Previous Chapter Home Next Chapter

Chapter Nineteen

When Joe's taxi dropped him off in front of the Kingdom Hall,
elders Harold Brainard and Frank Sturgis gave him a hero's welcome.

"Joe," shouted Brainard, the older of the two, adjusting his out-of-
style and out-of-season felt hat as he got out of his parked car, "we're
glad to have you back. You brothers did a great job!"

"I second the motion," Sturgis added, coming around from the
passenger side to join his mentor in shaking Joe's hand. "You and
Larry did a fine job. I'm sure Jehovah God is proud of you." A slightly
younger man brought into 'the truth' by Brainard some years earlier,
Frank Sturgis was in the habit of backing up everything his former
teacher said, both at elders' meetings and in private conversation. It
was the best way, he knew, to retain the position he had gained in the
same manner.

"Thanks, brothers," Joe begrudgingly acknowledged, doubly
embarrassed by the actual failure of his mission and the shameful
confession he was about to make. "We did the best we could."

"Don't belittle yourself, Joe!" Brainard insisted, slapping him on the
back and escorting him to the car they would take to New Hampshire.

"You and Larry fought valiantly, like King David and other faithful
men in Scripture. They won some battles, and lost some. But it was
their faithfulness that made them great. And you and Larry Hickman
have shown that you're the same sort of men. Not only have you
served faithfully at Brooklyn headquarters and in the pioneer work,
but now you have acted courageously to defend Jehovah God's
righteous standards on the blood issue."

Joe's heart sank. The higher on a pedestal these elders placed him,
the harder it was going to be to tell them the truth about his
relationship with his pioneer partner.

"Joe, you should have let me pick you up instead of taking a cab
over here," Sturgis interjected in an effort to relieve his guilt feelings
on this point. He opened the front passenger door of Harold Brainard's
station wagon and offered Joe the seat next to the driver, climbing into
the back himself. "I had to pass right by the court house and could
easily have picked you both up and dropped Larry off at your place
without going out of my way." The balding younger elder then leaned
forward in the back seat, using the driver's rearview mirror as he
licked his fingers and flattened down the half-dozen stray hairs
surviving atop his pate.

"I really appreciated your offer, brother Sturgis," Joe replied,
relieved at the change of subject. "But, like I mentioned on the phone,
Larry and I had something to take care of at home, and I didn't want
to leave you waiting. At least here at the Hall you and brother
Brainard could wait for me together." Of course, this was only part of
the story. Actually, Joe had worried about how his break with Larry
would go, and he knew it would be easier to get through it with a taxi
waiting than with one of the elders present.

"That was considerate of you, Joe," the older man at the wheel
spoke up again with more praise. "Just another aspect of the fine
example that you and Larry set for the young people of the

This adulation that would normally have given Joe a swelled head
now gave him a sick stomach. His intestines churned as he considered
how far he would fall in the estimation of his friends at Kingdom Hall.
Although he had intended to wait until the car reached the open
highway, he decided to go ahead and start his confession immediately,
before their praise lifted him any higher.

"Brothers," he began, "about Larry and me -- there's something I
have to tell you."

"You aren't going to make your hours in service this month,"
Sturgis interrupted, hoping to save Joe the embarrassment of saying
what he thought he was about to say. "Don't worry about it. The
elders know what a huge chunk of your time has gone into this thing
with Tommy Troulson. And, besides, you can spend extra time going
door-to-door next month and make up the hours."

"Oh, no; that's not the problem. Larry and I are slightly ahead on
our hours. Besides, Tommy is unbaptized; so we can report the time
we spent talking to him as we drove up to New Hampshire. Actually,
it's a more serious matter . . ."

"Now, wait a minute!" Harold Brainard interrupted. "This is serious.
You can't count your time talking to another brother's unbaptized
child. Only the father can count time witnessing to an unbaptized
child -- unless, of course, the father were not a Witness in good
standing, and then you could count the time."

"That's right!", Frank Sturgis showed his support. "You can't report
that time."

"Oh! Okay. I didn't realize that. I'll cross those hours off the tally
I've been keeping for the month."

"And be sure to tell Larry to do the same," the senior elder added.

"Well, about Larry . . .", Joe persisted. "Something happened in the
county jail that I have to tell you about. And it concerns not just
Larry but . . ."

"Look, Joe," Brainard interrupted again, "we're all men here in this
car, so we can speak plainly. We know the kind of low-life scum they
have locked up in those jails. And those perverts probably showed an
unclean interest in Larry, as pretty a boy as he is. Why, I remember
years ago during the war when many of the brothers were denied
draft exemptions and were jailed. Some of them had to ask to be
locked up in separate cells for their own protection. But, don't you
worry! Homosexual perverts who go after young men like that will
face the wrath of Jehovah God at Armageddon."

