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Jan. 29, 2036, 2:45 a.m.
14 Years, 307 Days Ago
Paul didn’t have any luck finding Stacy until social media revealed just how badly he’d hurt her new boyfriend. Apparently, the man had ended up in the hospital for a dislocated knee. He walked through the sliding glass doors and stepped to the middle of a waiting area composed of hard plastic chairs. He turned, just trying to get his bearings, and nearly tripped over Stacy, who yelped in shock as his arm just missed slamming into her.
“What the hell are you doing here!?”
Paul placatingly held up his hands and took a few steps back. “I’m only here to say you were right.”
It was hard to tamp down the anger again. His thoughts seem to argue with themselves.
She cheated on me!
I never treated her right.
Does that mean she can sleep around?
It means I failed her every bit as badly as she failed me.
She scowled at him. “You’ve done enough.”
Paul took another step back. “I only came to say you were right, and I’m sorry.”
“You’ve said it!” For someone so beautiful, that enraged face held a special piercing horror to it.
“What’s going on here?” A police officer stood in the near hallway. Apparently, Paul’s apology and Stacy’s reaction drew the attention of the staff, but that actually did Paul a favor.
“I’m here to turn myself in,” Paul said.
“What are you doing?” Stacy’s face scrunched up in confusion.
“The right thing,” Paul answered. He turned his attention to the police officer. “My name is Paul Autumn. I’m responsible for putting .. “ He looked at Stacy. He didn’t know the man’s name. “Whoever it is she’s with, I’m the one who hurt him. I’m turning myself in.”
The police officer, a slender man with a face that somehow seemed to sag, looked from Paul to Stacy. “Young man,” he said, “I need you to understand that anything you say can and will be used against you.”
“I know,” Paul said.
“Are you sure?” The officer asked.
“What are you doing?!” Stacy’s face shifted to one of confusion. Was she worried, or was it Paul’s hopeful imagination?
“I already told you,” Paul said. “I’m doing the right thing.” He looked back at the police officer. “I’m responsible for that guy being here, and I’m sorry. I’d like to leave my insurance and number with the nurse before you arrest me.”
The police officer’s brown eyes widened in shock, and he let out a chuckle. It looked like he’d just tripped and fallen on a PID containing a million dollar account number. “Um, that’s not really how it works.”
“Ok.” Paul turned his back to the officer and crossed his hands behind his back. He turned his head so he could see Stacy.
“Why are you doing this?” she asked.
Paul smiled at her. “Because people should be accountable. Tell your new boyfriend I’m sorry for what it’s worth. And for how I treated you, I’m sorry for that, too.”
He hadn’t actually intended to turn himself in, but the moment the police officer showed up, it felt right. How many beatings had his father handed down before he wound up in prison? He wouldn’t go that far. He’d pay for what he’d done. It was all probably over. His scholarship. His experiment. Any hope of a job was probably down the drain given he’d have an arrest record.
The police officer put the cuffs on him and read him his rights. As he did, Paul had a thought.
“Would you tell Jordan what happened?” He asked Stacy.
She stared at him for a long moment before giving a quick nod.
That was something, at least. They’d probably let Jordan stay in school. Paul decided to invoke his right to remain silent during the entire drive. He contemplated everything that led to that moment and decided it was probably how it was always going to go. He was always like his father. He was always just one explosion of anger away from what he’d done.
By the time he reached this realization, the officer had pulled into the police station. Booking consisted of a mug shot and fingerprints. Somewhere along the line, he asked that a lawyer be provided for him. They put him in a large, white room that only had a few chairs.
He sat there, playing everything over in his mind again.
He wasn’t sure if he’d fallen asleep or if he just blinked, but the sound of the door opening drew his attention. The same police officer who arrested him entered. He looked somehow both annoyed, with furrowed eyebrows, and amused, with a slight grin.
“You said you hurt him,” the officer said.
“I did.” Paul didn’t bother to hide his confusion.
“Well, I suppose you did at that, but you made it sound like you tried to kill him,” the officer said.
“I almost did,” Paul said.
“I don’t know about that,” the officer said. “His knee was reset. He’ll limp for a time, but he should be fine after a few months if what the doctors say is true.”
That was a relief in a way, but it didn’t change the fact that Paul had gone out of control. “I don’t understand,” he said. “You make it sound like I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Based on that young lady’s statement and her boyfriend, you didn’t,” the officer said. He stood up and waved a hand at the door. “You’re free to go.”
“No,” Paul said. “What … what did they say?”
The officer shrugged. “Said you two were doing some sort of stupid wrestling contest, and things went south.”
Paul let out a frustrated breath and shook his head. “That’s a … “
The officer held a hand. “Now young man, I’m going to interrupt your incredible act of well-meant stupidity.”
Paul froze, unsure whether to feel insulted or not.
“I imagine your story might be very different from theirs,” the officer said. “And I suppose only one of you can be telling the truth, but the problem I got is, that while you may be confessing to all sorts of things, if the supposed victims don’t report a crime, I have no case. So if you could just stop wasting my time and take the free chance you’ve been offered, I’m sure we could all use a little sleep and a perhaps a bit of time to think.”
Paul stood there dumbfounded. They’d lied for him? Why?
… to be continued …