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This story contains scenes of violence and coarse language

On the morning of the dance, Tom Markham, chief of the Winnipeg Police Service, calls in two of his best officers. These officers are the McBain brothers; Virgil, a sergeant; and David, a constable. These two men are not only real brothers, but also partners in most of the police work they do.

The McBain’s sit down across from Chief Markham’s desk. Markham tells them, “I just received a call from the head of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Winnipeg. Apparently, they’ve had some trouble booking security for the spring dance at St. Gerard today. They could only get two guards. I’m counting on you two to act as assistant security.”

David asks, “Chief, um, shouldn’t you hire just one more officer for this assignment? I mean, shouldn’t three police officers be assigned to acting as security help for a dance? Frankly, I don’t think two is enough.”

“Everyone else is either on assignment or off shift,” Markham explains. “You two are the only ones currently without an assignment.”

“Hey, I don’t think that’s a problem,” David says. “After all, acting as dance hall security is a refreshing change from the routine police work.”

“Glad to hear that,” Markham says. “So, you’ll go for it?”

“Sure we will,” David and Virgil say together. Markham smiles at them, like a proud father.

At half past noon, David and Virgil set off for the St. Gerard Bingo Hall. It’s only fifteen minutes from the station on Portage Avenue, where they worked.

Both David and Virgil dreamed of being police officers when they were younger. Law enforcement had been in the McBain family for several generations. The brothers wanted to continue the tradition, and they also loved to help people. Both brothers grew in Brandon with their parents and two other siblings, where they received their education. Their father was a policeman in Brandon, as well as several uncles of theirs. After graduating from high school, both Virgil and David went to Red River Community College in Winnipeg, where they took a course in criminal justice – their dream course. After college, they furthered their training by spending seven-and-a-half months at the Winnipeg Police Academy. The brothers were posted in Winnipeg after graduation, where they stayed their whole careers. Virgil, at age forty-four, had recently celebrated his twenty-second year on the Winnipeg police force, whereas David has been on the force for fourteen years.

David and Virgil also have an older brother who works as a policeman in London, Ontario. Their only sister, younger than Virgil but older than David, is the only member of the immediate family to not become a police officer. She works as an elementary school teacher in British Columbia, but her family’s influence inspired her to marry a policeman.

Both brothers are married with children. Virgil and his wife have three children, fifteen, twelve and ten years old. David, who is eight years younger than Virgil, has an eight-year-old son with his wife. In terms of physical appearance, both Virgil and David look like twins, with their raven-coloured hair, blue-green eyes, manly facial features, and macho man-type builds. They stand at six feet, two inches tall. The only difference between them is Virgil's receding hairline.

Like a fair majority of the men and women of the Winnipeg police force, Virgil has a strong belief that there is no hope for the young offenders in the city, and that especially goes for the Fire Soldiers. They believe that such youth are rebellious enough to resist change. It’s true that both Virgil and David like to help people, but David loves young people. He especially has a deep love for teenagers. He never agrees with what the other officers think.

David believes that all the children in Winnipeg have potential, and that the at-risk youths can change their lives positively if they have the willpower. He acts as a liaison for many elementary, junior high, and high schools in Winnipeg. He speaks to students about the dangers of drugs and drunk driving, and the importance of staying in school instead of dropping out. He even mentions a few things about what life is like for a police officer, including the adventures and thrills that officers experience while on duty.

But the most important things he ever talks about are staying out of trouble at both home and school, respecting authority, staying away from crime, and most of all, staying out of gangs. All the good teenagers in Winnipeg say that Constable David McBain is a positive influence on them.

Virgil and David arrive at the hall twenty minutes before the dance starts. They show their police badges to the people working at the entrance, and are immediately approved.

“Ah, you must be here to act as security,” one of the workers says. “Excellent. We’ve been expecting you.”

