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CONTENTS



Foreword



An Innocent Time

WORD AND LAW

AMITY HOME FOR GIRLS



She Knows Too Much

THE MOPPET MURDERS

A DARKER DARKNESS

SINGING THE BLUES

GROUND ZERO



Nearing Maladaptation

DOG GONE



Thanks, and Further Reading









A World of Deviant Behaviors

#2: Harry Thresher



By Adan Ramie









Copyright 2017 Adan Ramie

All rights reserved.





This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, places, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.





License Notes

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only, and may not be resold or lent to other people. If you would like to share this book, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite e-book retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author!



Foreword



When I started the Deviant Behaviors series, I had two characters in mind. The first character was Lee, a girl with an addiction, a painful past, and something wrong inside of her. She’s the focus of A World of Deviant Behaviors #1.

The other Detective Harry Thresher, had already been part of a manuscript I had written for National Novel Writing Month (and then swore that the story would never see the light of day. Yeah. It was that terrible.), but I didn’t know her like I wanted to. She kept her secrets closed off behind a veneer of sarcasm, brute force, and a stunning number of cases closed. I knew I had to get to know her better – and writing down her memories as she let me know them was the only way to do it.

These are just a few of those stories. Enjoy.

- Adan



WORD AND LAW



The house smelled like sweet potato pie the day her father’s parents took her baby brother away for good. She was only six, and The Baby had been there to visit only a few hours when her paternal grandparents – whom she only knew from their irregular visits to her driveway to bring or take the baby – came to the house with a blushing rookie cop hanging his head behind them.

Harrison knew they were angry, but she couldn’t figure out why, so she kept talking to her little brother like nothing was going on in the front yard that should concern either of them.

“Say ‘Harrison’,” she said to the drooling toddler, then pushed the hair out of the boy’s eyes. She pointed to herself. “I’m Harrison.”

He mumbled something and grabbed a hunk of her hair with his fat, moist fist with a gurgle. She pried his hand off her hair, tucked it behind her ear, and smiled down at him.

“Harrison,” she said again.

The Baby looked away and blew bubbles. She didn’t understand why he wouldn’t say her name, and neither did her Pops and Gram. Earlier in the day, she heard them talking about it. Her Gram’s voice was hushed.

“They’re doing him a disservice,” Gram had said. Pops grunted back at her, like he did, and Harrison knew he was agreeing without a word.

When Gram discovered Harrison hanging out behind the door to the kitchen – her long, messy hair peeking around the doorway gave her away – she had been sent off with an apple and orders to find something to do besides meddling in their business.

She had been riding her bicycle in the driveway, but when she saw the familiar black-and-white car crunching up the gravel, she had dropped her bicycle and ran inside to tell her Pops he had visitors.

That was over an hour before, and Harrison was still inside, sitting with The Baby in the playroom, while her four grandparents argued in the front yard over the best way to raise a child. She tried not to listen, but her brother wasn’t much company, and she couldn’t help but overhear.

“Jesse, I know you’re only doing your job, but you need to step back,” her Pops said. Harrison knew he was mad because his voice had gone sort of hoarse. She could almost imagine him – his fists clenched, his whole body trembling with anger – and it made her grimace.

The boy in front of her kicked a leg at her. She grabbed it around the ankle and tickled his foot with her fingertips. He laughed, kicked again, and bucked on the bed. Then he rolled over, and she had to jerk him back by the ankle when he almost went over the side. His face puckered, but she shushed him and blew raspberries on his stomach to cheer him up.

“Mr. Thresher,” a voice she didn’t know said, and her Pops cut him off.

“That’s still Chief to you, Officer,” her Pops growled.

Harrison fixed the baby’s shirt and stared down at him. He gurgled and she smiled back, but she wasn’t paying any attention to him.

“Chief Thresher, I know that you feel you have rights here,” the man said, but her Gram cut him off this time.

“We do! That boy is our grandson, same as he is yours.”

“No, he’s not,” said another unfamiliar voice. It sounded like a woman, so Harrison knew it must be her Granny. “He’s ours now. Our son signed over his rights and made us his legal parents.”

“Some parents,” the old Chief said. “That child can’t walk nor talk, and he’s far past the age Harrison was when she did.”

Harrison smiled. She loved to hear her name on her Pops’ lips, and especially loved when he talked about how smart she was. She tickled her brother again, but the sleepy toddler yawned and pushed at her stomach with his little bare toes.

She got off the bed, picked him up with great effort, then carried him out of the play room and into her own bedroom. It had been her mother’s room when she was a girl, and though Harry never liked pink, she never asked for it to be changed.

“He’s got special needs,” her Granny said. “And I demand you turn him over to us immediately.”

Harrison put The Baby into his playpen and stared down at him. He looked normal enough to her, but she knew some people were different on the inside. She made a face at him. He smiled back, but his eyelids drooped.

“Take a nap, Baby. When you wake up, this will all be over.”

He closed his eyes. As soon as Harrison felt he was asleep, she walked over to the open bedroom window and peeked out. She could see all five adults standing too close together on the lawn, and it made her stomach squirm.

“Chief, the papers are in order. You need to let them take Cameron,” the young man in blue said. He looked as upset as any of the others.

“Why are you doing this?” her Gram asked her Granny.

Her Granny looked like she wanted to sock her Gram in the nose, and part of Harrison wanted to run outside to protect her. But it was her job to Watch The Baby, and that’s what she intended to do until her Gram or Pops told her otherwise.

“As soon as the papers were filed, we were no longer legally obligated to let you keep him anymore. We’re here to take him away from you before you do to him what you did to your daughter,” her Granny said.

Her Gram looked like she had been slapped, and Harrison’s face burned with shame for her other grandparents. Even she, just a little girl, knew they were doing the wrong thing. She pulled herself up by the windowsill so she could see them all better.

