wooden benches and pounding the crap out of the Drayton pervert squad.
Acutely aware of Mr. Draytonís evil eye, Christine shrunk down beside me. Drayton was playing a game of intimidation, but I was intimately familiar with the sport. I had spent most of my life getting by on intimidation. It had been a way of life for me. The way I dressed; the way I acted; the way I spoke- it had all been designed to intimidate and impress. How did a scrawny cystic fibrosis victim get someone nearly twice his size to back down from a fight? He intimidates them. It didnít always work, but I was the master of the game, and I glared right back.
As I boldly returned the fatherís stare, Devon and Daniel began to shift uncomfortably, and averted their eyes. I had to smirk when I saw how easily they caved. Their father, however, was going to be a tougher nut to crack, and I realized that he himself was either involved or complicit in the twisted, and sordid goings-on in his house.
Maybe, in his demented mind, he considered himself a good father, because he was defending one or both of his sonís heinous actions. I didnít care what his motivations were, though; I resolved to bury him. The majority of the church service, my mind was preoccupied with Christine and her dilemma, and I didnít put a whole lot of concentration into spiritual edification.
After services, Christine preceded me out to the VW while I was delayed in the hall speaking with Pastor Steve for a few moments. When I exited the narrow hall, and stepped down two cement steps and into the side parking lot I saw that Mr. Drayton had cornered Christine by my car. Though his back was turned, I could see him shaking his fist and gesticulating wildly. He spoke in low tones, so as not to arouse attention, but his voice was emphatic and determined. As I moved in closer, I began to make out his words.
"You can go back to England for all I care, but if you say one thing to malign my family, you wonít live to regret it."
Christine was backed against the carís splotchy exterior of red and gray primer. She was shaking. "What would I say?" she asked a small spark of defiance working its way into her voice.
"You know what youíd say, but it would all be lies. All of it." He spit out the words as if they were bullets, and that if he spoke them with enough force they would kill Christine.
Drayton heard the crunch of my feet on the gravel and he spun around, his bullet head swiveling in my direction. He paused for a moment when he saw that it was me, and opened his sneering mouth to speak. He didnít have the opportunity. I launched toward him, putting all my force into a punch that started at my waist and ended with my right fist hitting him in the mouth. He tried to backpedal, but was too late. I split his lip open and knocked him to a sitting position on the gravel. He spit out a mouth full of blood, and pulled a lint-covered tissue from his pocket to staunch the crimson flow.
"Listen to me," I said. "This afternoon you are going to drop off Christineís stuff at my grandparentís house, the VanLanninghams, and youíre never going to speak to her again. If you do, there are certain allegations we will make."
"You canít prove nothing."
"Maybe, maybe not. But we donít need to prove anything. We just need to tell what happened and that ought to be enough to permanently ruin your reputation."
Without saying another word, he stood up and brushed past me. I watched him retreat across the parking lot.
"What if he has you arrested?" asked Christine, wide-eyed.
I shrugged. "It wouldnít be the first time. Iím betting that heíll keep his mouth shut and hope that we do the same."
"Are we really going to keep quiet about this? What about Fran?"
My knuckles were gashed and bleeding, and I inspected the wound. "I was just using that as leverage. Weíre going to turn him in no matter what he does."
That afternoon, Draytonís wife showed up with Christineís suitcases. She apologized meekly, and profusely for her husbandís lack of manners and left. Christineís clothes and art supplies had been thrown into the bags in a haphazard manner, leaking tubes of acrylic paints thrown in with sweaters that were now stained with red and yellow.
Christineís stay at my grandparents turned into a prolonged one. She continued to attend and do well in her Senior year of high school and my grandparents offered her the opportunity to stay for the rest of the school year.
Once my split knuckles had healed any evidence that I had been involved in an altercation in the church parking lot, I did some searching in the phone book and made a call to the Child Protective Services. Shortly thereafter, the Draytonís received a visit from a caseworker investigating molestation charges. The Drayton family quickly dropped off the radar. They were never seen at church again and we heard rumors that charges had been filed against Devon Drayton.