Matthias set the wad of newspaper beneath the two logs on the fire, and lit struck a match. He stayed crouched long enough to be sure the wood was going to light, then rose. The cabin was secure enough that he hadn’t bothered to relight it earlier. He’d have to turn on the propane tank and generator in the morning though, if he wanted hot water. He shrugged, then sat down, letting the gun rest on his knee as he waited for the would-be thief to wake up.
It didn’t take long. Maybe a minute. The kid came awake with a jerk, and immediately began yanking at the handcuffs securing him to the column. “Knock it off.”
The guy’s eyes widened when he saw Matthias, and he swallowed. The expression on the dumbass’s face was almost comical. “Who the fuck are you?”
“Kid…” Matthias rubbed his forehead with his free hand. “If I’d broken into a cabin only to get put in a sleeper hold by a guy twice my size that I never saw coming, then woke up handcuffed to a post with a gun pointed at my face, I’d like to think I’m smart enough to be a bit more polite.” He leaned forward. “So, the question is, who the fuck…” He narrowed his eyes. “Are you?”
“I didn’t know anyone was here.” The kid started shaking his head frantically. His blue eyes looked frantic.
“Sure, you didn’t. Who are you?”
“Look, you can just let me go, and you’ll never see me again, I swear.”
“Let’s try this one last time.” Matthias stood, setting his sights at right between the thief’s eyes. “Who the fuck are you?”
He swallowed. “Daniel.”
“And you were breaking in because…?” Matthias raised an eyebrow.
“Needed supplies and…” The kid swallowed again.
“Supplies are in the kitchen. You were after something else.” He shifted to aim at the kid’s kneecap. “Who sent you?”
“Nobody sent me.” The kid drew his knees up to his chest. “I needed money. I was looking for that or something I could sell to…” The kid cringed. “Please don’t kill me. I was just trying to get enough for gas and maybe a motel and oh god.” He was shaking now. “Please don’t kill me. I swear I didn’t know anyone was here.”
For the love of… The guy looked like he was about to start crying. “And of all the places to rob…” He shook his head. “You came here?”
“It was far away, nobody would see me and…” The kid’s voice caught a little. “I’ve never robbed anyone before and…” He shook his head. “It would take the cops a while to get here and not a lot of people use the cabins in the winter and I didn’t think anyone was here and…” He shook his head. “Please, I won’t tell anyone about this, I swear.”
Matthias started laughing. “All the places to break into, you pick mine. That’s…” He shook his head, and holstered the gun. He could smell the waves of terror coming off the guy. “You poor stupid fuck.” He started pacing. Even if he did feel like killing some hapless teenager, disposing of a body in subzero temperatures with three feet of snow on the ground didn’t appeal to him. And another storm was on its way. Kid would have no choice to stay in town, and if he talked to the wrong person… If they knew enough to be in town he was already screwed. He walked behind the column and started digging the keys out of his pocket. The kid tensed, then relaxed again when Matthias started removing the cuffs.
“I won’t say anything, mister. I swear.”
“Good.” Matthias leaned in close. “Saves me the trouble of pressing charges.” The kid flinched. “Get up.”
The guy stood up, swayed a little, and promptly passed out onto his floor. Matthias sighed.
Daniel woke to someone throwing water in his face. The big guy was kneeling next to him and actually looked a little concerned. Daniel blinked a couple times, then felt himself turning red. Some criminal he was shaping up to be. Get caught, then faint in front of the guy who caught him. He mumbled an apology as he started to sit up, and felt himself getting light headed again. He went still until the sensation passed.
“You sick?” The big guy raised an eyebrow.
“No.” He mumbled the word. “I’ll just…” He started to rise and nearly passed out again.
“You get sick on my…” The man frowned, and abruptly Daniel was hauled to his feet and rather unceremoniously dumped onto the couch. “Don’t move.”
He wasn’t sure he could have even if he’d been inclined to try the guy’s patience. The guy really was huge. At least six and a half feet tall and packing some serious muscle. He looked like he could break Daniel in half without even really trying. A couple moments later the guy came back out of the kitchen holding… Daniel blinked. A bottle of water and a packet of crackers. “I…”
“When was the last time you ate?” The guy held the items out to him.
They’d only had enough for one sandwich. She’d… “A couple days.” He took the offerings. “Thanks.”
