Cody Blade pushed his food around on his plate, taking each French fry on a little tour. Dipping over the sea of catsup, shaking off excess, then coming back to rest on top of the mountain of others. Nate watched as his patience thinned, devouring his own hamburger with the usual relish. The kid didn't even comment on his normal abuse of the saltshaker.
Ben Bracken ate his omelet, well aware of how the kid was feeling. Nate had been rough on the boy, that much was for sure, but he had a feeling the kid would look on this afternoon as a cakewalk when a certain other person finally arrived.
After Nate had explained the events leading up to their trip into town, Ben's fists were clenched in anger. Anger at Susan Colson, Faber Colson, and the kid who now occupied, thereby only through the grace of God and Bear, the holding cell in back.
"Suicide? Nate I've got me an obligation to have the kid committed for observation. You know that," Ben read the riot act to his good friend.
"No way, the kid's fragile right now and he needs a firm, but loving hand. He can't be left on his own. You said yourself, Faber cut him off. That means homeless, penniless, no insurance, no job, nothing. Just cast out in the cold like an unwanted dog." Nate walked around the small office in a quiet rage. He wanted blood right now.
"Look, Nate, there are things you don't know. Bill and Jim were close---good friends---the best I’ve ever seen. Men talk, set things down amongst themselves. Not to mention that I'm still the law around these parts, as well as your friend. Besides, that cabin is still partly mine as well as Jim's and the others. I don't want no young man offing himself there, especially not the son of a dear and old friend."
"Well, Ben, it seems both of us are on the same road here, let's just work together and put the law back on the shelf for when it's truly needed. The kid'll be safe with me. I want him chained to my side and legalese speaking," Nate laughed, "we can just about cement him there. He's a hit and run, there are damages to my car, he broke and entered a private home and he has no insurance. Let's dangle him, just long enough to get some firm ground under him."
Ben shook his head, still not liking this plan. He was basically a by-the-book lawman. Then those green eyes flashed before him, the small boy so unsure of himself, so polite and sweet, yet so strange in his unease and rigid control. Bill Blade's boy. William Blade, the man they all owed so much to and could never repay.
Seeing the weakening creases on Ben's face, Nate reached out a hand. Touching the Sheriff's shirt he threw the final iron on the coal. "Please, Ben, for Bill."
"Damn you, Nathaniel. Damn you and damn Bill Blade and damn Faber Colson," he dragged his hand down his face washing away all reason and good judgment.
"Okay, okay. But there's a call I'm honor bound to place. There are things you just don't know."
“Can’t we keep him out of this for awhile at least?” Nate hated the almost whining string in his voice. Knowing James Cameron Berringer and his history with Bracken and the others who owned the cabin, he didn't doubt for one moment that JCB would be the receiver of this particular call
“Not about you, son. Has nothing to do with you.”
“He doesn’t exactly know I’m up here,” Nate walked to the front window of the small office. “No one knows I’m here, Ben. I’m settling some things in my own mind and I just need time.”
“A few days, max, then I place the call. Like I said, Nate, with Bill Blade’s boy in there, it’s a whole different ball game.”
"Fine, do whatever you have to, but the boy stays with me until we can find out what needs to be done in his best interests. Let me break the news to him." Nate was eager to get the kid under his thumb.
"You go ahead, Nate, that writer's imagination will come in handy. I just hope I can keep a straight face through it all."
Well, Ben thought as he finished cleaning up the last of his egg and downing it with the remains of coffee, he had indeed kept a straight face. Nathaniel Berringer had hard-assed the scene from the get-go. The boy was near ways to tears, trembling lips and wide, pooled eyes, but Ben held his own counsel and realized how much of James Cameron Berringer nested in his nephew.
Nate and Ben had returned to the holding cell and Nate had read the riot act to the frightened boy. At first Cody tried to give lip, but it only earned him some clarification of how things would be.
"Well," Nate began as Ben unlocked the cell and both men walked in. Bear had decided to stretch himself out behind the boy who still sat on the edge of the bed. "Seems you've got troubles, boy, more than you can handle. No insurance to pay for my damages, a charge of breaking and entering, not to mention possession of a stolen firearm."
Ben looked up in shock at this disclosure, realizing how deep he himself was falling into the snow job.
Nate walked around, rubbing his chin as though trying for all his worth to come up with some logical solution to help the boy out. "You know, I think I know how you can repay me, get my car fixed, the window you broke, and still stay within a safe zone, that is unless you want jail, a mental hospital, and legal hassles up your sweet ass."
Cody looked up, eager now to find some way out of this mess he found himself in. "What would that be?" he asked quickly, lest Nate ditch the idea without verbalizing it.
"Not sure you can handle it, though," Nate said seriously, "it's hard work and there are going to be rules and consequences to breaking those rules. You don't strike me as someone who likes rules."
