Sergeant “Big Joe” Fenton rapped his fist against the door frame of apartment 1215. Tan paint flakes helicoptored down to land among others on the dusty hallway floor. Gripping his holstered 9 mm Sig Sauer P226 pistol he called out, “Police! Someone in here call 911?”
The door crept inward. Dim hall light chased the shadows back revealing a boy, maybe ten years old, sitting on a stained pad in a rusty Western Flyer wagon. His legs ended above the knee.
“I did,” the boy said. Dark liquid eyes contrasted against the pallor of hollow cheeks. “It ain’t right what they did. I had to tell someone …”
“Who’s with you?”
“Nobody. Mama’s at work. She’s always at work.”
“What’s your name, son? What’s going on?”
“Name’s Andrew Robinson. Mama calls me Andy. Most people ‘round here call me ‘Stumpy.’” Holding the door handle, he reared back in the wagon lifting the front wheels up, pivoted and dropped the wheels back on the floor. “Cum’on.” Leaning forward he shoved his hands against the floor and sent the wagon rolling.
Fenton followed him into a small bedroom. Texas Rangers baseball posters were thumb-tacked to the wall. The clock radio on a cardboard box said 8:47 p.m. Andy had clambered onto a single bed brightened by a quilt.
Jabbing a forefinger at an Orion Observer 70 mm telescope he said, “I seen ‘em do it through that. They hanged the baby and then they beat it with a stick, or something.” Andy patted the bed behind the telescope. “Look for yer self – you’ll see.”
Fenton was too big to get between the wall and the bed so he lay across the mattress and put his eye to the scope. It focused on a lighted window in a corner apartment several blocks away. A curtain covering the window was shadow-darkened with the image of a small hanging body. Fenton blinked, and blinked again. The picture was as clear as it was going to get.
“You saw it, didn’t yah?” Andy swung his stumps around on the bed. “They hung him yesterday. Later they hit him with a stick, or something. I had to tell someone. Mama won’t like it, but it’s not right.”
“You did right, son.” Fenton made a mental note of the floor and the building across the way. “I’ll come back after I check it out. It may be a day or two before you hear from me. What’s your phone number and your mother’s name?”
Two days later Fenton tapped on Andy’s door. The tent-sized floral-print Hawaiian shirt he wore advertised it was his day off. “Get your Ranger’s cap, young man. You are coming with me.”
“Huh? Mama won’t like it. I didn’t do nothing …”
“It’s okay. I talked to your mother. Hurry up. Time’s wasting.”
Fenton grabbed the wagon’s handle and ignoring Andy’s questions, they were off. When they came to the apartment building the telescope was focused on and entered the lobby, Andy toppled out of the wagon onto the green tile floor.
“Yuh ain’t taking me there. No, sir. I’m going home.” Quick walking on his stumps, he headed out the door.
Fenton grabbed him and gently pacing him in the wagon. “Stay put, Andy. It’s okay.” They rode the elevator up. At number 1032, the policeman lifted the brass sombrero door-knocker and let it fall.
The door was opened immediately by an attractive, dark haired young woman. Her red lips parted in a smile. “This is the boy, yes? This way, please.”
In a corner bedroom a slender youth sat beside a desk tumbling a Slinky between his hands. He was about Andy’s age.
“This is Romero,” the woman said. “My son is blind. That white stick is to help him find his way. And that,” she pointed to a colorful paper mache Mexican man piñata hanging from the ceiling, “is filled with candy. It is for Romero’s birthday. But he hasn’t hit it with his cane, though he tries very hard.”
Relief washed across Andy. No one had died.
“If you can help my son, tell him where to swing, the two of you will have lots of candy to eat when it breaks open. Will you do it? Can you help each other?” Without waiting for an answer, she walked out of the room with Fenton and closed the door.
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