Castle Roland

Chapter 56

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The next morning at the high school, the principal held a student assembly during the first period. He, along with all the other teachers, only just learned about what fully happened to Collin late yesterday afternoon as school ended. He then addressed the gathered students.

"Settle down, everyone! Some of you know why you are here and others might have an idea ... but what we are here for this morning is to tell you about what transpired, on this campus, yesterday afternoon at lunch.

"Some of you were present, when the dirty deed went down, and did nothing to help until at the very end when the boy in trouble needed the EMTs. If you are still not sure what happened, I will tell you. In a nutshell ... we had one of our student's attacked after lunch period ... that sent him to the hospital with life threatening injuries ... to his heart.

"The boy who was injured was Collin Wilkinson. The boy who attacked him was Rodney Costa who is presently in jail, or was as of 7 AM this morning. This unprovoked attack by a senior, on a sophomore, was the last in a string of harassments Collin had to endure since he began attending school here this week. I only found out about everything yesterday, AFTER the fact. Now that I know of it, things will definitely change here at this high school and probably throughout the school system county wide.

"I want to thank those of you who tried to step in and were also made part of the harassment ... at least you tried. But none of you ever went to your counselors or to the office and reported it. None of you even made an anonymous phone call to let us know what was happening to that boy, that teenager, I should say. Those of you who failed to intervene at all failed miserably, not only to Collin, but to yourselves as well as your fellow students and this school.

"Some of you know Collin. Matter of fact, I believe most of the sophomore class knows him as they had been invited to the New Year's Dance held at Three Finger Cove during the holidays. But there are many of you who only know Collin as the new kid and that he had been in some sort of trouble before coming here. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I want to tell you just a little bit about that young man ... who is fighting for his life ... at the hospital at this very moment."

When the principal said that Collin was fighting for his life, the assembled crowd of students all gasped at that revelation. He knew he was out of the woods and would be released later that day, but he needed something to get the students attention so he used that and it worked better than he intended.

Over at Three Finger Cove, while the high school principal, Mark Stanley, told the students about Collin, without going into too much detail, a hastily convened meeting was taking place. Ken Thomas and Andrew Marshal were meeting with County Juvenile Court Judge Adam Richards, County Sheriff Matthew Barnes, CPS acting Director Judy Turner along with William Jackson, Mr. Thomas's lawyer and Stewart Russell, who represented Collin at Ken's request.

The reason for the meeting was obvious. It was to deal with what happened to Collin at school yesterday and what actions the county will take to ensure no other student would go through what Collin just did. The only person or persons who were missing was the School Board who begged off because of the State's Open Meetings Act but said they would hold a Special Session Monday night to discuss that very thing. The Board President, though, did ask Judge Richards to forward that group's ideas and recommendations.

All the people present at Cove's meeting expressed their concern about the attack to Mr. Thomas and were ready to discuss anything and everything in taking action. Judge Richards presided over the meeting, which turned out lively to say the least. Most everyone wanted to discuss how to keep any more harassment and physical altercations from ever happening again. But for Ken, all he wanted was to know what action was going to take place for those who propagated the harassment and then the attack on Collin. It was a double edged sword they were dealing with, and since the School Board wanted their input, Judge Richards decided to focus on the two issues but one at a time.

Over at the high school, the principal had finished talking about Collin and had begun telling the student body what he expected to happen next.

"Now that you know a bit more about Collin, it is time for the culprits to come forward. I don't mean now, in front of everyone, but your fellow classmates will eventually know who you are. I am giving you until the Lunch period to come to me and identify yourselves as the ones who have harassed that young man either verbally and or physically. Take your time. Talk it over with your fellow delinquents, and then come see me. Understand, I already have the names of most of you and it would be in your best interests to just come clean about it. In the meantime, you may want to use your cell phones to call your parents and have them contact a lawyer for you, as you will need them before this is all over.

"I am not saying that to scare you, well, in a sense I am, but I am also allowing you the benefit beforehand, and not after you are questioned. Since there was an altercation, the police are now involved and that is why I suggest you get yourselves a lawyer which is much more than Collin got yesterday, when he was almost (he was going to say killed but decided against that harsh word) ... well, let me just say that when he was gravely injured.

"Now ... all of you go to your homerooms for the remainder of this period and then go to your second period class when the bells ring. Thank you for your attention this morning." The principal then left the stage and the students filed quietly out of the auditorium.

