New York City
He sighed and pulled his fingers though his blonde hair, his chest heaving heavily with every breath and his left hand aching when he pulled it with his body from off the ground. His head was pounding and all the usual sounds from the busy street behind him were strangely muffled and distorted. He must have hit his head harder than he had first suspected. He leaned against the wall and blinked twice, his damaged arm leaking blood by the second. At least the bricks were cold against his head.
“Altman?” someone called from the street he himself had come from, not more than fifteen minutes ago but the voice was unrecognizable now that his ears were ringing like they were and he decided he would try to take care of his own injuries instead of hoping the person would come find him. For all he knew, the man calling for him couldn't even see him where he was standing, which was behind a small, abandoned street stand.
The injury on his left arm was a cut, not too deep but bleeding abundantly. It would need treatment by doctors, at least if his boss would have his say in the matter. He closed his eyes momentarily and drew in air in his lunges, ignoring the pain when doing so, before he pulled the right sleeve of his shirt off and wrapped it tightly around the wound. He wouldn't want to get even more dizzy from the loss of blood after all. As he knotted the fabric, which was turning red quickly, he felt a strong hand on his shoulder and the stinging sensation of pipe smoke in his nostrils. He had to cough.
“We are here now” the newly arrived man said. At least all sound seemed to be back to normal now and he nodded as to assure them both that he was fine, even though that question had not been asked yet. The older, taller one next to him was already taking care of him with the help of two other men, helping him to the automobile parked by the side of the road. “Everything will be alright, you'll see”
After that, he blacked out.
As Theodore opened his eyes, bright light threatened to blind him and he closed them again, groaning while turning to his side, only to regret it as a bolt of pain shot straight through his body when he leaned on his hurt left arm. With more difficulty than he would have anticipated, he sat up and rubbed his eyes and temple, now looking out over the crowded room with growing aggravation. He was back at the head quarters, the New York police department, Manhattan district to be exact. And it was a busy day like always.
He looked down at the neatly wrapped bundle of fabric which was occupying the skin on his left arm and hand, tried to move his fingers but decided it would be a bad thing to do and stopped before he could get them to respond to his wishes. Instead, he got up and fought both head ache and nausea as he stepped over to his own desk and sank down in his chair. He had been resting on a bench, which had been placed in the building for tired cops to sleep on, in case they had to work late. It seemed someone had advised his boss to not send him away to rest someplace else, probably because he was needed still. He was glad because he was in too much pain to be able to rest anywhere else.
“Altman!” Someone called and once more, he didn't bother to turn and see who or why his name had been spoken. If someone had something to say to him, they could just as well take a few steps and say it to his face. It turned out, this time, it was only Steven Rogers. He seemed nervous and jumpy, like always but his blond hair was still as tidy as ever. “I am so glad you are up on your feet again” he smiled and gave him a soft pat on the shoulder with his hand. He was kind and caring, warm hearted. Probably the reason why he was hired to do paper work, not fighting crime out on the street.
“I am glad too” he nodded back but didn't feel like getting up. Steven seemed to notice and didn't expect him to, instead he leaned against the side of the desk with that casual smile on his face.
“The boss told me to talk with you when you came to, although... I think he will be the one to take your statement in the end.” he then said and Theodore nodded, because this was true. “He wanted me to talk to you about a supposed witness to the explosion, they picked him up somewhere, further in the alley from where you were found, if you understand what I mean? Apparently, he is a suspect now...”
“Who was it? Did you get a name?”
Steven shook his head and sighed. “He doesn't say much, but he is young. I would say not much older than yourself” he then answered and threw a short glance towards one of the smaller rooms to the side, where some minor suspects could be placed while waiting for interrogation. Theodore didn't follow his gaze, he knew where those blue eyes would land. “And I do not mean that in any bad way, even though you are younger than most cops around here, you are very capable...”
“You don't have to worry, I didn't even realize you were calling me young” Theodore smiled and noticed the slight blush on the other's face before it was gone, as quickly as it got there. “Who tried to talk to him, earlier?”
“Barton” Steven answered plainly and stood up straight again. “Should I get you the statements?”
