THE LONG ROAD HOME
A/N: My thanks to Lori for the idea she gave me regarding certain ideas for this chapter - specifically, the discovery of papers that prove to be very important to Bobby. Thanks Lori, I greatly appreciated our brainstorming. It hugely helped with the writing of this chapter.
George Huang went through Bobby's notebooks slowly, methodically and very thoroughly. Jarod had handed them over to him just the night before and, after the frightening incident that morning, George had decided it was time to immerse himself completely in the case.
He was perhaps halfway through the collection of notebooks, and was both surprised and impressed with many of the ideas that had been sketched out in them. If Bobby were to patent even just two or three of the ideas he'd outlined in the books, he would probably never have another financial worry again in his life.
But that was not what this was all about, he reflected. It was about searching for a way to help Bobby find a path through the misery, the fear and the pain that the Centre had projected onto him over nine horrific months.
It concerned him that there was much that Bobby was still refusing to talk about, and he was beginning to become suspicious of what he was hiding. Though Emily had claimed not to have found any indication of sexual interference on him, George still wondered. He saw it in the way that Bobby interacted with everyone, in the way that he flinched away from being touched, and in his ongoing inability to properly meet anyone's gazes.
No physical evidence might have been found, George thought grimly, but that didn't mean nothing like that had been done to him, and Bobby's behaviour was textbook rape victim's behaviour. If Bobby hadn't been raped at some point, or sexually assaulted at the very least, George would cheerfully eat his hat.
Alex, and Margaret now as well, were the only ones who seemed to be able to maintain contact with him. He seemed to tolerate phsyical contact with others, but that was all. The only times anyone other than Alex and Margaret could have any significant contact with him seemed to be whenever he was sleep, or too exhausted to notice.
George frowned a little as he set aside yet another notebook. He'd talked to Bobby every day since his arrival and, with the exception of just two times, Bobby had become severely distraught. Unable to break through to him, George had ended up having to summon Alex to calm him down. It always worked, but it also effectively ended the session, for once Alex was there, it was as though George didn't exist.
Once he had Alex back at his side, Bobby's world consisted of nothing else. George knew he needed to find a way into Bobby's mind, where they were able to connect, but so far he hadn't found it.
That was what he was hoping to find with the notebooks. He hoped he would find something that would allow him to connect with Bobby, and allow Bobby to trust him like he trusted Alex. Without that, they would continue to get nowhere fast.
Feeling weary, and more than a little frustrated, George stood up abruptly to go and get some fresh air. In the course of getting up, though, he bumped the remaining pile of notebooks, and sent then flying across the floor.
“Damn,” he muttered, and bent to start picking them up, only to freeze as his gaze fell on a small sheaf of loose papers that had spilled out of one of the books.
Slowly, tentatively, George reached out and gathered up the pages. Sitting back down, he sorted through them slowly, his jaw agape with astonishment.
He was staring at a remarkably good picture of Jimmy Deakins, drawn in pencil. The picture had been drawn in such a way that George could see only a shade of the tough-ass cop that he knew the captain to be. Most prominently, George could see the gentle, more paternal side of the man in the drawing. He could see the father-figure that Bobby clearly saw in his captain.
He flipped to the next page, and found himself looking at a picture of Mike Logan. The details weren't as fine or as intimate as the picture of Deakins, but there was still a certain emotiveness about it. George got a sense of brotherhood from the picture, and he wondered just how much Bobby actually saw Mike as a brother as much as a colleague.
Certainly, it was easy to see how Bobby would have come to remember his colleagues with such familiarity. Trapped in a cold, friendless and terrifying environment, Bobby would have clung on to any happy memories that he could.
George bit his lip as he began to understand that what he was looking at was quite possibly a last ditch effort by Bobby to remember his life before his abduction. In that respect, these pictures were priceless, and it was a miracle that they hadn't been destroyed.
He turned to the next picture, and tears stung his eyes almost before he was aware of it.
It was a picture of Alex, and the details were almost life-like in their intricacies and intimacy. Great care had been taken with this picture, and it was almost photographic in its quality.
In it, Alex was looking ahead, smiling warmly. There was an energy about her in the picture that had been captured perfectly. Staring at it now, George didn't doubt that Bobby had gained strength and courage from it.
His heart in his throat, George went slowly through the rest of the pictures. There was one of someone who George suspected was probably Bobby's mother, an unfinished picture of Carolyn... There were two more pictures of Deakins in the pile, and one of a man that George didn't recognise, but the rest were all of Alex.
