Chapter 2 – The Doctor
Kurt knocked on the door. He hadn’t been here in over a year and probably wouldn’t be now except that Celia promised him payment for fixing her arm. The more he thought about the payment, the more he decided not to wait until her cast came off to start collecting. She answered the door on his third knock.
“Well, Doctor, you’re here early. Come in before I catch a chill,” she said, her skimpy night wear doing little to hide the dark, smooth curves of her body.
“I hope no one has any claim on you today.” He kissed her neck behind her ear.
“You really should call ahead.” She brought her lips to his and then ran them along his cheekbone, sending chills of anticipation through him. “I’m all yours today,” she whispered into his ear.
Kurt allowed her to lead him to the bedroom with kisses and caresses. At the doorway he took a quick glance into Dawg’s corner to see if the boy was home. He didn’t care for an audience even through a closed door. He stopped, stunned, all desire fleeing. The boy wouldn’t be eavesdropping. He lay naked on his back. Bruises colored a myriad of older scars across his chest, and a cut on his upper right arm oozed a bloody pus.
“My God, Celia. What have you done to him?” Kurt knelt beside the boy and tried to find his pulse. It was there, but weak.
“Nothing but what the bastard deserved for breaking my arm. Leave him. We have better things to do.”
“He needs to be in the hospital.”
“You’re crazy. I have enough trouble with the welfare people when he misses too much school.”
“He could die. The coroner won’t be able to misdiagnose this.”
“I don’t need a coroner to bury a dog.”
“Celia, you’re killing your own child!”
“God, Kurt. You’ve killed enough of them. Four of mine, if I recall. Why get squeamish now?”
“I’ve never done this.”
“Oh, come on. What’s the difference whether you kill them before or after they’re born?”
“There’s a big difference.”
“Besides he’s not gonna die. He just got knocked around last night. Probably in better shape than when you operated on him last year.”
Kurt winced at the year-old memory. He had been high when he had let her talk him into giving Dawg a vasectomy in her room with no anesthesia or pain medicine. He had cut a vein instead. She knew that she could end his career. Dawg was the evidence. He had stopped using crack after that. When he survived the withdrawal, a process during which he sometimes doubted he would, he knew he had to stay away from the source — Celia — if he didn’t want to go through that again. Why had he let sexual desire cloud his resolve? Studying the boy, his stomach became queasy. The boy had far more abuse than he’d realized while high, and he hadn’t done anything to stop it. “I’ve got my first aid kit in the car. Let me try to help him.”
“I’m not giving out for him.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t be asking.” And he knew he wouldn’t even be asking for payment for the cast. He went out to the car for his kit.
Celia watched as Kurt cleaned Dawg’s wounds until she became bored. “I’ll be in the bedroom.”
Kurt ignored her and examined the boy closer. He probably wouldn’t live without medical treatment, and the contents of his small first aid kit were not enough to make a difference. He covered the boy with an old, hole-filled, blanket and told Celia that he’d be back later with some medicine.
Kurt hopped in his Chevy Impala, but it refused his first few tries to start it. He should have taken it in to the shop instead of giving in to Celia’s invitation. But he rarely drove it, except when he visited places he thought unsafe for his newer Lexus.
At his office he threw everything he could into a briefcase. As he drove back someone had posted a billboard that said, “Need a miracle?” and it listed a church in the area.
That boy needed a miracle, but he couldn’t give it to him. Maybe he should just turn around and forget him. Celia didn’t care, why should he? If he were gone, it’d be his word against hers. Then if she ever followed through on her threat, it wouldn’t even be a contest. But you don’t just kill someone or let someone die to cover your mistakes, do you? But no one would care if he died.
He should have been aborted like his siblings. Would they have each been children with dark wavy hair and penetrating brown eyes? He’d always known that if she cleaned him up he’d be a handsome child. But she had almost destroyed him. How old was he now? Thirteen, fourteen, somewhere in there. What would he be like away from her? Was it too late? If he survived would he end up killing someone and go to prison? Would he molest little children as he’d been molested? Kurt groaned at his own thoughts. He’d known all along how abused the boy had been, but he’d never done anything to stop it. Now that he was sober, his guilt was patently obvious.
If he died, though, there would be questions. If Celia got taken in, Kurt knew she would try to take him down, too, and they’d have the evidence right there on the coroner’s report. He had to relocate, but that would take time. Even then she knew his real name. If he could somehow get the boy away from here – so far away that if he did die, they wouldn’t be able to trace him back to him or Celia.
A few blocks from Celia’s house the car engine died. Kurt tried to restart it, but couldn’t. He opened the hood, looking for the problem, but he wasn’t much of a mechanic.
A tall, sturdy, black kid came out of the house he was in front of. “Hey, need help?” the kid called.
“Only if you know something about cars.”
“Not much, but I can help push it to the curb. Jerome Johnson.”
