Tied (All Torn Up #2) - Page 4
I listen, but my eyes are on my parents, who are now out in the hallway talking to doctors and police people. And a cute little blond girl holding my mother’s hand.
“Who’s that?” I ask, my voice barely a whisper.
Zac’s eyes follow mine questioningly before he turns back to me. ”That’s Lizzie,” he says carefully. “Our little sister. She just turned six.”
My teeth clench together as I scan her from head to toe. Lizzie looks almost exactly like I did before the bad man came and took me away. A perfect, happy little girl with braided hair and clean clothes, hanging on to Mommy’s hand. She glances around nervously at the people walking by, and Mommy pulls her closer to her, protectively.
The bad man hadn’t been lying about a replacement.
Zac’s mouth is set in a thin line as he watches me for few long moments. “Mom didn’t think you’d be ready to meet her yet,” he says, his tone flat. “They didn’t want you to feel overwhelmed.”
Overwhelmed isn’t what I’m feeling at all.
I’m feeling like this is a show I never want to watch again.
I’m not sure how the news traveled so fast, but somehow what happened in the woods has spread like wildfire in this small town. By the time the cops bring me to the station, a crowd of crazy, pissed-off people are waiting in the parking lot, yelling names and accusations at me as the cops try to maneuver me through them to get to the door:
You’re a monster!
You’ll burn in hell, you freak!
Rot in prison!
Lock the psycho up!
I use my shoulder to wipe someone’s spit off the side of my face and keep my head down. I became an outcast in this town when I was sixteen years old, so I’m used to people staring at me and treating me like a sideshow freak. But I still can’t believe these idiots think I could actually hurt a young girl. I’m the one who found her and saved her from that psychopath. Doesn’t that make me the hero? Fucking morons.
“What were you doing out in the woods so early in the morning?”
I stare at the wall behind their heads, craving a cigarette really fucking bad and getting edgier by the minute. The bright light of the room is bothering my eyes, and the walls are closing in on me.
For hours the detectives have had me holed up in this tiny, stale room at the station, asking me the same questions, which I don’t try to answer. After the display in the parking lot, I don’t trust anyone. Especially when they’re all trying to pin kidnapping and murder charges on me.
“We know you can talk, Tyler, so cut the shit,” Britton says. The haggard-looking older detective doesn’t hide his disgust for me. He checks his watch for the hundredth time then glares at me. “We’re tired. Answer the fucking questions so we can all get out of here.”
Taking a deep breath, I close my eyes and thrum my fingers on the table between us. Nobody understands how hard it is to make myself talk, how much my own ears hate hearing my voice, or how difficult it is to just get the words out of my head, especially when I’m stressed out. I’m not stupid—I know part of it is psychological and part of it is physical, but that doesn’t make a rat’s ass bit of difference to me.
Britton leans forward, his small eyes narrowing even more. “One more time, what were you doing out there?”
When I don’t answer, the younger detective—Nelson, I think his name is—impatiently pushes a pen and a pad of paper across the table to me. ”Just write down your answers, then. We can’t sit here all day.”
I grab the pen and write quickly: I live up there. I walk every morning.
They exhale simultaneously and exchange glances.
“And you just happened to stumble upon a girl in a hidden hole in the ground?” Britton’s voice is dripping with sarcasm.
I nod but write: Yes. I heard a noise. It was the dog.
“What dog?” Nelson asks, frowning.
The girl’s dog.
The detectives glance at each other. “We didn’t find any dog,” Nelson states firmly.
It ran off. It was there. It was making a strange noise. It was debarked.
“Debarked?” Nelson reads my words out loud, confusion on his face.
I shift in my chair and scribble some more. It’s when a dog’s vocal chords are severed so it can’t bark.
Nelson raises a suspicious eyebrow. “And you know this…how?”
I read a lot.
The detective tilts his head to the side and smirks at me. “Maybe you’re the one who took the girl. Maybe the guy who’s dead is the one who was trying to save her. That’s what everyone is thinking.”
A demonic laugh comes out of me, and while not deliberate, it’s fitting.
Stop fucking with me, I write. I didn’t do anything.
