The Boy in the Bin

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Before he could make a move to hear up, Ratso the slamming of a car door outside his bin. His mind became gripped with fear, thinking his hiding place might be discovered. Upon listening to the noises, more doors slammed, followed by voices. Keys clinked and then the overhead door of the next bin rolled up.

“Why won’t you let us help, man?” a voice cried. “We’d like to make some big money too.”

“Because this is private,” another voice crowed, “I’ll cut you guys in on something soon. But Mr. S. wants me to handle this by myself.”

That voice, Ratso thought. He knew that voice.

“Hey,” a third voice laughed, “did you check out the look on the face of the bitch when we grabbed her? She realized dick would come her way. We should’ve dragged her back here instead of dumping her.”

“We dumped her because we didn’t need any witnesses. You clowns never think beyond your dicks.”

Raphael grew positive now. That last voice belonged to none other than Sammy Lovelace. He visualized the sneer on his face right now. Judging from the comment about a woman, he assumed the other voice came from Zipper. Zipper liked rape.

“So what’s in the black case, man?” Zipper questioned.

“Here,” Sammy bragged, “check this out.”

Ratso listened to shuffling noises. He peeked through his peep-hole, trying to see any activity. He only recognized the shape of a black Subaru parked in the access lane. His best course of action would be to remain quiet and listen.

“This red button arms the bomb,” the Sammy voice instructed. “When pushed, a 10-minute timer starts. After that, it will be Adios, Amigo.”

“What are you going to blow up?”

“Not so much a what, but rather a whom,” the Sammy voice answered. “This little black box is going to take out Mr. Fuck Head in the White House.”

“The President?” the Zipper voice stammered. “You are going to bomb the President?”

“Keep your voice down, shit for brains,” Sammy commanded. “This is top secret.”

“OK,” Zipper continued, “but how are you going to get close enough to the President?”

“He’s coming to the Village Community School this week,” Sammy commented, “my old stompin’ grounds.”

Ratso couldn’t believe his ears. He understood Sammy involved himself in more than ripping off little vendors on 42nd Street. But murder? Apparently he intended to assassinate the President, wiping out an entire school at the same time. What caused Sammy to deteriorate morally to this low point?

Eventually, there came the sound of the overhead door being pulled down and the Subaru being started up. Once again he peeked out through the hole bored in his door. This time he identified Sammy, Zipper, and two other young punks. The car drove off in a cloud of fumes.

Ratso sat down to think about the latest revelation. This wasn’t strictly purse snatching or even robbery. This qualified as terrorism. The thought he once hung around this gang depressed him. Even in his worst days as a punk, he never imagined doing anything like these guys planned. Something needed to be done.

“What the hell am I going to do?” Ratso muttered to himself. “This is major. I can’t let this happen.”

How might he deal with this? His last contact in the city happened when his apartment blew up. Some fireman wanted to talk to him, but Ratso ran. He assumed he made the most wanted list, or at least he became a person of interest. The only person who might help would be Lieutenant Paul Sherman. He conceded there would be a risk factor, but needed to try stopping Sammy. This senseless murder of innocent teachers and children couldn’t be allowed.

“I only hope he believes I’m not with them anymore,” he mumbled to himself. “I need to impress upon him this is not a joke.”

Two things happened simultaneously. For the first time, in a long time, Ratso didn’t like his nickname anymore. He questioned if subconsciously, he had distanced himself from association with Sammy, or if the reason came from somewhere else. But Ratso seemed to be a negative name and Raphael seemed positive.

The second thing stood out as even more jarring to his senses. He realized his speech impediment disappeared. He formed words without having a nasal twang or lisp. Never did he experience the clarity in his speech. He touched his nose and felt no cleft . How had this happened? From early in his life, people told him that only surgery would correct a cleft palate. Now he witnessed the fact he no longer suffered from this disability.

Was this the hand of God working?

With the coast being clear, Raphael went into the city and find his old nemesis, Paul Sherman. He hadn’t been in contact with the police since his last time in court. That turned out to be one horrible day for him because he got sentenced to a term at Tryon School for Boys.

Raphael made his way out of the bin, locking the overhead door behind him and scurrying through the exterior fencing. Once he arrived in the city, he found a public phone booth and called the police precinct.

“May I speak to Lieutenant Paul Sherman please?” he announced.

“Can I tell him who is calling?” the operator asked.

“Tell him, it’s Raphael Hernandez,” he said. “He will recognize my name.”

Buzzes and clicks echoed on the line, as the call transferred to the proper extension. For a moment, Raphael considered hanging up and forgetting about the entire call. He worried he may be subject to arrest; even though he assumed no charges were against him. Finally, a voice on the other end picked up.

