Summary: Kenan is the hapless victim of the classical 'wrong place and time' scenario. His case is just a little more problematic than usual. An already complicated life spirals through an all-time low as he gets caught between two warring crime lords in a desperate bid to save himself and those important to him.
M for language, violence, and slashy themes.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to existing people is coincidental. The story and all characters in it belong to me.
A/N: Again, please remember that this is fiction, not a philosophical essay. The views of characters on controversial topics (such as religion, moral values, communities, culture) do not necessarily reflect my own beliefs. Thank you.
Also, this fic is something of an experiment. I wanted to see if I could find a technique to write prose that read very fast and gritty without actually making the story itself cluttered or rushed. I hope that makes sense. In any case, it is a style I found to be the most enjoyable whenever I managed to come across the rare examples that exist. Be my judge, will you?
"Hello, you must be Kenan."
Got it in one, Lady.
"I'm Dr. Jekyll Moore, but you can call me Jekyll."
I raised an eyebrow at her enthusiastic introduction, but didn't change my expression otherwise. Really now?
Her happy smile fell a little, but she continued without further pause.
"I suppose you already know why you're here?" I cocked my head to the side. "Mrs. Brant told me she talked to you about the sessions."
She certainly did. Among many other things.
Casey Brant was my latest caretaker. She was a hyper woman in her late forties with a deceased husband and an adult daughter who lived a sensible number of states away from her childhood home. Also, Casey liked to talk. Or - to be more precise - Casey was the type of person with the itching need to spew forth whatever thoughts ran through her mind at any given time. She wasn't prone to filtering either. Luckily, she was a pretty decent person, if a little on the dumb side, so she usually said nice things. Often thoughtless, but not malicious. We got along famously. Har har.
"She told me she thought it would do you some good to have someone you can work through your problems with."
And naturally, Casey knows best. I almost rolled my eyes. Almost.
"What do you think, Kenan? We will work together from now on, get your life back on track."
I stared at her in apathy. If her smile became a little forced, who could blame her? Then again, what did she expect? I had been an orphan in the system for the past four years. I was not your happiest seventeen year old.
"I think we should start with your social troubles. Mrs. Brant was concerned you were not fitting in with your peers. Do you have any friends at school, Kenan?"
Why do you feel the need to repeat my name every other sentence? I assure you my attention span is up to par so far.
"Do you feel your disability sets you back in building relationships, perhaps?"
Oh my, the lady has some mad skillz.
An important tidbit to know about me; I was mute. Well, probably. I had lost my voice at thirteen and had stopped trying to regain it after a year of failed effort. In any case, for all intents and purposes, my vocal abilities were limited to the occasional gasps and coughs I would produce. I supposed my social interactions suffered for it a bit. Go figure.
- KS -
After the illuminating therapy session I was carted off back to Casey's. She lived in a quiet neighborhood of Detroit. She was waiting by the door of the small house when I climbed out of the social worker's car. She bounced over to me wearing a painfully large grin.
"Kenan! Welcome back! How did the session go? Did you work out a schedule with the doctor? Was she nice? I heard it helps people heaps if they talk about their problems, even if it's to a stranger, so a psychologist should be even better, right? But I guess it would be a little different for you, since you wouldn't exactly talk..." she trailed off with a thoughtful frown.
Hello, Casey. Tactful as ever I hear.
"But come on, let's go in! I made fried chicken for dinner! You must be hungry. You're so skinny, you should eat more!"
How she managed to talk in constant exclamations, I would never know. It was painful, really. Dinner sounded good right about then. She couldn't keep it up it she had to chew as well, right?
Half an hour later I excused myself from the table and hightailed it back to my appointed room. My temples were already throbbing from overexposure. Casey had that effect on me.
I closed the door behind myself with a quiet click, reveling in the silence. Walking over to the bed, I flopped down with a sigh. Tomorrow was Monday, so I would have to pack for school. My fingers ran through my messy black hair, settling on massaging my nape to relieve some of the pressure. After staring into space blankly for a couple of minutes, I let myself fall back against the mattress and closed my eyes. I could pack tomorrow morning.
- KS -
I woke up around four am, my mouth open in a silent scream. My long gone voice was there in my dream however, echoing through my head in shrill terror. I shuddered, panting and rubbing my palm against the jeans I had fallen asleep in. I hated nightmares.