“Eat and get out.” The guy shrugged.
He quickly ate a third of the crackers, and followed it with half the water before tucking the remainder inside his coat. He stood and started to look for the door, then glanced at the guy. He was probably going to get shot, but right now he barely had enough gas to get to town and nothing for when they got there. “If you’ve got money…”
“Ain’t giving you a loan.” The guy gave him an annoyed look.
“Wasn’t…” Last time he’d done this was at a bar, with a direction to run if things went bad. He hadn’t been half as desperate then. “Maybe I could do something for you.”
The guy moved faster than he’d have expected from a man that size. Daniel found himself slammed into the wall, his feet dangling a couple inches from the floor. “You can’t be serious.”
“I’m not calling you a fag…” Daniel immediately began shaking his head. “I’m not, honest. I was just…”
“You are six times stupid.” The guy laughed. “Cause no way in hell am I going to believe you were offering to shovel the sidewalk.” He let Daniel down.
“If it’ll get me fifty bucks…” Daniel shook his head. The guy was between him and the door or he’d have started for it. He sighed. “Getting your dick sucked doesn’t make you a fag.”
“Blowjob only costs twenty in town.” The guy rolled his eyes and chuckled.
The chuckle gave him a bit of nerve. “I’m saving you the drive.” If the guy was laughing, he wasn’t going to shoot. Probably. He hoped. “You wouldn’t have to shovel out the driveway.”
“You really are a dumbass.” The guy shook his head. And then, to Daniel’s surprise, he pulled out his wallet and offered him a hundred.
He took the bill, all but snatching it before the guy could reconsider, and shoved it into the pocket of his jeans as deep as it would go. “So, uh, what do you want…” The guy couldn’t expect him to make change. He resigned himself to do whatever the guy wanted. It wasn’t as if he had a choice, when it came right down to it. At least the guy was good looking. Understatement. He’d had vivid fantasies about guys that didn’t look half as good.
The guy frowned suddenly. “You eighteen?”
“And a half.” He nodded.
This was stupid. But the kid needed the cash and it was a long fucking drive down the mountain, even if he’d been inclined. Plus the kid was on the pretty side, and it had been a while. Matthias undid his belt as the kid got to his knees.
The kid went a little wide-eyed, but opened his mouth obediently. He leaned forward, taking Matthias in and starting to work his lips over the shaft. At least it was clear it wasn’t the guy’s first time at this. His tongue played over Matthias’ shaft as his head began bobbing back and forth. Matthias had to put a hand on the wall to steady himself. Little bastard had a mouth like a dyson. He groaned. Damn, it really had been a while, hadn’t it?
He shuddered when he came. And apparently, a hundred bucks is what it took to get someone to swallow. The kid wiped his mouth. Matthias hauled him to his feet. “If you’re telling the truth about being eighteen…”
“I am.” Daniel nodded, his eyes going a little wide again.
“There is a recruitment office in town. Get some food and a shower and go be all you can be.” He gave Daniel a shove toward the door.
“Thanks.” Daniel nodded again before fleeing out into the winter.
Matthias went back to the book he’d set down upon hearing the kid’s entry. Hopefully, the rest of the winter would be quieter.
And hell, maybe he’d even manage to get some sleep tonight.
Daniel stumbled a couple times on his way back to the car. It took him two tries to get the driver’s side door open. He slid into the driver’s seat and closed it behind him as fast as he could. “Anna?” He started the car.
The pile of blankets in the backseat stirred, and then she popped her head out. “What took so long?”
Yeah, there was no way he was going to tell her he’d got caught and blown a guy for a hundred bucks. “Took longer than I thought.” He passed her the rest of the crackers and water. “I got cash though. A hundred. How’d you feel about tacos?”
She grinned. “Can I get a churro?”
“You can get two of them.” He leaned over the seat and ruffled her hair.
Then he turned around and put the car into reverse. His foot pressed down on the gas pedal, and there was a loud banging noise. Smoke began pouring out from under the hood as the vehicle sputtered and died. “No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no…”
“Danny?” Snow began falling outside as his little sister repeated his name. “Danny?”
