By Maquis Leader
Author’s note: I was curious about Bosco’s fear of the dark one day…
“Shut the dash lights off.”
“Bosco, I’m trying to grab a little shut eye here.” Faith shifted in her seat. “Shut the damn dash lights off.”
“Come on, Bos. You’re acting like you need a nightlight.”
Bosco looked out at the moonless night. “I just want a little light, what’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing, unless you’re trying to sleep – which I am.”
“Close your eyes, it’s dark enough out tonight.” It was darker than usual under the bridge they’d discovered was a good place to park to duck calls. The fog was hiding the lights on the bridge and even the perpetual twilight cast of the city itself. It was as if they’d parked inside a box. A very dark box.
He dropped his eyes to the comforting glow of the dash lights. “And shut your trap – you can’t sleep if you’re talking.”
“Did you just tell me to shut up?” Straightening up, Faith glared at him. “Do you have a death wish?”
“I thought you were trying to sleep?”
“Not with the damn dash lights on! Shut them off!”
“What, are you scared of the dark?” When her partner didn’t answer, she turned in her seat to look at him. “You’re scared of the dark?”
Bosco was staring out the windshield, his jaw clamped shut. Faith could see the muscles flexing in his cheek, a sure sign he was upset. “You are too – you’re scared of the dark!”
“I am not!”
She reached for the control on the side of the steering wheel and he blocked her hands. “Bosco – I’m asking you – you gotta tell me – are you scared of the dark?”
“Yes!” Bosco gripped the steering wheel with both hands. “Yes! I’m scared of the damn dark! Are you happy now?”
“Oh my God, are you serious?” A giggle burst from her. She’d only worked with Bosco for about a year and a half, but so far, he hadn’t seemed to be scared of anything. “That’s – that’s – “
“Achluophobia.” He said quietly.
“What?” That sounded like something she should say Gesundheit to.
“Fear of the dark –Achluophobia – the word isn’t in dictionary.” Shrugging, he tried to act like it wasn’t important. “Nyctophobia isn’t either.”
“Nyctophobia? Sounds like fear of cigarettes.” She giggled again.
“Try looking it up and you get dark fear or dark phobia.” Looking at her, Bosco made a face. “No shit? Fear of the dark!”
“You’re really afraid of the dark?” Faith couldn’t help laughing at the idea of big bad Bosco being scared of the dark. “You’re pulling my leg!”
“As a fear, it doesn’t get any respect, you know?” He sighed. “Nobody laughs at somebody who’s scared of heights or being all closed up – but being scared of the dark? That’s a little kid thing and everybody laughs their ass off.”
Faith felt a twinge of guilt. If Bosco really was scared of the dark, it was mean to laugh at him. “I’m sorry, Bos.”
“Maybe it is a little kid thing. It started when I was a little kid.”
“Mikey, go home!”
“Come on, Mo!”
“No!” Glaring at his little brother, Maurice pointed back down the street. “You’re not coming along – go home! Go play with your friends!”
“But I wanna play with you!” Mikey pouted. “They’re no fun!”
Usually he didn’t mind his little brother tagging along, but there was this cool door he’d found where they were tearing down an old warehouse. There were big signs up saying the place was dangerous – it was no place for a little kid. “I wanna be alone, okay? You know when I go home that Pop is gonna beat my ass and I won’t get to go outside for a week. You can play with me then.”
“Just tell him you kicked Trilochick’s ass, Mo.” He grinned, remembering watching Mo being pulled off the bigger boy at recess. “Tell him how he was picking on Scott – and how you made his nose bleed. He cried!”
“Pop don’t care. All he cares about is that I’ll have detention for a week and he’ll have to go talk to principle Wilson.” Rolling his eyes, he threw his hands up. “Like he’s gonna be the one to come pick me up? Ma’ll be doing it ‘cos he’ll be busy doing nothing.”
“Don’t say that.” Mikey frowned at him. “Pop works hard.”
“At doing nothing.” His little brother couldn’t see what a bum their father was. Of course, Mikey got what little affection their father seemed to have to give out. The thought made him mad – not at Mikey – but mad nonetheless. “Just go home!”
“Fine!” Sticking his tongue out at his brother, Mikey turned and started for home. “I’ve got a Milky Way bar and I’m gonna eat it all by myself then!”
