It had felt as though the day would never end. When the final bell rang Dylan wiped his brow against the long sleeve of his shirt. It seemed that everyone at school had asked him why he’d been wearing a dress shirt and why he didn’t roll up the sleeves to keep cool. In fact, a couple of times he’d forgotten the ugly bruises and had begun to push up the sleeves. But when the material scraped against the fresh welts the stinging pain reminded him of his dad’s rough hands clamped like pythons around his skinny arms and the angry eyes, red face and sharp words.
Lieutenant Frio had really set off his dad. Dylan smirked at the memory of her shoving him against the wall and handcuffing him. That alone had been worth the beating he’d received afterward. He admired Frio, in fact, admired anyone who stood up to his dad. But a woman! It made him feel ashamed that he let his dad push him around as he did – although Dylan had found a way to fight back.
He looked both ways as he crossed the busy intersection and scurried across to the other side. There’d been no need to hurry, there would be no one checking on him or wondering why he hadn’t gone straight home from school. He hurried because he felt excited and hoped that the package he got from his mother every month would somehow be different, would somehow give him an answer to how he could escape his abusive father, would somehow point him in a direction that would change him and his life forever.
Ever since his mom had sent him the key to that post office box Dylan had checked it weekly and sometimes three and four times a week for some note, some instruction, some wonderful miracle that would take him away from his tormented life and propel him into his warrior nobility.
Patience is a virtue every warrior must master and have in his arsenal. Patience is power, patience will bring good things, patience gives strength to the warrior.
He wished he’d been more patient with Riley. Maybe she’d still be alive if he’d not gotten so frustrated with her. Had he OD’d her with the piece of the white pill he’d given her? Would they come after him and arrest him for murder? Would he end up on death row?
The pain from these thoughts almost doubled him over and he cursed himself for missing another dose of the white pills his mother sent him. And then with a jolt to his solar plexus he remembered the prescription he’d forgotten to pick up. The Ritalin. His mother would be upset that he hadn’t sent it. It had been ready two days ago and he’d completely spaced it out.
Calm down. Get the pills later. Two days is not a long time, she will understand.
He slammed through the post office doors and screeched to a halt in front of the little box in the wall. With shaking hands he stabbed the key into the slot and there it was – the package from his mom. He’d been tempted to tear it open right there, just in case she’d sent him something different, but he knew it only contained Xanax. Maybe if he didn’t miss so many of the doses he wouldn’t be so forgetful. But the tranquilizer made him tired and clouded his mind. He felt so much better without it, plus he’d been putting the Xanax to a much better use.
Dylan discovered that if he dissolved one of them in his dad’s beer, his dad would mellow out and leave him alone. He’d taken to doing that almost every night, but he noticed that one pill just did not cut it anymore. Perhaps tonight he’d dissolve two of them in his dad’s beer and really knock him out. He may not be able to hold his own in a physical fight but Dylan knew how to be clever. His mom had always told him to use his brains and not his fists. And he had become quite adept at outsmarting most adults.
Dylan did pretty much everything he wanted and had been able to escape chores and most responsibility, but he needed to get the Ritalin from the pharmacy and send it to his mom’s friend in Arizona as fast as he could. She depended on the drug. He would not fail her, not now or ever.
He heard a noise behind him and spun around and ran into Lieutenant Frio. Dylan jumped back and fell on the slick floor and the package flew from his hands. The Lieutenant picked it up and he saw her look at the Arizona postmark. His mom’s friend had been too smart to put a return address on the package. Still, he regretted the cop seeing the package and postmark.
He jumped up, his face burning and his eyes flying to her dark gaze and then darting away. She handed him the package and smiled at him. Her eyes lingered on his wrist and Dylan saw the black and blue mark. He quickly pulled the shirtsleeve over it and stuttered an apology.
“I’m sssorry, I didn’t mean to, you know, run into you . . .”
Lieutenant Frio nodded at the open door of the post office box. “Better lock that,” she said, her eyes glued to the package that Dylan stuffed into his backpack. “Can I buy you a Coke or a milk shake maybe a burger?” she asked.
“Uh sure,” he said, both thrilled and frightened by the invitation. He closed and locked the door to the box. “I need to pick up my prescription at the drug store . . .”
“Great, we can go to the little restaurant right there. I eat lunch there almost every day,” she said.
Dylan could not keep the grin off his face and cursed himself for not being cool. Frio had obviously been following him. It gave him a strange and not unpleasant feeling and brought to mind a memory of his mother. It had always just been the two of them spending most of their free time together. His dad had been busy at work and according to his mom—with his sluts. That had been fine with Dylan and even when his mom made him drive with her around town following his dad, he’d just been happy for the time with her.
Those jaunts had been boring in a way, because his dad only frequented a few places—a bar downtown and his girlfriend’s apartment. But it got really exciting one night when his mom brought a gun and shot out the window in his girlfriend’s apartment. They had burned rubber getting out of that complex and Dylan never forgot the maniacal laughter that caused them to pull over and howl with merriment until tears streamed down both their faces.
