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“Let’s get you into a shower and get you cleaned up and warm young man,” I told him trying to sound as upbeat as I could.
Rick and I got him into the Ensuite bathroom, and I turned on the shower. I showed him where the soap and shampoo was and left him a couple of towels hung over the glass shower walls. I showed him how to adjust the water temperature and how to work the rather complicated shower jet mechanism. I told him to leave his clothes outside the bathroom door and I would wash them for him. Rick went and got one of my terry cloth bathrobes and left it on the hook on the back of the door.
Rick and I walked into the hall outside my bedroom and started to talk about how sick we felt that someone could be so callous as to do something like this to a young boy like Sean. As we talked I notice a rather skinny bare arm drop a bunch of very ragged clothing on the bedroom floor and close the bathroom door. I retrieved the clothes (more like rags) and I noted the sizes of the various pieces. I knew that 1 in 4 children in the city that I lived close to lived in poverty, as opposed to 1 in 6 in Canada, but it never really made an impression on me until now. I was seeing the reality first-hand and I was sickened by what I saw.
“Rick, here’s the PIN number and my debit card. It's only 11 now, and I think Walmart is open until 12 tonight. Go get him some underwear, socks, sneakers, jeans and hoodies. If I washed his stuff it would fall apart. I think the pharmacy might be open so see if you can get the prescription filled. While you’re shopping I’ll make him something to eat.”
I followed Rick downstairs to the door and remembered, “Oh, and get him some pyjamas.”
I knew Rick would get him some decent stuff, as he raised two boys. I had raised two girls, and was out of it when it came to adolescent male fashion.
I warmed up some vegetables and soup that were left over from my dinner, and made a nice sandwich out of turkey slices and fresh crusty bread I had picked up at the deli that day. I was just pouring a big glass of milk when I heard him slowly descending the stairs from the second floor. He limped into the kitchen and sat on one of the stools at the island counter. I kept from laughing at the teddy bear that I was looking at. He couldn’t be anymore than 5’, maybe 85 pounds and my floor length terry cloth robe that covered my 5’11” 160 pound frame swamped him.
“I’ll bet you’re hungry young man. I hope you like turkey sandwiches, soup and vegetables,” I said.
I was pretty sure he did, as he dug in immediately as soon as I put the food in front of him. I thought his middle name must have been Hoover, as he literally vacuumed the food off the plate despite the split lip.
“How about some fresh apple pie I picked up from the bakery today?” I asked.
His weak smile and nodding head told me that was quite alright with him. I cut a very large piece and asked him, “how about some cheddar cheese on the side, with some frozen vanilla yogurt as well?” I don’t know why I asked him because the smile became larger and the head nodded with a little more vigor.
He finished his dessert and I poured him a second glass of milk. While he drank, I thought I’d see if I could get him to talk.
“Are you warm now young fellow?”
“Yes sir,” He replied in a very feeble voice.
“Are you still hungry.”
“No sir, that was good. Thanks.”
“Rick has gone to Walmart to get you some clothes and pyjamas. He should be back soon, it’s not too far away. Are you in a lot of pain?”
“I don’t hurt too bad now, after the doctor gave me that shot in my butt,” he angrily replied.
“Why did Rick go to get me some clothes? I thought you said you was going to wash my stuff,” he replied, with an air of indignation in his voice.
I carefully considered how to tactfully put my next statement and I said, “well you needed pyjamas, and since Rick was going to be in the boys section we thought we might as well get you a change of clothes for the next few days.”
“Am I staying here for a while?” he asked in a soft voice.
I didn’t hesitate and said, “Yes you are Sean. I can assure you I’m going to make sure you aren’t going back to whoever did that to you. For the moment you are in my temporary Foster custody, and you are safe and secure.”
Before I could elaborate any more, Rick came in the laundry room entrance with quite a few parcels.
“I can’t believe I was able to get the prescription filled; is there anything that Walmart doesn’t do?" Rick said with an air of disbelief.
