After another minute or so of coaxing we got Carl into the mud room. As everyone climbed out of their ski apparel I noticed how casually the agents were again dressed, Stan and Sandra in walking shorts and tee shirts, Bob wearing warmups again. Jim had prepared hot chocolate for everyone, one part of the interview we had no problem getting Carl to participate in.
We had sipped on the warming drinks for a couple of minutes before Jim asked if he could add a log to the upstairs fireplace. As soon as I agreed Bob offered to, stating he was closest. I felt a gentle poke on my elbow as he stood, his eyes asking to come with him.
"Let me help." I offered.
When we got upstairs, he began "We thought you might want to see what we have done, how all this works." I looked around the room and at first didn't see anything different saving a folder sitting on one of the tables. He pointed to a small, unobtrusive box sitting on the table explaining it was a camera, one of three in the room. The only other change to the room was a metal container similar to a briefcase sitting in one corner, a wire running from it to the room's phone jack.
"We have the video recorder in one of our hotel rooms over in the lodge, and the interview will also be video conferenced to our headquarters, where some more experts along with federal prosecutors will be participating."
The sound of footsteps ascending the stairs interrupted him, the rest of the group entering the loft.
"I'm ready for some more cocoa" Gordon announced "What about you Christian?"
Carl gave me a frightened look as I started toward the stairs behind Jim and Bob. Helen pulled the lad against her chest, and my assurances I was just going to be downstairs he relaxed a little.
When we were downstairs Jim handed Bob and I each a small earpiece/microphone set. He opened what looked like a laptop computer but had numerous knobs and controls where the keyboard should be. He plugged the controller into a phone jack
"You'll be able to listen to everything that is said." he explained. "Sandra is wearing a small earpiece and microphone that I doubt Carl will notice. If you have anything to add Sandra will hear it and inject it into the interview. Just remember to keep your voice low. Please state your full name and date of birth." he asked.
'Here we go!' I thought as I complied, a lump forming in my throat. Soon I saw Carl and Helen come into the screen of Jim's control panel, Helen's voice asking Carl to sit by her as she settled onto one of the day beds. AUTHOR'S COMMENT: The majority of the interview is a dialog between FBI Agent Stan Banks and Carl. I will inject summaries of the more mundane parts of the meeting and am going to drop the he said he responded descriptors, only identifying other speakers. Hope its not to hard to follow (Hope I don't screw it up!)
It didn't take long to realize how much of an expert interviewer Stan was. For the first couple of minutes he got Carl to identify himself by conning him into bragging about his recent adoption, identify the location of the interview by having the lad relay parts of his ski adventure and trip. Carl visibly relaxing all the while. I saw Stan's ham like hand enter the screen as he asked
"I'd like you to look at these pictures and tell me if you know any of these people, Carl."
Helen and Carl looked at them together before he replied. "I know this one, he's Arturo."
"Great, now would you look at these pictures, do you know any of these people?"
"Only these two, that is Dean, and he is Ricardo."
"Yeah! Thank God!" Bob hissed under his breath. He and Jim exchanged high fives.
"Well I think this is Tom, yeah that's Tom he's Mike's dad. Well sorta dad. He used to drive men around for Dean too"
Bob pushed toward the screen as if watching the climax of a great movie. After a second he whispered "Sandy, Sandy, which picture?"
"Number sixteen" his agent whispered.
"Holly Jesus!" Gordon muttered. He looked at me before jotting on a scratch pad 'That one we suspected but were not sure. If he’s the same Mike he is a 14 year old kidnap victim'
"How did you meet Arturo?" Stan asked.
A long pause, "At the, well, he works at, well he knows my old dad"
"Do you know where he works?"
"At the hotel"
"Which hotel does he work for?"
Another pause, I think I could see gears grinding in his little brain even through the monitor
"I think it’s Quantity or something, it’s by the airport"
"Could it be the Quality instead of Quantity? What does Arturo do at the hotel?"
"He takes pictures"
"What does he take pictures of?"
A pause, "Kids"
"Did he ever take pictures of you?"
"Y y yyes sir"
"What kind of pictures did he take of you? What were you doing?"
"Ah, well just pictures."
"What were you wearing for his pictures?" No response.
A voice I didn't recognize said through our earpieces "Use the cropped one's first."
Stan's hand entered the monitor again "Did Arturo take these pictures of you?"
I watched on the monitor as Helen took some prints from Stan's hand, Carl pressed tightly against her. It took him a few seconds to risk a glance at what his caseworker was holding but he recovered slightly as he did. Helen showed him the five or so before he responded
Bob looked over to me, putting his flattened hand at his waist and moving it toward his chest.
