Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Anger Games 2

Thursday Evening

He had no idea how long it had taken him to calm down, but he'd noted that full night had fallen since he'd stopped the car.  He glanced at the dashboard clock and saw that it was 7:28.  Cam had promised to be there until eight which meant that if he hurried he still had time to get there for the rest of his shift.  He looked at himself in the rear view mirror.  It was hard to see because his interior light wasn't working, but using the glow from the street lights he decided that he didn't look too bad, his right eye was a little puffy, but that was easily explained if anyone asked.  It always had been.

Dave started his car and drove to the restaurant, feeling numb and empty, which was a huge improvement over how he'd felt just an hour ago.  At least the shaking had stopped and his heart no longer felt as though it were trying to break out of his ribcage.  He concentrated on driving and tried to quash the nagging guilt he felt for causing the Ferraro Family Fiasco.

When he arrived at the restaurant, he parked in his usual spot, snatched up his jacket, apron and hat, pasted a smile on his face, and walked in through the employee entrance.

The first person he saw was Joker, who grinned broadly when he saw who it was.  "Blueburry!  Ya made it!  Thought you were gonna...  Holy shit!  What the hell happened?!"

Before Dave could answer he found himself being held around the shoulders and guided back toward the office.  "Mike!"  Joe shouted over his shoulder.  "Get Cam?  Office, 'k?  Now!" Mike took one look at Dave and ran out of the kitchen to find Cam.

"Come on kid, sit down," Joe ordered gently as he forced Dave to sit down on the black, faux leather couch that took up most of one wall of the office.  He turned toward the small refrigerator that stood in the corner and had just opened the door when Cam came in, concern plain on his face.  His gaze went immediately to Joe, his eyes widening when he noticed the ice pack and bottle of cold water in the man's hand.  Then he noticed Dave on the couch, sitting quietly, seeming bemused by what was happening.

"Dave! Man!  What happened?" he asked, sitting carefully beside the quiet young man.  "Were you mugged?  Joe, call the police,” he reached out to touch the side of Dave's face and the boy flinched away.

Dave plastered his most beguiling smile on his face.  "Nothing happened.  No, I wasn't mugged.  Don't call anyone!  I'm fine."

"Your eye..." Cam said, taking in all the damage with growing dismay.

"I poked myself in the eye, I'm fine."  Dave said, his eyes focused on Cam's left ear.

"Poked yourself..." Cam said, disbelief obvious on his face.

"Yeah," Dave replied matter-of-factly, a crooked, disarming smile on his face, his gaze now on Cam's collar.  

"With what?  A claw hammer?!" Joe demanded, trying not to become angry and possibly upset the poor kid any more than he obviously was.

Dave put up a tentative hand to feel the side of his face.  Maybe his eye was a bit more swollen than could be explained by a mere 'poke'.  "Well, see, I was rushing and I turned too fast and hit the corner of an open cabinet door.   It was just one of those freak accidents," Dave said reasonably, looking at the floor.

"You have no idea how bad it is, do you?" Cam asked softly.  "Joe, get the mirror from the bathroom vanity, would you?  Thanks." 

Joe handed Cam the water bottle and the ice pack that he'd wrapped in a scrap of toweling and headed toward the bathroom.  He returned quickly with the rectangular mirror from the cabinet and handed it to Cam.

"Take a look, Dave," he said quietly.

Dave raised an eyebrow at his boss but winced at the stab of pain.  He accepted the mirror and took a good look at his reflection.

In the full light of the office it was obvious that the right side of his face was already bruised and his eye was nearly swollen shut.  The left side of his face had very clear, dark red imprints of a palm and fingers.

"Huh," Dave said dismissively.  Although he could once again feel his heart thudding, he maintained an outward calm, something he'd learned to do a long time ago.  Inside, his gut was twisting in shame.  

"That's all you have to say?" Joe asked, dismayed at the young man's lack of response.  "What about your shirt there?  What happened there?"

"My shirt?" He asked, glancing down.  Only then did he notice the streaks of blood on the front.  "Huh," he repeated.  "Well that's gonna be a bitch to get out.  This is my favorite shirt too."

Cam reached out to place the ice pack on the more severely bruised side of Dave's face.  The young man flinched momentarily and then recovered, acting as though he'd been merely shifting his weight on the couch.

Dave extended a hand to take the ice pack.  Cam handed it to him distractedly, clearly thinking hard about what to do.  Dave leaned his head on the back of the couch and cautiously placed the ice pack on his bruises.

