I wanted to go to college, I wanted to do a semester abroad in some country where everyone dreams of going; I wanted to graduate, to perform, and to wreck a college dorm room. I wanted to get married, to have a daughter, a career, and to be successful. All of my dreams were crushed by the man most people would call their father. To me, he's just an ordinary person who is #1 on my hate list.
My name is Riley Black, and I've lived on the streets for 7 or 8 years. I'm two years- I mean, in dog years, I'm really 17. I'm turning 18 soon. I'm nothing special, dyslexic, artist, sleep-a-holic, your average teen. I have a little brother, Nicki, too. So I'm basically a single parent to him, besides the help I get from my friends.
Well a few things that you should know about me are that number one: if you hurt my brother in any way, shape or form you will experience pain courtesy of yours truly. Number two: I can't really be trusted, I'm a thief, always have been and probably always will be. I mean yeah, trust me with secrets and stuff. But if you leave something within my reach that I see as useful, well you probably shouldn't have left it within my reach. But that comes in handy now and then.
Don't make horrible assumptions, I pay... for our coffee... sometimes... Okay bottom line is, you might want to hang onto your wallet when I'm around if you're not one of my friends. The cops have been after me for years; I got caught last year and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison (SO NOT FAIR!) Then my buddy Rob and I broke out after like two weeks or so. My role models? Well of course a bunch of male Broadway stars from over the years. Once I knew that I was going to be a robber for the rest of my life, Clyde Barrow was pretty much my main man.
Oh and one other small detail you should know is that I'm a shape shifter. Personally, with that title, I think I should be the eighth member of the Justice League of America. I'm really not sure if I'm just a husky or a wolf. I know, I know, I don't know who I am? Well duh I've thought about it! I've definitely got the temperament for a wolf, but I'm sweet, too, like a dog. I love being around the few friends that I have, like dogs like their buddies and a wolf his pack. But I also have times where I just need to be away from everyone, and I like to be alone, like a lone wolf... I guess I could be half and half. But if I got to choose, I'd totally pick a wolf, they just seem cooler. That's how we broke out, after dinner, Rob and I slipped into the kitchen and ran for it. People who know about dogs are probably wondering this so, yes, I can see the color red. But Rob is actually humanly color blind so he gets it confused all the time. And yes, I've seen Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban movie, I have no relation what-so-ever to Sirius Black, so you can get that out of your head.
Well anyway, I was 12 and my little brother Nicki was about 2 or 3 when my dad left me to fend for ourselves on the streets of L.A. Nicki always came first, that was my cardinal rule, and it always will be. I always longed for someone to give me the attention that I gave him. Nicki knew it, too, so he did his best with not complaining and just the little things that make all the difference. I love the kid more than anything, he's more like a son than a brother now; he's a pretty mature kid. I guess it was the six years of hanging around teenagers.
As for me being half dog, Nicki doesn't know. Actually no one knows, except Rob, since he shares the trait. He's definitely a dog; I can see a mix of like fifteen different breeds in him. Well, I shouldn't say that no one knows, we actually accidentally did it in front of our friends after we were running from the cops (which completely freaked them out for days). So yeah, Nicki is in the dark on it. We're still trying to track down these two guys we used to hang with, Chris and Philip. They escaped from the warehouse (the place where we lived) the night the bulls busted in. We have an idea of where they could be. We're trying to round our little group back up.
We had some good times playing poker, drinkin' coffee and Coca Cola and getting yelled at by J-Wait. All right, scratch that last part. Some say he's Mafia, he says that he owns this multi-million dollar company, but the fact that he lives in an abandoned building and with the way he hounds us for money constantly, I find that extremely hard to believe. But anyway, we all had a great friendship as roommates. Except for the eating every other week part, that wasn't the greatest. And when you're around age 17 and 18, you're ALWAYS hungry, just think of how bad it was for us.
There were only a few times I thought that I would get caught after the breakout, but being me, I didn't. But there were always a few people around and I didn't want anyone going to a mental hospital saying they saw America's Most Wanted Man turn into black/gray husky/wolf/thing. So anyway, it was another ordinary day for me, I was trying to get some money before we left the state the next day, so we could get a good new start. Anyway, I was on my way to a friend's to pick it up, I turned my head to my right, gave a skeptical look and casually walked the other way. Then just as I thought, the police cruiser came around the corner. I started to run as soon as I was around the next corner.
It's almost like a race, I can tell when the police are close, but they're always right behind me. I don't know, it could be the dog thing but it gives me a few seconds head start. These guys couldn't give me a break! Then again, in their eyes I was a dangerous fugitive, not some starving teenager trying to find the only family he had left; I'll give them that. It was already 8 o'clock at night so I couldn't come back, this guy was on a strict schedule, if I didn't show up; I didn't get paid, which was the usual.
