Once Doc stepped outside the recovery room, Luke turned toward Mike trying hard not to cry or show any sign of weakness, the struggle preventing him from voicing his concerns about his leg. Mike, seeing the expression on his brother’s face knew what was on his mind. “No matter what happens Luke, be strong, bro. We’ve been through Hell and back. We’ll get through this together. Remember when Lloyd hobbled me and I never thought I’d walk again. I had to crawl and drag myself everywhere; forever it seemed, about half a year at least, if not more. Hard to keep track of time back there, except when Lloyd gave us our anniversary whipping to tell us we were a year older. Anyway, I didn’t give up…”
Luke interjected. “Yeah, but you had both legs still, Mike. If they take my leg off, what am I going to do? Hop?” Mike held his brother’s eyes. “If you have to. Maybe use a crutch. I don’t know, Luke, and that’s assuming you lose the leg. You might not. Right now, you got it and you walked for three days out of the woods on it, as bad as it was. You’re strong. We’re all strong, and we’ll deal with whatever shit comes our way–together. Like we always have done.” Luke sobbed a little, though he didn’t intend to. “What if they don’t let us stay together? What if they send us off somewhere?” Mike shook his head. “Even if they do, you’ll find your way back here in time. We all will. Right, Wade? You hear that? If they separate us, when you get the chance, you run away and come back here. Our kin will hide us if need be. Here at least we got family. I know Lloyd was related too, but he was crazy. Not that dad’s much better, but there are others here who aren’t crazy, who will help us. Besides, this is the best we got. Like it or not, it’s our home.”
Wade nodded his understanding, but he had a terrified look on his face, also not wanting to be separated from his brothers. “Don’t be afraid, Wade. You’re strong too. We all are. We’ll get through this. Okay? No matter what happens or what they do to us.” Mike suddenly turned silent as he heard the front door of Doc’s house open and shut, the others did too. Of course, Wade hadn’t spoken a word at all since returning.
Doc smiled as he entered the small recovery room. “Well, I don’t doubt you boys are hungry, and Mike you didn’t get to eat yesterday like your brothers did. So, here’s what I’m going to do. Now that the town has their story straight, I’m going to call the authorities and report your return as agreed, leaving off any knowledge of the details of where you’ve been. Do you boys need a review of what you need to tell the authorities? Wade? You never did reiterate what the Sheriff made Mike and Luke repeat. You got it straight too?”
Mike answered for his brother. “Wade won’t be a problem. He doesn’t speak.” The Doc blinked in surprise. “Not at all? But I remember him talking before you boys got… Uh, best stick to the story even among ourselves. What happened? Was he injured? I didn’t notice anything wrong with his throat.” Mike shook his head. “He ain’t spoke a word since the day we were taken. After Lloyd busted his tooth out for crying and whipping us all, he threatened he’d knock more teeth out if Wade didn’t stop crying. So, from there on out he never uttered another word. He was too scared to. He understands everything, but he won’t make a peep. Won’t even cry out loud if he’s hurt. None of us do, just whimper maybe. Lloyd would hurt us worse if we cried, though he tried to make us scream. He was really sick that way. He liked to cause pain.”
Doc decided to ask, as the question had been burning in the back of his mind along with everyone else in town. “Did Lloyd kill other people? The Sheriff found skulls.” All the boys looked away and turned silent, not wanting to talk about that or remember it. The Doc noticing sighed. “Okay. That’s answer enough. I won’t press it, though the authorities might ask you about it.” Mike sighed. “We didn’t see him kill no one personally. He did those things before we came, but he had videos. He… He made us watch them and said he’d do the same to us if we gave him any shit. After he broke my legs, that’s when he showed us the tapes and threatened that was going to happen to us if we tried to run away again. We just don’t want to talk about it. Okay?”
Doc nodded. “I understand and that’s all you have to tell the authorities. Too bad the Sheriff burned the place down though because now that evidence is likely gone.” Luke shook his head. “Doubt it. He kept the tapes in one of those cast iron safes like they were gold or something. Don’t think no fire would burn that thing down.” The Doc widened his eyes. “Oh, well that’s a good thing. At least they’ll be able to better identify his victims to be able to notify their kin. We were worried about that. We all felt the people’s kin deserved to know what became of their loved ones.”
None of the boys responded to that, but the Doc could feel the awkwardness in the air, considering that no one had put much effort into finding the boys after a week of looking. “Well, okay. I’m going to go make that call now and fix you all something good to eat, but I’m going to stick to clear liquid, some chicken broth because they’ll be wanting to get Luke into surgery pretty quick for that leg. Oh, Mr. Montavier–Jarrel’s brother Jonathan–said he was going to cover the medical expenses and make sure the best specialist was available to take care of your leg, Luke. He’s got the money and clout to do that. So, try not to worry too much. Alright? You’ll all be getting the best of care knowing Jonathan as I do.”
Despite Mike’s assurances and Doc’s assertions for the boys not to worry, Luke couldn’t help but be worried about losing his leg, but he kept silent about it figuring there was no point in complaining anymore. It wasn’t like there was anything he could do to stop it from happening. Luke hated feeling powerless, though he had been made to feel that way for all of his life. And the idea of losing his leg made him feel even more helpless and vulnerable.