“Raphael Hernandez?” the voice replied. “Is this who I’m speaking to?”

“Who is this?” Raphael inquired.

“This is Captain Robert Martin,” he answered. “How can I help you?”

“I want to talk to Lieutenant Sherman,” he affirmed.

“Son,” the Captain , “Paul Sherman works for me. He is out on assignment at the moment. We’ve been looking for you for quite a while, Raphael. I can send a car to pick you up if you would like to come into the station.”

“I will only talk to Sherman,” he argued. “He is the only one I trust. Is an arrest warrant issued for me?”

“Of course not, Raphael,” Martin shot back, “but we’ve got bad news for you though. Why don’t you come in and we will talk.”

“I will only talk to Paul Sherman,” Raphael repeated. “I’ve got information he needs to be aware of. I will call back later.”

“Wait, wait ....” The line went dead.

Raphael didn’t want the police to pick him up without having assurance of his safety. He only trusted Paul Sherman. He left the phone booth and went down the steps to the subway. He visited his former home. Perhaps his mother would protect him from an arrest if they tried anything.

The subway dropped him off at the 42nd Street station and 2nd Street. He walked up to street level, around the corner and entered the alley running in front of his house. The first thing catching his eye as he entered the alley; the faint remains of a blood stain on the pavement. He never spotted this before and assumed the stain must have happened after the night he ran away. The real shock came as he approached the location of his Brownstone apartment.

The Brownstone didn’t exist.

Nothing stood in the space except the hollowed out remains of his old residence. His mind rushed back to the night something came in his living room window. He remembered the entire room, rugs, drapes and hallway went up in flames. He saved himself by breaking out a window and leaping out of the apartment into the alley.

As he stood in silence, mentally revisiting the fateful night, he didn’t hear the gray sedan pull up behind him. Tears filled his eyes because somehow he realized his mother didn’t live anymore. For some strange reason, he wished he acted kinder to both his parents when they still lived. He continued, lost in his thoughts, as a firm hand gently latched on the nape of his neck.

He turned and set his eyes on the face of Lieutenant Sherman.

“Raphael,” he confessed, “I’m sorry to inform you of this. We found the body of your mother in the burned remains of the building. I’m afraid your mother is deceased. We searched for you to no avail. Where did you go?”

He listened to the words, but they didn’t register. His concern centered on what the Lieutenant would do to him now. Would he be going to jail?

“Am I in trouble,” he grimaced. “I didn’t do anything.”

“Why don’t you tell me your side of the story,” Sherman urged. “Start with the night of the explosion.”

Raphael explained how on that day, he left the house early and went shopping for a comic book. He noted his witness; his father’s business partner Fred would verify his story. He explained his short conversation with him in the morning.

He explained how he stayed out late and didn’t arrive home until after 11:00 P.M. He worried his mother would give him a ration of shit for being out so late. He mentioned how he fell asleep on the couch and woke up when something crashed through the front window. The entire apartment caught fire and forced him to get out.

He admitted kicking out the window and jumping out into the alley. He told Sherman about being chased by the black Subaru. He explained how he finally worked his way out of the city and into the safety of the storage bins.

“That’s where I live for the time being,” he admitted. “I guess it’s wrong, but I couldn’t think of what to do. I got scared you might think I set the fire.”

“We know you didn’t set the fire, Raphael,” the Lieutenant agreed. “Our forensic unit examined the remains of the apartment and determined the cause to be a firebomb. We think we’ve got an idea who the prime suspect might be, but we need your help to nail him.”

“I think maybe Sammy Lovelace might be involved,” Raphael accused. “He sat in the black Subaru that night. I overheard a conversation between him and the rest of his gang earlier today. He has another bomb and he intends to kill the President.”

“What do you mean by killing the President?” Sherman demanded, “The President of the United States?”

“I guess the President is coming to town,” Raphael insisted. “Sammy is supposed to put the bomb in the school when he comes to visit.”

Paul Sherman had witnessed a lot in his 20+ years as a detective. This tale qualified as one of the strangest he ever encountered. He couldn’t believe someone out in the world, behaved sick enough to use a 15-year-old teen as an assassin.

“Come with me down to the station,” Sherman directed. “I need you to make a statement. We need to take care of this immediately.”

“Are you going to arrest me?” Raphael quizzed.

“No, Raphael,” he assured, “we didn’t file any charges against you. I give you my word as a public servant; we will not do anything to you. I’m sorry, but I can’t say the same for your gang buddies.”

Raphael put his faith in this stranger’s hands. He hoped he made the right decision. If it turned out to be a trick to arrest him, everything he believed in would be lost in the wind.

He needed to believe.

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