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This story contains scenes of violence and coarse language.

Kieran rushes to the coat room for his jacket, and out into the parking lot when the clock reads two-thirty. Before he leaves the building, he asks the entrance workers, “Am I allowed to come back if I leave for a few moments?”

“Sure,” one of the workers says. “It’ll cost you another five bucks, though.”

Kieran reaches into his pocket and pulls out his five-dollar change. “I’ve got it right here. Thank you.” He puts the money back and steps out of the building.

“To heck with the refreshments,” he says under his breath. “The last five dollars will be used for re-admission.” He grins as he has an idea. “Maybe I’ll ask this guy to buy me something later on.”

Kieran steps out in the middle of the parking lot. He looks around at the parked cars in search for David. He takes the note out of his back pocket and reads it over again for himself.

“OK, so here I am in the parking lot,” he says to himself. “But where the heck is David McBain?” He puts the note back in his pocket. “Who is David McBain?”

He hears a car door open and close behind him. Then, a deep voice says to him, “Are you Kieran? I’m Constable David McBain.”

Kieran turns around to see the tall, dark-haired stranger in the police uniform, with the badge on his right breast. He slowly walks up to him and says, “Yes, I’m Kieran.” He pauses to study his face as David puts his badge away.

“Hey, I remember you,” Kieran says. “You slow-danced with me just before Jasper and Brock showed up.”

“Yeah,” says David. “Who are Jasper and Brock, anyway?” He notices Kieran’s jacket and frowns. “And what’s with the jacket? You look like a member of that vicious gang, the Fire Soldiers.”

Kieran sighs and speaks in a low voice. “Unfortunately, yes.”

David shakes his head. “You know, we’ve had a lot of problems with that gang. We’ve confronted them many times for vicious and violent gang activity. Sometimes, we even arrested those guys. Many of the members we’ve arrested get out within a few days, I’ve noticed. I wonder why that is?”

“Probably because the so-called ‘great’ leader, Jasper, busts them out,” Kieran guesses. “Or perhaps he sends someone to bust them out for him. I don’t know. I’ve only been in the gang for a couple of months. I’ve only heard that from some fellow gang members.”

David has some thoughts, and he says to Kieran, “Hey, I’ve confronted the gang a few times, and I hardly ever see you amongst the crowd. If you’re part of the gang, then why is that possible?”

“I'm afraid of getting arrested, and even more afraid of jail,” Kieran says.

“You are?” David asks, looking shocked. “A tough kid like you?”

“I am not,” Kieran responds. “I mean, look at me. Do I look tough to you, David? No, I don’t. I’m not some sort of punk prince, and I never wanted to be. The only reason why I joined the gang in the first place is because my older brother, Brock forced me in.”

David is surprised to hear that. “You were forced in by your brother!” he repeats. Kieran nods, looking like he wants to cry. David puts his arm around him and tries to comfort him.

“I think we need to have a man-to-man talk, just you and me,” he says to him. “I want to know exactly what brought this on.”

David and Kieran walk to the front steps and sit down. Kieran takes a deep breath to relax himself, and begins telling David his life story.

“This whole flap started when I was eight and Brock, twelve,” Kieran explains. He tells about the illness that killed his father, and how Brock was more devastated by it than Kieran. “He was so much closer to Dad than I ever was, and the news practically destroyed him,” he says. Then, he explains how the tragedy changed Brock’s behaviour, how he started yelling and cursing at his mother, stealing her money and personal items, even starting fights with Kieran, mostly beating him up.

Kieran tells how the family dysfunction escalated to something worse, about how Brock started smoking, shoplifting from stores, and starting violent fights at school, and the fight that got him expelled. From there, he talks about Brock doing drugs in the home, stealing cars, and having physical confrontations with Mrs. Camp. David whistles with astonishment.

“That was the last straw before Mom kicked him out, and I think that was when he joined the Fire Soldiers,” Kieran says. “Meanwhile, I was always the good child in the house, getting good grades and all that. After Brock left, Mom told me that she had to kick him out, so he wouldn’t be such a bad influence on me.”

“So, how did you get into the gang?” David asks.

“Brock came back home just after my birthday, got into a fight with my mother, and finished it by saying that I didn’t need to be a role model to this community, or ‘the squares of society’, as he put it,” Kieran answers. “Brock said that I needed to be cooler than I used to be. Can you believe he called Mom a ‘bitch’ in the process? And that was only a couple of months ago. What a way to start my thirteenth year!”