He shook his head and got out of his chair. His body was still stiff and pounding but he chose to ignore this and stretched his back a little. His left hand fingers were less swollen now and he could even move his thumb. Progress. “Tell the boss that I am up and running, Rogers. I can see him whenever he has time”
When the older one had left, Theodore turned his attention towards the detention rooms and when no one was in his way, he stepped over to the door, located the furthest away from desks and employees. The other rooms were empty after all. There was a small opening in the wood, where you could place your eyes and see the person inside. He did so and crossed his arms over his chest while watching the young man on the other side.
He was black haired, dark eyes looking back at him from underneath unkempt bangs. He was lean, but not far away from crossing the line and becoming gaunt, slimmed fingers brushing quickly through his unwashed hair as he stood up to approach the door. His lips were cracked and dry, there was a blue mark turning green on the right side of his face, looking older than three days, but still painful. The man didn't say anything but he didn't look away from Theodore's face either, his eyes wide, almost terrified from behind all the dirt covering his skin.
Theodore decided he wouldn't say anything either. It was for the best if they didn't speak at all. Because of this, he turned away and ignored the sound of those slimmed hands gripping for him through the narrow space in the door. Why the other would do that, Theodore had no idea, but it didn't much matter to him either. As he stepped into the larger office in front of him, he could hear the man call something behind him. But he had no idea what it was all about and felt no need to turn back and see what was happening now either.
“How are you feeling detective?” he was asked as soon as he seated himself in the chair in front of the large desk and Theodore smiled a little towards him.
“I have been better, and I am sure that I look worse than I believe I do” he then answered and noticed his bowler, which was placed on the desk in front of him. Apparently someone had saved it from the burning alley earlier. He was glad he wouldn't have to get himself another one. He was quite fond of it, to be honest. “But I still feel good enough to work. The wound has stopped bleeding and my head does not hurt anymore. I will be fine.”
“This is good news” the dark haired one assured and nodded, his eyes a bit brighter now. They had always been good friends, mostly because of his boss' relationship with Theodore's father. Of course he would feel less worried now that he knew the youngest member of Manhattan's police force was doing just fine. “Did you see the one we brought in for questioning?”
“Yes I did” Theodore answered and the older one seemed pleased. “May I ask, why is he a suspect? I can't seem to remember seeing him in the alley myself and he does not fit the description of any other gang members we have been tracking?”
“That is true”
“And he has not spoken one word since he came here?” he continued after the short response he had received. “Are we even sure he knows the language?”
The older man seemed to think this over for a couple of moments. His silence made Theodore uncomfortable and he fought the urge to shift his weight in the chair. “He has been responding in ways that make us believe that he understands us...” he eventually answered and shrugged casually. “He was found not far from you, fainted, but he could just as well have been struck to the ground by the force of the explosion, like yourself... Besides, he seems to be Jewish...”
“But why does that make him a suspect in the matter?”
“You know why. And we do not have any other suspects...” the dark haired one sighed after thinking the whole thing through. “You know what that means, do you not?”
Theodore chose to do nothing else but nod at this. Of course he knew, both what it would do to the credibility of the police force, but also how it would affect his fellow officers. They had been going through a rough patch these past years, even before Theodore joined the department about one and a half years earlier. It had started as rumors, spreading on the back streets of Manhattan, rumors of gangs spreading terror and anger as they stole and raped. Around the disorderly houses of Allen Street, that's where they were. And even if eight years had passed since it all had begun, there were no more real leads than as if it all had started yesterday. Oh well, some people had been suggesting, with sinister voices that Jews might be behind it all. This was something Theodore refused to believe. It would make sense, since the blocks around Allen Street were full of immigrants from all over the world, mostly Jewish, but to pull such a sharp line without any kind of evidence... that was not something he was willing to do.
“I saw an empty alley” he then said, breaking the silence with his statement. He knew he had been called here to testify and that was what he was going to do. “It was darker than I had been expecting, and the woman I was supposed to meet was not anywhere in sight. As you are aware, I was supposed to meet her by her shop, but it was closed and abandoned. I would assume that she had been warned by someone that there had been explosives placed in the alley and instead of coming to us, she decided to flee without giving us the warning. Or she might have been in on it and intended for me to be blown to bits... I am not sure. But as it was, she was not there and when I turned to see whether she was further away from me than I had been anticipating, the world suddenly grew dark and painful...”