I got to my feat, my knees shaking a little before I locked them in place. I shuffled through the dark room to the window, opening it wide. The cold air sweeping along my torso did wonders to clear my head of the last dregs of sleep. It would be a lost cause to attempt going back to bed anyway. I would be leaving for school in a few short hours.
Another thing I hated; school.
Since the government was too stingy to pay for specialized institutions if they could avoid it, I attended a normal public high school. In all honesty, they were probably right - it wasn't like I was mentally challenged or deaf. I could keep up with my studies just fine, proven by my performance of straight As. It was the people I disliked, not the classes. But who was to say I would like the ones attending special education any better? It could be even worse, actually. They would expect me to reply, knowing sign language and all. I was happy in my quiet little bubble, thank you. Plus, if I graduated from normal school, I would have much better chances of finding worthwhile work later on. And thus: hail to the stingy government. I was all for their money hoarding ways.
I stood gazing out into the darkness for a good half an hour. I was probably going to catch a cold, but I couldn't muster the will to care. No one else would either, so why should I?
Inhaling once deeply and letting the breath out through my mouth, I finally reached up to latch the window closed and turned back toward the room to switch the light on. The small desk shoved into the corner held all my study-related supplies, and I made my way over to collect my bag and pack for the day.
The rest of my worldly possessions all lay in the two suitcases under the bed. I didn't bother putting anything into the wardrobe Casey provided with the room for the foster kids she took in, since I could be moved to another home at any time. It was easier if everything remained in one place. Less attachments formed this way as well.
I went and grabbed my bag of toiletries, tiptoeing out of the room. Waking Casey was the last thing I wanted at the moment. I was forced to deal with her, yes, but that didn't mean I couldn't prolong my quiet time as long as I was able to. I only relaxed when I reached the bathroom at the end of the hall. I deposited my stuff by the sink and closed the door behind me with a muffled snick. I leaned my back against it, letting my hands fall to my sides limply. I celebrated my success with an empty smile.
I spent the next hour under the warm spray of the shower. By the time I toweled down and dried my hair, I could hear Casey bustling around in the house. I wrapped the towel over my shoulders. Thankfully it was quite large, so it covered me down to my knees. I was cautious when I opened the door a crack to peek out into the hallway. When I saw no sign of movement, I swung it wide and dashed back to the sanctuary my room provided. I dragged a suitcase out from under the bed and dressed in the first clothes I found. They happened to match somewhat - a pair of jeans and a baggy, dark green sweater.
I was reluctant to leave, but I knew Casey would eventually barge in to force me to eat breakfast. It was less of a hassle if I went of my own volition. I braved the hallway again and headed for the kitchen. Casey was cooking pancakes by the stove, and I skirted around her to sit at the dining table. She let loose a shudder-worthy shriek when she turned around to find me seated.
"You scared me, Kenan!" She huffed, fanning herself with dramatic waves. I just stared at her. "A little warning next time, please? You can knock on the door or something."
I played around with the food Casey deposited in front of me. I wasn't too hungry and I didn't much like pancakes anyway. After breakfast I went to grab my backpack, checking if I had everything. I gave Casey a halfhearted wave and pulled my jacket and shoes on before exiting the house.
The weather was still chilly, the morning rays of the sun just beginning to warm the boring concrete of the road. It was the beginning of April and the days would be getting longer soon. I was not looking forward to the summer heat. I liked winter a lot more.
I began my slow trek towards school. Casey's place was pretty far away and since there was no way I would get on public transportation of any form, I was stuck with a forty-minute walk to get there. At least it was still early enough for the streets to be near deserted. Small mercies.
On the way, I stopped at the coffee shop I visited every morning. Casey deemed my addiction to caffeine unhealthy and denied giving me any, so I was forced to spend what small amount of money I had on it elsewhere. I then continued on, and walked into the school building with my takeout cup in hand.
There were very few people present at such an early point in time, just how I liked it. The scant number of students with similar unholy habits to mine loitered around aimlessly, and were definitely not the type to bother with acknowledging my unobtrusive person. I glided through the corridors like a ghost, heading for an out-of-the-way spot near the fire escapes. No one ever went there, even when the building was brimming with life.
I sat cross legged on the floor, sipping my cooling beverage every once in a while. My free hand fiddled with the tattered bottom of my jeans, tugging at a loose piece of thread. My first class of the day would be Calculus. I was not looking forward to it one bit. That period was filled with all the biggest assholes of my grade, gathered into a tiny enclosed space. It was an exhibit of society's lowest life forms.