All together, there were nine pictures of Alex – all different, and all drawn with obvious care and love. After just a brief moment of indecision, George gathered up all the pages, and hurried from the room.
Alex bit back a sigh as she walked into the kitchen, carrying the bowls and plates from her and Bobby's lunch. She'd promised Bobby that she'd be right back, but upon entering the kitchen, she'd found herself confronted by Jarod's father, Charles. Although, perhaps confronted wasn't the right word, she conceded ruefully. It wasn't as though he'd been waiting for her.
Looking deliberately away from him, Alex took the dishes over and placed them carefully in the dishwasher. She was just closing the door when Charles spoke.
“You don't seem to like me very much, Detective Eames.”
It took all of Alex's strength to maintain her calm.
“Whatever gave you that idea?”
To her irritation, Charles laughed.
“That attitude, right there. You remind me of my wife, Margaret. She won't take any crap, either.”
Alex finally looked around at him, her jaw locked with tension.
“Did you want something?”
His amused smile was gone in an instant.
“I'd like to know why you seem so intent on disliking me. Need I remind you that I've opened up my home as a safe haven, not only to Bobby but to you, your captain and your colleagues as well?”
“We appreciate it,” Alex said tightly.
“Forgive me, but you sure don't sound like you do.”
Alex answered his words with silence. Charles frowned and was about to try again when Alex spoke in a strained voice.
“What was it that you said to Jarod in the van on the way here? You can’t save everyone. It may be that Bobby is one of those that you won’t be able to save. That's what you said.”
Charles blanched visibly.
“You overheard that? Damn... I'm sorry. I didn't mean it the way it sounded.”
“No? Because it sounded to me like you didn't even want to try. And then there was that bit about wanting to send Bobby to a psyche hospital...”
“Hang on, there,” Charles said, holding up his hands defensively. “I never, at any point, said that I didn't want to help Bobby. I do want to help him... but you have to understand something.”
Alex glowered at him.
“What do I have to understand?”
Charles hesitated, staring at her for several long seconds before motioning to the table.
“Come over here, Detective. Have a seat. I think we need to talk.”
Alex looked as though she was going to argue, but changed her mind at the last moment and sat down with a thud.
Charles sat opposite her, watching her for a long moment before speaking quietly.
“Let me tell you a story, Detective. Years ago, probably before you ever knew there was anything wrong with this world, I was working actively against the Centre. I'd taken in rescued children previously, keeping them safe from the Centre until they could either be returned to their own families, or placed in the care of new families. Bobby was the last rescued child brought to me from the Centre, and I can say with certainty that I'd never seen a more traumatised child in my life. Bobby was with me for nearly twelve months...”
“Twelve?” Alex echoed, confused. “I thought it was only six...?”
“Closer to twelve,” Charles corrected quietly. “I couldn't get a word out of him for the first four months. The only sounds he made during those first four months were when he woke up screaming every single night from the nightmares. It was bad... Worse than anything I'd ever seen. It took a long time, but I finally managed to get him to tell me some of the things that had been done to him... Let me tell you, Detective, you couldn't begin to imagine the horrors. It took nearly twelve months for me to be able to expunge the worst of those horrors from his mind, and to rehabilitate him. Those were twelve very, very hard months, Detective. I can hardly begin to describe how hard it was to bring that boy back from the brink... and now, history is repeating itself.
“When Jarod contacted me, and told me that Bobby had been retaken by the Centre, I knew it was going be difficult, but I didn't want to believe it was hopeless. I still don't... but what I want to believe is very different from the reality.”
“I won't give up on him,” Alex said fiercely. “I don't care how hard it is. I... I won't. I can't.”
Charles reached across the table, and closed his hand gently over hers.
“And that's what counts, Detective. As long as you don't give up, I think he'll pull through this.”
She looked at him bitterly.
“You're putting it all on me, then?”
Charles sighed softly.
“You don't understand, Detective. The point I'm trying to make is that it doesn't matter one bit to Bobby what I believe. But it does matter to him what you believe. As long as he knows he's got you to lean on, that's what really counts. You keep reminding him of that, Detective, and I think he'll eventually get through this. That's what I believe.”
Alex rubbed at her eyes, suddenly conscious of the wetness in and around them.
“He'll always have me. I won't leave him alone. I promised him that a long time ago, and I won't break that promise. Especially now.”
