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Chapter One

RUTH Troulson saw the police car pass slowly by in front of the house,
but thought nothing of it. Her living room drapes prevented her from
seeing that it stopped just beyond the mailbox. The picture window
opposite her stuffed chair presented only a peaceful panorama of
green lawns, black driveways, and pastel houses. Besides, as law-
abiding Jehovah's Witnesses she and her husband Ralph had nothing
to fear from the police; rather, they were always glad to see patrol
cars in the neighborhood keeping it a safe place for their little Tommy
to play.

He isn't so little anymore, Ruth mused, returning her gaze to the
eleven-year-old stretched out on the couch for an afternoon nap,
wearing nothing but his red swim trunks. He must have grown a foot
taller in the past year, and soon those skinny limbs will be filling out
with a young man's muscles. She had a motherly urge to cover him
with a blanket, but held back for fear of waking him. After all, it had
been so difficult to coax him into napping in the first place, in spite of
his weakened condition. And the sun streaming into the living room
really did make it warm enough for sleeping uncovered.

Tommy needs all the rest he can get, Ruth reminded herself as
justification for standing guard over his sleep rather than completing
preparations for the evening's journey. Even if we leave the moment
Ralph gets home from work, we still won't get to the airport before six.
That will leave us just half an hour to grab something to eat before the
flight out. She always felt guilty when not feeding the family herself.
Oh, I forgot! Ralph said they serve a meal on the plane.

Tommy shrugged a bony, tanned shoulder and raised an eyebrow
in response to some stimulus in a dream.

He's always looked so healthy, Ruth sighed to accompany her
thoughts. Who would ever think that his problem would start acting
up again? I'm so glad the clinic in San Diego will be able to treat him
without blood.

The sound of car doors slamming caused Mrs. Troulson to lean
forward in her chair, far enough to notice the police vehicle parked
out front. An officer and a business-suited young woman with long
red hair were getting out just as an ambulance and a second police car
arrived and pulled in behind the first. Seeing Cindy Johnson peek out
her door across the street, Ruth wondered whether Cindy's father had
had another heart attack. But then why the police?

The answer sent shivers up her arms as she saw the woman and
the policeman enter her own front walk, followed by the ambulance
attendants with their stretcher.

"Tommy, go to your room!" the frantic mother shouted, shaking
the boy by his shoulders to wake him. "I'll get the door."
"Sure, mom! Okay," he slurred groggily, rubbing both eyes with
his fists as he staggered to his feet. "But what did I do wrong now? I
was just sleepin'!" Intending to comply with his mother's orders, he
strayed instead toward the front door when he saw the uniform and
heard Sergeant Luciano's deep voice.

"Mrs. Ruth Troulson? I have a warrant placing your son Thomas
under protective custody. This is Ms. Czinko from the Department of
Social Services. She has been authorized to oversee the boy's
hospitalization so that he can receive a blood transfusion ordered by
the court."

"But . . ." Ruth's thoughts swirled faster than she could organize
them into speech.

"Mrs. Troulson," the red-headed social worker from the D.S.S.
interrupted. "My name is Irena. I will take good care of Thomas. We
have only his interests at heart."

"There is no need for any of this!" Ruth finally managed to object,
fighting to hold herself together. "We have already arranged
treatment for Tommy. My husband and I are taking him to a clinic

"I'm sorry, ma'm," Sergeant Luciano interjected. "But the court
order has already been signed. You'll have to step aside and let us
take the boy." He pushed past her and seized Tommy by the wrist,
then signalled the young men with the stretcher to bring it into the

All traces of sleep fled as the youngster's eyes and mouth opened
wide. "Hey, officer, don't I have some rights?," he objected, trying to
wriggle free as the man more than twice his size lifted him onto the
stretcher. "Aren't you supposed to read me my rights?"

"That's only for criminals, son," the officer growled, holding the
boy down as the ambulance attendants strapped him in.

