Aberly had watched as the Sheriff dragged Craven to the station in cuffs wondering what was going on, but it hadn’t taken long for word to spread in the tiny town after the city authorities and FBI had left as to why Craven had been arrested. And it sickened Aberly to no end that Craven was being made out to be the liar when it was the rest of the town who were lying, himself included. That part sickened him the most. Though he really didn’t know what alternative he had which wouldn’t have revealed his true nature.
So, when evening came after checking in on Jarrel to see that he was doing okay and eating and making sure he had checked in with his brother, Aberly took a plate of food to the station for Craven, finding Buford on duty. Hank normally worked the night shift, but since quitting they were now short a deputy.
“I brought some food for Craven. May I bring it to him? I saw the Pastor come in earlier and want to make sure he’s okay.” Aberly said in way of explanation as to why he had the plate of food. Buford frowned. “Uh. I’m not sure…”
Aberly cut the young deputy off, anger clear on his face. “Now listen here. You and I and everyone else in town know that Craven did nothing wrong. Isn’t it enough he’s spending the night in a jail cell than to be made to go hungry too? Now I know darn well no one else bothered to bring that boy any food. I was trying to be polite and asking nicely, but I am going to bring this plate to Craven.”
Buford bit his lip worried what his father might do, but Aberly could be quite intimidating himself. “Alright.” He finally said. “Just don’t get pissed at me when you see him. I didn’t have nothing to do with…”
Aberly shoved his way past Buford, not waiting for him to finish, the deputy’s words confirming Aberly’s suspicions. He growled at Buford when he came into the lockdown area and saw Craven on the floor in cuffs and his ankles restrained. “Open this damn cell now! And get those cuffs and restraints off of him! What the hell is wrong with you people?”
Buford hesitated. “But my father…”
“Damn your father to Hell!” Aberly growled in irritation as he snatched the cell keys and cuff keys from Buford’s waist, taking matters into his own hands. “You’re a grown man, Buford. You need to start standing up for yourself with your father and for what’s right. You did earlier.”
Buford cut Aberly off speaking in his own defense. “Yeah, and what did that get me? Locked up with you and Hank in Jarrel’s mad room and my ass beat after when my dad got me alone. He was furious that I went against him.”
It was only then that Aberly noticed that Buford had been moving slower than usual and was limping slightly, his focus and concern had been on Craven’s well-being. “Sorry, Buford. I forget you haven’t had it any easier than the Carmichael boys or Craven growing up in this town. I didn’t realize your father was still beating on you.”
Buford murmured, “Yeah, well it embarrassing. I’m a grown man like you said. I’ve tried to fight back but I’m no match for him and it only makes him angrier when I do.” Aberly nodded his understanding as he uncuffed Craven and cut the tie wrap restraints off his ankles with a pocket knife.
Craven was quick to move away from the bench where he had been cuffed and beaten, though the rapid movement made him wince. “Mother fuckers!” He sobbed, laying his head on his knees. “Don’t fucking touch me!” He shouted as Aberly moved toward him.
Aberly stopped and gestured toward the plate of food he had set on the bench. “I’m not going to hurt you. I brought you some food and came to check on how you were doing. Are you okay?”
Craven lifted his head and scowled. “Okay? I come back from the City to find FBI and SVU agents all over the place, and the second I get off my bike I’m dragged in for questioning, which I answered honestly, only to find myself not only labeled a liar and being threatened with obstruction of justice charges, but tossed in a jail cell and the shit beat out of me by my father with his rubber hose. And when I try to fight back, the sheriff comes over and beats me into submission with his baton. Then he cuffs my hands and restrains my legs and watched as my father resumes whipping the shit out of me. No! I’m not fucking okay! What the fuck?”
Aberly sighed. “I’m sorry. I saw your father go in with the sheriff and feared as much. Lance and Peter have lost their minds over this situation. As it is the story they’re telling is a compromise. They took me, Hank, and Doc at gunpoint and locked us up in Jarrel’s mad room. Buford too when he worked up the courage to go against his father, which I’m sure you just overheard how that turned out for him. They only let us out when we agreed to the compromise, which was to get those boys some real medical attention and therapy after what they’ve been through. Luke might still lose his leg as is, even with a professional surgeon at the city hospital. Hank quit his job over the entire situation and was going to leave town altogether, but Caroline talked him into at least staying, though he’s adamant about going to work in the City. He wants nothing more to do with the majority of people in town.”
