Linda and Mr. Collins had waited in the office for about twenty minutes. Linda decided she had enough waiting. She went to the counter. "If you are not going to page Mr. Sooker, I shall return with a warrant and the State Police."
With a huff the secretary picked up the phone. Principal Sooker came out of his office. "I'm the Principal."
Linda, her fake smile firmly in place, replied, "We need to speak to a student."
"That is not possible." Sooker turned to return to his office.
"I have parental permission, but if you would rather have a warrant, and the State Police here to enforce it, I can have it arranged in fifteen minutes, which is less time than I have been sitting here already." Linda continued to smile.
Sooker turned and glared at Linda. He asked Mr. Collins, "Who does she think she is?"
Linda took out her Cell and speed-dialed the Judge. Thomas replied, "I'm not sure who she thinks she is, but she IS the Regional Director of Child Protective Services."
"Well, I don't care who the hell she IS, no one can come in here and order me around." He turned and went in his office and slammed the door.
Linda closed her phone. "Well, that went well."
Linda and Thomas sat back down. Twelve minutes later, three state police cars pulled up in front of the school, with lights flashing. Captain Henry got out of his car, and two more State troopers exited each of the other two cars. The five State policemen entered the office. Eric Henry walked past the secretary's desk to Mr. Sooker's door. He pounded three times, then shouted, "State Police!"
Mr. Sooker opened his door and was surprised to see the outer office filled with State Police. Eric handed him an envelope. "That, Mr Sooker, is a Court Order demanding that you produce Kaleb Desotto, immediately."
Sooker gave Linda a dirty look and told the Secretary to page the boy. "Kaleb Desotto, come to the office, sweetie."
Two minutes later, an eleven year old entered the office and was terrified at seeing all the Policemen standing there. He saw the man in a Scout uniform and inched over to him. "Hi, Kaleb, I'm Mr. Collins, the Council Executive. First of all, you need to know that you are not in any trouble. This lady and I would just like to ask you some questions."
Kaleb nodded, still looking around wide eyed at the police officers. Mr. Collins put his hand gently on Kaleb's shoulder and guided him to the empty conference room. Linda followed and closed the door.
All three of them sat at the table. Mr. Collins began, "Kaleb, could you please tell us why you stopped going to Scouts?"
"I didn't like it."
"What didn't you like?"
Kaleb just shrugged his shoulders and looked at his hands on the table.
Linda spoke softly, "Kaleb, a friend of yours told us, and we really need to hear your side, to be sure."
"A friend? I don't have a friend anymore. I cried when they hit me, and now they call me names and hit me more, when teachers aren't looking." He held up his shirt and his chest and back were covered with bruises, old and new.
"Did you tell your parents, or anyone else?" Linda asked.
"I just told my parents that I didn't like Scouts and Church School. I made my grades go bad, so they would make me stop, to do homework. At least I got out of Scouts."
Linda took out her card and wrote her cell number on the back. "Kaleb, this is a number that you can call, anytime, day or night, if you need help, or just somebody to talk to. I'm going to talk with your Mom and Dad. They really are concerned about what is happening with you."
Kaleb took the card and nodded.
Mr. Collins gently asked, "Would you be interested in being in Scouts that didn't do any hitting?"
"Sure, a lot of the stuff is fun. But those boys in my troop..."
"There are two other troops in this area that you might want to visit. Right now, you just work on getting caught up on your schoolwork."
"That's not a problem. I can do the work just fine. I just didn't do it, so I would get bad grades." Kaleb admitted sheepishly.
Linda had an idea. "Kaleb, if I can fix it so you can take the final exam for these classes, do you think you could pass?"
"Sure, it's just math and English."
Thomas and Linda looked at each other and mouthed, 'Just math and English.'
"Well, thank you very much for talking with us. I hope you will consider the other Scout Troops in this area. I'm sure they would love to have you join." Mr. Collins shook Kaleb's hand.
"Ah, was this friend in one of the troops?"
"Yes he is. The one at the Presbyterian Church. They meet Tuesday nights at seven o'clock."
"Thanks. I'll see if Dad will let me go."
