The Case of the Missing Irregular

Part 7

by Stacey (SST205 at aol.com)

"Did you do it, Jake?"

"Yes, I did, Mickey. You don' 'ave to worry a bit."

"Tha's wha' I'm afraid of."

Tennyson lay on the floor, listening to his kidnappers' conversation. He had tried to sleep, but kept waking up after having some sort of nightmare about the early morning. He kept his eyes closed, however, hoping that, if he were asleep, the men who held him would leave him alone.

The voice he now recognized as Jake's came to his ears. "Um... Mickey, shouldn't we get 'im a bite to eat?"

There was a smacking noise. "What's with you, Jake? We've kidnapped th' brat, fer crikey's sake, we're not babysittin' 'im!"

"Well, it just doesn't seem right, is all...."

Tennyson couldn't help but wonder at what he was hearing. Kidnappers being compassionate? At least, Jake seemed to be.

"We'll feed 'im later. Right now I've got something else t' do."

Tennyson heard footsteps coming closer. A hand grabbed the back of his pajama top and hauled him into a sitting position, slamming him against the crates behind.

The boy's eyes flew open. He looked up at Mickey, who gave him a rotten-toothed grin.

"'Ello, little 'un. 'Ave a good sleep, did you?"

In response, Tennyson yawned.

"Ah, get over it, rich boy," the man snarled, getting on one knee and bringing his face close to Tennyson's. "You 'ave no idea what it's like fer the rest of us, do you? No, of course not -- yer a toff."

Tennyson's blond brows drew together. A 'toff'? Doesn't this fellow remember what part of town he took me from?

Suddenly his head was jerked to the side as Mickey smacked him with the back of his hand. Before Tennyson could get his bearings, the man pushed the side of the boy's head so it was facing forward -- looking right at him.

"Don't you ever gimme no dirty looks again, you got that, rich boy?!?" he hissed between his teeth.

Tennyson nodded. The right side of his face stung from where he'd been smacked, and his right eye was filling with tears.

"Please don't 'urt 'im anymore, Mickey," Jake pleaded, putting a hand on his partner's shoulder. "'E's just a little kid."

"Ehhh," Mickey grunted. "After all th' pamperin' this boy's had, 'e prob'ly could use some toughenin' up."

Tennyson drew a deep breath to keep from crying. Why does he keep saying I'm a 'rich boy'? he wondered, and why does it seem like such a big issue with this fellow?

"Now, lil' un', I'm goin' t' borrow somethin' from you," Mickey said, reaching for the side of Tennyson's face. The boy flinched, and Mickey laughed. The next thing Tennyson knew, there was a lot of static in his right ear, and Mickey withdrew his hand. He had taken off Tennyson's hearing aid.

"Heh -- now I'll go use this," Mickey said with a chuckle, walking toward the opening in all of the boxes again. "Jake, keep an' eye on 'im. Make sure 'e doesn't --" he laughed loudly, "-- run away."

With that he walked out, laughing.

Tennyson looked up at Jake, who returned his gaze. Somehow, Tennyson didn't feel afraid around Jake -- at least, not as much as he did when Mickey was there. The look in Jake's pale blue eyes was, Tennyson noted, almost innocent.

The man sat down on the floor at an angle from Tennyson. After gazing at the boy a moment more, his lips moved. He was on the side from which Mickey had taken his hearing aid. All Tennyson heard were words that sounded as if they were coming from far away.

He tilted his head, looked at the man, and shrugged slightly.

Tennyson saw the man's lips move in an "O". He then got on his all fours and crawled to Tennyson's other side, again leaning his back against the wall of crates.

"There now--is that better?"

Tennyson nodded.

"Sorry -- I forgot Mickey took yer 'earin' aid. I'm sorry that 'e's so bloody mean, too -- 'e didn't use t' be that way -- honest 'e didn't."

The boy kitty-corner from him blinked quizzically.

Jake continued. "Y'see, Mickey 'n' I 're brothers -- 'e's my little brother, actually, but 'e acts like my big brother 'cause--" He looked at the floor as if embarrassed. "'Cause I'm not s' smart."

Tennyson kept his eyes focused on Jake to show that he was listening.

Why on earth is he telling me this? Tennyson thought. He does seem sort of sad -- maybe he just needs someone to talk to. Mickey certainly doesn't seem like the type one could hold a conversation with -- and I am a captive audience.

