Meanwhile, Doc and the Sheriff went back to the examination room, with the Sheriff just standing in the doorway but not entering entirely, though he quickly took note that Luke moved Wade across the room closer to the knife Mike had set down when they saw him. The Sheriff eyed the knife noting the dried blood as the Doc had, and though he was tempted to start interrogating the children right then and there as to where they’d been and what had happened to them, he had enough sense to wait and let the boys have a chance to reacclimate to their hometown. They were skittish enough as it was without possibly broaching topics they weren’t yet ready to talk about. Let them get healed, cleaned up and fed and some rest. There’d be time enough for questions later. It was why Lance had sent the rest of the town folk back to their business. So that the boys wouldn’t feel overwhelmed.
Now that the doctor was focused on examining Mike, he shook his head and made a tsk’ing sound. Naturally, he had noticed the plethora of injuries before, but he had forced himself to block that out until they managed to get the kids into his office. Now it was all in full view and awareness, and he almost didn’t know where to start. So, for the moment he forced himself to focus on the most recent of the injuries that needed tending to. “I’m going to give you boys a shot of antibiotics and some pills to take as well for ten days. You all got infected wounds. I can tell without even having to look at each of you one at a time. The shot will sting a bit, but it can’t be worse than the pain you must be in from these injuries. I’d also like to give each of you a mild pain relief shot. I think you could also use it. It not only will help ease your pain but will relax you as well. It won’t put you to sleep or make it to where you can’t react to things happening around you. Just to take the edge off. Alright?”
Mike shrugged, but then nodded in response to the doctor’s remarks. He was always in pain and had been pretty much so since his uncle had taken him and his brothers. So, to be without it, that was an alien concept and notion. It sounded nice, but it didn’t seem like it was a possible reality after five years of suffering. So, he didn’t pin any real hopes on it. The doctor shook his head again as he continued examining Mike. “I’m also going to take a full screening of x-rays on you boys. I can feel from palpitation alone that you got broken bones that never healed properly, or at least Mike does.” Mike winced as the doctor felt around certain areas which were hurting, but especially when he felt around his ankles. “I’m surprised your even able to walk with the severity of these breaks Mike. The doctor might have asked if the injuries were accidentally, but in light of the severe lash marks on Mike’s back, he’d wager they weren’t.
The doctor sighed. “Okay, this is going to take some time to get these boys cleaned up, their wounds treated, x-rays done, shots, and so on. Luke? Are you willing to take Wade into my home and get something to eat? Buford’s making you all some lunch. I don’t see any reason you boys need to sit in here while I tend to Mike. I understand you want to be together because you’re scared, but I promise no one is going to permanently separate you. I just think it might be best for you two to get some food in your stomach instead of quaking in a corner. No one here’s going to hurt you, boys…”
Mike interjected, finally asking a question which had been on his mind, as it was related to the promise that no one was going to hurt them. “What about our dad? He still lives here?”
Doc frowned slightly and nodded. “Yes, but unless someone else in town told him. I don’t think he knows you’ve returned yet. I think everyone has the sense to wait on that. I’d rather take care of your injuries, and get you all cleaned up and fed and rested before we deal with your father. He hasn’t changed much I’m sorry to say. I know I promised no one’s going to hurt you, but I meant outside the normal parental discipline. I have no control over that, and he is your father and as such your legal guardian.”
Mike closed his eyes but nodded his understanding. Though he had already convinced himself and Luke and Wade that life with Floyd would be better than with Lloyd, he had kind of been hoping however that his father had died. He finally opened his eyes again after a moment and gave Luke a nod and issued a command that made it clear that Mike was the one in charge of his brothers, and that his brothers were used to obeying him. “Go on. Get yourself and Wade some food in your stomachs. I’ll be okay, and you will too while you’re here.” Mike looked at the Sheriff. “The Sheriff won’t let dad in here until we’re all fed and rested. Right Sheriff Mathers?” Mike asked though he knew the Sheriff had promised no such thing.