Linda patted his hand. "We will be talking to him and we'll suggest it. Now wait right here, while I try to get this summer school business straightened out."
Re-entering the office, Linda asked the secretary to page Kaleb's math and English teachers to come to the office at the end of class. The secretary looked to Mr. Sooker, but before he could comment, Capt. Henry said casually, "I certainly hope that doesn't require a court order. I'd hate to be carrying people to jail to await the judge's pleasure." (The judge is the only judge in the county and serves as the county Justice of the Peace, the State and Federal Judge, and oddly enough and not widely known, is Linda's twin brother.)
The teachers were quickly paged. A few minutes later, the bell rang, dismissing the morning session. The two teachers arrived and were shocked to see the office filled with State Police officers. Linda approached the two teachers and introduced herself. She asked them to join her in the conference room. Kaleb stood up when the adults returned.
Everyone took seats, and Linda explained, "It seems that Kaleb here had good reason to fake his grades in your subjects. He purposely failed last year, and thinks he can do all that is required for your classes. I was wondering if he could somehow take the final, and prove he can do the work and save both you and him a lot of work this summer."
Mrs. McNamara, the English teacher, smiled, "No. I am sure he can do the work and his last essay was all the proof I need. Kaleb, it was obvious to me that you were way ahead of the others in that class. I really don't think their attitude rubbing off on you would be a good thing."
Mr. Myers took out a piece of paper and wrote a problem on it and handed it to Kaleb. Two minutes later, Kaleb handed it back to Mr. Myers. "Absolutely correct, and I'll bet only the A-students could have done that. Congratulations, Kaleb, you have earned my first ever A in summer school."
"You mean I don't have to come anymore? I'm finished?"
Both teachers nodded.
"Thank you both for your time. Your classes are now reduced by one." Linda then turned to Kaleb, "Why don't you go get your things and come back here."
"What should I do with my books?"
Mrs. McNamara told him, "Just put them on my desk, and I'll be sure Mr. Myers gets his math book back."
"'K! Thanks!" Kaleb was gone in a flash.
Mr. Myers said, "I couldn't figure out what was going on with him. He didn't pay attention but could always do the work. Not at all your typical summer school student. I hope he is in my class next year, I'd like to find out just what he can do."
Kaleb returned, and he, Linda and Mr. Collins left with a police escort. Out at the cars, Eric Henry told Linda, "Just a heads up. PBI (Pennsylvania Bureau of Investigation) is investigating that church; so be careful. Keep really good records, because, if all else fails, the child abuse angle may get the job done. I'll help all I can, until I retire at the end of next month."
"So, are you going to run for Sheriff?"
"Yeah, but I can't make the announcement until I leave the State Police."
"Well, you've got my vote."
Once in the car and moving, Kaleb said, "I live the other way."
Mr. Collins replied, "Yes, we know, but we promised your Dad to tell him what we found out."
"Oh, he's going to get mad."
Linda considered that for a moment, then took out her cell phone. When she finished her short conversation, she said to Kaleb, "I've got that covered," and they were at the plant.
Kaleb waited with Linda and Mr. Collins. A man in his late twenties arrived first. He looked like he had been wrestling with tigers, or maybe Tiggers. His hair was all messed up; there were grass stains on the knees of his jeans and he was wearing a Camp Mitsitam (pronounced by the local Scouts: Mit-see-tam. Probably not how the local Native Americans say, "Let's eat.") T-shirt.
"Good Lord, Tom. You playing rugby with the boys?" Linda asked with a smirk.
"Yeah, they were using me for the ball!"
Mr. Collins stood, as he realized who this man was. "Nice to meet you, Mr. Richards. I'm Thomas Collins, the Council Executive." The men shook hands.
The conference room door opened, and Mr. Desotto came in. Kaleb cringed, as his father glared at the boy. "So, what has he done, now?"
Tom bristled at the man's tone, but Linda grabbed his knee under the table to signal him to be quiet.
Mr. Collins began, "Actually, he has done only good things, Mr. Desotto. You can be very proud of him. He found himself in a bad situation, and figured a way out of it, causing the least damage. Very smart."