He smiled and nodded in agreement.
At the same time that Alex was having a heart-to-heart with Charles, Bobby was sitting on the edge of his bed in silence, staring miserably at his bandaged hands and feet. It had been some hours now since he’d had any painkillers, and the pain was starting to take hold once more, but that didn’t bother him. He actually appreciated the pain as a way of keeping himself focused, and grounded. It gave him something tangible to hold on to when there was no one else around.
A little bit of pain was definitely a good thing, he reflected. Just a little bit, mind. He knew full well that it was only a matter of time before the pain became more than he could cope with, and then he would ask for something to help with it. But for now, he was okay.
No, it wasn’t the pain that was getting to him. It was his complete and utter helplessness, brought on by the sudden loss of his ability to walk, or adequately use his hands. He felt his face flush at the memories from lunch only a short while ago, and again from what had happened just a couple of minutes before.
He and Alex had fallen asleep together, and were woken only when Margaret had brought lunch for them. It was a bowl of the most beautiful-smelling soup, and sandwiches cut into small, manageable portions. Except, with both hands now bandaged after being cruelly cut up, he couldn’t manage any of it.
Alex, apparently unaware of his difficulty, had started on her own lunch with relish. Too embarrassed to interrupt her obvious enjoyment of the meal, he’d simply sat there in silence and watched her eat. It wasn’t until his stomach growled audibly that Alex had realised he wasn’t able to manage either the soup or the sandwiches.
Thoroughly embarrassed by her own obliviousness, Alex had promptly set aside her food and, ignoring his feeble protests, began to spoon the soup to his lips. She fed him with loving care, the same as she would have her nephew.
He both loved her and hated her for it. He loved her for her care and patience, but hated that those same loving actions compounded his feelings of shame and helpessness.
In the end, though, he said nothing to her, except for a soft word of thanks once he’d eaten his fill. She’d finished her own lunch, and then taken the bowls and plates back to the kitchen.
While she was gone, he’d decided to pay a visit to the bathroom. That had been another big mistake. He made it as far as the toilet, and had sat down with mixed feelings of relief and nausea. Relief to have made it, and that he was able to sit; nausea at the realisation that he would not be able to stand up and make it back to the bedroom again. He couldn’t even keep his dignity as far as pulling up the sweat pants he was wearing. Sure, he’d managed to push them down okay, but there would be no pulling them back up again; not without help.
And so he’d sat there in humiliated silence, listening for Alex’s return. She’d stripped him off, bathed him, helped him change clothes... and now this. It was just about more than he could bear.
To make it worse, as he sat there waiting, he caught sight of a shard of the mirror that had been missed when the bathroom was cleaned up while he’d slept. He’d found himself locked into staring at it, and at his image reflected on the cracked surface.
Cracked... That was him now. Broken... Irreparable. It gutted him to think it, but he just couldn’t see his way back to where he had once been – a confident, independent police detective. Now, when he saw his reflection, all he could see was a broken man with no clear sense of his own identity. He didn’t know who he was anymore, and that was what was killing him inside, more than anything else.
Then he’d heard a voice on the other side of the bathroom door, tentatively calling his name. It wasn’t Alex, but Captain Deakins who was there. Bobby honestly didn’t know whether to be relieved or embarrassed, but he told himself it was better than having Alex come in and have to help him, and forced himself to call out in a shaky voice and ask for help.
He’d not been able to look Deakins in the eye when the captain came in. He kept his eyes fixed very firmly on the floor as the captain slipped an arm around his waist and gently helped him to his feet, at the same time tugging the boxers and sweat pants back up over his hips. From there, Deakins had guided him carefully back to his bedroom, and onto the bed, where he’d sat silent and defeated.
There had been no admonishments from the captain, merely a concerned inquiry as to whether he was okay. The only reply Bobby had been able to give was a slight nod of his head. He couldn’t bring himself to speak, or even look at his captain, and it was all he could do to hold back his tears.
Deakins had finally left him, after promising to find Alex and send her back to him as quickly as possible.
And that was where he was at now. Sitting silent, hopeless, helpless, as he waited for Alex to come back. His cheeks were wet with ill-suppressed tears, but he made no effort to wipe them away. The hurt inside him far outweighed the physical hurt, and he didn’t know how to begin combatting it. Despite the best intentions of those around him, he could feel himself sinking slowly back into a deep depression, and once more he found his mind was starting to contemplate things that it shouldn’t.
