Julio's Wolf

an excerpt



Prologue

The City of Oswego, NY

The Reyes Household

Nine Years Ago, Late April



"Julio, don't you want to go out on the boat to fish with Dad and me?" His mom slapped mayo on a tuna salad sandwich and packed it in the cooler.

Julio stood in the kitchen with his hands on his hips. "I don't like fishing, it's yucky. I want to go to Richard's house and play his new video game."

"It's the last day of Dad's vacation. He wants to spend some time with you before he has to go back to work tomorrow."

He rolled his eyes. Julio knew his mother was trying to use guilt so he would go fishing with them. "I've spent time with you and Dad for the whole week of spring break. Why do I have to go today? I'll see Dad tonight when he comes home and every night after that. Richard's only going to be here two more weeks."

"Julio, you're fourteen years old, don't you think it's time you stopped whining? All right, you can go to Richard's house and play the new game. Come kiss me good-bye. Dad's in the garage. Say good-bye to him, and we'll pick you up at Richard's house at four." His mother continued to make sandwiches.

"Thanks, Mom, you're the best."

She wiped her hands on a kitchen towel. "Does Richard's mother know you're coming?" she asked over her shoulder as she put a container of her homemade potato salad into the cooler with the sandwiches.

"Yes, she's making lunch." He ran over to the counter.

"Okay, dear." Julio gave his mother a kiss and a hug and ran out to the garage.

Julio stood in front of his dad with his hands in the pockets of his jeans. "I'm going to Richard's. Mom said it was okay."

His father smiled. "I can't say I'm not disappointed, but I know I can't compete against Tomb Raider." His father was straightening the tackle and packing the fishing rods in the rear of the Highlander. Julio kissed his dad and jogged around the corner to Richard's.

Richard Kerrigan was Julio's best friend and the only other gay kid in their school. Naturally, they had gravitated toward one another. Julio and Richard were best buddies. Once, they tried to kiss but they decided that they weren't that kind of friends. Richard was moving from Oswego to Chicago in two weeks. Julio would lose his best friend. It was the most traumatic event in his young life and made his stomach hurt. After Richard left, Richard promised to call and e-mail. They might connect for a while, but their own lives would get in the way, and their long-distance friendship would disappear. Julio shrugged--What is, is was his motto. But he'd miss Richard. It was going to be lonely being the only gay kid at school. A lot of bullying might come his way.

Julio walked up the path to the yellow house with green shutters and knocked on the door. Mrs. Kerrigan answered, her hair hung partially out of her ponytail, her face appeared flushed, and a sheen of perspiration dripped from her forehead. She wiped her forearm across her brow. "I hope you're not expecting more than PB&J for lunch today. I'm packing."

"No, Mrs. Kerrigan, PB&J is fine. I want to see Richard. We don't have much time left." She swept her hand over her forehead again, to brush her red bangs out of her eyes.

"We'll have you out to Chicago, and Richard can come back to visit." She kept glancing at the boxes in the kitchen. She didn't have time to talk to him.

"Where's Richard?"

"In the den. I'll make sandwiches at noon." Julio walked down the stairs to the lower floor of the split-level. Richard remained focused on the TV screen, playing Tomb Raider.

"Hey, Julio, check this out."

Mrs. Kerrigan served their PB&J and a glass of cold milk in the kitchen. Richard waited for his mom to go back to her packing and whispered to Julio, "If we were at your house, we could play Tomb Raider while we ate."

"It's nicer eating at a table. And this way you don't spill milk on the game controller." Julio teased Richard about last year's mishap.

By the end of the afternoon Richard won seven times and he had come close only once. "Score," Richard said as Julio went down for the last time.

"Richard, you're such a geek." Julio pouted.

Richard looked up at Julio and said, "Yep."

At four o'clock, Richard's mother came downstairs and asked Julio, "Could you wait for your mom out on the step? I have to pick up Richard's dad from work and then we're going out to dinner. Your mom and dad should be here in a few minutes."

"No problem, Mrs. Kerrigan, my parents will be here any minute. They're never late. I have no problem waiting on the step."

"Well, good-bye, dear, I'm sure we'll see you tomorrow. Richard will want to play his new game again."

Julio walked halfway up the stairs and turned shouting down to the den, "See you tomorrow, Richard." There was no answer. Richard was immersed in the game.

***

"Of all the things we have to do as a cop, this is the worst," Officer Joe Pennetta told his partner, Mike Dolan.

Dolan straightened his holster. "Yeah. I spoke to the neighbors when we stopped at their house after we tried to make the notification. The neighbors said there was no other family. He's at the Kerrigan's house around the corner. The one in the house on the right told me in confidence that the poor kid is gay. There are no foster homes that want to take gay kids around here so he's headed for the group home over in Fulton. He won't even be able to stay in the same town, never mind the same school." Dolan sighed. "Maybe his friend's parents will take him in."

Pennetta turned on to Clover Street. "Maybe..." He doubted that they would get anyone to take the kid except for the County group home. A social worker waited at the stationhouse for Julio. Their job was to notify the survivor and bring the kid in, that was it. But he hated the looks on the people's faces when he had to break the news.

Pennetta and Dolan pulled up to Number Twenty-two Clover Street. A kid sat on the step, crying. The officers got out of their vehicle and walked toward the concrete steps that led to the house.

Pennetta, as the senior partner took the lead. "I'm looking for Julio Reyes."

The kid sniffled. "That's me."

Had someone else told him about his folks?

"Why are you crying?" Dolan wasn't the most sensitive of men.

"My parents said they'd come for me at four. The Kerrigans had to leave. I think my parents are mad at me because I didn't want to go fishing today." Julio wiped his nose with a tissue.

"Kid, your parents aren't coming."

Pennetta kicked Dolan.

"Why? All I did was ask them not to take me fishing. They couldn't leave me because of that. I kissed them both good-bye. They didn't look angry." Tears poured down Julio's cheeks.

"Your parents weren't angry at you." Pennetta sat down next to him on the step. "There was an accident..."

"Are they okay? When can I see them?"

The kid panicked and now he was about to deliver the killing blow.

"They drowned in Lake Ontario in the wake of a fishing trawler. We sent divers down, but we couldn't recover the bodies. Do you have anyone you can stay with?" Dolan asked.

Pennetta kicked Dolan again and hissed, "Give the kid a chance to process what we told him."

"I should have gone with them. They should have made me go," Julio shouted in rage, almost hysterical. "Then I'd be with them."

"Calm down, kid. There's nothing you could have done. They're gone. You have to deal." Dolan turned toward the squad car.

Pennetta scowled at Dolan then turned to the boy. "Your name is Julio, right? We have to take you down to the station house. A social worker will be waiting there, and they'll help you decide what to do next. It won't be too bad." They walked to the squad car, Julio trailing behind them.

Dolan muttered, "At least I didn't lie to him. Fulton is going to be awful for a kid like that." Julio sobbed behind them.

Pennetta elbowed Dolan. "Give the kid a break. At least let him grieve before he knows what's in store for him." He shook his head.

"Can I at least pack a bag?" Julio asked amidst his sobs.

"Yeah, we'll take you over to your house to get some of your things. Social services will help you deal with the rest of it."

***

Julio got into the patrol car and never saw the Kerrigans again. By the time they held a service for his mom and dad, Richard was in Chicago with his parents, and he was in a home where the boys referred to him as fresh meat. Had the Kerrigans known where they took him? If so, Richard would have at least called. With both his parents and Richard gone, he had no one.