Meanwhile, Judge Richards knew the hardest issue to tackle would be what to do to stop any and all harassments at the high school, or any school. Adam knew Mr. Ken was not in the mood to discuss that right then. Ken had told the Judge, before the meeting began, that the School Board and the principal had a duty to implement and enforce such rules beforehand but had failed to do so, and he would hold them all accountable. During the meeting, Mr. Thomas made his thoughts and feelings well known that he was not interested in 'locking the barn doors after the horse was stolen.' Everyone understood his feelings and tried to ignore them as they worked towards a solution.

After two and a half hours of talking, the meeting adjourned with workable solutions to both issues. The group developed a number of policies concerning the issue of harassment. Their elements also addressed bullying, sexual harassment, and any harassment based on sex, race, natural origin or creed and they included an area concerning the student's right to free speech. On the punishment side, they decided to let the courts deal with wonton physical harassment, which would be the case with Collin's attacker, and allow the School Board to decide their actions after holding a public input meeting.

By the time the group left Three Finger Cove, Mr. Ken wasn't as pissed-off as he had been, but he still wasn't his usual self. Andrew got Ken to sit and relax with a cup of coffee and a light lunch Maria prepared for them before they went to retrieve Collin from the hospital.

At the hospital, Collin was still in the Step-Down Unit but that was only because his doctor was running some final tests before he would sign off on letting his patient go home. Collin was pretty reserved about that and figured he couldn't leave anyway until his Big Bro or Uncle Andy came to get him. One good thing that did come out of his being there was that many of the nurses stopped by to say hi to him and wish him a quick recovery.

Some others mentioned the altercation that took place downstairs the day before and he agreed with them and told himself he needed to find out what they were all talking about. Joanne stopped by for a few minutes to see how he was doing before her shift began and gave him a big hug which he gladly accepted. They talked a bit and then she had to leave.

Elsewhere in the hospital, the wounded officer was recovering nicely. He was shot in the upper arm which also dislocated his shoulder. He had lost a lot of blood but would fully recover. Mr. Costa was still in ICU and was lucky to still be alive. Dan Fischer's shot hit him on his sternum which deflected the bullet away from his heart and into his lung. He also lost a lot of blood and he too would fully recover but, unlike the wounded officer, he would not go home after he recovered.

The newspapers and radio and television all had the story about the shooting the night before, but it was only after the student assembly that they began to get more information and the reason for the officers being at that house the night before. When they found out that Collin had been injured on school property, they immediately knew it would be futile to go to Three Finger Cove to get any comment from Mr. Thomas, especially how things went after the shooting there almost three months ago

Knowing that, they decided to head to the high school and hospital to get some comments but at each site they were rebuffed to the outskirts of the respective properties. This didn't sit well with them at all and they began to grumble as if it was their right to get in people's faces and or interfere with the operations just so they could get a story.

It was close to noon when Ken and Uncle Andy arrived at the hospital to get their 'boy'. The news reporters saw Mr. Thomas and asked him for a comment on what had happened to his ward, Collin. Mr. Ken was about to blow off some steam and name names and charge lots of people with irresponsibility of their duties but Andrew Marshall caught his arm and took control. Ken was furious Andy had stopped him but in a few moments he smiled because he knew Andy was correct to talk to the media as his lawyer.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Andrew Marshall and I am acting for Mr. Thomas here. To your question, the answer is yes. Collin Wilkinson was injured at school yesterday and should be released from this very hospital later today. Since there is an ongoing investigation, by the County Sheriff's Office, I must insist you get all the relevant information from them. It is too early for my client to answer any questions or make any statement until the investigation is further along.

"I know Sheriff Mathew Barnes will be personally involved with this case and you all know he is a stickler for accuracy and fairness. For the time being, let's not step all over his men as they get to the bottom of what happened to Collin and what led to last night's shooting. Now, if you will excuse us, we need to get inside. Thank you." After Andy finished, the two men turned to enter the hospital. Upstairs, Collin had watched them on the TV and knew they were there for him and he began a smile that went from ear to ear.

Over at the courthouse, Judge Adam Richards had Rodney Costa brought before him. Rodney's lawyer was court appointed, but was also green about court proceedings and he didn't do his client any favors. Rodney's mother was in the courtroom and was lightly sobbing the entire time. Seeing the woman, Judge Richards asked her who she was and, learning she was Rodney's mom, he asked her to approach the railing.