He didn’t want to, but he was lost... drowning... and he didn’t know how to save himself.
He heard footsteps in the doorway, but didn’t bother looking up, expecting it would just be Alex. He realised with a sick feeling that he couldn’t even bring himself to face her now, and he wondered dimly whether that was a sign that he truly was lost.
The owner of those footsteps entered the room slowly, coming over to the bedside. Nothing was said, and Bobby was about to gather himself to look up when he heard the soft rustling of paper, and a single page was placed on his lap, directly in his line of sight.
Bobby froze, his breath catching in his throat as he stared at the page in front of him. It was very familiar to him. It was a picture of Alex that he had drawn early in his captivity at the Centre. Specifically, it was the first picture he had drawn of her, the one picture that had triggered the desire and need deep within him to draw all the rest, all the pictures that had gone a long way to helping him cling to his sense of identity... and his sanity.
Slowly, disregarding the twinges of pain, Bobby lifted his hand and traced the sketched image on the page.
He vividly recalled drawing this picture, in particular. It had been perhaps the fifth or sixth time that Sydney had left him alone, to work in his notebook. The idea had come to him just the previous night as he lay in bed. Drawing was a talent that he had always kept to himself, not even telling Alex, and he’d wondered if he would possibly be able to get away with drawing a picture of her, where all other attempts to keep a solid grip on his sense of self had failed. He’d decided to try, regardless of what it cost him.
And so, when Sydney had left him to his own devices the very next day, he’d not wasted any time. Openining the notebook, he’d begun sketching, keeping at it until he’d produced a surprisingly good picture of his partner. Then, he had separated the page very carefully from the book, so that Sydney wouldn’t notice a page was missing, and inquire about it.
He’d snuck the page back to his room with him, where he’d hidden it behind the grating that covered the air vent in the wall. For the next two weeks, he had taken to looking at the picture in secret, while at the same time a part of him waited in dread for discovery. It hadn’t happened.
Buoyed by the realisation that no one seemed to know what he’d done, he’d drawn more pictures, until he had nearly a dozen hidden away in that vent. Those pictures had become the one thing he had to ground him, and it was the loss of those pictures when Raines had him moved that had seen him nearly lose his grip on reality altogether. To suddenly be handed one now was beyond incredible... and gave him a rush of emotion that was beyond description.
Finally, he made himself look up, curiosity overcoming his misery and his fears. He wanted to know who had pulled off the miracle of producing this picture, when he had been certain that it was lost. He was stunned to find himself looking up at George Huang.
“I take it that this is yours?” George asked. Bobby looked back down at the picture, still barely able to believe it was back in his possession. He covered it protectively with one bandaged hand, as though afraid that it would be snatched away again.
“They were in the middle of a pile of notebooks that Jarod gave to me. You'll have to ask Jarod where... or who he got them from.”
Bobby's breath caught in his throat as, even in his current fragile state of mind, George's words registered in his consciousness.
“They...?” he echoed. “Y... You have more?”
George smiled and nodded, bringing out the sheaf of pages for Bobby to see. Bobby stared at them in breathless astonishment.
“I thought you might be happy to see these again,” George murmured. Tears stung Bobby's eyes.
“They kept me... grounded... safe. I'd look at them after s... sessions with Raines... or Lyle. I... I hid them behind the ventilation grate in my room.”
George's attention was piqued by that. Until now, he'd assumed that Bobby's time had been divided between Raines and Sydney. It disturbed him to learn that Lyle might have had a considerable part in Bobby's torment, and yet a large part of him was not surprised by the revelation, either. From what he'd learned from both Bobby and Jarod, Lyle was a true sadist with no conscience. No, it didn't surprise him at all, and it also went some ways to confirming his fears over what Bobby was not telling them.
Bobby went on, seemingly oblivious to George's reaction.
“I'd take them out to look at them... and looking at them helped me to remember.”
“Remember what, Bobby?” George pressed when Bobby hesitated. Bobby stared sadly at the picture.
“Remember how things were before.”
He didn't elaborate, and George didn't press for it. Producing the pictures seemed to have at least drawn Bobby partially out of his shell, and George was willing to take whatever he could get.
“They're important to you,” George deduced.
“Yes,” Bobby whispered. George sat down carefully next to him, and placed the rest of the pictures gently in Bobby's lap.
“These are yours, Bobby. You should have them.”
