By Dawn Natelle, edited by Eric
So far: We start a chapter in which River does not appear. After Alison’s horrible session with the vice president of the bank left her unemployed and shattered, she met up with the lawyer Nick and started to calm down. In this chapter we look at what her son, Mark did at the same time as Alison’s meeting.
Mark wandered through the Taddle Creek Mall, three floors of retail extravagance. In his mind he compared its 300-plus stores to the one main store in St. Mary’s. And there were more people in his line of sight at any time than all of the town and the reserve. But he felt lonelier among all these uncaring people than he ever had up north. Everyone there knew him, either personally or as River’s brother. People smiled at him in the north. Here they didn’t even seem to see him.
Yesterday he had been at the mall all day, but it was with Paul. Today Paul’s mom was off work, and she had taken him on a shopping expedition to get new back to school clothes, one of the least fun things a 10-year-old boy wants to do. But Paul, like Mark, had shot up several inches in height while on their two week vacation, and his Mom wanted to get him into clothes that fit. Mark opted not to hang around with them: he would have his own torturous back-to-school spree with his mom soon.
Mark wandered through the mall, noting how many kids there were. He knew a very few of them from his school. He looked like someone going into grade six or seven, not grade five, but his brain was still only 10, so he really didn’t notice that some of the older girls were looking at him differently. Mark really wasn’t interested in girls at all at his age.
He did notice one girl as he stopped off for a quick washroom break just before noon. It was Lisa Stromen, who lived just down the street from them, and was a good friend of River’s. But that had been as Ricky, and Mark really didn’t want to have to explain things about River to her. He waited until she had gone into the ladies’ room before he headed to the men’s. He knew that he could be in and out long before a girl, so he went in, did his business, and was out two minutes later.
As he walked out he noticed four mean-looking boys a few inches bigger than him, and much older. They went to the same school, but were in Grade 7 or 8, and were pretty much bullies that picked on the younger kids like him. He wondered why they were loitering outside the washrooms. He didn’t fear for his own safety. When he had spent so much time in the river with his sister after the molestation incident, the river had taught him Ojibwe fighting techniques, and he was quite certain he could handle himself in a fight. Maybe not with four at once, but he knew that they would suffer if they tried anything.
He was walking out in the main mall when he stopped dead. Lisa! What if the boys were waiting to bother her? He started trotting back to the back area where the washrooms were. As he turned the corner, he saw that his fears were right. Two of the boys had Lisa’s arms, and were forcing her towards a room, where a third boy held a door open. Lisa had something shoved into her mouth, but was looking around wildly in terror.
“Hey, let her go,” Mark yelled out as he ran towards them. The boy at the door, and one of the boys holding Lisa came at Mark, and each grabbed one of Mark’s arms. The other boy, the leader of the group, smiled.
“Little boy, you have made a big mistake. Lisa here is going to provide us with a little bit of fun. Now you have gotten into the way. I think I will have to teach you a lesson.” He pulled back his arm and was about to swing at Mark when the younger boy sprang into action. As the fist was coming towards his face, he twisted, and the blow aimed at his face missed him entirely and connected with the boy holding his right arm. That boy dropped, and then Mark twisted again, causing the boy holding his other arm to loosen his hold.
Mark felt the power of the river course though him, and flung the second boy 20 feet away, hearing his skull hit the hard floor with a thud. Lisa got the gag out of her mouth, and screamed. The boy who had thrown the punch then pulled out a great Bowie knife with intricate carvings on the blade and haft. He swung it at Mark, who grabbed the boy’s arm as he dodged the knife. Mark pushed, and the blade continued its arc until it entered the boy’s thigh, leading to a horrid scream.
That was when the mall security arrived. They looked around and saw one boy bleeding from his leg, another unconscious on the floor, and a third dazed by the missed blow. They immediately placed the blame on Mark, the one boy standing and unhurt, and forced him to the ground. Mark smiled as he went down, realizing that if he wanted to he could have treated the mall cops just as badly as he had the toughs. But he went to the ground, a bit slower than the mall cops wanted, and let them put their nylon ties around his hands behind his back.
By then Lisa was trying to explain what had happened. She knew all four boys by name, including the one who had been holding her. He had run away as soon as Lisa screamed, leaving his buddies to their own fate. It took several minutes for her to explain that Mark was not the aggressor in the incident, during which time he lay on the rough floor of the mall back hallway. EMTs arrived and took away the bleeding boy as well as the other two. The one who had been thrown was still not conscious. Then the police arrived.
“It was Perry Orange that had the knife,” Lisa explained to the officer interviewing her.