The brothers go out to the floor and sit in some chairs lining the walls of the hall. They wait for the dance to start.

~~~~~~~~~~

Kieran sneaks off to the dance at half past noon. Before he leaves, he takes off his bandanna, stuffs it in his jacket pocket and zips it up. Then, he secretly steals fourteen dollars from Elizabeth’s purse. Two dollars are for transit fare there and home, five are for admission, and the other five go to refreshments, he decides. When he’s sure no one is looking, he leaves for the nearest bus stop.

Shortly afterwards, a bus arrives. As he gets on, he pays the fare, then empties his pockets to prove he has no weapons or drugs. He tells the driver, “I just want to get to the St. Gerard Bingo Hall. I hear there’s a dance going on.” The driver reluctantly accepts it and lets him pass.

He arrives at the bingo hall at one o’clock exactly. He gets off the bus a few meters away, runs down the sidewalk, and into the building.

He retrieves the ten-dollar bill from his jeans pocket. He’s about to pay his admission when one of the entrance workers says, “Hey, are you a member of that gang, the Fire Soldiers? That jacket looks awfully familiar.”

Kieran grabs the jacket and says, “This? Oh, no, no, no! See, my mom gave me this jacket for my birthday recently. This is my first time wearing it. I don’t wear it too often because it's a special jacket, and I don't want to wear it out so quickly.” He goes to the coat room to hang it up.

Kieran rushes onto the floor to dance. Techno-dance pop – Kieran’s favourite type of music – is playing, and it’s tempting. He steps out to the center of the dance floor and begins to move his body around, like the dancers he’s seen on music television. He’s so busy dancing, he doesn’t realise there are guards watching him – or anyone else for that matter.

Twenty minutes later, some groups of teenagers and pre-teens begin to join Kieran on the floor. They are good kids, who come in groups of four or five. Kieran counts about five groups on the floor. They find spots around him and begin dancing. He notices this and goes over to each group to dance with them. All the teens look at Kieran as if he is a stranger, even though he introduces himself and dances normally in each group for a minute. Kieran soon notices that none of the teenagers are interested in him, and he goes back to dancing by himself.

More people join Kieran and the dancing groups on the floor. The crowd consists of young boys and girls, young as seven and old as fourteen, with their Big Brother and Big Sister “dates”. Some of the “couples” are already dancing, while some others are sitting or standing around, socialising. Kieran decides to walk around, just to see who all is there.

Many of the children are complete strangers to Kieran, and they don’t know him very well, either. It’s the same thing for the Big Brothers and Sisters who are there. They look at him as if to say, “What do we do with the extra kid?” Kieran begins to regret coming to the dance alone. He feels as if he’s sticking out. He goes to the first empty chair he sees and sits down.

Meanwhile, David is busy studying him. Most of the time, he will help Virgil look out for troublemakers and party-crashers. But every once in a while, he will look over at Kieran and note the miserable time he’s having. David doesn’t remember Kieran very well. He may or may not have spoken to his classes on youth issues during school assemblies. And he certainly doesn't know that Kieran is in a gang.

David is feeling terrible for him as he sees him slouch in the chair, trapped in a depressed stupor. And at the same time, he feels a strong, friendly attraction for the boy come over him. It seems as if he wants to form a close bond with Kieran. He decides to try and do it.

Soon, a slow dance song begins to play. David walks up Kieran, takes his hand and asks, “May I have this dance?” Kieran accepts, and the two find a vacant spot on the dance floor. Both David and Kieran’s bodies begin to sway with the music.

Kieran looks all around the hall as he dances with David. Like the new friends, there are other Big Brother-Little Brother couples, and Big Sister-Little Sister couples, dancing to the same song. Kieran is soon fitting in and feeling comfortable. He turns back to David and says softly, “Thanks for this dance. I really appreciate it.”

“No problem,” David replies. “I noticed that you didn’t come here with anyone special, and that you needed someone to keep you company.”

“Well, you know me when it comes to dance parties,” Kieran says. “I can’t pass up a chance to go anytime, anywhere.”

David and Kieran look into each other’s eyes. A trustworthy friendship begins to form between strangers.

In the middle of the song, Jasper and Brock walk into the hall. Neither of them have any admission money. They’re also not wearing their jackets, passing off as normal people to fool the entrance workers. They have come to the dance to look for Kieran, and they tell that to the workers. “We’re just looking for someone,” Jasper says to them.