“What we did?” her Pops yelled.

The Baby started crying behind her, and Harrison shushed him but didn’t turn away.

“Your son was the cause of all her problems. If you hadn’t raised him to be a belligerent drunk, she would still be here, and no one would have cause to care for her children!”

Harrison let herself fall back to the floor and dried her eyes. She walked back to the playpen, reached inside and rifled through the blankets, until she found a pacifier. She popped it into his mouth and he quieted.

“Either bring him out, or I’m going in there,” her Gram said.

“Ma’am, I can’t let you do that,” the young cop answered. After a moment, he continued, “But I do have to ask you to bring the child out. He needs to go with his legal guardians.”

Harrison stood over the playpen and listened, but she didn’t hear another word. The front screen door opened and closed. Her Gram walked up behind her and put her hands on Harrison’s shoulders.

“The Baby needs to go home now,” her Gram said.

Harrison could hear that her grandmother was trying not to cry, so she put on a brave smile. “I’ll get him for you.” She reached into the playpen, and her Gram steadied her while she picked up The Baby. He squirmed, but didn’t cry again.

“You’re a good girl.”

The little girl carried her younger brother out of the bedroom she shared with her mother’s memory, through the house, and out to the front porch. When she got there, her Pops turned to look at her, and she dropped her eyes in shame.

“It’s okay, Harrison,” her Gram said.

Harrison walked down the front porch steps and across the grass toward the grandparents who had never asked her to spend the night, let alone fought to keep her, and handed The Baby up to the strange woman. The woman thanked her curtly, and Harrison ran back to stand behind her Pops. He put a hand on her shoulder and squeezed, and she let out the breath she had been holding.

“Take him,” he said in his gruff, old man voice. “Raise another one to be just like the last. We plan to do the same for the girl, but we’re going to warn her against men like him.”

Harrison watched as her grandparents left with her brother and the young cop bowed out with apologies behind them.

“Sometimes the law protects us; others, it betrays us.”

She wouldn’t know exactly what he meant until the first time the law sided against her, and she no longer had his hand on her shoulder to protect her.





Eight Years Later…





AMITY HOME FOR GIRLS





Harry stared out the window as the tired, overweight social worker drove, a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. The sign for the orphanage was in disrepair, and Harry's stomach seized up. She had known all along that the more she fought foster care, the worse her situation was going to get. She had heard horror stories from the other kids about the "bad ones" getting sent to orphan prisons. Harry didn't know how much of the story she believed, but she couldn't help herself anyhow.

Harry Thresher was an angry, resentful fourteen-year-old kid with a grudge against every woman who tried to replace her grandmother. She also had a vicious streak that rebelled against those foster homes whose "parents" were only in it for the hefty paycheck.

She eyeballed the looming stone structure that stood on the hill in the middle of the worst part of town, and wondered if maybe she had been braver when she had still felt like someone cared, even if they had all been strangers.

As the Amity Home for Girls grew larger in her sight, her fingers clutched more tightly on one suitcase she had insisted on bringing along. She absently traced the initials etched into the leather with one finger: HPT, the three letters that kept her sane over three years of frequent placement, misplacement, displacement and limbo. Harry Patrick Thresher had kept her solid and unbroken, despite neglect, abuse and horrendous loss, and he had left her all alone, succumbing to heart disease only weeks after her deadbeat father went back to prison.

"Harrison?" the social worker with the deep, scaly tan asked from the front seat, her tone terse. "We're here. Hustle up."

The girl snapped out of her reverie and jerked open her car door, hefting her suitcase and self out with the kind of attitude only a teenage girl could muster. She grimaced as she took in the nearly bare grounds, and wondered how the girls boarding here got any exercise at all.

"Come on," the social worker told her, holding out a haphazardly manicured hand that Harry ignored. She adjusted her suitcase and followed a few steps behind the plump, sour-faced woman.



"Well, look what just rolled up in this joint. Another skank." The girl who spoke leered at her from a darkened corner, her dark eyes somewhere between hatred and boredom. She was the darkest of her little clique, with shades of cocoa, burnt sienna, almond, pearl, and sand all around her, radiating like a deadly sunrise.

Harry gave her what she hoped was a withering look, then walked further up the echoing corridor, hurrying only a little to catch up after the jaundiced, bent spinster who ran Amity Home.

"Don't mind them," the crone said. "They're just bitter, and I can't say I blame them." Harry nodded but didn't say a word. The woman led her down another hallway, then another, in a maze that was starting to make Harry sick, when finally, they stopped. "We get more girls these days than we can truly handle. I can't turn away a soul, though I can't say you'll be comfortable. Sparse living," she said, clucking. She stopped at a closed door and rapped softly on the safety glass window.

A moment later, a girl about Harry's age peeked through the glass, recognized the Headmistress, then leaned back and unlocked the door. She opened it, they stepped in, and she closed the door immediately behind them. Harry knew the type. She was withdrawn, her head down, her eyes on her shoes, peering only occasionally through auburn bangs too long for her short-cropped hair.

The old woman ushered her two young wards into the room, which Harry admitted wasn't much. It held four cots, but only two were assembled near the far wall. There was a free-standing closet, its door lousy with bad hinges, standing ramshackle in a corner. The only decoration was a grimy window that gave them a decent view of a forest beyond the boarding house.

"I'll leave you two to get acquainted. Sharon, dear, I hope you'll help Harrison get unpacked and settled in." She winked at the girls. "I think I'll go on my rounds early tonight and see what those little mischief-makers are into so far." She shuffled out, closing the door behind her and leaving the two teenagers to gawk at each other awkwardly.

Harry's wan, shockingly pale new roommate sat down on one cot and gestured half-heartedly for Harry to take the one beside her. The girl looked surprised, then suspicious, but stayed silent for a while, watching Harry's movements as she started to pick through her meager belongings.