"What were you wearing when Arturo took these?"
A long pause. "I don't remember sir"
"You are being very brave Carl, you are doing great, okay?" After Carl nodded Stan continued, "I have to ask you some things that about the pictures that you might not like, do you still trust me enough to answer them?" Another nod. "Were you wearing any clothes when Arturo took pictures of you?"
"Did you want Arturo to take your picture without any clothes?"
"No! They made me! They did Mrs. Cruz I promise! They made me!" Carl shrieked, pushing against Helen's breast.
"Be brave son, how did they make you?"
"If we didn't Dean beat us up. . . and then my old dad whipped me when I got home if I didn't do everything they said."
Still another unknown voice said into my earpiece "Pursue with Dean"
Another protesting "Who are the other kids?"
Gordon quickly interceded, suggesting everyone quit disturbing his interviewer. Several very respectful 'yes sirs' immediately followed.
"What do you mean by Dean beat us up, did he hit you or strike you, where?"
I found myself clinching my fist as Carl pulled up his sweater and pointed at his thin chest, the area Roy had said the boy's physician had identified as an old rib fracture (what at the time seemed like a hundred years or so ago to me). He pointed at his cute little mouth saying how much it hurt when Dean hit him there.
"He beat up Ruben one time and both his eyes got puffy so bad they were closed after." Carl concluded, stuffing his face tighter against Helen.
I was so uptight I wanted to kill someone. Unfortunately, the only living beings nearby were FBI agents, so I grasp the arm of my chair tighter. Stan, his voice as calm as asking the time, continued
"How did your dad punish you, what do you mean by he whipped you?"
"Well he whipped me! It hurt bad! Real bad!"
"What do you mean by he whipped you, did he strike you? Did he strike you with anything but his hand?"
"His wire sir. He hit me with that wire!" I could see tears running down the boy’s cheeks.
"Where did your old dad strike you with the wire?"
Carl said he had been hit on the butt and legs. I was trying to stay calm when he pulled his sweater back up pointing to his back, but that was too much. I pushed out of my chair, intending to go upstairs and end all this when Bob forcefully planted me back in my seat. He was not the pencil pusher he looked, pinning me before I could counter.
"Sandy signal Stan to move on immediately!" he snapped. Still holding me helplessly he glared into my eyes, "Please Christian! I know it’s hard. But you can help save a lot of kids from what your son endued, I PROMISE Stan won't hurt him, please! " he whispered.
I nodded and after a couple of seconds he eased his grip on me.
There was a pause before Stan appeared in the monitor, sitting down next to my new son. I could see an exchange of glances between him and Helen.
Helen hugged Carl before saying "Can I sneak away for a minute? I need to go to the ladies room." Carl's face sunk before she kissed him on top of the head saying, "I'll be just a minute, but you gotta do what you gotta do!"
"I want you to look at a few more pictures, okay?" Stan began, wrapping his arm around Carl's shoulder. The lad's face paled as Stan showed him what I later found out were some of the nude pictures Tim had shown me right when all this started.
"Did Arturo take these pictures of you?"
"Yes sir" Carl whimpered.
"Thanks, are you okay?. . . Please look at these pictures, do you know any of these kids?"
"I know these is all, that's Mike and that's Ruben and Carroll"
Just as Gordon had asked Sandra if it was the 'Snyder boy' Stan nodded his head in her direction.
"Jackson, prepare a warrant, get it to Judge Oran IMMEDIATELY!" Gordon ordered. He interrupted the 'right away sir' in my earpiece continuing "Wang, form another raid team and get them on site, I want that boy the minute the warrant is signed. No excuses, no errors or a lot of people will be sitting next to Fletcher reading fingerprints." I saw a tear form in one of his stoic eyes as he muttered "Thank God!"
"Where do you know them from?" Stan continued over Gordon's voice.
"They were at the hotel sometimes when my dad took me there. . . I had to wait with some of them sometimes"
"What were you waiting for?"
"For them to be ready for me"
"For who to be ready for you, what do you mean?"
"Well, you know, the men, Dean called them clients. Well for us to go to their rooms."
"Who took you to these rooms?"
"Sometimes Dean did and a lot Ricardo did"
"What happened after they took you to the client’s room, why did they take you there?"
A long pause "Well I had to do stuff is all." After another pause "Well what they said I had to sir"
"Who did you have to do this stuff with?"
"Most times the men"
"Most times? Who else?"
A long pause "A few times with Ruben and Mike."
"When you were with Ruben and Mike was anyone else there?"
"Arturo was, and my old dad or Dean some."
"Was Arturo taking pictures?"
"Y. . .Y-yes"
Stan reached down next to the day bed, setting a briefcase next to him. Opening it he removed a large and somewhat smaller doll handing them to Carl.
"I know we're both a little old to play with dolls Carl, but I won't tell if you won't!" he said, getting a very slight grin from the boy.
"Would you use these to show me what Dean and his friends made you do with the men in the rooms?"
Carl pushed the dolls back toward Stan staring at his shoes. After a second Helen reappeared in the monitor, sitting down next to him.
"It’s okay sweetie. Please, you want to help punish the men that hurt you, don't you?" She said, patting his head.
"You're being very brave son" Stan continued, wiping under the boy’s wide eyes with his finger. "Please?"
I didn't realize how tense I had become until I tried to speak. It took two or three tries before I could move enough air across my vocal cords to make any sound.
"Ask about the other kids, does he want to protect the other kids." I finally muttered.
"Please Carl," Sandra began "Do you want Dean and Arturo to get out of jail so they can hurt Ruben and Mike again? Or other kids? Please help us"
He looked around at his interrogators for what had to be a full minute before he slowly accepted the dolls. After some more hesitation he removed the clothes from each doll. His eyes bugged as he discovered they were anatomically accurate, a man and a boy. He closed his eyes for a second pushing his thin body tightly against Helen's side before laying the smaller doll face down in his lap. After another pause, he almost pushed the larger doll on top of the smaller, almost bulldozing its genitals between the other's legs.
"You are doing great son." Stan said, stroking the boy's head. "You are very brave. Did they make you do anything else with the men?"
Carl looked up at the agent for a second and nodded his head yes. After a little prompting he held the larger doll upright. Turning the other doll around he pushed its mouth against the larger's genitals.
"Thanks Carl, we're almost done. I want you to look at one more set of pictures, okay?" The youngster glanced briefly at the photos Stan held in front of him before jerking his head away, pressing his face against Helen's breast. Somehow, I knew they were the same porn pictures that almost made me vomit when Tim had showed them to me.
"Did Arturo take these of you?"
"Did Dean and your da. . . old dad make you do this?"
"Mr. Gordon?" another elderly, clearly authoritarian voice echoed into my earpiece. As soon as Bob acknowledged the voice continued "This is Judge Oran, you have your warrants. I have just signed the last of them. I would recommend termination of the interview, the boy has had enough."
Sandra then Stan began thanking Carl for his help, telling him how proud of him he was as Gordon began snapping orders into the link.
"Roll all the teams, I want immediate reports," getting repeated 'yes sirs' "Wang, I want that boy recovered and I don't mean try to, I want him!"
"Let's go wash your face, I want to get back on my skis!" Stan exclaimed as he lifted the Carl onto his shoulder and out of the camera's view.
Carl was still somewhat ruffled when they came downstairs. He looked at me wide eyed until I tapped my hands to my chest. Almost immediately I had a double arm load of kid climbing up my torso. He relaxed slightly more as I hugged him and everyone in the room tousled his hair, rubbed his back and congratulated him.
"I'm going skiing, anyone else?" Stan asked, looking directly at Carl.
He pulled his face away from my neck, his eyes asking if he could go. I had just nodded when Bob said
"Tell you what, go find your brothers and I'll buy everyone lunch!"
"Well, there goes the national surplus!" I responded, getting several strange looks.
Stan and Carl had just skied over the ridge when 'Madam Kensington' appeared on her porch, a thick scarf tightly encasing her head tucked tightly into her Nazi era trench coat. Bob muttered something like 'What the . . .' as she started toward us.
"Mr. Miller! I was assured you were going to be supervising your children, do you know where they are?" 'Oh God, not her, not now' I thought. She continued as she got closer "I allowed my young ladies to be in the company of your children on the assurance you would be supervising them!" lowering her octave toward a snarl she demanded "Do you know where the children are? Are my girls safe?"
I had almost resigned myself to getting it over with, decking her and going on with my life when the twins and three of her girls appeared at the edge of the resort area. Almost immediately they were followed by a large, well frosted creature much more resembling Sasquatch than my across the street neighbor from home. Several more young skiers slid in toward the condos, several facebows and silver smiles displayed. Tim inched toward us looking more frozen then before.
"Well, here they are now!" I announced. "Miss Armstrong, my I introduce Timmy, I mean Timothy's father, Mr. Timothy Young Sr? Mr. Young stopped in for a day or so and agreed to watch the kids this morning while I was otherwise occupied."
I would have sworn I could see the frost melt from Tim's eye lashes as he cut glares at me and the old maid. He grunted some guttural noises before moving toward my condo, his stiff legged gait reminding me of an old Frankenstein movie.