"Mister, I've abided more rules in my time than you have in yours," Cody said proudly, "I'm a Colson." Then as though shocked by the pride with which he said the name, Cody blinked several times, then tightly shut his eyes.
Nate's heart broke at the pain etched across that young face. How hard that boy must have tried for acceptance, to please that old bastard. Even Ben shook his head, no doubt hurting from the boy's pain.
"We'll go over the rules slowly, together. We'll go over the punishments, too, so you'll always know what to expect when you screw up. One thing I can promise you, Cody, no surprises with me. I'm true to my word and right as rain with people who treat me straight."
"My name bears weight around these parts, you might find out I've got connections," Cody said petulantly, suddenly revived with the will for battle.
Nate surmised, whatever games Faber Colson played with this boy, Cody was long used to throwing his name and family weight around. The boy was probably, for the most part, used to getting his own way.
"Then maybe Ben here is right. Maybe you do need to go through proper channels, call in a cadre of attorneys and consultants. Maybe we took that phone call all wrong. Maybe Colson's sending his best men here right now, plucking you from the hands of the law."
Nate watched as Cody checked the cards in his hand, he could see the sharp eyes assessing the situation, wondering how far his bluff could carry him. The perfectly white teeth captured his lower lip and for one brief moment he looked near tears, then he nodded his head, "I guess I'll go with your plan for now."
"Then I think you and I can work out an arrangement."
Well, Ben mused now as he dined with Nate and Cody, this was one arrangement that he hoped would by-pass murder at some point down the road. Cody accepted the terms, the rules, the threat of punishment to his backside, the job of research assistant to one of the best-known writers of crime in the world, Nat Logan.
“Boy, if I don’t see some of that food going in your mouth, you’ll be riding pretty uncomfortably back to the cabin,” Nate finally tired of the toying.
“I’m not hungry,” Cody said, raising a wary eye to gauge Nate’s sincerity. “Besides, I don’t eat much, never have.”
Nate wondered on that. Did meals in the Colson home become so unpleasant for the boy that keeping a healthy appetite was nigh impossible? Or, did Cody Blade simply not care any more about food, drink, pleasure, pain. Did the numbness of being so dead inside linger long after the walking dead were stopped at death’s door? There was too much here he didn’t understand, the threads far too fragile to trust completely in his own hands. He could give the boy routine, duty, shelter, and companionship, but there were attics in the mind only the trained should enter. The master of innuendo, the doorman to the soul would have to be brought in, Nate knew that in his heart, but not just yet. His own doors would be opened wide and he wasn’t ready to enter all the rooms right now.
“Try,” Nate said nodding towards the full plate of fries and the untouched hamburger. “Then I think we need to do some shopping, Gil didn’t leave a whole wardrobe of clothes and I’m tired of pinning your sleeves and cuffs.”
“I’ll pay you back,” Cody said, eagerly. “I’m not a user or taker.”
Nate merely shook his head in disgust, “Never said you were, but you’ll be doing public work with me eventually, interviewing, research, police inquires, that sort of thing. I’ll need you presentable.”
“I doubt the shops here will have clothes for me,” Cody said mulishly.
“Oh, they will. I can assure you,” Nate said, determined to bring the boy back down to the real world. “Won’t be cashmere and fine tweeds, but it will be a clean, comfortable wardrobe.”
“Well, I’ll leave you two to your business. I’d best make sure my jail cell still has bars. Bear is not going to like being excluded from things,” Ben Bracken said as he reached for his wallet.
“Put it away, Ben,” Nate said, “least I can do.”
Ben merely nodded, “Thanks. Collect the pup when you’re done.” He waved good day to the waitress and placing his hat back on his head, he headed across the street to the small sheriff’s office. Nate’s stomach flipped once, well aware of to whom that one particular phone call would soon be placed, fearing the repercussions that would slowly come his way.
The shopping trip had started off bumpy to put it mildly. Cody showed no interest in clothes, totally detached he lacked a desire for new apparel, much the same as he lacked a taste for food or an ability to feel any real joy. But when Nate put several pairs of Dockers, jeans, and polos, along with cotton shirts and crewneck sweaters on the counter, Cody turned his nose up in distaste. He had grown up with fine, expensive clothes, properly tailored. It was something Faber Colson demanded of his offspring and it was just a totally strange world Cody now found himself in.
Nate’s mood shifted quickly with the added attitude of haute couture gone peevish. He didn’t want to throw the boy’s state of affairs into his face, but at the same time, he didn’t like the ungrateful, petulant, obnoxiously critical attitude either. “Take these in there,” Nate said, piling the clothes on the boy’s outstretched arms. “Let’s make sure they fit properly.”
As Cody donned each piece, he stared long and hard at himself in the mirror. Coming in periodically, Nate interrupted his musings with comments on the size and fit, bringing more jeans or different size tee or polo.