A moment later, she abandoned her suitcase to walk over to the window. She inspected the mottled view, then wrenched her hands on the bottom, barely able to budge it a few inches up. She turned to look at her new roommate, annoyed.

"What, are they afraid we'll get too much fresh air and get high off it?" she asked, then leaned against the wall, her arms clutched protectively across her small chest.

The girl gave her a curious look, then snickered, but didn't say anything. She was fiddling with a chunky black watch that was strapped as tightly as it could go on her thin wrist. Harry, not to be ignored or given the silent treatment, went back to her cot and snuck out a half a pack of cigarettes she had stashed from her last foster father's stash. Her roommate gasped out loud.

"You can't have those here," she said, reverently, and walked over to glance out the window in the door for the Headmistress like a born look-out.

Harry grinned and raised her shoulders in an amused shrug. "Can't help if I'm a smoker. And you can't please everyone," she said, then popped a cigarette into her mouth and fished a pack of matches from her coat pocket. "Do you want one?" she asked around the stick in her mouth, and the girl dragged herself from the door, which she had locked with the punch of a little grey button.

The two girls squeezed together under the window, smiling conspiratorially like old friends, and Harry lit each of their cigarettes in turn. She pulled in the smoke when she got hers lit, coughing low into her jacket sleeve, then blowing the remaining smoke out the slit in the window.

"So, I'm Harry," she said with a smile, her cheeks pink from coughing.

The girl smiled back, taking a long drag from the bummed cigarette and blowing it out in a slow stream, her lips cupped into the small opening of the window. "I'm Sharon."

Harry nodded and turned her attention to a group of smaller girls as they entered the courtyard below. "I didn't think girls that young would be here." She stubbed her cigarette out half-smoked and shoved it back into the crumpled pack. "I mean, I thought this place was just for..."

"Lost causes?" Sharon butted in, and Harry nodded. "Yeah, it is, mostly. But those kids are different. They're the ones with the health problems." Sharon blew out a few smoke rings, then stubbed her cigarette and pocketed the butt. "The kind that make people not want to adopt a kid. Cancer, AIDS, severe mental problems - stuff like that."

Harry made a face and pushed the window closed with one fist. "Well, isn't that shitty."

Sharon nodded. Harry could see the girl would be much taller if only she didn't slump so much, her shoulders pushed forward in automatic submission.

"People like to pretend they're basically good," Sharon said, "But they're really not."

Harry sighed, walked across the room, and flopped down on her cot. It screeched with protest. Sharon did the same, only more slowly, more gently, as if maybe she was made of paper. Harry wondered how easy it would be to break one of those bird thin bones, and ached a little inside for her strange new friend.

Both girls flipped onto their backs, and they stared silently at the ceiling, each girl examining her own fate. After a few quiet minutes, Harry looked back over, and found Sharon asleep.

Her hair was short, dark and choppy; to Harry, it looked like she had cut it herself, probably with a dull blade. Harry couldn't see much of the girl's thin body, as it was cloaked with big, tightly belted, baggy jeans, and a loose, chunky sweater that must have been handed down for generations. But her hands and face, the only parts that stuck out unprotected, were pale and fragile. Harry wondered idly how much the girl ate, and whether she would shatter like porcelain if one of the girls she had seen in the main room earlier gave her a careless shove.

Sharon's face was peaceful and calm in sleep, and her long eye lashes dusted the tops of her cheeks like delicate spider legs. She was beautiful, Harry realized, and wondered why someone so young seemed so weak and world-weary. And, in the moments before sleep overcame her, Harry wondered if she and this girl would be friends, or if Sharon would turn on her or leave her like everyone else in her life always had.



It didn't take long for Harry to learn the score at Amity Home. Most of the girls kept to themselves, but gangs had formed over the years, and she knew right away that she would never fit in to the little cliques she saw around her. Sharon didn't either, and their friendship grew quickly and naturally from their mutual exclusion, forming what both girls assumed was a nearly unbreakable bond.

"So," Sharon asked, a few days after Harry moved in, "are you finally going out of the room today?"

The two girls were folding their meager wardrobes in the dank laundry room. The room smacked of disrepair and mold, and the girls did their laundry in shifts.

Harry shrugged. "I'm out now, aren't I?" she asked, piling one folded white t-shirt on top of another. Sharon rolled her eyes.

"Okay, let me try that one again." She turned and looked Harry in the eyes. "When are you leaving the room for more than chow and laundry?"

Harry slammed all her clothes, folded and not, into the mesh bag she had been provided by Amity Home. "Why should I? I can tell most of the girls here are psychopaths. What would I gain from socializing with them?"

Sharon shrugged, rolling her baggy jeans and stuffing them into her bag. She stopped for a moment to untangle her watch from the mesh of her laundry bag. "I don't know. A shiny, new black eye?" She let out an angry but amused grunt. "The week before last, I got these."

She jerked her sleeve up, and Harry gasped. The girl's arm was covered in scars, slices, scabs, and burns. The burn she pointed at with one long finger was fresh, obviously painful. It was shaped like a crude "F", made up of too many single cigarette burns to count. Harry stared down at the damage in horror as Sharon covered her arm again with her sleeve.

"What the hell, Sharon? Who did this to you?" Harry asked after a long moment, her laundry forgotten. "Talk to me."

The girl sighed and slumped down onto a rickety clothes basket, one hand scratching her scalp, the other curled into her sunken tummy. "Which part?" she asked, with a weary sigh.

Harry shook her head, confused, and crouched down onto the cement floor. "I don't know, Sharon. Start with the new one." She gave her friend a sympathetic look. "If you want to go on after that, you can."

Sharon drew in a shaky breath. "Well, the brand - those bitches you've been avoiding this weekend did that."

