“Alice?” Laura asked, but instead of explaining, Levi turned, wished them good day and walked out. They listened as he made his way back to his car and wished the boys good day too before taking off.
“She’s our social worker and parole officer.” He walked out behind his table.
“I didn’t know the two can be done together?”
“It’s a small town.” He closed the door, leaving them inside the office and turned back to Laura. “Now, would you kindly explain me, how he knows that I have a criminal under my roof and I don’t?”
“He’s not a criminal!” She protested, taking a step back. She closed the folder after a second thought and locked her arms over it as if to protect whatever information she kept there.
“Which one of them?” Maksim asked calmly. He didn’t think any of them really were criminals, but he was starting to understand they weren’t quite the choirboys either.
She gulped. So there were more than one, he guessed? He leaned against the door, blocking her escape root.
She winched and looked away.
He repeated his question. He wasn’t angry, but he wanted to know. She should have told him, but then again, he didn’t plan to be here at all and thus she probably thought to save the mess this would certainly create. Or make him doubt in his decision to take them in in the first place.
“Laura?” He asked quietly. “How many?”
“Kaspar is the only one with the record.” She whispered, still clutching to the folder. Her eyes remained on the counter with a small image of his great-great grandparents, who had bought the homestead for their family.
“Sit before you fall over.” He suggested and waited her to do so before moving away from the door. He rounded the table and sat on the chair.
“He was caught shoplifting last year.” She blurted quickly before he landed on his seat. “He tossed a bottle at the cashier, when he saw them and the man was hit in his chest with it. They didn’t jail him, underage, you see, but he has to meet Seiler every other week for two years. I went to see him at the orphanage when it happened, he didn’t write to me about it, but Jevgeni somehow heard and contacted me. I made him swear a pirate’s oath he would never shoplift again.” It must have sounded as ridiculous to her ears as it did to him, for she explained. “He’s crazy about them since the movies came out. He respects Sparrow more than the caretakers.”
“I thought they were not for little kids?”
She smiled wickedly. “Private viewing sessions after night hours?”
No parental guidance there, he gathered.
“Them?” He remembered what he wanted to ask. “Were any other boys involved?”
Her eyes darted aside again and he seriously thought about reaching out and locking her face into one place.
“Petro and Ergo.” Her voice slipped, but she wouldn’t look up nor expand on it.
“Weren’t they separated?” This was confusing.
“They were, but Ergo knows how to go between the districts and Petro never keeps to the rules, so…” her voice grew quiet as she went on until it was almost impossible to hear. Before he could ask her to repeat what she said last, she looked up and shouted. “I’m sorry! I know this looks bad, but hadn’t they joined that stupid game online, they would have never done it! I swear!”
He raised his hand up. Ok, so she believed they weren’t guilty, but this wasn’t helping anyone if she closed her eyes in front of the problem. “Kasper was the only one to get caught?” He asked instead, deciding it wasn’t the time to press on her blindfolds. She was after all trying to protect them against what she considered an outsider.
“No. But the shopkeeper specifically recognized him as the one, who tossed the bottle at him.”
He nodded. “Alright.”
Her shoulder slumped.
“I would have preferred to hear it from you, not from Levi, but ok, that’s done, so…” he thought for a moment. “Is there anything else I should know about?”
She froze for a moment, thinking. He waited. She was whipping through her mental library and each time there seemed to be something she hesitated about, her eyes stopped for a second, then the rolling behind them continued. Her shoulders squared. “No.” She shook her head and Maksim knew she was lying. “Nothing to worry about.”
“No other obligations we can’t avoid?”
She sucked in her lower lip and started chewing on it, but her gaze remained on him and she quickly shook her head. Liar.
“How about Jevgeni?” He asked instead. The boy had bothered him for a while now. Not so much bothered, but puzzled to no end. He acted so much older than any of the kids of his age he’d encountered. Usually, eleven year olds didn’t act like substitute teachers or got attached to toddlers. Yet outside this room was one, who, though a bit lacking in knowledge, managed to rule in his little kingdom as if his subjects were nothing more than toys needing to be lined up for inspection.
He watched Laura’s abdomen tighten under the thin shirt.
“What about him?” She demanded, suddenly defensive.
“What does he have?” He hoped keeping calm tone would show her he wasn’t searching excuses to send them away. “He’s taking pills four times a day without a miss without being reminded, which means he’s done it for a very long time.”
Laura sighed, her eyes bleeding him not to ask.
“Why ask is that…” He thought for a moment. It was hard to put it in words. “When I look at him, I sometimes have a feeling like he is trying to live a full life in as short period of time as he can. As if convinced he won’t have time for it.”
Her posture stiffened and he felt like a jerk.