Matthias froze. A moment later, the sound repeated. Someone was knocking at his door. It was close to midnight, there was a snowstorm, and someone was knocking at his door. He drew the gun again and moved toward it quietly. He picked out, and then shook his head in frustration. He took a second look. The snow was already filling in, but there weren’t a lot of footprints. Maybe just his coming and going? Hard to tell in the darkness. The kid knocked again.
With a sigh, Matthias opened the door. The guy gave him an apologetic look. “The car…” He caught the guy by the front of his shirt and pulled him to the side. The figure behind him couldn’t have been much older than twelve or thirteen. Her hair was still in pigtails, peaking out from under her hat, and she was wrapped in a blanket that was covered in snow. Red pigtails, huge blue eyes, and freckles. Pippi fucking Longstocking standing in the snow with just a car blanket between her and the winter. He turned his gaze back to the thief. “Please.” The guy gave him a pleading look. “The temp is dropping and it’s already beyond freezing and…”
He made a growling sound, then hauled the guy into the cabin. He nodded to the girl. “Get in here before you freeze.”
Daniel watched his sister warming herself in front of the fire. The guy had given her a couple dry blankets and glared at Daniel as if considering punching his teeth out. He was starting to wonder if he dared ask about food when the lights suddenly came on. A minute later the big guy came back in, shaking snow out of his hair. Daniel was just a bit impressed that the guy had gone out in the cold in just a long-sleeved shirt.
He glared at Daniel again. “Propane is on. Soup is in the cabinet. Make two cans.”
Immediately, Daniel leapt to his feet to obey. Trying the guy’s patience really didn’t seem wise. He could keep an eye on Anna from the kitchen. Something told him the guy wasn’t going to hurt her.
A smile came to his face when he saw the cans of chicken noodle in the cupboard. Anna’s favorite. It only took him a couple seconds to find the utensils, and he got the stove lit on the second try. The big guy was walking around the cabin, peeking out the windows before securing them again. He was still wearing the gun and holster. Daniel swallowed as the guy paused at the kitchen door. “I’m sorry.” He shook his head. “There was nowhere else to go.”
“How old?” The guy’s voice was quiet.
“Twelve.” He swallowed. “She’s my sister.”
“Figured that out.” The guy shrugged. “Or you’d still be in the snow.” He narrowed his eyes. “Why the fuck is a twelve year old girl…” He made an angry sound. “Pregnant?”
His eyes widened. Anna wasn’t showing, so how’d the guy… He swallowed again. “That’s why we…” Daniel sighed. “My stepfather.”
“So go to the cops.”
“He is a cop.” Daniel sighed again. “Chief.”
“Well.” The big guy shrugged and glanced at Anna before narrowing his eyes. “Fuck the police.”
Despite himself, Daniel laughed. Then he held out his hand. “Daniel Thatcher.”
The big guy ignored his hand. “How much trouble have you brought me, Mr. Thatcher?”
“I…” Daniel looked down at where the soup was starting to boil. “I came home from school for Thanksgiving and found my baby sister pregnant by my stepfather, with my mother not giving a shit. I didn’t exactly plan this out.”
“It’s almost February.” The guy frowned.
“I was going to my grandfather, but when I called him he…” Daniel took a deep breath. “My mother got to him first. Told him I’d knocked Anna up and made up a bullshit story and…” He stopped himself before revealing that there were warrants out for him. After all, he’d tried to rob the guy earlier.
“And now?” The guy raised an eyebrow.
“I, uh…” Daniel ladled soup into a bowl. “I have no fucking idea.” The guy stepped back to let him pass.
Matthias glowered at the two kids sitting on the rug in front of his fireplace. The girl was working on her second cup of cocoa, and her skin was starting to show a healthy color again. “You have a nice cabin.” She looked around. “Most cabins have animal heads everywhere. Yours is prettier. I like the pictures.” She nodded at one. “Is that Venice? Or some other place with water streets? Did you take the picture or did you buy it?”
So much for a quiet, peaceful night. Matthias stood and went up the spiral staircase. He dug around in his dresser for a moment, then went to the closet before going back downstairs. He tossed a shirt and towel at the girl, then pointed. “Shower is in there.”
“I’ll be —”
“You smell.” He bet she hadn’t managed to wash her hair in a few days. “Shower.” He pointed at the door he’d come out of. “Bed is in there.” He tossed the blankets he was carrying onto the couch, then sat down next to them and glowered at her again. “Get.”
