'Alex' coming March, 2010 http://www.mountainlandpublishing.com/
Brad settled back against his desk when the chief abruptly cleared his throat, flicking him an irritated glance as he reached over and put a hand on Alex’s shoulder.
“Sean Elson found you in the basement.” He waited until Alex looked at him, then gave him an encouraging nod. “I also read the report, but can you tell us what happened in your own words?”
Alex rubbed his hands on his jeans, then clasped them together to hold them still. “I’ll try.”
Brad watched Alex’s tapping foot, wishing there was a way to make things easier on the boy. He glanced up and met the young man’s eyes.
Alex dropped his gaze to the floor, breathing hard. “I don’t remember very much,” he confessed grudgingly. “Mama had me down there a long time. I hadn’t eaten anything, and when I said I was thirsty she made me drink out of her bottle. It made her angry when I threw it back up.”
He continued with a small laugh, “Anyway, the noise from the fire confused me. I didn’t know what it was, and it was a while before I smelled the smoke. It scared me and I rolled off the mattress and squirmed towards the hall. That’s when a fireman came rushing down the stairs.”
“That was Sean?” Ben asked.
“Yes, sir.” Alex shrugged and moved in his chair, uncomfortable. He glanced at Brad then quickly away. “He scared me worse than the fire. You see, I hadn’t met very many people, and he was in full gear…”
“That would have scared the crap out of me,” Brad murmured.
Alex gave him a grateful look. He sat up and squared his shoulders. “I was fourteen, but in most ways I was younger than that. Mr. Elson carried me upstairs and through the fire…the heat and stench and noise…God.”
He brushed the sweat from his forehead with a shaking hand. Brad handed him bottled water and they waited while he composed himself.
He carefully screwed the cap back on the bottle, intent on the task. “It was worse outside. I was given to the medics, who poked at me and asked questions I couldn’t answer. I felt confused and scared and the neighbors stared at me.” A shudder ran through him. “I hated the pity in their eyes.”
Brad shifted his gaze across the room, noting the bright sunshine outside the window. He absently watched a bird hop across the sill as Alex continued his narrative.
“I was terrified when they put me in their truck and drove away from home. I didn’t know where I was going or what would happen to me. I spent a month at the hospital, frightened and alone. Every day people would come and ask me questions. I felt like a monkey on display. That’s when Mr. Elson rescued me and took me to his house.” Alex drew a hard breath. “In a way, that was worse.”
“For heaven’s sake, why?” Brad looked at the young man’s bent head.
Alex shrugged. “Jane was there.”