“Whatever – candy’s for babies.” Maurice turned and walked away. He’d known Mikey had the candy bar and was hoping to get half of it, but it was too risky to let Mikey come with him.
Walking the two blocks to the old building, he shivered. He should’ve gotten his jacket, but the minute he went into the house, his old man would have grabbed him and busted his ass. Then he’d be locked in his room and miss the chance to explore the place before it was gone. Maurice shivered again as a cold breeze ruffled his hair. Once he got inside, he’d be fine.
He ignored the signs that warned against trespassing and danger. The building was pretty much gone and there wasn’t anything left that could fall on him. It wasn’t like he was stupid and was going to try and climb the walls that were left or anything.
Only two walls were still standing, and there were piles of boards and bricks scattered around the area. In the center was the door he’d found the day before. Maurice had been looking for soda bottles to turn in for the deposit when he’d stumbled over the metal door buried under a pile of boards.
Crouching over the boards, he pulled them to one side and revealed the door set into the concrete floor. It had been almost dark when he’d found it the day before and he hadn’t had a chance to try and open it. All day, he’d sat in school and wondered what was behind the metal doorway.
“I bet there’s some old gangster’s stash in here.” Maurice grunted as he tugged on the handle. It didn’t budge. “Damn!”
Looking around for something to pry it open with, a metal bar caught his eye. “That’ll do it!”
He slid it through the handle and lifted, but the door didn’t lift an inch. “Crap!”
A pile of concrete blocks reminded him of something Mr. Dennis had taught in science class. Put a pole over something and it made it easier to lift. Maurice grabbed one of the blocks and dragged it next to the door. He didn’t remember the details – Science was boring – but there was something about putting the pole over the block and under what needed lifted up.
Sliding the metal bar over the concrete block and through the door handle, Maurice grunted with effort as he pushed down on the bar. It slipped and he almost fell, but the door lifted a few inches.
“Yes!” Maybe he needed more blocks? He dragged another one over and stacked it on top the first one. Putting the bar back into position, Maurice tried again. He grinned as the door lifted up a few more inches this time before he lost his grip on the bar and it fell back down.
“Okay, gotta lift it and block it open.” There were plenty of boards to use and he put a couple of them where he could push them with his foot. Once again, he pushed the bar down and the door lifted up. Quickly, he used one foot to shove the boards under the open door.
Dropping the bar, Maurice crouched down to peer into the opening. It was dark and he couldn’t see anything. “Damn, I need a flashlight!”
The odds of getting into the house and getting a flashlight and getting back out without his old man catching him were slim to none. Chewing his lip, Maurice weighed the odds of the mysterious door still being here in a week when his detention and grounding was up. The building had been coming down pretty fast so they could build a new apartment building here.
“Better check it out now.” He looked up at the sky, it was late, but there was still an hour or so of light. Once the door was all the way open, he’d be able to see just fine.
Crouching down again, Maurice put his hands under the edge of the door and lifted. It was heavier than he thought it’d be and his legs quivered with the strain as it lifted up inch by inch. Finally he had it to a point where he could push it over. There was a loud clang and he jumped.
He knelt next to the opening and looked down inside. There were stairs, but they disappeared into the dark. “Well, hell…”
“Lookee, it’s Maurice.”
The voice startled him and Maurice scrambled to his feet. Trilochick stood smirking at him, four of his friends flanking him. “What do you want, Harold? Come to get your other eye blacked?”
Trilochick’s smirk changed into an angry snarl. One eye was black and swollen, ruining the effect. “You little pipsqueak! I’ve had enough of you sticking your nose in where it doesn’t belong!”
“Yeah, well, I’m tired of you picking on little kids ‘cos you’re too chicken to take on anybody your size.” The other four boys with Trilochick worried him, but they were bullies and bullies usually backed down when anybody had the guts to stand up to them. “Oh, wait, I ain't your size either, and I kicked your ass!”
“Funny as hell, Boscorelli.” Trilochick sneered. “Let’s see how funny you think it is when we’re done with you.”
“Come on, if you think you’re man enough.” Maurice lifted his fists up to defend himself. He was screwed if they all jumped him, but one at a time – he was still screwed.
“Grab him!” Trilochick ordered.
The other boys rushed Maurice, grabbing his arms and pinning them behind his back. He kicked out at Trilochick as the other boy got close. “You big pussy! Can’t fight your own fights?”