He didn’t need to tell her a third time. She grabbed the shirt and towel and fled into the bathroom as though she was terrified it would vanish if she hesitated. He turned to see Daniel staring at him. The guy swallowed. “Thanks.”
“Car fixable?” The sooner he could get them underway the better. The couch wasn’t long enough for him, and he wasn’t looking forward to sleeping in the floor.
“I think I blew the transmission. Or blew something. There was smoke.” Daniel drew his knees up to his chest, then suddenly dashed a hand across his eyes. “Maintenance light was on but…” He sighed, and leaned his head back onto the chair. “I ignored it.”
“The one that looked like a genie lamp.”
“The…” Matthias sighed. The oil light. Naturally. Kid had probably seized the engine.
Silence fell as Daniel began fidgeting. After a couple minutes, he looked up at Matthias. “You’ve got a gun.” Matthias just glared at him, and he shrank back a little. “I mean, you’re armed and you’re a scary guy and you…” He shook his head. “Can I start over?”
“Oh for…” Matthias nodded.
“Can we stay here?” The guy looked up at him.
“What?” He stared.
“It’s three degrees out there and my car is shot. All I’ve got is a hundred and that won’t feed her more than a week or two. I can…” Daniel shook his head. “Mister, I’ll do whatever the fuck you want, anything you want, as long as she’s asleep and doesn’t know about it. If you let us stay here and…” He swallowed. “They’re looking for us.”
“I think you are seriously overestimating your talent at blowjobs, kid.” Matthias sighed, and glanced at the bathroom door. Pregnant twelve year old kid, and all she had to rely on was a brother who shouldn’t have been off apron strings himself. “I’ll take you to the bus station when the storm clears, buy you tickets wherever you want.”
“We’ve got nowhere to go.” Daniel shrank in on himself.
“You don’t know jack shit about me, kid.” Matthias shook his head. “For all you know, I’m worse than what you’re running from.”
“If that were true, you’d have killed me. Or hurt me at least. You sure as hell wouldn’t have paid me double what I asked for.” Daniel looked up at him. “Please, mister. I’ll do anything I have to do to keep her safe. She’s my sister. I’ll blow you three times a day if that’s what you want, just…”
For a long time, he just stared at the kid. A grudging sense of respect was creeping its way in. “So that’s your offer? I let you stay, you warm my bed?”
“Mister if it keeps my sister safe I will light your world on fire.” Daniel nodded.
“I ain’t gentle, kid.” Matthias narrowed his eyes.
“If you were, I wouldn’t be making this offer.” Daniel drew in on himself just a little. “Long as you protect her, I’ll do whatever you want.”
Whatever. He was probably going to hell already anyway. “You can stay.”
“Just wait until she goes to bed, and I’ll…”
“Can it.” Matthias shook his head. He frowned at Daniel. “Tell me you’re at least gay or bi or something.”
“I am.” Daniel gave a half hearted and kind of embarrassed shrug. “Gay. So uh…”
“Stop talking.” Matthias rubbed the back of his neck. He glanced at the bathroom door, then growled. “She seen the doctor?”
“Doctor will dun us in.”
“I’ll take that as a no. Kid, twelve year olds aren’t made to carry babies.”
“I’m a paramedic, I know what to —”
“You’re a paramedic?” He raised a skeptical eyebrow.
Daniel looked away, then nodded. “That’s why I went home. Celebrate getting my certificate.” He looked up at Matthias. “I really am eighteen and a half, honest.” He swallowed. “If I take her to a clinic they’ll ask questions and search her prints or something and…”
“You’ve got warrants?”
“Just tell me that car wasn’t stolen.”
“No, it’s mine.” Daniel shook his head. “I bought it.”
“And registered it to yourself?”
Goddamn pup chasing his own tail. “She gets out of the shower, you get in.”
“Is there a washing machine?”
“Garage. You’ve got stuff in the car?”
“Yeah, I couldn’t carry everything and get her through the snow.”
“Gimme your keys, I’ll go get it.”
“It’s below freezing out there.” Daniel shook his head as he handed over the keys. “You’ll —”
“Cold don’t bother me. Need to think.” He glanced at the door as the shower turned off. “Wait fifteen or so for hot water.” He rose, and headed out.