Claire sighed as she looked out the window of the car. She and her husband were just moving to this tiny, backwater town and she wasn’t happy about it, but her husband had gotten the job of sheriff, as the last one had died; killed by some wild animal in the swamps from what they had been told–a wolf or something.
Hank looked over and saw a filthy boy crouched in an alleyway, and did a double take. “Damn, these people look poor.”
Claire looked over and made a face of disgust. “It looks like that kid could use a bath–maybe a dozen. He doesn’t look like he’s ever seen water in his life. Gross.”
Hank sighed. “Don’t be so judgmental, Claire. A lot of these people are uneducated and extremely poor, especially the ones at the outskirts of town, but I want to check that boy out. He looks a little wild. Maybe he’s homeless.”
Hank parked up the street a bit and started walking toward the alleyway where Travis was, but cautiously. He was a cop after all, and he knew to use caution in situations like this. He stopped a woman who had just passed Travis and had stopped to stare a moment herself before moving on. “Excuse me, ma’am. I’m the new sheriff, Hank Reynolds. Do you know that boy?”
The woman smiled. “Oh, a pleasure to meet you, Sheriff. We all heard you were coming. Welcome to Bon Faire.” She looked back at Travis, then back at the sheriff. “And no. I was just wondering who he was myself. This is a small town and we all know one another, but I’ve never seen that boy before.” She then whispered leaning toward him. “And he smells to high heaven, worse than a dog rolling in a dung heap.”
Hank nodded. “Maybe a runaway from another town then. I’ll check it out. Thank you…”
The woman smiled again and introduced herself. “Emily Pierce. I run the small used bookstore here in town.”
Hank smiled in return. “Thank you, Emily. A pleasure to meet you.”
Travis meanwhile was watching the interaction between the woman and man curiously, but he wasn’t aware that they were referring to him. It had been ten years since he had spoken the English language and his memory of it was vague, to say the least. It wasn’t like his father had been a great conversationalist and he had only been four years old.
Travis startled when Hank stopped in front of him and then hunkered down in a similar crouch. “Hi, I’m Sheriff Reynolds. What’s your name?”
Travis cocked his head, trying to make sense of the words. Instead of answering, however, he began examining Hank’s uniform. The shiny badge caught his attention first and he reached a hand out toward it, which made Hank tense, but he didn’t sense a threat so he let him touch it. Travis touched it tentatively, drawing his hand back quickly as if it might hurt him and then reached forward again, moving forward slightly in his crouch so as not to have to reach so far. He ran his fingers over the badge and then suddenly leaned forward and licked it.
Hank’s eyes went wide. It was pretty apparent at this point that this kid was not used to civilization. Travis’ eyes moved from the badge to the sheriff’s patches and buttons and belt, but when he reached for the holster, Hank put his hand out to stop him and shook his head and said firmly but not in an angry tone. “No.”
Travis pulled back and blinked. He knew that word. He remembered his father saying it to him often. Travis repeated it. “No.”
Hank smiled. “You know how to speak then?”
Travis cocked his head again, not really understanding; not remembering all those words though he had heard some of them, though not put together exactly like that.
Hank sighed. “Well it’s apparent you need help. Come with me.”
Hank stood up and put his hand out for Travis. Travis looked up at him, not responding. So, Hank spoke firmly, “Come.” Travis stood at the command and followed to the car, but when he got there he balked. He remembered these things in the yard after they had taken his father and he didn’t think they were good and that one today had made a loud noise at him. He shook his head and backed away; his fear evident on his face.
Hank put his hand out in a calming gesture. “It’s okay. It’s just a car. Haven’t you ever seen a car before?” When Travis didn’t answer, Hank sighed again, feeling frustrated. He turned to his wife. “Claire, drive the car to the police station, please. I’m going to walk this boy there.”
Claire rolled her eyes but nodded and moved over to the driver’s seat and started it up, making Travis jump and try to run, but Hank expecting it grabbed his arm before he got away. Travis struggled and was incredibly strong and Hank almost lost his grip. Hank tried to calm him but finally decided to let go as trying to restrain him was only increasing the boy’s panic.
“It’s okay. Come.” Hank turned and began to walk and looked back over his shoulder to see if the boy was following. Travis hesitated a moment but then followed again. Apparently, he understood the words come and no.
Travis’ head was swiveling all around as he walked and he stopped often to touch things or people who didn’t like it much, but Hank put his hand up to let them know it was okay and so they allowed it. Hank stopped and turned toward Travis as they approached the station and pointed to his chest. “Hank.” He then pointed to Travis’ chest. Travis looked down at the finger. Hank repeated it, saying his name pointing to himself and then pointing to Travis. Finally, a connection was made and Travis nodded and pointed to his own chest. “Travis.”
Hank smiled. “Do you know your last name?” But that was too much again and Travis didn’t understand. Hank sighed but then shrugged as he led him across the street to the station and mumbled to himself, “At least we got your first name.”