We got out a pair of pyjamas and a Toronto Maple Leaf bathrobe from one of the bags and took him upstairs to the spare room he had already inhabited during his examine with Scott.
I told him, “Go into your room and change into your pyjamas and I’ll get another brush for the electric toothbrush out for you. By the way, I hope you are real fan of the Leafs, otherwise you’re going to feel real stupid wearing that robe. If you don’t like it I’ll wear it, as that’s my favourite team.”
He smiled and nodded yes.
“The toothbrush will be down the hall in the main bathroom,” I said.
Rick went downstairs to put the rest of the new clothing in the washer and I got out a new toothbrush and some toothpaste and put it in the main bathroom.
“The toothbrush and toothpaste is on the counter in the main bathroom. Call me when you are ready for bed and Rick and I’ll come up and get you settled,” I called into his room.
I went down to the kitchen and got together three ice packs for his face, ankle and ribs and got out another beer for Rick and me. Before we had taken a sip, we heard a frantic cry from the hall upstairs.
“I need your help sir… please. Can you come upstairs?” he cried.
Oh shit, what’s wrong now I thought? Does this mean we are going to take that trip to Emerg after all?
When we walked into the main bathroom, I looked at his very frantic face and noticed his good eye was a little misty.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with this. I’ve never used one of these before. I’m really stupid and I’m sorry …….” he tailed off holding the electric toothbrush in his hand.
“How about I get a manual brush,” I said as I reached into the drawer and got out a new brush the dentist gave me the last time I had an appointment.
“Here you go. Now how about you calm down young fellow, you’re upset and not yourself. Neither of us thinks you’re stupid.”
I put my arm around his shoulders to console him, but he stiffened slightly and I could tell he was still not ready to trust me. I released my grip and patted him gently on his back.
“Call us when you are ready. We have some ice packs for your face, ankle and ribs,” I said as Rick and I exited from the bathroom and went downstairs.
“I think you are going to be in for a rough night Al,” Rick said as we made our way into the kitchen to get the ice packs.
“Do you want me to stay overnight to give you a hand?”
“I think we’ll be Ok. I’m sure he’ll be better once he gets some rest. I know he’s not hungry. I think his middle name is Hoover. You should have seen him wolf down his food," I chuckled.
Rick and I got him settled into bed with ice packs on his face, ribs and ankle and I told him I would be back up in about 20 minutes to take them away. Rick left and said he would check in tomorrow morning to see how things were going.
Twenty minutes later I went upstairs to his room to remove the packs and get him ready to go to sleep. When I went in the room he was on his side sound asleep. I took the ice packs from his body and tucked him in. Before I went over to turn out the light and leave I sat down on the side of his bed and just looked at the very fragile angel that had just come into my life. I ran my hand through his hair and down over the soft skin on his neck.
‘How could anyone hurt such a wonderful young man like him,’ I asked as I felt myself become choked up.
I turned out his light and left the door ajar as I left his room to go downstairs.
‘What the hell is that noise? What’s going on? Am I’m being robbed? Don’t I have an alarm system?' I thought as I was awakened from a very deep sleep.
I quickly shook off my grogginess, rolled over in the bed and looked at my alarm clock.
‘Four o’clock in the morning! Shit!’ I thought. Then I realized the noise was coming from Sean’s room, and was getting louder.
When I ran into his room I quickly realized he was having a very bad dream. The covers were all askew and he was writhing all over the mattress. He was calling out, “I’m not going to let you do stuff to me! Don’t touch me you asshole! Ow, stop!”
I had heard enough, and I grabbed his arm and tried to wake him. He never fully woke up, but he managed to sit up and put his arms around me in a tight hug. I reluctantly put my arms around his frail body and softly said, “It’s alright young man, you’re safe. No one is going to hurt you. You’re Ok, I’m here.”
I sat with him hugging and rubbing his back without him saying a word for about 2 minutes until he calmed down. I could tell there wasn’t much to him as it felt like I was hugging my 10 year old grand nephew.
