Logan pounced up the stairs from his trip to the picnic table. They had halted the story when Jeannie started making sandwiches, eager to get something in their bellies other then Twinkies and beer. After finishing up with lunch they returned to their seats on the deck when the others slowly drifted back to the water and lakeside.
Hank took his dessert out of the quickly emptying box of snack cakes. Bobby had managed to snag two from him at the lunch table, which caused an uproar, and a lot of wrestling in the yard. He picked a piece of grass from his fur and flicked it towards the ground. "So where were we?"
"Somewhere around that asshole of a doctor ya worked with and you getting to play big shot with Remy." Logan grabbed the bag of chips and opened them with a pop of the bag. Four ham sandwiches was more of an hors d'oeuvre then lunch, he couldn't wait until dinner.
"Ah yes, that is when I found out about the Antiquary."
"The who? The kid stayed with an antique dealer?" Logan raised and eyebrow while stuffing a handful of chips into his mouth. He couldn't imagine an old man with dusty trinkets being all that scary.
"No, this man didn't collect antiques. He collected children, but I didn't know that at first. I was as clueless as you were. It took me a little while to get the whole picture......"
"Henry, he's awake." Mary whispered as she pointed at the room across from her desk. The two way mirrored window showed the boy stirring in his bed.
He had made arrangements with the other doctors and staff, making sure he was the small boy's soul caregiver. After explaining that the boy was terrified of people in general everyone understood. He made it very clear that he was the only one to enter the room, unless there was a emergency. Since the boy did not have any major physical injuries, that should not be a problem. The boy was malnourished and slightly dehydrated, but nothing life threatening. He planned on introducing the necessary staff slowly so it would be less traumatic for the boy. Before doing that he wanted to establish exactly what was going on. He had time to read over the records and the information from Dr. Blanchard's initial exam. The results were gut wrenching. Not only was the boy too small for his assumed age, due mainly to malnutrition, he had bruises, cuts, and scars of various ages that would suggest the boy was beaten on a normal basis. There were no signs of sexual abuse, so that eased his heart a little. He was happy that arrangements were made with the child psychiatrist on staff, the boy would most defiantly need it.
He looked at the chart again, surprised at how thick it already was and he had not even found out the boy's name. He took a deep breath and slowly pushed open the door. It tugged at his heart to watch the boy quickly bow his head, and even in his weakened state try to lower himself before him. He shook his head in disbelief at this action. He sat down at the end of the bed and watched the reactions of the boy closely. He heard a small whimper escape the boys lips and the trembling began again. He had learned to hold back his instinct to reach out to the small child, it only caused the boy stress. "I will not hurt you. Will you sit up and look at me?"
The boy obeyed and sat up, his head still bowed and his eyes cast downward. He sat folded on the bed, his hands in small fists on his lap. Hank cringed at the almost automatic way the boy took the position. Someone had trained him to do this. This was going to take a lot more work then he thought.
"Will you open your eyes and look at me please?" Hank ducked his head in attempts to see if the boy's eyes when he didn't comply. He could see the tears rolling down the child's cheeks. He could not imagine how scared this poor boy was. He decided it best not to push the request, it may make him come off as more threatening. Maybe an explanation was in order.
"It is alright if you do not look at me, I understand you are frightened. My name is Henry. I am a doctor, and this is the hospital I work in. You were brought here to me because you are ill. Do you understand?" He saw the single nod come from the boy, he wondered if the boy truly understood, or if he was programmed to do that when asked a question. "I want you to know that you will not be harmed while you are here. Whoever hurt you before was very wrong...." He stopped when the boys breathing picked up, almost to the point of hyperventilating. "Please tell me what's wrong. You can talk to me, you will not be punished."
"Take me back." the boy whispered.
"Take you back where?" Hank questioned. Seeing the hesitation he coaxed the boy a little. "You can talk to me, you will not be punished for it. I want you to speak when you want to. I would like it if you looked at me as well."
The boy slowly lifted his eyes to look at the doctor. He was hesitant and leaned away slightly, fear of being punished for his actions. After a long moment of silence he answered. "I have to go back to the Antiquary."
Hank smiled inwardly at the progress. At least he had the boy talking and looking at him. "Why do you want to go back to the Antiquary?"
"I have to, he will punish me if I leave. If he finds out I'm gone he will hurt me when I return. We're not allowed to leave. I shouldn't have gone outside, but it was so hot. I shouldn't be here."
"Right now this is where you belong. You are sick and hurt. You will not be going back to this Antiquary. He hit you, and that is wrong. No one has the right to hurt you like he did. You know that what he did is wrong right?" He watched the boys reaction in confusion. The boy refused to answer the question and his eyes darted around the room in panic. "Is there something wrong?"
"You can't talk like that, he will hear you." the boy whispered.
Hank shook his head. "No, he will not. You are safe from him now. He cannot hurt you here."
The boy's eyes widened. "Really?" he choked out in disbelief.
"I promise. No one will hurt you while you are here." Hank sighed heavily when the boy looked down at his bruised wrist. He cursed Dr. Blanchard for what seemed like the millionth time that day. "I am sorry about the restraints. Those were not meant as punishment. They were put on so that you would not pull out the IV in your sleep." Hank pointed at the IV that was now in his opposite arm.
