A Second Chance -- Chapter 58

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A Second Chance

By Dawn Natelle

Only a short chapter, but it sets things up for Shootout at the Oak Street Corral in the next posting: Dawn

MONDAY, June 20, 2016

Rachael woke up with a small body hugging her back. Apparently Bobby had woken up during the night, and had decided to crawl in with her rather than into his own bed. She loved the little guy, but he was getting a little old to be sleeping in the same bad as her. She got up and went quietly into the bathroom, coming out several minutes later to see her brother awake, and smiling broadly from his own bed. He held up his Harry Potter book. “Read?”

“Yeah, Tiger, we can read for a while. Momma and Dad won’t want to get up for another hour or two.”

She got onto his bed, sitting outside the sheets and the pair read, following their traditional method of Rachael reading a page, and then Bobby reading the next page. He was much slower than his sister, and occasionally she had to have him sound out a word, or explain what one meant, but overall she was amazed at how much better he was reading now. When she had started reading with him, he was at a Grade 2 or 3 level. Now he was reading at a Grade 6 level, and was nearly as good as some of Rachael’s Grade 8 classmates.

Much later Maria opened the door to look at her two children reading in bed. “Anyone hungry?”

“I’m starved,” Bobby said, jumping out of the bed. Rachael got up as well.

“Geoff ordered room service,” Maria said. “They just delivered it to our room.”

“Froot Loops,” Bobby called out. Rachael wouldn’t buy him junk food for breakfast, and she glared at Maria. “It’s a holiday,” Maria explained, and Rachael agreed to the slip in her brother’s diet.

There were eggs for the other three, although Bobby brazenly stole the bacon from first Rachael, and then his mother. He eyed Geoff’s, but the baker held his fork up menacingly, and said: “Just you try.” Bobby decided the four rashers of bacon was enough, and contented himself with his milk-sopped cereal.

Maria and Geoff were dressed already, while Rachael was in her robe, and Bobby was nearly naked in only his shorts. Maria took him to dress, while Rachael got her outfit for the day and took it into the washroom.

They were on the streetcar for the short ride back to the stadium, getting off one stop early at the CN tower. The weather at 10 a.m. looked a little hazy, so the family went to the adjacent aquarium first. They spent the next three hours in there, looking at the various exhibits and shows.

When they came out, the haze was gone, and they went up into the CN tower for its breathtaking views of the city and out onto Lake Ontario. They came down just before 2 p.m., and took the streetcar up to the subway line, where they went underground.

Mid-afternoon is probably the best time of day to ride the Toronto subway, especially for a group of rubes from a small town like the Barrons. In early morning or later in the afternoon it is rush hour, and even later in the evening the drunks and party people take over. But at 2:30 there was only a few people in every car, and the Barrons walked down to the end of the station to get on the first car, which no other patrons were on, as most preferred cars closer to the stairs.

This allowed Bobby to be able to run back and forth in the car as it ambled down the tracks, stopping at each station. He watched how the driver controlled the train from the small cubicle at the front of the car, while the guard at the other end of the train used her whistle to warn people to stand back.

He finally dragged Rachael to the very front of the car, where they could see down the tunnel. He was enthralled. Rachael: not so much. She could only see the dark and dank tunnel, and think: Here be rats.

“We get off at the next stop, kids,” Maria sang out from the middle of the car. So when Rachael and Bobby could see the lights of the next stop ahead in the dark tunnel, they headed back, just in time. In fact, they had to jump out of a set of doors ahead of the ones their parents used.

The museum was just outside of the station, so they were soon inside. Bobby found the dinosaurs first: it isn’t hard, with that exhibit just inside the lobby. The family travelled the entire multi-floor museum, with everyone finding different things to admire. Rachael and Maria split off from Geoff and Bobby, so that they could look at the Art Deco furnishings and old costumes, things that didn’t interest the boys.

“This has been great,” Rachael said. “It is so nice not being poor. I bet we had spent more money these two days than our family ever spent on ourselves before Geoff.”

“We planned this for a couple weeks,” Maria admitted. “Geoff wanted to bond with you kids, and we had the money in the budget. Then I wound up getting another $1000 cheque from Bill Strong for doing some interviews on Saturday. He has some good people working for him now, so I probably won’t do any more for him. That made it easier to afford all this without wincing.”

