I was orphaned at the age of 14. My parents were killed in a plane crash returning from Saudi Arabia where my father worked for ARAMCO as a petroleum engineering project manager. They were on their way back to the US on one of their two required exits from the country each year. I was in boarding school in the US because teenagers were not allowed to remain in Saudi for middle and high school. That didn't really bother me because I didn't like living in Saudi anyway. It was so blessed hot and gritty where my parents were stationed.
My world was turned upside down by their sudden deaths. I was an only child as were both mom and dad. They always told me I was the best birth control device known to man. I knew they were kidding because mom had a hysterectomy a couple of years after I was born. My grandfather on mom's side was my nearest kin so I ended up living with him. I never knew him very well before the accident. We had only seen him on holidays because my dad's job took us out of the US for long stretches at a time. He was nice but a distant and pretty straight laced person. He was however, a genius when it came to managing money. He had one serious fault in my mind. He was very stingy handing out any money for me to spend.
The airline company flying the plane my parents were on settled for a fairly large sum of money as compensation for their deaths. Of course granddad was in charge of it until I reached majority. In the four years that elapsed before I turned 18 he had managed to double my nest egg. With my parents estate, insurance policies that they had plus the company policy, and the airline settlement I was worth over $7.5 million when I was entitled to the money.
I decided to allow granddad to manage my assets until I finished college but did insist on a larger allowance to enhance my lifestyle and get a BMW. I did not live extravagantly but did have a decent apartment within a short distance of the college.
School had always been easy for me. I graduated from high school when I was barely 17 and finished up my Ph.D. in Computer Science at 23. I had taken dual masters programs in Finance and Computer Science. I figured I needed to learn how to manage my money after I left college. I also spent as much time with granddad as possible learning from him how to preserve and increase my money. I learned as much from him as I did in any of my Finance classes in college. I was saddened a year after I left college when he passed away. Between the two of us we had managed to increase the size of my nest egg to just over $26 million. Although I was granddad's only heir, he left all of his estate to various children's charities which surprised me no end.
I took a job out of college in 1988 with a high tech consulting company in San Antonio. This was convenient for me because my parents had a very nice home that I had inherited just north of SA in the hill country. Actually after working there for a couple of years I had purchased the majority interest in the firm and now not only worked for the firm, I also directed its running. I hired an office manager who took care of the day to day operations of the business. I only managed consulting projects that were either interesting or challenging.
Although I didn't need to work, I guess the work ethic that was ingrained into me from my earliest childhood would not let me be a playboy.
I had been with Alamo Consulting Consortium for about 4 years when I got roped into helping coach a little league baseball team by one of the policemen that I had come in contact with while doing a project for the San Antonio Police Department. Jack was persistent in his pestering of me until I consented to help out. This had been my major social outlet for the past two years taking up most of my free time during the season. I always had a soft spot for kids and after my initial reluctance to become involved I thoroughly enjoyed my interaction with the team.
It had been a long time since I had played any ball although I had played all through boarding school and on an intramural team in college and if I do say so myself I was not too bad. I never played any of the glamour positions just mostly outfield and some second base. I was quick and had a good arm and wasn't afraid to take a hard slide. Not too bad with a bat either, but definitely not pro material.
It was about the middle of the little league season one afternoon when I got to the ballpark early to get all of the equipment out of the shed and ready for the kids to arrive. I noticed there was one kid sitting in the stands already waiting for the game to start. I waved and gave him a smile as I passed. He just looked at me showing no emotion not returning my wave. I was familiar with most of the kids that attended the games but I had never seen this one before. "He must be new to the neighborhood," I thought.
He looked like any other kid you might see hanging around the area. He was wearing a tee shirt that was about two or three sizes too big and his blue jeans had the required rip in the knees. His sneakers were standard fare. The laces were untied and spread open.
"God, how do they keep from tripping on those laces?" I muttered to myself.
Soon the kids arrived and the game got underway. The guys played really well but unfortunately our team lost by one run in the final at bat. They were all pretty bummed out. As much as we tried to tell them that the most important thing was that they played their best it was still disappointing to them when they lost. I gave all of the guys a coupon to redeem at the McDonald's down the street for whatever they wanted which helped to heal their wounded prides.