Linda took over, "Yes. There is a tradition in that Scout Troop he was attending, that the older boys paddle the younger ones, when they advance in rank, They try to make the young ones cry, so they can hit them again."
"What!?! That troop is run by my church! Surely..."
Tom looked at Kaleb's father, "There are a few things wrong with that troop. Did you know they left camp early, and told one boy he could not return with them, and simply left him stranded at the camp?"
"Well, Br. Michael said there were a bunch of fags there, and he was protecting the boys."
Tom rolled his eyes, "There was one kid there, that has been labeled as gay, but there is serious doubt that he is. However, I'm sure there were gay campers there, after all, ten percent of the population is gay. I really don't think many eleven-year-olds can tell if they are gay or straight. I know at that age, I didn't know."
Mr Collins took over and directed the conversation away from the volatile gay issue. "Had you been attending the troop meetings?"
"Oh, no. Br. Michael doesn't want parents around. He says it encourages boys to be cry-babies. He is trying to make men out of the boys."
Tom jumped back in, "Well, that's just not right. Our troop encourages parents' participation. I wouldn't have missed last week's camp for anything. To see your boys off doing those things on their own was really fantastic. Why don't you come visit us next Tuesday night, seven to eight thirty. Bring Kaleb, too. I bet you will be surprised at how we operate."
"That's a school night, and Kaleb needs to study."
"Not any more, Daddy. See, I got those bad grades, so you would make me give up Scouts and Church School."
Mr. Desotto looked gob-smackedİ. "You tried to get bad grades?"
"Yes, Sir." Kaleb said meekly.
Linda chimed in, "Yes he did, and both his teachers recognized that he really knew the material, and he has completed the requirements for the summer."
"I'll try, but I don't get off my shift until six."
"Well, you get off Tuesday at five. I will talk to Alice, Mrs. Gunther, about changing the shift schedules." Tom said.
"Ah, who are you?"
"Sorry, I'm Tom Richards."
There was that gob-smackedİ look again.
Tom grinned. "See you Tuesday night. Kaleb, I'll tell my guys to look out for you at the meeting. I bet you will have a great time. I know they all hate having to go home at eight thirty. I think you can go on their next event, which is in August. Dad, you can come too, and hang out with us old guys."
Mr. Desotto just nodded.
Linda dropped Kaleb off at home and explained things to Mrs. Desotto, who was fine, as long as Mr. Desotto had approved.
At five forty-five that night, three people sat in the unmarked van across the street from the Three Crosses Christian Church. "How did you manage to get this van, Eric?"
"Well, PBI was glad to have someone monitor for them. They just want the surveillance tape. I wonder if Br. Michael is dumb enough to send the boys outside for a gauntlet tonight."
"Oh, I hope so," Linda said.
"It sure would make my job easier," Thomas added.
They filmed cars pulling up, letting out children and then leaving. None of the parents went inside. At seven, the girls came out and were picked up. At about eight forty, the boys came out and went to their parents' cars and left. About five minutes later, Br. Michael and three other men left the building, talked for two more minutes, then they left.
"Well, that was fun. So, I guess we get to spend our Wednesday nights here," Linda said.
Eric shook his head, "They were either suspicious or were tipped off. In any case, I don't think there will be any more of that done where it could be observed."
"I'll bet they will do them on camping trips. I'll give you a heads up the next time they file a Tour Permit, and maybe we can monitor the trip." Mr. Collins wanted this troop either cleaned up or disbanded.
The next Tuesday night, Mr. Collins came to Troop 316's meeting. Mr. Little was a bit surprised, because he wasn't aware of the goings on with Troop 582. At seven o'clock, Nick called the Raccoon Patrol to begin the opening. Neal went to the front of the room and raised his hand in the Scout Sign. When silence fell, he ordered the Color Guard forward. After the flags were in place, he led the troop in the Pledge of Allegiance (the boys had decided that 'under God' should be included). Then he had Todd lead the Scout Oath and Stephen the Scout Law.
While they were saying the Law, the Desotto's arrived. Mr. Collins smiled, as he watched Kaleb look around. Mr. Little walked over to the new arrivals. "Hello, I'm Mike Little, the Scoutmaster." He shook Mr. Desotto's hand and then said to Kaleb, "Are you interested in seeing our Troop?"
