Dermot - Chapter 4 - Into the Hopper - Gently
Friday morning began, as usual, with a nurse waking him up to ask
whether he were awake, or so it seemed to Dermot. Then came what passed
for breakfast. Okay, so the food was bland, totally lacking in character.
At least he was eating regularly, and he did not have to worry about
catching something from what he ate. Was he mellowing? Naw, couldn't be.
Then came Dr. Shipley on his rounds, accompanied again by his six
acolytes. He was beginning to recognize the interns. One was kind of
cute. And the one female had a wicked sense of humor that appealed to the
boy. He never had an older sister, but if he had, she would have been like
this gal, he felt.
After completing the examination, and asking about his dental work,
Dr. Shipley became serious. "I've been delaying things as much as I could,
but both the police and the people from Social Services are insisting on
talking with you. They'll be around later this morning. I thought you
might want to be prepared."
Dermot looked troubled. "Thanks, Doc. What do they want with me?
Why can't they leave me alone?"
"I think you know the answers to those questions, Dermot.
Sgt. Flaherty is working on trying to identify your attackers. And the
Social Services people are interested because you're a fifteen year old
with no known last name, address, or next of kin. You knew this was
"Yeah. How long do I have to make up something?"
That brought a smile to Dr. Shipley's lips, and chuckles from several
of the interns.
"I believe Social Services will be here first, around nine.
Sgt. Flaherty will be here about ten, unless something delays him, he said.
And you be careful. Don't get too full of yourself. You could end up in
"More? How could there be more? You're not going to let them cart me
away in my condition, are you?"
"No. But unless my medical expertise is totally useless, your
condition will not last forever."
"Well, thanks, anyway. I'll think about it," the boy promised.
Dermot had become interested in the Sayers mystery the previous
evening, and intended to continue reading, but instead he spent his time
considering his situation. How much could he tell the social worker
without risking being sent back to Uncle Steve? And could he dredge up
anything more about his assault which might help Sgt. Flaherty?
Hmmm. There was one thing. I don't think I mentioned that it was the
guy called Chuck who was driving. Also one of the guys in the back smelled
of an old aftershave. What was it? English Leather. Yeah. Let's see,
anything else? Oh, yeah! That could be important! When I was trying to
get them to lay off, one of the guys called me the appellant. Isn't that
lawyer talk? If I had remembered earlier, I should have asked Mr. Lyle.
What else? Can't think of anything right now. Ought to write these things
down, but it's damn hard to write when my wrist is in a cast. Oh yeah.
Push the button.
"Yes, Dermot. What is it?" Nurse Bailey asked, with just a hint that
he had been asking for more than his share of attention lately.
Just trying to be friendly, he told himself. Then, in a burst of
honesty, he admitted he was lonesome sometimes, especially in the evenings.
"Don't you get any time off for good behavior," he asked.
"As a matter of fact, I do. You won't see me around here tomorrow or
Sunday. Doesn't work out that neatly most of the time, but the rotation is
going to let me and my husband have a weekend together. Now, did you just
call to ask about my private life?"
"No, actually I need your secretarial services. I don't seem to be
able to write anything useful. When I look at what I wrote an hour later,
I can't decipher what I meant. But I need some notes for my interview with
Sgt. Flaherty, so, how about making a couple of notes for me?" the boy
"That was almost polite. Shoot! What do you want me to write?" Nurse
Bailey said, taking a seat and reaching for a pad and pen lying on the
table near the bed.
"Just a few words so I don't forget anything. Write 'Chuck driver' on
one line. On the next line write 'English Leather." Then, on the third
line write 'appellant.' Got that?"
"'Chuck driver, English Leather, appellant' Is that it?"
"Yeah. Thanks. Now, leave that paper on the table here where I can
get to it."
Having taken care of that problem, Dermot gave his attention to what
he could and could not tell any social worker who showed up. He definitely
did not want to say anything that would allow them to link him up with his
uncle, so the less the better about family. Nothing about where he was in
school, either, as that might lead to Uncle Steve, too. Hmmm. Not much he
could say, actually.
Promptly at nine footsteps rang out in the corridor. Female
footsteps. They were usually females. These steps seemed confident. No
hesitation or irregularity. Have to be careful with this one.