“Shut up!” He planted his fist in Maurice’s gut, grinning as the other boy doubled over. “Hold him up!”
Maurice grunted as a fist landed in his gut again, another one caught his cheek and stars flashed brightly. “I’ll – kick your – ass – “
“Sure you will.” Trilochick threw another punch into Maurice’s face. “From now on, when I say your sissy name, Maurice, you’ll say yes sir!”
“Screw you – “ He gasped for air as Trilochick punched him in the stomach again.
Trilochick was panting for air himself, tired from his exertions. “Let’s teach the little pipsqueak a lesson.”
The other boys let go of Maurice, and he collapsed to the floor, holding his gut. “What’d you have in mind?” Jeff asked.
“Throw him down the hole.”
“Are you kidding?” One of the boys looked down into the dark hole. “There’s probably rats down there.”
“So?” Trilochick kicked Maurice in the side, grinning at the groan of pain. “He deserves to be down there with the rats.”
“Come on.” Jeff grabbed Maurice’s feet. “Let’s throw him in there.”
Maurice kicked and struggled as they lifted him up, but his side hurt and he couldn’t get the leverage to fight them off. They dropped him and he cried out as he bounced down the wooden stairs.
“You know what?” Trilochick looked down into the dark. “I bet this is Al Capone’s secret graveyard.”
“Capone was – in Chicago, jagoff – “ Maurice rolled over and got to his knees.
“That’s what you think.” The boy looked at the others and winked. “He made secret trips here to meet with Bugsy Siegel, and this is where he buried the bodies of all his enemies.”
“Yeah, that’s what I heard, too.” Jeff nodded.
“Me, too.” Randy added. “Buried ‘em alive.”
“You’re full of it!” Maurice looked around the dark room he’d landed in, he couldn’t make out anything other than the very top of the stairs. “Capone didn’t worry about the bodies!”
“You should study more, Maurice.” Trilochick smirked. “I thought all you guineas knew about your history.”
“We know you polocks are dumber than shit!”
“Have fun with the dead bodies, Boscorelli.” Trilochick let the door fall closed. “Bet there’s zombies down there!”
“No!” The blackness was instant and complete. Maurice couldn’t see anything. “Let me out!”
Rushing forward, he fell over the bottom of the stairs, scraping his knees and hitting his head. He pushed himself up, crawling up the stairs. “Let me out!”
He heard laughter from outside. “Let me out!” bracing himself under the metal door, Maurice tried to force it open, but it wouldn’t move. “Don’t leave me down here!”
“Not so brave now, huh, Maurice?” Trilochick yelled through the door. “Watch out for the skeletons – they like to eat sissy guinea boys!”
“And the rats!” Jeff laughed. “You know how many rats there are in the city?”
The laughter faded as they moved away and Maurice pounded on the door. “Let me out! Please!”
Pushing up on the door, he began to cry as it refused to move. “Oh, God, I’ll be good from now on – please let me out!”
He sat down on the top step and put his hands over his face. The tears ran down his cheeks and through his fingers. His pop was going to kill him if he wasn’t home before dark. He and Ma would yell at him and he’d be grounded forever.
“Think, Maurice! You can get out of here!” Wiping his face on the back of his sleeve, he felt along the door, making sure he was pushing on the right side. Once again, he strained to lift the door. It lifted slightly before falling back.
Encouraged, Maurice pushed harder. The door went up a few inches before coming down painfully on top his head. The blow knocked him down the stairs again.
“Damn it!” Fresh tears ran down his cheeks.
There was a strange sound. A scratching from behind him.
“Who’s there?” Eyes wide, he stared into the blackness. “Who’s there?”
The sound came again. A scritching, scratching sound.
“Oh my God – oh my God – “ Scrambling back up the stairs, Maurice beat on the door with his fists. “Let me out! Help me! Oh my God!”
There were rats or skeletons in the dark – he could hear them scratching and moving around.
“Let me out!” Sobbing, he beat on the door until his hands were numb. “I promise, God – let me out – just let me out!”
His strength ran out and Maurice collapsed on the top stairs, sobbing as the scraping sound continued. It would stop for a few moments before coming again. In the dark, he couldn’t tell where the sounds were coming from. One moment it seemed to be to his left and the next from below him.