“You do not remember what happened right before the explosion? Not what triggered it?”
“No” he said again and pulled a lock of blond hair back from his forehead. “I have no idea what happened really, other than that I got hurt and you have a suspect. I would like to say, however that if you should bring someone in, you should try and find the old lady...”
He was dismissed with a nod, like always, quicker than expected since someone else was waiting to talk to the chief. He was happy to be out of there anyway. Lately, he had felt like maybe he should move away form the district and get himself a job under some other captain. This one cared too much about him, personally and would never take him seriously if he came with criticism or suggestions. Of course he appreciated everything chief Stark had done for him, but he knew he was a good detective too. He would not have come this far if he had not been working as hard as he had.
It was with a nod back and grabbing his slightly dirty bowler that he left. The room where the young man had been held was empty now and the door was slightly open. Maybe they had already started talking to him again? What if the kid didn't have any idea what they were saying? He was probably terrified. Poor man.
He soon realized though, that he could not keep worrying about their suspects, because his head had started throbbing again and he felt dizzy. He decided to leave early, knowing that there was not much more he could do anyway. He checked out with a reassuring smile, receiving a worried one from Steven, and was soon back on the street. It was cold and growing darker by the minute. He quickly made his way towards the electrified streetcar, which he was lucky enough to catch immediately and soon find himself right outside his apartment building. The daughter of his landlady came to meet him with a smile, but it faded instantly as he came closer. Apparently, he really looked much worse than he had thought.
“What happened to you?” she hurried and took the two steps, which lead her out of the building, in one jump. She was dressed rather casually this time, unlike most girls her age. Marriage was nothing she was aiming for, at least according to her mother. “Come on inside, I will make you some tea...” she added and reached for him, as if he was about to collapse and die if she didn't help him up the stairs and in through the gate. He smiled though and let her care for him. He knew it would calm her down, and her nerves had been all frizzy ever since the first time he met her.
She brought him into the rooms she shared with her mother, pushing long, blonde locks back behind her ears to make sure they were not in the way as she made them tea and fetched him a nice cold cloth for his aching head. He seated himself quietly on one of the chairs, placed around their kitchen table, and smiled as she worked. She had always been so nice to him.
“So, will you tell me what happened?” she eventually asked as she placed a steaming hot cup of tea in front of him on the table. He shrugged slightly and took the cup with his right hand, already missing the use of his left one since he usually held cups with both hands. He would have to wait a while before he could do that again though.
“There was an accident...” he lied and drank the scolding hot drink, shivering as it warmed him from the inside out. He loved the way he could really feel it run down his throat. “But I am quite alright. My arm was bleeding before but it seems to have stopped. I hit my head as well, but as long as I lie down and rest for a while, I am sure I will get better”
“I am glad to hear that” she sighed in relief and met his eyes calmly. She was a remarkably calm woman, very unlike her own mother. Theodore was not used to women like her. His mother had been very frantic and extremely worried about losing him, just as she had lost his father. Overly protective, he would say. “My mother always says you should be more careful.”
“She and my mother should meet” he smiled and enjoyed her giggle. He knew what was expected of them, what her mother was expecting along side with the rest of society... he would not have been allowed to be here, alone with her, if it had not been for the wish that he would soon ask her to marry him. She might not be anyone of class, but neither was his own mother and she had married a police man. Cassandra would make a good wife, he was sure of this. He really was. She was aware too, and he had noticed it, mostly because she had started acting differently around him from how she had been acting before. It was almost as if they were already engaged.
They spoke for maybe an hour, mostly about her, since he was not really allowed to talk much about his work. He would not want to cause her any worries anyway, it was better if he kept the worrying to himself. When he eventually excused himself, she helped him up the stairs to his apartment, even though he really didn't need the help at all.
“Thank you Miss Lang” he smiled before he watched her leave down the stairs again, her eyes smiling brightly back at him over her shoulder before she was out of sight. He locked the door tightly behind him and sank down on his bed without hesitation. Before long he was asleep and did not wake up until the next morning.