"Let's get you cleaned up and put your shirt in the machine.  Maybe we can get the blood out before it sets and save the shirt.  Joe, we got any more of those promotional t-shirts left?" he asked, gesturing vaguely toward the boxes which sat on a shelf behind the desk.  "See if you can find one for Blue, here, please."  

Joe turned and started rooting through the boxes for a shirt in Dave's size.

"Guys, I'm ok.  I'll just put the apron on and no one will even notice it."

"You don't think I'm gonna to let you work in this condition, do you?" Cam demanded, once again struggling to keep the anger from his voice.  He set the all but forgotten water bottle down on the end table with a thud.

"I'm fine!" Dave insisted, raising his head to look at his boss with the eye not covered with the ice pack.  "Look, no broken bones, guts firmly in place.  I'm good to go.  Besides, the bruises might get me a sympathy vote for better tips."  He tried to smile but grimaced instead.

"I think you need to go to the hospital." Joe said, finally returning with a red t-shirt with the restaurant name emblazoned on the front.  

"No!  I told you, I'm..." Dave began, removing the ice pack to glare at his boss and coworker. 

"Don't you dare say 'fine' again, David!  Put that ice pack back on!  You're obviously not fine!  You've clearly been hurt and yet you sit there denying that anything happened and acting as though everything is same old same old!  Who did this to you?"

Dave stubbornly clamped his lips shut and shook his head.  He put his head back and stared angrily at the ceiling with the eye not covered by the ice pack.  Cam glanced at Joe and signaled 'phone' with his hand before returning his attentions to the young man on the couch.

Joe placed the t-shirt on the couch next to Cam and quietly left the room to use the phone up front to avoid upsetting Dave any further.

"Dave," Cam cajoled, "Let's get you fixed up.  Take that bloody shirt off and put this one on."

Dave shook his head again.  Blushing slightly.

"Mirtillo, you got nothin' I ain't seen before.  I got four boys of my own, remember?"  Cam said gently.  "I just wanna get you cleaned up and taken care of."

Dave crossed his left arm over his stomach and crossed his legs, but remained silent.  

Before Cam could continue, Joe came back into the room.  He leaned down and whispered in Cam's ear.  "Mike already called.  They're on their way."

Whatever else might be wrong with him, his hearing was perfect.  Dave stood up quickly and threw the ice pack down on the couch.  "I told you guys, I'm fine!  I'm not going to the hospital over a little bruise and a scrape!  You're over reacting and I'm going to work!"

Cam clapped his hands together sharply, the sound startled Dave and caused him to stop in his tracks.

"You are going to sit down, little boy, and wait for the paramedics to get here to check you over!  Now stop with the macho act and sit!" Cam commanded, pointing to the couch.

Dave's eyes had gotten large and he licked his lips nervously.  That tone of command, the pointing finger.  Suddenly it wasn't Cam standing there, it was Damien.  Dave felt as though his heart were trying to climb up his throat and escape through his mouth.  His legs suddenly felt boneless and he sat down, hunched over, head bowed in defeat or fatigue, hands clasped so tightly that the knuckles turned white.

Cam couldn't help but notice the body language and he thwacked the palm of his hand against his forehead.  The last thing this kid needed was to have someone yelling at him but he'd honestly had enough of the boy's posturing.  He sat down next to the upset young man and carefully put an arm around his shoulders.  He had fully expected Dave to throw the arm off, but the boy sat there rigidly, only flinching slightly at the contact before finally relaxing into it.  

Two years of being around families who believed in hugging everyone at every possible opportunity and Dave still flinched or recoiled initially, but at least now he could endure a hug and even return it.  Actually seemed to like the closeness once he'd accustomed himself to it.  

Cam could feel the rapid beating of the boy's heart as well as the shallow breaths the boy was taking.

"Shhhhh, ragazzino, it's ok," Cam said, slowly drawing the young man closer until the boy's head was resting on his chest. 

Cam had six kids of his own, four of them boys, whom he freely admitted frequently drove him to distraction.  He was old fashioned and firmly believed in a good spanking when his kids got out of line, but he couldn't imagine ever beating them like this.   He handed the ice pack back to Dave, who obediently placed it against his face again.

Cam sat there, holding the young man until the paramedics arrived and Mike escorted them discreetly through the employee entrance and into the office.  The dispatcher had, upon hearing the word 'assault', called in the police as well.   Soon the little office was packed with people.  A couple of officers began taking names and statements from Cam and Joe, who said that they preferred to stay in the office with Dave, and had drawn the officers into opposite,  unused corners in order to stay in sight but out of the way.  

One paramedic sat beside Dave on the couch, taking his vitals, while another sat on the other side shining a light into Dave's eyes and inspecting the damage to his face.  Another police officer stood nearby, observing and awaiting his chance to ask the boy some questions.