"Oh. I'm sorry for pulling the other one out. I didn't know...." The sentence was cut off by a large yawn. The boy quickly covered his mouth and trembled slightly, expecting punishment.
Hank smiled hoping to reassure the small boy. "I see that you are tired, so let me make this brief. There are two questions I want you to answer for me. First, what is your name?"
"Le Diable Blanc."
"What? That can't be your name." Hank was surprised when the boy made it very clear he was serious. He knew very little French, but he was sure that meant 'white devil'. He was not about to call a child that. "We will find something more appropriate to call you, alright?" The boy nodded. "Next question, are you hungry?"
The boy's eye lit up and he nodded. "Is it my time to eat?"
"It's your time to eat anytime you are hungry. You just tell me and I will get you some food. How about I go get you something right now?" Hank stood to go do just that when the boy smiled for the first time since he arrived.
"I like you as my new master." the boy whispered.
Hank stopped in his tracks and turned on his heals. He couldn't believe the boy just called him his master. "I'm not your master." He saw the boys confusion and tried to explain. "Listen, you have no master here. I will take care of you, if you need anything you just tell me, but I am not your master. There are a whole group of people that would love to help you, and you will meet them soon. Right now, I want to get to know you, not as your master, but as your friend. Understand?"
Remy nodded, still a little hesitant to believe he was actually free. Slavery was all he had known.
"Okay, I'm going to go get you some food, I'll be back in a little bit. Why don't you rest while I'm gone." He pulled the covers up and tucked the boy in. Happy that he didn't flinch from him. He didn't dare try and touch the boy yet, he didn't want to break the small thread of trust forming between the two of them. He picked up the chart from the tray and headed out of the room, closing the door quietly behind him.
He walked up to the desk and dropped the chart into it holding place. He startled when a hand dropped on his shoulder from behind.
"So? Is he alright?"
"Mary, you scared me half to death. He seems to be coming along. Whoever his guardians are they need to be arrested. The boy has been programmed, most likely by abuse." Hank fingered the business card in his pocket. He would need to call the police and inform them that the guardians, if found, needed to be questioned.
"Did he say anything about his parents or who was watching him?" Mary pulled out two chairs, forcing the doctor into one. She wanted to know everything about the boy, she would be the first nurse in there, and she wanted to know what to expect.
"He said something about the Antiquary. I'm not sure who that is....Mary?" Hank was surprised when Mary stood abruptly and ran from the desk to the two way window by the boys room. He stood and followed her over. "Is something wrong?"
"He was one of the Antiquary's? Oh Lord, the poor child." She rested her hand on Hank's arm for support. She never thought the legends were true. She thought the Antiquary was just a story told to bad children. Needless to say she heard it a lot.
"Yes, that is unfortunate, I'm glad I was called."
Hank turned and smiled at Dr. Olivier. She carried an almost cold air with her, to the common stranger she seemed emotionless and almost cruel. He knew better, she was totally different in front of the children she helped. When he first started working with her he had wondered which was the real Dr. Olivier, he decided that the face she showed the children was the real woman behind the doctors mask. "Alright, I am not from around her, who is this Antiquary?"
"There is little known about him. Very few have escaped his clutches. The handful that has gotten away from the foul man are too far gone to help. He is a collector of children, mainly mutants, or those believed to hold the genes. From what has been said he is obsessed with power and collects these children to control, so that they do not oppose him later. The ones that hold mutant powers, that are useful, he uses for his own gains, collecting other children or becoming trained thieves. The ones that possess weaker powers or none at all, are normally sold to the human slave trade or the black market for organ harvest. Have you been able to talk to him?"
"Only for a few moments, I believe I am gaining his trust. I don't think he is ready for another meeting with a stranger just yet." Hank pulled the others from the window when the boy opened his eyes and looked at the mirror inside his room. He wondered if those eyes could see through the deception. He didn't want to take the chance.
"Very well, I would like to see him as soon as possible. We are very lucky to have found the child so young. He may not have been damaged too much. My colleague has done some research with an adult that was once in the Antiquaries collection. I will contact him, maybe he will have some information that will stop us from going a wrong direction." She patted Hank on the shoulder and gave him a rare smile.
Hank walked to the window that Mary had drifted back to. "You may not want to stand here, I think he can see through this mirror with those eyes of his."
Mary nodded and stepped away, following Hank back to the desk. "I don't believe someone would be so cruel. He's an adorable child."
Hank sighed. He knew what that meant. He had watched the nurse do this with countless children. The second he let her in that room she would spoil the child to death. He had to admit that maybe that was something the boy needed. "When I let you in there you cannot attack him with your motherly obsessions, it will only scare him."
The nurse gave him a mock huff and put her fists on her hips playfully. "Henry! How dare you call my habits of spoiling a child rotten obsessive!" She winked at the doctor and carried on with her job.
Hank shook his head and headed to the kitchen below on his initial quest for food. As he stood in the elevator he pondered exactly what he had gotten himself into. He couldn't believe someone would keep children as slaves. He thought that was a practice that had gone extinct long ago. He had learned a lot about that real world through Xavier's school and being here in the Big Easy. Things he would have never seen on the farms in Illinois. Sometimes he wishes that he could have stayed on the farms and never witnessed any of this. He then realizes that the child downstairs probably wishes that to. He decided it was up to him to make a happy medium for them both. Someplace for them both to be happy where they are.