Kaleb shook the hand Mr. Little offered and said, "Yes, Sir."
Billy saw Kaleb at this point and came running over. "Hey, Kaleb! Come on meet the guys in my new patrol. We're the Raccoons!" He took Kaleb's hand, more or less dragged him over to the patrol and introduced him to the others.
Nick began the meeting. "Okay, guys. Two weeks till the L-O-T-R lock-in. We are going to cook as a troop in the Church kitchen. Raccoons, you will be responsible for cooking and cleaning up lunch. Beavers, you cook dinner, and Eagles, you do breakfast. The adults will do snacks. Looks like everyone is coming, so buy food for thirty five. Bring your uniforms on hangers, so we look good for the service. Any questions?"
Lamond Williams, the Beaver Patrol Leader, asked, "Will paper plates and plastic ware be here, or do we need to bring our mess kits?"
From the back of the room, Mr. Little said, "We will provide plates, cups, napkins and plastic ware. If you want your own mug, then bring that."
"Thank you, Mr. Little. Okay, guys, plan your menus, and decide on who is getting what. Troop Time in twenty five minutes." Nick went to where the other senior boys were. They were planning just what they were going need as far a technical gear was concerned.
The Raccoon Patrol welcomed Kaleb and quickly explained that they were going to be having a lock-in with a 'Lord Of The Rings' theme. The movies were going to be shown back to back. They also planned to have LOTR video and board games, and any other games that were of interest for anybody who wanted to play. Kaleb was excited that they got to do kewl stuff.
Neal then got to the business of the menu. They had to provide lunch, and when their menu was done, it was as follows:
Grilled Orc Sandwiches (grilled cheese)
Ringwraith Soup (Chicken Noodle)
Hobbit Salad (tossed salad)
Pints of Ale (lemonade)
Todd was assigned to shop for the food and tell the patrol members next week what they owed.
Kaleb asked, "Could I, maybe, come too?"
Neal, as Patrol Leader, said, "Well, if you join our Troop, you will be welcome. You want to be in our patrol with Billy?"
"I could? Br. Michael wouldn't let friends be together."
Neal grinned. "Mr. Little doesn't run this Troop. We do. Nick is the Senior Patrol Leader, and is the boss. I am the Patrol Leader and run this Patrol. Mr. Little just makes sure everything is safe."
"Wow, that sure is different."
Nick called everyone together for Troop Time. Mr. Little waved Kaleb over and sat down with him and his Dad to talk. "Mr. Desotto, I hope you will consider allowing Kaleb to join our Troop. There are a few things you need to know about us. This is a youth-run organization. The boys decide what they want, to do, and we adults guide them in doing it. The Senior Patrol Leader is in charge. Sometimes things crash; then I talk to him. We discuss the situation and figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. Then he gets to try again the next week. This is how we build leadership skills. The second rule is: We obey the Scout Sign. When the sign is put up, everyone (even the adults) gets quiet. The third and, last rule, is: If you aren't having fun, something is wrong. If a boy, or an adult, isn't having a good time, we need to know, so we can fix the problem. If there isn't fun, the boys lose interest and stop coming.
"That said, we are a very active Troop. We try to have at least one activity every month. Last month, it was summer camp, this month is a special treat; they have planned a lock-in, here. If Kaleb joins us, he will be able to attend that."
"Mr. Little, I just found out that there was hazing going on in the other troop. Is there anything like that here? Does Kaleb have to do anything to join?"
"Sure, he does." Kaleb's heart fell. "We expect him to come to meetings, unless he has too much homework, or other family obligations. We expect him to participate in the outdoor program. We also expect you to participate in meetings, and to help with driving."
Kaleb looked confused, "I don't have to do anything but come and participate?"
Mr. Little smiled. "That's all. We ask you to try your best to live by the Scout Oath and Law, and we will help you when you ask for it."
"Kewl! Can I join, Dad? Please?"
"What does it cost?"
"Well, since he is transferring, it costs one dollar. Troop dues are five dollars a month, that covers recharter, Boy's Life and district events for the year. We have several fund raisers for summer camp and other troop needs. On a couple of occasions, when we needed equipment, we asked for a special fee from parents to get the items needed."
