Aberly stopped short when he saw Jarrel shirtless and in a squatted position facing a corner of the room, with his arms held out to the side, his body trembling in the struggle to maintain his position.
“Jarrel?” Aberly asked with a note of concern. “Are you okay?” Jarrel turned his head slightly toward the voice and he spoke in a sobbing tone. “It hurts, but Jonny said I have to stay like this until he says so.” Aberly sighed. “Well Doc just spoke to your brother and he said it was okay for someone to come over and check on you to make sure that you’re alright and to make sure you get to bed and get some sleep. Jonathan was worried about you. He said that you sometimes imagine that he hurts you like your father used to.”
Jarrel pouted his lip like a little kid might. “Yes, daddy used to whip me with the rubber hose and make me squat with my arms out like this for hours at a time. It hurt so much. He made Jonny do it too when he didn’t listen, but he listened better than me.”
Aberly came over to Jarrel and put a gentle hand on his back, in part to console him, but also to feel if there was any undue warmth there which would be indicative of having been beaten. Even a rubber hose would leave some pinkness and heat behind for a time, but his skin felt cool to the touch, not warm. Yet Jarrel winced at the touch. Aberly supposed it was possible that too much time had passed where his back wouldn’t still be warm, but he didn’t think so. “Are you sure that maybe you didn’t imagine that your brother hurt you, Jarrel? He says sometimes you imagine things.”
Jarrel pouted again while shaking his head. “No, I don’t imagine things. They really happen. They do, Abe. Why would I do this to myself? That doesn’t make sense. That’s crazy.”
Aberly refrained the obvious retort that Jarrel was clinically insane. Instead, he gently reached down and helped Jarrel straighten up. “Come on. I’ll help you to bed. Your punishment is over. But can I ask you something? Where does your brother keep the rubber hose he beats you with? Here at the house? Maybe I should take it for safe keeping,” Aberly offered as a means of discerning if Jarrel was truly being abused or simply delusional as his brother claimed him to be.
Jarrel winced and whimpered as he was helped to a straightened position, the change in position apparently painful to him, and he leaned against Aberly as he led him to his bedroom area which was separated from the main area with a low privacy wall around two sides with an opening to pass through, though there was no door. Jarrel’s slow movements and wincing and whimpering made Aberly wonder even more if his brother might have beaten him, but then he remembered that he had just spent probably close to an hour in that squatted position and that alone would be causing him some pain. That had been very real.
“I… I don’t know,” Jarrel answered a bit hesitantly. “He just has it when he’s angry. I guess he carries it with him.” Aberly frowned. “You mean it just appears in his hand?” Jarrel nodded. “Yes… I suppose I just don’t notice where he keeps it. He gets angry and starts yelling and it scares me so I probably don’t notice little details like that. He tweaked my ear and then boxed it outside, and he was very upset with me for not calling him last night. He was worried… He worries about me.” Aberly nodded. “Yes, he does. He loves you. You know that, right? Your brother may have a similar personality to your father, but he’s not your father.” Jarrel looked up at Aberly. “I know that, Abe. He’s my brother. I know the difference. I’m not nuts, though everyone says I am. I know I’m a bit different, but it’s only because it’s how I learned to be free of my father’s tyranny, but I don’t hallucinate. That would just be crazy. They’d lock me up or put me on medication if I did that.”
Aberly interjected. “You are on medication, Jarrel. Have you been taking it like you’re supposed to?” Jarrel bit his lip. “Um…” Aberly sighed. “You need to take your medication, Jarrel. You know that. Am I going to have to come by here and make sure you take it every day? It will help you, but you have to take it regularly.” Jarrel frowned and then even scowled a bit. “I don’t like the medicine. I don’t need it. I’m not psychotic. They’re trying to make me how I was before. Always afraid and on edge. I like how I am now. Why can’t everyone see that?”
Aberly sighed again. “Okay, well we’ll put this all aside for later. Right now, you need some sleep. You were up all night with the boys, and I’m sure you’re exhausted. So, let’s get you into your pajamas and then you can brush your teeth and relieve yourself if you need to, then get into bed. Once you’re settled, I’ll go, but I’ll come back later this evening and check in on you. Alright? You need to stay down here for a time, until after the police question everyone concerning the boys.”
Jarrel scowled again, but he slowly got into his pajamas as he did so. “How come I have to stay down here? I don’t like being locked down here. I promised Jonny I’d call him tonight like I’m supposed to. You said my punishment was over.” Aberly nodded. “It is. You’re not being locked up as punishment, Jarrel, but because you tend to um… How should I put it? Give more information than is necessary and the Sheriff doesn’t want you speaking to the authorities about what happened with the boys. We are only going to give them certain information and have adjusted how the boys ended up with Lloyd from what really happened in order to protect the boys and allow them to stay here with family, and to protect others in the town who did not respond to the boys having gone missing five years ago. That of course includes myself. I’m as guilty as the rest of them, as I allowed myself to be convinced that they might truly be better off wherever they were as opposed to living with Floyd. But all that aside, the truth is you can’t be trusted not to share parts of the story that the Sheriff doesn’t want you to share with outsiders. It’s okay to talk about it with the residents of Land’s End, but no one else. Do you understand?”
Jarrel frowned. “It’s bad to lie, Abe.” Aberly sighed. “I know and I’m really torn about the whole thing but I gave my word. Sometimes you need to think about the consequences and act accordingly even if you’re not entirely comfortable with the situation. Overall, more people will end up hurt with the world knowing the truth, including those boys and they, are the main reason that I’ve agreed to this. If the truth is known then the boys will be taken away and placed into foster care or even some sort of institution if they’re found unfit for society due to their trauma. Here at least they do have people who care about them and can look out for them. Plus, they are desperate to remain together and I don’t think they’d be able to if they get fostered out. So, do you understand now why we had to alter the truth? It still is mostly the truth. All the important parts. Just the part of how the boys got into Lloyd’s hands has changed. Everything else will be as it happened. It’s like having a special secret that you only share with people you know you can trust.”
Jarrel smiled as he brushed his teeth, getting ready for bed as Aberly spoke. “I can keep a secret.” Aberly, of course, knew that wasn’t true, but he nodded. “Yes, well still. Your brother feels it best you stay down here for a few days. Don’t worry. He said you have plenty of food and you have your television and books and someone will come and check on you each day like I’m doing now. If not me, then Doc or the Sheriff or someone from town. Alright?”
Jarrel’s smile turned back to a frown, but he nodded and sighed. “Okay, but just a day or two. Alright? I have no sun down here. Just tiny windows way up high where I can’t even look out of.” Jarrel pointed to one of the small windows that let in some natural light to the basement. Aberly nodded. “Just a day or two. I’m sure that will suffice.” Of course, Aberly wasn’t sure of the exact time that Jarrel would need to remain in his mad room, but it was easier to just agree for the time being as Jarrel could be quite persistent about what he wanted and didn’t want.