A middle aged woman entered the room. She was neatly dressed in what
Dermot assumed was a business suit, with jacket and slacks, and a frilly
blouse. Brunette. Medium length hair. And sharp eyes. From the outset,
Dermot noted her eyes. They were not unfriendly, but he had a feeling she
would not put up with much nonsense. Unless things got really bad, better
stow the smart remarks. This one could be dangerous if crossed.
"Good morning, Dermot. I'm Mrs. Harper. I'm with Social Services."
"Kind of figured that. Dr. Shipley told me you'd be coming,"
"I've been trying to see you for some time, but Dr. Shipley felt you
were not ready to be interviewed until today."
"What made him think I was ready today?" he could not help asking,
with an edge to his voice which was not lost on his visitor.
"I know you don't want to see me, Dermot. Ken told me as much. But
it's our responsibility to look into cases of minors who are, shall we say,
"Ken?" Dermot asked.
"You said Ken told you I didn't want to see you. Who's Ken?"
"Oh. Sorry. Ken is Dr. Shipley. We've known each other a long
Oh, great! Now if I tick off this social worker, I'll be in hot water
with Dr. Shipley as well. Why is he doing this to me? Better make the
best of it.
"What do you want?"
"I think that should be fairly obvious, Dermot. Dr. Shipley," he
noticed she was careful now to use his title, "tells me you're pretty
smart, so I think you can figure it out. But let's start with your full
"No, ma'am. I don't mean to be impolite, but I'm not going to tell
you anything that will let you place me."
"Why is that?"
"Because I don't trust Social Services."
"I see," Mrs. Harper replied calmly. "And why is that?"
"Messed over me once before."
"I'm sorry to hear that. Well, if you won't tell me you name, how
Dermot thought. He had already admitted to Dr. Shipley that he was
fifteen, so she probably already knew that. No harm, then, in being
"Date of birth?"
"Um, I think 1993 is close enough."
"You are really stingy with information," Mrs. Harper said, still in a
calm and pleasant voice. There was something about that voice ....
"Not lately," Dermot replied, more to see what she would do than
She looked at him, peering over her glasses. He grinned.
"Okay. I finished freshman year. I've been on my own since then, so
I never started sophomore year."
"The law requires that you remain in school at least until you're
sixteen. And, I might add, it also provides that if you drop out before
eighteen or graduation, you cannot get a regular drivers license, only a
learners permit, until you're twenty-one."
"I know that," Dermot responded. "First of all, I am not in a
position to be very concerned about what the law requires. Second, there's
not a snowball's chance in hell of me getting a drivers license."
"I think, even so, that while you are here, we need to do something
about your schooling, and make arrangements to enroll you in an appropriate
school when you leave. I don't suppose there is any purpose in asking
where you were last year, or for a home address?"
"No. That would allow you to identify me. And besides, in a real
sense it's not because I'm withholding information, it's because I don't
have a fu.... I mean, I have no address."
"That's what I thought. If you won't tell us anything about where you
came from, we'll have to make some alternative arrangements for when you
"Don't think so."
"Now Dermot, don't be stubborn. We can't just let you walk away."
"I was making it on my own before," the boy said defiantly.
"Not very well, you weren't," Mrs. Harper returned, her voice
acquiring a steely quality Dermot had not noticed before. "In addition to
the obvious physical and sexual abuse, you have acquired sexually
transmitted diseases. You are seriously malnourished. And you had worms."
"Yes. Didn't Dr. Shipley tell you?"
"No. Gross. I thought dogs got worms."
"They do. So do people who eat tainted food. Don't look so
disgusted. That problem was taken care of right away. They're gone, now.
But you see what I mean about not being able to take proper care of
"No one would want me in foster care, anyway," Dermot said dejectedly,
still grossed out at the thought of worms.
"I wouldn't be too sure of that. We have some very dedicated people
on our list. They put up with a lot. And there's always Boys Haven."
"I think I heard of that, but I'm not sure. What's Boys Haven?"
"It's a kind of group home for boys in trouble. Sometimes the
juvenile court judge sends boys there instead of to the detention center if
the offense is not serious. Sometimes we send boys there if the family
situation is impossible. They have about six to eight boys in each
cluster, each with a host family, on a campus on the outskirts of town, on
Silversmith Lane," Mrs. Harper explained.