I had worked this out with the manager of the McDonald's that whoever brought one of my coupons in they could order anything they wanted and I would pay for it. This was one of the small extravagances I allowed myself. The kids that played on our team were some of the less fortunate and I sometimes think that this was the only substantial meal that some of them got. I always got a chorus of "Thank you, Coach Johnson" whenever I handed out the coupons. This scene always choked me up because I knew that they sincerely meant and appreciated it.
By the time the game was over and the kids all rushed off for their treat it was beginning to get dark. Jack went off with the kids to make sure that they behaved while I was left to get all of the equipment put away in the shed. As I locked up and turned around to survey the area to make sure that I had not missed anything, I noticed the same kid I had seen earlier still sitting in the bleachers. He had not moved since I first saw him.
Seeing no equipment that I had missed in my quick look around, I walked over to the bleachers where the youngster was sitting. "Hi, did you enjoy the game?" I asked.
He just looked at me as if he didn't understand what I was saying. I tried again in Spanish and then in German the only two languages that I had a passing acquaintance with. There was still no response.
Although it was getting dark I took a closer look at the youngster and noticed that he appeared to need a bath. His clothes were not any dirtier than a lot of kids who had been playing outside all day. His hands however looked like he had been digging in the dirt.
"Don't you think that you had better start home? Won't your parents be wondering where you are?" I questioned not knowing if he heard or understood anything I was saying. His only response was to lower his head and look at his shoes.
"Are you hungry?" I asked. He looked up slightly and I noticed that there were the beginnings of tears in his eyes. From this I surmised that he was hearing what I was saying but for some reason did not or could not speak. I held out my hand inviting him to come with me. My intentions were to take him to the McDonald's where I could ask Jack what we should do with him. "Come let's go to McDonald's" I said to him.
Instead of taking my hand the boy stood and walked a little closer to me but stopped short. As he did so he stepped more into the lights shining on the field which I had not yet turned off. I was able to get a better look at him. He appeared to be about 11 or 12 years old and quite short maybe 4' 6" or 8." His skin had a yellow cast to it that I had not noticed when I first saw him in the daylight earlier. His light brown hair was cut short and not too professionally. It looked more as if someone had taken a pair of scissors and whacked at it. His features were regular but not what you could call handsome, cute maybe. Probably his best feature was the color of his eyes which reminded me of the color of the water off the Florida gulf coast. I think they call it azure blue or something. Anyway they were light blue with a hint of green.
I turned and started toward the pole where the light switch for the field lights was. As I reached the pole and took out my key to open the box to throw the switch, I looked back to see if he was still there. He had stepped down off the bleachers and had followed me staying about 10 feet behind. Taking this as a good sign, I decided to walk down to McDonald's hoping that he would follow me. I didn't want to scare him by trying to get him into my car.
It was less than a block and on the other side of the street to the destination I hoped he would follow me to. I kept looking around to see if he was with me. He maintained his roughly 10 foot distance but was following. I wondered what would happen when we had to cross the street as I reached out and pressed the button to change the light so we could cross. I prayed it would stay WALK long enough for him to cross behind me. To try to encourage him I walked more quickly as I crossed hoping he would try to maintain the same distance. He did.
I walked to the door of the fast food place not knowing what I would do if he would not close the gap between us. As I opened the door I felt something push up against me. When I looked around it was as I had hoped the boy. I said as I looked down at him, "Let's get you something to eat. What would you like?"
Remembering his dirty hands I said, "I need to wash my hands, how about you?" Getting no response I herded him into the restroom. I wet my hands and was about to dispense some soap when he stuck his hands under the water also. I let him soak his hands under the water for a while before dispensing a lot of liquid soap into my hands and taking his into mine scrubbing them in an attempt to wash some of the accumulated dirt off. I gave up trying to get all of it from under his nails. Taking a paper towel, I wet it and made an effort to wash his face. By the time we were finished he was at least more presentable.