“You don’t like it, do you, Kieran?” David asks.

Kieran shakes his head. “No, because those stupid Soldiers are making me do things that I don’t want to do.” He feels like he’s going to cry, so he takes a few deep breaths. “Let me tell you something. I’ve regretted every bad thing that I’ve ever done with the gang, all the drugs, all the thefts. I’ve even whored myself to some college girls.” He shudders and rapidly vibrates his facial muscles, trying to shake the memories from his head. “David, I need your help. I need you to help me get out of the gang. I just can’t do it alone because they won’t let me leave. I know it.”

“You’ve come to the right person, my boy,” David says. “Why, I personally believe that all the youths in this world have potential to make something of themselves. Even if you’re at risk of a criminal record, and suffering because of it, I believe that you have the power to turn yourself around. Many men and women of law enforcement say that there’s no hope for a juvenile or teenage delinquent, but I know otherwise, Kieran.”

Kieran is relieved. “Thank you, David,” he says. “I owe you my life and future. I always knew you had a big heart for kids like me.”

“Think nothing of it,” David replies. “I had a feeling deep down that you needed me.” He pauses for a moment, then says, “Hey, did you tell me that you have no father?”

“Yeah,” answers Kieran, then starts laughing a bit. “I assume you missed that part of my story, David.”

“No,” David replies. “I was just thinking, perhaps you need a father-type figure in your life. Someone like you would desperately need one. And you know you can always depend on me. Kids look up to me like I’m their teacher, their mentor and their hero – all in one.”

“Really?” Kieran asks. “Do they actually say that about you?”

“Yeah,” David answers. “So, how would you like me to become your Big Brother? I think it would at least build your encouragement to leave that wretched gang, the Fire Soldiers.”

“Oh, could you?” cries a surprised Kieran. He starts to embrace David passionately, but David backs away from him, saying, “I’m kind of on duty here. I’m not supposed to hug anybody.”

“Worse than shaking hands on duty, huh?” Kieran asks.

“Much worse.” David gets up and goes to the door.

“Wait,” Kieran says. David stops and stares at him. “Don’t you want to stay out here for a while longer and take in the sunshine, the beautiful blue sky, the fresh air and the wondrous Saturday afternoon scenery?”