"Dave?  Your name is Dave, right?" asked the female paramedic in a friendly tone.  She waited for Dave to nod before continuing.  "My name is Shelley.  There's fresh blood on the front of your shirt, Dave.  Your face isn't bleeding so I'm pretty sure the damage is underneath the shirt.  We need to take your shirt off so that we can see the damage and patch you up.  All right?"

Dave stared at the floor and shook his head. 

Cam had been watching, and listening with half an ear from the corner.  He excused himself from the police officer, Gonzalez he'd said his name was, and crossed over to where the boy was sitting, kneeling so that Dave had no choice but to look at him.  Dave's hands were resting on his thighs and Cam gently placed his own warm hand over Dave's cold one.

"David," he began, noting that the boy's eyes flashed up from the floor to his face at the sound of his proper name.  "They're only here to help you," he said in a soothing tone.  "Joe and me are right here for you.  There's nothin' to be afraid of.  No one's gonna hurt you.  They just need to see what's wrong so that they can fix it, ok?  Understand, mirtillo?  They're just doing their job.  Don't make it any harder, capisce?"

Dave gave a tiny nod.  "Don't look, ok?" he asked softly, once again looking down at the floor.

Cam patted the boy's hand.  "There's a clean t-shirt there for him when you're done," he said, gesturing toward the shirt where it had been forgotten on the couch.  He stood up and rejoined the officers and Joe in the corner.  They deliberately turned their backs so that Dave would see that he had some privacy.  

Dave reluctantly pulled the shirt off over his head, reopening the wounds which had dried and stuck to the fabric.  He looked down at his chest and saw the lacerations.  Four deep gouges that tapered off into shallower scrapes, reminding Dave of cat scratches.  Made by one hell of a big cat, he thought wryly.

"Do you remember how you got these," asked the male paramedic, gesturing to the scratches, "and these?" he said, pointing to the bruises on his arm.  

Dave shrugged.  He knew as soon as he saw them how he'd gotten them, but there was no way he was going to tell them that his brother had grabbed him and that his father had slapped him silly.  He was pretty sure that nothing would happen unless he pressed charges but he wasn't going to be responsible for getting his sick father in trouble, especially since it was his own fault that the whole screw up at the house had happened.  

The paramedics asked several more questions as they cleaned the wounds and taped a sterile bandage over the area, but the young man was largely uncommunicative.  Dave, for once, was grateful that his chest had never sprouted hair as they pressed the tape firmly onto his skin.

Finally they handed him the red t shirt and asked him again if he wanted to go to the hospital.  He shrugged into the t-shirt as quickly as he could.

"No, I'm...” he cut himself off and glanced toward the corner where Cam and Joe were still talking to the officers.  "I'm good.  Thanks."  His feeling of relief that that ordeal was over was quickly quashed as the police officer who had been standing by approached, pulling out a notebook and pen.

"I'm Officer Park, David." He'd said with a reassuring smile.  "I'd like to get your statement about what happened tonight." Dave nodded his understanding.

"First I'd like your full name, birth date, address and phone number for the record."

Dave reluctantly provided all of the required information.  

"Now, tell me, please, what happened tonight."

Dave worried that if he told the officer what he'd done... well, the officer would have to agree that Dave had instigated the fight and he'd gotten exactly what he'd deserved.   Dave had heard stories about people who had called the police for protection and who had been arrested themselves.  Dave had seen enough cop shows on TV to remember the phrase 'You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law...’  He didn't want his words twisted and used against him or against his father.  Nor did he want a criminal record, so he remained silent.

In the corners, two of the other officers spoke individually with Joe and Cam.

"Are you aware of any history of drugs or gang activity?"  Officer Gonzalez asked Cam.  "Is there any chance this is an attack by people he owes money to?"

"Absolutely not."  Cam stated firmly, barely keeping the anger from his voice.  "He's extremely mature for his age.  I've known this kid since he was sixteen when he first came in to apply for the dishwasher’s job."  

"He's a dedicated worker.  He always shows up on time for his shift.  He'll come early and leave late if you need him to.  He gets along with everyone and the customers love him.  He'll do any job you ask him to and never complain.  Even when he broke his arm that first time, he insisted that he could work.  I remember he told me to tape a plastic bag over the cast so that he could do the dishes."

"Did you?"

"Nah, I put him on light duty, sweeping floors, doing office work.  Any little thing I could think of for him to do that wouldn't put a strain on the arm 'til it healed."

"Wouldn't it have been better to let him stay home and heal?"

