“Shit,” Martinez said, glancing at the screen. “It’s Rogers. I bet he broke one of them. Come on.” He waved to Daily who looked pissed. I was torn between going and staying with Matt. Martinez must have sensed my ambivalence because he told me Matt was going to be in surgery for awhile, and we would be back before he woke up. That decided it for me, and the three of us were off.
I didn’t say anything as Martinez and Daily talked about the case on the way to wherever we were going. Martinez had called Rogers the second we stepped out of the hospital and procured an address before hanging up. Daily and Martinez were talking in a language of their own, and I didn’t even try to keep up. Instead, I closed my eyes to take a well-deserved nap. I was deprived of the pleasure, however, because every time I closed my eyes, I started remembering Digger touching me. Despite my best efforts to keep quiet, I whimpered as I felt the weight of him against me.
“Scarlett? Are you ok?” Martinez broke off his conversation with Daily to ask me.
“I’m fine, Martinez,” I said, my voice patently false. I didn’t want to lie to him, but I didn’t want to talk about it in front of Daily, either. As he was driving, there wasn’t much Martinez could do but accept my falsehood.
I focused on Danny, trying to reach him to reassure him that help was on the way. When I contacted him, I wanted to reach through the ethers and grab him. He was huddled in the corner of his closet, making whimpering sounds. He had his hand in his pocket, holding his piggy like a good little boy as he banged at the closet door. It was obvious that he had been in there for awhile because of the dark stain spreading under his pants. He had been crying, presumably for a long time. I gathered my concentration and tried to touch his mind. It must have worked because he sat up in a hurry.
“Auntie? Is that you?” His eyes widened in hope, making me glad that I was on my way to finding him. “Are you coming for me?” How many times had he asked a variant on that question only to be disappointed? How glad I was that I could answer in the affirmative this time.
“Yes, baby. I’m coming for you. There will be two police officers with me, “Detective Martinez and Detective Daily. We should be there very soon. Hold on, ok, Danny?”
“You’re really coming for me?” A light shone out of Danny’s eyes. He looked ten times happier than just seconds before.
“Yes, I’m coming right now.” I took the bull by the horns because I knew what his next question would be. “Your mommy can’t come, but she is thinking of you.” Fat chance of that, but no reason to tell Danny his mother cared more for herself than for him.
“It’s ok, Auntie,” Danny said, some of the light dimming. The way he said it made me realize that Kayla had bailed on him more than once. I vowed that I’d do whatever I could to ensure this boy had a stable childhood; it was the least I could do for Matt’s son.
“We’re there,” Martinez said. I dimly heard his words and relayed the message to Danny.
“Danny, baby. We’re here. Is there anybody with you?”
“No, Auntie, I’m all alone.” His voice was mournful, and my anger flared again at the thoughtless creatures who’d left him in this position.
“You won’t be for long,” I said firmly. “I’m going to go now because I can’t talk to you and come get you at the same time. Hold tight to your piggy, and I’ll be right there, ok?”
“Ok, Auntie. Hurry.” As his words faded from my consciousness, I slumped against the seat of the car. My energy was at an all-time low, but I had to gather myself so I could go up with Daily and Martinez. I knew that Danny had been through enough without having a friendly face waiting for him on the other end of his ordeal.
“Scarlett? You with us?” Martinez didn’t wait for a response before adding, “You wait outside until I give you the go ahead. Daily and I have to clear the area first.”
“There’s no one there besides Danny,” I said. “Please, Martinez. I want him to see a friendly face first thing. I told him your names, but he doesn’t know you.” There was a snort from the passenger side of the front seat, but no acerbic comments.
“Tell you what. You can come up with us, but you have to wait outside the apartment while we sweep it. Deal?”
“Deal.” I knew that I wouldn’t be able to push Martinez any further, and truthfully, I was surprised he’d given in that easily.
We got out of the car, and I dutifully trotted ten paces behind Martinez and Daily. They entered the apartment, pushing a code they must have gotten from Brenda. The minute we were inside the door, they drew their weapons and motioned for me to stay back. I did as I didn’t want to run into any more trouble tonight than I already had, but I knew there wouldn’t be anybody in the apartment. Still, I let the cops do their job without making a big deal of it. We rushed up the stairs to the third floor, and I realized I’d been skimping on my exercise since this ordeal started. I was a bit out of breath when I should have been able to run up three more flight of stairs with ease. Then again, I’d just been through my own personal hell, so maybe I should cut myself some slack.
“Police, open up!” Martinez barked as he and Daily flanked the door. When there was no reply, Martinez kicked the door down with ease. I was surprised that whoever lived here didn’t have a better security system, but it wasn’t worth thinking about. Daily and Martinez swept the apartment before Martinez signaled for me to come in.
“Where is he?” I cried out, rushing around the two-bedroom apartment like a madwoman. I saw enough to register that it was Brenda’s apartment, but that wasn’t worth thinking about, either. I heard cries as I approached the second bedroom. Daily was already working on the closet door which was locked.
“We’re going to have to break it down,” Daily said to Martinez over her shoulder. “Danny, can you hear me?”
“Yes,” Danny sobbed. “Are you Detective Martinez or Detective Daily?” Daily looked stunned.
