Mitch dressed casually. He wasn’t really sure how this poker thing was going to go down. His plan was to fold early, but he had a feeling this shadowy figure wouldn’t let him off the hook too easily. He thought he could lose up to a thousand dollars before his father would be too alarmed. It was easy for the mayor to juggle some thing in the books. Someone probably owed him a favor large enough to cover a mere thousand.
Mitch met the Shadow in the alley behind Mark’s. He still couldn’t see the guy’s face. He followed him through the back door.
“This stays on the downlow. Or you’ll be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
“Prosecuted? But I..”
“Rape is a serious offense, Mitch. All it takes is the word of the victim.” A deep voice interrupted him.
“Sheriff Davis?!” Mitch’s eyes widened.
“You thought you knew this town, sonny. But you’re only scratching the surface.” The Sheriff pulled out a chair and seated himself with his beer. “Have a seat. I’ll deal.”
Mitch sat, feeling his heart in his toes.
Mitch was down a thousand dollars. He was ready to just walk out. But the stern eyes of the Sheriff glued him to his seat. He was sure the deck was stacked against him.
“What’cha got boy?” the Sheriff sneered, he took a swig of his brandy.
“A pair of threes.” He laid his hand faceup. “I think I’m done Sheriff, you certainly know your game!”
“Naw, you sit, boy.” Flattery wasn’t going to get him out. “One year of diapers is what this is. Your bastard child better potty train real fast.” He added my chips to his large pile.
“Sir, I’m sure any child of mine will be cared for.”
“Is that so? I bet you ain’t never worked a day in your life.” He leaned back, puffed out his chest. “I think you oughta take some responsibility. Get a job. Pay off your debts.”
“Deal him in.” The Sheriff happily let his brandy sit. He had a good hand.
An hour later, Mitch was down ten thousand dollars. The Sheriff took his Rolex, his clothes, his shoes, and told him he still owed 8 thousand and his Daddy had better not help.
JoAnn ate her dinner voraciously. Her mother remarked that she was glad to see her appetite back. Her father reminded her that she was not to leave the house this evening, nor call anyone on the phone. She retired to her room.
Under her bed she’d hidden a few books she’d checked out from the library on the way back from the clinic. She opened Your Pregnancy And You and used the little calendar to figure out how far along she was. About six weeks. Her baby was barely a speck inside, but already it had a heartbeat.
She picked up the next book Demons: A Guide and thumbed through it halfheartedly. She didn’t really believe the crazy old witch woman. How could a human baby turn out to be a demon? The book clearly showed incantations, or some sort of legend to be the source of them. Nothing about demon babies.
There was a knock on her door. She jumped and hid the books under her pillow as the door opened.
“Honey, are you okay?” her mom asked. She sat on the edge of the bed beside JoAnn.
What did she suspect?
“Yeah, I’m fine. Why?” JoAnn tried to look innocent.
“You’re habits are changing. You haven’t eaten breakfast the past few days, then you eat constantly when you get home after school. You seem to be gaining weight. You’re either depressed or pregnant!” Her mother laughed at this, but her brow remained wrinkled between her eyes, signaling that it didn’t ease the tension at all.
JoAnn didn’t know what to say. She either lied to her mother, or she confessed everything.
“And sneaking in late at night.. well?” Her mother was prodding, hoping for a great excuse.
JoAnn’s stomach did flip-flops, reminding her of the child in there even more and distracted her from finding that great excuse. Her Mother took the silence to mean an affirmation of her worst fears, but she wanted JoAnn to tell her. “Honey, I promise not to tell your Father right now.”
“I’m being responsible about this, Mom! I was stupid, it was an accident, and I went to take care of it, but I couldn’t do it!” JoAnn started to cry.
Cal was doing a few reps on his mother’s home gym. He’d never really had any motivation to work out. The only girl he wanted didn’t care if he was buff or not. But he found that the repetition allowed him to think.
JoAnn was going to keep the child. This meant she was going to show soon and people would notice. No way could she tell everyone it was Mitch’s. She could either make up an imaginary boyfriend from some city school, or she could say it was his. He wouldn’t mind taking the rap for her; it would be just another sacrifice to the pile. But she probably would rather make up a fake boyfriend. He sighed. Would she ever see him as more than a friend?
The phone rang. He thought it might be JoAnn, but then he remembered she was grounded. Probably some salesman, but he picked it up on the third ring. “Hello?”
“Is this Cal?”
“This is Hannah, JoAnn’s Mom. I know she’s supposed to be grounded, but her Father’s out for the evening, and I think she would like you to come over.”
“Uh.. Okay.. sure.”
Cal drove to JoAnn’s farm wondering exactly who had asked for his presence. He hoped it was JoAnn, but knew it probably wasn’t.
“Cal!, Please come in.” JoAnn’s mother opened the door wide, but didn’t smile.
JoAnn was sitting at the table, tears still evident on her face. “Have a seat.” Hannah pulled out a chair beside JoAnn. He sat, feeling this was more an interrogation than a social call.
“Please tell me what is going on.” Mrs. Arnold’s eyes leveled and looked back and forth between the two. Cal looked a JoAnn and she sighed. He wanted to take her hand, but under the scrutiny of her mom, chose not to.
“I went to that party and I guess someone spiked the punch. I drank too much, and flirted with this guy and I thought I liked him; thought he was someone else, but he’s not.”
“This guy wasn’t Cal?” Mrs. Arnold looked surprised.
“Who was it?”
JoAnn teared up again, face contorting and reddening. Cal took her hand this time.
“He’s not going to take of her. That’s all you need to know.”
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