"Mrs. Costa?" asked the judge.

"Yes, your honor, I am her," replied Mrs. Costa.

"Can you please tell this court about your son, Rodney? Can you tell us why he might do what he is charged with today? Anything you can give us can greatly help us in determining how the court will treat your son. So, please tell us in your own words.

For the next ten minutes Mrs. Costa told the judge how her husband treated her son and how he belittled him over the years and how he wanted the boy to 'be a man' and kick some people's butt. She told him that when his father heard that the rich boy was at his school his dad kept on him to make this boy an example of who he was and how this kid's money would not save him. She also told the court that the boy's father would beat him when he didn't hear anything was happening to the wealthy boy. But that wasn't the first time the man had beaten his son.

Misses Costa said the boy's father also beat the boy when he was younger because he said the lad was afraid to stand up for himself and needed to learn a lesson. She went on to say that the dad had been telling her boy over and over what to do and how to do what was needed to gain respect and become a man to be feared. She also said the man didn't care that her son was a good student and put him down for that, telling him he didn't have an education and he was able to provide for his 'familia'. Then she began to cry and went over to the nearest bench and sat down.

"Rodney," said Judge Richards, "is what you mother said true?"

"Pretty much, sir,” is how he answered.

"Why did you allow him to continue to beat you? Why didn't you tell anyone?" asked Adam Richards.

"Don't answer that," the boy's lawyer told him.

"Well, son, you can answer if you wish, but I won't hold it against you if you don't. There is the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution against Self-Incrimination and that is what your lawyer is referring to. Even though, to me, I am not asking you anything about what happened at the school, yesterday," replied the judge to the lawyer's concern.

"Well, your honor, my ... my dad was always telling me how the rich people control everything and that we had to show them who were the actual bosses. He'd been telling me that since I was eight or so. Then, these last few years I had been getting real good grades at school and he thought I was being a sissy because of them. He kept on me about not being a 'bosses boy' and he wanted me to do the kind of hard work he did all his life.

"Lately, he began to beat me. He ... he had threatened me with his gun and said he'd shoot me if I didn't do what he wanted me to do. He also told me I was not to get caught and if I did bring the cops to his house he ... he would shoot me for that, too. It was as if I was in a ‘no win’ situation. Either way I ... I would be shot.

"Another reason I didn't say anything to anyone was he also told me if I told, it would bring dishonor on his family and that I needed to learn how to defend myself and not rely on anyone but myself and his family. I was really confused and when Collin came to the school and he found out he kept on me to do something. I am really sorry, your honor, that I hurt him. I didn't mean to. It was like my dad was there egging me on. I was there alone with him after lunch and it just happened. I am so sorry. I ... I didn't mean to hurt him the way I did, please believe me. All I meant to do was push him down and walk away. ... I ... I want to go to college someday, and not have to do the menial jobs my dad did. I was so scared of what my dad was going to do to me when I got home that night.

"When I told him what happened, he was real happy. He began to drink and ... and he was calling his buddies telling them what I had done. Then ... then when the cops arrived at the house later that evening, he ... he got really pissed. He wouldn't let them in and, when they didn't force their way into the house, I knew they were going to call for extra police. But I also knew what my dad was going to ... to shoot me after what he had said about not ever bringing the police to the house. You honor, I was so scared. My dad, he ... he got his gun and began ... he began to chase after me in the house.

"I was glad when the police broke into the house, because I knew they would protect me, but they saw he had his gun pointed at me they and told him to drop his but he turned real quick towards the younger cop and shot him and then he was shot. Then last night in the jail cell, I was even more scared. I wanted to die and wished my dad had shot me. I've ruined my life and now I'll ... I'll never get into college and get my mom out of that hell hole we live in. I am so sorry your honor for hurting Collin."

With that, Rodney fell down crying. He was tired and confused and now that he had bared his soul, he didn't know what was going to happen to him. The bailiffs tried to pick him up but the judge motioned for them to let him sit there and get it out of his system. The judge also motioned for them to release his hand cuffs and asked his mom to come forward to her son. That was not the way the bailiffs knew what was supposed to happen in the courtroom, but they also knew Judge Richards did things differently when it came to kids.

Rodney's mom got to her son and he just broke down all over again but she was there this time to comfort him and he could hug her back. That was something he could not do last night in his jail cell.

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