“Kurt Smith,” he said, using the name he always used when he came to this neighborhood. They started pushing.
Two others walked by without offering to help. “I heard they got the Dog pretty bad last night,” one said.
The other laughed. “Why would they want him?”
“Heard she paid them.”
“Do anything for money.” Their voices faded as they walked away.
Jerome stared after them. “Lord Jesus, protect that boy.”
Kurt stared at him as if he’d sprouted wings. He’d never heard Jesus mentioned reverently in this neighborhood before.
Jerome shrugged at his look. “He comes down to the mission a lot. Dawg does. He plays worship songs on the piano.”
“He plays the piano?”
“You know him?”
“Yeah, kind of.”
Jerome looked suspicious then.
Kurt was sure Jerome suspected him of being one of Dawg’s abusers. He hoped he could convince him he wasn’t, since it appeared Jerome had some sympathy for him. “Tell me, what kind of person is Dawg?”
“Why you want to know?”
“I want to know whether I should turn around and go home or go into that slut’s house and try to save his life.” Now why did he just admit that to a total stranger?
“You’re a doctor?”
“He’s really bad?”
“What are you waiting for, Man? Let’s go.”
“Are you his friend?”
“Dawg don’t got no friends. Except maybe Jesus. I hope he knows Jesus. If he’s bad, maybe I should try to talk to him and make sure he knows. Can you take me in?”
“Yeah sure. I guess we can walk from here.” He grabbed his bag, and they started toward Celia’s house. “He plays the piano?” Kurt asked again.
“And the guitar. He could be in a band if he wasn’t so scared of everyone.”
“That good? His mother never gave him lessons, I’m sure.”
“No. He just taught himself. Kind of plays by ear, you know. He hears it, he can repeat it.”
They came to Celia’s house, and Kurt knocked once before entering. Celia had changed from her night dress to tight jeans and top. “Have you brought me another customer, Kurt dear?”
“No. He’s my medical assistant since you won’t let me take Dawg to the hospital.”
“I already told you, I’m not giving out for him, and that includes for your assistant.”
“Just let me treat him. If he dies, there are going to be questions. What will you tell the welfare people if he never goes back to school, huh?”
“You can write me a death certificate then, I suppose.”
“No. I can’t. So let’s save both of us some trouble.”
Jerome looked around the dingy room until he saw the boy on the floor in the corner. He knelt beside him. “Hey, Dawg. It’s me, Jerome,” he said softly. “From the mission, remember?” He touched his face and glanced up at Kurt. “He ain’t dead yet, is he?”
Kurt came over and felt Dawg’s neck for his pulse and shallow breathing. “No. Not yet.”
“Some medical assistant. Doesn’t even know a dead body from a live one.” Celia slammed the door to her room, and a moment later the sound of the television could be heard.
Kurt pulled back the blanket to Dawg’s waist.
“Oh, Lord Jesus. No wonder he’s so scared all the time.”
Kurt prepared an antibiotic and then injected it.
“What do you want me to do?”
“Get some warm water from the kitchen and just start washing him up if you can.” Kurt then cleaned the arm wound and readied it for stitching. He didn’t think about pain killers until the boy moaned softly.
“Hey, it’s all right,” Jerome said. “We’re helping you.”
Kurt prepared a local pain shot for the arm before continuing. Dawg lapsed back into unconsciousness. As he finished knotting the last stitch to close the gash on Dawg’s arm, a knock sounded on the door. It was a customer, and soon Celia was enclosed with him behind the bedroom door.
Kurt covered the stitches with a dressing and then glanced to Dawg’s face. His eyes were open, and he stared up in fear. He cringed away when Kurt raised his hands to set his supplies back in his briefcase. “It’s all right. I’m not going to hurt you. I promise.” Kurt knew he’d heard that before – even from him.
Jerome sat squeezed between Dawg and the wall. “Hey, it’s okay. You remember me, don’t you? From the mission?”
Dawg’s eyes darted from Kurt to Jerome and then back to Kurt. He seemed to move a little closer to Jerome, as if he were the lesser of two dangers.
“You’ve got to listen to me, Dawg,” Kurt said in a low voice. “As soon as you’re well enough you’ve got to get away from here.”
“She’ll just send someone after him,” Jerome said. “I’ve heard things.”
“Then he must go so far away she can’t find him. Do you understand? You have to get away from here.” If he went far away the whole problem would be solved. The evidence would be gone; the kid would be safe. “Jerome says you have some musical talent. Maybe you could go to Nashville or California. Go to California. Don’t worry, she’s not listening, and I won’t tell her.”
“Can’t we just tell the police? Then we could take him to the hospital.”
