Down a Rabbit Hole We Go_ Chapter 4

Disclaimer: I do not own the OC or any of the characters.


Joe Whatley had no clue what had happened, but the last thing he expected to see was Sandy Cohen being attacked. He grabbed the Atwood kid in a bearhug and heaved trying to get him off Sandy. Joe Whatley was 6'2" and had at least 80 pounds on the kid and in all the excitement he didn't realize his own strength. He essentially pulled the kid up and slammed him face first on the floor ending up on top of him.

Ryan let out a strangled cry as he hit the hard floor with the officer on his back.

When Caleb heard it, he tried to push past the other officer, only to be shoved away again. Incensed, he shouted at Joe Whatley, "STOP! GET YOUR HANDS OFF MY SON!"

Chapter 4

At Caleb's shout, everyone froze. Sandy was sitting on the floor stunned more by Caleb's words than the punch he'd taken. Joe Whatley froze with one knee in the middle of Ryan's back, his hands on the pair of handcuffs that he'd just snapped around Ryan's wrists. Ryan went completely limp, his forehead on the floor, his only movement the heaving of his chest as he tried to catch his breath. The second officer froze, his hands up from motioning for Caleb to stay back.

Caleb's shoulders sagged and he leaned lightly on the table with one hand, as if to brace himself. "Just, don't hurt him. Please," he implored.

Joe Whatley looked from Caleb to Sandy, then back at the boy he was holding down. He eased his weight up when he realized all the fight had gone out of the kid. "You ok, Sandy?" he asked.

"I'm ok, Joe." Sandy replied, quietly, fingering the bruise forming on his left cheek.

"Kid, you screwed up big time. You could have gone home tonight if you hadn't pulled that stunt." Joe admonished Ryan.

"Joe," Sandy caught his attention as he slowly got to his feet. "I'm not pressing charges."

"What?" Joe gasped. "Maybe you better take a look in the mirror before you make that decision, Sandy. You're gonna have one heck of a bruise."

Sandy shook his head. "I know, but I'm still not pressing charges. This was just a misunderstanding." Sandy wasn't sure exactly what the kid was thinking, but he realized that after Ryan's first punch, the other punches were mostly for show. He didn't think the kid was trying to hurt him. It was more like he was trying to prove a point to Cal. And if this kid was Cal's son, Kirsten's brother (and boy were there going to be fireworks when Kirsten found out), Sandy wasn't going to be responsible for him going to Juvie.

"Well, I guess you got lucky again kid. If I get you up from here, are you gonna behave yourself?" Joe asked. "Cause I'll tell you right now, if you cause any more trouble, I'm taking you straight to a cell."

The only response Joe received was a shuddered breath and a minute head nod.

"Ok, let's get you up," Whatley said as he rose, pulling Ryan up by his grip on the boy's still cuffed arms. At the movement, Ryan groaned and sagged in Joe's grip. "Easy, kid. You ok?" Joe questioned, concerned.

Sandy righted the chair that had toppled over when Ryan punched him and pushed it toward Joe.

"Here, kid. Sit." Joe instructed.

Once seated, Ryan doubled over, dropping his head to the table in front of him with a moan. He swallowed thickly and Joe wondered if the kid was going to be sick.

"Ryan, are you ok?' Caleb intoned, moving toward the boy. He glared at the other officer as he stepped between Cal and Ryan.

"Davidson go call the medics back," Joe Whatley intervened. "Kid hit the floor pretty hard. They should probably check him out again.

Once the other officer exited, Caleb again moved forward, crouching down, he ran a hand over the back of Ryan's head. "Are you ok, son?"

Ryan mumbled something that Sandy couldn't quite catch.

"Kid let's get these cuffs off," Whatley suggested, worried he may have hurt the kid when he landed on him. "Just don't give me any trouble ok," Joe commented as he removed the cuffs.

Once released, Ryan wrapped his arms around himself and remained hunched over with his head on the table.

Sandy watched as Caleb threaded his fingers through the boy's hair and spoke softly to him. He was stuck by the thought that he'd never seen Caleb show that kind of affection to Kirsten, or Haley, or Seth. He'd only seen it with Caleb's late wife, Rose, who Cal had adored. And suddenly there as no doubt in Sandy's mind that the boy was Cal's son.

Sandy's silent musing was interrupted by the paramedics entering the room.

"Ryan, it's Sara Caldwell again. Officer Davidson asked us to take another look at you," a female paramedic who was probably in her early 30's said. "You ok, bud," she asked as she laid a hand on his back.

Caleb reluctantly moved away so she would have room.

"Can you sit up for me?" She asked when he didn't respond, pulling him more upright by his shoulders.

Ryan looked out of it at first, but then he seemed to recognize the paramedic and rallied the strength to pull away from her. "I'm ok. I'm fine. I don't need anything," he protested, but Sara noticed the way his arms were wrapped around his ribs.

"Officer Davidson said you hit the floor pretty hard earlier. Did you hurt your ribs?" she questioned, reaching for the hem of Ryan's t-shirt.

"No. I'm fine!" Ryan snapped, as he pushed her hands away.

"Ryan, let her do her job," Caleb ordered quietly.

Sandy watched from the opposite side of the room as the kid glared at Cal for several seconds before dropping his head and closing his eyes. With a resigned sigh, he lowered his arms to his sides.

With no further protest from her patient, Sara Caldwell took the hem of his shirt and pulled it up to just below his arm pits. She gasped slightly, Sandy's breath caught, and Caleb whispered, "Ryan." Joe Whatley stared, dumfounded at the mass of bruises that covered the boy's torso.

Over the years, Sandy had seen a lot of bruises on a lot of kids. Bruises of various colors covered Ryan's chest and upper abdomen. Some were yellowing and looked at least a week old. Others were a dark purple, clearly inflicted within the last couple of days. And one bruise over the boy's ribs had a distinctive pattern of a boot tread. It was clear that the fall earlier hadn't caused this. Sandy fought the bile rising in his throat along with his rising anger at his father in law, remembering the kid's earlier comments that he'd rather stay in Juvie than go back to his houseā€¦to his family.