“I don’t like denim,” Cody criticized one time as Nate checked his backside
and waist for fit, “I’m not a damn redneck or a fucking cowboy.”
“Other people wear jeans, son,” Nate turned him around, pulling on the waistband, making sure a smaller size wasn’t called for. Part of his plans included fattening the boy up.
“Colson family use language like that all the time?” he asked gently, allowing the smallest hint of reproach to underlie his tone.
Cody turned around suddenly and taking all the hangars on the hook, all the clothes piled high on the bench, he threw them on the floor. “Colson’s don’t wear crap like this.”
Nate’s eyes iced over, he took a step back from the boy, allowing him the vantage of seeing just what form of mass he was messing with, folding his arms across his chest, he glowered. “Do you really want to have that discussion here and now, little boy?”
Green eyes slit, cat-like, narrow and sly, giving an exotic air to the pale, translucent skin and high cheekbones. Cody’s face pulled tight in a rage.
“If I need to talk through your backside, here and now, I talk with my belt.”
Color washed the clear features in a rush, and the cat’s eyes dropped down.
“Well?” Nate asked, slightly tapping his foot in a dramatic gesture of impatience. “Are you up for discussion?”
“No, sir,” Cody said, sounding amazingly sincere and respectful. Nate didn’t doubt the boy was pulled in line often with far more dire threats and knew repentance swift and sure.
Gathering up the clothes on the “to buy” pile, Nate pulled a pair of jeans and sky blue flannel shirt from the pile and draped them over the semi-naked boy’s shoulders. “Here, put these on for now.”
Taking the purchases to the cash register, Nate stopped by a counter of various hairbrushes. Picking up a good, solid oak backed brush, he placed it on top of his collection.
The salesman, remembering Nate from previous visits, began chatting about his last bestseller. Nate lost track of time. Finally, placing the tickets from the items Cody was wearing out of the store, Nate realized the boy had not exited the dressing room to join him. A tightening of his stomach muscles made Nate panic, waving his hand at the salesman to continue the tally, he raced into the back dressing area.
The blond head was resting on his arms as he sat butt wedged into the corner, knees drawn up, coiled into a small, compact form hiding from the world---or from himself, Nate couldn't help thinking. Sitting on the small bench along the wall, Nate put his hand on the boy’s shoulders expecting to hear sobs, but there was nothing.
“Cody, what’s wrong?” Nate was scared, more terrified at finding the boy like this, then the expected empty dressing room.
Raising his head, Cody stared back, dead-eyed, into the mirror across from them. The green eyes were empty, the mossy pools strikingly shallow. Nate saw the blue shirt, so different from the mint green sweater the kid had been wearing yesterday. Nate saw the figure through the hollow eyes and the dawning broke through his fog. The kid was out of his world, out of his realm and he was lost.
“Come on,” Nate said gently, pulling the boy up from the floor. “It’s okay. I understand.”
Then Cody closed his eyes as though too weary to hold them open a moment longer and Nate pulled him against his chest, stroking the golden hair, he kissed the boy’s temple. “You’re you, Cody. We’re going to find you, together. The clothes don’t make the man and I know you’re in there.”
Feeling the boy’s hands tighten against his shirtfront, Nate sighed out his frustrations. How could a boy lose his identity with his clothes? What psychological games had been played upon him. What set up had Faber Colson planned for this offspring? He only knew it would take a more experienced man than himself to get all the answers.
"Let's get you back to Bear," Nate said, half jokingly, "I think you need him as much as I do."
Walking as though in a deep trance, lost somewhere inside himself, the
blond boy took slow, heavy steps as Nate guided him out of the dressing
Cody lay on the sofa, the afghan thrown over his still form. Nate had watched the sullen boy on the ride home, distant and detached. Even Bear for all his exuberant joy when they had gone to collect him from Ben Bracken's holding cell, had failed to pull the boy out, garner more than a hand gently stroking him. He whined and whimpered his confusion and refused to be put off, but when Nate firmly packed him into the back seat with a determined command to sit still, he laid down across the leather seats and looked up with sad, beseeching eyes. A final pat to reassure him, and Nate concentrated on loading the parcels in the back while he kept a watchful eye on his passenger.
Upon arriving at the cabin, Nate had insisted the boy help with the packages, and he had trudged along beside the taller man as though he were moving through quicksand. Each movement pronounced and slow, as though more effort was required than the boy could call up from his reserves.
"Well, Uncle Jim," Nate said to himself as he sat at the kitchen table, cutting tags off of newly purchased items, folding neat piles of clothes for the boy, "seems we have a classic case of depression." Bear, who had been lying next to the boy, raised his head and whined softly, no doubt in agreement. His large, liquid eyes seemed to look towards Nate for answers, as though saying, "how are we going to help him?"
