“I-I don’t w-w-want him to fight!” George’s shoulders slumped. “I-I’ve t-told him I-I can h-handle it b-b-but he doesn’t l-listen.” Finally the story began to unravel. Lyra encouraged George to take his time. She noticed the calmer he was, the less prominent his stutter became. Leo was picking George up from soccer practice. When he got to the field, there were four other boys surrounding George. They weren’t part of the team as they weren’t wearing uniforms. One of them punched George in the stomach, sending him to his knees. Leo sprinted across the field and tackled the one who’d hit him. The fight ensued from there and was turning brutal. One of the boys had a knife and stabbed Leo three times in the chest before the group took off.
“Where were your teammates and your coach?” Dante asked. He was surprised no one had come rushing to George’s defense or noticed the other boys hanging around.
“They were i-in the locker room already. I-it was my turn to stow the gear.”
“George Brighton?” A man in scrubs approached the group. It must be the doctor who was with Leo. George stood with a resounding yes. “I’m Dr. Harrison. Your brother is still in surgery. One of the knife wounds just missed his heart and we’ve had a bit of a bleed situation. We were able to repair the punctures in his right lung. He’s young and strong. I see no reason he shouldn’t come round after this.” Dr. Harrison put his hand on George’s shoulder. “We’ll be back to get you once he’s settled into a room.” With a small smile, Dr. Harrison left.
“Have you called the cops yet?” Lyra asked. George shook his head.
“No. I-I was too scared for Leo.”
“Ok, George. I’m going to call them and report this,” Dante said. “Those boys are dangerous and need to be stopped before they do this to someone else. Leo is very lucky. Let’s make sure he’s around to enjoy that luck, yeah?” George gave a small smile and nodded his head. Dante stepped out to call the police. Lyra called Cherry to fill her in.
“Oh poor Georgie!” Cherry sighed. “He must be in a horrible state. I can’t believe someone would do this. George would never hurt a fly!” Lyra heard the start of a car engine and knew Cherry was on her way over. “You tell Georgie to chin up. I’ll be there soon.” Cherry cut the call. She heard a soft chuckle come from George. Lyra smiled and sat back in her chair. Dante came back and took his seat again.
“The police have been notified. They said they had already been contacted by the hospital when Leo came through. Said it was procedure with a stabbing victim. The officer in charge is already here, I believe and is probably speaking with Dr. Harrison.” George sighed and laid his head back against the wall. Sure enough, moments later Cherry whipped into the room and immediately engulfed George in a hug. George immediately began crying again, grateful for the familiar face and easy friendship.
“Oh Georgie,” Cherry muttered. “It’s all right. Leo will pull through this. I just know it.” Pulling away, she placed her hands on his shoulders. “Do you have somewhere to stay?”
“Um…” George hesitated to answer. “No. I-I don’t know h-how l-long Leo will b-b-be here.” Cherry wiped the tears from his red cheeks and smoothed his hair like a hovering mother.
“Then you’ll come stay with us. We can put you up in the spare.” Dante agreed readily.
“Until we know who those guys are and Leo is healed up, you got a place to stay. A safe place.” The Maxwell siblings knew all too well what it felt like to live under the threat of violence, never knowing when it was coming. Their parents were not loving people. It wasn’t until their Uncle John stepped in and removed them from their abusive household that their lives improved.
“Th-thank you.” Cherry smiled and squeezed George’s shoulders.
“Good! Now, why don’t you let Dante take you to get yours and Leo’s things. No one will dare fuck with you if he’s around.” George laughed. Cherry was right. Dante had a reputation as a fierce fighter both on and off the streets. A large man in a suit with a military haircut approached them.
“George Brighton?” George stood, his shoulders squared. “I’m Detective Folly from Scotland Yard. Sorry to take so long to get to you but your brother is in pretty bad shape.” George’s eyes welled up with tears and shone bright with fear he would lose his brother. Detective Folly gripped his shoulder. “Now none of that, lad. It’s not your fault.
“Y-yes it i-is,” he muttered. “H-he was def-defending me. I-it should b-b-be me in there. Not Leo.”
“You have any idea why they targeted you?” George shook his head.
“I’ve n-never seen th-them before.” Detective Folly scrubbed his chin. George wiped his face with his hoodie sleeve, his eyes widening. “I-I could describe them though.” Detective Folly smiled at him.
“I’ll get one of our forensic artists down here to get sketches, then. Give me just a few minutes to make that call, then how about you and I go grab a bite and you tell me what happened?” George nodded. Detective Folly walked away, his phone at his ear. George visibly relaxed, running his hands through his unruly hair.
Two hours later, after a hot meal and long conversation with the detective, George was sitting down with a sketch artist describing the boys who attacked him. Lyra’s phone pinged. It was a message from her mom. She quickly rang her.
“Hey Ma,” she said tiredly.
“Hello querida, how is your friend?” Lyra relayed the details to Mara. “Oh my God, that poor boy must be beside himself. How is Leo doing?”
“Well, he took three stab wounds to the chest. They fixed the ones that punctured his lung but they had trouble with the one that was so near his heart. They were still working on him a few hours ago and we haven’t heard anything else yet.” Mara sighed audibly. Lyra knew what her mother was thinking. Mara Salvador would take the Brighton boys in and adopt them immediately if she thought she could get away with it.
“Ok querida. Keep me posted. Do you need anything?”
“No, Ma I’m fine. Dante and Cherry are here. George is with the sketch artist so hopefully we’ll get an ID on those thugs soon.” George was back in the waiting room, followed by the sketch artist. “I gotta go, Ma. I’ll call you when I know more. I love you and give Tio a hug for me.” Lyra disconnected the call. The artist sat next to George, crossing her legs and balancing her sketch pad on her lap.