“Are you ready to go back to sleep Sean?” I finally asked him. He nodded his head yes, and I laid him down and tucked him back into bed.
‘I can’t believe I just hugged a 13 year old boy that I just met a few hours ago. I’m not a touchy feely guy; hell I rarely did that with my girls as they were growing up. What the hell am I doing? Why did I do that?’ I thought as I walked towards the door as I left his room.
I paused in his doorway, and watched as his chest heaved slowly in and out as sleep took hold of his body. I went downstairs to the kitchen and made myself a hot chocolate, as I was too wound up to sleep.
‘That boyfriend is dead meat. When I’m finished with him he’ll wished he had never heard of me. And, if Sean's mother is in on this she'll be dead meat as well!’
I sat in my favourite chair in the living room for about a half an hour, as I tried to make sense of what had just happened. I couldn’t put my finger on why I was able to so easily reach out and touch the boy physically and emotionally. For some reason the young man was evoking feelings in me that had been dormant for many years, when my wife and I were first married and then when my girls were young. I finally went back upstairs, but stopped and looked into Sean’s room. He was peacefully asleep, so I went into my room, crawled into my bed and finally dropped off.
Rick called at 9 the next morning to see how Sean made out. I updated him on the nightmare he had and that he was still asleep.
Katharine arrived shortly before 10 am with one of her case workers, Dominic Markucci and Dean Balderson, a detective from the police force who specialized in sexual assault cases. She felt since we were related that to maintain objectivity someone else from her unit should accompany her and conduct the interview with Dean and Sean.
Dominic was fairly young, probably about 25, but seemed to be a caring individual, and knowledgeable about how to handle this type of situation. I was sure Sean wouldn’t feel threatened by him and would hopefully open up to him about what had really happened.
Dean was a little older, probably in his 40's and was dressed in a sport jacket and dress pants. He had some anatomically correct dolls with him that he would use in the interview.
“Hello Mr. Burger, your niece has told me a great deal about you. I’m glad to meet you,” Dominic said as we shook hands.
“I hope it was good things she told you,” I said as I laughed.
"Unfortunately, I didn't drive with the other two Mr. Burger, but I'm sure it would have only been good things Katharine said about you," Dean said.
"I guess you don't remember me, but I was in your accounting class 23 years ago," he said as he smiled.
I felt a little sheepish, but after 30 years of teaching it was impossible for me to remember every student I taught. I apologized, but he put me at ease, saying he understood. He told me a little bit about what his job was like and what would happen in the interview. I expressed my concern over Sean's fragile psyche and that I hoped this wouldn't set him back and make him upset. He assured me he was well trained in situations like this, and that he would try his utmost to keep him calm.
Since Sean wasn’t up yet we talked a little bit about some of the details in Sean’s extensive file at CAS. It appeared that Sean had been raised (if you could call it that) by his mother as his father had never been in the picture from the day he was born. He had long ago lost his parental rights.
Sean was still in bed at 10:15, and I decided to go upstairs to wake him, As soon as I had walked out into the lower hall, I heard his door open and he slowly made his way down the stairs.
“Hi sleepy head, you had a good sleep,” I said with as cheery a voice as I could.
“There are some people in the kitchen that I want you to meet. Come on in and I’ll introduce you to them and get you something to eat," I said as he walked into the kitchen and I directed him to one of the stools at the counter.
“Sean, this is my niece Katharine Planter. Katharine is a case manager at CAS. The other people with her are Dominic Markucci, one of Katharine’s case workers, and detective Dean Balderson. They are here to arrange things so you can stay here for awhile, if that’s what you want. Is that OK?”
I held my breath as Sean hesitated, then nodded his head yes.
“Great, but lets get you something to eat first,” I said as I started to get out the stuff for Bacon and Eggs.
Katharine, Dominic, Dean and I made small talk with Sean as I prepared his breakfast. Sean still wasn’t very chatty, but at least he did participate somewhat in the conversation. He finished up his juice, and took the children’s vitamin pill from the bottle that I had Rick get last night as well as his pain killer. The four of us then noted what a voracious appetite he had, as he downed the ample amount of food that I made for him. I was glad I doubled the portion that I would have normally made for myself.