"There's something else about that place I remember, but I can't place
"Well, I don't know what you might have heard. One thing that comes
up often is that although Boys Haven accepts boys from all backgrounds, it
is run primarily as an agency of Catholic Charities here in town."
"That's it! It's a fucking Catholic thing! I won't have anything to
do with those bastards. They screwed me once, and once is enough," Dermot
"All right. We have some time to work this out. Is there anything
else you can tell me now?"
"I can tell you a lot, but I'm not going to. You might as well go
away. I've had enough of you for one day," he forcefully replied,
forgetting his decision to be polite.
Mrs. Harper raised her brows, surprised at Dermot's emotional
reaction, but decided he was not going to be any further forthcoming today.
"All right. But I will be back."
"I'll really look forward to that," he replied sarcastically.
No sooner had Mrs. Harper left than Nurse Bailey came in to check on
"What did you do to upset Mrs. Harper?" she asked, as she fluffed up
pillows and did other unnecessary things.
"Just didn't answer her questions. What difference does it make
anyhow? I know she's a friend of Doc Shipley, but that doesn't mean I have
to be nice to her," the frustrated boy answered.
"Oh, she's not just his friend. Natalie Harper is Dr. Shipley's
"Oh shit!" Now he knew why her voice sounded familiar. There was
just something that reminded him of Dr. Shipley in the inflection.
Nurse Bailey could not help but snicker at the expression on Dermot's
face. "You do have a way of shoving your foot into your mouth and lodging
"Maybe I'll just keep my mouth closed from now on," the boy mumbled.
"How was it St. Paul said it? 'A consummation devoutly to be
desired,'" the nurse teased him.
Before Dermot could think of a suitable comeback, Sgt. Flaherty
appeared at his doorway. Seizing the opportunity, Dermot exclaimed, "About
time you got here, Sergeant. This woman is abusing me something terrible."
"Is she now? And just what brought that on?" the policeman asked.
"I haven't the faintest idea. I have been behaving myself like a
perfect angel this morning," Dermot asserted.
Nurse Bailey rolled her eyes.
Sgt. Flaherty came up to the bed, and peered very closely into
The boy ducked aside. "What are you doing?"
"I just wanted to see whether I could detect the beginnings of growth
on your nose," Flaherty replied, tongue in cheek.
"Oh, shit!" Dermot responded, but his eyes were dancing. Clearly he
had enjoyed the banter with the nurse and the sergeant. Then he sighed.
"I guess you're here to plague me with more questions."
"Not entirely. I also have some encouraging news."
"Patience. As you provided us with so little to go on, it's a miracle
we could make any progress at all. And I do want to remind you that you
are not the only case on the police blotter at this time. We just have to
throw you into the hopper with all our other difficult and uncooperative
cases, and see what comes along. Still, in a few snatched minutes, we did
manage to uncover something which might be useful, in spite of all odds."
"You're driving me crazy! Just tell me what you found out!"
"Yes, it is kind of frustrating when the person you're questioning
talks all around the issue, but leaves out the really important parts,
isn't it?" Sgt. Flaherty mused.
"I got the point! I know I have not been very forthcoming. I have
what I consider to be very good reasons for guarding my identity, okay?"
Dermot almost shouted.
"We're working on that, too."
"Are you going to tell me what you found out or not?"
"Ummm, I suppose. All right. I guess you've been tortured enough for
a while. We have located someone who saw you get in the Cherokee Friday
"So? I already told you I got in that SUV. What's so fucking
important about that?"
"Well, first of all, it backs up your story."
That gave Dermot pause. Up to this moment, it never occurred to him
that the police might question the version of events he gave them. Okay,
"Okay, anything else?" he said after swallowing hard.
"He also saw the person you were with. The man who first contacted
you got in after you did, right?"
"Ah, yeah, I think so. Sure! That's right! So you've identified
"Not so fast. We got a description. More than what you told us,
anyway. And our witness thinks he's seen the guy at the Cardinal more than
once, 'though he doesn't know him or his last name, but he's pretty sure
he's called Gary, not any of the other versions you gave us."
"That's not much," a dejected Dermot complained.
