Okarito - Tyler

by Kiwi

Chapter 2

He drove the short distance back to the police station and they went inside.

Jeffrey led the way in and Tyler followed. The door was closed but not locked. "Don't you lock the door when you're not here?"

"Not the front door, no. There's no need to, no-one's stupid enough to break into a police station."

"I wouldn't bet on that."

"No? Neither would I, come to think of it. Take your coat off, hang it up there and it'll be dry when you're ready to leave."

"Sounds good." Tyler shrugged his way out of the wet coat. He pulled the hood off his head and Jeffery got his first good look at him.There wasn't much to him, 'skinny as a rake', as the saying goes.

It was funny, he didn't know why but he'd expected him to have dark hair. He didn't. He had dark eyebrows but his hair was straight and straw-coloured. He had a real thatch of it. His eyes were a piercing blue, why did they look familiar?

He'd never seen this kid before in his life. It had to be just because he reminded him of someone; but who?

"Come, sit by the heater and I'll get us a drink."

It was nice to have some pleasant company for once. The nights got long and time dragged when nothing was happening. Usually, when he did have company, they were drunk, stoned and/or misbehaving.

Tyler seemed like a nice-enough kid. Quiet and inoffensive. Now that he could see what he looked like, he was a good-looking boy, but very young. 'Legally an adult?' No way! This was a kid, a schoolboy. There was a thought, why wasn't this boy in school, it wasn't holiday time again already, was it?

Jeffery was alone in the toilet when that thought struck him. He finished, zipped-up and hurried back to the main office to question the boy. However, when he saw him, he didn't have the heart to – poor little bugger was ¾ asleep already.

"Oh well." He had plenty of paperwork to keep him busy anyway. The kid obviously needed his sleep.

He stood looking down at him. "Come on. Come through to the back."

"To the back?" He looked up.

"Yep. You can lie down on a bunk out there."

"Oh, good! Thank you." He rose wearily to his feet and plodded along behind him.

There were a couple of cells at the back of the building – bare concrete floors, concrete-block walls on 3 sides and a grid of sturdy steel bars along the front walls and doors. There was nothing much in them, just a concrete toilet pedestal and a couple of simple bunk-beds, built-in of course.

Tyler stopped in the doorway. "Are you locking me up? I thought you said I wasn't in trouble."

"You're not in trouble, Boy, and, no, I'm not locking you up. It's nothing fancy, we're not running a hotel here, but there's no-one else around, it's all quiet back here, so I thought you could lie down here for a sleep if you like. I'll be out at the front desk, I've got some paperwork to catch-up on. I'll leave the doors open and you can wander out when you're ready, okay?"

"Well, yeah, okay I guess. I mean, a cop wouldn't lie to me, would he?"

"No!" Jeffrey laughed. "I suppose that some might, but not me. Trust me, okay?"

"Yeah. I am way tired and that bed looks good to me."

"It's not that good, but it'll do the job. Lie down and I'll leave you to it. I'll turn the lights out but leave the door open so you can see."

Tyler lay on a bunk, closed his eyes and relaxed. Jeffrey thought that he was asleep already, but then he sighed and said, "This is SO good! Thanks."

"Yes, well, you must need it. Have a good rest and I'll see you later."

"Much later," Tyler mumbled.

Jeffrey turned off the room lights and went out, leaving the door to the brightly-lit hallway open. He went back to the main office, to the desk and the work that was waiting there for him.

A couple of hours later, at almost 5am, he received a call and he had to go out. A car full of kids, probably drunk, had clipped the railing on a bridge, and spun off the road, through a fence and bogged-down in a paddock. They were off the main road, a couple of k's north of the town.

He was almost out the door when he remembered the boy sleeping out at the back. He went back to the cells, intending to wake the kid and put him outside. He obviously couldn't leave him there alone in the station.

However, it was still dark outside, dark, windy and wet. It was a miserable night. He looked down at the blond boy sleeping on the cell-block bed. He looked so young and innocent! He wouldn't be, of course, none of them were, but he looked like an angel sleeping there.