“I’ll be good – please let me out – “ Curling up, he shivered. It was cold and his hands hurt. “I promise, God – I’ll be good from now on – please – “
Maurice lay in the dark, whispering to God for help and listening to the monsters. Cold seeped into his bones and he closed his eyes. Maybe he’d die before the rats ate him.
A new sound made him lift his head. It was coming from outside. “Is somebody out there? Help me!”
“Mikey?” Maurice sat up and pounded on the door again. Pain shot through his hands and he cried out.
“Mo, are you in there?”
“Mikey, let me out!”
“I can’t lift the door – it’s too heavy!”
Tears ran down his cheeks again at the frustration in his brother’s voice. Mikey was too little to open the door. He was trapped in here forever. The scratching sound came again. “Mikey! There’s rats in here! Get me out!”
“I’ll go get help, Mo.” Mikey knelt by the door. “You’ll be okay. I’ll get you out.”
“Mikey, no – don’t leave me!”
“I got to, Mo.” Tears welled up in Mikey’s eyes and ran down his cheeks. Mo sounded scared, and Mo was never scared. “I’ll get someone to get you out. I promise!”
“Mikey!” He screamed as he heard Mikey’s footsteps fade. “Mikey – don’t leave me!”
Maurice hit the door with his hands, ignoring the pain. “Let me out! Please let me out!”
Cradling his throbbing hands, he slumped against the cold wall. “Please don’t let the rats eat me!”
His heart was pounding and he couldn’t breathe. Maurice rocked back and forth in an effort to calm himself. Grandpa Lou had died of a heart attack – was he having one? Would his heart explode?
The scraping sound started again and he cried out in fear. The monsters would get to him before help would. “Mikey! Mikey, come back!”
There was a creak and scraping from above him and Maurice screamed. He moved back and tumbled down the stairs again.
“Is there someone in there?” A voice called into the dark.
“I’m here! Help me!” Peering up at the sound, Maurice couldn’t see anything. Had he gone blind in the dark? “Help me, please!”
“Hang on, son, we’re coming.”
A click, and then a light shined in his face, making him blink and close his eyes. He wasn’t blind, it was dark outside.
“Just sit still.”
“Please – “ Maurice’s legs buckled under him as he tried to stand up.
“I got ya, kid.”
The light lowered so he could see the policeman who’d come down the stairs.
“What do you got down there?” Another voice called out.
“A kid, about eight or nine years old.” He moved the light over Maurice’s body. “Scared as hell. Probably half frozen.”
“I wanna go home.” Maurice reached up to him.
“We’ll get you home, son.” The officer lifted him up carefully. “You hurt anywhere?”
“My hands.” He burrowed into the warmth of the man’s jacket. “I’m cold – I’m so cold – “
“A bus is on the way.” The other officer helped his partner out of the hole in the ground. “Should be just a few minutes.”
“Mo, you okay?” Mikey stood on tiptoes, trying to see his brother. “I called the cops, Mo. Was that okay?”
“It’s okay, Mikey.” Looking around, Maurice focused on the streetlights and the red and blue lights flashing on the police car. Anything but the dark hole behind them.
Opening the passenger door, the officer sat inside and wrapped Maurice in his coat. “The kid’s a popsicle.”
“Here.” His partner handed him his coat.
Maurice clutched at the warm coat, hissing in a breath as pain rippled up his hands.
“Take it easy, kid.”
Looking at his hands, he saw they were bloody and scraped raw. There was blood all over the coats they’d wrapped him in. “I’m sorry – I didn’t mean to – “
“It’s okay, kid.” The officer smiled down at him. “Part of the job.”
“There were monst – rats – there were rats.”
“Rats?” Turning his flashlight back toward the building, his partner played it over the area. “They won’t come out here, don’t worry.”
“Did they bite you?” The officer holding him asked.
“No. They just made noises. Scratching and stuff.”
There was a tree leaning against one of the remaining walls and it moved in the breeze, rubbing against the brick. “I bet there’s your rats, kid.” The one with the flashlight said. “Probably just sounded like rats down there.”
“You okay, Mo?” Mikey wormed his way into the police car and sat beside his brother. “You’re not mad at me for getting the cops?”
“No, Mikey. I’m not mad.” He held a hand out to his brother, grimacing as he saw how bloody it was. “I’ll go to jail, but it’s better than in there.”