“No,” Kurt said sharply. He thought only a second before he began what he hoped Jerome would believe was a plausible explanation. “They’d probably place him in foster care around here somewhere, and she’d still be able to find him. If you haven’t noticed, I think she’s insane. She’ll go after him.” Kurt watched Jerome’s expression as he thought about the information. When Jerome focused on Dawg again, Kurt knew he’d bought it.
“Dawg? Do you know where I live?” Jerome asked.
“I’ll take your guitar over there and get some clothes together for you. When you’re ready, stop by my place on your way out. I’ll get a map for you, too.”
“I’ll drive you out of Chicago, and I can give you money, too,” Kurt promised.
“Before we go, I need to know,” Jerome said. “Do you know Jesus?”
“Then let me pray for you. Lord Jesus, please come and heal him so that he can get away from here. And lead him to a place where he can be safe and where he can do what You want him to. In Jesus name. Amen.”
Dawg closed his eyes. As they were about to leave, he suddenly rolled onto his left arm and tried to reach the corner. He winced and hesitated, finally pulling back the carpeting to reveal a hole a few inches from the corner, one board width wide and several long. Reaching inside, he pulled out a cassette player, earphones, three tapes, and a small New Testament. He handed each to Jerome. Then he recovered the hole and lay on his back again.
“Save it,” he whispered. Kurt was surprised to hear distinct words. He couldn’t remember hearing the boy speak before.
“Don’t let her see.”
“I won’t,” Jerome promised, shoving Dawg’s things under his coat.
Kurt tried to ignore the panic. Sober, he could see clearly. The boy wasn’t handicapped. He was severely abused and scared. What had he allowed by omission? At the hospital he routinely reported cases of abuse with far less evidence. He needed to get him away from her as quickly as possible.
The door to the bedroom opened, and Celia strode over to them. “See, I told you he’d be okay. He’s just a little faker, aren’t you, Dawg? Trying to get attention.” She shoved him with her slippered foot.
Dawg shut his eyes.
“Don’t pretend you’re sleeping.”
“I gave him a sedative. He probably is sleeping,” Kurt lied.
“Oh, you take the fun out of everything anymore. If you two are finished, please leave. The dog doesn’t have company. If you’re not here to see me….”
Kurt stood. “I’ll be back tomorrow to check on him. Don’t move him. He really should have x-rays. I don’t know what kind of damage you let your friends inflict on the inside.”
“All that matters is his face.”
“Come on, Jerome.”
Jerome followed him outside. As they walked back to Kurt’s car, he asked, “Are you sure it’s safe to leave him alone with her?”
“No. But we don’t have a choice, remember?” Kurt watched Jerome’s expression and knew he wasn’t completely convinced. He quickly changed the subject. “I’ll bring the money tomorrow. Hopefully this car will start.” Kurt got inside. The engine coughed and started roughly. He wished he could get a tune-up before tomorrow, but that was impossible on a Saturday night. “See you tomorrow.”
“You could come to church with me. Meet me here at nine, and you could see the Mission.”
Kurt shook his head. “No. I’ll just come to your place around two, okay?”
Kurt didn’t want to return to the inner city neighborhood the next afternoon, but if he was ever to be free of Celia’s threats, he had to tie up this loose end. He had to make sure the kid disappeared. He still didn’t trust his car, but he’d take this last risk with it and sell it next week.
He picked up Jerome first. He didn’t want him to have too much time to think about the situation and ask any questions. They went to the store, and Kurt bought a cloth gym bag, a map of the United States, a can of soup, protein bars, beef jerky, and some snack crackers. Jerome said he’d gotten clothes from the mission and Dawg’s guitar. Kurt didn’t question it, but he thought the guitar a little strange until he saw the beat up old instrument. It was obviously a cast off.
In the car they filled the bag with one set of clothes, the map, all the food except the soup and one package of crackers, and Dawg’s things from the hole in the floor. Kurt pulled out two hundred dollars in twenty dollar bills that he had withdrawn from the automatic teller machine. On impulse he withdrew two more twenties. They put the money in Jerome older wallet before they placed it under the clothes. If he didn’t get himself robbed, the boy might have enough to get to California. They took everything into Jerome’s house and up to his room.
When they came down, Jerome said, “Hey, Mom. If an almost white kid with real long hair comes looking for me, send him to wait in my room whether I’m home or not, okay?” She agreed that she would.
They went to check on Dawg. Celia wasn’t near as pleased to see Kurt today as she had been yesterday. She let them in and glared as Kurt knelt beside Dawg. He slept on his left side with his legs curled up to his stomach. Kurt felt for his pulse.
Dawg jerked awake and away from his hand, sitting up quickly. He stared at Kurt warily with wide brown eyes.
“It’s all right. I want to see how you’re doing.” He tried to be as reassuring as he could.
“He’s doing fine. I told you yesterday, Dawg doesn’t have visitors so you better make it quick.”
“We’ll be quick.”
Celia stalked into the bedroom and slammed the door.