I waited until the last possible moment to leave my quiet shelter, but the tardy bell had already rung and if I didn't get going I would have been late for class. Mr. Verner was a good teacher, but his detentions were hell if you made him mad.
I worked my way into a standing position and hitched my backpack over one shoulder. I threw my empty paper cup into a nearby trash bin, my reluctant feet carrying me toward the classroom on the second floor. Most people were already off the corridor and I could make the trip without having to navigate through the swarming crowds.
The teacher was nowhere in sight yet when I reached the room. The door was open and the kids inside were noisy as ever. No one seemed to notice my presence, so I slunk in with my usual apathetic mien in place. My seat was close to the entrance in the second row, so there was a good chance my classmates would ignore me long enough for Mr. Verner to arrive. I opened my bag and pulled out my book and notebook, searching around for my pen that had slipped to the bottom.
"Would you look at that," someone boomed from further back. "It's the sissy prick himself. How kind of you to grace us with your presence."
I never looked up, though I knew it was me he had addressed. I gave no indication that I heard him. I also found my pen and placed it at the top of my desk for easy reach. Opening my notebook, I turned the pages to my completed homework.
"I'm talking to you, pretty boy," the guy called out again. "Didn't your momma teach you to greet your elders properly?"
The predictable snickers swept through the class.
"Oh, right. You can't."
Meet Tyler, funny jock extraordinaire.
It was true most of the people in my year were older than me though. My birthday was at the end of May, so some of them were almost a whole year ahead.
"Leave it, Ty. You can't really blame him for being born retarded," said a girl sitting on top of the desk beside Tyler. Her name was Trisha - 'Call me Trish!' -, groupie number one.
"Trish's right. Some people are just so pitiful." And let's not forget groupie number two, otherwise known as Jessica. The two of them were the biggest die-hard fans of Tyler and his merry band of assholes.
Mr. Verner swept into the room before they could come up with any more ingenious insults, and I let a small breath escape my lungs. This was going to be a tiring day. I never understood why they found such pleasure in their so-called bullying. They say that if you ignore them, people eventually get tired of you. I can't remember ever responding to their taunts during my high school career, so I was somewhat baffled by their persistence. Not that I cared all that much. But they often left me with a headache, which I didn't exactly enjoy.
"Good morning, class. Today we will be doing a revision of..."
The droning voice of my teacher erased all contemplation about the psychology behind bullying. I concentrated on the lecture, and willed the day to go by faster.
- KS -
After classes ended I had about an hour to waste until music club would begin. I played the piano. I had started way back in elementary school. My skills were nothing much to brag about, but I wasn't bad at it either. It was more a habit than anything else. That, and a way to stay away from foster homes for as long as I could manage.
I brought a latte from the automat with some spare change I had on me, and went to sit in the music room to wait for the rest of the members to arrive. The quiet of the afternoon was a balm on my frayed nerves after an exhausting day. The row of windows lining the wall showed a view of the empty courtyard bellow. The atmosphere was much different whenever it lacked the presence of people like that. Shadows danced along under the tall chestnut trees planted along the fence, and I could hear the chirping of the birds nestled among the crowns. Very soothing.
I remained uninterrupted for the expected hour, after which I took my place behind the out-of tune, battered baby grand the school provided for its students. The rest of the members trickled in one by one, and we practiced until around six at night.
By the time I stepped out through the front gate, the sun had already dipped past the horizon. It would be dark within fifteen minutes or so. I would have to steel myself against Casey's harping for getting home so late and 'worrying her'.
To be fair, I'm sure she honestly worried a little, but I found it to be much more likely that she was scared of what Child Services would do if something happened to me while in her care. Not to mention the possibility of them cutting the funds she received. In any case; her house, her rules. I would just leave earlier next time.
I was midway along when I heard a strange noise from a small alley not much further ahead. Muffled thumps and harsh scraping was carried on the wind, and I couldn't place it for the life of me. I didn't want to either, for that matter. I took an instinctive step back, focusing on the origin of the sounds with an intent frown. I glanced away to the side, deciding to cross the street and remove myself from the situation altogether. Caution never hurt anyone...
Caution? Just admit you are a coward and be done with it.
