MILES DAVIES looked up from his book as the sound of the door dragged his attention from the flawed prose. It wasn’t a bad book entirely, it was one of many he found to wile away the later hours of his night shifts when the station was all but silent and there was little to no chance of anyone needing his attention.
He’d read another in the series; detective novels about a dashing American hero who killed bad guys and rescued beautiful women from unlikely, exciting situations. Miles didn’t know much about the way they practiced law enforcement across the pond, but he imagined if the stories were to happen in real life the detective would have found himself serving a lengthy prison sentence about three chapters into his first adventure.
Miles didn’t consider himself an avid reader; it was simply a way to pass the time and he found there was often more enjoyment to be had in critiquing the poorly researched crime dramas than in the actual reading of their content.
He’d been reading a particularly unlikely passage about the injuries the main protagonist had received during a gun battle and marveling at the author’s sheer stubbornness to accept reality over his dream of maximum level excitement. Miles wasn’t a medical man, but he felt he knew enough to understand the character would have died several times over from the wounds he’d sustained.
The figure walking through the open station door now caught his attention and for a moment he felt like he’d stepped into the novel or slipped into a dream without realising it.
The man, and it was definitely a man, was young and tall. His slim physique was outlined by tight fitting jeans and a shirt buttoned so low both his nipples were on display.
At first miles guessed he was just a drunken, lost reveler; trying to make his way home from one of the clubs on the edge of the village and seeking a lift from any source, no matter how unlikely.
As he stepped closer Miles’ opinion changed. The man was hurt, badly by the look of the blood stains on his shirt, chest and face. Miles walked out from behind the high-sided desk that served for general inquiries, booking and just about anything else he and the other Hankley officers needed of it.
He stepped to meet the man, expecting to have to catch him as he fell, the words “Are you okay?” forming on his lips and stopped.
Something was wrong with the picture.
For a start the man was giving him a shy smile, his eyes darting around and only meeting Miles’ briefly before they shot away again to examine the floor, walls and ceiling.
There was a lot of blood on him. A huge amount.
It was sprayed across his bared chest, across his shirt and now he was close Miles could see it had splattered his light jeans too, dying them purple around the waist and thighs.
“Are you alright sir?” He didn’t know what else to say and the question came to his lips almost as a reflex.
The man looked at him quickly and then looked down at the floor again. He shuffled his feet and rubbed his hands together in front of his stomach.
Miles heard him mumble something but couldn’t make it out.
“What was that?” He leaned forward instinctively, straining to hear.
“I said I done a bad thing Mr Policeman.”
Miles straightened up. This was a joke surely. The man was easily in his mid-twenties, but his voice, his tone and the way he delivered the words; they were all in the guise of a child.
Miles looked him over again. There was nothing childish about his appearance, but the way he held himself was at odds with his stature.
He looked ‘closed in’, like he was shy or embarrassed. He looked just like a boy waiting to receive punishment from a teacher for being caught spitting in the playground. In fact, that was exactly what he looked like; a timid little boy frightened of the telling off he knew was about to come his way. Only in the body of a fully grown man.
Miles took a half step back.
“What do you mean you’ve done a bad thing?”
There was another mumble.
“I need you to speak up now, young man.” Miles heard himself as he spoke. He’d slipped into his ‘granddad’ voice without even thinking about it. He spoke like that to kids in the local school when they went in to give the ‘be good girls and boys’ talks. Something, maybe everything about this strange man was so convincingly child-like Miles’ subconscious had made the decision his eyes were lying and taken charge of his approach.
He waited for another response. There was still no eye contact and he felt himself getting annoyed at the attitude he was seeing.
“I said I need you to speak up please.” He leaned forward again, softening his tone, “I’m not so young as I was and these old ears need a bit o’ help from time to time.”
The man lifted his head slightly, catching Miles’ eyes before he dipped back down again.
“T-there was a bad man an’ I, I…” His voice petered into silence.
“You what?” Miles asked as kindly as his annoyance would allow. He didn’t have the patience for kids, that’s why he and Mrs Davies had never gone down that route. Well, one of the reasons anyway.
“I don’t wanna say.” Came the muffled response.
“Now come on, you can tell me.” Miles tried, “I’m sure it’s not as bad as you think it is.” He reached out gingerly and patted the man on the shoulder.
“Come on, you can tell good ol’ Sergeant Davies.” He fought the urge to give the boy - no the man, he corrected himself - a little mock punch to the jawline in that age-old way men do to brave boys.