The two pairs rejoined after a few hours, and after Bobby had one more chance to see the dinosaurs, they headed back. Outside there was a stampede of people rushing to get into the subway station, so Geoff held up his hand and soon a taxi pulled up. The four got in, and rode quickly back to the hotel. They had checked out in the morning, but Geoff had paid a fee to allow him to leave the rental car until evening. They went directly down to the parking garage, and in a few minutes were on their way home.

“Why aren’t we moving?” Bobby asked a few minutes later, after they got onto the expressway.

“This is how rush hour traffic works in Toronto,” Geoff said. “Hurry up and wait.”

“Why do they call it ‘rush’ hour,” Bobby noted. “They should call it ‘slow’ hour.”

“And hour doesn’t fit either,” Rachael said. “I understand it is like this from 6 to 10 in the morning, and 4 to 7 in the evening.”

Later, when they had gotten past most of the traffic, and were only a half hour from Ingersoll, Geoff called back: “So Bobby, was it ‘Best holiday ever?’”

“I guess,” the boy said. “It was the first holiday ever. Can we do it again?”

“Sure,” Geoff said. “I love my little family, and want so much to have fun with you. In a couple years Rachael is going to be grown up, and then a few years later you will be too. Until then we need to make a lot of memories.”

“Blue Jays again?” Bobby suggested. “Or a hockey game! Toronto and Pittsburg. I could see Sidney Crosby!”

“Well, hockey would be difficult,” Geoff said. “Toronto is hard to get a ticket to, and against Pittsburg nearly impossible. Maybe if we went to Buffalo or Detroit: they are both close enough. But we could do other things. Camping or cottaging. The roller coasters at Canada’s Wonderland. The Science Centre in Toronto is good for kids. I wanted to go there this trip, but your Mom said dinosaurs would appeal more to you.”

“The dinosaurs were awesome,” Bobby said. “You are the best Dad ever.” Geoff smiled. Statements like that, plus the hugs he got from his kids when they finally got out of the car at home were the reason he loved being a Dad. He had hopes that Maria and he could have a child of their own one day, but he admitted that no child could be better than the two he had inherited. Hopefully he, she, or they could be just as good.

---- - -- --- --

Earlier in the morning the town police chief looked at the picture that Gary had given Steve. “Definitely a grow op,” the chief said. “It would take our entire force to clean it up, assuming it is empty. But I got a memo a few days back … here it is. A fellow I went to police academy with years ago joined the OPP, and he has moved up fairly well. A good cop. They just made him officer in charge of a new mobile SWAT team that will be able to go out to trouble spots in the province. Let me give him a call. You head out to that house, and keep an eye on it.”

Steve parked his cruiser in the church parking lot and walked the two blocks to the grow op on Oak Street. He found Gary standing on the porch of the house facing it across the street. His policeman’s eyes noticed that repair work had been done on the porch, and was just waiting for paint. Apparently the Hobo Army had been doing work here.

“Hey Steve,” Gary said. “We have something new.” He gestured to a Hobo Army member holding a somewhat bulky device that was pointed at the house. “That is an early thermographic camera that was in the shed, and Chipper fixed it up. Just in time, too. Look.” The images stored showed that there were heat sources in all three levels of the grow op.”

“These red areas are lights at the top of the levels. Then below are these orange strips, which we think are the plants growing. But look up here, in the second floor,” Gary said. “There are two blobs up here. We think they are people. They don’t move much, but they do move around with that one room.”

Just then the chief pulled up in his cruiser in front of the house. “Maybe we don’t want a cruiser here, chief,” Steve said tactfully. “I parked at the church.” A light of recognition shone from the chief’s face as he climbed the steps to the porch.

“I could have one of the fellows drive it over there for you,” Gary offered, and the chief handed over the keys, who Gary handed to another person.

“It is illegal for someone not in the force to drive a cruiser,” the chief said. “So I am officially making you an auxiliary office of Ingersoll Police Force.”

As the man drove off Steve showed the thermographic images. The chief agreed that this was clear evidence of a grow op, and would enable him to get a search warrant for the next day. “We should keep an eye on the house until then. Does the owner of this house mind if we leave an officer?”

“Danko here has made some rapport with the lady who owns the home,” Gary said. “He cleaned up her flower garden, and did repair work on the porch and inside the house. She trusts him. I suggest we leave him to look after the place. If you need to leave an officer, you would need to cover three shifts until tomorrow.”