Harry sat silently, not judging, hoping the quiet girl would let out what she had obviously been bottling up for years. When Sharon didn't speak again, though, Harry leaned down to meet her friend's down-turned eyes.

"If you don't want to talk about it, I get it," she said softly.

Sharon flung herself up, looking down at Harry with haunted eyes filled with tears. "It's not fair, Harry!" she cricked, and kicked the old ugly washing machine with the tip of one old, worn out shoe. "I got away from my bitch of a mother with her disgusting pervert boyfriends, and now I'm here."

She slumped again, her breath coming in hitching sobs. "Sure, I was in the foster homes, but those people just wanted to do the same things, or they wanted to harass me about what I look like and how much I eat and what I do with my life." She stopped, and her face took on a mock shrewd look.

When she spoke again, it was in a harsh shrill. "Why do you always wear those raggedy clothes? Why do you dress like a boy? What did you do to your pretty hair?" She groaned and kicked the machine again, her face a mask of barely restrained rage. She laid her head on her hands and gazed up at Harry sadly. "No one ever gets it, Harry."

Harry slid her little crate closer and laid a hand over Sharon's frail one. "I get it, Sharon. And even if I didn't, it's your life, and I support you. This is your body, your life, and what you do with those things are your business." She gave the girl a gentle smile. "Do you think I don't get shit for wearing this old ass coat around?" She laughed, nudging Sharon's knobby knee. "Even when I tell them it was my grandfather's - I mean, the man practically raised me. I was named after him, for fuck's sake, and I can't even get away with wearing his coat."

Harry's smile dropped off slowly when Sharon didn't respond. "Did I say something wrong?" she asked, her heartbeat starting to thump in her ears from something akin to embarrassment. "I mean -"

Her words died on her lips when Sharon leaned forward and kissed her. She was startled as their lips met, but instead of moving away, she brought up her free hand and pulled Sharon closer, deeper into the kiss by the scruff at the back of the girl's neck. From Harry's perspective, the kiss was timeless, and she felt as though she was floating through some place high in the clouds. The two were weightless, alone and without pain or worry.

Then, Sharon pulled away, looking mortified, and Harry sat in a daze, a smile playing on her warm, moist lips.

"I'm so sorry," the older girl gasped, standing up, overturning the basket she'd been sitting on. She grabbed her bag and stuffed it with the rest of her clothes. "I - I'm just so sorry, Harry," she repeated, and sprinted out of the musty basement before Harry could even respond.



For the next few days, Harry didn’t get a moment alone with Sharon, but Harry had precious little time to think on their relationship or the fact that she was being avoided. On Monday morning, she started on at the local school, a seedy little scumhole on the wrong side of town that was conveniently located within walking distance from Amity Home. There was a schedule to memorize, rules to ingrain and two levels of seemingly endless classrooms, utility rooms, and laboratories. No one was friendly, and no one even seemed to try being courteous. Everyone was cold, students and teachers alike.

Harry walked to classes, attended lectures, and ate her lunch alone. She had expected to see Sharon, but though she saw several other Amity girls there, her only friend was absent or avoiding her there, as well. A deep depression began to settle over Harry for the first time since her grandfather died years before.

The fourth day in, one of the girls from Amity Home, a cocoa-bronzed, rage-faced girl with a filthy mouth and a small legion of minions, approached her unbidden. Before she knew what had happened, the girls had surrounded her in a crude circle and began to slowly push her further out into the field, past the other kids and to a secluded area behind a copse of dead trees.

"Aw, new girl. Why you so sad?" the leader asked with a self-satisfied smile. "Did your freak girlfriend ditch you?" The girls around her all laughed, and Harry found herself balling her fists and spreading her shoulders in silent, unconscious preparation for a fight.

"Look, Ramona. The new girl is getting mad!" a pizza-faced girl, her spindly arms on her hips, said to the leader with hateful glee.

The leader, Ramona, stepped closer to Harry, and shoved her plump little chin up defiantly, inches from Harry's face. "Is that right, new bitch? Do you think your skinny blonde ass can handle all of us? Huh, Dyke Barbie?"

Harry swallowed thickly, but didn't move from where she stood. "I didn't ask for a fight, Ramona," she said, emphasizing the girl's name with a sneer. "All I want is for you and your little club to leave me alone. I just want to be alone."

The bully smiled and slid her eyes over to the pizza-faced girl to her right, who let out a shrill giggle. Then she turned back to Harry. "Well, I thought we handled that for you already, new girl." A girl to Ramona's left slapped her a low five, and Harry felt her face growing red with annoyance.

"What are you talking about?" she asked, practically spitting the words out in anger.

Ramona laughed, a low, cold gurgle in the back of her throat. "That faggot you're boarding with, we knocked her around for ya. Figured, since you're the new girl, the last thing you need is to be branded a faggot freak like her."

Harry could feel her tenuous grip on control fading, and her heartbeat pumped in her ears like the drums of war. She let out a cold little laugh and took on a submissive stance. "So, Ramona, you and your friends are the ones who burned her?" she asked, trying to keep her tone neutral.

Ramona nodded, and several girls behind her shared high fives and whooped with excitement. "That's right, new girl. The freak was making eyes at my girl Tijana, so we fixed her. That was way before you." She laughed, and Harry stared into her dead eyes. "But don't worry, we got her again, just for you." She wrapped an arm around Harry's shaking shoulders. "'Cause when I saw she was trying to lez up on you, I figured we hadn't done a good enough job with her little arm tag. The good thing is, new girl, what we did to her this time, she can't cover up with those ugly sweaters. Everyone will be able to see it forever."

When Harry whirled on her, Ramona had no time to react, and as a look of surprise came over her thin slits of eyes and her cheeks puffed out in anger, Harry landed a square punch to her bubble nose, sending a shower of mist all over her friends.

