samedi 19 février 2011

The fugitive

The Boss had called me to his office, a very rare occurrence. When I entered, the crown attorney was also there. Something was brewing. Turned out a 17 years old boy had run away from Boys’ Farm and Training School in Shawbridge near Montreal. Of course an arrest warrant had been issued. Nothing special here, I thought to myself.

However, things were not as simple as it seemed, they almost never were in that job of mine. They explained that the boy had been located in Niagara Falls, Ontario. That was the catch. Out of money, without any family out there and with nowhere to go, he had asked for help to the local police. They had called the Ontario Provincial Police; they had called the Québec Provincial Police and the Q.P.P. had called the Court.

The big hitch was that the warrant had been issued under article 15 of the youth protection act of Québec. It was not valid in Ontario where the boy was overage for youth protection measures to apply. The limit in Québec was 18 but it was 16 in Ontario. The Q.P.P. could not go get him…and the Ontario police forces did not have jurisdiction. To make matters worse the boy had committed no offenses in Niagara so they could not hold him. Would I go get him?

I said yes…but I can not foot the expenses, you will have to give me an advance. Highly unusual a request it seemed. After consulting with the authorities in Québec City, it was accepted that I would get said advance covering the return trip for me, the one way trip for the boy and our meals. I gave a receipt and agreed to provide proof of expenses and refund any exceeding amount. Niagara, on humanitarian grounds, agreed to hold him till next day at 1PM.

It was a beautiful summer morning when I boarded the first train to Niagara via Toronto. I got to Niagara at noon. I walked to the police station close by the train station. I could hear the falls rumble but could not see them. At the police station I produced my identification papers; the warrant was useless and stayed in my pockets.

I was taken to the cells and met my ward. He was sprawled on the cot. He looked at me and said:

-You think you’ll take me back to Shawbridge?


-Got handcuffs?


-Got a gun?

-Who do you think you are, Al Capone? Let’s go we have half an hour to catch the train.

He got up, he was almost a foot taller than I was and more athletic. He picked up his meagre belongings. I stopped on the way to the station to buy him some shoelaces. Once on the train, not a word was said before the wait for the transfer to the Montreal train in Toronto, some two hours. He asked for Coke and some chocolate to what I agreed.

When we boarded the Montreal train, it was meal time. I told him that we were going to the dinner room wagon. He looked really embarrassed; he was dirty not having had a change of clothes for several days…but he also was starved. The survival instinct was the stronger. He ate heartily and his tongue loosened a bit.

Dad was in jail for a good long time and mom was always drunk. Very young, around 6, he had been taken away from his parents though he kept in touch with them. He had more than enough with being “protected” and wished nothing more than to fly on his own. The 6 or 7 months before turning 18 were just too long and he ran away.

-I’m still not sure I’ll go with you all the way to Montreal, he added, I did not comment.

We walked back to our seat. It was now pitch dark and the train suddenly stopped for no apparent reasons since we were in the middle of nowhere. After an hour or two being stranded, he asked to go to the rest room.

-Two benches back near the door, I said.

-You are not coming with me?

-Can’t you pee by yourself?

-I could make a dash for the door and escape.

-You could. I’ll run the risk.

He got up, went right to the exit…and stopped. Walked back to the rest room and came back to our seat.

-You were fair to me; I’ll be fair to you.

When finally the train resumed its way and we got to Central Station, he asked: “Before you take me in, can I call Mom?”

Did I say that I never saw the falls…then.

30 commentaires:

  1. Midnight Run!

    Very well done! (I mean the story-telling. I assume you know that the job was well done.)

  2. So very sad, Paul. But you and I know there are a lot like that lad. Quelle domage!

  3. @Jenny, I saw that boy, one month later when he was set "free" by judge Nicholson. Never saw or heard of him since but I will never know if I really did, then, a good job on the long term. But all of us in that field are like that and it is a bit frustrating.
    @Miss Sadie they are the victims of our ways and lack of certain values. Things have not changed very much over my lifetime, up to now at least.

  4. I just wish for a case worker like you for a couple of kids I know with awful parents. I think every instance of fair treatment and trust makes a difference.

  5. In order to work with, and get results, with any person, but even more so with those in difficulties, trust and fairness are the universal key. But trust is a two way street. Some people have been so much damaged by life that they are unable to trust anybody whatever you do or say. Those are lost forever save for a miracle, some kind of road to Damascus event. Not very frequent.

  6. The hand of cards dealt to this young man by providence when he was born wasn't the best.

    One can only pray that he was able to turn his life around, and is living a fulfilling and happy life.

  7. My wish also, Philippe. He stood a good chance since while on the run he did not steal or commit any illegal acts unlike many others under the same circumstances. At least as far as is known, otherwise he would not have seeked police help when he ran pout of options. He put up a tough front but it was only a front. There was hope.

  8. You see why we need to tell our stories? Because these acts are the stuff of life most people know nothing about. Everyone wants to cut social services, government programs. Look at this storytelling as a public service too, an opening of people's eyes.

    Beautifully told.

