Brad stepped quickly from behind his desk as the chief entered the room, slightly ashamed of his relief to move away from Alex.
Haden glanced from him to where Alex sat hunched in his chair. “What’s going on?”
Brad shrugged. “I’m sorry, Chief. I’m just not good with him when he gets like this.”
Ben Haden let out a discouraged breath. “I thought he was doing better.” He crossed the room and pulled a chair closer to Alex. A fringe of black hair hid the boy’s eyes and most of his face. He seemed asleep. Ben frowned. “What were you discussing?”
Brad sat on the edge of his desk. “We were talking about his mother.”
Ben snorted. “That would do it.” He put a hand on Alex’s shoulder, shaking him a little. “Alex?”
Alex moaned low in his throat and Brad clenched a hand, forcing himself to sit still though his body had tensed at the sound.
Haden shook Alex again. “What’s going on?”
Alex gave a ragged, desperate laugh. “She has me in the basement again. I hate it down here. The mattress smells.” His voice turned vague. “I smell smoke…”
He drew a sudden sharp breath and scrambled upright in his chair, coming fully awake. He looked at them in confusion, then reddened at their scrutiny. “Sorry about that,” he muttered, breathing hard. He looked at the police chief. “I feel like an idiot. How long have you been here?”
“Not that long. What was that about?”
Alex rubbed the sleepiness from his face. “Nothing. Just a bad memory.”
Brad cleared his throat. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Alex flicked him a look. “Why?”
Brad threw up his hands but Haden stopped his outburst with a quick shake of his head.
“We want to help you,” Ben said forcefully, “But I think the only way to do that is to understand your ‘gift’. Anything you can tell us may be useful.”
Alex raised a doubtful brow. “If you think so,” he said after a moment. He carefully folded his hands and Brad glanced away as his expression turned bleak.