When we went back into the dining area and I looked around for Jack he was nowhere to be found as were all of the team. "Well I guess I will just have to wing it," I thought. "I'll have to call him later." It was not unusual for the team to be gone by the time I got there. They could inhale their meals in what seemed to be an instant. I sometimes wondered if the food even made it to the table before it was gone. Jack usually stuck around until I arrived unless he had something he had to do.
If the boy would not speak, I wondered what I should get him to eat as we approached the front of the serving line. When the teenager at the cash register asked us what we wanted I decided I would just get a couple of Big Macs, fries and a couple of large chocolate shakes. From the look the boy's head nodding up and down I could tell this was alright with him. When our order was ready I carried it over to an empty table and set it down. It was barely on the table when he grabbed one of the hamburgers, tore off the wrapper and took a huge bite.
"Slow down, I don't want you to choke," I chuckled. "There is plenty of food, don't worry." I watched in fascination as he demolished his burger in about six bites, then started on the Biggie fries and the shake. I had not unwrapped my sandwich and had only taken a few sips of my shake when he looked up at me and then at the other Big Mac. I hesitated for a moment before I shoved it toward him. He quickly had it unwrapped and began his second attack, but this time he ate it in a somewhat more leisurely fashion. I nibbled a few of my fries and then pushed them toward him. He looked up and then quickly began to devour them as well.
"You wait right here, I have to see the manager and pay my bill. Okay?" I said as I got up. I caught Larry's attention and asked him what the damages were for the team's eating frenzy. I wasn't too surprised when the total for the 16 little eating machines came to just over $150. It usually ran about that after each game. I didn't care. I could easily afford it and it gave me pleasure doing it. I paid the bill and started back to the table then I turned back and ordered two of the "fried pies."
As I sat down at the table he was just slurping the last of his shake. I handed him the pies and he gobbled down the first and looked at me before I nodded and he consumed the second as well.
"Where do you live?" I asked. Getting no response I continued, "Are you new to the neighborhood? I haven't seen you around before." He shook his head to indicate I think that he didn't live around here. I wasn't really sure. At least I thought he could hear me or was awfully good at reading lips. I decided that I needed to call Jack to see if he knew of any reports of a missing kid.
I took my cell phone and dialed Jack's number. It rang three times before he picked up. "Hi, Jack, it's Crane," I said. After we exchanged pleasantries I continued, "Do you know of any reports of a young boy about 10 to 12 years old being reported missing or having run away?" I went on to describe to him the events surrounding the youngster I was now sitting with. Jack did not know of any but would call in to police headquarters and find out since he was off duty for the rest of the weekend.
Five minutes later he called back and said that they did not have any missing persons report for someone matching the description I had given him. He suggested that I try to get the kid to lead me to his home or failing that to take him to the police station and turn him in. I quickly rejected the second suggestion. I could not bear the thought of the kid being locked up over the weekend until some Child Protective Services official could get there to process him probably on Monday.
"Hey, little buddy, let's go see if we can find your home. We can't stay here all night," I said. "Do you have a name?" getting no response I continued after a few seconds, "I have to call you something. I guess I'll just call you Boy until we find out what your real name is. Is that alright with you?" He didn't answer but did give me a brief smile that made me want to give him a big hug, but I resisted. I sure didn't want to frighten him away.
I got up from the table and started to the door when he threw his arms around my waist and held on like he was afraid I would abandon him there. Although it made walking somewhat difficult we finally managed to get back across the street and to my new BMW that I had just picked up two weeks ago.
"Well, what am I going to do with you? Will you tell me where you live?" He just squeezed me tighter as an answer. "It looks like I will have a houseguest for the weekend. I'm sure not going to turn you over to the police tonight," I snickered. I opened the passenger door to my car and attempted to peel Boy off my side. He reluctantly released his grip on my waist and allowed me to put him in the seat and fasten his seatbelt.
