Authors: Dawn Kopman Whidden
Tags: #Suspense & Thrillers
A Child is Torn
Dawn Kopman Whidden
Brighton Publishing LLC
435 N. Harris Drive
Mesa, Arizona 85203
Copyright © 2012
Cover Design by Tom Rodriguez
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
This book is dedicated to all our children who died too young and for all of our parents who died too soon.
For Desso Whidden, Jared Young, Robert Lyons, Sharon Pardon and Ann Moran who couldn’t fight their demons any longer. This book is for you.
A special thanks to all of my friends and family who took time out of their busy lives to read this book while still in its infancy with all its errors, grammatical, spelling and just plain old boo boos.
To Freddie Blakey: the very first to take on the task of reading an unfinished book and giving me the confidence to continue.
To Lisa Dean Lieberman Doctor and Eddie Davis Upnick, successful authors in their own right for giving me the benefit of their expertise and experience.
To Jean Whitley (who let me use her name) and who ignited my passion for writing that had been lying dormant for so many years, and for just being a good friend.
To all my friends and family who inspired me to have it published. Ruthie, Donna Gail, Carole, Bernard, Pat, Mary Jo, Vicki, Leslie, Susan G. and so many more.
To my husband Horace, for all his patience as I sat for hours writing, even in the middle of the night disturbing his sleep night after night.
And to my Acquisitions Editor Don McGuire of Brighton Publishing for being brave enough to take a chance on me.
In my mind it was like picturing a scene from a Dickens novel; a ten-year-old child standing in the street with battered and torn rags for clothing, his mind and heart dirtied and shredded. In reality anyone looking at the child would just see a normal, energetic boy running the bases in a pickup baseball game; but all the while, a tortured being was fighting to come to the surface. Anyway, that is what I saw when I looked at Brad Madison, but I was paid to look deeper and find out why he had murdered his parents in cold blood.
I looked out the window of my office in the Armistace Mental Health Institution for Children. I was studying my newest patient. He had been committed one month ago by the courts because he was far too young to go to an adult prison. The judge also felt there was more to the story than was being told. In the end, young Brad was deposited here, under my care. Most of my associates believed these children were never going to be part of normal society
that our job was to keep the world safe by keeping these children locked away. I disagreed. I had hope. My mother must have known, because that’s what she named me the day I came screaming into this world—Hope.
I saw more than just delinquents and insanity when I looked at my patients. I saw inside. I saw the torture, the actions of monsters that made these children who they were. I saw the loss of innocence, and terror no child should ever feel. I saw the invisible labels stamped on their foreheads; schizophrenic, bipolar, body dysmorphic, obsessive compulsive, attention deficit.
I sipped a cup of hot coffee as I looked down at the field below. Judging by the gleeful cheers of the children below, you would think the scene was normal
until you noticed the attendants in white jumpsuits with night sticks and mace on their belts, and the barbed-wire fences surrounding the field.
My thoughts were disrupted as chaos erupted below. I strained to see whom the guards were restraining. I was shocked to see it was Brad, screaming and fighting to get away from his captors. A nurse ran over to help restrain him, injecting him with a tranquilizer. As I watched his small body collapsed into their arms; I dropped my coffee, sending it splattering across the papers on my desk.
“Damn it,” I muttered. I knew I should stop and try to salvage them, but instead I quickly made my way down the two flights of stairs.
How had I missed what happened? Had I turned away the minute Brad attacked the other child?
“Get a medic,” I screamed as I looked at the boy lying unconscious on the ground. “Call 911. Get some help!” I pushed away an aide who was leaning down trying to attend to the boy. It was Jeffrey, a twelve-year-old who had been with us for two years. I felt for a pulse and was relieved when I got a strong one, but Jeffrey was still lying unconscious. I heard noises behind me; the rushing of the attendants and nurses and teachers corralling the other children and bringing them back to their dorms.
“What happened?” Someone was carrying the now-sedated Brad into the building.
is going to be a major setback,
I thought, but then I remembered I’d gotten very little from this child in our sessions. His ice-blue eyes were a fortress for the secrets he was not yet willing to expose.
An attendant answered me. “Brad was batting, and when Jeffrey called the ball a strike, that’s exactly what he did. He just whipped around with the bat and struck Jeffrey in the head. It was so fast, I couldn’t stop it.”