Well, I was fine with either option as long as it got me out of harm's way. I had a bad feeling about this.
I was already on the other side of the road, a few feet past the opening of the alley in question, when my ear picked up the running footfalls disappearing in the opposite direction. There was nobody else on the street, it was the middle of a family friendly residential zone with no businesses or even pubs in the vicinity, so there was little doubt the person had been the one to cause the noise I had heard. I craned my neck a fraction with some measure of hesitation to spot the retreating form of a man from the corner of my eyes. I had came to a complete halt by then.
I caught a glimpse of his profile as he glanced back at the opening that led to the passage, though he never stopped. He looked young, in his twenties at most, and the impression was strengthened by the clothes he wore. He had a leather jacket on top with a circular symbol sewn on the back that I could not recognize, and faded jeans covered his legs, the bottoms stuffed into black boots. I didn't think he noticed me. I was standing motionless halfway between two street lights in the most shadowed part, and they weren't built all that close together in this part of the city to begin with. His stubbled cheek quickly disappeared to face back ahead, the dark head bobbing with his speedy rhythm.
When the silhouette of the guy was far enough that I could hardly see it anymore, I turned my attention back to the alley in curiosity. I found the sudden silence oppressive, although I would have probably paid it no mind if my senses weren't tuned to notice it. My legs carried me a step back without any conscious decision on my part. When I realized what I was doing I shook my head and focused back on the road ahead in determination. What did I care about some stranger making a ruckus in an alley? It was none of my business.
However, my gaze searched out the opening again, the guy's long gone, so what could it hurt?
I rolled my eyes at my stupidity, but I did turn around to cross the road again, shuffling closer to peek into the shadowed passage. There was nothing there at first glance, except for the dumpsters owned by the homes to both sides and a wired fence cutting off the way further in. The smell wafting through the air was not pleasant, and my nose wrinkled a bit when I got a whiff of it.
I was about to walk away, cursing my curiosity, when I caught the outline of something out of place to my left. My eyes narrowed on the dark form sticking out from behind the rusted metal garbage bin.
Is that a shoe?
My heart picked up speed when I determined it was indeed a shoe. And it had a leg attached to it as well. Funny thing, that.
I was not able to stop myself from moving further in. And the closer I got, the more sense the shape seemed to make. Soon, I could see another leg, twisted awkwardly over the first, and connected to a very human-looking torso propped up against the dirty wall. Then there was a head, too, lolling to the side limply. My lagging mind finally drew the logical conclusion; it was a man. A very large, very unconscious man. With very blond hair.
The rest of the details registered even slower. His face looked weird - swollen -, his suit was shabby - ripped and wrinkled -, and he was sitting in a puddle - ...blood?
I didn't like blood. We didn't mix at all. Blood was painithurtsno, and stoppleaseI'msorry. My head would become woozy and my sight would go grey along the edges. The screams of my nightmares would creep forth to haunt me.
My hands trembled, clutching the straps of my backpack in a vice-like grip. My breathing turned ragged, my world narrowed on the crumpled form before me. My pulse was pounding through my temples so loud, I thought my eardrums were about to burst. There was so much blood. Too much.
Focus, you idiot. You must calm down. At least check if he's alive. Panic later!
I drew a shuddering breath, blinking to clear the fog surrounding my mind. One foot moved shakily after another, and I collapsed to my knees beside the man's leg. I had to will my cramping fingers to let go of my bag with all my might before the muscles decided to obey me. I lifted the back of my hand to his nose, wanting to avoid touching him if I could. I held my next inhale in, waiting to see if I could feel any stirring of air indicating he was not dead. And sure enough, a weak gust tickled my skin, causing me to flinch away.
My eyes fluttered closed for a second, my tense shoulders slumping a fraction of an inch. Next time I opened them, a pair of blue was staring back at me. I jumped in fright, falling back on my backside with a startled gasp. I scrambled to my feet in a rush and backed away until my back hit the opposite wall.
I needed to call help. But how? Even if I had a phone, it was not like I could use it. A moment of indecision rooted me to place. I had to leave the guy to find someone who would be able to make the call. I wasn't sure if it was a good idea to leave him alone in the state he was in, but there was not much I could do for him, except watch him bleed out. That decided it then; I would run to get help and hope he wouldn't die while I was gone.