He knew it had been wrong, but it still brought a smile to his lips and a gleam to his eyes. Frio had a gun and Dylan suspected she would never hesitate to use it. Maybe someday they could go out to the desert and target practice.
“You look happy,” Lieutenant Frio said after they both ordered cheeseburgers, fries and Cokes.
Dylan immediately felt his face turn hot. He must look like a dork, sitting there grinning. But he decided he didn’t care.
“I just, you know, I just never expected to run into you, and uh, I guess . . .”
“You miss your mother?” she asked.
Dylan nodded his head and wondered what his mom would think of this woman. He knew she’d mightily disapprove because she hated cops. What had he been thinking, anyway? Suddenly the truculent boy came back and he slumped against the back of the booth. Frio’s eyebrows rose, but she looked away, seeming to make note of something.
“You can’t interrogate me without my mom or dad or an attorney present,” he said in a shaky voice.
“Hey, I just want to buy you some food, I hate eating alone. And if your mom or dad or an attorney has to be present, then we’re for sure going to go to McDonald’s. I live on a cop’s salary, remember?”
“How much do cops make?” he asked.
“Why? Are you thinking of becoming a cop?”
“No way. That’s the last thing I’d want to be.”
“It’s not so bad, Dylan. I get to meet all kinds of interesting people. And once in a while I’m even able to help someone. What do you want to do for a living when you get out of school?”
“I’d like to help people re-invent themselves. And I’d start with myself,” he said while thinking—I could re-invent myself by stealing other people’s identities and robbing them blind. He imagined his mother laughing at the double meaning and how clueless the Lieutenant had been sitting there staring at him with those big, doe eyes. She seemed blinded by his cleverness.
“But first, shouldn’t you know who you are before re-inventing yourself?” she asked.
“I know I’m a nerdy kid, I know my grades are the highest in the school and I know I can probably be most anything I want to be,” he said.
“You’re ahead of nine tenths of the rest of us then,” she said.
He nodded with a certainty that he had her fooled. Dylan felt relaxed and happy with himself, and to think he’d been so upset just a little while ago. What had been bothering him? He remembered the pills for his mom. “I’ll be right back, I need to get my prescription.”
Their meals appeared and Lieutenant Frio ate in silence waiting for Dylan. He plopped down in the booth clutching the white drugstore bag. He noticed Frio glance at the pharmacy receipt with Ritalin in bold letters across the top. He took a bite of his cheeseburger and gobbled his food as though he hadn’t eaten in a long time.
“Why did you and your dad move to Rubicon?” Frio asked.
“We moved here because a buddy of his got him a construction job. I’ll bet that buddy is regretting it as we speak. My dad has always been a jerk, but since we’ve been in this backwater town he’s blossomed into a real fourteen carat basta . . . uh, rude guy.” When Dylan laughed it came out high pitched and giggly.
“You don’t have to sanitize your language,” she said. “Remember, I’ve met your dad and I understand exactly what you’re saying. If you ever need help, Dylan, call me,” she handed him one of her cards and he nodded and put it in his pants pocket. “I couldn’t help noticing you’ve got a prescription for Ritalin. Do you have ADHD?”
“Uh huh,” he nodded.
“My niece has that. She gets really tired and the Ritalin helps her stay awake. Does it do that for you, too?”
“Yeah, sure,” he said absently between bites of French fries. And then he realized she’d gotten it backwards. Or had she? What had his mother told him to tell the doctor when they’d gotten the prescription? It had been a few months ago and he couldn’t remember. He cursed himself for getting so comfortable around Frio. Had she tricked him?
He stopped eating and stared at her.
“Something wrong?” she asked.
“Gotta go,” Dylan grabbed his back pack and scooted out of the booth.
“But you haven’t finished your burger . . .”
“Not hungry,” he said and rushed toward the door. He burst out onto the sidewalk and adjusted the pack onto his back. Suddenly it seemed as though a million eyes were on him. Running now he took a short cut through the alley and heard Bob Dylan’s song, “Man Of Constant Sorrow” in his head.
He didn’t feel clever now. In fact, he felt used and abused. Frio had only been friendly with him to get information out of him. Now she knew about the Ritalin. And she’d probably been curious about the package. Had he put his mother in danger? Would Frio continue to follow him? Should he leave this city, go to Arizona and look up his mom’s friend? Tell him the cops were after him and he felt scared?
Dylan did not hear the attacker until he’d been on top of him. The man wore a ski mask and shoved Dylan against a metal dumpster. He’d been so caught off guard that his head banged into the steel side and he went limp and fell to the litter strewn pavement.
“Why were you talking to that cop?” the attacker asked in a harsh voice.
“Leave me alone,” Dylan rolled over onto his back, the backpack acting like a pillow. When the attacker lunged toward him Dylan raised his feet and kicked the man squarely in the stomach. He could hear the air whoosh from the man’s lungs and then his attacker lay on the ground squirming and gasping for air.
A warrior must be decisive in his actions and not hesitate to maim or even kill his enemy.
Dylan saw the concrete cinderblock a few feet away and in his mind saw himself bringing it down on the attacker’s head.
A warrior must be cold in battle and willing to fight to the death.
Dylan let out a strangled scream and ran away.