“Orange? Is his dad a police officer?”
“Yeah, Perry is always bragging about that when he bullies people. He says his dad is a cop and he can do what he wants to,” Lisa said.
“Art Orange was my partner a few years back,” the officer said. “He’s going to go ballistic when he finds out that this kid stabbed his son.”
“But he didn’t stab him,” Lisa protested. “He stabbed himself when he missed Mark.” The officer didn’t seem to hear, or care and went over to his partner and spoke to him for a few moments. They both returned and hauled Mark roughly to his feet. They told Lisa they might be in contact with her later. Lisa’s mother worked in one of the mall stores and arrived at that time. Lisa tried to insist that Mark had done nothing wrong, but the police weren’t listening to her, and hauled Mark off to their cruiser while Mrs. Stromen led Lisa away, insisting that the police knew what they were doing.
At the division station the incident received a bit of attention. Two of the boys had been admitted to the hospital, while the third was sent home after treatment for possible concussion. The fact that one of the injured was the son of a police officer connected with many of the officers who had children. Mark was treated roughly, and after the identification stages of mug shot and fingerprints, was locked into a small cell as a minor.
The acting superintendent of 32 Division, Insp. Ron O’Rourke, took a special interest in the case when he heard that Art Orange was the parent of one of the injured. He interviewed Mark, and questioned many of the boy’s facts. To start with, he looked older than age 10, and had somehow managed to successfully handle four 14 and 15-year-olds. The injuries he had caused were severe enough that it seemed only a larger man could have caused them. His story, that he learned “Indian fighting” methods while on a two week vacation in northern Ontario, was clearly a lie. Insp. O’Rourke had 30 years of martial arts experience, and knew that it takes months to years to gain even the basics of the arts.
After the boy had been returned to his cell, a video from the mall was brought in, and the inspector watched in rapt silence with the investigating officers. Soon it became clear that the boy was right in every detail. The video showed the four boys approach the girl. Two grabbed her arms, while a third, Const. Orange’s son, the inspector realized, shoved some type of garment into her mouth when she opened it to scream. The boy then clearly could be seen fondling the girl’s breast, with a leer that sickened the inspector. His daughter was older, and recently married, but he knew what trauma would have resulted from such an attack to a young teen girl.
Then the boys could be seen dragging the girl towards a storeroom or utility room across from the washrooms. A fourth boy was standing holding the door open. There was no sound on the tape, but you could see the faces of all four boys turn when they heard something. Fear on their faces quickly turned into broad smiles as the smaller boy ran up towards them. The boy at the door grabbed the boy, while another let go of the girl and grabbed the smaller boy’s other arm. Then the biggest of the boys, Const. Orange’s son, approached the immobilized boy. He pulled back and threw a mighty punch at the younger boy. The boy twisted at the last second, and the blow hit one of the boys holding Mark’s arms, who went down like a rock.
Then the officers watched in amazement as Mark grabbed the second boy holding him, and flung the boy 20 feet, leaving him unconscious. When that happened the face of the other boy went from amusement to fear, and he reached behind him to pull a huge Bowie knife. The inspector gasped, and paused the video.
“That knife,” he said. “Do we have it?”
“Right here,” the officer said, reaching into the evidence box that the video tape had been in. He pulled out the knife, in a plastic evidence bag. “We need to have it dusted for prints.”
“Do that immediately,” Insp. O’Rourke said picking up the blade, but not removing it from the bag. “I’ve seen this knife before. Remember the Collinson case four years ago? A drug dealer knifed and killed a police informer with that knife. The perp got off when the case went to court and the murder weapon had been lost from the evidence room.”
“Remember? It was my bust,” the officer said. “I was so pissed when I watched that little punk walk out of court, gloating at us, because someone misplaced the knife.”
“I’m not sure it was misplaced,” the inspector said. “The patterns etched onto that blade, and the haft, are unique, and if we still have photos of the original knife I’ll guarantee this is the same one. I think someone on the force took a shine to the knife and decided that it was more important to have it in his personal collection instead of the court.” He pushed the play button on the video and the officers watched as Perry Orange swung the knife. Mark reacted again, grabbing Perry’s arm at the last second and deflecting the blade down into his own thigh. At the same time the fourth boy let the girl go and ran out one of the service doors in the mall. The girl pulled off her gag, and could be seen screaming.
Soon the mall cops arrived, and it could be seen that they were unable to force Mark to the floor, and only succeeded when he decided that he would allow it. The tape continued until the police and EMTs arrived to deal with the situation.
