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Irena Czinko had already been on the phone in the lobby of
Memorial Hospital for nearly two hours. She was phoning every law
enforcement agency she could think of--from the F.B.I.'s Missing
Persons Bureau to Interpol, in case the kidnappers were headed out of
the country. When the New Hampshire state police began
broadcasting orders to intercept Ralph and Ruth Troulson in Gossville
and to assemble a search party for Tommy along Interstate 93, she
quickly received word of the activity. How could the state police have
apprehended the boy and then lost him again? And into the woods,
She immediately contacted her counterparts in New Hampshire
arranged for child welfare personnel to go to the site where the boy
was last seen. If a caring individual had been present when he was
first located, he would not have run off into the woods, she was sure.
And it was essential that professionals be present when the search
bears fruit and he is found again.
Having made all the necessary calls, Irena next arranged to be
picked up at the hospital by a Massachusetts State Police cruiser that
would transport her to the state line, where a New Hampshire cruiser
would meet her and take her to the search site.
Reporter Sophie Laphorne, seated across the lobby on a
sofa, had been sipping coffee and listening the whole while Ms. Czinko
was on the phone. She had noted the change in tone and level of
excitement when Irena had learned of Tommy's capture and
subsequent escape, but she decided against attempting an interview.
Instead, she continued to eavesdrop on this end of the phone
conversation, figuring that she would learn more that way than by
interrupting. But when she picked up the tone of finality as Irena
concluded her transportation arrangements and hung up the phone,
she knew it was time to intercept.
"Look, I couldn't help overhearing you on the
phone," she began,
"and I know where you're going. I want you to know that I'm with
you one hundred percent in this, and that my radio listeners are
concerned for the boy's safety. If I can hitch a ride with you and can
get the story out as it breaks, this will give you more leverage to
ensure the boy's welfare."
"Okay! Come on!" Ms. Czinko agreed without
vaccillation. "We have
five minutes to freshen up before the cruiser arrives. I'll meet you
outside the front entrance."
Because the woods were so dark, Tommy stayed just inside the
treeline as he followed the drainage ditch at the bottom of the
highway embankment. There was no water in the ditch, so, after the
sound of voices and the flashing of blue lights were left behind, he
stepped out of the undergrowth and found that he could make his way
more easily in the ditch itself.
It was comforting to see headlight beams pass by above the
embankment and to hear the whoosh of passing vehicles. A trek
straight into the woods would be too scary and wasn't really necessary
after all, Tommy convinced himself. Besides, a vehicle stopping to
look for him would give itself away by its sound, and he could get
back under cover faster than "One, two, three, O'Leary."
Traveling just a short distance back along the highway, he
upon an on-ramp where the drainage passed through a large pipe
under the ramp. He had often daydreamed about taking refuge in a
pipe like that if caught on a highway as a tornado approached, or
during a nuclear attack, but he had never actually entered one.
Squatting down at the entrance to the pipe, Tommy peered inside and
was glad that the other end, about twenty feet away, looked so close.
He was also glad to see that there were no bears or other animals
sleeping there. So, he crouched inside and tried out the echo.
It was a good echo, he thought, but too creepy to be listening
alone at night. Better to be quiet and listen to the crickets. So, he
crawled to the center of the pipe and lay down, using one arm as a
pillow. Suddenly, all the exhaustion and sleepiness that he had been
pushing away for hours overwhelmed him like an ocean wave, and he
drifted into dreamland on the undertow.
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