  9. Thank you Rosaria. Maybe these memories can help, I don't know. But just in case I'll try to keep them coming. Some in English when I was working on Anglo cases and in French for the others,not that it makes a big difference either way. Just beware of Google fantasies.

  10. @Rosaria--Yes! Yes!

    @Paul--What are Google fantasies?

  11. @Jenny, Google translate sometimes comes up with very fanciful translations. For instance it came up, on M. André, with "recycling rooster" rather than "he recycled himself as a cook" (un coq" in colloquial French. That is what I meant.
    Then again posting an answer can also become problematic when you need to click "post comment" up to 3 times before it says "posted".

  12. This would make a great sequel to Les Quatre Cents Coups. It is a ready made script. OF course, there were sequels, but real life has provided a remarkable possibility.

  13. It would be closer to "Chien perdu sans collier" with Jean Gabin and Serge Lecointe as the adolescent. Although it does have something of "les quatre cents coups".


    I admit, this review leaves me interested in watching the film just to understand why it inspired such disdain from Truffaut.

  15. He probably thinks a lot about you, too, Paul. You were there at a key moment and didn't fail him. Your example has informed his whole life.

    Very moving.

  16. Thank you and welcome Richard. The man he is now may or may not remember me but it does not really matter. We humans tend to erase bad times and, regardless of the help I was trying to give him, I was part of that bad time.

  17. Well done, Paul. You had the right touch with this one. Perfect instinct. I suspect, after reading your posts throughout the years, that this was the way with many of the kids you served.

  18. As you well know, there is no ready made recipe for dealing with humans. As Dinah would say:"You follow the scent". It works most times but there are failures also. That is life.

  19. Hi Paul,

    I have a quick favor to ask:

    I have a brother who moved to Montreal not too long ago. I would like to buy him a gift, perhaps a gift certificate for for him and his wife at a Montreal restaurant. Perhaps just some pastries from a good local bakery. Something that is particular to Montreal. I wonder if you have any ideas. If you do, could you suggest a few? (However, please do not post on my blog; my brother reads it once in a while.) Thanks in advance.

  20. I will look it up. Knowing just about where he now lives could help.
    Get in touch using the Email link in my profile. I will then answer you through the answer button. He will not see a thing.

  21. Il y a des moment où cela n’a pas eu être drôle de faire votre travail.

    Je viens de chez Rosaria Sixtyfivewhat now. Je suis en retard et lisais ces derniers posts. J’en suis au post du 30 Janvier ou elle parlait de politique. Une personne (Gaston Studio) a declaré que les USA était le seul pays qui gardait beaucoup de terrain pour les réserves écologiques et parcs nationaux. Elle venait juste de déplorer que ces concitoyens sont ignorants…. Quelle ironie! Car elle est nulle aussi. J’ai trouvé votre réponse superbe –“Typical USAers bragging about being the "best" and the "biggest". C’était bien la vérité. Même au Gabon ils ont des parcs nationaux ( et c’est un tout petit pays.
    Je reviendrai lire vos posts.

  22. Vous êtes la bienvenue Vagabonde. Comme vous voyez mon blogue est bilingue.
    Au Québec et au Canada tout entier nos parcs nationaux et nos zones de conservation protègent nos espèces animales et notre flore.
    Je dois dire , cependant, que Rosaria est très sensible à toutes les questions environnementales et qu'elle verse rarement dans le travers de "we are the best and foremost". cete fois-là, elle s'est laissée emporter par son enthoudiasme et son patriotisme, même si elle est immigrante d'Italie.

  23. Paul,

    Una storia bella anche se dura e triste. Quel povero ragazzo. Sei un uomo buono.

    I’m sure as Richard said that the man he is now remembers you very well. Things one lives at that age are carved forever in our soul. It suffice to remember as we were at that age. Additionally, you were the only one – or one of the few – to be fair to him. How can he forget you?

    I also agree with Rosaria: an example that proves how social services are vital. Some state *is* necessary, and a good training (also regarding human values) of the personnel of course.

  24. Good training is essential but some things you can learn only by doing. That is why I have always believed that some field work with humans should be a prerequisite to be admitted in training for human sciences such as psychology, social work and related fields.
    A good empirical experience under a good supervisor helps digest the theory later on.

  25. some field work with humans should be a prerequisite to be admitted in training for human sciences such as psychology, social work and related fields.

    It seems a very wise policy, but, as far as I know very few or no country does that.

  26. None at all you are right and it is too bad.

  27. Now you're evoking nightmarish recollections of the graduate students in the university department where I worked long ago. Some were assigned to me as aides by way of work-study assistance, and my blood ran cold to see people seeking a career in counseling when they couldn't even get through a workday filing and addressing envelopes without having a meltdown.

  28. Sorry for the recollections, Sledpres, but can you imagine what it was like when we got them on the front line and fresh out of University? Learning theory and applying theory are so far apart, it is frightening.

  29. The Wisconsin governor might want your help retrieving democratic senators from Illinois. Please stand with labor.

    I'm joking. ;)

  30. I would not, even paid in gold, go get those senators. And even if labour has had its very own excesses, generally speaking my leftist fibers still stand for it.