The more things changed, the more they stayed the same.
Jason’s locker had been tossed. His backpack turned inside out. Each desk in each classroom that he’d used had been searched. Finally, he’d been brought into the school resource officer’s office and told to strip down to his underwear.
Different school. Same shit.
Standing in his boxers, Jason just watched as Officer Montoya turned his trousers inside out. The only thing he had in there was the wallet that Bruce had given him, which had perhaps all of a dollar left inside it after he’d paid for a school lunch that he hadn’t even gotten to eat.
Flecks of potato and gravy were still visible in the boy’s hair.
Finally, the woman slammed the jeans down on the desk. “I want to know where the drugs are,” she demanded flatly.
“I wouldn’t know,” Jason answered coldly, his eyes locking with those of the woman trying to tower over him.
Balling up his shirt and trousers, the officer reared back. “Don’t give me that shit,” the woman spat, throwing his clothes back at him. “The son of Willis Todd?”
The name drop. She knew who his dad was. Or, she thought she did. “Living your best life, I imagine,” Montoya quipped, crossing her arms. The sheer loathing radiating from the glare fixed on him made clear what she thought of him. Both of them.
Untangling the ball of clothing, the boy dropped the trousers on the chair as he started to put the dress shirt back on. “What’s that ‘sposed to mean?” the boy asked caustically.
“It means I don’t buy this act. Not one god damn bit,” Montoya tossed back in reply, placing both hands on the desk between them as she leaned forward and asked, “Or do you think anyone believes Bruce Wayne taught you the true meaning of Christmas?”
Oh, this bitch.
The boy cocked his head to one side, cracking his neck before he copied the same motion on the other side. His face felt a little flushed as he felt his heart beat start to quicken as the anger started to seep into his veins.
Then, he gave a short laugh. “No, but there was this one night,” the boy offered, taking a step toward the desk. Placing his hands down on the surface, the boy leaned in so his face was just a few inches away from Montoya’s. “I was sleeping on the streets – well, not the literal street. Underneath a park bench in Robinson Park,” he recalled aloud. He paused there a moment, before he concluded, “Three Gotham police officers came to me that night and taught me the true meaning of police.”
They’d fractured his left eye socket. He’d been in the hospital for a week before he’d been handed over to Gotham CPS.
Of course a police officer had taken a statement from him. Or pretended to.
Caught up in the memory, Jason was startled when Montoya grabbed him by the front of his shirt and shoved him hard.
Careening, off balance, the boy hit the chair behind him and fell back into it with enough force that it nearly fell backward. Now out from behind the desk, Montoya dropped down into Jason’s face as she demanded, “I want to know how drugs are getting into this school. Who’s dealing? Who’s buying?”
The heat was rising through Jason’s neck. A soft roar filling his ears as the anger started to take hold. His hands balled into fists...
He’d been here before. Fighting the cops. It didn’t usually work out favorably for him.
Releasing a slow, controlled breath, the boy forced his hands to relax. “Like I said,” Jason remarked, looking up at the woman. “I wouldn’t know.”
Standing up from the chair, the boy watched as Montoya backed off.
So, whatever bad cop, worse cop game she was playing, she seemed to have run out of gimmicks. For now.
Reaching back, the boy pulled the trousers off the chair and started to pull them on. “Now, either arrest me or I’m getting the fuck outta here,” he remarked, looking away as he buttoned up.
A hand spun him around. “I don’t know what kind of scam you’re pulling on Wayne, but you listen to me you little shit,” Montoya snapped. Her fingernails were digging into his shoulder through the shirt. “Before we’re done, I’m going to put you in a cell next to your dad and then you can spend your family time in the yard at Gotham Penitentiary.”
Jason’s eye twitched. His jaw tightened as his teeth ground against each other.
Then a slicker of a smirk tugged at the edges of his mouth as he deadpanned, “At least I hear the food’s better there.”
Grabbing the school sweater from off the floor, the boy grabbed the wallet and backpack from off the woman’s desk, shoving the items into the backpack as he backed out of the office.
He could finally give a sigh of relief as he heard the door close behind him.
Someone came up behind him, causing Jason to jump in surprise. Then, before he’d even realized what he’d done, the boy threw his hands up, ready to go on the attack.
Franklin Porter shied back, his hands up. “Are... are you okay?” the other boy asked.
No. The answer to all of that was no. Letting go another controlled breath, Jason forced his arms back down. His heart was still beating in his ears, the anger clawing for some release. “Yeah,” the boy lied smoothly. Then, deflecting, added, “Bitch got a stick up her ass about something,”
Adjusting the straps of his backpack, Franklin seemed to accept that and then held out a fist for Jason to bump. “They’ve been pulling in all the kids from the East End,” Franklin remarked, as the two fell into step, side-by-side through the hallway.
The classrooms were emptying out. Montoya had taken her time in tossing all of Jason’s stuff. He’d missed all his afternoon classes. “Why? What crawled up their asses and died?”
Not the reply that Jason had expected. Actually, he hadn’t expected any answer. “...what?”
“Cameron McAllister,” Franklin repeated.
Jason knew the name. They didn’t have any classes together. Hell, he wasn’t even sure what grade Cameron was even in. He was on the dean’s list for the Middle School, but taking almost all High School AP classes.
“They found him in the library just before lunch,” Franklin continued as the pair walked. “Debbie – you know, from third period science? She said she saw them taking him out on a stretcher. She said he was dead.”
What did that have to do with pulling in all the kid’s from the East End? Or even Montoya’s raging hate boner for drugs?
...wait, did Montoya think Cameron had overdosed?
“Hey.” Franklin broke Jason’s brooding, a gentle prodding accompanying the interjection. “You okay?”
“Huh? Yeah,” Jason supplied, losing his train of thought.
“Did you even hear anything I said for, like, the last minute?”
“Oh, that,” Jason began, then changed the subject as he looked around for a clock. “Shit, what time is it? Alfie’s probably ready to blow his top.”
“Later!” he heard Franklin call out, as the boy ran out of the school toward where the butler usually had the car waiting for him.
Alfred was outside of the car.
He’d obviously been waiting. Jason expected a lecture, especially for the state that he was in. Missing his tie. Stains marring the collar and parts of the shirt. His usually disheveled hair even more disorderly than usual.
Instead, the butler seemed to size him up with a single look. It was uncanny, as though Alfred could read him like as easily as he could a headline in the paper. Opening the car door for the boy, the butler merely stood to one side as he waited for the boy to crawl into the back seat.
The ride out of Gotham was mostly quiet. So much so that Jason jumped a second time when he heard Aldred call his name.
“Are you all right?”
It was the same thing Franklin had asked. “Yes, sir,” Jason lied glibly.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
The boy’s eyes darted back to the window. A lump started to form in his throat. He could taste the bile as he swallowed it back down. “No, sir,” the boy answered, reaching up a hand to wipe away where tears had started to form in his eyes.
Officer Montoya had looked right at him. And she hadn’t seen him at all.
All she saw was his father.