The sirens were loud as heck, right in my ear. I dared to look back, and of course they were right behind me. I took a double take; I thought I saw someone familiar on the sidewalk, but whoever they were, they were gone, I figured it was probably just one of my old theatre buddies or something. Yes, yes I am, or was, an actor, but back to the point. I ran around the corner, and tripped over my own feet. It wasn't exactly funny this time, because I sprained my ankle. Really? Of all times to get my first sprained ankle, it had to be when I was running from the cops! Then I saw a moving van still filled with some stuff that I could hide behind. I ran in hoping the cruiser would pass thinking I went around the corner. Well it didn't, it stopped and they got out, guns ready. They were behind the van so I turned into a dog and started to walk out. I got up and knocked something over by accident.
"In the van," one of them said. While they got deeper into the van, I slipped out. I wasn't going to take any chances, so I kind of locked them in. Well there was no one around so I just changed back and pulled down the back and latched it closed. It was a close call, the thing got jammed on the way down and they almost made it out. I turned back into a dog and I ran down a secret alley that was only a few minutes away, but which unfortunately was the long way from where Rob was waiting, but I wasn't going to take my chances by going back in the open today. I knew the alley ways of Los Angeles like I knew Spanish, Italian, Latin, and the back of my hand. I know all of those things pretty well. My mother was Spanish and by the time I was seven, I was fluent in that courtesy of her. Same with my dad and the Italian and Latin, we went on and off with English and those three in the house. I remembered me and my dad having this joke where we always spoke about random stuff in Latin when my mom was in the room because she didn't speak it.
I turned back to a human and clutched my ankle after a while of walking. It was flea season, and whenever I changed back to a human, they just seemed to slip off of me. I felt a lot better except for the throbbing pain in my ankle. Man, did I wish for a Hershey's bar or something. I'll explain that later. The rain started to fall harder. My hair within five minutes was soaked like I'd just come out of a pool. It was getting annoying in my face so I pulled it back. But it still dripped down my neck and back which gave me the chills. I figured I would just walk back to the building where Rob was, it was dry there. I turned back into a dog and started to walk on 3 legs.
"What did you get this time?" he asked when he saw me. I changed back. "A broken ankle does that count for anything?" "Here," he said as he handed me some chocolate. We always keep some handy, but I thought we had ran out so I was pretty relived when I ate some. Now for regular dogs, it can kill if they eat a certain kind, but for a half breed like us it can cure just about anything. Unless of course you take an overdose and then it burns you from the inside out. So we have to be careful because we're not exactly sure how much is overdosing. We figured that when our stomach starts to burn a little then we'd better wait a day before eating any more.
"Hey, hey, man, don't eat too much of it, that's all we have," Rob told me. I didn't realize that I had eaten nearly half of the bar, which was way more than enough for my ankle. But it definitely wasn't enough for my empty stomach.
"Sorry, I'm hungry."
We both were, we'd been walking and running for days without anything. That was something we never got used to, being hungry all of the time. It's not like when you're growing and you're always craving something but there's nothing in the house that you want to eat. I mean like your stomach hurts and cramps up all of the time and you'd do anything for a freakin' walnut kind of hungry. After another two days we decided it was safe to go back out and look for some food before we left the state. I also got in touch with my friend and he was still willing to loan me the money. Bad idea. We were having some pretty rotten luck since this breakout. I was hoping that maybe the cops would just get fed up with chasing us and admit that they will never catch us. Rob and I split up at a fork in the road to greater our chances of escaping.
"Meet up at Harper Street in half hour, text me if I don't show up on time, but then shut your phone off in case one of us gets caught or else they'll track it," I told him. He nodded and sped off. I stopped to catch my breath that I had lost at least 10 minutes earlier, after almost being hit by a police motorcycle. I could only hope that Rob had gotten away. Then, in the alley, I was standing next to someone who I never expected to see again.
"You have got to be kidding me," I coughed. I wasn't sure if I should have been glad, or if I should have run then and there. This was the guy I took the double take for the other day.
"Well I guess you'll be seeing your brother a little sooner than 15 years. Nice jacket," Dr. Scott said to me, medical bag and all.
He was the doctor in the prison where I was. He purposely asked the C.O's to give me a job in the infirmary so he could keep an eye on me. I was never sure why though. He also gave me these sessions, which he liked to call therapy. I was only in it for time out of my cell and he would slip me a few cigarettes every week, but I have no idea why he wanted to spend so much time with me. I didn't have a lot of time to think about seeing him again, because the cops decided to follow me instead of Rob. I was about to run, but he caught my arm. I was terrified; I really wasn't sure what he would do.
"Doc you can't turn me in! You saw me in there, please!" I pleaded. I seriously did not want to go back to prison. I was getting ready to run.
"I won't, don't worry, I don't think that someone like you should be locked up. This way."
He let go of my arm. I didn't entirely trust him but it was my only option, we were at a dead end and he knew the way out. I didn't know this side of town; we were right outside of L.A. I heard the cruiser doors slam, they were on foot. Now would of been a good time to change into a dog but with this guy as my guide, I couldn't. I ended up dumping my sports jacket and shirt while we running in case they were using that for a description. We ran passed the back of a few bars, there was glass everywhere. I kept jumping over it and trying to avoid it since I was barefoot. It was a talent for me since I've been doing it almost every day for 7 years. But then I stepped on something sharp and fell. I landed hard on my side, and when I went to grab it there was a huge piece of glass sticking out me, it was in pretty deep. It didn't hurt now, I guess because it was so sharp, but it was bleeding fast.
