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Chapter Twenty-three

"Good evening, Mr. Troulson, Mrs. Troulson," security guard Fred
Fallone greeted them as they stepped off the elevator outside
Pediatrics. He wanted to be sure they knew he knew who they were.
Silently at his side stood a North Bridgewater patrolman, sent as a
reinforcement to prevent repetition of the previous night's events.
And next to him stood a white wooden sawhorse stencilled in day-
glow red: "POLICE LINE -- DO NOT CROSS."

"Evening!", the Troulsons nodded as they passed what had now
come to resemble Checkpoint Charlie on the old Berlin Wall.

Once inside the swinging doors they noticed another police officer
covering the exit to the emergency stairway at the far end of the
corridor. As they turned to enter their child's room he tipped his hat
and waved hello to them, as if to say, 'I've got you covered from this
end, too.'

"Mom, oh Mom!", Tommy cried reaching out for the comfort of her
arms. Once safely in her bosom he looked up at his father. "Dad, they
gave me a whole bag full of blood. I fought them, but there were too
many of them and they were too strong for me. I couldn't stop them.
They held me down on the bed and forced the blood into me."

"My poor little boy! My poor little boy!", Ruth repeated over and
over, stroking his hair. "What have they done to you, Tommy?"

"Don't feel bad, son," Ralph attempted to console him verbally.
"You did all you could. And we did all we were capable of, too.
Jehovah God doesn't hold you responsible for it." As he pronounced
the word responsible he turned toward Irena Czinko who was
standing in the corner near the foot of the bed with her arms folded
across her bosom. Looking her straight in the eye, Ralph continued,
"You're just a victim, son. Jehovah God knows the ones who bear
responsibility for this, and they are the ones He will hold bloodguilty
-- not you, son."

"I'm sorry it had to happen this way, Mr. Troulson," Irena
responded to his implied accusation. But then she returned fire with
an implied accusation of her own: "Receiving the prescribed treatment
under these stressful circumstances has been very difficult for Tommy
emotionally. So, I'm arranging for him to receive counselling on a
daily basis while here at the hospital, to be continue on a weekly basis
after he returns home. If it is difficult for you to provide
transportation to the Child and Family Counselling Center on Main
Street I will make other arrangements to see that he gets there for the

"So, you're not satisfied with polluting my boy's body with blood,"
Ruth Troulson interrupted, holding Tommy tightly against her breast.
"Now you're after his mind, too. You want to fill his mind with that
secular humanist garbage the psychologists hand out. Why can't you
just leave him alone?" Ruth broke into a sob. "Ralph, do something!",
she commanded between cries. Thus turning the matter over to him,
she wrapped her arms protectively around her son. Holding him as
they cried together, she rocked back and forth.

"I will do something, honey," Ralph replied, although he sensed that
his wife was not listening to the answer. "I'll call our lawyer in the
morning and see if he can't arrange with the judge for one of the
elders to counsel Tommy instead."

"And what qualifications do these elders have?", Irena Czinko
challenged that idea. "I am told that they are just ordinary working
men who volunteer to handle the affairs of your church. Is that so?"

"Well . . . yes," Ralph responded slowly, "but they are men of
experience who have deep spiritual insight." In his mind, though, he
summoned up the face of each of the North Bridgewater congregation
elders, one at a time, and concluded that there was no one among
them with the compassion and tenderness Tommy would need.

"This youngster has experienced severe emotional trauma
repeatedly in the past couple of days," Ms. Czinko verbalized Ralph's
own thoughts using her own professional vocabulary. "First he was
taken from the home by police-escorted ambulance; hospitalized; then
kidnapped from the hospital; then he spent a night alone in the woods;
was apprehended again by the police; and now he has undergone
forced medical treatment that could only be compared to a violent
rape in its emotional effect. He will require professional help. I insist
upon it, and I will see that he receives it."

Realizing that she was right, Ralph lowered his eyes and gave a
silent nod of agreement. Then he turned toward the bed and rested
his hands on his wife's shoulders, rubbing them gently as she
continued rocking with their boy in her arms.

Without another word, Ms. Czinko walked out of the room. But
Ralph continued thinking of what she had said -- and the way she had
said it. He began to grasp that her concern for his son was more than
just part of her job as a professional social worker. He had sensed in
this woman's voice the same tone that he had heard earlier in Ruth's
-- the fierce determination of a she-bear defending cubs. He had also
noticed traces of green eye shadow on her cheeks where rivulets of
tears, now dried, had deposited their sediment. He was sure she too
had been crying over Tommy.

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