Jeffrey didn't have the heart to wake him up and put him out in the weather, so he quietly closed and locked the cell door without waking him. That'd keep him there and safe from trouble if he happened to wake before he got back.

He left him there and hurried out to go and deal with those larrikins. He shouldn't be too long, he hoped not, his shift finished at 7am. With a bit of luck, the boy wouldn't even wake before he came back and opened the door.

Murphy's Law kicked in, naturally, and things went wrong, as they always did. Jeffrey was not back by 7am, it was well after 8 by the time he returned. The driver of the car, the alleged driver, was stone-cold sober, surprisingly.

The kids had a few bumps and bruises, but nothing serious. Shame, in a way, it might've taught the little sods a lesson. They were a bit shaken up, but trying not to show it and trying to laugh it off. Also, of course, they were all trying to act sober when the cop showed up, but they obviously were not.

Jeffrey struggled to keep a stern face while he questioned them and recorded their details, which was all a lot of nonsense, he knew who they all were. They all thought they were so clever fooling dumb Mr. Plod. What they didn't know was that he'd seen it all a hundred times before and also, not that long ago he was one of them – a smart-mouth kid and not always perfect.

More or less, satisfied at last that there really wasn't anything to charge them with, (though he still wasn't sure who really was the driver), he let them go with a telling off and a warning to behave themselves in the future.

"Time you all found something better to do with your time and, if you go hassling strangers in the main street again, you'll be sorry."

"What? You . . How do you know about that?" Graeme Stokes protested.

"You'd be surprised what I know, Mr. Stokes. Hawkins, you come with me and I'll drop you at the hospital to get those cuts seen to. The rest of you can start walking. You've got a long walk home – your fault, not mine."

"Aww! Deputy Dawg, can't you take us? You've got room."

"No I can't. Regulations don't allow it. You walk. You'd better stop in and see Paul de Groot, he'll be in his milking shed by now. You can tell him what you've done to his fence and what you're going to do about it.

If you ask nicely, he might bring a tractor and pull your car out of there. Now go. Hawkins, you stay, get in the car, front passenger seat, and try not to bleed over everything."

They grumbled, but they weren't willing to cross him; they started walking. Jeffrey sighed and grinned when he slipped back into the warmth of the car. He buckled-up, made sure that the kid had too, and drove back to town and the local cottage hospital.

He intended just dropping the boy off there, but that didn't happen. His old Aunt Felicity was there, waiting to see a doctor, so she had to tell him all about her troubles. He didn't want to know, females' plumbing problems repulsed him, but she gave him no choice.

When he finally got away and escaped to the car outside, it was broad daylight. What was the time? He got in and looked at the dashboard clock. Whoah! Nearly 8am.

His relief, the day-shift, would've been at the station for over an hour already. How were they getting on with his 'Stranger in the Night'? He hurried back to the station.

The kid's bike, with a two-wheeled trailer, was still there, out at the back, so that was a good sign. He went inside.

Ron, on the front desk, looked up and said, "Well! About time too. What on earth did you leave us out in the cells?"

"The kid you mean? He's just a boy passing through town. I found him out in the weather and brought him back here for the shelter. Why? Has he been giving you trouble?"

"Not trouble exactly. The kid's weird. He hasn't said a word to anyone, but, Man! If looks could kill! Why did you lock him up if he's done nothing wrong? That is one seriously pissed-off boy you've got back there."

"He's done nothing wrong. I was just making sure that it stayed that way. I had to go out, he was sleeping and I didn't want to wake him and put him out into that weather, so I just pulled the door shut. Well, I was leaving him here, alone in the station, while he was shut in the cell he couldn't wander around and get into mischief. I'd better go and make peace with him."

"Yeah? Good luck with that! I think you'll find that he hates your guts."

"I hope not, but he wouldn't be the first and probably won't be the last. See you soon."

He took the keys and went back to the cell block. He walked in there and the boy, Tyler, looked up and glared at him before swinging around and facing the other way.