Most backed away in horror, but two girls - the pizza-faced clown and the golden snake, Tijana - yelped in surprise and tried to tackle Harry off of Ramona. But Harry sat on the girl, ignoring their frantic efforts, and pounded with fury on her face. Harry turned once to swipe at the clown's knobby knees with her left, and the girl went down hard, instantly cradling a swelling, purpled shin. She let out a wail to rival a police siren, but Harry barely noticed. The other girl, Tijana, was on her, and she had turned her attention from the girl whose face bubbled blood from between her knees, to the one who was assaulting her from behind, banging her fists into Harry's skull like she was a punching bag.

She didn't notice the school's gym teacher running up, followed closely by her shell-shocked teacher's aide, until the two women had pulled her, struggling, off the limp, bloody Ramona and away from furious Tijana.

"What is the meaning of this?" the teacher yelled, jerking Harry around by one arm as the girl tried to run back into the fight against Tijana.

Harry jerked her arm free again and ran toward Tijana, who stood angry guard over Ramona's still body while the other girls pampered and cooed over her like a newborn cub. But before Harry could land another swing, the teacher whipped her back around forcefully. They all heard the sickening crack but Harry, whose eyesight was full of red, teeming rage that only dissipated when she realized her left arm wasn't cooperating. She stopped, fully silent, and stared with a sort of grim fascination at her arm, which hung loose in her shoulder socket. The other girls had gone deadly quiet, and the teacher's aide let out a horrified little squeak. The gym teacher stepped back steadily, mouth moving without sound, her hands up in front of her as if to fend off some invisible attacker.

"You broke her arm," the teacher's aide whispered from behind her hands, and turned toward the teacher with eyes full of shock and revulsion. "You broke her arm!" she screeched, and sounded a series of short bursts on her whistle. Shortly, two male teachers came running toward the little group.

When they saw the mess, one ran to Ramona, who was slowly regaining consciousness on the ground, and the other walked up to Harry. "We need to get you to the hospital," he said, then led her gently back toward the school with the help of the female teacher's aide. Harry said nothing, feeling shock set in before she felt any pain. "What's your name, sweetheart?" he asked, but Harry didn't speak again until they reached the hospital, only stared stupidly at the awkward angle of her broken and dislocated shoulder.



When Harry arrived back at Amity Home later that night, the Headmistress was waiting for her. She ushered the mildly sedated girl into her office without a word, only a stern but weary stare. Harry plopped down into the hard, straight chair in front of the old desk, mindless of her injury. The Headmistress winced for her, then sat down into her own chair, obviously infirm though she tried to hide it.

"Harrison, isn't it?" she asked, and Harry nodded, unconcerned. "Harrison. What possessed you to attack Ramona?" She held up her hand for quiet when Harry opened her mouth. Her gaze pierced through the fog of drugs in Harry's system, and the girl squirmed a bit uncomfortably as the old woman sized her up. "I don't think I need to remind you that violence isn't tolerated at Amity Home."

"You don't need to remind me. But I was at school, and technically -"

"Technically, nothing," she said, her voice near furious, though she kept it even and controlled. "On these grounds or not, you answer to the rules of this establishment. I am, for all intent, your guardian, and I cannot have you bringing violence into my home."

Harry tried to shrug, remembering too late her injured shoulder, and winced at the shot of pain that coursed through the left half of her body. She groaned, and the Headmistress sighed.

"Since you've only just arrived here with us, Harrison, I have decided to be lenient. However, if your bad behavior continues, you will be made accountable."

"And is Ramona held accountable for her bad behavior?" Harry shot back through gritted teeth. "Or is she allowed leniency?"

The headmistress frowned, and Harry knew this was the first she had heard about Ramona's exploits. "I hardly think Ramona should be punished for your misdeeds," she said, but sounded less than convinced.

Harry rolled her eyes, which earned her a scathing look from the stern crone. "I'm not talking about today. Today, that was all me. I made my bed, and I'll lie in it." She leaned forward, careful of her arm in its sterile sling. "I defended myself against a threat today. But what about the others that can't defend themselves?"

"What others?" the woman asked.

"The others she tortures, ma'am, on a daily basis."

"Tortures!" the woman cried, offense showing clear on her face. "I don't know of any torture going on in my home."

"Well," Harry said, standing up with considerable effort and gritted teeth. "I think maybe you need to be paying closer attention, ma'am."

The woman opened her mouth to speak again, then closed it, her face going through several emotions, none of which seemed to want to stick. Harry walked to the door, then turned back to look at the old woman from the doorway. "Maybe you should be checking the nurse's records of accidental injuries. You may find a lot of them are suspicious, if not outright lies."

Before the woman could respond, Harry turned on her heel and walked back to her room. She slipped inside quietly and lay awake on her cot, alone in the dark room. She wasn't sure when the attack would come, but she knew Ramona's little friends would come for her, sooner or later.



Harry startled into wakefulness in the morning, aware suddenly that she had fallen asleep - and now someone was in her bed. She lurched forward, fists ready, then lay back again in agony. Her shoulder was more than sore: it shot red hot spikes of pain through her upper body. When she opened her eyes again, Sharon sat at the end of the bed, looking mildly taken aback, her eyes wet from recently shed tears. Harry calmed and let her aching body relax again.

"Where have you been?" Harry asked, fighting down the nausea boiling in her gut.

Sharon leaned forward and gave her a soft hug. It caused Harry pain, but she suppressed her grimace, draping her right arm around her friend's back. When Sharon pulled back, Harry's eyes focused and she sucked in a sharp breath. What Harry had initially written off as a trick of the shadows was in fact a large bandage, surrounded by angry bruises. Sharon hung her head, but Harry pushed her face back by the chin gently.

"What did they do to you?" she asked, her voice breaking with something akin to anguish and fury.

Sharon pulled away, shaking her head with what Harry assumed would have been a brave smile, if half her face wasn't covered by bandages. "Does it matter?" the older girl asked quietly.

