A Killing at the Creek: An Ozarks Mystery: Chapter 7


THE JUVENILE STOOD with his head bowed, his hands cuffed behind him. Two Oklahoma state troopers, a lieutenant and a young patrolman, stood in close proximity to the boy. The lieutenant pushed the buzzer at the McCown County Juvenile Hall, scrutinizing the teen as he waited.

“You’re going to get a lot of attention, son,” the lieutenant said. The boy didn’t react. The young patrolman standing a pace behind them coughed, a hint of warning in the sound.

“A lot. A whole lot of attention. When they lock you in prison, you’ll be Queen of the May. Everybody will want a piece of you.” The lieutenant drew close to the boy’s ear and whispered, “They’ll line up to ream you.”

The boy’s head jerked up so suddenly, the trooper jumped back in surprise. The lawman laughed, embarrassed by his involuntary reaction.

Without speaking, the boy stared at the trooper through narrowed eyes.

The younger trooper said, “Let’s just get him inside. After we drop him off, we can get something to eat.”

The lieutenant grasped the juvenile’s arm in a tight grip. “Don’t forget who’s in charge, kid. It’s the man wearing the badge and toting the gun.”

The indoor button was released and the automatic door to Juvenile Hall opened. A petite young woman with bright red hair greeted them.

The trooper’s face lit up. “Well, what have we got here?”

“I’m the juvenile officer. I’ve been waiting for you. Is this young man Mr. Monroe?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Behind them, the younger patrolman let out a slow whistle. “Good thing you wasn’t a juvenile officer when I was a kid. I’d have been in trouble all the dang time.”

The woman ignored the remark. “Do you have the paperwork for the transfer?”

Before the troopers could respond, the boy spoke up. “They threatened me.”

“What the hell,” said the lieutenant holding the boy. He jerked the young man’s arm, trying to force him to face him.

The boy kept his face trained on the woman. “They harassed me, they said I’d be raped. Gang raped. Help me.”

The young woman’s eyes widened. She pushed a button by the door; an alarm sounded, and footsteps could be heard running toward them.

“We’ll investigate,” she said. “I’ll get someone from the Sheriff’s Department to take your statement, Mr. Monroe. Come on in with me.”

As the juvenile stepped inside the building, the young trooper standing at the rear cursed audibly, saying to his partner, “Now we’ll be here all night. Why do you have to talk that crap?”

The juvenile walked into the hallway with the juvenile officer, who laid her hand on his arm. “It’s okay,” she said. “Everything’s okay. I’m Lisa. I’m here to protect you.”

 

LISA OPENED THE door to a small cinder-­block room and stood back to let the juvenile enter.

“This is it,” she said. “Not exactly the Hampton Inn. But you’ll be safe here.”

Monroe paused before entering, taking in the room and its battered furnishings. Stepping inside, he set a plastic bag of items atop a battered dresser.

“Hey, man, that’s mine,” said a boy reclining on the lower berth of a metal bunk bed.

Monroe shrugged and shoved the bag onto the floor.

Lisa spoke up. “Barry, I’ve brought someone to be your roommate. Tanner Monroe, this is Barry Bacon.”

Monroe glanced briefly at the boy before pulling a folding chair from the wall and sitting in it. He opened his bag, rummaging through the contents.

Eyeing him, Barry’s face registered awe. “You’re that guy. Shit, man, you’re the guy on the bus.”

Lisa said, “Barry, don’t mess with Tanner. He’s had a long old day.” Surveying the two with uncertainty, she added, “You all gonna be okay?”

Neither boy answered. Barry swung his feet to the floor, bouncing on the mattress in excitement. Tanner focused on Lisa as she turned to go.

“I’ll check on you later,” she said.

As her footsteps echoed down the tiled floor, Barry hopped off the bunk bed.

“They said you cut a woman’s throat. Did you?”

The juvenile didn’t answer.

“Did you kill her?” The boy was breathless, waiting for a response.

Monroe exhaled wearily, looking at Barry for the first time. Barry was younger than Monroe, only fourteen, but he was tall and gangly, with a bad case of acne. A patchy mustache on his upper lip drew attention to his protruding front teeth.

“Did you?” Barry persisted.

“If I killed somebody, do you think I’d tell you?”

“Oh yeah,” Barry said with wonder, absorbing the response.

“I didn’t kill anybody,” Monroe insisted. “Shit.”

Barry waved his hand at the beds. “You can have whichever bunk you want. And the dresser. I don’t have nothing much in there.”

Monroe stayed in the chair, impassive.

Barry said, “They put us together in here because we’re badasses. Not like the rest of them, runaways and dumbshits they got at juvenile. I got busted for sale and possession. At school. Wasn’t the first time, that’s why they’re riding me so hard.”

Barry picked up a pillow from the bunk and punched it. “Man, if I was on the street, I could get you some good shit. Anything you want. Even in this shitty little town.”

“That’s cool.”

Barry beamed, proud to receive the affirmation. He extended the flat pillow to Monroe, like an offering.

“I been using your pillow. I didn’t know you was coming.”

Monroe accepted it, grasping the stained white covering and tucking it behind his back in the metal chair.

After a moment, Barry picked up the other pillow, the one that remained on his bed.

“You can take my pillow, too. I don’t mind.”

Tanner Monroe took it without hesitation. “Yeah. I will.”


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