A New Novel in the Making
I'm working on a new novel. Here's the 17th chapter of it. Let me know what you think about it. You find a Facebook comment form below the text. I post each new chapter when it is completed. The first chapter is here: Chapter One
If He Doesn't
Caroline halts right in front of the entrance to a police station. Numerous cars pass on the busy street behind her, but the sidewalk is almost empty. She stares at the door, not moving at all. When it is opened from inside, she has to take a quick step back not to be hit by it. A young uniformed police woman exits, glancing at her as she passes. Caroline sneaks in before the door closes behind her.
The entrance hall is not bigger than the living room in her home. She is alone in it, except for the middle-aged policeman behind the reception desk, immediately looking up at her. As she takes the few steps to the desk, the policeman examines her with penetrating eyes.
"Hello," she greets him, trying a little smile.
"Hi there," he replies in a neutral way and waits for her to continue.
He has his uniform on, but Caroline can't see if he is carrying a gun or not. He is far from slim and there are wrinkles on his face as well as many gray hairs on his head. He leans heavily on the desk with both elbows.
"I met this kid," Caroline starts, searching for the words. "I wonder if he's a runaway or something. Do you have them listed or so?"
The policeman continues to look at her in silence for a while, before replying.
"Sure we do. You got his name?"
He puts on a pair of glasses and turns to his computer.
"Reuben. He gave me no last name, but I thought that Reuben can't be that common. I guess he's about my age - fifteen. Maybe a year younger, since he's shorter than me."
"Caucasian?" the policeman inquires while punching the keyboard.
"Yes. He's got black hair and very pale skin."
"What did you say?"
The policeman looks up at her for a moment.
"His hair, do you think it was dyed? I was thinking that someone with a pale complexion wouldn't normally have black hair."
"No, I don't think so."
"Well, did you notice the color of his eyes?"
"Sorry, no. But they were quite dark. And he's really skinny. About this high." She holds up her hand horizontally in front of her nose.
"Any other distinct features?"
Caroline pauses for a moment, hesitant. When the policeman glances at her, she shakes her head. There is a moment before he continues.
"So, where did you meet him?"
"In my neighborhood, last night. He told me that he's up all night, sleeping in the days."
The policeman makes a sinister face.
"It's at night that these kids get into big trouble."
"That's what I thought."
The policeman returns to the computer and works on it for a while.
"No one matching your description," he states and leans back in his chair. "There's a couple of Reuben, but they're either older or younger."
"Maybe in another town?"
"I made a nationwide search."
He leans further back in his chair, looking attentively at Caroline. She avoids meeting his eyes.
"He said that his parents are dead," she resumes after a moment. "Maybe nobody reported him missing?"
"That could be."
Caroline is silent, standing still but stroking her index finger on the desk, as if checking it for dust. The policeman keeps looking right at her face.
"You understand how hazardous his situation is? I don't need to tell you what can happen to him - what's likely to happen to him."
"If you find him, will you take him home? I'm not sure he wants that."
"You're probably right, or he wouldn't have run away in the first place," the policeman says with a softer voice, and a sigh escapes him as he adds: "Not every home is a haven."
Again, there is a moment of silence, this time broken by the policeman.
"Do you have any idea where this Reuben might be now?"
Caroline shakes her head, without looking up. The policeman leans forward in his chair, trying to catch her eyes.
"Well, thank you anyway," Caroline says and starts to retreat from the desk.
As she turns around, the policeman calls out:
She stops and looks at him over her shoulder, holding her breath. Her heart beats faster. The policeman is searching his desk, moving papers around, opening and closing drawers. It goes on for a while.
"Ah, here it is," he says and holds up a card. He waves to her to come and get it. "This is a youth shelter. They don't send kids home, but try to help in every other way. If you meet him again, try to bring him there. At least give him the card, so he can find the place when he wants to. When he needs to."
Caroline holds the card with both hands, like a relic, reading its print.
"He has nothing to worry about there. But if he doesn't..."
Caroline looks up at the policeman, who is very grave.
"If he doesn't, his chances of making it are slim, indeed. Try to make him understand that. The streets eat kids of his kind. I've seen it. You can't imagine what can happen to them - what does happen to them. Don't ask me, you don't want to know. Whatever they ran away from, lots of them end up much worse. Much worse!"
Caroline puts the card in her pocket.
"I'll tell him," she says. "If I meet him again."
All the chapters posted so far: