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 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.