"A pleasure to meet you Mr. Young!" she replied, looking up at Tim's back.
When I got back into the mud room Timmy and Jim were helping Tim out of his snow suit. As I walked by Tim grumbled
"What the f*** was that?"
I was almost to the kitchenette before I replied
"Hey, she likes you. I bet you'll have a great relationship!" Almost immediately a snow soaked glove slammed into the bar right next to me. "Good thing, that might be Timmy's future mother-in-law!"
I ducked behind the bar as a large snow soaked parka smashed against the wall where my head would have been a split second ago. Chancing the only way I knew to fend off the assault I knew was coming, I jerked open the refrigerator. I grabbed a beer waving a beer can above the bar like a flag.
"You better have plenty more of them!" Tim snapped as he jerked it out of my hand.
I had just gotten myself a can when the twins came into the mud room.
"What's for lunch?" Jerry whined.
"God Damn boy, you just ate three hot dogs!" Tim retorted.
"But we're hungry!" Jeff said stripping out of his snow suit. His eyes twitched around between his brother and Gordon for a second or so. Cracking a huge silver grin as he looked back at Gordon and continued "Hi sir!"
Tim and I finished our beer as everyone shed their ski wear. As we herded the kids out of the condo toward the lodge, I couldn't help noticing Bob's questioning expression.
"How big are you FBI types credit limits? Four kids high?" I joked. "If I wasn't a security risk federal employee I'd tell you that he read your mind, but, , ,"
He gave me an almost frightened stare as we entered the restaurant. Carl was still staying very close to me as we sat down, he and the twins pressing to sit next to him. I ended up with Carl next to me, the twins right beside him.
In what I at first wondered if it was a patriotic sacrifice, an item on the menu was 'all you can eat fried fish'. After the boys had inhaled what had to be five or six large fishing boat's harvest of fish and fries, I was wondering if the offer was actually a militant effort to destroy the nation's fishing economy when Gordon's cell phone rang. Right after he answered he excused himself, slipping away to a quiet corner near the eatery's entrance.
After a minute or so I saw him chatting with a sad eyed manager before he returned to our table. Three or four boatloads of fish later the boys seemed to have had their fill when our waitress served each of us cups of eggnog.
"Attention, may I have everyone's attention?" Gordon asked our table. "I want to propose a toast, a toast to a brave young man!
"I learned just a few minutes ago that a child that was kidnapped from his parents a year ago is safe again!" Turning toward Carl he raised his eggnog glass "I want to propose a toast. A toast to a very brave young man that probably saved that child's life." Carl blushed about five different colors as everyone raised their glasses, congratulating him.
Gordon answered two more cell calls as we made our way out of the lobby. When we got outside I gave the boys permission to go ahead of us and find their new friends. Tim, Helen and I chatted with the other agents as we waited for Bob to finish his phone conversation.
"All the warrants have been served" Bob began. "The search warrant teams are still on site, but are reporting success already. No flights and no injuries during seizure, this is becoming a wonderful day!"
All the agents congratulated each other, exchanging handshakes and hugs. They repeatedly thanked Helen, Tim and I for our efforts for a minute or so.
"The Snyder boy was recovered in better condition than I expected." Bob continued "He was being held in a locked room. From what the agents have been able to find out so far, that's where he has been kept since his kidnapping. All of this is escalating rapidly, now we think we have links to the San Francisco and Atlantic City rings.
"Christian, it appears that new son of yours was as much of a Christmas gift to law enforcement as he was to you! I thought I'd let you know there are several reward funds related to what is happening today. It will take a while to sort everything out, but we are already looking at six figures, between you and Carl I don't know how it splits."
We were almost to my condo when we were surrounded by kids, all of them hovering around Stan and anxious to get back on the slopes. I was about to tell them not to impose when Stan agreed with a wide smile. Quickly everyone but Tim, Bob and I had disappeared over the ridge.
"Got anymore of that Scotch?" Bob asked.
The three of us relaxed in my condo for most of the afternoon, enjoying casual conversations between updates Bob received on his cell phone. My cell rang about two hours after we sat down. After attempting to stare it down I checked the caller ID, "BEAVER CREEK" 'God, what now?' I thought before I answered.
"Dad, we're hungry, can we charge a snack?" Jerry asked. I was so relieved that was all the call was about I didn't ask any questions, just agreed thanking him for asking.
About five minutes later the phone in my condo rang. I gave it a nasty glare but got up and answered.