I wiped the blood off the side of Jeffrey’s face, and pushed his hair back, looking for the wound. A large purple bruise was slowing forming on his temple. The boy was still breathing and his eyelids were beginning to flutter; he was regaining consciousness. The attendants around me were shaking their heads with bored, complacent looks on their faces. It was obvious that many of them thought Jeffrey had it coming.
Jeffrey had never been anyone’s favorite. Although he was only twelve years old, he was tall for his age and already had facial hair. An aide was assigned the task of grooming him—we couldn’t trust him with a razor. Jeffrey had been diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder because of his sociopathic tendencies. He’d been admitted to our clinic after several failed attempts to find him a foster family. Jeffrey had failed to show anyone—staff or patients—any admirable traits. Usually we bonded with the children on some level, but even I had trouble connecting with him—and it bothered me. I think we were all shocked that Brad attacked Jeffrey and not the other way around.
I got up when I heard the sirens as they entered the premises. Two paramedics ran to where I was standing over Jeffrey, and reluctantly, I let them take over. I was pretty confident that Jeffrey had suffered a concussion and although we had some medical facilities on the premises we weren’t equipped with the more sophisticated machinery like a CAT SCAN machine which would be needed in this case. Besides I knew I had a new priority; I needed to see Brad. I needed to see why this tiny skeleton of a child, no more than four feet eight inches tall, had felt the need to once again resort to violence.
“Hope, hang on there,” a voice called out from behind me. It was Judy, my supervisor. “They have Brad sedated in room twelve,” Judy informed me. The staff often referred to room twelve as the “safe room.” It had a bed with restraints, padded walls so the patients couldn’t hurt themselves, and around-the-clock monitoring. Sometimes the confinement could last as long as a week; but generally with these children, it was usually only a day or two.
“I have to report this to the authorities as an assault,” she said, looking at me with tired, gray eyes. Judy had been here for eighteen years; she expected days like these. She was usually good at hiding her fatigue, but we all had our bad days.
“I know,” I replied, sighing. It meant I was running out of time. Brad might have to go back to court and possibly be charged as an adult. It was rare for the authorities to come into the establishment to remove a child—but it had happened.
“Just give me more time to find out what happened,” I said to Judy as much as to myself. I heard the voices of police officers coming down the hallway, the sound of their rubber soles sticking to the freshly waxed floors. I recognized the taller one of the officers he had been to the facility on several other occasions; he was kind and his smile was large and bright.
“Dr. Rubin,” he said, “may I see Brad?”
“Officer Keal, Brad is sedated and it will be quite a while before he can be questioned.” I remembered that it had been Officer Keal that was the first officer on the scene when Brad was discovered covered in blood, playing video game on the floor of his parents’ living room. Upstairs laid the bloodied and battered bodies of the little boy’s parents.
Marty Keal knocked on the front door several times, and then rang the bell. He could hear the TV through the door. The blinds were drawn, and the door locked, so he went around to a cellar window and found it unlocked.
He slid carefully through the window, feeling a twinge in his back as he twisted and dropped the few feet to the basement floor. He realized that it wasn’t the noise of the television he had heard from the outside of the home. Having been an avid video game player, he recognized the familiar melody.
“Police! Anyone here?” he called, approaching the top of the landing. As Marty turned the doorknob that led to the upstairs first floor, the game noises got louder, and so did his voice.
“Police! Anyone home?”
Once again Marty got no reply. His hand moved to unsnap the leather strap that held the Glock in his holster. Even though he consciously made every effort to move quietly, his footsteps caused the floor to creak and the metal hinges on the door squeaked as he pushed it open.
Following the music, he entered the living room and immediately noticed a small child sitting a few feet away from a TV. The boy seemed to be engrossed in the game, rapidly clicking the controller buttons. As Marty walked closer, he gasped. The child was covered in blood. The odor of blood seeped into Marty’s nostrils, reminding him of the jar of pennies he had sitting on his bureau at home.
“Oh my God,” he murmured.
He stopped in front of the child and studied him, looking for wounds. The boy seemed to be unharmed, and also seemed oblivious to the police officer who had appeared before him. Grabbing the radio from his shoulder, Marty called the dispatcher and asked for backup.
“Something bad has happened here. Send an ambulance and backup,” he said, speaking into his radio.
Leaning down, he tried to make eye contact with the boy.
“Son, what happened here? What happened to you?”
Although Brad seemed to be looking directly at him, Marty noticed the child lacked expression. His eyes were blank; like a cloudless blue sky—just miles and miles of vast empty space.