Cam pursed his lips thoughtfully.  "Well," he began hesitantly, "He was kinda frantic about being able to keep working.  He'd just started working here a few weeks before and he was worried that if he took any time off he'd lose his job.  He promised me up and down that he could still do any job I set him and that he'd show me if I'd only give him the chance.  It was only a few hours a night, four days a week after school and on weekends during the school year, so I found him make work that allowed him to keep getting a paycheck."

"Do you know anything about what happened to him tonight?"

"Not really.  He called me around five thirty or so and told me that his parents had called a family meeting and that he might be late for his shift.  He never calls out, not in the two years he's been working here, so I figured it had to be something important.  His father's been sick, I thought it could have something to do with that."

"How did he sound when he called?  Was there any indication that he was hurt at that time?"

"Not that I could tell.  Joe there answered the phone and said that Dave didn't sound like himself.  When I talked to him he sounded a little stressed, but not like he was in any sort of pain."  

"Are you aware of any problems in his home life?"

Cam drew a deep breath and lowered his voice to speak more confidentially.  "I called the police and DCF several times between the time he started working for us until he moved out of his parents’ house."

"So you suspected abuse?"

"The kid seemed to be really accident prone.  He never admitted to or complained about being abused by anyone, though, and he always had some story to explain the bruises or injuries. Dave never mentioned anyone going to his house, but he suddenly seemed to stop having accidents, or at least any that left obvious bruises, and just a month or so after he turned seventeen he filled out a change of address form for our employee and tax records.  He never gave me the details, but he's been on his own since then."

"Are you aware of any problems existing now between him and his family?  You said he claimed that he was at a family meeting.  Do you think that they had something to do with his injuries?"

Cam shook his head.  "He hardly ever talks about his family.  He's never said anything against them, but then he's never said much about them at all."

"As far as what I think happened... I have my theories, but no proof one way or the other.  I didn't see anything, and he's not admitting anything.   When I asked him what happened he said he'd poked himself in the eye.  Then he changed his story and said that he'd run into a cabinet door.  Even after I showed him the extent of the damage he still insisted that nothing was wrong."

"Mr. Mancuso... you said that Mr. Ferraro moved out of his house a year ago?"

Cam nodded.

"And he's eighteen now?"

Cam had no idea where the questioning was going but he nodded again.

"Just out of curiosity, do you know how a seventeen year old managed to rent an apartment?"

Cam shrugged.  "I just figured that he found an adult to cosign the lease for him.  When I asked him about it he just smiled and said 'Marve is a good guy,' and went back to work."

"Marve?  Is that an uncle of his?"

"No, not an uncle.  At least, I don't think so.  He's the apartment manager."

The officer took out his note pad again.  "Do you happen to know Marve's last name?"

"Alpert, I think.  Yeah, I'm pretty sure, because his name sounded like the name of that sportscaster.  I think he lives in the same apartment building as Dave does."

"Do you know any of Dave's family or friends we could contact?"

Cam raised an eyebrow.  "He works days at George's Garage on the corner of Firth and Styles, then he comes here five nights a week to wait tables.  If he has any friends he's never mentioned them, and other than his immediate family he's never mentioned anyone else." 

"So no girlfriend, roommate?"

"Not that I know of."

Gonzales cleared his throat.  "Do you think he'll be safe tonight?  Is there any chance that someone from his family will go to his apartment to try to continue the, ah, conversation?"

Cam frowned and shook his head.  "I honestly don't know.  And if they did I'm willing to bet he'd never mention it."

"All right, Mr. Mancuso, I think I've got everything I need for now."  He reached into his breast pocket and took out a business card.  "If you think of anything else, please give me a call."

Just then, Joe and Officer Eckert, and Officer Park, joined Cam and Officer Gonzalez where they stood.

Park introduced himself to Cam and Joe and nodded toward Dave who was once again seated on the couch, head back, with the ice pack lightly pressed against the side of his face.

"I've seen enough instances of child abuse to know the signs when I see them, but the kid... David," he amended when he saw the look on Cam's face, "won't tell me anything.  He's protecting his abuser which, especially if it was his father, is not uncommon in cases like these.  He refused to be seen at the hospital and declined to file a report.  Legally we can't force him to do either."

"I think it would be best if he could stay with someone tonight, maybe even for a few days..."  Gonzalez added, letting the thought trail off.  "At least until the worst of his injuries heal.  He's going to have a hard time managing with one eye swollen shut, and he'll be in some pain for the next few days."

"Yeah, yeah, he can stay with me."  Cam said immediately.  "We have a guest bedroom he can stay in.  I can bring him to our family doctor and have him checked out too."

"Think you can get him to agree, though?"  Joe asked skeptically.   

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