Travis balked at the entryway to the building but Hank held the door and told him to come again in a firm tone. Travis finally rushed inside, understanding firmness. Travis looked nervously around the police precinct at the people, all wearing similar clothes as the man he had followed–Hank.
Hank gestured him to follow to his office and then told Travis firmly, “Sit;” pointing to the couch.
Travis looked at the couch and sat down, looking up at Hank nervously. But then he was distracted as his eyes went to the desk and all the strange things on it.
Hank called a veteran officer in, as he had already met his officers previously when he had first accepted the job. “Carl. Do you know of any kids reported missing in the past by the name of Travis?”
Carl thought a moment, then his face lit up. “Actually yeah, about ten years back. Wolf got arrested for drug dealing and he had a four-year-old son named Travis that no one even knew about until the night he was arrested. The boy ran off into the swamps and was never found. We assumed he drowned, as that’s where the dogs lost his scent–at a large pond.”
Carl looked over at the wild looking boy covered in dirt and filth. “You think this might be him?”
Hank shrugged. “Don’t know. Just checking alternatives. He doesn’t seem to know anything about anything. He licked my badge for goodness sakes, and though he seems to understand a few words and commands, he doesn’t understand most of what I’m saying. Or at least he’s not indicating that he understands.”
Hank turned and saw Travis at his desk touching and sniffing at things and licking a few. He pointed to the couch and said firmly, “Travis, sit!” Travis jumped and rushed back over. Hank shook his head. “He sure is skittish.”
Carl nodded. “Yeah well if he’s been in the swamps for ten years, I wouldn’t doubt it. Plus, it was reported the kid showed signs of severe abuse and Wolf was supposedly caught with the kid’s head in his lap. So, you can only imagine where that was probably heading. At least that was what the DEA agents were saying.”
Hank made a clicking sound of sympathy. “Poor kid. Well, do we have this Wolf’s DNA on file? We can test Travis and see if he’s the kid gone missing, and in the meantime search the database and see if there are any runaways with the first name Travis.”
Carl nodded. “Yes, Sir. I’ll get right on it. Wolf, by the way, has been released from prison. He’s on parole for the next ten years; released for good behavior. He might go out to his old place. If there’s no blood on record, you want me to draw up a warrant to get some? He’s supposed to report into his parole officer here sometime this morning”
Travis’ ears perked up at the sound of his father’s name. “Woof?” He looked around.
Hank pointed to the couch, but Travis didn’t obey this time. “Daddy?”
Hank blinked and looked at Carl. “He may be his kid after all. Sure, seems like it. He recognizes the name.”
Travis suddenly yelled out, “Daddy!”, as he rushed past the sheriff and the officer before they could stop him, shoving Carl aside as he saw his father enter the station and sit at his parole officer’s desk.
Wolf looked up and saw the wild looking boy and blinked a few times. “Travis?”
Travis ran to his father and knelt, laying his head on his thigh, sobbing, “Daddy.”
Wolf sighed and put a hand on his son’s head, then smiled slightly. “Good to see you survived. Good boy.”
Travis grinned and looked up lovingly at his father. “Good boy.”
Wolf shook his head. “Yeah well, you didn’t learn too much in regards to speaking apparently.”
Hank hurried over. “Is this your boy?”
Wolf nodded. “Yeah, appears to be.”
Travis stayed where he was clinging desperately to his father, not wanting to be separated again.
The parole officer frowned in disapproval. “Yeah well if he is, you can’t have him. You got a record and it was reported the boy showed signs of abuse and you had his head in your lap like you were going to force him to give you a blow job when the arresting officers came in.”
Wolf looked over at the parole officer, anger clearly showing on his face. “I was holding my son and he laid his head in my lap on his own, sick pervert! None of those accusations were proven in court.”
The parole officer retorted, “Still, you’d have to prove yourself a fit parent.”
Wolf argued back. “You have no proof I even hit the boy and since when is it against the law for a father to hold his son in his lap?”
The officer glared at Wolf with a look of disgust. “Yeah, well the DEA agents were telling a different story.”
Wolf shrugged. “Can’t prove otherwise, and unless you have a good reason that I’m not a fit parent, the boy is mine. I’ve done my time and I have a full-time job and a shack just outside of town. So, I can care for him.”
Hank interrupted, “The boy will need counseling for sure.”
Wolf shrugged. “So, counsel him. He’s still my son.”
Hank nodded. “Yeah, well we’ll get DNA proof to make sure.”
Wolf shrugged again, not worried. Their DNA in human form would show as human. No one had discovered his “condition” in prison because he was old enough to control his shift, but he’d have to be careful with Travis in town now. He was just going through his puberty and his shifting would be uncontrollable at the full moon. Now Wolf realized what had killed the old sheriff–Travis. The sheriff had died on the last full moon; two weeks ago.