"Hey!" Jeffery grinned. "Mad at me, aren't you? Look, Tyler, I'm sorry – okay? Things didn't go as I planned and I got held up. I thought I'd be back before the day-shift started and well before you woke up. I was wrong and I'm sorry."

As he spoke he unlocked and opened the cell door. "There now. Come on out."

Tyler turned back. "You locked me in here and you said that you wouldn't do that. Why did you?"

"Look, I know I shouldn't have. I had to go out to an accident and I was in a hurry. It was either wake you up and put you outside or to shut you in safely until I got back. I didn't want to wake you and I thought I'd be back sooner."

"But you weren't! I've done nothing and those goons out there don't believe that. They think I'm a criminal or something."

"I know, I'm sorry. I should've left them a note but I was in a hurry and didn't think of it. I stuffed up."

"You did. Thanks!" Tyler snapped. He came out of the cell and Jeffery tried to put a reassuring hand on his shoulder, but was shrugged off. "Don't touch me!"

"Okay, okay – sorry," he stepped back. "Let me make it up to you."

"How?"

"My shift has finished and I usually have breakfast in the Diner before I go home to bed. Come with me and I'll buy you breakfast as an apology."

"I'm not hungry."

"Not hungry? Yes you are, of course you are. You said last night that you're out of food and you were waiting for the shops to open so you could buy some. Besides, you're a teenager and I've never yet met a teenager who wasn't a bottomless stomach on legs. Come on – come eat with me and let's be friends."

"Friends . . well, maybe. Thanks, but you're buying. I can't afford to eat in restaurants."

"Fair enough. I can afford it and I'll pay. I invited you."

"All right then, but just breakfast, I'm not going home with you. We eat, and then we say goodbye. I'll stock-up on supplies, and then I'm leaving town, alone."

"Okay, fine. Come through to the front and meet the guys."

"I've already met them; they think I'm a crim."

"They're just being careful, it comes with the job. Dealing with bad eggs all the time makes you hard."

"Didn't with you."

"Oh, I can be hard, but we've already met and I like you."

"You like me? You don't even know me. Nobody likes me."

"Maybe you don't give them a chance. You're right, I don't know you, but I like what I see so far."

"You like what you see. Are you coming on to me?"

"No, I'm not coming on to you. I'm trying to be honest. I think you're interesting and, probably, a good kid. Come on through here."

He introduced Tyler to the two policemen at the front, apologised again for the confusion, and they went out for breakfast. As they were leaving, Jeffery looked back. "By the way, the pushbike and trailer out there are Tyler's. He'll be back for them soon."

It was still windy outside but it had, mostly, stopped raining. Tyler put his now dry oversize coat back on.

"You shouldn't have bothered," Jeffrey said. "We're not going far, it's just around the corner."

They went around the corner, across the street and into a small, modernish eatery in an old building. 'Dinah's Diner', the sign on the front proclaimed. Inside, they sat opposite each other in a booth opposite the long counter and next to the front window. The morning rush was over but the diner was still reasonably busy, about half full.

""Hello Constable. You're late today. What're you having, the usual?"

"That's Senior Constable, but yeah. 'Morning Amy. I was held up a bit, but that's good, it's not so busy in here now. I'll have two Full English breakfasts, I've got a guest today."

"So I see," she nodded. "He's a guest and not a prisoner then."

"He's not a prisoner. Tyler, this is Amy, my favourite waitress. Amy – Tyler."

"Hello, Tyler."

He was emerging from the coat again. He pushed the hood back and smiled up at her.

"Whoah!" Amy's half-formed smile froze and she actually went pop-eyed for an instant. "Tyler. What is your second name?"

"Umm, John. I'm Tyler John."

"John? But what's your surname, I meant?"

"Oh, sorry. It's Rodden, Tyler John Rodden."

"And John is after your father?"

"I guess so. His name was John, but I never knew him."

"Shame. But, welcome to Okarito. Do your grandparents know that you're here?"

"I don't have any grandparents, they died a couple of years ago."

"They did? But . . they. . . you – Oh! Of course, your mother's parents."

"Yes, I used to live with them."

"And now you've come to live here?"

