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Chapter Six

"I've got plenty of time; you go first," George Coffin of The Enterprise
told Sophie Laphorne, stepping aside so she could use the pay phone
in the lobby. As she dialed, he continued, "My deadline isn't until 2
a.m. You go ahead and use the phone. I'm going to take my notes
down to the office and write up this story in a manner worthy of the
front page. I came down here tonight thinking I would be on page
five, but this is definitely a front-pager now--a headline, even. You
go ahead and use the phone, but after you're done I'd better call the
chief and tell him to hold page one, because I've got tomorrow's
headline here."

He stuffed his notes into a pocket of his trenchcoat and began
fishing for coins in his pants pockets. "And then I'll call Edgar Tracy,
the superintendent of schools--he's an old friend and owes me a
couple favors. I'll ask him to open up the office and find me a picture
of the boy to go with my story. You know, I told the chief he should
send a photographer up here with me tonight, and his answer was,
'The hospital doesn't allow pictures.' Ha! Since when does a
newspaper wait for permission?"

By now Ms. Laphorne had gotten her news director on the line
and he had transferred her call to the studio so she could give a live
report at the tail end of a scheduled news broadcast already in
progress. She motioned her companion to cut short his monologue
that she hadn't been listening to anyway.

"Hey, George. I'm on the air in ten seconds. Give me a break."

"Sorry, sweetheart. Mum's the word!"

In three. Two. One. "This is Sophie Laphorne reporting live from
Memorial Hospital for WCAZ Instant News. Eleven-year-old Tommy
Troulson, who was scheduled to receive a court-ordered blood
transfusion against his parents wishes, has suddenly been spirited
away from the hospital's pediatric ward. Although a thorough search
has not yet been made, it is assumed that he was taken out of the
building. The boy's parents, who object to blood transfusions for
religious reasons, were last seen driving from the hospital grounds a
few minutes ago, after the mother used a clever ruse to evade
reporters and hospital security personnel. But it is not yet clear
whether the boy is with them or in someone else's custody. Because
the boy was made a temporary ward of the state, for the purpose of
medical treatment, police are treating the abduction as a kidnapping
and have called upon the F.B.I. to assist in the investigation and search
for the boy. Tommy Troulson is a slim eleven-year-old, about four
feet eight inches tall, with curly brown hair and suntanned
complexion. His condition is believed to be stable right now but could
become critical if he does not receive the prescribed transfusion
within the next few days. An all-points-bulletin has been issued for
the boy and for the parents who were last seen driving a 1991 Chevy
Celebrity with Massachusetts registration 309-BGY. This is Sophie
Laphorne reporting live from Memorial Hospital for WCAZ Instant
News. Now back to our studio."

"Good job, Sophie!," George Coffin congratulated her, putting an
arm over her shoulder. "I couldn't have worded it better myself."

"Thanks, George. See, there's still hope for radio. The television
news crews left this one for us, figuring it wouldn't be much of a story.

But we scooped them good this time."


The radio was blaring in the big old Ford as it soared northward
over Boston on the elevated stretch of I-93. Joe Fontaine wasn't sure
whether he had turned the volume way up to drown out the muffler,
or to have the music add realism to his daydreams of driving a
heavenly chariot of fire. But the news report brought him back down
to earth. He shut the radio off, eased-up on the accelerator, and
checked the rear-view mirror.

"Does that mean the police are looking for us?" Tommy asked,
poking his head mischievously between the front bucket seats.

"Yeah!" Larry whispered, as if a louder voice would be overheard
by the authorities. "So, get back down under that blanket!"
Larry turned in his seat and reached over to cover Tommy up.
But, no sooner had he sat forward again than the boy's face re-
emerged between the bucket seats.

"And the F.B.I., too? Are the F.B.I men after us?"

"You bet they are!" Larry promised with gusto, sweeps of blond
hair falling beyond the end of his nose as he leaned over the seat
again to adjust the blanket. "And helicopters, too! So, you keep quiet
and stay covered up."

Facing forward once more, with the boy safely tucked away,
Larry settled into his seat with a sigh and reached for Joe's hand. But
all he got was a frown, and a look that silently spoke the same rebuke
he had heard from Joe a thousand times: "Are you crazy? Look! Your
sloppiness almost got us into trouble at Brooklyn headquarters. We
had to leave before more suspicions developed. Keep it up now, and
we'll end up having to leave the planet!"

Homosexuality among Jehovah's Witnesses was a strange
contradiction. Officially it was forbidden, and anyone caught
practicing it unrepentantly was disfellowshipped and shunned. Yet,
occasional exposures and scandals failed to root it out completely from
among the thousands of young men serving at the Society's Brooklyn
factories and upstate New York farms. And former headquarters
workers like Joe and Larry who were never caught at it could live
together acceptably as "pioneer partners," looked up to as spiritual
giants by fellow Witnesses in their local congregation, and regarded by
worldly neighbors as the J.W. equivalent of celibate priests.

The contradiction within their souls was just as great. Although
he had been living intimately with Larry for five years now, Joe
denied in his heart that he was "gay." He saw himself as a normal
heterosexual male forced temporarily into an abnormal situation by
circumstances beyond his control. Hadn't a domineering mother
prevented him from developing friendships with girls in high school?
Hadn't pressure from the congregation elders forced him to sign up for
service at Brooklyn Bethel headquarters, when he would normally
have been looking for a wife? Hadn't Bethel assigned him to share a
bedroom and shower with an alluring young homosexual who looked
and acted more like a girl than a boy? And hadn't the years at Bethel
with Larry made it more difficult, now at the age of twenty-four, to
initiate a relationship with a sister in the congregation? His conduct
up till now could be explained and excused, Joe often assured himself,
and he planned to straighten out his life before long. All he needed
was a little more time. Pioneering and meeting attendance would
eventually give him the strength he needed to put things back
together and make a man of himself. As long as he got this
accomplished before Armageddon broke out, he would escape being
destroyed along with the wicked people of the world. After all,
Jehovah God knew that he was not a homosexual. And, besides, all
those years of Bethel service and pioneering would count for
something in God's eyes!

