Peanut Butter and Crackers

“What’s in the box, Skinner?” Detective Bradley Carville asked as he tossed the wrapping aside and rummaged through the package uninvited.  “Hey!  What’s this? Peanut butter and chocolate jogging shorts? I’ve got a pack of crackers, let’s eat!”

Detective Christopher Scanlon grabbed at the package. “What can I say; my wife likes her chocolate melted!” Carville eluded Scanlon’s grasp and tossed the shorts back in the box.  Their eyes locked as the visual of wearing chocolate while jogging etched itself in their minds.  “Yuck,” they said in unison.  Carville pulled out his hanky and dabbed at the tears streaming down his cheeks, then reached over and dabbed at Scanlon’s face, who swatted Carville’s wrist away.

“Are you for real?” Scanlon demanded. “What are you my mother?”  Just then Scanlon’s desk phone screamed, startling the pair.  “Detective Scanlon,” Skinner barked into the phone as he scribbled information in his log book. “Okay, we’re on our way.” He slammed down the receiver and tucked the log book into his breast pocket.   “Let’s go, Carville.  I’ll brief you on the way.”

“No rest for the wicked, eh Skinner!” said Carville as he bounded after his partner.

“We’re going to Findlater.” Scanlon said once they were out of town on Highway 11.

“We’re going to find what later?”

“Findlater, my friend, is a noun not a verb! It’s a town about 41 miles to the southeast.  The local RCMP picked up a runaway teenage girl with a horrific story to tell.  The constable said it’s not for the faint of heart.  Carville, I know you when it comes to enforcing the law but the girl we’re going to interview is raw.  You need to keep your fat self, your “I just sucked a lemon” looking face on the other side of the two-way mirror.”

“Come on Skinner, I can’t help it. It simultaneously appears when I open my log book. FYI, I’d prefer it if you used the word portly when discussing my stature.”

“Sorry Brad.  Did you know you are referred to, by everyone in the squad room, as By the Book Carville because of the amount of time you take to detail in your log book?  God sent you to teach us all tolerance and patience, partner.”

Once they had arrived at the RCMP detachment Skinner said “Carville, I’m going to talk to her alone.  If she gets even the tiniest glimpse of that sour puss of yours she’ll clam up.  Stay here “By the Book”, take notes.”

They were standing at the two-way mirror watching the girl in the interrogation room.  She was only fourteen years old, but when they looked into her green eyes they got a sense of vast horror, ancient and life altering, horror and angelic innocence existing in the same moment.  According to the RCMP officer who picked her up, she seemed unaffected by the fact that she had been detained and just kept saying, “You have to save my brother!  Please, you’re wasting time!”  That look had come into her eyes the moment the constable mentioned taking her back to her foster parents, and had been there ever since.

Skinner’s empathic nature made this almost unbearable for him, but he always won that war and nurtured his victims into telling their stories and this poor young girl would be no exception.  He would purge later.  He gently pulled the gruesome details from her, wiping her tears, hugging her when she became overwhelmed, holding her hand to give her courage to forge on.  Carville could see the darkness lifting from her eyes as Scanlon worked.

She wanted to make it clear that she was not abused by her parents, but her step-brother was.  She told Scanlon that he was locked up in a closet, and had been there for at least six months, with fencing wrapped around each leg and his body, chained into place.  He was being starved and when they did feed him they made it as unpalatable as they could.  Often they doused his food with hot sauce.  He was made to soil himself because they didn’t let him out to go to the bathroom. When it was discovered his stepmother would rub his own feces in his face and his father would urinate on him. If he did scream to be let out to go pee, his stepmother would pour dish soap in his mouth and just leave it there.  It would run down his chin and the soap would leave an irritating rash.  When her parents did leave the house, the girl would let him out and feed him cereal and smooth cream on his chin to soothe the soap burn.  The interview lasted about an hour.  On the other side of the two-way mirror, the Constable and Carville discreetly dabbed at their eyes.

The only judge in town was in court so Skinner had to go to the justice of the peace a few counties over to get the arrest warrant.   After what felt like an eternity, Scanlon and Carville rescued the boy and his parents were incarcerated.  Scanlon had the little boy on his knee in the squad room waiting for his auntie to pick him up. “Are you hungry buddy?”

“Yeah.”  the boy replied.

Scanlon opened the box his wife had sent him. “Let’s see what I have.  Do you like peanut butter and chocolate?”

“Yeah.”

“Carville, throw me a pack of your crackers man.”

Once the boy had left, the squad room christened the partners with a standing ovation. Peanut Butter and Crackers became their nicknames for the rest of their careers.

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