As George watched, tears rolled slowly down his cheeks.
“I thought they were lost. I thought they would have been found and destroyed when Raines moved me to... to SL26.”
“Someone must have kept them safe for you,” George suggested. “Was there anyone in the Centre that you trusted? Anyone at all?”
“Angelo,” Bobby murmured without hesitation. George regarded him with interest. It wasn't the first time that this Angelo person had been mentioned by Bobby, and George was just starting to understand how important to Bobby he had been.
He wondered how much more Bobby might be willing to talk about where Angelo was concerned, but he didn't want to risk pushing so hard that Bobby just shut down on him again. He was surprised, though, when Bobby began talking without being prompted.
“Angelo was my friend... my only friend. He helped me... when he could. We'd talk alot... until I was moved to SL26. I... I can't really describe it. If it hadn't been for Angelo, I don't think I would have survived two months in that place, let alone nine.”
George knew that was not said lightly. For Bobby to credit his survival to anyone at all within the Centre itself, then their influence on him had to have been incredibly positive. He wanted to know more about this Angelo character, but he also knew better than to push the issue beyond what Bobby was prepared to discuss. Instead, he decided on a new tact.
“You don't have to hide these anymore, Bobby,” George told him, and at the same time indicating the pictures. “No one will take them from you... or you from them. I promise you that.”
“How can you?” Bobby asked, his tone plaintive. George watched him intently. It was all too easy to catch the distress and scepticism in his voice.
“How can I promise that? Is that what you're asking?”
“I can promise that because I believe that I know the lengths that Captain Deakins, Alex, Mike and Carolyn will go to in order to keep you safe. Tell me something, though, and be honest about it. Are you angry at any of them over being taken? Because they all seem to think you have a right to be.”
George watched the emotions play over Bobby's face and, to his great interest, the primary emotion that he read there was confusion.
“But... it wasn't their fault...” he protested.
“Not even Captain Deakins?” George prodded lightly, curious to see what reaction he'd get. He knew well enough that Deakins was still blaming himself for Bobby being taken in the first place, and he was interested to see what Bobby's feelings were over it.
“No!” Bobby burst out abruptly, surprising George with the sudden energy in his voice, and in his pale face. “No, I'm not angry. It wasn't his fault. He... He tried to protect me, but he couldn't stop it from happening anymore than I could. I... I don't blame him. I don't blame anyone, except...”
“Except the people from the Centre?” George suggested when Bobby hesitated. He nodded, growing quiet once more.
“Name them, Bobby,” George encouraged him. “Give them identities. Don't hide them away. Bring them out into the open, so that you'll eventually be able to let go.”
Bobby shuddered violently. He knew George was right. If he was ever to find release from the fear that gripped him, he had to push those fears out into the open.
“Raines...” he whispered shakily. “L... Lyle... Sydney...”
“Isn't there one more?” George pressed gently. “What about Miss Parker?”
At the mention of her name, Bobby suddenly went very still and quiet. George continued to watch him intently, both fascinated and concerned by his reaction. After a few minutes of silence, George tried again.
“She was there when you were taken, wasn't she? Doesn't that make her equally responsible?”
“Yes,” Bobby admitted with visible reluctance. “But... it's complicated.”
“Not from my perspective,” George said, hoping he wasn't pushing too hard. “From what I've been told, it was because of her that Captain Deakins was hit so hard on the head that it nearly killed him. Be honest, Bobby, and say what you're really thinking. Don't try to hide the fact that she hurt you.”
“She... She didn't...”
“Didn't hurt you? Why do I find that hard to believe?”
“But... She didn't hurt me,” Bobby insisted. George nodded.
“Maybe she didn't hurt you in the same ways that Raines, Lyle and Sydney did,” George conceded. “But I have to admit to wondering just what she did do to you, Bobby.”
And suddenly it clicked in Bobby's tired mind just what George was hinting at. He stared at the psychiatrist for a long moment before a ghostly smile touched his pale features.
“She didn't... didn't rape me... or sexually assault me... if that's what you mean.”
George stared at Bobby piercingly.
“All right,” he said finally. “I believe you. But I want you to answer me honestly. Were you assaulted like that at all?”
“No,” Bobby answered softly. “It... It nearly happened... but it was because of Miss Parker that it didn't.”
George blinked, thrown right out by Bobby's words.
“Let me make sure I understand. You were saved from being sexually assaulted by Miss Parker?”