"Y'see, when I was little, th' doctors said I 'ad learning dis-disa--- oh, dash it all --- I couldn' learn very well. Me mum tried to teach me things -- she was a sweet woman, she was -- I'll never f'rget 'ow 'appy she was th' day I learnt t' count t' fifty."

Tennyson blinked again.

"Well, me pop worked fer --" Jake screwed up his face as if thinking hard -- "Well, some big computer 'n' elec- uh -- well, li'l gizmo place. They were really rich folk, these company people were. Me pop only 'ad a li'l job--but it was enough t' keep food on th' table. Sometimes, when mum sent Mickey an' me shoppin', Mickey'd always stick somethin' extra under 'is coat. The people in th' store wouldn't miss it, 'e said, 'cause they had lots."

The boy across from him had lost his sense of amazement that his kidnapper was talking to him this way -- he was too engrossed in the story.

"When we got 'ome, Mickey'd always say, 'Look mum! Some kind person gave this t' me. ' or 'Mum! Lookit I found on the doorstep! ' Mum always believed him, seemed like. Leastways, Mickey never got in trouble fer stealin'.

Jake's eyes clouded. "Then, Pop died. 'E 'ad an accident workin' on a machine 'e was fixin' or somethin' like that -- I forget. They were supposed to pay Mum some money -- a lot o' money, they said it was goin' t' be -- 'cause Pop died on th' job. They never did, though. They said that somethin' -- there was somethin' wrong with the -- ah -- the paperwork -- tha's it. I remember it made Mickey real mad. 'E said th' rich people only took care o' themselves.

"Anyways, after that, Mum 'ad to get a job. She said that one day she was goin' t' 'ave enough money t' get me an operation -- so it'd help me be smart."

Operation, Tennyson thought. I know what that's all about.

It was Tennyson's plea not to have a series of operations to make him "normal" that had caused his own father to become enraged and throw him out of the house at age thirteen. His father had said that he didn't want to have a "freak" for a son.

If Jake had said he didn't want to have an operation, I wonder what his mother would have done? he thought.

"Me brother Mickey said 'e wanted t' help make th' money, that Mum shouldn't be workin' 'cause she wasn't so strong -- but Mum said no. She said somebody had t' stay home an' take care o' me.

"One day, we was comin' 'ome from school, an' a man was there on our doorstep. 'E said 'e was sorry, but our mum 'ad died of a 'eart attack when she was liftin' somethin' at 'is 'ouse. 'E 'ad told the police an' the orphanage, an' 'e was there to take us t' the pr'tec -- the place where they'd take care of us."

"Mickey threw a fit, 'e did. Started screamin' at th' man an' said 'e wasn't gonna take no help from no rich fella -- 'specially not one that made 'is mother do th' things that killed 'er."

Things began to be a little clearer in Tennyson's mind. Had Jake's brother Mickey developed a strong hatred for the rich, simply because of the experiences he had had with them in his life? Thinking over Jake's story, it seemed to have started before any bad experiences. Was he using Tennyson as some sort of pawn in a plan to get revenge on the rich?

The man must be ill! the boy thought.

Jake continued his story. "Mickey ran away -- an' 'e took me with 'im. The coppers chased us -- an' the man who said 'e was goin to take us away -- but they didn't catch us. Mickey an' I hid here--" Jake spread his hands out to indicate the building, "--an' we've been livin' 'ere ever since. Well, not really ever since. There was a little bit o' time where we had to go to--"

"Jake, what in the bloody heck're you doin'!?"

Tennyson and Jake both looked up to see Mickey standing at the opening between of the crates and boxes. His face was a dark red.

Jake cowered. "I'm sorry, Mickey--I was jus'--"

"You were jus' nothin'!" Mickey shouted, storming over and smacking his brother in the side of the head. Jake whimpered like a hurt animal.

Mickey turned on Tennyson. "As fer you--"

He drew his hand back and smacked Tennyson so hard the boy fell over onto the floor. In a moment his body shook with silent sobs.

"Don't you ever get my brother talkin' to you again, understand?" Mickey said, getting down close to Tennyson's ear. "If y' do, I'll take yer other 'earin' aid an' shove it down yer bloody throat!"

He turned and hauled his brother, who was trembling, up by the arm. "C'mon, Jake, I'm gettin' you outta here."

Mickey stomped out, dragging Jake behind him.

Tennyson still lay sobbing, trying to remember the Bible verses his aunt had taught him. "Think of these in times of trouble," she said. "They'll help you through."

One by one, the boy ran them over in his mind. After a while, he was comforted. He also said a prayer, though, that this whole awful thing would be over soon.

On to Part 8!

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