Tagged: Runaways; kids who steal
MemberJune 28, 2020 at 1:06 pm
Cops and Robbers
“I would like to report a theft,” said Karen to the desk officer at the police station. “A credit card and $500.”
“Marge,” called the policeman to a colleague. “Come take this lady’s vital statistics.” Karen and Marge sat down at a small desk. Karen poured out her name, age and address, gender, employment and marital status. She was beginning to wonder if Marge would ask for her ring size and the name of her auto mechanic when they finally got to the theft itself.
“What did you lose?”
“Five hundred dollars and the credit card that I use for major expenses.”
“Are you sure that you didn’t spend the money on something and forget about it?”
“I counted the money last night before going to bed. It was missing from my purse this morning before I left the house.”
“So where was the purse?”
“Sitting on my suitcase near the front door.”
“How did the thief have access to it?”
“He used to live in the house.”
“You mean that he had a key?”
“No, he slept in the house last night.”
“How do you know for sure who it was?”
“He and I were the only people in the apartment and it was locked from the outside.”
“No one else had a key?”
“My husband might still have a key, but he was no longer in the city.”
“Wait, so what was the name of the person who you think stole the money and the card?”
“This is a serious accusation. Are you sure?”
“We would have to question him ourselves.”
“First you would have to find him. He fled after stealing the money and the card.”
“You saw him?”
“No, I was still asleep at the time,” said Karen. “First I noticed that he wasn’t in the house. Only later did I realize that I had been robbed.”
“Why was he sleeping in the apartment?”
“He is my son.”
“But your name is Prescott.”
“We are about to enter the 21st century. You will find that a little difficult if you linger in the 19th. I kept my maiden name when I got married.”
“What kind of mother turns her own son in to the police?”
“A very angry and frustrated mother.” Karen got angry often enough at work, either at tactless remarks by colleagues or at idiotic decisions by university administrators. Her eyes would narrow slightly and her walk would be brisker. The fury she felt now was entirely different. Her heart was racing, her hands shook slightly, and the muscles in her neck were taut. “The boy has been stealing from me since he turned nine. Once he took a hundred dollars and treated a friend to a steak dinner. I used to keep my money locked in my bedroom, and count it three times a day. It was horrible!”
“How old is he now?”
“Then everything I have written is useless. You have to go to the juvenile department.” Marge ceremoniously dropped her notes into the trash, from which Karen as quickly rescued them.
“I’m sure a lot of this information is needed on the juvenile form, too.”
Karen was sent, with inadequate instruction, to the juvenile department on the third floor. Doris, the policewoman who met her there, took her into a cramped interrogation room. “Would you like to extract the information from me as Marge did, or would you prefer a connected narrative?” Karen asked.
“Let’s hear the story first. Then I will need to fill out the form bit by bit.”
“My husband and I are university professors, mathematicians, in Chicago. Three years ago I was elected Chair of my department and we took in a foster child. Our son Eddie, who was nine at the time, started acting out: ignoring his schoolwork, borrowing money that he couldn’t repay, running away, and stealing to buy things that he often just threw away. I felt besieged in my own home, having to keep my bedroom locked with my purse inside. Finally, after he attempted suicide, we got him treated for depression, and started psychological treatment here in New York where we were staying on sabbatical. We had found what seemed to be the root cause: he had thought he was not my biological son but the son of my husband’s first wife. Once convinced that I was really his mother, he promised not to steal anymore, and he stuck to that. We went back to being a normal family.
“However, as time approached for us to return to Chicago, he got more and more upset. He wanted to go live with his grandparents in California. My husband left two days ago with the car and the other two children, but Eddie didn’t want to go with them. He and I were supposed to fly out at eleven this morning. Instead, he woke up early, took $500 and a credit card from my purse, and ran away.”
“All you really know is that the boy and the money are both missing. Some third party could have taken both.”
“The apartment was locked.”
“Okay, since the boy has a history of theft, your idea is reasonable, especially since you were trying to force him to go somewhere he didn’t want to go. Let’s fill out the form.”
Trying to force him to go where his parents have jobs and a home. Karen set Madge’s form on the table. She still had to supply the name of his school and his grade. “Going into seventh grade.”
“Has he ever been left back?”
“No.” A minor miracle, since he had spent so little effort on passing. Until this year. This spring he had really tried. Karen’s anger was being fanned by disappointment.
“Why didn’t he want to go back to Chicago?”
“He wouldn’t tell us. We knew that he was being bullied in his old school, and we promised him a new school. That wasn’t enough.”