He didn't really expect Bobby to elaborate, and so he was stunned when Bobby began talking about it freely, without having to be prompted.
“I don't know how long I'd been there for... I lost track of time after a while. They never gave me any way of measuring time while I was there. I... I never saw sunlight, or the moon... The only way I knew it was nighttime was because that was when I was locked back in my room.
“So, I don't know for sure how long it had been when Lyle came for me that day...”
Bobby knew he was in trouble when Lyle came to get him personally, with no cleaners to back him up. No cleaners meant no witnesses, and no witnesses meant trouble for him. Big trouble.
Lyle led him not to the sim room, but to a lavish office, where he bade him sit in one of the large chairs.
“Relax, Bobby,” Lyle told him wryly. “You're way too tense. Here...” He poured an unidentified amber fluid into a glass, and held it out to Bobby. “Have a drink, my friend.”
Bobby refused, watching Lyle with ill-concealed hatred. Lyle shrugged, and downed the liquid himself.
“Fine. Suit yourself.”
“What do you want?” Bobby asked icily, his mind filled with bitter memories of his previous encounters with Lyle. The smile that appeared on Lyle's face was anything but pleasant.
“I suppose saying that I just want to talk to you wouldn't really wash, would it?”
Bobby looked away. He didn't know what Lyle wanted. He didn't want to know.
“Fine, we'll just get straight to business. Mr Raines tells me you're not cooperating with him. That's a little disappointing, Bobby. We expected a little more from you by now.”
“I won't do his simulations,” Bobby said softly, but with determination. “They're... evil. He's evil.”
A brief glance upwards revealed an amused smile on Lyle's face that left Bobby feeling disturbed, and more than a little afraid.
“Evil. Interesting interpretation, coming from you. Well, let me clue you in to what's happening here. The powers that be are... well, they're a little upset that you're not doing what you're supposed to be doing, and they've asked me to have a chat with you, and try to convince you to cooperate.”
“You're wasting your time,” Bobby mumbled. Lyle, however, didn't appear perturbed at all.
“Well, perhaps you should wait to see my methods before saying that I'm wasting my time.”
Slowly, Bobby's head came up, and his gaze locked with Lyle's. In the space of an instant, he saw a world of madness in the other man's eyes. He saw it, and he was afraid.
Lyle walked around, until he was standing behind Bobby. Then, even as Bobby was wondering just what Lyle was going to do, Lyle suddenly looped a piece of rope around Bobby's throat and pulled it tight.
Bobby gagged painfully as Lyle wrenched his arms around behind his back and tied them tightly together with the loose end of the rope that was already looped around his throat. His head was forced back at a painful angle as Lyle tied off the rope, to ensure the length between Bobby's bound wrists and the loop around his neck was kept taut. Lyle then walked back around to the front, smirking cruelly.
Bobby couldn't have answered even if he'd wanted to. It was all he could do to keep his bound wrists in a position that didn't cause the rope around his neck to pull so tight that it choked him. As it was, he could already feel the blood pressure building in his face. Lyle chuckled softly in amusement.
“And now that I have your undivided attention, I'm going to show you why cooperating is far better than the alternative.”
Bobby could only watch Lyle in helpless silence as the psychopath began to unbutton his shirt. He shut his eyes as he felt Lyle's hand on the bare flesh of his chest and stomach, and a strangled whimper escaped him as he felt Lyle's hands on the waistband of his sweatpants.
“This doesn't have to hurt, Bobby. It's only going to hurt if you fight me... and I don't want to hurt you. At least, not to leave any marks, that is.”
Again, Bobby gagged as Lyle roughly yanked the sweatpants down to his knees, leaving him vulnerable and exposed.
“Are you going to fight me, Bobby? Do I need to keep going?”
Tears worked their way slowly out of Bobby's eyes, and rolled down his cheeks. He couldn't get a word out, but then he didn't really need to. The raw hatred in his eyes spoke in volumes as he glared at Lyle. Lyle nodded, not seeming particularly disappointed.
“Okay, then. But just remember, this is entirely your choice.”
Bobby shut his eyes tightly, and a whimpering sob escaped him as fear crashed down on him in paralysing waves. Between the terror he was experiencing, and the pain caused by the rope that cut into his wrists, wrenched his shoulders back, and threatened to choke him, he honestly did not know how much more he could take. If Lyle went ahead with what he was threatening, Bobby didn't think he would survive it.