Dr. Scott hadn't even noticed that I fell behind. I could hear the police yelling, they were right around the corner. I got up and caught up to him, and eventually passed him, there was no way I was getting caught. I was careful to run on my toes on my cut foot. Once I didn't hear the cops anymore I stopped, and slumped into a corner.
"Please, stop, they're gone now," I gasped. I was exhausted and in a lot of pain since my adrenaline rush subsided. I lay down, breathing hard, I looked up at Dr. Scott, who crouched down next to me to see if I was okay, which I wasn't.
"Just wait a sec doc." I closed my eyes, grasped the piece of glass and slowly pulled it out, he gently guided my hands. It took all my will power not to cry out, I didn't want to draw any attention again. I was bleeding a lot. I started to get up; I would just get some chocolate later somehow.
"Whoa, where are you going? We've got to get you to a hospital, you need stitches," he said as he gently pushed me back down.
"You think I'm an idiot?! Someone will call the cops! You're a doctor stitch me up, you did it before," I told him. His medical bag had to have something to stitch me up with and I was not about to tell him that I didn't need stitches.
"Riley, you know I can't do it here, you'll get an infection." I rolled my eyes at him.
"You think I care?! That's what cleaning is for! We don't have time for this, doc I gotta run!"
"We can't do it here in the street we have to get you somewhere else." I grabbed him by the collar.
"Do it, or I'm outta here!" I snarled. He knew me well now, and he knew that I would put up a fight until I won it. I knew that he cared about me. Why? I don't know, but he wouldn't just leave me here. I guess I might have showed off my pointed teeth a little too much, too, he looked a little freaked out when he saw me this worked up, but he finally sighed.
"Put your arm around me, I got a friend near here."
"No way, I'm not trusting anyone. I barely trust you; I know a place, hang a left up here."
I couldn't believe where I was taking him. He slowly helped me up; it hurt pretty badly when I had to bend. We started walking through a maze of side streets while I directed him. It never occurred to me why the doctor of the prison that I broke out of would be helping me like this. There were times when I just felt like passing out and sleeping until next week. He stopped a few times so I could rest, but he always made me get back up. Then we finally came to a door after like a half hour, the door of the warehouse... It was the only thing I could think of okay! I also knew that it wasn't under police surveillance anymore because this was where I was originally supposed to meet my friend for the money, but I got him to reconsider the rendezvous point. I never wanted to come back here again, ever. I kicked the door open with all my strength; I couldn't believe that people were still living here. People turned and looked around, someone who was currently in charge said.
"If you don't pay you don't stay," he said keeping his eyes firm on his newspaper. That had to be the cheesiest slogan I'd ever heard. I turned it over and shoved the wanted poster in his face.
"Say that to me again in my house, see what happens," I snapped at him. He backed up a little. "And the next time you talk to John Davingson, tell him that Riley Black said good riddance," I grinned. Dr. Scott helped me to my old room. Some older kids were going through our stuff.
"Out!" I yelled. They started to leave; I grabbed one by the shirt and held out my hand. "Give it to me."
He quickly took a wad of cash from his pocket that he had stuffed in there thinking I wouldn't see it and put it in my hand. Psh, silly children... I pushed him towards the door and he ran off. I can be pretty intimidating if you mess with my stuff. The doc laid me down.
"Mm- in my pack, get me some water," I groaned.
He rummaged through by backpack and handed me a bottle of water. I drank it and quickly texted Rob saying that I would be late. Then I turned off my phone in case he had gotten caught and they were planning on tracking my number. This was our room, where we held poker games, counted 'our' money, shared a pack of cigarettes, drank coffee by the quart, slept till one, and I would take five naps a day on top of that. Not exactly normal for a regular person but just think of how often a dog sleeps, and I also had another reason, long story I'll explain later. It still smelled like coffee, paint, and Coca Cola. I saw my unfinished mural on the wall and was tempted to go and work on it. A wave of memories came back to me, good ones, bad ones, and the ones where you just can't decide if you had a good time or not. I noticed how bloody I'd gotten his shirt, I hoped he wouldn't get stopped or anything for it. The least I could do for him was pray that he wouldn't get caught, he'd made my time in prison a lot easier and less intimidating. He put a towel on my cut.
"Where would there be matches?" he asked.
"Over there, peroxide, too." I nodded toward a table with all of my paints on it.
"Hold that there, I'll be back," he told me.
It was something about the way he said 'I'll be back.' I grabbed his wrist before he could walk out, and I looked at him really well for the first time. I finally recognized his face... And I realized that his eyes weren't brown anymore. It all came back to me at once. I knew that 1st grade picture of his "nephew" on his desk looked way too familiar. I immediately wanted to punch out this guy's teeth. I didn't care if he got caught now. No wonder he was so gentle with me in prison and always wanted to be around me. Ho-oh you just made a huge mistake, man...