Just names, he thought, they just call me names, they don't hurt me, I'll get through it.
"Hey, lookit, it's the looney tune!"
The first call came from a group of boys across the street, fourteen or fifteen years old.
A passing group of girls the same age giggled.
Jamie tried to remember what a little shit he'd been at their age; certainly no better, probably much worse. Anything they did, he'd done.
It was payback time.
The thought didn't keep him from trembling. He tightened his clutch on the sacks.
"Hey, P-P-P-Porky," one mocked his stammer. "When you going back to looney-tune land?"
Jamie just kept walking; once he'd gotten frustrated and stopped to argue with them—they'd surrounded and scared him.
It had been a big mistake to let them see he was scared, but Jamie had no way to summon his old bluffs, no energy left for pretense.
He could still hear them behind him, but they didn't seem to be following. Maybe he was through the worst of it. He bit back tears. Something stung his right shoulder, just missing the blade. Jamie thought, My God, are they shooting at me?
He turned to look just in time to catch the next rock on his forehead—it was a big rock, thrown by a member of the Hawkes Harbor High baseball team and it knocked him unconscious.
"Jamie?" Dr. Scott shone a light into his eyes once more. "Do you know where you are?"
Jamie remained motionless, propped back against the elevated emergency-room bed.
Once he was in the hospital, he had regained consciousness in five minutes; Dr. Scott suspected nothing more severe than a minor concussion.
But he hadn't spoken or even looked at Dr. Scott or Sheriff Lansky, who was waiting patiently to hear if Jamie could identify his attackers.
But Jamie just stared into space. Once in a while a tremor, like a shudder, went through him.
"You think he's lost it again?" Sheriff Lansky asked. He'd been there after Jamie came out of the coma, a medical miracle, but a mental mess.
The sheriff shifted uneasily. He still felt guilty about the shooting. Jamie had been unarmed, and maybe had been doing nothing worse than trying to help Katie Roddendem. You couldn't blame Mitch, he wasn't thinking straight, but...
He should have kept a closer watch on the deputy—there was no need to shoot... he'd been so tense, and trigger-happy ... he should have kicked Mitch off the search team, damn, there had been no need ...
"I don't know," Dr. Scott said. He looked at the large purple knot on Jamie's forehead. "I hope not. He may just be stunned."
"Good evening." Grenville Hawkes entered the cubicle. "Someone at the bank told me Jamie was here."
He looked at the sheriff, the doctor, and finally at Jamie, who remained expressionless, staring straight ahead.
"How is he?"
"Well, Mr. Hawkes, I think he only has a minor concussion; the X-rays showed no fracture, but he hasn't responded since he regained consciousness."
"Perhaps the shock of the attack—I understand he was attacked by a group of schoolchildren?"
"There's quite a few witnesses," the sheriff said.
"Jamie is high-strung, nervous, perhaps he provoked it?"
It was clear Grenville Hawkes didn't believe for a moment Jamie had done anything, but he was a Hawkes, a regular aristocrat, a gentleman of manners, even more, if possible, than the rest of the Hawkes—
Still, still, the sheriff thought, there was a flickering light in the dark eyes, a dangerous edge in the deep yet cold voice—he'd often thought there was more to Grenville Hawkes than most people realized.
The sheriff cleared his throat and said, "Jamie wasn't provoking the attack, and was doing his best to walk away from it, when he was hit with a large rock."
Grenville looked at Jamie, and his face tightened. Sheriff Lansky was suddenly glad none of the suspected kids were in the room.
"This has happened before?"
"Yeah." The sheriff was surprised Jamie hadn't told Mr. Hawkes. "I've seen it happen before. This is the first time it got rough, though."
"Perhaps you might remind the children that a great many of their parents are employed by a Hawkes enterprise—or should I remind the parents?"
The threat was not even veiled, except in the smooth language. The revived munitions plant was now the largest employer in the area. And Grenville Hawkes was the owner and CEO.
"I'll make sure it doesn't happen again," Sheriff Lansky said.
Grenville went closer to the bed.
His voice, his most distinctive characteristic, vibrated through the room, and Jamie looked up. He seemed torn between grateful relief and abject terror.
"Do you have your medication with you?"
Silently, Jamie dug around in his jacket pocket and brought out a prescription bottle. Grenville read the label.
"No, not this one. You were supposed to take this with lunch. Did you? Very good. Do you have the other one?"
Jamie did another search, and came up with another bottle.
" 'As needed,' " Grenville read. "That means when you need it, Jamie. You could have thought of this yourself."
"Grenville, I'm sorry," Jamie whispered.
The sheriff thought he'd never seen anyone this pitiful-like an abused child still desperate for approval. Though, of course, Mr. Hawkes would never abuse the poor jerk.
Grenville turned to the doctor. "Could I trouble you for a glass of water?"
When the doctor returned with the water, Jamie had already swallowed the pill, but he gulped down the water anyway.
"Mr. Hawkes, I'm sure Jamie will be fine in a few days, but meanwhile he'd better not drive, or be up on ladders, or do anything too strenuous."
"I understand. I'm expecting a visit from Dr. Kahne tomorrow, I'll ask her advice as well."
The doctor and the sheriff avoided looking at each other, each concealing his smirk.
Everyone knew about Dr. Louisa Kahne's "visits" to Grenville Hawkes—they were old enough to cut this coy crap.
"Uh, Mr. Hawkes, your hardware supplies were taken back to Garvey's, if you need them."
"Thank you. Please send the emergency-room bill directly to me."
Grenville nodded to each man. "Jamie, can you walk?"
"Yeah, sure." Jamie stood up. He wobbled, and Grenville caught him by the arm. They walked out.
On the way, Grenville stopped at a soft-drink machine and put coins in for a Coke.
He couldn't understand how anyone could drink that awful concoction, but it seemed to have a soothing effect on Jamie.
Safely in the car, Jamie didn't bother to stop the tears running down his face.
"You mad at me?" he asked.
"No," Grenville said. "But you need to remember your medications."
"I couldn't think—I didn't know where I was—I thought maybe you sent me back to Terrace View—"
Actually, since he hadn't recognized the doctor, Jamie had been afraid he'd been sent to the other hospital—the one before Terrace View where things had been so horrible ... he'd been remembering something of that place lately. He'd thought before it was just another nightmare....
And just this week, he had had flashbacks to the infirmary.... He'd sat at the kitchen table, clutching his hair, begging his mind, Don't let me remember that, not that, please....
But the images came anyway—lying for days in his own excrement, too weak to turn over alone—he didn't know where he was, why he was there, didn't know his own name and no one would tell him—he'd almost literally died of thirst with water right next to his bed—his wounds opened under rough handling, the blood-soaked bandages dried like glue to his back ... they'd just ripped them off to change them—he'd fainted then, he thought he would faint now ...
"Good God, Jamie what are you doing?"
Jamie had looked up at Grenville's horrified face, then at the hunk of hair in his hand, bloody at the roots. "Tryin' not to remember stuff."