The Sheriff, however, nodded in agreement, accepting the compromise. “Right. No one else will be allowed in here, except for Jarrel Montavier. We called him to come to speak to you boys after you’ve been looked at by the Doc and fed. Do you remember Dr. Jarrel?” Mike nodded. “Yeah, I remember him. Don’t think Luke and Wade do though. Alright. Just him. I know we have to go back to our dad, but I ain’t in a frame of mind to deal with him right now. I might…” Mike shook his head, not finishing what he was going to say, not wanting to admit that he had killed his uncle, let alone consider what his father would do to him when he found out he had killed his twin brother or the other Carmichaels.
“Might what?” The Sheriff asked, his eyes unconsciously shifting to the bloodied knife sitting on the counter. Mike’s eyes went there as well before they returned to the Sheriff. “I’m just not sure how much more I can take right now, Sheriff. I think it best that you keep my dad away from us for a little bit. Not forever. I know he’s our dad, but…” Mike shook his head. “I really don’t want to talk about this shit right now. I’m just exhausted. We’ve been walking three days and I barely slept out there in the woods, having to keep an eye on Luke and Wade to make sure they were safe. Just give me some time to get my mind back on straight. Okay?”
The Sheriff nodded. “Alright, Mike. I can see all you boys have been through something bad. I won’t push you. Come on Luke, Wade. I’ll show you where the kitchen is.” He glanced over at the doctor. “I’ll be back in a moment if you still need a witness.” The doctor nodded. “I do. I have to finish my physical exam before I do the x-rays.”
The Doc put a comforting hand on Mike’s arm. “It’s going to be okay Mike. You’re home now with family. You’re safe now.” Mike clenched his jaw and looked into the doctor’s eye at the comment. “When have my brothers and I ever been safe with family? If you’re assuming we’ve been with a stranger for the past five years, you’re mistaken. So, don’t keep telling me that my brothers and I are safe. I don’t want to be separated from my brothers. I never did, which is why we went and hid when that lady said she was going to tell on daddy and have us taken away and put in foster care, but don’t stand there and fucking lie to my face and tell me that we’re safe when you know what our dad is like. I’m not eight years old anymore, Doc. I’m thirteen.”
The Doc sighed and nodded. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I don’t know what you’ve been through, or where you’ve been, but I do know that even though your father had always been heavy handed with you boys, that he never inflicted this sort of injury on any of you. Maybe a scar or two with a belt buckle when he got too drunk, but nothing like this, and even if he was too drunk or forgot to feed you, the rest of us were always here to pick up the slack. So, my assertions that you are safe are relative, Michael. Life is never safe. It’s always with risk, no matter who you are, how old you are, or where you are, but here you do have people who care about you, and who are going to be looking out for you to make sure your dad doesn’t go overboard. Alright? You know you can come to me anytime things are going bad, and I’ll do everything I can to help.”
Mike held the doctor’s eye a moment longer and then nodded. “Okay. I’ll hold you to that, Doc. All I want is for my brothers to be safe and have some fucking food once in a while and to be able to be kids while they still can, and I’m past the point of negotiating, waiting for rescues, or hoping for miracles…” Mike’s eyes glanced over to the knife again before he quickly turned his head away and he spoke in a low tone. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to keep my brothers safe.”
The doctor nodded understanding that Mike was extremely serious. “I understand. Just know that you’re not alone Mike. If you need help, ask.” Mike nodded and he closed his eyes and lay down on the examination table wincing as he did so, as the act sent a wave of pain through his back as it always did when he lay on his back, but he was simply too tired to care. He just felt exhausted and wanted to sleep without having to have one eye and ear open, fearing that he or one of his brothers would be yanked out of bed and beaten or raped, or that an animal wasn’t going to eat them in the case of the last few days traveling through the woods. He just wanted to rest his mind and not worry. He was so tired of being afraid.