Marty saw the T.V. remote control lying on the floor and pushed the mute button. Without skipping a beat, Brad continued his playing, bouncing Mario off brick walls and onto lily pads.
“Stay here,” Marty said softly. Turning, he followed the path of the splattered blood on the rug to the stairwell leading upstairs. He quickly glanced back at Brad as he again shouted out, “Police! Anyone here?”
The stairway led to a landing and a narrow hallway. Entering the hallway he saw what appeared to be a lifeless arm on the floor protruding from a doorway. He stopped in his tracks, realizing he had discovered the crime scene, and now faced a new dilemma. Should he go in to see if he had a live victim he could save, or should he not disturb and contaminate a crime scene? Making his choice, he ran toward the arm and looked into the master bedroom.
“Oh God…oh God,” he gasped as he pushed the door open wider. It was a woman’s body covered in blood, her head bashed in so violently it was almost unrecognizable. On the bed lay another body, which he assumed to be a man’s, also covered in blood. As Marty heard the sirens, he saw a bloodied baseball bat lying on the floor.
“Keal! You here, Keal?” his backup yelled.
“Don’t come up. Get CSI here now!!” He slowly backed out of the room, trying to retrace his footsteps. When he arrived downstairs, he was immediately bombarded with questions from the other officers. He held up his hands to stop them, walked out the front door and vomited into the bushes surrounding the front of the house. After composing himself and wiping some moisture from the corner of his mouth, he returned to the room where five officers stood in silence, waiting for instructions.
Ignoring the other officers’ questioning stares, Marty walked over to the child, put his hand under the boy’s chin, and looked directly into his eyes.
“Son, what happened here? Are you all right? Are you hurt?” he asked.
Finally Brad acknowledged him and shook his head, his blond hair falling into eyes. His small hand drifted off the controller and pushed the hair aside.
“I don’t know,” Brad murmured. A single tear fell from his left eye. He looked away, picking up the T.V. remote he pushed the mute button and returned to his game.
Marty finally turned back to the other officers. “Two DBs upstairs, male and female.”
He saw his fellow officer Mike Hennessey putting on latex gloves and handing out plastic shoe covers to the men in the room. No one moved, hesitant to contaminate the crime scene. They chatted quietly among themselves, all eyes fixed on the boy. One of the officers shut off the TV as a plainclothes detective entered the room. Marty recognized him immediately; it was the veteran detective Joe Moran, a no-nonsense, but likable guy who had been on the force for nineteen years. His partner, Detective Jean Whitley, was drawn to the boy like a magnet to steel.
“What’s the story, Keal?” Moran asked, taking in Marty’s ashen complexion.
“I think it’s his parents—male and female,” he told Moran as they walked slowly up the steps followed closely by CSI and a forensic photographer.
“Holy shit!” Marty heard someone behind him say.
A minute of silence followed as the group scanned the room. It was probably the most ghastly scene any of them had seen. Brain matter was splattered on the walls, the pillows, and the bedspread. Blood was everywhere.
“What the hell happened here?” Moran looked around in shock.
Marty heard the clicking of the camera; the conversations around him jumbled as he focused on keeping his stomach in check. Orderly chaos seemed to take over the room as forensics took out their tools, preparing the crime scene and collecting evidence. Time seemed to be winding down for Marty; everything was moving in slow motion.
“Keal. Marty! Hey!” Marty felt someone’s arm across his shoulder. It was Detective Moran trying to get his attention.
“The kid… I’ve got to talk to the kid,” Marty said to no one in particular. Finally looking up, he acknowledged the detective. “Is he okay?”
“The paramedics are with him. They’re going to bring him to the hospital. He seems to be in a state of shock, but unharmed. What the hell happened here? Did that kid do this?”
It was a question Marty didn’t want to think about.
“No way, Moran. Did you see the size of him? He’s a baby. He can’t be more than seven or eight years old!”
“Neighbor says he’s ten.” It was the female detective, Moran’s partner.
Marty recognized Detective Whitley immediately by her distinctive, raspy voice. A few years older than Marty, she was considered one of the more attractive females in the unit—a disadvantage in her line of work. Whitley was used to fending off the sexist innuendos of her fellow officers.
“He hasn’t said anything. Just asking for his mom,” she continued.
“How much did you get out of the neighbors, Jean?” Moran asked as she glanced around the room.