“You’re not going to jail.” The officer laughed. “You did something stupid, that’s all. If we locked up everybody who did something stupid, the jail would be full!”
“We’re here to help people – to solve problems.” His partner pulled the coat up around Maurice’s ears. “You just remember that.”
An ambulance pulled up and two paramedics jumped out.
“What’ve you got?”
“Boy, maybe eight or nine, he was trapped in an old bomb shelter for a few hours.”
A few hours? Maurice flinched as the paramedic looked at his hands. It’d felt like a million years.
“You’re going to be okay. We’ll take you to the hospital and they’ll fix you right up.” The paramedic smiled at him. “We can turn on the siren on the way if you want.”
“Cool!” Mikey jumped up. “And the lights? Those, too?”
“The lights, too.”
Maurice was too cold and tired to enjoy the ride. The screaming sirens made his head throb that much more.
At the hospital, he was wheeled into one of the ER rooms and after a few minutes of discussion between the nurse and doctor about waiting for his parents, they took him to x-ray. Mikey stayed behind with the two police officers to wait for their parents.
The room was cold, and the metal table uncomfortable, but Maurice did his best to lay still and hold his breath when the pretty girl told him to. She wrapped a blanket around him before she wheeled him back to the ER.
To his surprise, his father was waiting in the exam room. “Pop?”
“What the hell were you doing in that building?” His father snapped at him. “You’re lucky you’re not dead.”
The girl helped Maurice up onto the exam bed and patted his leg before she left. She shot a glare at Anthony on the way out.
“Mr. Boscorelli?” The nurse handed him a form. “If you’ll sign here, we can start treatment.”
“Sure, sure.” Anthony took the form and looked it over. “Allergies? What is all this crap? I don’t know this stuff.”
“We need to know if he’s allergic to anything in case he needs stitches.”
“He’s had stitches before – every time I turn around he’s costing me money! His Ma should be here later – she can fill this crap out.”
The nurse pointed to the signature line. “That’ll be fine, if you’ll just sign the consent to treatment form.”
“Sure, fix the little moron up.”
Maurice felt his face turn red. It was bad enough for his father to call him names at home, but in front of strangers it really made him feel stupid.
Ignoring Anthony’s remark, the doctor motioned to the x-rays that were being put up on the lighted panels. “Luckily, his ribs are just bruised and he doesn’t have a concussion. However, he’s cracked several bones in his right hand – and bruised bones in both hands. We’ll wrap his right hand, there’s no need to put a cast on it.”
“He needs his head broken.” Anthony tossed the paperwork down on the chair next to the bed.
The nurse began cleaning the cuts on his hands and Maurice bit his lip to keep from crying out. He’d cut them up on something pretty good.
“We’re going to have to stitch a couple of these up.” The doctor mused. “They’re pretty deep.”
“No! No stitches!” He jerked his hands back. “Just put a band-aid on it!”
“Honey, they’re too deep.” She patted his shoulder. “And I’ll make sure that you’re numb and don’t feel a thing.”
“No shots!” He scrambled off the table as the nurse brought a needle to the doctor.
“Maurice, get your ass back up there!” Anthony yelled. “Quit acting like a damn baby!”
“I don’t want any shots!” He tried to get past his father and out the door, but his father caught him and put him on the bed again.
“It’ll be all right, just a quick sting and then it’ll go numb, I promise.” The doctor motioned the nurse to help hold Maurice down as he struggled to get up again.
“No! Please!” He began to cry as the doctor picked the needle up again.
“Shut up!” Anthony slapped him across the mouth. “Stop acting like a God damned baby! It’s just a needle!”
“You do that again – and I’ll report you!” The nurse glared at him. “There’s laws against child abuse!”
“He’s my son – I can smack him if I want!” He returned the nurse’s glare. “He’s just a little coward!”
Maurice lay still, more afraid of his father than the needle. Biting his lip and whimpering as the needle bit into his hand, he tried to pretend he wasn’t there. His heart was pounding too hard again and he couldn’t breathe.
“Just relax, sweetie, it’ll be all right.” The doctor tested the area. “Can you feel that?”
She frowned. “I can give you one more shot – but that’s all.”
The nurse brought her another needle. “Poor thing, he’s scared to death. We’re going to help you, honey, just relax.”
“He’s a whiny baby – always has been.” Anthony said in disgust.