"Of course, it matters!" Harry cried, and Sharon held a finger to her lips with a scared grimace.

"You'll wake everyone. I'm not even supposed to be here, but I made them bring me back." She tried to smile, then winced and let her face go slack.

"Why would you come back if you could have stayed away?" Harry whispered, her voice furious. "Are you insane?"

Sharon looked down at her wrist and fiddled with her ugly watch. "I couldn't leave you here alone with them. Especially not after what you did to Ramona." She let half her mouth lift in a smile. "She's still in the hospital, you know. They're going to have her moved to another home."

Harry smiled back and groped for Sharon's hand. They sat in silence for a few moments, hands twined together, and regarded each other. Then Sharon shook her head and stood up.

"I still can't believe it. You know you're the first one to ever stand up to her in five years." She gave Harry a look that reminded her of her grandmother, the day she'd gotten caught stealing cookies. "What were you thinking?" she asked.

Harry smiled. "I was thinking..." she said, then laughed softly. "I wasn't thinking, to be honest. I just know that one minute she was talking about you, and the next I was talking to the nurse after they reset my shoulder."

Sharon looked distraught. "You were standing up for me?" She had sat back down, but now hopped back up, pacing frantically in a little square of no more than two feet. "Are you absolutely out of your mind?"

"Yes," Harry answered, her smile growing into a wide, cheesy grin. "Why else do you think I'm locked in this joint?"

Sharon groaned. "You're going to get yourself killed, you idiot." She was still pacing, one hand snarling in her unkempt hair. "I knew I should never have spoken to you in the first place. I knew it would be bad, having me as a roommate, but if I hadn't started to be friends with you..." She crouched down beside Harry, tears brimming in her pretty eyes. "I'm so sorry. I knew what they would do, but I brought you into this anyway."

Harry glared at the girl. "This isn’t your fault," she said, struggling to sit up without the leverage of her left arm. Sharon helped her, gingerly raising her up and punching the pillow into a makeshift lift behind her friend. "Those little bitches have no right to do what they're doing," she whispered loudly, angrier than ever.

Sharon shook her head again, a stream of tears starting to trickle slowly down one cheek. "That isn't the point, Harry. They do what they want here. There's nothing anyone can do, not even the headmistress."

Harry shook her head back in negation. "Not anymore. Not to you, not while I'm here, lodged in this hellhole."

Sharon groaned. "Don't you get it, Harry? Everyone hates me because I'm a freak. Being friends with me -"

Harry lifted a hand and covered the other girl's mouth gently. "That's bullshit, Sharon. I know I don't hate you. And what makes you any more freakish than the rest of us?" Harry asked, locking her eyes on her friend's. "If you're a freak, this place is El Grande Freakshow."

Sharon groaned again, and stood, then began pacing again in the same spot. Harry had wondered why the space looked so worn, and now she knew. "You just don't get it."

"No, I guess I don't," Harry countered. "Why don't you explain it to me?" She pointed with her eyes for Sharon to sit back down on the cot, and the girl complied, wariness screaming from her slumped shoulders and sunken face.

"I'm not like other girls."

"Me neither," Harry said with a smile.

Sharon rolled her eyes, suddenly looking angrier than upset. "You don't get it. I'm a boy, Harry." She shrank back a little, her face more surprised than angry now at her own admission.

"Okay," Harry replied, quirking an inquisitive eyebrow. "Then how did you end up in a home for girls, and how the hell has that little bitch Ramona been kicking your ass?" she asked, curious and doubtful.

Sharon looked around, as if searching for the perfect words to pluck from the air, then she slumped down and let out another moan. "Do you know what a tranny is?" she asked, her voice dropping so low that Harry had to struggle to hear her. Harry nodded, not quite certain. She had heard stories of male prostitutes dressing as women, but didn't know any specifics, and couldn't relate her quiet friend to such a lifestyle. "It's kind of like that. Only I don't just want to dress or act like a boy. I am a boy. I was just... born wrong."

Harry nodded, only barely understanding but knowing that her support was something her friend desperately needed. "Is that why they call you -" she started, but Sharon shook her head no.

"No, they call me a faggot because I like girls." She blushed a deep red from her admission, turning her eyes down to her bony hands in shame.

Harry reached over and grabbed one hand. She waited for Sharon to meet her eyes, then smiled and gave her hand a squeeze. "Hey, me too," she said, then winked.

Sharon couldn't help but laugh, and she clapped her loose hand over her mouth to stifle the sound. She pulled her hand away from her bruised lips and gently shoved Harry's good shoulder. "No, you don't. You're just saying that to make me feel better." Her smile dropped off. "I'm sorry you got dragged into all this shit. You probably would have been okay, if you had been able to bunk somewhere else."

Harry shook her head. 'I'd rather be with you in danger than safe and alone any day." With the admission, she pulled Sharon closer by one arm, ignoring the dull roar of pain in her shoulder, and kissed her friend on the mouth. This time, Sharon didn't pull away, and Harry's heart felt like it exploded with a brilliant, painful, beautiful wave. She knew if they stuck together, the two biggest freaks at Amity Home for Girls would be just fine, even if they had to fight their way out, tooth and nail.



A week went by with few incidents, then two weeks, then a month. Harry's shoulder healed quickly, and Sharon's face mended in slow, steady strides. They rarely separated, and the two grew closer than before. Sharon told Harry about how she was going to change her name and live as a man, and Harry told Sharon that she wanted to grow up to be a cop like her grandfather had been. The two decided to move together to California, where they would live in a bungalow with an army of puppies and an in-ground pool. They were very happy.

One day, early on in their second period class, Sharon was called out. The girl holding the note frowned disapprovingly, stage whispering to the teacher that the headmistress of Amity Home requested Sharon's prompt appearance in her office. The watch on Sharon’s wrist said 9:45.