“No, Kieran, let’s go back inside,” David says. “There’s still some dance left. My brother and I are acting as security, and he’s probably wondering where I am.” Kieran gets up and goes back in the hall with David. David flashes his identification again, while Kieran gives his last five-dollar bill to the people at the door.

~~~~~~~~~~

When the dance ends, both David and Virgil take Kieran back to his home. At first, Virgil can't believe that his own brother would want to become a Big Brother to a gang member. He criticises David for this decision.

“David, you are insane if you think you can turn a gang member’s future around!” Virgil says to him just before they leave. “Especially when that gang member is a Fire Soldier! What the heck makes you think this Kieran kid wants out?”

“He’s desperate, Virgil,” David answers. “He hates the gang life. He doesn’t want to do any of the gang stuff. He’s a good kid under normal circumstances.” Virgil isn't convinced, so David takes a breath and keeps speaking. “Look, he’s terrified of getting a prison record because he wants to have an actual future. He’s too good for a life behind bars.”

“Right, Dave,” Virgil retorts. “That's what all the street kids like him say. They say they want out of their ‘horribly scary’ lives of crime, and go back to their homes and families. Then, they go and do something totally illegal.”

Kieran overhears that, and he goes over to the brothers. David introduces him to Virgil, then Kieran says in a solemn tone, “It’s true, Virgil. I don’t like travelling in a vicious gang, especially the Fire Soldiers. Everything I’ve stolen, every person I’ve mugged, every time I’ve shot a gun, I’ve regretted it. I’ve regretted everything I did as a Fire Soldier from the first moment I became one. Virgil, please believe me when I say that I want out. With David as my Big Brother, maybe I can achieve that.”

Virgil stares at him for a few moments. “Are you sure this is what you want?”

Kieran is still wearing his serious look. “Virgil, does this look like a face that would lie to you?”

Virgil is convinced that Kieran is telling the truth. But he’s also concerned about what the other officers will think of David and Kieran together. He points his finger at David. “You’d better make sure none of the other cops find out about this, little brother. Especially Chief Markham! You could lose your badge and your gun over this!”

“I'm sure that Markham has a right to know about Kieran,” David replies. “Maybe he could side with me on this one.”

So, there they are at the end of the dance, Virgil and David McBain, taking Kieran back home to his mother. During the ride home, Kieran takes off his jacket and checks the pockets for anything to take into the house with him. He finds nothing, only the bandanna in the pocket that’s zipped up. In another pocket, he sees the other two dollars he took from Elizabeth, that which was supposed to be used for the transit home. There’s no use for it now; he puts it back in the pocket. Kieran then stuffs the bandanna in one of the jacket sleeves, and tosses it on the floor in the back seat. He never wants to wear either one of them ever again.

When Virgil pulls up in the driveway of Kieran’s house, Kieran says to David, “David, why don't you come into the house for a few moments? I want my mother to meet you.” David agrees, and he tells Virgil to wait.

As David and Kieran walk to the front door, Kieran has another thought. He asks David, “Hey, weren't you that same cop who showed up at my school assembly when I was in the fourth grade? You talked about drugs and drug-related peer pressures.”

“I believe I was,” David answers.

“Ah, so we have met before,” Kieran says. “Just not personally.”

David rushes into the yard and hides behind a big pine tree as Kieran rings the doorbell. Kieran steps back and, as he’s waiting, mutters to himself, “Good idea, David. Hide yourself so you can surprise my mother.”

A few moments later, Mrs. Camp appears. She is surprised and happy to see her son has come home. She hugs Kieran tightly and cries out of happiness.

“Oh my God!” she cries. “My boy! My baby boy! Oh, Kieran, I really hope this is for good!”

“Hopefully, yes,” Kieran says. “That all depends if the Fire Soldiers are out looking for me.” He lets go of his mother and brings her outside. “Mom, I just came back from a Big Brothers/Big Sisters dance at the St. Gerard Bingo Hall, and that's where I met my own Big Brother match.” He calls for David to come, and Mrs. Camp is soon looking at the policeman who would rescue her son from the dangerous gang life.

Kieran points at David and says, “Mom, this is Constable David McBain. He's a policeman who acted as a security guard for the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Spring Dance. He has a real soft spot for children, juveniles and teens. That's why I have him as my Big Brother, Mom. With his wisdom, caring, guidance and kindness, I'm sure to be rid of my gang for good.”

Mrs. Camp says, “Hello, Constable McBain.”

“Oh, please, call me David,” David replies.

“Fine, David,” Mrs. Camp says. “My name is Beverly Camp. I'm so glad that Kieran has a caring adult friend like you.”

“Mom, I only met him a couple of hours ago,” Kieran says.

Mrs. Camp looks at Kieran. “That may be, but if he’s as caring towards young people as you say he is, I’m sure he’ll be absolutely perfect for you.” She smiles at David. “Why don't you come in for a few moments? I want to get to know you.”

“Mom, I think he’s still on duty,” Kieran says. “Besides that, his brother has their car parked, and he’s sitting in there waiting.”

“I won’t keep him long, Kieran,” Mrs. Camp promises. “I’ve never met him before, and he sounds like a very good man. I’m anxious to see what he’s like.” She invites David inside, and they all go into the house.

David and Kieran sit down on the sofa in the living room. Mrs. Camp serves David coffee and sits across from them on the loveseat. She clears her throat and says to David, “So, David, tell me all about yourself. You must have a good reputation and a positive self-image if my son’s saying nice things about you.”

David begins, “Well, Mrs. Camp,...”

“Oh, please, you can call me Beverly,” Mrs. Camp interrupts.