“This suicide attempt, that was in Chicago?”
“In summer camp. A year and a half ago, there was a break-in to our house. We were all traumatized, but Eddie most of all. He became seriously depressed. We installed an alarm system, but it didn’t reassure him. The one time he and his father went back to try to find something, he refused to go inside.”
“Maybe you should have rented out that house and moved.”
“We did move. We moved to New York for a year, hoping he would calm down. Now our jobs require us to return to Chicago. We tried all year to rent the house and failed. We have a large mortgage on the property and paying both the mortgage and the rent on a second apartment has been very difficult. We couldn’t manage another year of it.”
“You could sell that house and buy another.”
“After paying off the large mortgage and a 6% realtor’s fee, I don’t know how much we will have left for a down payment and another 6% on a new place. Nor do I see why we have to uproot the entire family for one neurotic twelve-year-old.”
“Who happens to be your son,” said Doris severely. “If the parents would do their job, they wouldn’t have to call in the police.”
“Fine, he is our son, but we are his parents. We have two other children who are also affected by our decisions.”
“I am trying to tell you that you cannot make him live in your current home in Chicago unless he chooses to. If brought back by force, he would probably run away again, unless life on his own turns out to be too horrible. Even then he would probably still be a suicide risk. What do you think we can do for you?”
“You could find out from the credit card company if he used the card to buy a plane or train ticket. If he used it to buy food or shelter, it would tell us where he is.”
“Do you have a copy of the card number, expiration date and all that?”
“I know it by heart.” Karen gave her the information.
“Listen, the reason for the 24-hour rule for missing kids is that, if they left on their own, they usually show up at home after spending a miserable night on the streets. You should go back to your apartment and wait for him there. Because of the suicide angle, I’m going to report him missing already. He could be sitting on the pile of a bridge, trying to work up the courage to jump.”
Karen felt a shiver run down her spine which partially cooled her anger. Could Eddie have run away intending to commit suicide? But if so, why had he taken the credit card? There would not be many chances to swipe it at the bottom of the East River.
“The next thing you can do,” continued Doris, “is to make a list of all his friends. He could be holed up at one of their houses, eating popcorn and watching TV.
“He’s not on such good terms with the boys in his class. He never brought any of them home or went to their houses.”
“He was never so desperate before.”
On the way back to the apartment, Karen found a cell phone store and bought a new charger for her phone. She said hello to Bert as she walked in and took the elevator to the eighth floor. Next to the front door she found a large pile of sheets. The front door was wide open and from inside she heard the vacuum running. The cleaning service. She almost turned around to go back down, but she needed the electrical socket to recharge her phone. Karen knocked on the door jamb and said, “Excuse me, I’m the tenant moving out. I would like to charge my cell phone.”
She stood near the electrical socket as the cleaning staff dusted and vacuumed around her. Who should she call first? Lennie? Her mother? Ruth? She wasn’t looking forward to telling any of them that she had just ratted on Eddie to the police. Instead, she dialed a number that she used to call frequently and now hardly used.
“Dad? It’s Karen.”
“Is something wrong?”
Mom probably didn’t rush to tell him about the latest troubles. “I’m stuck in New York. Eddie ran away.”
Silence on the other end of the line. Dad was probably pressing his lips closed to avoid saying, ‘Good riddance.’
“I just came back from the police station where I was laying a complaint. He didn’t just run away, he took my credit card and a lot of money. I am fed up with being stolen from.”
”Not sure that was such a smart thing to do, Karen. Suppose they put him in reform school in New York State. Are you going to want to fly in once a month or whatever to visit him? I don’t volunteer.”
“He’s very young for reform school. And we don’t have to press charges.”
“They may ask the Social Welfare people to find him a foster family. That will also be in New York State.”
A foster family? She remembered clearly what Doris had said: You cannot make him live in your current home in Chicago unless he chooses to. Maybe going to the police had not, indeed, been such a smart move. She asked her father to pass on the word to her mother and hung up.
Working on Ruth’s Little Bo Peep theory, she called up the landlord and explained the situation, asking permission to stay overnight, sleeping on the couch with her own linens and not using the kitchen. Bert the doorman could cover for her while she went out for yet more fast food. The hardest task was still in front of her. She had to call up Lennie and tell him what she had done.
MemberJune 28, 2020 at 3:02 pm
I’m at the edge of my seat
MemberJune 30, 2020 at 12:53 am
This is such a suspenseful, and well written, story. Keep at it!
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