Interlude: The Devil You Know

The plain fact was that someone broke into a home and violently abducted a little boy’s parents. Although the police had no proof that the child was still in danger, they had posted an officer to keep watch anyway.  Garcia was pleasantly surprised to see the officer. It meant someone was doing their job right and taking steps to keep the kid and community calm.  His old precinct would only do that for rich folk.

Garcia approached the officer and introduced himself.  “Detective Sanchez,” he said showing her his ID, “and this is my partner Huck.”

Asylum had great people in charge of creating a whole new identity for Garcia.  They had done the best they could to give him his life back as a cop in a new town.  For the most part he couldn’t complain, but the alias “Pedro Sanchez” made him feel vaguely embarrassed every time he had to introduce himself.  He wondered if Asylum’s forgers had ever spoken to a real live Spanish-speaking person.

Although the ID passed muster, the officer peered for a moment at Huck.  “Just Huck?”  She said.

“Yes,” Huck said in an intense monotone.  “It is like ‘Cher.’”

The policewoman opened her mouth then closed it.  Some combination of the words and Huck’s aggressive lack of facial expression stopped her cold.   She shook her head.  “He’s. . . just sitting there right now.  I think it’s okay to talk to him.”

“Thank you ma’am,” said Garcia warmly.  He glared at Huck as they walked into the boy’s room, trying to beam the message ‘What the hell was that?’ into Huck’s mind.  Garcia was almost certain that the dragon wasn’t a mind reader, but he really didn’t want to know for sure.

The boy’s name was Adam Wallace.  He was short for seven but his face was already showing shadows where lines would settle in.  His straight blond hair furled up on the back of his head where he’d been lying down.  Under different circumstances it would have been adorable.  It hadn’t even been a whole day since his parents disappeared, but Adam wore the trauma like a deep and ancient weight.  Garcia and Huck looked at each other and nodded.  If this wasn’t Bystander Shock, the boy must have witnessed something truly gruesome.

As they approached, he turned slowly and stared right through them.  The bed sheets in his clenched hands looked like they could pull apart at any minute.  Garcia tried a distracting approach.

“Hey, big man!  How you doing here?  You’re lookin’ good, kid!  Guapo.  I’m Sam.  And this right here is my best buddy Huck.  We’re here to help you, Adam.  So you don’t have to worry anymore.”

Adam only stared back at Garcia.  It reminded him too much of Huck; too intense, too serious.

“Adam, buddy, I know how scary what happened is but you need to be brave for a couple minutes.  Dig down real deep and get strong.  Then tell us anything you can about what you saw last night.”

Adam’s blue eyes didn’t tear so much as they began to simply leak water.  He didn’t blink once.

Huck stepped forward now, getting in between the two, “He’s not some startled soldier, Sam. He’s afraid, not demoralized.”

Huck knelt down in front of the boy and leaned in like a gentle, worried housepet.  Adam looked down but said nothing.  Huck replied with a long, soft sigh, leaned a little closer in and offered a hand.  Adam then began first to tremble and then to gulp for air.  Huck offered both arms, “Yes.  It’s okay if you want to.”  Adam pounced into Huck’s arms, the trembling, shaking dam of emotion breaking and drenching Huck in tears and tiny screams.

“You’re safe now, child.  Everything will be okay.”

Garcia could only stand and watch.  He’d never pegged Huck as having anything close to a nurturing streak.  They stayed with Adam for hours after that, letting him become used to the idea of people again.  Adam still wasn’t saying much, but he was eating, drawing, watching TV and climbing on Huck.  Garcia was starting to feel the weight of the time slipping by.  “We need to start asking questions.  We’re still racing the rest of the police force and the bad guys.”

“We don’t need to,” said Huck.  “Adam has already shown us who took his parents.”

“When did that happen?”

Huck picked up one of Adam’s drawings.  A many armed brute with giant eyes and a vicious fanged mouth.  There were some embellishments, but the agents knew exactly who they were looking at.

“Asbjornsen Thurs.”

“Yes.  You were right about Adam.  He’s seen a manifested Outsider.”

“Bystander Shock.”

“Yes.”

A realization hit Garcia with a nasty jolt.  “Huck, this kid’s been exposed to this stuff too early.  It might have gotten him deep.  Pulled him over.”

“Turned him into one of the Cursed.”

“Can you check?”

Huck sat on the hospital bed where Adam was watching a show about motorcycles and kung-fu.  Adam looked over curiously.  Huck drew a deep, hot breath and exhaled it languidly over the boy.  Garcia let his senses drift back to the spirit world, where he could see a plume of ember speckled smoke billow forth from the dragon’s snout.  The mighty beast drew the breath in again, clearing the smoke and revealing a glowing mark on Adam’s cheek. To magically attuned eyes, it shone like a beacon for all to see.

Not seeing any of this, Adam turned back to his TV show.

The two retreated to the hospital room door.  “That’s not an Asylum mark,” said Garcia.

“And Asbjornsen has no knowledge of this magic.  Even if he did, the mark was made only a few hours before we arrived.”

“Then who the hell is watching this kid?”  

They both cast their senses past the mundane backdrop of the hospital.  Trying to feel for the presence of powers and things Outside.  Somewhere out there someone was looking back.

--

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