Harry shot her a look, palms up, as if to ask, "What's going on?" Sharon shrugged back at her and let the girl lead her out the door.

Harry wondered why the headmistress would want to see Sharon, but not Harry. They didn't separate enough to get into mischief alone. The class period passed slowly, the clock ticking low and ominous on the wall. Harry slumped in her seat, ignoring the dumpy, angry teacher's droning lesson. She wondered why it was taking Sharon so long. She leaned over to try to see the courtyard out the window. A large, obviously much older boy blocked her view, and she slumped back down into her chair.

She doodled in her notebook, deciding to draw an elaborate scene in which she would include a hidden note to her friend. They had already created a simplistic code to share notes without being understood if they were confiscated. She worked on the drawing for two class periods, and Sharon still wasn't back. She started another at lunch, after she choked down half of a greasy, overcooked hamburger.

Sharon wasn't back when she finished it, just before school let out for the day, and a gnawing uncertainty was threatening to overload her mind with fear. When Harry got back to Amity Home, she walked straight to her room. She found it empty, chucked her bag at her cot carelessly, and ran to the headmistress's office, knocking over and barely apologizing to three girls on her way.

She slammed into the office without knocking, and the headmistress looked up sharply from whatever form she was filing, slid the ancient filing cabinet's door closed, and went back to her desk. She sat down, then gave Harry a shrewd once-over, noting the girl's obvious anxiety, and gestured with one gnarled hand for Harry to sit.

"Have a seat, Ms. Thresher. To what do I owe this unscheduled intrusion on my private time?" she asked, her voice low and measured, but piled high with barely bridled sarcasm.

"I haven't seen Sharon all day," Harry began without preamble. "I'm worried about her." Harry flopped down into the proffered chair only out of formality. Her leg danced a jig without her permission.

The headmistress nodded. "Her surname? I can't recall all the girls in my charge by given name and association alone," she replied, pulling out her thick, leather bound roster. Harry knew it listed all the girls currently boarding at Amity Home, and was updated daily by the headmistress herself.

Harry frowned. "Sharon Solkey. She's the one with the short hair..." Harry tried to explain without revealing anything about her friend.

The headmistress searched the book, and found her entry. "Sharon K. Solkey. She should be here. She hasn't been moved, transferred, or adopted." The old woman consulted an ancient computer, smacking the keys like unruly children, reading for a moment, hitting another round of keys until finally she sat back, satisfied. "She isn't scheduled to be out. She isn't still in school, not for study or detention. I have no record of her leaving." The woman shrugged. "Are you sure she didn't hole herself up in the library? Some of the girls seem to like that."

"No. Sharon never liked the library," Harry responded, her mind overclocking on what ifs. "Don't you find that odd, Miss? That she was gone all day without any reason, and her best friend is the one looking for her?" Harry sat straighter in the chair, frowning deeply. "And after all, you were the last one to see her. If anyone should know, it's you."

The headmistress frowned back and leaned toward Harry over the old, solid desk. Harry bet it had been at Amity Home longer than the crone who leered over her. "I don't know what you're implying, Harrison Thresher," the woman said, her voice icy. "I haven't met with any students today, and certainly not with Sharon Solkey."

Harry rolled her eyes. "Maybe you've forgotten," she started, but the headmistress made a disbelieving cluck in her throat.

"Ms. Thresher, I may look old, but my mind is able and true. If I had a meeting with a troubled, now missing girl, I'd remember it."

As if on cue, thunder rolled ominously in the sky. The darkness had been gathering for hours, and it seemed was about to unleash a furious tide on them.

"But ma'am, I saw her leave the class. A girl from the school office brought it in. She made a big to-do about Sharon needing to come to your office immediately," Harry protested. "It was even on the special blue stationery you use for that official stuff!" she insisted, and the headmistress frowned deeply.

"You say?" she asked, rubbing a throbbing vein in her wrinkled neck. "I had a box of stationery - the last of my robin's egg blue crested - stolen from this office last month. I've been using hunter green since." She shook her head as if to knock off the icy tingle of having one's grave trod upon. "When was she called out, who was the teacher, and who delivered the note?" the old woman asked, rapid fire, picking up the old rotary phone from its cradle on the desk. She dialed three numbers that made Harry's skin crawl: 9-1-1.



Harry was shuffled back down to the Main Room to follow the Headmistress's orders: "Don't mope, don't worry, and be sociable." She doubted it was possible. Her head was a frantic mishmash she couldn't make sense of.

Somewhere in her mind, under all the ruckus, was a quiet poison that whispered, "What if she ran away without you? What if she had a plan and got out when she could, using you for just what she needed and nothing more? What if she left you here alone on purpose?"

Harry tried to watch television, but following the cop drama only made her more worried. She was helpless. She wanted to curl into a little ball and go to a secret place where no one knew she existed. She wanted to go to the place that Sharon talked about, where they could be alone together, away from the sick world that hated them so fiercely for something that wasn't hurting anyone. A world filled with love instead of hate.

"Hey, freak." It was Tijana. She glared up at the golden skinned girl who grinned wolfishly back at her. "I heard your girlfriend run out on you. Or boyfriend, whatever it is," she said, poking the clown beside her, who laughed out loud in a great guffaw. "We never was real sure about that little faggot."

Harry struggled to keep her composure, clutching the arms of her chair until her hands were a war of white knuckles and crimson fingers. "What do you want, Tijana?" she asked, a growl growing in her throat.

The girl gave her followers a pointed look. They backed off a few paces, and Harry noticed they were mostly alone in the Main Room. The other girls, not part of the fight, had departed, sensing the fight brewing like gazelle scenting a lion intruding on their grazing grounds. Harry tensed, ready to spring at Tijana.

