Okarito - Tyler
"It was a dark and stormy night." No joke, it was. Seriously dark, a tree had fallen and taken out the lines cutting off the power in the town, and seriously stormy, it was blowing trees over.
A few lights were burning in buildings along the front street facing the beach, but not many, and those that were, were dim and feeble. People lived without electricity until not so long ago – that really must've been in the dark ages.
A lone figure, wrapped in an over-sized padded and hooded coat, stood in the sparse shelter of a storefront, looking along the dark and quiet street. The coat was a garish orange colour and it was not really a raincoat – hoods of raincoats are not trimmed with fake purple fur, this one was.
There's a line in the bible, vaguely remembered from Sunday School days, something about going forth and preaching the gospel 'even unto the ends of the earth'.
'I wonder if they've got here yet, because this surely is the end of the earth'.
The soggy weather-beaten little town was as far away from anywhere as it was possible to get in New Zealand, which is a relatively empty country anyway, and New Zealand is a long, long way from anywhere else. Why on earth would anyone want to live here? It'd be a good place to put the Restaurant at the End of the Universe – hard to see much else it'd be good for.
Some people did live here though, as strange as that seemed. A car was slowly crawling along the street towards him. He stayed where he was, out of the rain, watching it coming. The car went past; it was quite full, there were 5 or 6 heads in there, all looking at him.
They stopped, and then backed-up. Windows wound down and a bright light shone in his face but that was invisible, hidden in the recesses of the fur-trimmed hood.
"Hey you! What are ya?"
"Come outta there so we can have a look at ya? You a guy or a girl?"
"Gotta be a girl in a coat like that."
"Butt-ugly whatever it is if it's hiding away like that. Hey, Ugly!"
"Yeah, Ugly. Ugly! You, Ugly, let's see ya."
"What're you doing here? Looting? Piss off out of our town."
The orange coat clad figure turned his back on them which infuriated the characters in the car.
"Hey! You deaf or something? Ugly!" One protested, but the driver moved on when he saw a police car coming towards them.
He accelerated and disappeared around a corner up the street.
Midnight in Okarito, almost. Senior Constable Jeffery Ensor drove slowly along the main street, eyes flicking to and fro, checking, patrolling from the comfort of the car. That surely beat walking the beat, out in the shitty weather, like they used to do in the bad old days
The town was quiet of course. Only fools and idiot policemen would be out and about on a night like this. The weather was horrible out there, not really a major storm, but horrible nonetheless. Someone was about and about, a car sped away and disappeared around the corner into Gladstone Street.
As he got closer, he saw that there was someone out there, on the sidewalk in the sparse shelter outside the Prince Albert Hotel. Who? It was impossible to tell. Maybe a stranger, maybe not. All Jeffery could see was the orange coat, sneakered feet and a bit of the face inside the fur-trimmed hood which was pulled up over the head and closed tight around the face. Even the hands were covered by the over-long sleeves.
This was a stranger, but it reminded Jeffery of someone? Ah, yes! Kenny, the coat-wrapped South Park kid who was always getting killed – that's who he was like.
He carried on to the end of the street, his beat, leaving the Kenny figure standing there, by the Prince Albert. When he back-tracked and returned, the figure was still there, like a coat-clad statue, it hadn't moved.
There was no-one else at all out in the street, not surprisingly. Jeffery wouldn't be there either if he didn't have to.
'There's just you and me out here, Fella. Pity the poor policeman, keeping his town safe for decent people.'
Even the villains were home in bed, he wished that he was too. He went back to the station where the coffee-pot and the heaters were.
After midnight, way after, like 3am, tired and bored, Jeffery went out for another slow drive around the town. It was something to do, might help to keep him awake and it paid to vary the times of his late-night patrols.
There was still no-one about, which'd be why his night had been so deadly quiet and boring. But, there was one person out there. The Kenny-coat figure was still there, outside the Prince Albert Hotel – that coat was instantly recognisable.
That was a good thing too, if not he might not have realised that there was a person inside it. It hadn't moved far, but now it was hunched-down on the sidewalk, up against the wall, like a pile of rubbish or whatever. However, no-one puts rubbish out in the street dressed in a coat.
Jeffery did a not-quite-legal u-turn and stopped next to the hotel.
"Whoever you are, I'm glad I'm not you. Let's have a look at you then."
He got out of the warm and dry car, which was a sacrifice, and leant over the figure on the sidewalk.
"Hey, Fella, all right, are you?"
There was no response, he reached out, pushed where a shoulder would be and the figure toppled over sideways.
"Damm! I didn't shove you that hard, did I?"
He flicked on his flashlight to inspect the small figure laid out there before him. The contours in the coat showed a long, lean body, arms and legs. It was probably a teenager in there.
"What're you doing out here, you Poor Little Bugger?"
