We stop on a street that's all dark, some new suburb with skeleton houses and dirt everywhere. The laser looks thick in the sky now. I can see it all. David sits down on the curb and cries. He's still holding the little knife in his hand. He ran all this way with an open knife. I didn't even notice.
"We're almost to the laser!" I say, but David just cries harder. "Don't you want to see?" He shakes his head, and all my excitement is gone. I can't pretend anymore. I'm glad he's not wearing a dress right now. What if that fucker back at the house had turned on David first? What if he'd done something before I could react?
"I want to go back to the car," David says, and I sit down on the curb beside him and pull him into a hug. I squeeze him hard, and he shakes against me, silently.
"Richard will call soon," I say. "He'll come and get us, and we'll go get some ice cream or something." There has to be an all night ice cream place somewhere.
"I don't want any ice cream," David says. He looks down at the knife in his hand. Then he folds it up and puts it back in his pocket.
When Richard calls, he says "We can't just take him home. Are you crazy? We'd be arrested three blocks away." Someone in the background on his end says something. "Alex says we should leave him somewhere and then call the cops to tell them where he is."
"And how long would it take the cops to get there?" I say. "We just leave him in some McDonald's by himself to wait for the cops?"
"I don't want any McDonald's," David says.
"He doesn't even like McDonald's," I say.
"Nobody said anything about McDonald's, man," Richard pauses. "Listen," he says. "There's got to be a safe place we can leave him."
"Okay," I say. "I know where."
"Come get us," I say. "Just you, Richard. We don't need a car full of people."
"Where are you?" he says. I look around.
"Hey," I say to David. "Run over and take a look at that street sign."
In the car I sit in the back with David. I tell Richard how to get to Mrs. Hubert's neighborhood. I straighten my dress and pull my seatbelt on. David isn't crying anymore, but he's staring out the window.
"Hey, have you got the Internet?" I say, and David nods without looking at me. "There's a book you can download off the Internet called The MIT Guide to Picking Locks," I say. I have my lockpick set in hand, and I reach out to place it in his hand. "You just read it again and again until it starts to make sense to you," David is looking down at the lockpicks in his hand. "There are other guides and things on the Internet, but the MIT one is the best, I think,"
"Okay," David says.
Richard parks his car two blocks away, and David and I walk under the trees toward Mrs. Hubert's house. I want to say something to make him feel better about stabbing the guy, but I don't know what I'd say. I don't know what it would mean if I convinced an eight year old that it was alright to put a knife in someone. Would it be worse to have him grow up afraid of his own ability to be violent? What if he got so afraid that he wouldn't defend himself?
"Hey David," I stop walking and sit down on the curb. David stops, too. He's holding the lockpick set in his fist, and in the streetlight he looks more tired than scared. "Do you think it's okay to hit a girl?"
He looks at me for a long time.
Mrs. Hubert's husband answers the door and takes one look at us and closes the door again. I ring the doorbell again, and this time Mrs. Hubert answers. She looks tired too, and I realize that I have no idea what time it is.
"Can you call his dad in the morning?" I say, putting my hand on David's back.
"Is he the boy that's gone missing?" Mrs. Hubert asks, and I nod. "He's okay?" She kneels down in front of him, and I kneel beside him.
"Mrs. Hubert will take care of you until your dad comes to get you, alright?" I lift up his hand and tap on the lockpick set. "You keep this hidden, or your dad will take it away. You keep it a secret," I say.
Mrs. Hubert is looking at me, now. "What about you?" she says. "You look tired."
Later on, Richard will refer to this whole thing as "making the drop" and he'll talk about the time we "burlap sacked the son of a political figure." Richard will tell the story of this meeting like we had planned it this way all along. We get the kid, take him out, have a homophobe shout and threaten him, and have the kid stick up for himself, stab the asshole and we drop him off before bedtime. If he mentions Mrs. Hubert at all, he probably won't have her say "You look tired." He'll probably have her say something else, something trite and expected and designed to make us look like heroes.
He definitely won't tell anyone that I stand back up and smile at her. He won't tell anyone that I say "I am tired."
David gives me a hug goodbye, and as I walk back to the car I try to think of something to tell Richard. I try to think of something we can do tonight, the four of us, some organization that needs their windows smashed, some slogan we can spray paint on every storefront.
Back in the car, Richard says "What happened?"
I sit, looking out the window at the suburbs we pass, still trying to think of something we can do.
"She said she'd give the police a call in a half an hour, so that we could get far enough away."
"She gave me a hug, too," I say. I should have washed the blood off of David's knife, I think. I roll down the window and stick my hand out, enjoying the feeling of the wind on my skin.