American Chimera – 10.4

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Dani approached me after practice a couple days later. “Coach,” she said, “I need to talk with you again. You can’t let Pastor Hinkley back here.”

I crossed my arms. “Is this more hearsay?”

“Can I talk to you in your office?”

I didn’t have an excuse to get out quick today. I was supposed to walk the dog when I got home, but that wasn’t a pressing matter. I looked to my watch, wished that these kids weren’t so needy, and caved. “Fine. But this better be the last time you accuse someone without evidence, Dani.” I picked up my bag, put my whistle in the outer pocket, and stuffed my water bottle in the mesh net. I waved for Dani to follow me to my office, just across from the boys’ locker room, and she did so.

I left the door cracked behind me after Dani entered. “Dani, I know Pastor Hinkley was mean. I didn’t think you were the kind of person to make up stories to get back at someone.”

“I ain’t made anythin’ up.” She removed her phone from a pocket in her backpack. “A couple weeks ago, Stacy told me Pastor Hinkley grabbed her butt and stuck his hand in her pants. You didn’t believe me, but I believed her. So I set up my phone camera in the locker room; I put it in a locker and set it to take a video. I was right.”

She sorted through some files on her phone and input a complicated password before showing me a video. Very clearly, Pastor Hinkley had forced his way between the wall and Stacy. I saw his hand go to her bottom. I saw Stacy’s reaction, saw him continue to assault her – assualt her in a room where my head was bowed and eyes were closed, just a few yards away!

I gasped and tossed the phone to my desk. I couldn’t breathe for a few seconds – the look of pain and shock on Stacy’s face was killing me. I’d let it happen – I hadn’t listened when Dani warned me, and Stacy’d had to pay for it. I shook my head. “Dani, is this…this can’t be real, can it?”

“It is-”

“But how?”

Dani nodded and put the phone back in her backpack. “It’s real ’cause Hinkley’s doin’ this stuff. You cain’t let him come back.”

I nodded and closed Dani’s backpack, ushering her to zip it closed. “Does Stacy know what you did?”

“No. She’s too embarrassed about the whole thing. So I took matters into my own hands.”

I rubbed my face with a hand and held my breath.

Dani crept forward on her tapping legs. “Should we go to the cops?”

“I…I don’t think so,” I said. “I don’t know the laws about these things, but you may have just made porn with a minor, or you could have made non-consensual revenge images. Either of those could get you in trouble, and I don’t know if you can bring charges such as these against Reverend Hinkley without Stacy’s consent.”

Dani threw the bag back over her shoulders and strapped it between two of her legs. “You’re going to ban him from the locker room though, right?”

“I have to. I…Oh, God, I let this happen. This is my fault.”

“It’s Hinkley’s fault, Coach. You sure we cain’t get ’im arrested or somethin’?”

I shook my head. “I’m not sure. I’ll look into it. Don’t let anyone else see those images, for Stacy’s sake if not for anyone else.”

“If it’s me you’re worried about, Coach, don’t. I can take the fall for Stacy, if it helps her out.”

“No, you shouldn’t need to do that.”

“But if I hafta, I will. I know what I am, and I prob’ly won’t make it through my whole life without getting arrested. Getting arrested for Stacy’s sake ain’t a bad way to go.”

I reached out and hugged her. “God bless you, you little demon.”

She hugged me back.

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