Before Lyle had the chance to lay his hands on him, though, a new voice spoke from the doorway, filled with rage.
“What the hell do you think you're doing?”
Lyle stood up slowly, a dangerous look on his face.
“This is none of your concern, Parker. Turn around, and walk out. Now.”
She ignored him, though, and walked around to see for herself what her psychopathic brother was doing to Bobby. Her expression turned positively deadly as she looked back at Lyle.
“You sick son of a bitch. Who gave you the go-ahead to do this to him? It was Raines, wasn't it?”
“I told you, Parker, this is none of your concern.”
“I'm making it my concern,” she snarled. “Now, get out, before I decided to do the world in general a favour, and shoot you.”
Lyle couldn't resist a smirk.
“You already did that once, remember?”
An instant later, the smirk was wiped clean off his face when Miss Parker pulled out her gun and, in one fluid movement, aimed it directly at Lyle's head.
“Next time, I won't make the mistake of shooting you in the chest. The next one will be right between your eyes. Now, get out.”
Lyle stared at her for a long moment, and then leaned in close to Bobby, whispering harshly into his ear.
“You'd better wise up fast, Bobby. You caught a break this time, but if you don't start co-operating with Raines, we'll be having another little... chat, and I guarantee you that next time, we won't be interrupted.”
“Lyle, don't make me tell you again,” Parker growled, and she released the safety catch on her gun for emphasis. Lyle may have been crazy, but he wasn't stupid. Lifting his hands in defeat, he circled around to the door of the office.
“Fine. He's all yours, sis.”
And then, he was gone.
Cursing softly, Parker quickly untied the ropes, releasing both his hands and his throat. He gagged and coughed, struggling against a powerful desire to throw up while Miss Parker gently looked him over for any injuries that may have been inflicted by Lyle. As near as she could tell, the only injuries were from the rope that had bound his wrists, and been around his throat. There were no other visible injuries, but she had no doubt that it wouldn't have stayed that way for long.
“That sadistic bastard... Bobby, I'm sorry about this.”
He didn't answer her, and she didn't know whether that was because of the rope Lyle had put around his throat, or because of his humiliation for the state he was in. Sighing a little, she gently urged him forward in the chair, and from there up to his feet. She tugged his sweatpants back up to allow him to retain some small shred of dignity.
“C'mon,” she murmured, urging him toward the door. “I'm taking you to the hospital wing.” She glanced up to see the fear in his eyes, and spoke gently to reassure him. “Lyle won't dare touch you again. I'll kill him myself if he tries, I promise you...”
George listened in breathless silence as Bobby finished telling the story in a soft, trembling voice. He was grateful to learn that his suspicions of sexual assault and rape were wrong, but he couldn't conceal his astonishment that the woman who had had a large part in capturing Bobby and returning him to the Centre had also apparently taken it on herself to try and protect him.
“Okay,” he said finally. “I can understand that you'd feel grateful to her for stopping Lyle...”
“It wasn't just that,” Bobby said softly. “She... She did other things for me. Whenever Raines let his men beat me, she'd come and help me... She forced them to release me out of isolation twice.”
“Do you feel that you owe her?” George asked softly.
“No,” Bobby answered. His voice was still soft, but there was a surety in his tone that couldn't be ignored. “I don't owe her anything. But... she didn't hurt me. Not... Not while I was actually in the Centre. I think... she might have helped me to get out, if it had been possible.”
“You really do believe that, don't you?” George asked. Bobby was silent for a long moment before speaking again.
“I don't remember much about the night they rescued me. Just... Just images... noises... feelings. But I do remember Miss Parker. She... She was there when they brought me out of that little room... She was there to help. I am grateful to her... because she helped me to survive in there. She kept me from giving up.”
George laid a hand gently on Bobby's shoulder as the detective looked away, fresh tears in his eyes and on his cheeks.
“I understand, Bobby. There's something I'd like you to do, when your hands have healed up enough for you to do it.”
“What's that?” Bobby asked shakily.
“I want you to draw a picture of Miss Parker.”
Bobby looked up at him, puzzled.
“You... want me to...”
“Draw a picture of her,” George repeated. “You've told me what she did for you. Now, I want you to show me how you remember her. From your memories, and your perspective. No one else's. Can you do that?”
Bobby fell silent, considering George's request for a couple of minutes before nodding once in wordless acquiescence. Yes, he could do that.
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