December 17th

Michael and Manfred carried the presents back into the barn, one by one. Their mother had given them a lift and was now standing outside, still looking upset. Their father was nowhere to be seen. Once they were done, their mother told them to wait in the car while she went inside with Ludwig, Meli and the mayor. Manfred didn’t know what the adults were talking about, but he quickly became bored waiting, so left his brother in the car and walked over to the goats. Gary came to him and licked his outstretched hand.

“You are the only one who is still nice to me,” the boy said to the goat. “It’s probably just because you don’t know what I’ve done. Everyone is going to shout at me and be so disappointed. I know you found us in the forest. It was a stupid idea, I know that. Michael was just so upset.”

A tear ran down his cheek and he had to sniff a few times before he could talk again.

“When we get home we’ll get hell. My dad will beat us all up again, and whenever I want to go to the police he threatens Michael. Oh goat, I don’t know what to do,” Manfred said and sobbed his way back to the car.

As soon as he had turned away, Gary raced towards the barn, from which the adults were just leaving. Whilst the boys’ mother was returned to her car and the policewoman was talking to the mayor, he nudged Ludwig urgently. The farmer stepped to the side to hear what his goat had to say.

Ludwig was alarmed at Gary’s story and told the others about it. The mayor confirmed that there had been rumours for a while that the boys’ father was violent, certainly everyone knew he was an alcoholic, but no-one ever had enough evidence and his family never went near the police.

“Meli, you have to protect them from him!” Ludwig implored.
“I can’t do anything if they refuse to make a complaint and I don’t catch him.”
“You’ll never have a better chance than tonight…”

They looked at each other, understood and left to secretly follow the boys home. This time Ludwig didn’t leave Gary behind.

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