"We're here to protect your rights, Tommy," Irena Czinko added,
interposing herself between the gruff policeman and the frightened
child. "The police aren't taking you to jail. They're just here to
enforce a court order. We're taking you to Memorial Hospital so you
can receive the treatment you need for the sake of your health."
Two officers from the second cruiser--one female and the other
male--had followed the others into the home and were now holding
Ruth Troulson by the arms, alternately keeping her from interfering
with the stretcher and supporting her as she collapsed from hysteria.
Tommy had stopped raising objections and was crying silently, his
eyes fixed on his mother as the stretcher was wheeled out the door.
"My boy! Tommy! My boy! You can't take my boy!" Ruth
insisted, denying what was in fact taking place.

The officers released her after the ambulance door was shut
behind her son and the social worker who accompanied him,
whereupon Ruth ran outside, only in time to see the emergency
vehicle pull away with lights flashing and siren wailing. She turned to
her neighbors who had collected on the lawn.

"Cindy, you've got to help me!," she pleaded. "They can't do this."
Cindy Johnson put her arm over Ruth's shoulder, but her words
were not what the distressed mother wanted to hear: "They're just
doing this for Tommy's good, Ruth. He must need that blood
transfusion. I know it's against your beliefs, but it's out of your hands
now. Someday you'll be glad that they did this to keep Tommy alive."
Ignoring Cindy's unwanted words, Ruth made eye contact with
young Ann Taylor from next door and with Janice Newton from
around the corner, but they both looked away without speaking.
Sharon Russo, an older woman who had just arrived from the next
street over and who didn't know Ruth personally, wagged a finger at
her and chided bitterly, "Let the kid have the medical treatment he
needs! How can you call yourself a mother? Shame on you!" Crude as
any man, she spat on the grass in Ruth's direction and stormed away.
Reconsidering her silence, Ann Taylor then stepped forward and
put an arm around Ruth, apologizing for her momentary disdain. "Oh,
Ruth! This must be awful for you! I know you love your Tommy."
"Thank you, Ann. Please help me! Please!"

Ann squeezed Ruth's shoulder. There was nothing more that she
could do.

After dispatching the other cruiser back to the station, Sergeant
Luciano approached the distraught mother. "Mrs. Troulson, I'm on my
way to the hospital to verify security arrangements there. You're
welcome to ride with me if you wish."

Hesitating for a moment, she regained a semblance of calm and
turned to the two neighbor ladies whose arms remained around her.
"Cindy, thanks for comforting me! And you, too, Ann! Cindy, you
know Ralph's number at work. Could you please call him for me and
tell him what happened, and that I'll be at the hospital!"
"Sure, Ruth. I'll be glad to."

"And I'll close up your house," Ann volunteered, "and shut off the
lawn sprinkler. You just run along and don't worry about anything
here. God knows, you've got enough to worry about."
"Thanks, girls! Tommy must be terrified, and he needs me there
with him."

Ruth then turned to the policeman and accepted his invitation:
"Okay! I'll go with you, officer. Just let me get my purse."


Tommy had already been assigned a room in the pediatric ward,
and Ralph Troulson had joined his wife at the boy's bedside, when Dr.
Feldman stopped in before beginning his regular rounds. "Good
evening, folks!" said the grandfatherly physician, nodding his white
goatee in the direction of the parents, and then bending over Tommy's

"Hi, doc!" the boy's greeting betrayed his ignorance of the
adversary relationship that had developed.

"Look, Doctor," the angry father interjected without any
pleasantries, "we discharged you from this case when we decided to
take our son to a clinic that will respect our wishes as to the method of

"That's right, Mr. Troulson, and I know how you feel. But Tommy
is in the custody of the Department of Social Services now. I notified
them, as I am required by law and by professional ethics, when I
learned of your intention to deprive the child of necessary medical
treatment. So, here we are, and now the D.S.S. is paying my bills. You
may stay in the room if you agree not to interfere with my
examination. Otherwise you will have to leave."