We quickly made it to Loop 410 and then to 281 north. The BMW wanted to stretch out but I held it in somewhat control only traveling at 85 after we left the city. I turned off on 306 and then wound my way through some of the side roads that people from the more civilized areas would not even consider a good cow path. When we finally reached the gate to my property I activated the electronic gate to allow us entry. My house was located on thirty-five acres near the top of a magnificent hill with stunning views of Canyon Lake and the whole canyon area all the way to the dam. This was my parent's vacation house. They had been very prudent having mortgage insurance on the property so that when I inherited it, it was free and clear. It was much too big for a single person as it was over 4500 square feet with four bedrooms and five baths. Even though it was too big I could not convince myself to sell it and move closer to my work.
Boy's eyes were almost popping out of his head all the way from San Antonio. He had the most disbelieving look on his face as I drove into the three car garage alongside my Land Rover. I got out of the car and went around to his side of the car and opened the door. He was still in shock so I released his seatbelt and pulled him out of the car setting him on his feet. He immediately threw his arms around my waist again, but this time those beautiful eyes had fear showing in them.
"Nobody is going to harm you," I whispered to him as I led him to the door into the back hallway of the house. "Would you like something to drink? A Coke or Seven-Up or Dr. Pepper is all I have."
Not getting an answer I led him to the refrigerator and opened the door. I reached in and got a Dr. Pepper. He released one arm from around my waist and grabbed a Coke. I popped the top on my can and took a swallow. When I looked down he was holding his can up to me as if to say "open it." I popped the top on his can and steered him to the couch in the family room and turned on the TV. As we sat down he released his hold on my waist but sat as close to me as he could.
Being this close to him in a closed environment I realized just how long it had been since he had bathed. He was a little ripe. I hadn't noticed it as much in the car with the windows down as I like to ride or at McDonald's but now it was very noticeable.
"Boy," I said, "you need a bath! As soon as you finish your coke we'll find you something to wear and then you need to climb into a shower."
Finding him something to wear in this house was not going to be easy. I'm just over 6 feet tall so I knew nothing that I had would fit him. Well maybe a tee shirt would serve as pajamas until we could get his clothes clean. One of my tee's would probably come down to his knees because I like to buy them at least one size larger than necessary. Then I remembered that the last time Jack and his family were visiting a couple of weekends ago his youngest son had left a pair of shorts, a tee shirt and a pair of briefs. He had ridden home in his bathing suit and had left the clothes by mistake. I think that kid would forget his head if it were not attached. The clothes might be just a little big but they would fit better than one of my tees.
When "Boy" finished his coke I reminded him he needed to take a bath. I led him to a bathroom in one of the spare bedrooms and showed him where the soap, shampoo and towels were and made sure he knew he was supposed to use them. I told him he could stay in the shower as long as he liked but that I expected him to be thoroughly clean when he came out. I placed Timmy's clothes out for him and told him I would throw his dirty clothes in and start them washing as soon as he was finished.
About twenty minutes later my young guest appeared all fresh and clean. I had not thought about providing a comb or brush in the bathroom until he showed up with his hair in a mass of tangles. I quickly remedied the situation and soon he looked like a nearly normal boy. The yellow cast of his complexion was even more noticeable now that the dirt had been washed off. It seemed a little strange to me but not knowing anything about his background or ancestors I pushed it to the back of my mind.
"Come here young man. Sit down beside me here on the couch," I said to him.
He ran to the couch and jumped on it landing right next to me pushing me about six inches to the right. "Whoa!" I chuckled. "Do you feel better now that you are all clean?" He just looked up at me and smiled the first really big smile I had seen from him. Timmy's clothes as I had expected were a little large but not so much that they were hanging off of him. In fact I had seen some kids intentionally wear theirs as baggy or baggier. "We need to wash your own clothes so that you will have a change. Let's go do that now."
I got up and went to retrieve his clothes, but as I did I had him clinging to me again making it difficult to walk. "It's alright son, I'm not going to leave you. I'm just going to put your dirty clothes in the washer. Do you want to help?" I asked.
I could almost detect a nod of his head.
We grabbed his dirty clothes and headed for the laundry room. As I turned the dial on the washer and added a good amount of detergent to the tub, he took the clothes and stuffed them into the washer. Again he turned his face up to me and gave me another full smile. This time I took a good look at those beautiful azure eyes and was surprised at what I had not noticed before.
I guess I had never really looked at him in full light, but when I did I was shocked to see that the whites of his eyes were also yellowed. This started my mind spinning. "What causes the eyes and skin to turn yellow?" I thought trying to remember the health classes I had taken so many years ago. "OH my God!" it suddenly dawned on me. "He could have hepatitis of some kind. If it is I hope it is not the catching kind," I prayed inwardly.
One of my friends and neighbor here at the lake was a well known San Antonio pediatrician. "Please let him be home this weekend," I said to myself.
"Boy, I have to make a phone call. Would you like a dish of ice cream while I make the call?" I said and without waiting headed to the refrigerator knowing young boys appetites. "I have Chocolate, Vanilla, or Butter Pecan. Which do you want?" I asked as I got down a large bowl from the cupboard and a couple of spoons from the drawer. I also retrieved some chocolate and butterscotch syrup in case he wanted to make a sundae.
"Help yourself to as much as you want of any one or all of them," I said as I place the three half gallon cartons of ice cream on the counter and lifted him up onto one of the bar stools.
I picked up the phone in the kitchen and dialed Sam's number. Dr. Samuel Greene is a jolly man. He stands about 5' 3" and probably weighs around 250 pounds. He is great with kids. I have been at his place when his grandkids were there with their friends and he was the center of attention of all the kids. You could tell from his eyes as he looked at them that the kids were the center of his universe.
Thank goodness Sam answered the phone. "Hi Sam, this is Crane Johnson. I got myself in a situation and I would like to impose on you if I could," I started. I explained the situation as succinctly as I could without leaving anything important out.
"Yeah, it looks like you do have a situation there," Sam almost snickered. "How can I help?"
"You know I'm not a doctor but from what I can remember from health class, this kid shows all the symptoms of hepatitis. Could you possibly take a look at him to see if there is any imminent danger either for him or for that matter me?"
"Crane, you know I don't usually make house calls, but for you I will make an exception. I'm here alone this weekend anyway. Carol went to see the grandkids in Houston. I tell you what, break out a bottle of that 'Clos du Bois' Merlot and I will be there in ten minutes."
"I have it chilled to a perfect 58 degrees and I'll open it and let it breathe until you get here. Thanks, Sam, I owe you," I said.
True to his word, Sam showed up almost exactly ten minutes later. "Hi Sam, come on in," I said as I let him in the back door. "The little guy is in the kitchen eating some ice cream."
"That's a good sign. Usually hepatitis patients have a suppressed appetite. Has he eaten anything else?" he asked.
I related the stop at McDonald's as we started for the kitchen. "Hi, Boy, this is Dr. Sam. He wants to take a look at you to see if you are alright," I said, introducing my neighbor.
"Crane, pour me a glass of that Merlot while we wait for this young man to finish his ice cream," Sam said as he put his medical bag down on the breakfast bar. He drew a deep breath taking in the bouquet of the wine and then took a sip and savored the rich flavors of this exceptional California wine.
Our guest finished his ice cream and Sam convinced him as only he could do to go with him into a bedroom to be examined. It seemed like they were in there forever, but in reality it was only about twenty-five minutes.
Sam came out of the bedroom smiling with his arm around Boy chatting to him. Boy still was not saying anything.
"I don't think he has hepatitis," Sam indicated picking up his unfinished glass of wine. "Why don't you go watch some TV young man, I want to talk to Crane for a minute, okay?"
Boy looked to me and I nodded. He shuffled into the family room and picked up the remote and started surfing the channels.
"Crane, did you see the boy with his shirt off?" he asked me. When I shook my head no he continued, "He has been badly beaten on his back, buttocks and upper thighs. I put some antiseptic salve on the welts and will leave a tube of it for you to use tomorrow morning. There are also indications that he has been sexually abused. His anus is swollen and appears to have some tearing that has partially healed. I didn't do as intrusive an examination as I will need to do to determine the exact extent of the abuse, but I would like for you to bring him to my office on Monday and I will do a much more thorough exam.
"I can see no physical reason for his inability to speak. His throat and voice mechanisms all appear to be in good health. There is some redness at the back of his mouth which I would be willing to bet was caused by forced oral sex.
"Crane, how did you get messed up in this?" he asked. "I will have to file a report of the suspected sexual abuse to the state. You know I am required to report anything I see."
"Why is his complexion so yellow if you don't think he has hepatitis?" I asked somewhat confused by what I had just heard.
"It looks like his kidneys may have been bruised when he was beaten and may have nearly shut down. The liver may also have been bruised and not functioning properly. One or both of these conditions could be a cause of the yellowing. Keep track of his trips to the bathroom to see if he is producing any urine. If he is not, let me know tomorrow morning and I'll talk to a colleague of mine who runs a private dialysis clinic and I'll get him in to do a quick dialysis to keep him healthy until I can run a complete blood workup on him. I would also like to do an MRI and CT scan on his abdomen to see if there is any other damage when you bring him in Monday. If you can have him there at 8:30 I'll see him before my other patients.
"Okay, let's see what we can do with the rest of that bottle of Merlot," Sam chuckled. "Also we need to discuss the legal ramification of you keeping this boy here for the weekend and my treating him without parental permission. Both of us could be in deep shit if we are not careful.
"I know a lady who works at CPS and lives on the other side of the lake. I think we should call her and get her take on what we are doing. I think I have her home number in my PDA, let me check.
"Yes here it is, Theresa Shannon. I have treated some kids under her supervision before. She seems to really care about her charges."
"You go call her and see if she can come over here either tonight or tomorrow morning and advise us. I'll go check on Boy to see how he is doing" I said as I indicated the phone in the kitchen.
I walked back into the family room and saw Boy sitting on the couch watching a breaking news report on one of the local channels. Just as I walked in to sit down the news reporter started speaking about one of the many shootings that occur in the city it seems like on a daily basis. I didn't pay much attention until Boy suddenly uttered the first sounds that I had heard from him. It was a high pitched squeal almost above my hearing range.
"Wha..., what's wrong?" I stammered. As I reached out to him he curled up in a tight little ball and started sobbing, tears running down his cheeks like a waterfall. What the reporter on TV said started to register since it was apparent that is what had set Boy off. The report was about a man suspected of shooting his wife in their home at least six times in the face and head before taking off. When I looked at the TV they were displaying a picture of the house and an address of the crime scene that I knew was about a mile from the little league field where we had played that afternoon. The TV indicated that the police thought that the incident had occurred sometime around noon based on some neighbors' reports but had not been reported to the police until nearly 8PM.
I pulled Boy onto my lap and started to rock him back and forth as I stroked his back. "It's okay, you are safe. No one is going to hurt you. You're okay. Don't worry I'm here." I nearly started to weep as well as the hurt that Boy was feeling seemed to invade my soul.
I was still holding and rocking him when Sam came into the room and said that Theresa would be here in about 30 minutes. I told Sam to go release the gate so that she would be able to get in without buzzing us.
When he came back I told him what I suspected about what had set Boy off. "I need to get hold of Jack to see if I can get some more information on the crime that the TV had reported. He may be able to get more details that are not available to the general public and possibly the names of the people involved. I think that those people might be related to our young friend. Will you hold him while I call Jack?"
Not waiting for an answer, I struggled to my feet still holding Boy. I nodded my head to Sam for him to sit down and then handed Boy to him. I rushed to my bedroom and grabbed the phone and dialed Jack's number.
"Come on Jack, answer the phone!" I impatiently muttered at the phone. Finally a young voice I knew to be Timmy's answered the phone. "Hi, Timmy this is Crane Johnson. Is your dad there? I need to talk to him, please."
Timmy said that he would go get his dad. It seemed to take forever for Jack to come on the line. When he did I related to him what I thought about the crime and the possible relationship of the victims to Boy. "Jack, can you find out the names of the victims and any other information that might be useful in identifying Boy?" I asked almost pleading.
Jack said that he would try to get as much information as he could but it might take a little while. I asked him to do his best and to call me no matter what time it was.
The minutes seemed like hours as we waited for Theresa to get here and Jack to call back. I nearly jumped out of my skin when the front door bell rang announcing that Theresa had arrived. I was just opening the door to let her in when my phone rang. I knew it would be Jack calling back.