“We don’t like you, Tyler,” Britton states coldly. “We don’t like your creepy ass living in the woods, and we don’t like your fucked-up face riding that piece-of-shit motorcycle through town in the middle of the night and annoying the good people of this nice, quiet town.”
I lean back and chew the inside of my cheek then grab the pen again. There’s no law against being ugly, living in the woods, or riding a motorcycle at night.
Nelson scoffs. “There is a law against murdering people, though.”
It was self-defense. He pulled a knife on me. He had that girl in a hole. Ask her. Check the evidence. You guys know how to do that, right?
“Well, that’s the funny thing,” Nelson drawls. “Maybe what you have is contagious because the girl won’t talk.”
I don’t blame her. Most conversations aren’t worth having.
Maybe she doesn’t want to talk to two assholes, I write.
Nelson looks up from my writing and glares at me. “Watch yourself, buddy. Why were you chasing her when the officers found you? Why was she screaming get him? Care to explain that?”
I wasn’t chasing her. We were chasing her dog that was running away.
“Nobody saw a goddamn dog,” Britton says, his voice rising. “What we have is a dead man who left a widow and two kids, a junkie that strangled him with his bare hands, and a scared shitless girl running through the woods that was supposedly found in a hole in the ground after being missing for ten years.”
Fuck off. I’m clean. I want a lawyer.
I snap the pen in half and throw it at them. I’m done with this bullshit.
It’s then that I recognize Nelson as a guy I went to high school with. Ten years hasn’t been so good to him, taking most of his hair and the muscular build he had when we were on the lacrosse team together. He hauls me up out of my chair and, the next thing I know, I’m thrown in a cell, where I pace like an animal until my oldest brother, Toren, can get a lawyer to come fix this mess for me. As I walk the perimeter of the small cell, my thoughts wander back to the girl in the woods. The terrified look in her eyes and the way she held onto that dog will haunt me for the rest of my life.
I can’t shake this eerie feeling in my gut that I’ve seen those eyes before.
My parents are picking me up from the hospital today, after two weeks of being questioned, stuck with needles, examined endlessly, bathed, and given IV fluids, medications, supplements, and food several times per day. It’s been exhausting and frightening. I went from living a life where I would go weeks at a time with no human interaction at all to having people practically on top of me all day long. Several times I’ve found myself wishing I was back in the dark, cold room with Poppy, my books, and the television. My time there was easier.
Most of the time, that is. When I was alone.
It feels strange wearing the jeans, sweater, and shoes that Mommy brought for me a few days ago. The clothes I had on when the man took me were all I had until they no longer fit and became too thin, torn, and dirty to wear anymore. After that, I was given an old white shirt to wear and a pair of his sweatpants. Nothing else. Now I’m hyperaware of the texture of the denim against my legs, the boots squeezing my feet, and the tag of the sweater scratching the back of my neck. I wish I could take it all off.
I nod and awkwardly shake hands with the hospital staff and police officers who have all come to say goodbye and wish me well. I try to smile at them and parrot back what I know they expect me to say in response. I’ve learned a lot from watching them these past few weeks. They mean well, but I know I’m just a project to most of them and an object of curiosity for the rest. Everything has felt stressful and surreal. Like being wheeled out of the hospital right now in a wheelchair, which the doctor insisted on. Is this real? I glance around when the hospital lobby doors magically open, and a whole new world is revealed to me like a huge television screen. So much is here. Colors, sounds, smells. All of it rushes back to me as if screaming, remember me? My eyes catch on everything: cars, buildings, more people, and movement everywhere I look. Fear and panic grip me with each moment, but I allow my father to push me—he and my mother unaware of the silent scream inside me.
Nearing the car, my parents try to take my backpack away again, forcing me to get out of the wheelchair and stomp my feet and cry until they back away from me and agree to let me keep it. They smile awkwardly at people staring at us in the parking lot. I’ll never let my backpack and my books go. Why can’t they understand I need the books, and I have to read them every day to stay safe? Besides, it’s the only way I can see the prince until he comes back again. I’ve told them this many times, but they refuse to listen and just shake their heads at me and tell me to calm down. I don’t care if they say my backpack and my books are old and dirty. They’re mine.