He shook the figure's shoulders to wake it up and it worked. It, (he?), sat up, stretched and groaned. Yes, it was a boy all right, either that or a very deep-voiced girl.
"I. Ah!" He registered that it was a cop who'd woke him up and he cowered back against the wall.
Jeffery recognised the fearful posture and he tried to reassure him. "It's okay. No problems, okay?"
"Okay?" he replied, rising to his feet. "I wasn't doing anything wrong. I wasn't!"
"No, of course you weren't. I was just concerned about you. What are you doing out here in this horrible night?"
"Trying to stay dry," the figure shrugged. "It's not easy."
"I imagine it wouldn't be, on a night like this," Jeffery replied.
"I arrived in town late and everything was shut. I'm a stranger here and I don't know where to go, so I was just sitting waiting for the morning."
"All night long? There's still hours to go yet."
"I, umm. I was sleeping."
"You were, and I woke you up, didn't I?"
"Well, yeah. But I often do wake up when someone punches me, especially when it's a cop."
"Hey! Make me feel guilty, why don't you? I didn't punch you anyway. I just shoved you and you fell over."
"But why did you shove me?"
"I just wanted to see if you were all right."
"I was before you came along."
"How was I to know you were just sleeping there? It's not normal to sleep sitting out in a storm, you know."
"Maybe not, but it's sheltered here and I don't know where else to go."
"If you were stuck, you should've come to the station."
"The Police station? Really? Are you taking in refugees now?"
"No, but we would if we had to. I wouldn't want to see you die of exposure out here in the night. That could cause all sorts of paperwork."
"Nice to know you care! Don't worry, I've got no intentions of dying. This is a nice, warm coat that I'm wearing."
"What are your intentions?"
"I'm not hanging around, getting in your hair. In the morning, I'll get something to eat, stock-up on supplies, and then I'll be on my way."
"So soon? You're not staying around here then?"
"I'm just passing through. There's nothing to keep me here. Actually, I was wondering why anyone would stay here."
"Hey! It's not that bad. Some of us quite like the place."
"Some of us. I don't see why you would."
"No? Okay, it doesn't look too flash in the wind and the rain on a dark night, but you should see it on a sunny day, it's glorious then."
"I'll take your word for it. By the time you've got sunshine, I'll be well gone."
"Right. Where are you going to?"
"Nowhere. I'm just drifting around."
"You're travelling on your own?"
"Where are you from?"
"You're a long way from home then."
"I am. I'm going down the west side of both islands, and then I'll go back up on the east sides."
"That's quite a trip. How are you travelling?"
"By bike. I've got a touring cycle and camping gear and everything I need."
"A push-bike?" Jeffery looked up and down the street. "I don't see a bike anywhere. Where is it now?"
"In the carpark at the back of the police station."
"You left your bike behind the station?"
"Of course. It's the safest place in any town, no-one's going to steal it from there."
"I hope you're right, but I wouldn't guarantee it. There's some cheeky little sods around."
"I know. I saw a car-full of them, hours ago."
"They're probably home in bed by now. I'm going back to the station. Do you want to come with me?"
"Why? Are you arresting me? I told you, I've done nothing wrong. It's not a crime to sit on the footpath, is it?"
"No, it's not a crime, but it's also not very nice on a night like this."
"Tell me about it!"
Jeffery sat back and grinned. Okay, this boy was a total stranger, he knew nothing about him and he could be a right little bad-arse for all he knew, but he didn't think so. There was something about this kid, something that he liked, and he felt sorry for him.
"What's your name?"
"Tyler," the kid replied.
"Tyler. And what is your family name?"
"Does it matter? I've got no family and I could tell you anything, you wouldn't know."
"I guess not? Have you got a driver's licence?"
""I wish I did! No, I haven't got a licence yet."
"Not yet? How old are you, Tyler?"
"Because I'm nosy. You seem to be very young to be travelling around on your own."
"But I'm not."
"You're not on your own?"
"No. Yes. I am on my own, but I'm not too young. Legally, I'm an adult."
"Really? You're a real baby-face if that's true. From what I can see, there's no way you look like you're 18."
"Yeah, I know," the kid sighed. "But it's true. It's a long story."
"And this is not the time or place to be telling it. Well, Mister Legal Adult, I'm going back to the station where it's warm and dry. Are you coming with me or not?"
"I don't see why I need to. If I'm not in trouble, why do I have to come with you?"
"You don't have to come, I just thought you'd like to. There's no-one else there, you can get out of this weather and you could put your head down for the rest of the night, if you'd like."
"Back to sleep sounds good to me! Is there somewhere I could lie-down? It's a cop-shop not a hotel."
"It's surely not. But, yes, there's a couple of cells and they've got bunks in them.No-one's using them, so you could lie-down there. I've been known to do that myself on a quiet night."
"You locked yourself up? Okay, let's get out of this."
Jeffery got back into the car and the boy got in with him.
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