"Brothers!," Joe's voice was distorted by his agony. "When I saw a
man like that trying to force himself on Larry . . ."

"It's awful, isn't it!" Frank Sturgis interrupted this time. "Men like
that don't even deserve to be called men. They're just filthy scum,
and when they die of AIDS -- even that's too good for them. If there's
anything on earth I can't stand, it's a filthy homosexual pervert."

Rather than frighten him into silence, these denunciations merely
added to the pressure of guilt forcing the confession to burst out of
Joe's mouth: "Brothers, that's me! I'm one of them." Joe was
screaming almost unintelligibly between sobs. "I've been abusing
Larry like that for years."

The two Jehovah's Witness elders sat stunned into silence. On the
highway now, Brainard had caused the car to swerve when he was hit
by Joe's bombshell. Shaking due to the rush of adrenaline, he
continued driving only with great difficulty.

"I'm as bad as you're saying. I'm worse!" Joe continued sobbing.
"When I saw this hoodlum in jail try to rape Larry, I saw myself doing
it, and it finally hit me how disgusting I am. I promised Jehovah, if he
rescued me from the violence there, I would quit that way of life and
confess it."

Joe began to calm down after the initial burst of emotion. He was
still crying, but more quietly. The two elders, led by Harold Brainard,
began their standard interrogation of offenders.

"Tell us, Joe, when was the first time you committed this sin?"

"A month after Larry and I began rooming together in Brooklyn at
Bethel Headquarters."

"And who initiated it?"

"I did . . . Well, Larry seemed to be teasing me at first -- flirting by
staring into my eyes with a big smile -- and then he began making
sure we brushed against each other in the cramped quarters of our
room. I picked up on the 'game,' and then our 'accidental' body
contact progressed into 'wrestling' on the bed. Finally, though, I was
the one who grabbed him in a moment of passion, so that we actually
did something."

"And you have repeated this how many times?"

"Hundreds of times over the years we've been rooming together."

"But you say you've stopped?", Frank interjected.


"When was the last time you and Larry Hickman engaged in
homosexual relations?", Harold resumed.

"Yesterday -- just before we drove to the hospital to help Tommy
Troulson escape."

"Yet, you say you've stopped!", Sturgis objected.

"I really have. Last night, after I promised Jehovah God to stop, I
knew that He would give me the strength to keep that promise."

"Did either you or Larry ever touch the Troulson boy? -- or anyone
else?", Brainard continued with his standard interrogation.

"No, never. It was just Larry and me. I never got involved with
anyone else, and I never had reason to believe that Larry did." Joe
knew that he had caught Larry flirting with strangers on numerous
occasions, but was fairly confident it had never gone beyond that.
Intent on confessing rather than accusing, he said nothing about it.

"Well, Joe," Brainard indicated by his tone that the interrogation
was finished, "you realize of course that the elders will have to
appoint a judicial committee to handle this matter."

"Yes, brothers. And I will repeat to them everything that I've said
to you."

"That doesn't matter," the older man brushed aside this assurance
with a sweep of his hand. "We've already got two witnesses to your
confession. And, besides, brother Sturgis and I will most likely be on
the committee, along with a third brother just to round it out. We
have to go through with the formalities, of course, but really this is an
open-and-shut case. It's a foregone conclusion that you will be

Fontaine, whose tears had begun to dry a bit, broke down again,
sobbing violently.

"You see, Joe," Sturgis took up the thread, "you didn't just fall into
sin once or twice. You actually made a practice of it over a period of
years. And although you say you've stopped, you were continuing
your practice as recently as yesterday."

"And while continuing in the pioneer service, at that!", Brainard
snapped, indignantly. "You made a mockery of that sacred privilege of
service. Joe, Jehovah God is not one to be mocked!"

Brainard said this with an air of finality, and Sturgis accepted it as
the final word on the subject. For the rest of the trip the two elders
sat in silent condemnation of the sinner seated with them. Joe hung
his head in shame, unable to make eye contact with either elder nor
even to look at the scenery.

When they reached the police parking lot in Gossville where Joe's
Thunderbird had been parked, the elders let him go into the police
station alone to obtain its release, even though they themselves had
the same sort of business to do there in retrieving the Troulsons' car.
And when Joe emerged carrying the keys, Brainard rolled down his
window and said simply, "We'll contact you when a time has been set
for the committee meeting," and with that the elders drove off to a
parking space on the other side, leaving Joe alone.

Previous Chapter Home Next Chapter