When they get permission to pass, Jasper and Brock head to the coat room. If they find Kieran’s gang jacket hung up in there, then it’s evident that he took off deliberately without telling anyone. Jasper hates that more than anything. He expects his gang followers to do what they’re told, and go where they’re told, unless he gives them permission to do something special.

“So, Brock, what gave you the notion that the little runt was here?” Jasper asks as they search for the jacket.

“Kieran just loves going to some fully-functional dance parties like this,” Brock answers. “If he knows about a dance going on somewhere in this town, fully expect him to be there.” He soon finds Kieran’s jacket.

Jasper yanks it off its hanger and opens the zipped-up pocket. He reaches inside and pulls out Kieran’s bandanna, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Brock and Jasper both study the bandanna.

“Oh, Kieran’s busted now,” Brock quickly declares.

Jasper drops the jacket and bandanna on the floor. He and Brock walk quickly to the dance floor, in what seems to be a desperate search for Kieran. They do a quick scan in the crowd of dancers, and they spot Kieran about twenty inches away. They are shocked to see him dancing with David.

“Oh my God,” Brock whispers to Jasper. “My own kid brother is dancing with that cop!”

Towards the end of the song, Brock and Jasper walk over to Kieran and David. Jasper grabs Kieran by the arm and yells, “Kieran, what the hell are you doing slow-dancing with that cop?!” Kieran starts to explain, but Jasper cuts him off. “I think you’d better come with us, boy! You don't even know how much shit you’re in!” He drags him into a nearby men’s washroom, Brock walking right behind them.

David is astounded. Wow, he thinks. What kind of name is Kieran? He repeats the name, “Kieran” over and over. It sounds very unusual to him. He’s never known anyone by that name before.

In the washroom, Jasper releases Kieran from his grip, brings up his right hand and slaps him in the face. He spits, “What in the fuck were you doing, man?! You know that the Fire Soldiers don’t get on well with cops. You know that we hate them!”

“Well, Jasper, this cop seems really nice,” Kieran explains. “He acted very sweet towards me, and he sounds easy to get along with. Besides that, he could also be my ticket out of this hellish gang life.”

“How many times do we have to tell you, Kieran?” Jasper says exasperatedly. “You can't quit, dude. We’re your family. You ain’t just going to walk out on your family!”

“You’re not my family!” Kieran insists. “The only family that I have in this stupid gang is my brother, Brock!”

“Well, I appreciate the compliment, little brother,” Brock says sarcastically.

Jasper rolls his eyes and throws up his hands in frustration. “Man, Kieran!” he cries. “I ain’t gonna let you betray the Soldiers like this! You made an oath to be faithful towards us, so start sticking to it!” He holds Kieran’s face so they maintain eye contact, and speaks more strictly. “I want this to be the first and last time you see that cop, is that clear? Brock and I are gonna leave now, but we want you to stay here and think about what we said. When you’ve made your decision, come back to our alley, all right?” With that, Jasper and Brock leave him.

Kieran stays in the washroom for a few more minutes. When he walks out, the first person he sees is Virgil. Virgil has a folded-up piece of paper in his hand.

“Are you Kieran?” he asks.

“That would be me,” Kieran replies.

Virgil gives the paper to him and leaves. Kieran unfolds it and discovers a note written to him.

Dear Kieran, it says. It was a pleasure for me to dance with you, and to meet you for the first time. I already feel attached. However, I felt strange to have learned your name from someone else. I would like to get to know you a whole lot better. Meet me in the parking lot at 2:30 p.m. Yours sincerely, Constable David McBain.

David McBain. Kieran tries to remember that name. He remembers a policeman who came to his school when he was in the fourth grade. It was an elementary school assembly that was held in the multi-purpose room. This policeman talked about the dangers of drugs and smoking, and how to deal with drug-related peer pressures. But was that really the same Constable David McBain who danced with him minutes earlier? Was that the same policeman who sees innocence in Kieran while acting as security?

Kieran tries to remember what that policeman looked like. He remembers a somewhat tall fellow in his early thirties, with a full head of hair that was the colour of a crow. He looked very professional and spoke in a deeply low voice. He was over six feet tall and had a husky physical build – the type that would make ladies swoon, and no facial hair. He compares that policeman to the man he danced with. They look pretty much the same to him, expect that he might have aged a little bit.

Kieran looks up at the clock. It is twenty after two. He has to meet David in ten minutes. He puts the paper in the back pocket of his jeans, and goes back on the floor to dance some more. This time, Kieran is dancing alone again. He dances in front of the clock on the wall, because he is watching the time.



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