"What's the matter? You look back there one more time I think the puppets are going to come to life again," Kiera said as she drove us out of town.
"I thought I heard something shift. Fall over," I said, trying not to think of the dead body in the back of the library ban. Then her words caught up with me. "Wait. Again?"
Kiera smiled. "Just seeing if you were paying attention. Mostly. So the King House. I told you about it?"
"I think it was in a report. Halfway house?"
"Foster care is the best way to say it. Boys and girls age ten to eighteen. Girls are in a separate house. They bring them together for these kind of events, but mostly they live in different parts of the compound."
"King and queen house?"
"You catch on. Yeah. It was all King House, just boys, for a bit. Then they outgrew it and moved out here." Kiera turned onto the highway heading out of town, a long two-lane blacktop that stretched into the pine woods surrounding the town.
"Who was King? Or was it from that John Irving book? 'Princes of Mississippi, Kings of the South'?"
Kiera laughed, a high musical sound. "I liked that movie. When Charlize comes in, woo. Even Tobey couldn't mess that up. So sad. No, King was an old author from around here in the thirties. Made his money writing pulp adventure about a young orphan traveling the globe and solving crimes. Was an orphan himself, if you believe what he wrote. Boy on his own, traveling around looking for his parents. Helping people. Better than some old guy in a big house. I forget the kid's name. The character's."
"'Have slingshot, will travel' kinda thing. So he left all his money to the orphans?"
"Foster children. Yeah, some. State took it over when the trust ran out, twenty years ago? His house, the old place up on Shadowbrook Road, the one with the gate? It's a museum or something now. People get married in the Old King House."
"The state built a camp out here? Doesn't sound like them, the way the books for the library look," I said. The last conversation I had with the state library had been me asking for money and them laughing. Made me remember Brenda's sister Amy's offer with a little more kindness.
"... they shut it down for abuse, though," Kiera said. While my mind wandered over money looking at the trees passing us by, she had been talking.
I said, "I'm sorry. I missed that last bit."
"The training school. Kinda a juvenile detention center. Here we are." Kiera turned the van into a gravel drive bordered by a row of cedar trees planted like hedges. Through the trees I could see a large wrought iron fence. Twenty feet off the highway, the trees opened just wide enough for the van to fit in front of a large black metal gate. The metal had been twisted and contorted to resemble vines, a large crest at the top with the letters "BKTS."
"I bet this isn't a Burger King," I said.
Kiera clucked her tongue as she rolled down the window. "Weren't you listening?" Then she leaned out an pushed a button on a call box hidden in the branches of the tree near the gate. I did heard little of the conversation she had but picked up the words "library" and "story time."
After a moment, the gate opened. It shook and creaked, the metal whining.
"Put your game face on, bossman. It's time to meet the kids," Kiera said as we drove forward.
To be continued...