"More than we had. And, unless I am way off base, this guy will be
back at the Cardinal. You're probably not his first victim. We're keeping
an eye on the place, and both the bartender and our witness have promised
to let us know if they see him again. And, there's something else."
"The witness thinks the Cherokee had a vanity plate, but he can't
remember what is was."
"Okay," Dermot sighed, "Not much, but I guess that's something."
"How about you, mystery boy? Got anything to tell Uncle Steve?"
"Uncle Steve! What the hell!" Dermot recoiled, automatically jerking
away from the policeman, his eyes wide with terror. "What do you know
about Uncle Steve?"
"Hey, calm down," Sgt. Flaherty said, amazed at this reaction.
"What's the problem? Why this act? I'm sorry if I stepped over the line
somewhere? I know I'm not really your uncle. I was just being friendly
"What does Uncle Steve have to do with it?" a still frightened Dermot
"Look, Steve is my name. Maybe you don't like it, but it's not that
bad. Unless .... Say, you don't happen to have a real Uncle Steve
somewhere, do you?"
"No! Never heard of any such thing! What gave you that idea?
Complete nonsense! I ain't got no family! None! They're all dead! What
kind of stupid game are you playing with me?"
Sgt. Flaherty sat in silence for a couple of minutes. He was certain
this was very significant. Dermot was definitely frightened. It did not
take a whole lot of insight to put two and two together. Whether it would
be useful in resolving the case, however, was another matter. He allowed
Dermot to settle back in his bed, wincing where he had hurt himself with
his violent reaction to the name Uncle Steve. Only then did the policeman
"Let's back up a bit. Have you come up with any additional
information that might help us identify your assailants?"
Still wary, his voice unsteady, Dermot reached for the note Nurse
Bailey had left on the swinging table next to his bed. It wasn't there!
Dermot began frantically groping about.
"What's the problem?" Steve Flaherty asked.
"I had a note here. I didn't want to forget. Shit! Now I can't find
it. Fucking joke of yours ruined everything."
The sergeant got up and walked around the bed. He looked on the
table, where Dermot was making a mess, overturning his water glass on
everything. Then he espied a note pad on the floor.
"This what you're looking for?"
Sgt. Flaherty slowly and in a considered manner read the note, then,
equally slowly, handed it to Dermot, who was fidgeting like mad.
"Okay. Tell me," Flaherty said, after resuming his seat and drawing
out his own notebook.
"You're going to kill me one of these days," Dermot complained.
"Okay. I told you before one of the guys in the front seat was called
Chuck. I remembered he was the one driving. So, maybe the Cherokee
belongs to him."
"Could be. We'll run a check on vanity plates for Cherokees with
anything having to do with Chuck. Anything else?"
"Yeah. One of the guys in the back seat wore an old fashioned
aftershave. He must have doused himself pretty well. English Leather.
Last time I ran across it ....." Dermot stopped and looked apprehensive.
"Last time you ran across it was with a trick who was a good deal
older than the guys who beat the shit out of you," the sergeant supplied.
"Yeah. You going to arrest me for hustling?"
"I'm not vice squad."
"Is your name really Steve?" The apparent shift did not disconcert
the sergeant, as he was expecting something like this.
Sgt. Flaherty pulled out his wallet, and showed Dermot several pieces
of identification. His police card only showed S. Flaherty, but a credit
card and a drivers license identified him as Stephen M. Flaherty.
Mollified, Dermot continued.
"One more thing. No, two! I just thought of something else. Chuck,
the driver, is the guy with the bitching hard toed boots. Somebody said,
'Yeah, kick him again, Chuck,' when he kicked my ribs in. The other thing.
I think one of the guys might be a lawyer, or maybe a law student. I was
kind of yelling for them to stop hitting and kicking me after they pulled
me out of the car, and one of the guys said something about me being an
appellant, then he laughed in this really nasty way and said, 'motion
denied.' That's lawyer talk, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is. And that may be very important."
The two talked for several more minutes, but were unable to come up
with anything more of significance.
"Well, we'll see where these bits of information lead us," the
sergeant concluded. "And I'm sorry I upset you before."
"No sweat. I should not have freaked out about something like a
name." Dermot tried to dismiss it, but he knew he had given away a lot
more than he intended this time.