"Listen, freak girl. You need to change your allegiances or change zip codes." She poked Harry in the chest, directly in the shallow dip between what would one day be her breasts. "Watch your back, faggot."

Harry was taken aback, confused and angrier than ever. Surely these girls didn't want her on their side after all the shit they'd talked. "What do you want me to do, Tijana? Join your little army and forget about all the shit that's happened?" she asked, a snarl on her lips.

Tijana smiled and nodded her head. Harry stood up, holding back the urge to sucker punch the girl in her thin lips.

"Are you fucking kidding me?" she asked, her voice high and foreign to her ears. "What gives you the right?"

Tijana shrugged, noncommittal. Then she ran one nimble finger over the worn table top beside them, tracing an obscene word carved there long ago by an angry inmate of Amity Home. Then, abruptly, Tijana's eyes turned on Harry again. "Maybe you would be more ready to join if you knew what happened to people who went against us in the past. Like that boyfriend thing of yours."

Harry nearly choked on the sudden surge of anger and grief that bubbled up inside her. She struggled to keep her voice steady and her hands down, off the playful, obscene, young psychopath. "What did you frigid cunts do to Sharon?" Harry asked, her whole body shaking with intense emotion.

"You'll find out soon enough what became of your freaky little fuck buddy." Tijana smiled, then turned around and walked a few steps away. Stopping short, she turned and glanced over a shoulder coyly, her friends gathering behind and around her. "As for me, I'm dyin' to see the news coverage. What a tragedy," she said, miming tears at the last.

The words made something inside Harry snap, and she launched herself at the girl, just as she had before with Ramona. She knew, in the deep recesses of her mind, what trouble she would be in when the headmistress found them, but she had abandoned rationality to her hateful, grieving vengeance. She hoped she could cripple or kill Tijana before they pulled her off, wishing she didn't feel so utterly hopeless, helpless, and filled with despair as her fists glanced over the beautiful bone structure she was steadily bent on destroying.



The storm raged, but a search was called out for the missing girl. Sharon had been missing over twelve hours, and even Harry knew that a fifteen-year-old boy in a girl's body wouldn't have a lot of luck on their own, especially in torrential rain and numbing winds that gusted cars sideways on the slick streets. Harry sat numbly in her chair at the hospital, watching the news coverage. Quickly, the storm drove everyone inside, and the man on television said that they would reconvene the search when weather allowed.

It rained for nearly a day. By the end of the week, Harry was exhausted and sick. She hadn't slept or eaten in all the time Sharon had been gone. She just waited, patiently, for Sharon to reappear unharmed, laughing at Harry for overreacting. Her friend had gone somewhere, maybe setting up a surprise for Harry's birthday, and had gotten caught out in the rain. Sharon was holed up away from the weather. Sharon was fine, Harry chanted in her head.

A couple of kids found Sharon's body a few days later. The police thought it had floated down river, from an inlet behind the school, most likely. Harry sat, somewhere between shock and denial, in the hospital bed for another week. She didn't move. She didn't eat. She slept, but it was fitful, always ending tortuously in sobs or screams. Always the same name, always the same emotion, watching Sharon's body being dragged by men in orange suits out of the water and dropped onto the muddy riverbank.

Eventually, two police officers came to talk to her. She was strung up with wires and tubes, and looked pale and washed out. She knew, because the woman volunteer who came in to do her fingernails and brush her hair showed her the reflection. She didn't speak to that woman, but she knew she had to speak to the cops. She stared at them, a rage she had stuffed down deep wafting up into her consciousness.

"Harrison," her nurse said from beside her, barely getting the girl's attention. "You need to talk to these policemen. They're here about your friend."

The girl gave her a vacant look and turned back to the two cops, who had stationed themselves near her bed.

"Harrison, is it?" the first cop asked, looking at her uncertainly. And if he looked uncomfortable, his partner looked downright terrified of the young girl. Harry normally would have enjoyed it, but she was weighed down with soul-crushing, mind-numbing grief that had built over a lifetime. She stared at him blankly.

"We're here to help," the man said, seeming to want her approval enormously. She sighed.

"You can't bring back the dead, can you?" she asked, and the second cop blanched visibly. Harry kept her eyes on the first, who only frowned intensely, like a father regarding his disobedient and stubborn child.

"We don't have that power, kid. I wish we could bring people back from the dead." He shrugged, his smile grim. "But what we can do is try to find the person responsible for this tragedy."

Harry was looking at him, but in her mind, suddenly a memory shoved through, past the drugged haze. Tijana. "What a tragedy," she'd said.

"I know who did this," Harry said, her eyes snapping clear. "Or, at least, I know who would have planned it."

The second cop, who was still recovering from his earlier choking scare, flipped open a little pad and brought a pen out of his left front shirt pocket, staring at her intensely. The first leaned forward, his eyes hard, examining the girl deeply.

"Tell me who you think did this," he said, his voice commanding.

"Her name is Tijana - that's with a J not a Y - Campbell. I think that's her last name. But she lives at Amity Home with me, and she hated Sharon. She and her friends tortured her, those cultist bitches." She spat. "They worship Tijana, just like they used to worship Ramona."

Both officers looked skeptical, but the second wrote it all down. The first adjusted in his seat, more than a little annoyed at what Harry knew he thought was a sick joke at best.

"Listen, little girl. What happened to your friend... No group of kids could have done that. This was an adult," he said, patting her shoulder. "You need to get some rest, kiddo. We'll find this sicko, and we'll let you know when we bring him in."

The cops left a few minutes later, after a line of questioning that left Harry feeling hollow and furious. They didn’t believe her, couldn’t believe her, that a group of adolescent girls could have maimed a peer so badly, in such a horrific way. They didn’t tell her what had been done to Sharon, but Harry could guess, and the images pulled at the bottom of her stomach and made her dry heave into the trash can beside the hospital bed.


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