“Um, Detective Daily.” I risked a glance at Martinez, who looked more bemused than shocked, which bode well for our future. Oh, I knew he’d said he was fine with my abilities, but they were a bit much to take at times. “Danny, you’re going to have to stand back from the door so we can break it down. Ok?”
“Ok.” We could hear shuffling inside, and I could only hope that Danny had enough room to shield himself from flying lumber.
“I’m going to see if I can find some tools,” Martinez said, striding around the apartment. I didn’t know what the chances were that he’d find tools in a woman’s apartment—so I’m sexist, so sue me—but he managed to unearth a screwdriver and a few other tools which might do the trick. He fiddled with the hinges of the door, finally able to pull the door away from the frame. A little boy shot his way out of the closet and launched himself at me. He smelled of urine and sweat, but nothing felt sweeter than wrapping my arms around him and holding him close to me.
“Auntie! I knew you’d come for me. What took you so long?” Danny looked at me reproachfully before giving me a huge hug.
“Excuse me, Danny,” Martinez said gently after Danny and I’d hugged for a few minutes. “I’m Detective Martinez, and I need to talk to you. But first, why don’t we take you home so you can bathe and change?” I looked at Martinez with real gratitude because I was sure that Danny would like to get out of his clothes as soon as possible, even if the shirt was somewhat new.
“Ok,” Danny said, shoving his thumb into his mouth. It’s the first time I’d ever seen him suck his thumb, but he had earned the right. “Auntie, this is Percy. He’s the only thing that got me through this. And you.” Danny pulled out a puffball of a pig on a keychain and showed it to me. The little pig was somewhat worse for the wear, but I was glad he’d brought such comfort to Danny. I would buy him a hundred pigs if it made him feel better.
The four of us walked down to the car with me carrying Danny. When I tried to set him down, he balked at having to walk. I decided to cut him some slack, and I hauled him down the stairs. By the time we reached the ground floor, I definitely knew I needed to get back with the fitness program. I was glad when we were in the car and I could set Danny down on the seat. I mentally apologized to Martinez who was going to have to clean out his car after we were through with it, but he didn’t seem to mind. I was grateful that the cops didn’t try to question Danny on the way to his house because he was still in semi-shock. I figured since they already had the culprits in jail, there was no urgency to taking Danny’s statement. Of course, Kayla was still missing, but I didn’t see how hounding poor Danny would do anything to bring her back sooner.
“Ok, Danny, let’s get you washed up.” As soon as Martinez had gotten us into Kayla’s house—I didn’t ask, and he didn’t tell—I took Danny to the bathroom to clean him up. “Martinez, could you get some clean clothes for him?” It jolted me to be doing domestic chores with Martinez, but they had to be done. I supposed I could have asked Daily, but Martinez seemed more at home with Danny than did Daily, so I thought he’d be a better choice for the job. I drew water in the tub, making sure it wasn’t too hot.
“Auntie, stay with me, please,” Danny said, looking up at me with huge eyes. I nodded and helped him undress. While he was naked, I discreetly checked to see the damage. Other than some bruises here and there, he seemed to be in one piece. He jumped into the tub and splashed around as I watched him. I reached for the soap to wash him. He didn’t seem to flinch at my touch, and I wondered if I should ask him directly about what Brenda and ‘Uncle Jimmy’ had done to him. That was the cops’ job, I decided, and kept my mouth shut.
“Here you go, Scarlett,” Martinez said, bringing in a pair of sweats and a t-shirt. He also had a baggie, probably for Danny’s old clothes. I blessed Martinez silently for his perspicacity that Danny wouldn’t want to wear anything restrictive.
“Thanks, Martinez,” I said, smiling at him. He touched my arm briefly before bagging the old clothes and leaving the bathroom, which made me feel as if we were a real couple. I shook off the feeling and turned back to Danny who was staring down at the water but didn’t seem to be really looking at it. “Danny, honey, what’s wrong?” What a stupid question. As soon as I uttered it, I wished I could take it back.
“Where’s my mommy?” Danny asked softly, his eyes still on the water. Damn. What the fuck could I tell him? That his mother had been kidnapped, too? Shit. I wished Martinez was back in the room to take care of this. However, it was probably better coming from me than from a cop. “And where is Uncle Matt?” Shit! Matt! I had forgotten about him.
“Danny, honey, those are very good questions….” I stopped. Was I really going to brush him off? No, that would be cowardly of me. “Danny, look at me.” I waited for him to turn his face towards me. “Matt is in the hospital because he got hurt. He’s going to be fine, but that’s where he is.” I paused because I really didn’t know how to phrase what I had to tell him. In the end, I gave him the watered-down truth. “As for your mommy, well, she’s with a bad man, but the cops are going to get her back. They got you back, didn’t they?”
“You got me back!” Danny said fiercely, splashing the water with his fist. “You have to get my mommy back, too. Please?” His eyes wouldn’t take no for an answer, and there was no way I was refusing this boy anything after what he’d just gone through.
“Ok, Danny. I’ll do my best to get your mommy back.” I lifted Danny out of the water and helped him dry off. I grabbed Percy from the sink where Martinez had left him so Danny could have the pig with him. Danny clutched Percy in his hand, refusing to let him go. Other than that, Danny just stood there as I dressed him, passively waiting for me to be done.