“All right, Beverly,” David says. “Anyway, as I was going to say, I do have a positive self-image, and quite a reputation on the force. My father was a very big influence on my two brothers, my sister, and me. Law enforcement ran in the McBain family for several generations. My great-grandfather and his brothers were among the first members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. And my grandfather and his brothers, my father and his brothers – they were all cops. Not only that, but my own brothers and I always looked up to our Dad, like he was our hero. So you can guess that we’ve always dreamed of being cops. My sister, on the other hand, is a teacher.”

Kieran interrupts him. “David, if law enforcement is such an important thing in your family, then why didn’t your sister go for it? Especially in this day and age, when women have so many opportunities to do so?”

“Oh, teaching was something she always wanted to do,” David answers. “She never could see herself as a policewoman, and she must’ve told Mom and Dad that a million times. So, just to please them, she decided to marry one.”

“And is there anyone in your extended family who’s followed tradition?”

David nods and drinks his coffee. “Mm-hmm. I have some cousins on my father’s side who work as police officers. And, of course, those who aren’t are married to officers.”

Kieran is amazed to learn this. “Wow! So, law enforcement must be really big in your family, right?”

David nods again and smiles at him. “It is big, Kieran. My, but you’re so perceptive. I can tell I’m going to really like you.” He ruffles Kieran’s hair.

“What about your police work?” Mrs. Camp asks. “Kieran says that you show lots of concern toward our city’s youths. You see hope for them to do great things with their lives, right?”

“I sure do, Bev,” David says. “Unfortunately, I’m one of the small handful who really sees that.” He sits up straight and leans forward. “You see, I believe that there’s no such thing as a rotten kid. I believe that all young people have the potential to make some good within themselves, if they put their minds to it. Even the kids at risk – you know, kids who smoke, drink, do drugs, don’t go to school, commit crimes, and so on – have the potential to do things to make the world better. I’ve been to schools all over Winnipeg. I speak to great number of students about alcohol and drug abuse, run-ins with the law, and how making the wrong decision can get a person nowhere in life. I also teach these students how to handle the peer pressures related to those issues. But nobody on the force will support me in this, not even my own brother, Virgil. They all say that I’m wrong.”

“No way!” Kieran cries, horrified. “Why do they say stuff like that? I don't think that you’re wrong, David! Why, if that were true, then I wouldn’t want out of the gang. And I’m just dying to get out. I just can’t take much more of it, that’s for sure!”

“You don’t know my people too well, Kieran,” David tells him. “These people have beliefs that are just the opposite of mine. They say that once a juvenile is headed for a life of crime, there’s no turning back. They say that you can’t change a juvenile delinquent, because he’ll show no sign of wanting to change.”

Kieran rolls his eyes and sighs heavily. He can’t understand why police officers would think that way of young people. “Like I said, if all that were true, then that would include me. I wouldn’t want to leave the Fire Soldiers, and I do. So that statement can’t really be true, because I’m a juvenile who wants to change. Do you understand me? I want to get out of this flipping gang, go back to school, get my education, and make something of my life!” The thought of police being biased towards youths frustrates him.

Mrs. Camp smiles at David. “I really admire your profession, David,” she says, “and I think you ought to be commended for what you’re doing. You’re lucky that you chose to be a police officer. It’s obvious that you really like to help people, like my Kieran. You’ve really shown your true colours, I must say.”

“Thank you for saying that, Bev,” David replies. “I really...”

He is interrupted by a knock at the door. The door opens, and Virgil sticks his head into the house. He’s looking directly at David with a very impatient look.

“David McBain, are you coming or what?” he barks. “It’s already after five o’clock, you know. Chief Markham’s going to wonder where we are!”

“I’m coming, all right?” David says to Virgil. He nods, drinks more coffee and goes back to the car. David turns back to Kieran and Mrs. Camp. “Listen, I'm so sorry to cut this short, but I have to report back to the station. I’m still on duty, you know.”

“Of course,” Mrs. Camp says. “It was very nice to meet you. You are a very good man. The world needs more officers just like you.” She is giving him enamoured looks, and batting her eyelashes, as if she’s just fallen in love with him.

“Mother, please!” Kieran says with a somewhat exasperated look. He sees David to the door. As David prepares to leave, Kieran tells him, “Uh, David, I suggest you tell your boss about me as soon as you get back to the station. Tell him exactly what you want to do with me. If he gives you any flack, call me as soon as you get home from your shift. My number is 257-0186. When’s your next shift, anyway?”

“Ten o’clock tomorrow morning,” David replies.

“Fine,” Kieran says. “Maybe you can pick me up and take me to your station. If you can’t convince your boss that I’m not one of those young ‘offenders’ who doesn’t care, then maybe I can try. I can be up and ready by nine-thirty.”

“Oh, that would be good,” David says. “So, I'll see you tomorrow, possibly?”

“Yes,” Kieran says. “See you.” He watches David walk down the walkway and step into the police car. When the car drives out, Kieran turns to his mother and gives her a very exasperated look.

“Were you trying to hit on him, Mom?” he asks her. “That’s what I thought for a minute there. Even I don’t know if he’s single or not!” Mrs. Camp widens her eyes, as if she doesn’t believe what he’s saying.

“Don’t look at me like that, Mom,” Kieran says to her. “I saw how you were looking at him.”

“Hey, I just think he’s a nice guy,” Mrs. Camp replies in defence. Kieran accepts that, and he goes downstairs to his bedroom to change clothes.



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