go to the proper authorities so he wouldn't get in trouble. Harry explained as an adult he would be held responsible now if anything bad happened to the boy, and that there were laws in place to help protect him from someone simply taking him home with them.

When Harry had mentioned how it wouldn't be right for someone to simply take him home with them he had sort of paused making him wonder what the boy was thinking. He was sure at some point maybe the boy's Uncle and Aunt had talked to him before about how children are stolen all the time and maybe some of the bad things that can happen to kids who were left all alone. So after a lot of coaxing Harry finally managed to convince the boy to come down to the police station with him. He had to promise him he wouldn't simply leave him all alone with them, and that he would stick around until they got everything sorted out.

Several minutes later a weary looking nine year old boy finally crawled out from the confines of his snow laden box. Getting up as well Harry stretched his stiff muscles and slowly walked with Micah to the car. When they got to the main sidewalk it was like having crawled out of a dark tunnel with the street lights illuminating everything as if it were daytime. It was the first good look Harry had of the boy as he discreetly sized him up.

As Harry had noted earlier the boy's clothing were a bit on the shabby side and also dirty. His pants fit him too tightly and were about two inches too short on him. Harry was sure the boy must have had one of those typical growth spurts kids tend to get. It's been Harry's experience with his own boys that more often than not kids tend to grow out of their clothes during a short span of time. In other words, a growth spurt, and even though the boy's clothing were worn and threadbare it must have been only recently that he grew an inch or two.

Micah was not quite a year younger than Harry's son, Tim, and even though his boy was short for his age this kid was probably still an inch or two shorter so he figured just over four feet tall, maybe four feet and one inch. He was also thinner than Tim by a good ten or eleven pounds which meant he probably weighed around sixty pounds.

The inside of the car had already gotten cold by the time he strapped Micah into the back seat, but once Harry started up the engine warm air immediately blasted out of the vents indicating the engine was still warm and hadn't gotten cold yet since it's been parked. The police station was actually close by as Harry put the car into gear driving down 10th Avenue before taking a right on 16th street for a couple of blocks and parking the car in front of the police station.

The small boy was really nervous now and actually put his small hand into Harry's catching him by surprise as Harry twitched involuntarily. The boy must have thought Harry didn't want him to hold his hand because he started to pull it away, but Harry stopped him by gripping his fingers around the boy's small hand giving it a gentle squeeze and looking down into his cute little face. Taking a moment Harry kneeled on one knee in front of him getting to his level so he wouldn't appear so overbearing and looked him in the eyes. Harry could tell the boy was trying to hold back from crying so he gave him a comforting smile.

"Listen buddy, I won't leave you alone. I promise. I'll stay until I know you are safe and sound. Do you trust me?" He asked noticing the conflicting emotions flickering through the boy's features before he seemed to cave with his shoulders slumping forward as he nodded his head. "Good boy. Let's go inside. I'm sure it's nice and warm in there." Harry offered getting up off his knee, and still holding the boy's hand walked him inside the station.

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