The Kid

Effingham, South Carolina…August 1949…Jeremy Olsen pulled up to the front of the Florence County Sheriff’s Department around ten at night. He sat for a moment in the cab of his rusted Ford. Only half an hour ago, he had received a call from his good friend Carl Delby, a deputy.

Olsen sighed heavily and opened the door of his truck. Delby was there in a shouting match with a man just a few years older than he was.

“He’s a menace to the town, Carl!” the elder was saying. “He belongs locked up!”

“Come on, Ron!” Carl was red-faced. “Even my daughter knows that bastard is abusive!”

“Am I interrupting?” Olsen asked.

Carl turned to him. “No, Jeremy. Thanks for coming.”

Even though Carl was new to Florence County, he had made friends with the small business owner. Good enough to be called on in the middle of dinner. Jeremy didn’t really mind, though. He had no family, and this sounded important.

“Why did you call him?” Sheriff Ron Dempsey snapped at one of his deputies.

“He might be able to help him.”

“Where is he?” Olsen asked.

“This way.”

Olsen walked past Dempsey, who was shaking his head and cursing under his breath. The jail cells were in the back through a door that remained locked at all times. In one of the cells, a teenager sat on the bench, hunched over his knees, his head held up by a hand.

“There he is,.” Carl said.

The kid looked up and past the bulbous eye. In those cold eyes, Jeremy saw Ronnie Sanders, a friend he had in Easy Company – Ronnie died in Belgium. This kid was unshaven, showing an impressive stubble for a seventeen-year-old.

“Can I go in?” Jeremy asked the deputy.

Carl nodded and unlocked the door.

Olsen stepped in and sat next to the kid.“What’s your name?”

“Jack Logan,” he replied with a growl.

“Know who I am?”

“No, but I’ve seen you around.”

“Lived here for some time. I remember your family, your siblings running around and you in your diaper trying to catch up.” Olsen paused and watched the kid’s body language. “I even remember your father.”

This forced Jack Logan to whip his head around. “Shut the fuck up about my father.”

“Maybe I’m just getting older, but that’s pretty strong language for a teenager.”

Jack looked away, but Olsen noticed the tightening of the jaw muscles, the skinned knuckles, and, of course, the black eye.

“Pretty nice shiner you’ve got.”

Jack snickered. “Yeah, you should see the other guy.”

“I should. I bet he’s got a sprained finger.”

Jack glared at Olsen. “Why are you here?”

“Carl here is a good friend of mine, and he thinks you need some help.”

“I took care of it myself.”

“Not your stepfather, Jack. You.”

“What?”

Olsen sighed. “Carl thinks I should take you under my wing, so to speak, and help you figure out your anger issues to keep you from landing in jail and maybe, even worse, dead.”

“There are worse things than being dead.”

Olsen grinned at the kid’s attitude. He stood and walked out. Carl led him back into the office where Dempsey was already shrugging into his jacket.

“If that little shit is gone when I get in, I’ll be expecting a damned good explanation,” he growled.

When Dempsey left, Carl turned to Olsen. “Well?” he asked.

“That kid…reminds me of some of the guys in my platoon after we were relieved from combat in Normandy. Had that thousand-yard stare, you know?”

“I know of it.” Carl Delby had been an MP in the war.

“Dempsey is a crusty piece of shit that’s been hard on that kid and his family since I can remember. I just don’t know why.”

“Can you help him? My daughter said she’s heard that he really only has two friends: Tyler Fischer and his girlfriend, Heidi Kluntz.”

Olsen shook his head. “I can, but he’s going to need to want help.” He narrowed his brows and looked at Carl. “How’d he wind up in jail?”

“His stepfather called and said he was outofcontrol, trying to bash him and Kathy, his mother.”

“I know who Kathy is, Carl. She was the prettiest woman in Florence County. Hell, she still is.”

“What happened to the father?”

“Mat?” Olsen grinned. “He joined up after his son Keith did. He was still on the young side and thought he could use the money here at home. He’s Scottish, and folks didn’t really like them. He died in France; , I think.”

“And Keith?”

“He’s still in the Army. Liked it, and they liked him.”

Carl sighed heavily and went to the coffeepot. He poured two cups and held one out to Olsen.

“No thanks,” Olsen said. “I need to get up early to open the gym.”

***


Back in the cell, Jack Logan breathed heavily. Enough had been enough, and he couldn’t take it anymore. Neil Camp had slapped his mother around for the last time. Usually, Jack wasn’t home for the abusing, so felt like he couldn’t do anything. He was only a kid after all, right?

Jack slammed a fist into Neil and followed it with more. He landed some, but Neil threw one punch, just one. That’s how he got the swollen eye. Jack knocked the bastard down and left him on the living room floor.

He got in Camp’s truck and drove nowhere in particular. It was too late to go to Tyler’s, and he wasn’t close enough to Heidi to stop there. Other than those two, he had no other friends, just acquaintances.

Ron Dempsey picked him up…with Neil. Dempsey believed that son of a bitch over the kid with the tear-streaked face and swollen eye. But that was to be expected. Anytime Jack was within fifty feet – or the same county – of anything criminal, he was cuffed.

No wonder Jack’s older brother skipped town.

The door to the cell block opened, and Carl Delby entered.

“Hey, Jack.”

Nothing.

“Look, I know you’re not a fan of Dempsey, but I’m not him. It’s just us.”

“You work for him.” Jack felt the knot growing in his throat and the tears welling up behind his eyes.

“I work for the badge, not the man.”

Damn, that was good, Jack thought. But fuck him. “Can I get a drink?”

“Coffee? Water?”

“If coffee is the strongest, then coffee, please.”

Carl left and came back with a cup of coffee. Jack took it with a thanks and sat. He sipped it quietly. From the office, a telephone rang, and Carl went to answer it, leaving the kid alone in his cell.

Jack wore denim jeans and a plaid shirt, rolled up just below his elbows. Dirty cowboy boots and a sports cap at his side completed his outfit. Sometimes, he wore his dark baseball cap. He shivered, despite the warmth the wool plaid offered, and looked at the bed off to the side. He had not thought of it before, as he was much too furious to do anything about it.

He left the cap and stepped over reluctantly to the cot, and, after stripping off his boots, he crawled underneath the sheets. Jack lay on his side, in the half-fetal position, and looked at the opposite wall, both furious at the injustice of the world and curious as to how the hell he was getting out.

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