“We brought you some clothes,” Jerome whispered, handing them to him. “I hope they fit okay. And everything’s set. Whenever you can get away.”
“Jerome, take that soup and make it up in the kitchen. Now, Dawg, you have to let me look at you so I know if you need any more medicine. You look a lot better, sitting up now.” He reached over and took his arm. His pulse and blood pressure were stronger. The bruises were already turning yellow. He took the dressing off his arm. A thin scab ran under the stitches without any sign of infection or inflammation.
Jerome came back into the room. “Look at this, Jerome. It’s almost healed. I don’t believe it. He’s improved so much he could probably leave tonight.”
“Jesus healed him?”
“Ssssh. Keep it down.” Kurt nodded toward the bedroom door. “Dawg, you have to get away from here as soon as possible. We can help you tonight. We’ll be waiting at Jerome’s house. Right now you better pretend you’re still as bad as yesterday though.” He glanced toward the kitchen. “That soup ready?”
Jerome checked on it and brought it in. Dawg managed to finish off a full bowl and some crackers before she came out.
“Visiting hours are over,” Celia said.
“Okay. Rest, and I’ll be back tomorrow.”
Kurt and Jerome left.
He took Jerome through a drive-thru and they ate burgers in the car in front of Jerome’s house.
After the last of the food was finished, Jerome said, “That was so cool that God healed him.”
Kurt glanced at him. These Jesus-freaks thought anything was possible. “God didn’t heal him.”
“But you said….”
“I must have misread his condition yesterday with the bad lighting and all those older scars. I was just surprised. But this is good timing. We can get Dawg out of the way before she has a chance to hurt him again.”
“Is his name really Dog?”
“Yes. Dawg Ed Revine. She spells it D A W G, but it sounds the same.”
“No wonder he never tells anyone. Everyone at the mission thinks the kids are just razing him.”
Kurt shrugged, and glanced back at Dawg’s guitar and bag in the back seat. “Let’s play one of those tapes. I want to see what kind of music he likes.”
The first one Jerome pulled out had been played so many times that it had broken. The second one looked like it was close to death also, but they put it in the car stereo.
“Who is this Dylan Trent?”
“He came to sing at the mission two years ago when it first opened. He must have stolen the tapes then.”
“I never would have guessed that Dawg liked this kind of music. I never would have guessed he liked music at all.”
“I wasn’t impressed by Dylan, but I guess Dawg really liked him. Either that or he’s never been able to get any other tapes.”
It was after eleven when Jerome pointed to the bushes in front of the house across the street. “There.” He opened the car door. “Over here,” he said in a loud whisper.
Kurt almost thought he wouldn’t come or that Jerome had mistaken the movement when Dawg emerged from the shadows. He ran quietly toward the car.
“Your things are in the back. I can’t go, but Kurt says he’ll take you as far as Indianapolis.”
“Jerome. She will hurt you. I’m sorry.”
Jerome sagged against the car. “Lord Jesus, save me. Only you can.” He stumbled away toward his front door.
Kurt felt sorry for the kid. Dawg was probably right. Celia would seek revenge on the only person she could. But when he dropped Dawg off in Indianapolis, Kurt would be through with this neighborhood and this part of his life.
Dawg hesitated until Jerome disappeared inside before he got into the car. He still seemed nervous, but Kurt saw a new determination in the way he moved. They drove in silence. When they stopped to get gas, Dawg visibly relaxed when he told him they were out of Chicago. Kurt bought them both something to eat from an all-night Taco Bell drive-thru.
When they reached Indianapolis it was close to four a.m. He pulled into the bus station parking lot. “Let me look at your arm again. If it looks as well as I thought it did earlier, I’ll take the stitches out before you go.” He turned on the overhead light in the car.
Dawg hesitated. Then he slipped his arm out of the sleeve and pulled the sweat shirt up so his arm showed. The scab was now a red line. This boy healed fast. It was probably the only way he had been able to survive. Although another part of his mind balked at the thought. Poor nutrition should make things slower, not faster. But it wasn’t his problem so he dismissed it.
Kurt took the small scissors from his pocket and started to clip and pull the stitches. He did it quickly, and when the last one was out, Dawg recovered his arm.
“You can buy a bus ticket the rest of the way to California,” he said, emphasizing the furthest place the boy could possible get by bus and pointing to the station. He hoped the kid, handicapped or not, would be able to buy the ticket and get on the right bus. But even dying here, he might be far enough away. The police probably had better things to spend their time on than anonymous, inner-city, domestic violence. Hopefully Kurt would have enough time to relocate before anyone traced him to Celia.
Dawg was still watching him.
“There’s some money in your bag for the ticket and to last you until you find somewhere to stay.”
Dawg finally began to move away from the car.
“Good luck, kid. May your God protect you.”
Go to Chapter 3
© 2013, 1995 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.