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Chapter Fifteen

Tommy awoke with a start after a car backfired on the ramp above
his hidingplace. What was that?, he wondered, getting up on one
elbow and suddenly realizing that he was not in his bed at home. Oh,
yeah! I'm in the hospital, he thought, settling back down onto the silt
in the bottom of the drainage pipe that had been his bed. But, then,
blinking curiously up at the dirty metal curving overhead, he again
corrected his thinking. No! I'm in a little tunnel under the road. I
must have slept here all night. Turning over onto his stomach, Tommy
squinted at the sunlight streaming into the end of his tunnel. Oh, my
back hurts--like it did when I slept on the ground in Jeffrie's tent last
month. Tommy could do things like that before his illness came out of
remission. No, this hurts worse than that did. And that was more fun.

Dropping his forehead down onto his arms, Tommy said his
morning prayers: Jehovah God, thank you for the good night's sleep
and for letting me wake up to a new day. Please bless my Mom and
Dad--words that he normally repeated by rote took on immense
significance--and keep us all safe through this day. In Jesus' name,
Then as the events of the previous evening came back more
clearly to his mind he added, And, Jehovah, please watch over Joe and
Larry, wherever the police took them. And please forgive me if it was
wrong for me to run away from the police. And please guide me
today, that I might do your will in everything. Amen.

Crawling out of the pipe Tommy stood up and stretched in the
morning sunlight. He could hear traffic on the highway over the
embankment, but no one was in sight, so he relieved himself right
there in the open.

Most of the time it's just an aggravation to have to stop playing and
go pee, he mused, but it always feels so good to pee in the morning!

Why, I wonder? Oh, well, now I wish I had some orange juice and
toast, or better yet some Frosty Toasties! What am I gonna do for
breakfast? And for lunch? Tommy sat down on the grass, frowning
from the sunshine as well as from his predicament.

Some people sleep out on the streets all the time, he told himself,
recalling a class discussion on the homeless during the last week of
school. The hard-to-grasp intellectual concept of homelessness now
became so real for Tommy that a tear ran down his cheek. But at least
they have each other. He saw clearly in his mind the social studies
textbook photo of men sharing shelter under a stairway, and
contrasted their situation with his own. I wish I wasn't so all alone!

The distant sound of a dog barking snapped Tommy out of his
reverie. He pricked up his ears like one of the same species. A dog!

Oh, wow! Maybe this dog will be my friend. I could use a good friend
like a dog. He would never let anyone hurt me. Dogs are faithful and
loyal. "Here, boy! Here, boy!", Tommy shouted hopefully in the
direction of sound. Then he heard it again. Yes, closer! Yes, the dog is
coming this way!

Twigs crackled as it broke through the underbrush along the
drainage ditch. There it was: a big German shepherd with tongue
hanging out over smiling teeth, and a friendly tail wagging behind it!

Tommy leaped with a "Whoopie!" of sheer joy, only to crash when the
parting bushes also revealed a policeman holding the other end of a
leash. After a night of fruitlessly crisscrossing woods and meadows
the search party had brought in a trained dog and given it the
runaway boy's scent from the blanket left behind in Joe Fontaine's car.

Scanning the horizon for an escape route, Tommy's eyes found only
a police car up above on the highway, that had been following the man
and dog, and another one with lights flashing pulling to a stop on the
ramp above the pipe where he had slept. He recognized the policeman
getting out of the first vehicle and putting on his broad-brimmed
trooper's hat as the same man who had stopped Joe's car the night
before. (Sergeant Wrightman had ignored the rule that he retire at
shift change and instead had worked with the search party throughout
the night.) Behind him two women emerged from the police car:
Irena Czinko and her counterpart from New Hampshire. (Reporter
Sophie Laphorne, although she had arrived at the site with the child
welfare worker from Massachusetts, had been confined to the base in
the rest area and was excluded from the active search party.)