“Nothing much after this, although there is another 40 minutes of tape, up until we left the scene and collected the video,” the officer said.
“So gentlemen,” the inspector said, “after watching all this, are you so certain that the young boy is guilty of any crimes?”
“No, Ron,” the officer said. “Everything he did was self-defence. The other four could be charged with abduction and threatening sexual assault. Art’s boy definitely was sexually assaulting the girl, and his attacking the younger boy with a knife is also a serious crime.”
“Not could be,” the inspector said, “Will be. No officer or member of an officer’s family is immune from prosecution if they commit a crime. Do we have IDs on the other three boys?”
“Yes we do,” the officer said. “The victim knew all five of the boys by name, and we have them.”
“Head out to the homes of the two who are not in hospital and bring them in for questioning,” the inspector said. “Have officers at the hospital where the others are, and have them questioned as soon as they are able.”
The men stood to leave when suddenly an alert siren sounded. All three headed out to the reception area and were told by the duty officer that there was violence in Cell 14. Inspector O’Rourke’s heart flipped hearing that. It was the cell that he had sent Mark to: a cell where the boy should have been alone.
He pushed through several officers in the hallway to get to the cell, and when he arrived there he was amazed to find that there were five people in the tiny cell. Mark was sitting on a bench, panting heavily. He looked bigger and older than he had a half hour early when the inspector had interviewed him. His clothes then had been loose, but now were tight on a bigger body. He now looked to be a student going into grade nine or 10.
In the cell there were four other men, drug dealers who should have been in adult holding cells. One had a knife sticking out of his arm, and two others were unconscious. The final man was cowering in the corner of the cell, furthest from Mark, and pleading for officers to move him to another location.
“What happened, Mark?” the inspector asked.
“They brought these other guys in about 15 minutes ago,” the boy said. He looked 14 or 15 now, but his voice was still high and pre-adolescent. “They waited until after the police were out of the hall and then two grabbed me, and that guy,” he pointed to the one cowering in the corner, “pulled the knife and started to come at me. I didn’t want to hurt them, really I didn’t. But they were going to hurt me.”
“They never told us the kid was a superhero,” the thug in the corner said. “He just tossed Skin and Evans like they were dolls. They are still out. I swung the knife, and he pulled Benji so that the knife hit him instead of the kid. That’s when I decided I wasn’t messing with no superhero.”
“First of all, who is ‘they’,” the inspector asked.
“The cop that got us. He told us he would give us a hundred each and a hit of speed if we cut the boy up bad. He said he would get us off our dealing charges too. Gave me the knife from his own pocket.”
“There are initials on the knife,” the inspector said to the officer giving first aid to the knifed man. “What are they?”
“AO” said the officer. “That looks a lot like a knife that Art Orange has.”
“How did these men get into the cell? This is a juvenile-only cell.” He looked up at the security camera, and saw that a towel, similar to the ones in the shower room, had been thrown up and obscured the lens. “I want to see the tape from that camera as soon as possible, and if there are any blank spots before the lens is obscured, heads will roll.”
“I moved them in,” an officer said. “I didn’t notice the camera was covered. Art Orange said that you ordered the move, and the paperwork would follow. Then he took off. Said he wanted to get to the hospital to see his boy.”
“Right,” Inspector O’Rourke said. “Effectively immediately, Art Orange is suspended. “I want him here in my office within a half hour. Arrest him if you have to. God knows he has earned it.” He pointed at two officers to go after Orange, and ordered the others to their duties. The cowering prisoner was moved back to his original cell, but the three injured had to be escorted to hospital for treatment. Insp. O’Rouke realized that his division was now seriously undermanned, and ordered the reception officer to call in several more officers.
The inspector took Mark personally up to his office, and told the boy he was free to go.
“Can I call my Mom,” the boy asked.
“You weren’t given a call earlier?” the inspector asked.
“I tried, but I couldn’t reach her cell number,” Mark said. “I’ll try the house, although she shouldn’t be home until after 6.” He dialed the inspector’s desk phone. “Mom, I couldn’t get you on your cell. Thank goodness you picked up. I’m in jail!”
Alison and Nick were at the Division headquarters within a half hour, and the inspector was a bit upset to find that the boy’s mother had brought a lawyer. The police department had messed this case up so badly that there was certain to be a huge lawsuit. He saw his chances of being promoted to full superintendent vanishing before his eyes.
Alison rushed up to her son and hugged him deeply, thrilled to know that he had not been hurt in any way. She stepped back: “You are bigger again? How did that happen?”