"No, I haven't. I'm just passing through, I'll be gone by lunchtime. Well, if we've finished breakfast, I will."

"Right. Sorry. Two Full English breakfasts coming up." Amy went back to the kitchen area behind the counter.

"What is this breakfast, tea and toast?"

"No!" Jeffrey laughed. "Well, there is tea and toast, or coffee if you prefer, but it's a Full English. That means, fruit juice, cereal, toast, and then the main - sausage, bacon and egg, baked beans, fried mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and hash browns."

"Sounds like a lot."

"Yeah, but small portions. It's a great breakfast and it sets you up for the day."

"Do you eat here everyday?"

"Not every day, but most days. I usually come in after the night shift, and then go home and sleep for the day. I live alone."

"Yeah?" Tyler nodded. "So do I. I live alone and I like it like that."

"It's got its good points, I suppose. So, where are you going to on your bike?"

"Just touring. I told you, didn't I? I'm going down the west coast to the bottom, and then back up the east coast to the top."

"Right. And then, where will you settle down?"

"I'm not sure. Probably in North Auckland, but I'm open to suggestions."

"You could stop here. We've got a great little town here and there's always room for more."

"Here, in this place? I don't think so! No offence, but this town is like the middle of nowhere."

"Hey! We like it. I was born here and I'll probably die here."

"Good for you. Umm, don't you get many visitors here?"

"What do you mean? We get plenty of visitors. Our lagoon is famous and it's a well-known surfing area. Why would you think that we don't get visitors?"

"The waitress and those other ladies are still looking and talking about me."

"They are?" Jeffrey looked around. "Maybe they're just admiring a fine-looking boy."

"Me? Give over!"

"Well you are. Ah, here we go. Thank you, Amy."

The waitress unloaded the food on to their table. "So, Tyler John Rodden, you're not stopping here then?"

"I'm not. Once I've got some supplies, I'll be on my way."

"You're not even going to have a look around?"

"I had a look around last night. I wasn't impressed."

"No? Well it was dark and it was raining."

"Jeffrey interrupted, "You should see the place on a sunny day, it's spectacular then, all green and clean."

Tyler looked out of the window and shook his head. "By the time you get a sunny day, I'll be well-gone."

"That's a shame," Amy said. "You won't see our town at its best."

"No, but whatever. It all means nothing to me."

"We like it!" She walked away in a huff, but had to come back to ask if they wanted tea or coffee. (They both asked for coffees.)

His cooked breakfast arrived and Tyler started with relish. "Great! Thanks. I'm really starving."

"You won't be for long. Get that down you, Lad," Amy smiled again.

"Hey!" Jeffrey protested as she walked away. "I'm hungry too you know!"

"Patience, Jeffrey,. It's coming."

Jeffrey's main arrived and he started on it before Tyler had finished his. Tyler paused in his eating and said, "Are you gay?"

"What? No! No, I am not," Jeffrey choked on his meal. "Why are you asking me that?"

"They're still over there talking about us. I thought that maybe they're thinking you've picked me up."

"They can think what they like," Jeffrey looked around. "But they'd be wrong."

"Okay, okay. I don't care if you are. I'm gay but I'm not looking for any hook-ups."

"You're what? Gay?"

"Yeah," Tyler shrugged. "Some people are you know."

"I know that. But you?"

"Yes, me. Damm! Now there's more people looking at me."

"More people?"

"Yeah. That couple just came in off the street, they're talking to Amy and now they're all staring."

"Are you sure you're not being paranoid? Okay, you're right. They are staring at you."

"Who are those people?" Tyler drank some coffee. "Do you know them?"

"Yes, sure I know them. Oh, Man! This is weird. That's Bob and Barbara Rodden, are you sure you don't know them?"

"Never seen them in my life. Their name is Rodden?"

"Yes, it is. Mr and Mrs Rodden." Jeffrey stared at him as well. "I thought you looked familiar."

"Familiar? I'm a total stranger here."

"Well, maybe you are." Jeffrey stood up as the middle-aged couple came across to them.

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