His head hurt more and more, no matter what he did and after brewing himself some coffee and reading through some old statements he decided it would be best if he just got out for a walk in the cold weather and clear his mind. After getting dressed properly, mumbling about the snow and changing his mind three times, he eventually stepped out of his warm apartment and pulled his coat tight around his body. His bowler was on his head now, feeling good there where it belonged. He had cleaned it by the table while eating his breakfast. All the dust was gone and he'd make sure to be more careful with it in the future. After all, it had been his father's.
The air was crisp and froze his lungs but he quite enjoyed it, he realized as he made his way down the bright street. For some reason, on mornings like these, there seemed to be a lot less smoke in the air. The stench of burning coking coal usually lay thick around these streets, but not on cold mornings. The air seemed brighter and refreshing even. He did not at all mind the freezing of his fingers and toes if that was the case.
Finally he had the day off and had to worry about nothing else than what he would eat later and how far he would be able to walk before he needed to get back. The street was busy and people were everywhere. They nodded his way, looking worried or scared. Most knew he was a detective, and seeing a detective with blue marks and bandages must be frightening somehow. People in this city did not know what to think about their law enforcement officers these days.
He passed the Dakota and sat for a while and watched happy people skate on the ice in central park, men and women laughing and falling everywhere. Skating was about the only thing you could do where falling over was part of the charm, he was sure. The thing about skating was that most people, no matter of what class, could enjoy it without shame. Maybe not if you were the queen of Britain though. He leaned back on the bench and yawned, enjoying the fact that his headache was slowly fading.
He must have dozed off because suddenly he was brought back to life by the sobs of a child, sitting on the bench next to his. It was a young boy, maybe five or six years of age and his clothes looked too thin for this type of weather. The young one was not wearing any skates, suggesting that he might be waiting for someone else who had been skating and obviously never showed. Hence the crying.
“Hey...” Theodore said sweetly and got up from his bench, walking over to crouch in front of the kid. He had holes in his shoes... those tiny feet must be so cold. “Hey don't cry...” he hurried and leaned on his hands against the seat of the bench, on each side of the boy's legs. “Tell me what's wrong, I'll help you...” The boy looked up, deep brown eyes staring at him with terror, more tears leaving them. He was so tiny and so skinny he probably lived in one of the streets on the lower east side of Manhattan. “Don't be afraid, I am a detective you know... whatever has happened to you, I can help you fix it, I am sure”
The boy's eyes widened and he bit his lip, the cracked skin breaking even more by this act but he did not seem to notice. “You're really a policeman?”
“Yes” Theodore smiled and nodded. “And I happen to have the day off, so let's see what I can do to help you, now that I actually have the time, shall we?” At this, the boy nodded slowly and dried his tears away with an unwashed hand, a slight smile now twinkling in his eyes. He looked hopeful at least, that was a start. Theodore nodded again and got up, only to sit down next to the little one on the bench, looking out at the skating people as he waited for an explanation.
“I lost my mommy...” he eventually said, after wiping his nose with a fresh handkerchief Theodore handed him. His voice was shaky, as if he had just realized, again, how utterly lost and lonely he was. His English was not without dialect but very good. He must have lived here for most part of his life, which might still not be very long in this case. “...in the park”
“How long ago was it that you last saw her..?”
“I donno...” the boy answered and bit his lip again as more tears streaked his face. “I have been looking... but she might be home now...”
“Do you know where you live?”
“Yes” he nodded quickly. “But you have to go by the streetcar.. and they won't let me ride it... not on my own...”
“Good for you that you are not alone then” Theodore smiled gently and softly let his hand rest on those tiny shoulders. He was shaking, probably both from cold and crying. It was so sad to see a kid feeling this way, no matter if it was a poor one or someone who had the entire world at his feet. A sad child was still heartbreaking. The boy looked up at him and they both smiled now. This would work out just fine, he was sure.
Within fifteen minutes they were by the streetcar. He had had to carry the boy half the way there, not because he had been complaining but because Theodore didn't have the heart to let him walk around in the snow with shoes like that. The boy had laughed as he was picked up, behaving like any other kid even though he had been so sad just now and it had warmed his heart to hear that fluttering sound. People had been looking, but Theodore didn't care much about that. So what if he was carrying a kid from the slums? He was still a police officer. He was supposed to help the society and that involved helping this child. He was sure anyone would have done the same if they had been in his place. Quietly, at the back of his mind, a thought lurked though... a knowledge that told him that was not at all true. This city was not like that, but he hoped it would be some day.