When Sean had finished, Dominic and Dean took him into the Den to interview him. Katharine told me that Dean had confirmed that there was no missing person report filed by Sean’s mother, which she said didn’t surprise her. She then pulled out some papers from her portfolio case and handed them to me to look at and sign.
“I took the liberty of filling these out this morning before I left the house. They are the papers that authorize Sean’s temporary placement with you as his foster parent. This will give you power of attorney over his care, and will provide you with a health insurance number, which you will need. It’s good for 90 days so that will give us time to complete the process to make it permanent,” she said as she flashed a wry smile at me.
I spluttered and said, “Whoa, what happened to just overnight and who said anything about permanent? That’s a big step Katharine, and I’m not sure I’m ready for that commitment at my age. I was 47 when this young man was born! I’m semi-retired and have a comfortable life style.”
I calmed down a little and said, “I’m quite willing to keep him for the short term, just until we can get his situation stabilized and a more suitable home for him. It wouldn’t be fair……”
Katharine cut me off and reminded me that, “Your father, my grandfather, was 46 when you were born. You and he got along great, and it didn’t look like he minded the commitment he made to you when you were born.“
“And for your information, we likely won’t be able to find a suitable relative to take Sean or for that matter any suitable foster home either. Kids that are Sean’s age and with his past history are very difficult to place, and more than likely he will end up in institutional care until he’s 18. I can’t think of a better placement for Sean than with you. You have no idea what’s in this file about his behaviour and the unsuccessful placements that he’s been in over the years. There have been numerous times we have had to remove him from his mother’s care, but each time the foster homes he was placed in, for one reason or another didn’t want him and we had no choice but to return him to his mother… but not this time.”
She paused, took a deep breath and said, “You had a reputation when you were teaching as being a caring but firm teacher, who was able to work miracles with many hard-to-serve students. Remember, many of my friends were in your classes years ago, and they saw you in action. Besides, aunt Lorraine would want you to do this. Why don’t we take things one step at a time, and see where things go. I’ll start the process for permanent placement, but there will be no obligation on you.”
I hadn’t counted on this turn of events and Katharine’s impassioned plea, but I agreed with her plan and completed the papers she shoved in front of me. By now the interview was over and Sean came into the kitchen followed by a very concerned looking Dominic. Dean was still in the room finishing up his paper work. I sent Sean upstairs to get cleaned up and showered while Katharine, Dominic and I had a chance to talk.
Katharine turned to Dominic and said, “You don’t look like your usual upbeat self. What did you find out?”
Dominic paused then in a deliberate manner informed us of their findings. “The boyfriend tried to rape Sean, but he resisted. So the creep sucker punched him in the face, then grabbed him and threw him down the stairs and kicked him. The only reason he didn’t kill him was because the mother came in the front door and stopped him, and Sean was able to get away. I’m not sure what happened to the mother, but according to Sean this guy is a mean dude. He said his name was Maury Greeves. I don’t remember seeing that name in his file, so I guess this is a new ‘flavour of the month’ for his mother. Dean is going to get a warrant out for this guy’s arrest and go around to the house asap. We took the pictures that we need.”
Dean came out and told us he had called the station on his cell phone and got the ball in motion. He excused himself and left to file his report and fill out the arrest warrant.
There were however some pieces that didn’t quite fit, and Katharine, Dominic and I shared what we each knew. We figured this happened on Wednesday, and that Sean had been wandering for 2 days until we found him at the rink. We were amazed that he didn’t have frostbite, as his house was in the lower city in a pretty seedy part of town, which was a least 20 kms away from the upscale town where I lived. He must have walked, as he didn’t have any money on him.
Just as Katharine and Dominic were getting ready to leave we looked up and Sean was standing in the doorway into the kitchen. His head was bowed and he was looking at his feet, and by his body language it was obvious he wasn’t very happy.