It took her a while to answer as she studied the scene. “Neighbor said he saw Mr. Madison come home from work Wednesday evening. He waved at him when he got out of his car. He was carrying a package. He…” She paused as she glanced down at her notepad. “A Mr. Gordon, seemed to think that it was wrapped, like a birthday present. He said he thought the mother had told him that the boy Brad, age ten, had a birthday coming up. Said they were a very friendly, but a quiet family; the boy was polite. Mr. Gordon said he didn’t hear anything, and the car is in the same spot that it was in when he saw Mr. Madison come home Wednesday.”
One of the CSI men came up to the three of them.
“Excuse me detective,” he said to Moran. “I can’t find any evidence of forced entry, and all the blood matter seems to lead right back to where the kid was sitting. Bloody footprints, all of which seem to be that of a small child; handprints on the bat—same thing, small child.”
The first time I saw Brad was in the emergency room of St. Katherine’s Medical Center in Monticello, New York. I was on call as the consulting child psychiatrist for the hospital that day. I was just about to finish my shift when my supervisor called and asked me to contact the emergency room; a young boy had been brought in. She didn’t tell me much more than that—just that I needed to get down there.
I got off the elevator and immediately noticed police and hospital personal mingling around one of the cubicles. As I got closer, the sound of hushed conversations and tense faces told me something unusual was going on. I presented myself to the officer in front of the curtain. He directed me to a gentleman on my left; a tall, good-looking gray-headed man. Though he was dressed casually in jeans and a sports jacket, it was obvious he was part of the police force.
“Excuse me, my name is Dr. Hope Rubin. I’m a child psychiatrist, my supervisor asked me—”
“Dr. Rubin, I’m Detective Moran,” he interrupted. He nodded to the tall, well-groomed lady next to him.
“This is my partner, Detective Whitley. We’d like you to help us talk to the little boy in there; he was found at our crime scene. His parents were beaten to death with a baseball bat. We think it’s possible he’s responsible.”
I glanced back at his partner; her facial expression wasn’t telling me much. I couldn’t tell if she agreed with him, or if she was trying to contain her frustration. I decided to focus on one thing at a time. “What’s his name, detective?”
“Brad Madison,” he answered.
“We think he’s ten, but prepare yourself. He looks eight, maybe even younger.”
“And what,” I asked, “makes you think he did this?”
“Kid was covered in blood,” he answered, frowning. “Sitting in the living room, playing a video game… bloody footprints leading from crime scene to the place he was sitting. Baseball bat, which we believe will prove to be the weapon, was covered in small, bloody handprints, like a child’s.”
“Does this child have a history of violence?” The name hadn’t registered with me. I thought I knew most of the troubled youth in the town.
It was his partner who answered.
“Not that we’re aware of. Something isn’t right here. That little boy in there isn’t big enough to do so much damage.”
This time her emotions were written all over her face. There was no doubt in my mind this woman was a mother. It may not have been her son in there, but he was still a child, and deserved a mother’s protection. However, his mother was no longer around to take him into her embrace, to do what mothers do—protect their young.
I took that as my cue and walked to the cubicle Brad occupied. Opening the curtain, I sensed the detectives following closely behind me. If this child was going to say anything to me, they wanted to hear every last word.
When I saw Brad Madison, I felt a barrage of emotions—shock, compassion, heartache. He was sitting on the white hospital bed, naked from the waist up. They’d given him a pair of hospital-issue pajamas with Noah’s Ark’s residents scattered across them. His ribs showed through a pale translucent skin, but not from starvation; it was just a child’s body, seemingly free of bruises or other marks. Blotches of dried blood matted his platinum blond hair, and some of the blood stained his left cheek. A nurse was in the process of cleaning him up, while looking intently for signs of injury.
The crime scene photographer was just finishing up and putting away his equipment. “All done here,” he announced, motioning to Moran, “I’ll get these to you first thing tomorrow, Joe”
“Thanks, Jeff,” Moran replied.
As I walked over to Brad, the nurse smiled at him and touched him softly on his shoulder to say goodbye. The females who had come in contact with him had already fallen in love, no matter what anyone claimed he’d done. Looking at him, I could understand their feelings. His pale complexion was accentuated by the bluest eyes I’d ever seen, which were shadowed by long, dark eyelashes. His full, deep pink lips quivered slightly.
“Hi Brad,” I said softly. “My name is Dr. Hope. Are you cold?” I asked in a deliberately quiet tone. He barely nodded, and I took it as a yes. I gently wrapped a blanket around his shoulders.