Craven grumbled, “Smart idea, moving. I swear to God the moment I turn eighteen, I’m out of here for good and never looking back.” Craven’s emancipation stipulation was requiring that he still reside in Land’s End until he was a legal adult. “What the hell is keeping you two here?” Buford shrugged. “Got nowhere else to go. My whole family’s here. I got a decent job. I ain’t that smart to get a job like this anywhere else. Never did very good in school.”
Aberly spoke after Buford’s response in somewhat of a chastising tone. “Your father has you convinced you can’t take care of yourself, Buford. I, however, think you’d do fine on your own. Not telling you what to do, but if you ever feel the urge, follow it. As for me, I have my reasons for staying. Been here before this town became a town. It’s my home. Besides those boys are going to need some watching over. You too Craven if you want to stay, or at least for as long as you’re here. I never knew for sure if your father was knocking you around, because I saw no marks, though I was suspicious he might have been. Now that I know he is, I’ll do my best to intervene.”
Craven continued to scowl. “What the hell are you going to do when the sheriff is backing him up? He’ll just lock you up too.” Aberly sighed as he knew that was a possibility. “Well, at least I can provide some moral support and food if you need.” Aberly smiled wryly as he pointed to the plate. “Speaking of which… Eat. Buford, get the boy some water. Or wait. You’re limping. I’ll get the water.”
Aberly glanced at Buford and asked. “You eat yourself, boy?” Buford shook his head. “My father’s making me work back to back shifts until I get my priorities and loyalties straight. Didn’t have time to eat.” Aberly growled. “I’ll go fix you a plate and spell you for a bit after midnight when your father won’t notice so you can get some shut eye.”
Aberly left and returned a short while later with a plate of food for Buford and water bottles for both of them, having been careful not to be seen doing so by the sheriff or anyone else who might gossip. It was dinner time in Land’s End. So, everyone was inside their homes, many for the evening entirely. Of course, there was no guarantee no one was looking out a window, but Aberly chanced it, as the closer to dinner the less likely someone would see him. He wasn’t worried about his own account, but for Craven and Buford’s sake.
Buford hesitantly took the food, but then murmured, “thanks” and dug in. Craven was already eating his, but very slowly, though he also had expressed his gratitude for the meal, once he realized Aberly wasn’t in on the town lie, at least not voluntarily. Aberly reassured them both. “I’ll wait until you’re done eating and drinking and remove the evidence, and if the Sheriff does find out somehow, though I was careful not to be seen, or at least careful as possible in this town… Just tell him I forced you to eat.”
Buford gestured to Craven. “What about Craven? My dad’s going to be pissed you released his restraints. I asked if I could when I saw him like that, and he told me no. He’ll likely check in on me before he goes to bed around eleven.”
Craven interjected. “Just let me take a piss and you can restrain me again. I don’t want to get you into trouble.” Aberly didn’t like it, but he thought it was probably a good idea knowing Lance as he did. “After he goes to bed, when I come to relieve you after midnight, we can release him for a time until morning.” Craven shook his head. “Why chance it? Not like I’ve never slept tied up. As long as I can empty my bladder I’ll be good until morning.” Aberly frowned, but then nodded. “Okay well, I’ll take you now while Buford finishes eating. We’ll be right back. Bufe.” Buford nodded as he continued his meal, having slowed down after the first few bites distracted by the conversation.
Aberly shook his head after a bit of thought after returning with Craven. “Damn this all to Hell. This is ridiculous. Neither of you did anything wrong to be suffering like this. I’m going to go talk to Lance and get Craven released tonight, and you off to bed, Buford. Don’t worry, Bufe I’ll handle your father, but if for some reason he does start knocking you around again, any time he starts in on you at all, come to my place.”
Buford murmured, “thanks”, but he was too embarrassed to look at anyone. He was thirty years old and still not only under his father’s thumb, but was as terrified of him as when he had been a little kid.