"We won't interfere with your examination, Dr. Feldman, or with
any other medical treatment," Ralph Troulson resumed in a more
composed manner. "Our only objection is to blood transfusion."
"I realize that. But what you don't seem to understand is that
transfusion is the standard treatment for aplastic anemia."
"But, Dr. Feldman," Ruth countered, "you've been Tommy's
pediatrician since he was born. You treated him without blood all
these years."

Requesting silence with a raised finger, the old man began
moving his stethoscope around Tommy's chest and back, listening
while the youngster inhaled and exhaled on command. He made some
notations on his clipboard and then turned once more to the parents.
"Tommy was born with aplastic anemia, as you remember of
course. And I didn't send him home from the hospital until he was
nearly two months old. Happily, the disease remained largely in
remission for the past eleven years. But, as I explained to you a few
days ago in my office, his bone marrow is now failing to produce
sufficient quantities of blood platelets. I took my colleague Dr.
Jeffries--who is a pediatric oncologist by the way-- into consultation
on the case, and he agrees with me that Tommy's blood platelet count
is dangerously low. So, I'm afraid we have no choice. He needs a
transfusion--or perhaps even a series of transfusions until his blood
count stabilizes at a safe level." Dr. Feldman spoke with a tone of
authority and also with a note of finality as he turned to leave
Tommy's room.

"But there are doctors in California," Ralph Troulson added,
stepping to block the pediatrician's exit, "who are developing methods
of treating aplastic anemia with special diet and iron supplements."
"Mis-ter Troul-son"--the doctor's words came as measured doses
of strong medicine--"there are all sorts of impostors and quacks in
this world. And you are free to go to them if you so choose. But you
are not free to sacrifice the life of your child. Now, if you please, I will
be making my rounds."

As if pushed back by the force of Feldman's voice, Troulson let
the doctor leave.

"Oh, Ralph!" his wife cried with a renewed flow of tears. "How
can they do this?"

"They think they have the law on their side, sweetheart." Ralph
put a comforting arm around his wife's waist and pulled her close.
"But we know that God's law is both higher and stronger than theirs.
Honey," he looked straight into her eyes, "we've got some important
choices to make."

"Doctor Feldman says we have no choice," she sighed hopelessly,
not yet sensing that her husband had a plan.

"We'll see about that!" Ralph reached down and mussed Tommy's
dark-brown locks. "Won't we, son? We'll see about that!"
"Is Jehovah God gonna come to our rescue, Dad?" Tommy had
picked up on his father's optimism. "Just like in the Bible? Is he,

"Yes, son. I think it will be just like in the Bible," Ralph answered
mysteriously, his brow wrinkled with deep thought.
"Honey, what are you talking about?" Ruth finally asked,
perplexed that the male members of the family failed to share her

"Sweetheart, remember the Bible drama we saw acted out at the
District Convention last month--the one about the Apostle Paul?"
"Yeah, I remember, Dad," Tommy broke in to answer before his
mother could open her mouth. After all, the dramas were the only
parts of the three-day convention Tommy hadn't slept through. "Yeah,
Dad. These bad men were guarding the city gates to arrest the
Apostle Paul and have him killed. So the brothers put him in a basket
and let him down over the city wall on the end of a rope. They did it
at night."

"Not so loud, son," Ralph cautioned, raising a finger to his lips.
"That's the right answer, son. But we want to keep it to ourselves."
"You mean I get to escape from the hospital like that? Wow! I
get to go out the window in a basket." Tommy bounded from his bed
to the window in a single stride. "Super, Dad! That's super!"
"Ralph, how can you even think of such a thing?" Ruth scolded
her husband while escorting her son back to the bed. "We're six
stories up!"

"No, honey!" Ralph replied, belatedly shutting the door to conceal
their conspiracy. "I don't mean literally lowering Tommy out the
window. But I do have a plan. I'll need to get some of the brothers to
help us, but this is what we can do . . . "

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