“Mr. Boscorelli, maybe you should wait outside.” The doctor shot him a look. “Your other son is outside with the police.”
“Yeah, I’ll be with Mikey – now there’s a boy that wouldn’t be squalling like a baby.”
His father left the room and Maurice let the sobs escape. “Please – I don’t want anymore shots – “
“Just this one.” The doctor deftly slid the needle into his skin. “I want you to try and take deep breaths – you’re hyperventilating.”
“Just relax.” Leaning over him, the nurse combed his hair back out of his eyes. She blocked his view of the doctor as best she could. “Deep breaths – in and out – and it’ll be over soon.”
The needle bit into his skin and he winced. It came back again and again and he knew the doctor was stitching the cuts up. He did his best to take deep breaths, but each time the needle went into his hand, Maurice whimpered.
“He’s too upset – it’s not completely numb.” The doctor said quietly. “I don’t want to give him another shot.”
“No more shots!” He cried out as the needle bit into a new place on his hand.
“No more shots – and we’re almost done.”
Maurice held still, afraid his father would come back in if he didn’t behave. After several more minutes, the doctor finished stitching his hands. He sighed in relief as she left the room and the nurse began to bandage his hands.
“You’re probably going to be numb for a bit, but it’s going to hurt later.” The nurse wrapped his hands carefully. “We’ll give your dad a prescription for you, okay?”
“You should give it to my mom.” His father wouldn’t care if he hurt or not.
The nurse shot a look over her shoulder at where Anthony sat waiting. He had a frown on his face and he kept checking his watch. “How about if I give it to you and you give it to your mother?”
“I’ll put it in my pocket.”
“I’ve got his mother on the phone.” The doctor came back into the room. “She says he’s not allergic to anything that she knows of.”
“Is my mom coming?” A sob climbed up his throat. His mom would take care of him.
“She’s at work, sweetie. But she’ll see you when you get home.” The doctor patted his shoulder. “I called in a prescription and she’s going to stop and pick it up for you, okay?”
“That solves that problem.” The nurse muttered. The doctor looked at her and nodded. She’d had the same thought that Mr. Boscorelli wouldn’t want to be put out by stopping to pick up a prescription.
He was feeling sleepy now that the stitching was done and a yawn escaped. “Can I go home?”
“You’re all done.” The nurse helped him down from the table. “You take care of yourself, okay?”
“’Kay.” Maurice stumbled out to where his father was sitting. “We can go home.”
“It’s about time! You think I like sitting here for hours? And how much do you think this little accident of yours is going to cost?”
Anthony grabbed Maurice’s shoulder and shoved him toward the door. “Get in the car!”
“Thanks for saving me.” Maurice said to the two officers as he went past. “Sorry I caused so much trouble.”
“Don’t worry about it kid, it’s all part of the job.”
“Get going.” Anthony pushed him again.
The two officers frowned as they watched him push the boy toward the door. The boy turned to look at them one last time, the midnight blue eyes large and sad.
“Crap.” One of them muttered under his breath.
The trip back home was miserable, every bump making his hands throb and burn. When they finally reached the house, Maurice slid out of the car and went inside.
“You get your ass to bed!” Anthony yelled as he tossed his keys on the coffee table. “It’s bad enough I gotta go down and talk to your principle tomorrow, and now this crap? You’re grounded for a month and you’re lucky I don’t beat your ass!”
Mikey followed him to their bedroom and helped him undress. His hands hurt too badly to unbutton his shirt or unzip his pants.
“You should take a bath, Mo.” Mikey chewed his lip. “But they said not to get your hands wet. I dunno what to do.”
“Ma’ll be home soon. She’ll figure it out.” Yawning, he crawled into bed in just his shorts. There was no way he was letting Mikey put his pajamas on him. It was bad enough that Mikey had to pull the blankets up for him.
“Yeah.” Mikey stripped off his clothes and put on his pajamas. “Night, Mo.”
“Night, Mikey.” His eyes were closing as Mikey shut the light off. The room was plunged into darkness and he bolted upright. “Turn the light on! Turn the light on!”
“What’s the matter?” Mikey switched the light back on. “You okay, Mo?”
“I don’t want it dark!” Maurice leaned against the wall. “Can we leave the lamp on? The little one?”