The man driving the streetcar did not seem very happy though, no matter how much Theodore smiled at him when the trolley stopped in front of them. At first, he thought it was a bad joke but when he realized his blond passenger was completely serious about bringing a “filthy” child into his cart, he wouldn't let them. He grunted something about recently cleaning and that people did not want to get infected by some rare disease. Theodore quickly ran out of patience and issued the fact that he was a police officer and that he should be allowed to bring a lost child the office. The man looked suspiciously at the child, grunting that he had had no idea that trash even cared about their children enough to even report them missing. The boy looked confused but didn't say anything that might give them away. He just stood there and clasped Theodore hand tightly with his tiny one. Poor child. The man nodded them on, not giving them another look and Theodore quickly picked the boy up in his arms and stepped onto the streetcar with his anger towards the man quickly cooling off. He didn't want the boy to notice after all.
When they were finally seated, the boy quickly hid his face in Theodore's arms, trying to get away from the staring eyes and he understood completely. He gently patted the soft brown locks, feeling strange when holding a child this way. He had never had any younger siblings, never even though about whether he would be a good father or not. Besides, mostly the mothers were the ones to comfort children, weren't they? He had heard from his own mother that it was in a woman's nature to be good with children. However, he was fairly certain that he had heard from his boss once, that his late father had been a very caring one, who had not cared if other people found it strange for him to enjoy the fact that his son wanted to sit in his father's lap, rather than his mother's. He had asked his dear mother about this, but she had dismissed any talk of his father. Losing him still hurt her, he could tell. He was sad that he had very few memories of the man. He knew they must have been very dear to him before he lost them.
He looked down and smiled a bit at the boy in his arms, noticing how calm he had gotten now, even though people were still looking. Burying his eyes in Theodore's shirt seemed to help with the stage fright somewhat. He was glad that this one didn't seem to think it was a bad thing that he was a man and not a woman. It would have been awful if he had been crying all the way after all. Better that he felt safe. Maybe he too, had a father who did not mind picking him up and caring for him. After all, this boy might be from a completely different culture than most people Theodore knew. It might be different in their home? Maybe some day, father's would be expected to take care of their children as well, not just providing for them. Secretly, he wished for this. For the sake of the children mostly. Children like this one, curled up in his lap.
“We're here” he said as the trolley stopped, after quite a long ride through the city. The boy looked up quickly, as if he had been woken from sleep. He was an adorable child. The way he rubbed his eyes made him look even more tired and Theodore decided it would just be for the best to keep carrying him. The boy did not seem to mind and as they stepped off, he pointed towards the Bowery block. Theodore hesitated and gave the boy a quick look, he seemed happy to be closer to home now than before at least. He took a deep breath and watched as people from all over the world passed him by, merchants and children running all over the place with bags of clothing, jewelry and food to sell on the streets. This was his district and still most officers refrained from entering these streets. It was with reluctant steps that he finally started walking again, holding the child closer to his chest now than before. It is hard, not to get infected with fear when all you hear are the stories.
The boy wanted to get down and he let him, he was almost certain the kid would just take off but he did not. Instead, the tiny one clasped Theodore's larger hand in his own, smiled up at him and led him through the streets, further in than he would ever had dared going on his own.
“Is it far?” he asked and the boy shook his head as they passed a jewelry shop that looked both dark and sinister. The boy seemed not to even notice the gloom, or the old woman who stood and watched them from an open doorway. Theodore did not belong in this place, but neither did these people. They should not have to live like this... regarded as nothing but disease stricken filth.
“Here!” the child eventually smiled and pointed at a large door, which was both crocked and askew. Theodore nodded and reached for the handle, opening it with all the strength he possessed in his right arm. The left one was feeling better now, but he had used it a bit too much while lifting the child and carrying him around town, so he figured he would have to rest it for a while, so that it would not start bleeding again. “Thank you!”