He was still watching me when I bolted off to the street. I ran up to the closest door I could find, banging on the wooden surface. I was frantic to make it in time. It took the residents forever to open up, and another precious minute was wasted while I convinced the wife - who had no idea of sign language of course - to follow me into the alley with stupid gestures and pointing fingers.
When we got there, the guy was no longer awake. I ran over in a panic to check his breathing and was relieved to find it had not ceased. The woman shrieked behind me, yelling at her husband to call for an ambulance. I stared at the man for a moment longer, and stood to back away again.
We waited for the ambulance with the couple in tense anticipation. The husband kept checking the injured man's vitals every minute or so. I was grateful I didn't have to do it myself. Barely could I even keep myself from breaking down on the spot, and I had no desire to get any closer to all that blood. The sight was already chipping away at my haphazard mental barriers.
The rescue party arrived within ten minutes at most. Could have been less than that for all I knew, but my sense of time was somewhat skewed in the situation. They examined the guy with fast efficiency and loaded him on a stretcher. One of them, a pretty brunette woman, told us to wait for the police investigators to arrive as they prepared to drive off to the nearest hospital. I nodded my agreement. The couple, who were both quite unnerved by my blank face if their uneasy glances were any indication, assured her they would also not move from the spot.
When the ambulance drove off in a flurry of flashing lights and loud whine of the sirens, I walked over to the entry of the alley, not wanting to stay there a moment longer than necessary. I leaned back against the wall facing the road.
If I run now, would the police catch me?
The answer was: yes, they would. The good Samaritans back there - Then what does that make you, hmm? - could definitely provide them with a good enough description of me to piece together my identity. And it would look suspicious if I left a crime scene without word, so they would be extra diligent in their search. This left me with little other choice but to await the oncoming hellish hours in trepidation.
And how I hated to be right sometimes. The cops arrived barely five minutes following the ambulance's departure. The couple got off pretty easy with their account of the events and a request to submit a written version the following day at the department. In my case, things were a bit more difficult. For one, no one at the scene could understand sign language. I had to scribble answers to their questions on a blank page of a notebook. I was also a witness of the perpetrator's flight from the scene. This meant I was off to visit the station in short order. Once there, it took them a good hour to procure a translator which I found entirely pointless, as I was told to write my statement while they informed my guardian of my whereabouts.
I was only released at past nine o'clock at night. Casey drove me back and her incessant chatter was not helping my state of mind any. She parked in the neat driveway in front of the house, fretting over my terrible luck, and I was out of the car and slamming the door of my room shut before she could blink. I knew it was a little rude, but I deserved a break once in a while. And with the night I had, I think I held up admirably well.
I was finally alone. A moment passed with me stilling practically mid-step. My pack was hanging off my elbow, swinging back and forth with my aborted movement. The hush was broken by a shuddery, silent sob that tore through my throat. The bag fell to the ground in a lifeless heap. I held the hysterical episode back with a hard swallow and hurried over to the chair to snag the towel draped over it.
I had to get to the shower. That was my single most prominent goal. I had to wash off the scent of blood - hurtsnodon't. It was all over me, my skin crawled with the feel of the coppery fluid. My jeans were soaked in it around the knees and it had taken all my willpower to ignore it up until then. I tore it off my legs, launching it across the room. I would have thrown it out the window if it had been open.
Clad in boxers and my sweater, my sneakers still on my feet, I sprinted through the hallway to the bathroom. I was lucky Casey didn't see me. The towel was thrown into the sink and I stepped into the shower without bothering to undress. The need to clean myself was too strong.
I sat with my knees drawn up to my chest and with the water beating down on me until the scorching temperature turned to ice. I never noticed the change. The sobs I could no longer keep in eventually died down to soft hiccoughs, and I put some effort into evening out my breathing. I managed to drag myself out of the stall and peeled my soaked clothing off.
I dried myself with methodical precision, brushed my teeth, and trudged back to my room carrying the dripping pile of clothes. I dropped everything beside the bed and pulled the shirt and shorts on that I liked to sleep in. Climbing under the sheets, I blinked at the ceiling with wide, bloodshot eyes. This would be a long night.
A/N: Oklahoma City has been changed to Detroit. I'm not familiar with the state of Michigan either, but it seems to be a better choice in setting. I'm still up for suggestions and corrections regarding this.
Also, Kenan is seventeen, not sixteen as before the correction. Sorry for the mistake.