"Mr. Miller," a voice began. "This is Jean, I am the manager of Snack Bar 22 here at Beaver Creek. A boy claiming to be your son is asking to charge some food to your bill and I thought I should verify he has permission to." She went on to describe Jerry perfectly, adding that what she was sure was his twin and several other boys and girls were there. I informed her he was authorized to charge on my account and was about to ask why she called when she continued,
"I'm sorry to bother you but this was a large order. He has ordered 20 hot dogs, eight cheese burgers along with drinks and ten orders of French fries." Thanking her I rang off thinking 'well, a couple hours and its supper time.'
Shortly after supper we met Bob and his team in the lobby, recounting their visit as the bellhops loaded their luggage. We were walking back to our condo when Carl pushed under my arm.
"I love you turkey." I said pulling him against me. He warmed somewhat pushing his little body against mine but didn't reply. When we got back to the condo I suggested they jump in the shower or the hot tub, getting no arguments.
After an hour or so in the hot tub it didn't take much to get the kids into bed. Clearly their day on the snow had taken its toll, they seemed to fade into dreamland as they landed on their pillows. I tucked everyone in kissing their foreheads before going back downstairs. Making myself a hot buttered rum I got a book from my bag and crashed into a comfortable chair.
I tried to relax and read, but kept drifting back to the day's events. Could all this have really happened in one day? Could there actually be people in this world as cruel as the cute little boy that was now my youngest son described earlier today? How could this little rat, after all that had been done to him, be the bubbly, wonderful boy he is?
My eyes moistened as I thought back to the times, how many times, he had escaped to my house after being raped or worse. His miles deep eyes and hair trigger giggle was just as wonderful as now. The thought that I just presumed him as a casual visitor when he was begging for help haunted me. 'How could I have been so stupid, so naive?' I wondered.
I drained my drink and struggled out of my chair for another. I was pouring a shot of rum into my glass as I began wondering 'Did I screw up? If I had just talked to Carl more, to the twins more, I could have saved him long ago.' I wondered. 'If I had not allowed today's interview Dean and the other dick heads probably would have been released, I could have hunted them down and, , ,'
Not wanting to finish the thought I upended the rum bottle, swallowing about a fourth of its liter in one swig.
I started to go upstairs to check on the kids, only to learn that spiral staircases and spinning heads didn't work together, so I crawled into bed. I spent a few minutes asking the bed to stop spinning but soon thankfully crashed into a deep (well and drunken) slumber.
Sherry visited me in my dreams late that night, her soft warm body pressing against mine. I enjoyed stroking her back and soft bottom with one hand for probably a couple of minutes, her soft hair with the other before I noticed she was sobbing.
"What's wrong babe, I'm here, everything's okay!" I asked, pushing her face against my chest. 'Thank God she's back.' I thought, 'even if only for a dream.'
"I'm sorry sir!" Carl's angelic voice wormed its way into my dream. I stiffened as I awoke enough to realize it was not Sherry in my arms but Carl. After a few tries I convinced one eye to open enough to confirm who I was snuggling with.
"What's wrong son, why are you crying?" I asked, almost knowing the answer.
"Jerry said you know what I told Stan and Helen," he sobbed. "I mean Miss Cruz sir!" I forced myself to resist considering electro shock therapy for the twins, well for tonight anyway. He continued before I could respond
"Please can I stay with you, well please I want to ski some more, I'll be good sir!" I woke up (well and sobered up) very quickly.
"Calm down son." I began. "Yeah, I listened to your interview, the FBI asked me to. They asked me to. . ."
"NO!" he screamed! "No one told me that! They screwed up getting adopted and everything and I hate them! I hate ALL of them!"
"Wait, wait just a minute! Will you calm down and listen to me for a minute, please?" I responded. Not waiting for an answer, I continued "I didn't listen in on the FBI's interview to spy on you. I listened to it because I am your dad, I listened in to protect you, I could have stopped it anytime I wanted to, I was protecting you"
"But you don't want me to be your boy after you know what I did, no one would."
"Son," I took a couple of deep breaths, wondering if this was a real conversation, "Carl, I knew most of what had been done to you right after you moved in with us. Mr. Young showed me the same pictures Stan showed you this morning long before Christmas. Maybe that's why I am so proud of you. Oh, and I don't want you to be my boy, you ARE my son! Remember me, the guy that adopted you? You are my son forever, sorry turkey but you're stuck!"
"You know the stuff I did and you’re not going to send me away?" he whimpered.
"No, turkey!" I replied, "Well not for tonight anyway. Tomorrow morning, I might send your little butt down a big hill of snow, maybe a bunch of them! Hey, as good as you are at ski patrol bowling, that would be fun tomorrow!" Ignoring his nasty looks I tucked him under my arm and closed my eyes. "Go to sleep son, the next time you get sent away is to college."
To Be Continued…