He followed the now running child up the stairs and into a gloomy locking corridor where the doors were marked with numbers from twenty to something higher. The brunette stopped in front of one with the number twenty-three and knocked hard on the wood with his tiny knuckles. Theodore shifted his weight slightly and bit down on his lip. What would he say when the door was opened? He might not even be able to find his way back, should he ask for directions? And what happened if no one opened at all? Would they have to wait here for someone to eventually get back home? For all they knew, the boy's mother could still be back there, in the park, looking for her lost child... Now he just felt bad. But there was no time for that, because the door was opened abruptly and if Theodore had not been quick enough to pull the boy away, he would have been hit straight in the face and probably knocked to the floor by the sheer force of it.
Brown eyes met his own as he looked back up after pulling the small one away. The striking resemblance with the child suggested this was an older brother or maybe the father? He looked young, but definitely old enough to have children. His hair was a mess and the cheek underneath his left eye freshly swollen. His lips were cracked and dry, black-brown bangs almost covered a fading blue-green mark on the right side of his face... It was the man from the station, tall and slender, dark eyes deeper than any arterial well Theodore had ever inspected in his youth, out on the countryside.
“Hi...” he started, but the child was already throwing himself in the dark haired one's arms, hugging the man tightly while speaking in a language Theodore did not know. The older one was silent, lifting the boy to his chest and held him tight, eyes still fixed on Theodore, anger and confusion strikingly apparent in the depth of them. Theodore did not know what to say, neither did he know what the boy had already told and therefore he kept quiet, only watching as the child spoke enthusiastically in something that sounded almost like German.
Eventually, after answering the boy shortly and putting him down on the floor, the older man straightened up and addressed Theodore personally. His voice was smooth and strong, eyes never wondering, always stern and watching his every move. “Thank you...” he said, his English flawless, strangely enough. “...for bringing my brother back home. My mother is not back yet, but I am sure she will be thankful that you have found him and kept him safe. He has a knack for running off when he finds something interesting and then not find his own way back”
“I see...” Theodore nodded and managed a smile, even though he felt as if he was being watched with both disgust and anger. Did the man remember him from the police station..? He tilted his head only a little, noticing the distinct bruising around the man's wrists as he reached to stroke the boy's hair. The bruising of firm hands and rope. He had been beaten since they last saw each other. Badly. “I am glad I could be of help” he then continued and smiled down at the younger one, who was beaming up at him from his older brother's waist. “If there is anything more I can do, just let me know?” The question was mostly directed to the child and the boy looked up at his brother, stars twinkling out through his eyes.
“Can he come in and play with me?” he asked, the innocence in his voice burning its way straight into Theodore's heart. He wanted to smile and say he'd love to play with the little one, but that would certainly not be appropriate. Besides, he was quite sure the older brother would not approve. “Please..?”
The man looked up at Theodore again, eyes narrowing and lips tightening. “No, he has to leave...” he then said and crouched in front of the young one without another look back at the detective. He met the child's eyes and suddenly his expression was kind and gentle, his lips were smiling sadly and his fingertips stroking the tears from the small one's eyes. “He can't stay here, you understand? He is not from here... besides, I think the detective has other things to do today, he is working you know...”
“No he's not!” the boy exclaimed and looked up with wild eyes at Theodore, who was so shocked he just stood there. “He told me he has a day off, right? You said that...”
“Nonetheless...” the dark one sighed and lowered his head momentarily before looking back at his little brother. “...you have to trust me on this. Please go inside and I will talk to him. Mother will be home soon, go wash up”
The boy did not look pleased but apparently he knew he could not argue and sighed. “I hope I see you again...” he said, turning to Theodore and he smiled back down at the boy. He was very sweet indeed.
“I am sure we will” he then nodded and reached his hand out to shake the boy's but received a tight hug instead. Those small arms wrapped up hard around his waist and Theodore felt his heart break for the little one. One day he would have a better life than this one. He would make sure of it. “Now go do as your brother tells you, all right?”
The child nodded and was off, running into the gloomy looking room with his hands in the air, already playing some game no one but him understood. Theodore could not help but smile as he watched him go. Maybe he would enjoy to be a father after all. One day. He would make sure to actually spend some time with his children, unlike most. The brother did not seem too amused and was now eying him again, which Theodore did not notice until he met brown looking back at him.
“Now, can you please leave my family alone?”