“Sure.” He didn’t know why his brother was suddenly scared of the dark, but Mikey turned on the small lamp next to his bed. “How’s that?”
“That’s good.” Lying back down, he watched his brother switch off the overhead light once more. “Can you sleep with it on?”
“Yeah, it’s okay.” He got back into bed. “It’ll be all right, Mo.”
Somehow, Maurice doubted that. His hands hurt like hell, but he was exhausted and quickly fell asleep.
“Maurice, baby, you okay?”
Opening his eyes, Maurice found his mother leaning over him. Tears flooded his eyes. “My hands hurt, Ma.”
“I’ve got something for you right here.” Rose helped him to sit up and put a white pill in his mouth. She held the glass for him to take a drink of water, catching the dribbles with her fingers. “Oh, my poor baby. What were you doing down there?”
“Doing something stupid, like he usually does.”
“Anthony, he’s hurt.” She shot over her shoulder at her husband. “Leave him alone.”
“Leave him alone? You got any idea what this is gonna cost? And how much did you pay for those pills?”
“Not that much.” Turning back to Maurice, she hugged him carefully. “You go to sleep, baby and tomorrow you can stay home from school.”
“Good night, Ma.” He hugged her back as best he could without using his hands. She smelled all smoky, but he didn’t care. “I love you.”
“Aw, I love you too, baby.”
“Jesus, why don’t I get you two some hankies?” Anthony snorted. “You’re turning him into a pansy ass, Rose.”
“Shut up, Anthony.” Getting up, Rose pulled the blankets back up to Maurice’s chin. “You go to sleep, baby.”
When she reached for the lamp, he sat up. “Leave it on!”
“Honey, you can’t sleep with the light on.”
The fear in the midnight blue eyes broke her heart and Rose stroked his cheek gently. “I’ll leave it on if you want me to.”
“You’re not leaving the damn light on!” Anthony told her. “I pay the electric bill and the damn thing goes off!”
“You pay the electric bill?” She smirked at him. “With my tips!”
Reaching past her, he jerked the lamp out of the wall.
“Get to bed, Rose!” He shoved her toward the doorway.
“Damn it, Anthony!” Rose pushed him. “Let Maurice have the light on!”
“I’m not raising a sissy who’s scared of the dark!”
Anthony shoved Rose out into the hallway, slamming the door behind them.
The room was pitch black in an instant and Maurice cried out. His heart hammered against his chest and he sat up, clawing with his bandaged hands at the blankets tangled around him. He could hear his parents arguing outside the door.
“Take it easy, Mo.” Mikey pulled the curtains open and the light from the streetlamp outside lit the room up. “How’s that? Pop can’t shut that off.”
“Oh, God – Mikey – I’m so scared – “ He laid back down, not caring that tears were running down his cheeks. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me!”
“Well, jeez, Mo – “ Mikey climbed onto his brother’s bed. “You were locked up in the dark – that’s gotta be scary.”
There was yelling and a crashing sound outside their door. They huddled together until the sounds stopped.
The door opened several minutes later, and their mother slipped inside. “Maurice? You okay, baby?”
“I’m okay, Ma.” The light from the streetlight was enough that he could see her.
“Tomorrow I’ll get you a nightlight if you need one, okay? We won’t tell your father.”
“I can say I need it, Ma.” Mikey volunteered. “Then it’ll be okay.”
Rose kissed his forehead and then kissed Maurice’s. The sad truth was that anything Michael wanted was okay with Anthony. But if Maurice wanted it – that was another story. “You boys go to sleep. I love you.”
“Love you, Ma.”
“I love you, too, Ma.”
“The next day Ma brought home a nightlight. And she had a bruise on her cheek.” Bosco smirked. “Said she tripped.”
“She tripped a lot. She fell a lot.” He looked out the window. “She lied a lot.”
“So there’s a valid reason for you to be afraid of the dark.” Faith wanted to reach out and pat him on the shoulder, but she wasn’t sure how Bosco would take it. They’d gotten pretty close over the last year or so, but he wasn’t the kind of guy to take sympathy very well.
“Childhood traumas make us the warped adults that we are.”
“True.” She nodded. Her own childhood wasn’t something that Disney would make a movie about anytime soon. “You know, Bos, the dash lights make it kinda cozy. I like it.”
Bosco sighed. “Remind me to tell you about needles one of these days.”