But sometimes, especially when depressed, Joe wondered
whether he might already be condemned by God and beyond
repentance. He tried to keep active in ministry to avoid brooding on
the matter.

Larry was quite different from Joe in the way he handled their
secret. The class clown from kindergarten up, he had been a child
who got away with whatever he could at Kingdom Hall meetings. He
quickly learned that some at the Hall would rather watch a cute little
boy making faces and sticking his tongue out, than pay attention to a
drab old man droning on at the microphone. So, Larry would turn in
his seat and steal part of the audience for himself. And, even when he
would get caught, he found that a sweet smile would stave off any
punishment worth worrying about.

His teen years were tumultuous for Larry, and troublesome for
his parents and the elders, as his craving for attention and affection
kept getting him into trouble. Finally, when he turned eighteen, his
mother decided that four years at Bethel would be the cure that would
straighten him out, if anything could. (Had they been of a religion that
permitted military service, she would have insisted he join the
Marines.) Besides, the isolation from girls would keep him out of
trouble and hopefully prevent him from becoming a flirt like his
father. Little did she know, however, that he had already had
numerous clandestine encounters with members of both sexes, and
that he tended to prefer boys.

Finding himself alone with Joe in a tiny apartment at Bethel
headquarters, Larry had decided that he knew the cure for this overly
serious fellow a year older than himself. And he was pleasantly
surprised to see Joe melt before his advances. The relationship
developed and deepened quickly, remaining monogamous more due to
dangers outside than to any fidelity within.

Larry looked at his religion as the tribal culture he just happened
to be born into. Having spent his boyhood years at Kingdom Hall
watching the audience more than listening to the speaker, he knew
full well that many were living double lives. As a twelve-year-old he
observed that Brother Ogilvie and Sister Furselle were involved with
each other long before they were disciplined by the elders, and even
before their own mates caught wind of the relationship, because he
had been watching the flirtatious looks they gave each other while
others were watching the speaker. And he knew what the elders' kids
were really like, and what they told him about their parents--enough
to cancel out many hours of their fine sermons on morality.

So, although he was engaged in full time ministry, Larry saw God
as part of the pretend-world that most people carried as a shield over
the real-world they lived in. He had no fear, then, of this imaginary
God or His supposed coming Judgment. But he did fear the future, the
awful time that would come inevitably when age would steal away his
youthful smile and his winning ways, and when he could no longer be
who he wanted to be. Larry usually succeeded in blocking out such
thoughts, but when they did invade his head he promised himself that
he would meet any such future with deadly force, ending his life
rather than live on in an old man's body foreign to his inner self.

Of course Larry knew better than to try holding hands with Joe
with little Tommy Troulson right there in the back seat, but he had
made the attempt for the brief thrill it brought him: the thrill of
flirting with the forbidden, plus the pleasure of provoking Joe. Like a
naughty child, Larry often acted up to get Joe's attention at times
when he could not enjoy his passion. Any attention--even anger--
was better than being ignored.


Ralph Troulson seldom turned on the radio while driving alone--
he was more likely to be found listening to taped readings from the
Jehovah's Witnesses' New World Translation of the Bible--and he
never turned on either one when Ruth was in the car with him. But
tonight he had the radio on low as they drove north toward the New
Hampshire line, and Ruth reached over and turned it up when the
news came on. After hearing Sophie's live report she shut it off, and
they both sat in stunned silence.

"I knew this would be the reaction," Ralph finally said, "but still I
feel surprised to hear it. Somehow, it was like theory before, but now
it's real."

"Oh, Ralph! I'm so scared!," Ruth burst into tears again. "I'm so
worried about Tommy."

"He'll be okay, honey, as soon as we get him out to California. The
clinic out there will give him the treatments he needs, only without
blood. The brothers have it all arranged."

"I know, Ralph. But it's getting him there that I'm worried about.
And then what if the police decide to check the clinic? Or, what if
someone there turns us in?"

"Honey, we just have to trust in Jehovah and leave it in His
hands," Ralph reassured her and himself at the same time. "But for
now we'd better keep the radio on, just in case they say anything
more we should know about."

"Like the police stopping Joe Fontaine's car and finding Tommy?
Oh, I can't stand it! I won't be able to stop shaking inside until
Tommy is with us. How much longer is it going to be?"

"It's ten past ten now. We should reach the motel by eleven
o'clock, and Larry and Joe should get Tommy up there around the
same time, if not sooner."

"I know we'll be together for the night, Ralph. But taking
separate flights out of Portland tomorrow--that bothers me, too."

"It's the only safe way, sweetheart. It wouldn't be safe for us to
travel together as a family. Larry Hickman and Tommy could pass for
brothers. The authorities are going to be looking for a man, woman
and child, not for a young man and his kid brother--especially since
they know Tommy is an only child."

It sounded so logical to Ralph, and a logical plan should succeed,
but to Ruth the whole thing was like a nightmare, and everyone
knows that things never go the way you want them to in nightmares.

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