The words were harsh and the eyes even more burning than before, his hands were knotted into fists by his sides and his entire body tensed. Theodore wrinkled his brows and studied the movements of the other for a couple of seconds before responding softly, as calmly as he possibly could. No use to be intimidated by an already beaten man. “I don't quite understand what you mean? I only returned your brother to you, I found him in Central Park..? I don't see why you should feel threatened by me presence here, since I have never done your family anything?”
The man was thrown off but his eyes did not wander from Theodore's face. “By you, I mean your friends at the New York Police Department, bringing terror and pain into our society under the name of justice and preservation of the peace...” The words were almost spat out and he had to blink in surprise. He had never heard someone say something like that about his place of work. Ever. “You have caused my family enough pain already... why do you have to constantly make us pay for the fact that you are unable to do your work?”
“I...” he tried but the words where stuck in his throat. He knew the department could not have done anything deliberately bad to this family, it was not possible. But there was so much rage and sadness built up in this man, shining straight through him as he spoke, that it was hard to come up with something constructive to say, that would not only calm the other, but also prove him wrong. Eventually though, the black haired one sighed and averted his eyes, shaking fingers massaging his hurt wrist without him thinking about it himself.
“I'm sorry...” he then said slowly. “I know it is not your fault, and I see you were injured back there... but I am tired of constantly having to worry about whether my father will come home safe every night, or if my mother will be dead when I wake up... My younger brothers are scared and I cannot leave them alone here for the fear of finding our home emptied when I come back. My brothers are everything to me.” He looked back up and Theodore hindered himself from looking all too shaken when he saw the tears now falling from those brown eyes. “...I know the police department is here for our good, that you are doing all you can in a city that is slowly dying... but please. My family will not survive if I get arrested again...”
“Hey...” he hurried and took a step closer, causing that other to back up with startled steps into the apartment again. “Don't worry, I won't hurt you, or your family... And I am certainly not here to arrest you” he quickly assured. The other looked suspicious but stopped in the doorway, his eyes wandering to the door as if to assure himself that he would be able to close it anytime. “I will talk to the Chief, back at the station. As long as you are not in any kind of serious trouble...” Which Theodore unfortunately knew the man was. “...I am sure I can help you. But as it is now, the chief sees you as a threat, because you nether speak nor tell us any information about your current situation...”
“Because they beat me...” the man interrupted and dried angry tears from his cheeks. “They dragged me to the back and kicked me until I lost my senses. When I woke up, apparently, they had decided to let me go and I found myself in a pile of trash, down at Allen Street. Why should I talk to someone who thinks that beating me and leaving me outside of a disorderly house will make me respect and open up to them?” When Theodore failed to speak, the black haired one only snorted and turned his face away once more. “You didn't even know... did you, Detective?”
“No” he admitted as he felt disappointment and rage bubble within him. Why had he not been told of this? “I did not.”
“I suggest, with all due respect... that you go back to your fancy office and talk to the chief. Tell him that I will cooperate, if it means I will not be killed by your men or dragged away from home...” the dark one boldly stated when silence had fallen between them once more, eyes almost mocking him along with the grin that was growing on his face. “You do not have to believe me, you should ask them for yourself. But the more of you who come here, the more my family will be harassed and followed by people with real means to hurt us... Do you understand this Detective?” As Theodore nodded, the other man nodded as well, pleased, and continued. “Therefore, I am asking you never to come here again...”
“What about the fact that you will give us information? How will we get in touch with you if we cannot come here and see you in person?”
“Tompkins Square” came the answer and he raised a questioning eyebrow, wanting the rest of the sentence to be able to understand why the park had been brought up. It was located not far from either the Bowery or the station, always a lot of people from the more poor parts of the city, close walking distance to both shops and streetcars. “Tomorrow, I will meet you there. You and only you. I will tell you what they want to know and then you will leave me be...”
“I am not sure if they will allow me to...”
“Then don't come” the dark one interrupted, calmly. “If they do not agree, do not come. I will wait there, but if you do not show... I will make sure you never find my family...”
“Can you really do that?”
The other snorted and grabbed the handle of the door firmly. “I could at least try my best... we rats are good at hiding you know, especially from people who would love to exterminate us...” And with that, he closed the door, leaving Theodore in the dimmed hallway, alone and with no idea what to think or which way to take to get himself back to the cold outside.