"That's a lot more reasonable than the other troop. Yes, son, you can join."
Mr. Little could tell the boy was ready to explode. "Let me get our Senior Patrol Leader and get you assigned to a patrol." Before Kaleb could say anything, Mr. Little left.
"Thanks, Dad," Kaleb said, and hugged his father, something he had not done in several years.
To his surprise, his dad hugged him back. "I guess I haven't been a great father lately. I promise to try and do better." That got him another hug.
Nick waited until the father-son hugs were done. "Hi, I'm Nick Stokley. So, you are Kaleb." (Left hand Scout handshake.) "Welcome to Troop 316."
"Hi, Nick. Thanks."
"So, you have a friend in the Raccoons?"
"Yeah, I knew Billy in the other troop. Can I be in the Raccoons, too?"
"Sure. Neal is the Patrol Leader, and he did a great job at summer camp. If you have any problem he can't solve, then come find me. Come on, let's go back to the meeting. It's almost game time."
"Sure, the last half hour we play a game. It helps us get to know each other and build teamwork."
The boys walked away, and Mr. Little rejoined Mr. Desotto. "Here is an application; just fill that out and give me a dollar, and Kaleb will be officially a member of 316."
"What about his other troop?"
"Has he earned more than his 'Scout' badge?"
"I don't know."
"Well, I'll check with Council and see what they have. Have him bring his Scout Handbook next week."
"Okay, we can do that. Do you really want me here at meetings?"
"Sure, we have no secrets. I'd love for you to be as active as you feel comfortable. Help at meetings, even just being another adult watching, is helpful. I can't see everything. If you like camping and the outdoors, we would love to have you come along on camping trips. We have a group of parents we call the Eager Beavers that go on trips and really have a great time. The boys are not allowed in their site; we don't want them learning bad habits from the adults." That got a laugh.
The boys suddenly made a dash for the doors. Mr. Little said loudly, "WALK!"
"Aren't you going to discipline them?"
"What, for being boys? If I have a problem, then I call Nick and see if he can straighten it out."
"Spare the rod..."
Mr. Little cut him off, "Not here. That doesn't teach the boys anything except to fear. We are here to teach and help them develop into ethical men. Yes, they will make mistakes, and we will help them learn from them."
"I apologize, Mr. Little. I think I have a lot to learn about all this. I just might need this Troop even more than Kaleb does."
"Well, I will be out of town for the next couple of months, but Jeff Alexander will be the Acting Scoutmaster while I'm gone, and he will help. He loves these boys, and he can get you some training materials to help, too."
"Thank you. I see some of the others want to talk to you. I look forward to seeing you when you return."
After Mr. Desotto left, Mr. Collins patted Mike on the back. "You handled him perfectly. I didn't know if Linda Thompson was going to talk to you before the meeting, or not."
Mr. Little looked puzzled. "She didn't. Is there more I need to know? I know some of the problems that Billy had with 582. Is it a bigger problem?"
"Yeah, huge. If I have to disband that troop, will you be able to handle more boys? I know you just got all the Haven Manor kids, and these two from 582."
"Tommy, we run a real troop here. I think our senior boys would rise to the challenge. Personally, bigger troops get to have bigger problems, but we would make do. The church here is very supportive, and I think Tom Richards would pitch in, too."
"There has been a lot of hazing, and God knows what else happening. As soon as we can get a little more documentation, I will have to act. I have two boys' testimony against the adults, but, if it got nasty, and I'm sure it would, with that bunch, I'll need more."
"We have your back. Let Jeff Alexander or Tom Richards know if there is anything we can do to help," Mr. Little said, as the boys came back in.
Nick, in his SPL voice, directed the boys in cleaning up the meeting room until it looked better than it did before the meeting. The boys circled and waited for the adults to join them. Nick had Neal introduce Kaleb to the troop, and they all welcomed him. Mr. Little reminded the boys he would be gone for the next two months, but they would have Mr. Alexander to torture in his absence.
Another meeting ended.