The chief agreed and swore Danko in as an auxiliary, and then let him lead them into the house to see Mrs. Berrilia. “Dolores,” Danko called out from the door. “I have some people who would like to talk with you.”

“Oh, more company,” the elderly woman said. “I must make tea.”

The police and Gary waited patiently until Danko and the woman made tea, and served it with cookies around a coffee table in her living room, which had a large picture window staring at the grow-op. She complained about the house, which she called a blight on the neighborhood. Of course, her reason was that they didn’t mow their lawn, which at a foot high was apparently ‘out of control.’ She didn’t know anything about the people who looked after it: they apparently had rented the house a year ago. Previously two different families had lived there in separate apartments.

She agreed to allow a person to spend the night observing, so long as ‘Danny’ was present. She considered him to be like a grandson.

“We’ll need a second man overnight,” Danko said. “I can nap on the couch as he watches.”

“Nonsense, Danny,” Mrs. Berrillia said. “I have a perfectly good guest room you can sleep in.”

Gary, the chief and Steve left soon after. “You are going to have to swear in a few more auxiliaries,” Steve said. “The second man at least.”

“And I’d like to keep a few men from the Army in the area,” Gary said. “Just to be safe, and to run back to the church if there are problems. We’ll keep a couple here, outside, on four-hour shifts. We can get a couple dozen more men out here quickly to support your officers, if you need.”

“That might not be a bad idea,” the chief mused. “We are going to get over a dozen men from the OPP SWAT team, and they should be here around 10 in the morning. We will have our warrant by then. Your guys could do traffic control into the area. But if the SWAT team requires it, we may want to evacuate the houses nearby. That can be a pretty manpower-intensive step, and having your guys do it in several teams will be a huge benefit. Where can we put all the people who evacuate?”

“The church,” Gary said succinctly. “There is room for several hundred there, and we have the facilities and the staff to feed them and keep them busy. Many of the area people go to our church, and we will welcome those of other faiths as well. The church is the voting poll for this part of town, so most of them are familiar with it.”

The men left Danko with the elderly lady, and headed back to the church. During the day Gary had some of the Army go down the entire block, and determine who was in each home. In most cases the Army had done lawn work or repairs to the houses, and knew which of the Army men had made contact with the people, so that it could be familiar faces that conducted an evacuation if one was necessary.

Back at the church the men built a map showing each house on the street, and Maple Street behind it. This allowed Steve and the chief to make plans for deploying officers and auxiliaries the next day. At about 2 Inspector John Bell returned from Woodstock, where he had been overseeing several minor court cases at the county courthouse. The Inspector would be the Ingersoll officer in charge of the operation, although in fact the OPP men would lead the plan. There were a few areas where local officers would be needed. For one thing, the warrant would have to be served by local officers. The three policemen spent several hours at the church, and joined the Hobo Army for their supper. Before the meal the chief swore all the available men in as police auxiliaries.”

---- - --- -- - -

That evening a tired Barron family returned home. Grandpa had insisted that he could look after himself, but Grandma had been driven over from her home. She spent Sunday afternoon and all of Monday with him to keep him company. She also ensured that he ate well, with dinners ordered in; as well as toast for breakfast, and sandwiches and some of Rachael’s soup for lunch.

Geoff went to bed soon after they got in. Tuesday was Mike’s day off, so he had to go in for 11 to start on the bread. Maria was going to go in early at 4 to help out. Doug was coming in at 2 a.m. since high school was out already for the summer, and the boy was hoping to get 40-hour weeks until September to help his family get ahead financially.

With Geoff in bed, Maria drove her mother-in-law home, but not until Bobby spent nearly an hour excitedly going through every step of their adventure. When Maria was finally gone, Rachael sent Bobby to take his bath, and then helped Grandpa into bed, with the old soldier admitting that he was glad not to have been on the trip: “I got tired just listening to everything Bobby said you all did,” he admitted.

When Grandpa was done, Maria was home and joined Geoff in their bed. Rachael joined Bobby, but they only read about ten minutes before the boy fell asleep.”

Dear Lord

Thank you for another great day. It is so nice to get back to sleepy old Ingersoll where nothing ever happens after a busy day in the city. So many people. I hope you can look after all of them as well as you look after us.

Amen



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