“I don’t know,” Mark said. “When the men attacked me in the cell, I could feel the power of the river going through me. I guess I grew then. We will have to ask River how it happened.”
The inspector was more than a little confused. He knew that Mark had grown, and now his mother was confirming it. And the talk about a river doing it, and asking the river how it happened was totally confusing. “Can someone explain all this to me?” he finally asked.
“Probably not,” Nick explained. “It has to do with a mystical river flowing into Lake Superior, that sometimes gives ‘gifts’ to people. It made Mark bigger a couple weeks back, and now it seems to have done so again, although I have no idea how. You normally have to be in the river to get a gift. And the River we are going to ask is Mark’s sister, also named River. She has a deep connection to the river … the water one.”
“Okay,” the inspector said slowly. He turned to Mark. “Is that the river that you said taught you to fight?”
“Yes,” Mark said. “And when I was fighting today, first with the boys, and then with the men, I could feel it tell me what to do. ‘Twist left now, push the arm down, stuff like that.’”
The inspector just shook his head. None of this hocus pocus stuff would look good in a report. But maybe it would convince a jury that these people were insane, and the settlement would be limited. It didn’t matter, his career would be in a shambles long before then.
“Your son is free to go, Ms. Waters,” he said. “The video evidence was pretty clear that any harm to the other boys were caused by themselves and his self-defence.”
At that point several officers burst into the office. One, a short but stocky man with a red face was raging mad. “What the hell is this crap about me being suspended?” he roared at the inspector.
“Excuse me, Orange, but I have visitors now. I will deal with you shortly.”
“Sod your visitors. You will deal with me now, or I’ll have the union on you so fast your head will spin,” the man raged. “I’ve done nothing wrong.”
“Nothing,” the inspector’s voice rose a bit. “You sent four perps into a juvenile cell without authorization. One of them had what appears to be your Swiss Army knife, and attacked the boy with it. That is not nothing.”
“Did they kill the punk?” Orange shouted.
“No they didn’t,” the inspector said. “He is standing right there.”
“You? You’re the punk that stabbed my boy?” Orange leapt at Mark, only to have the boy take a quick step to the side, and then press his hand down on the shoulder of the man attacking him, knocking him to the floor.” A second later he had his knee on Orange’s neck, effectively holding him down.
“Assaulting the police,” the prone man yelled. “You’re in for it now.”
“I don’t think so,” the inspector said calmly. “For one thing, you assaulted him. And don’t claim resisting arrest, because you no longer have the authority to arrest anyone. You are suspended. And not only for your little trick with the druggies. The knife your son was using was one that was stolen from the evidence room five years ago. I just got a report back and the only recent prints on it were yours and your sons.”
“But that punk stabbed my boy,” Orange protested, still unable to get up.
“No he didn’t. Video evidence shows your son trying to stab the boy. He missed and the knife went into his own leg. He stabbed himself. And he is also facing charges of sexual assault and forcible abduction, not to mention the crimes related to the knife attack. With his record of misdemeanors in the past, your son is going to spend time incarcerated. Take him away, and put him in Cell 11 for a while to cool down. I will call for him after our guests leave.”
The other two officers came, and motioned for Mark to step back. As Mark did, Orange shot out his now freed arm in an effort to trip the boy. But Mark just jumped into the air, landing on the man’s arm. Orange screamed assault again, but it was ignored and he was led away.
“I’m sorry for that,” the inspector said. “That was not one of Toronto’s Finest. We will be better off with him off the force, although it will probably take a year or two for it to go through the system.
“All the while he will be collecting his full salary,” Nick said. In Ontario any suspended officer receives full pay while his case is heard.
“Yes. Nothing I can do about that. You folk are free to go. My only concern is that Orange is a bit of a loose wheel, and might try something else, especially after the little show he just put on. You might not want to be in your home tonight. The address is on the criminal complaint that was filed against your son. I can keep Orange here for a few hours, but he will be free to go at some point. Hopefully when he sees the evidence against his boy he will calm down, but I wouldn’t count on it. He is one of the types that has to blame someone else for anything that they do wrong.”
“Thank you for everything,” Mark said, shaking the inspector’s hand.
“Yes,” Alison said. “Mark and I are moving back north, probably tomorrow, I have already been planning to make arrangements to sell our house. I’m certain we can find a place to stay tonight.”
“I can guarantee that,” Nick said. “They will stay at my address. As a lawyer I’ve been pretty careful to keep my address out of public information. We will all be heading north tomorrow, once we talk to the realtor.”
“But Mom,” Mark said. “What about your job?”
“We can talk about that later,” Alison said. “Let’s go.”
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