Mr. Collins was frustrated over the next week by Troop 582. All their registered leaders took the new on-line training courses. Observation from across the street wasn't yielding any evidence. The parents he had contacted would not talk to him. Linda Thompson was having similar luck with her investigation of the TCCC.
The next Tuesday night, the Raccoon Patrol was just Billy, Kaleb, Stephen and Ben. The troop was also missing Nick Stokley, the SPL, and Matt Little, the Asst. SPL. The rumors were that they had been arrested by the sheriff and were in jail.
Mr. McNeil, Ben's dad explained that the boys were perfectly safe but that they had gone into hiding. The stories about Mr. Richards that were being put out were laughed at by those who had any dealings with the man. Not a single member of this troop believes any of the propaganda being generated by Sheriff Fastaff.
Kaleb's father spent the meeting talking with Mr. Alexander and learned a lot about just how a 'Boy Led Troop' works. Bart Miller, one of the senior boys and Troop Instructor, had filled in as SPL and ran the meeting. He assured everyone that, even if the missing boys were still missing this weekend, the 'LOTR' lock-in was still on; there would just be more food for the rest. Mr. Desotto marveled at how the boy had stepped in and taken over without making a big deal of things.
"That's what we are trying to teach these boys, leadership."
"Are you going to be here this weekend?"
"Of course. The boys will be eating and sleeping in here and the kitchen is right there. They have asked for three of the classrooms for games and the movies. We adults will set up our cots behind those screens, to separate us from the youth and I have the key to the church library, comfortable chairs and a coffee machine."
"I don't have a cot or sleeping bag."
"I have an extra cot and just a sheet and blanket is all you need. I'd love to have your company. In case no one told you, parents are always welcome. Please stay and join us for services on Sunday."
"I just might do that. My wife and I have talked, and I think we really need to find a new church. Our minister is always talking about how evil this or that is, and never anything good."
"Dr. Hall will be a different experience for you, then. Wow, it's closing time. I'll see you Saturday."
At three o'clock on Saturday, the boys started arriving. The Raccoon patrol was the first to arrive, so they could claim their place and then get to work on lunch. Everyone was wanting to know about what had happened at the Courthouse. Had the sheriff really been shot? Nick and Matt were asked what it was like to really have to do first aid. By the time lunch was over, the boys had moved on and the first movie was started.
The adults split, some who had not seen the movie went to watch, and the rest went to the library. Tom Richards was there, and Mr. Desotto followed him. "Mr. Richards, sir?"
Tom looked around, "Oh, me. Please, call me Tom. Mr. Richards was my dad. So has the shift time change worked for you?"
"Ah, yeah. I must admit, sir, I didn't really think it would happen. Thank you, it means a lot to me and my boy."
"It's all about the boys. I take my responsibility to them very seriously. If there is ever anything else I can do to help, just let me know. You live in Haven Estates don't you?"
The next two hours Tom and Zach talked about what Haven Estates needed, and what would be nice. Zach Desotto was going to be surprised next week when the repaving started.
It looks like Kaleb is going to be just fine, and his dad is doing some growing too. Troop 582 is going through the motions of correcting it's problems, but I wonder...
The missing Raccoons can be accounted for in HAVEN, chapters 19 through 23.
Let me hear from you.
I sure am happy to see this story unfold. I always wondered what was happening with the scouts, and this story certainly adds some very important information. For those of you who have read the other stories in this series, I think I should point out that, so far, we are quite a bit behind the time of the other stories. So, if you are wondering why certain people aren't in this story, the reasons vary, but they will eventually be explained. Please take Tom's words to heart, "It's all about the boys." No matter how you might feel about the politics of the BSA and any other entity, we need to make sure that the boys are cared for, and loved. I hope we can keep a watchful eye on what is happening in schools, on playgrounds, and wherever kids congregate. It is our responsibility as adults, to protect the children from harm. Don't just assume that someone else will do it. They might, but then again, if they think the same thing, and they--and we--don't take the initiative, then who will do it?
Till next time...
Fort Chief Editor's Notes:
Since Sleeping Beauty aka The Radio Rancher has said pretty much what I wanted to say; all I will say Thank You Str8mayb.