"Not sure, fella, but we will, don't you doubt that for one minute.
Nate sat in the huge leather chair facing out the door wall, a book lying in his lap. The setting sun glowing golden as it dipped behind the mountain. For the past two hours he sat there, listening to the soft whispers, the mumbling nonsense that tumbled from the tired lips. Cody was still out like a light, but dreams had waltzed into his slumber now and he was dancing fast, trying to keep up with pleadings that only made sense to his troubled soul.
Each word, each soft innuendo of disturbed conscience played itself out in Nate’s mind. “I did what you said.” “I tried, I really tried.” “Why do you hate me?” The nonsensical babbling that urged this tired carrier towards some goal, some resting place where he could find peace, made little sense to Berringer. Whatever happened in that family crested in Cody Colson Blade and burnt out the passion with which such youth should meet the day.
Suddenly the boy jerked up, Nate rose from the chair, the book slamming to the floor. “I HATE YOU!” Cody yelled into the room, eyes glazed, unfocused, but his passions high and pointed.
Bear rose from his place by the sofa and barked loudly, no doubt on guard, fighting whatever invisible intruder harbored ill intent towards the boy. Temporarily blinded by the bright setting sun, Cody paled. Disoriented, still caught in the web-like fibers of dreams, he trembled in rage.
Racing forward, Nate pushed Bear aside and sat down on the coffee table. Knees against the sofa, he faced the frightened young man. “It’s okay. You were dreaming.”
Placing his hand on the boy’s knee, he watched as recognition filled the hollowed out green orbs. Cody sighed wearily. His eyes strained to stay wide and open. “I’m tired,” Cody said sadly, “I’m always so tired, lately.”
"Depression does that to you, boy. Want to talk about it." Nate relaxed his body, trying to open the doors softly with as little force as possible and coax the boy out.
Cody looked him in the eyes and slowly shook his head. "Nothing to talk about." Then opening his mouth wide in a yawn that would have caught flies and any other flying objects near the maw, Cody let out a weary echo of fatigue. "Wish I could just sleep my life away."
"Well, you agreed to our arrangement and sleep is one thing you'll only have allotted time for. Now, young man," Nate said as he rose from his perch, "let's get you ready for bed."
Swinging his legs slowly to the floor, Cody had no energy to rise. Nate
saw the strained features, the look of someone too tired to think. Reaching
down his strong hands, he pulled the boy up by his shoulders and walked
him slowly to the bathroom. "Leave the door open."
Finally alone, Cody braced himself against the sink and stared long
and hard in the mirror. Then, as though recognition lit some dark corner
of his soul, he turned towards the door. Like a robot, programmed towards
self-destruction, impassive to the situation, he left the bathroom.
Nate took Bear out the front door. Leaving the door open he could still see into the cabin. "Come on, Bear," Nate said impatiently as the large dog happily scurried from one bush to another. His bushy tail flicked the ferns and berry bushes with hard interest and Nate figured all the night creatures must surely be running for cover.
Suddenly, Bear howled, in what sounded to Nate like pain. Instinctively he ran towards the bush, thinking his poor dog was in the jaws of some bear or cougar. Instead, the pup was lowered on his forepaws, his large, fat butt high in the air, his tail swinging at warp speed, telegraphing his playful air to a totally pissed off skunk.
Nate remembered reading once, doing research for a book, that skunks usually veered clear of trouble unless provoked. Well, for his entire playful demeanor, Bear could provoke the most benign soul when he wanted a good romp and chase. Skunks usually stomped their little feet several times to warn they were ready to spray. Turning his back on the skunk, praying he would get the perfumed penalty and thereby be easier to clean, he came between Bear and the skunk. Easing slowly towards the playful pup, he spoke gently, "Good, boy, take it easy. We're going to go inside now and hopefully smell like our own sweet selves. Easy, Bear," Nate kept cajoling as he finally reached down and hooked his hand in the large, yellow collar.
Walking firmly away, never even giving a backward glance towards the visitor, Nate half dragged, half slid along, with the large dog, bracing himself for the expected christening. The skunk, no doubt grateful for Nate's intercession, allowed fresh and clear passage.
As they entered the cabin, memory pricked Nate's brain so swiftly, he
slammed the door and raced into the bathroom...empty! He checked
the bedroom, then quickly out the living room to the deck...he was gone...Cody
Blade had slipped with the ease of the forgotten out of sight into the
long and lonely night.
If you want to hear more about Nate, Cody and Bear, please let me know
With ease I've lied. Built castles in the sky And with my heart and
soul, I've tried
Giving of myself to those who ask, becoming what they want, sticking to the task.
Seems losing track of who you are is sadly worst than dying, always trying
To be what you are not. So I've lied, and I've tried, and perhaps inside I've died
But though my tongue tells tales, my heart knows honor and I've never loved but true.
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