Realizing that his flight was over, Tommy was surprised that he
felt more relieved than disappointed. "Hi, Miss 'Z'," he called out to Ms.
Czinko as she was assisted down the embankment by one of the police
officers. "I'm over here." Although she had been one of those working
to give him the dreaded blood transfusion, he knew intuitively that
she really cared about him. And besides, he could face her better than
he could face a day without food and another night in the drainage

Forgiving even the policedog, Tommy patted it cautiously, then
knelt down and hugged its furry neck. "Hi, boy! You're a smart dog.
You found me with your sniffer, didn't you." He touched its cold nose
with his own. Then he looked up at his captors gathering around him
and greeted them with an innocent grin and a shrug.

"Poor Tommy!" Irena Czinko exclaimed, taking him into her arms.
"You must be cold and tired and hungry after spending the night in
the woods."

"Nope!" he replied, shaking his head vigorously. "Just hungry. And
thirsty. I slept real good inside that pipe there." He pointed back at
his bed with pride. "My back does hurt a little, though. That sand was
kinda hard to sleep on."

"How would you like some donuts and coffee--make that orange
juice--for breakfast? We have plenty up in the cruiser." Holding him
close to her, she led him up the embankment toward the highway.

"Creme-filled is my favorite donut. Do you have any creme-filled?"

"A different cruiser just dropped them off, so I don't know.
Whatever's left in the box, you can take your pick."

"If there's no creme-filled, I like honey-glazed, or chocolate, or jelly
donuts." The youngster's eyes opened wider with each variety.
"Actually, I'm so hungry that even a dried-up old plain donut sounds

With two troopers assisting them on the climb, they reached the
guard rail just as Sergeant Wrightman emerged again from his cruiser.
He had called in for an ambulance and then waited until he received
confirmation of its dispatch and estimated time of arrival.

"Why'd you do that to me, son?" he scolded Tommy. "I've been
worried sick over you all night."

Young Troulson merely shrugged, avoiding eye contact with the
officer. Instead, he scanned the assortment of pastries and selected a
fat one with creme-filling oozing out of one end.

"Those two men that kidnapped you, son--did they abuse you at
all? I mean did they touch you any place on your body that they
weren't supposed to?"

"No. What does abuse mean?" Tommy asked, directing his
question to Irena Czinko.

"Never mind, Tommy. Here, have some orange juice," she offered
instead of an answer to his question. "Sergeant," her tone hardened,
"this is neither the time nor the place for that. Nor do you have
proper training for such a discussion with a child--obviously!"

"Sorry ma'am," he backed off. "I just wanted to get some evidence
against those two kooks before some judge lets them fly the coop."

"Can I have a second one?" Tommy interrupted. "I ate the first one
in just four bites."

"Sure, son. Sure," Wrightman replied, opening the box again.
"Take as many as you want."

"No, Sergeant," Irena contradicted him. "One more will be plenty.
The boy doesn't need all that sugar and fat. Besides, where is that
ambulance you said you would call."

"I reckon that to be it now," he reported, turning his head toward
the siren just becoming audible from some distance down the
highway. Then, looking at his watch, he added, "Dispatcher was
accurate right to the minute!"

"Does that hurt your ears, boy?" Tommy asked the police dog as it
was led past him to the cruiser with K-9 in big letters on its side.

Receiving a nod of approval from Mrs. Czinko, he followed the dog and
gave it a friendly hug. "Don't feel bad about tracking me down, boy.
You did a good job, just like you were trained to do."

A shrill siren stopped all conversations as the ambulance pulled up
behind the police cruisers. Two young men in white sprang out the
doors and pulled their stretcher from the back. They wheeled it up to
Tommy and would have had him strapped to it had Irena Czinko not

"No need for that, gentlemen! The boy will ride in front with me."

"But . . ." the senior of the two juniors sought to object.

"No buts about it!" Irena cut him off and led Tommy to the
passenger-side front door. "Don't just stand there! Stuff your
stretcher in back, and let's get moving! Pronto!"

Obeying the flashing green eyes and flying red hair the ambulance
attendants responded as if to traffic signals and let the take-charge
woman take charge. In seconds they were making a U-turn on the
grassy median strip and heading south, accompanied by a state police

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