Tom Harris is injured in a high school football game and ends up in the hospital.
Tanner Knox says he’ll make sure Tom receives reparation for what happened.
Monday Morning, 10/1/2018
The doorbell rang. Tanner wasn’t expecting anyone; in just a few minutes he’d have to head out to get to school on time. He opened the door; it was Tom Harris.
“Uh… hi, Tanner. Could I come in?”
“Sure. Come on in.”
Tanner looked at Tom, wondering why he’d come over just before school. He led him into the living room, and was about to suggest that they sit down when Tom said, “Could you drive me to school?”
“I don’t have my driver’s license yet. My folks told me that it would be better to wait until after football is over this fall. Even then it would only be a learner’s license, and I couldn’t drive with anyone else in the car unless there’s also a licensed driver.”
“Could you loan me enough to take the bus?”
Tanner was looking at Tom as he spoke, and what he saw worried him. Tom looked very pale, like all the blood had drained out of his face.
“You okay? You don’t look very good, Tom. Maybe you should see the nurse when we get to school.”
“I’m scared, Tanner. Something’s wrong. I think when that bastard from Ealington jumped on me he screwed up something inside me.”
Tanner could see fear in Tom’s expression, and it looked like he was close to tears.
Tom was quiet for a few seconds, and Tanner urged him by saying “Talk to me, guy.”
“My stomach and abdomen hurt like hell, mostly on the inside. What’s worse is I’m peeing blood. A lot of blood. It really scares me. I don’t know what to do.”
“Jesus. Did you tell your folks?”
Tom’s expression changed, and he spit the words as he replied to Tanner.
“My so-called foster parents don’t give a shit about me. They’re fucking useless! They don’t care about any of the nine of us they’re fostering. Each of us were promised we’d have our own bedroom, but they’ve crammed three of us in each bedroom.”
Tanner was shocked. He didn’t know anything about Tom’s home life, or that he was living with foster parents. They were close friends at school and as members of the Edison varsity football team, and Tom had been to Tanner’s house, but the opposite wasn’t true. Tom never talked about his family so Tanner had figured it wasn’t a good situation and never questioned him about it.
“We gotta get you to emergency right away. You need a doctor. Do you have a family doctor?”
“Not really. When I had to get my physical this summer I just picked a doctor off of the list that the coach gave us. Ever since I got moved to this new foster place I never go to a doctor except for required school stuff.”
“You want to call that doctor?”
“I don’t know him and I don’t have his phone number. I don’t know what to do. I came to your house because it’s the closest to where I live, and I knew, as weak as I feel, I’d never make it to school.” Tears were streaming down Tom’s cheeks. “What should I do, Tank? I’m scared. Help me, please.”
Tanner took a couple of steps and pulled Tom into a hug. He avoided holding him tightly because he didn’t want to make whatever injury he had worse. They stood like that for a few seconds with Tom crying into Tanner’s shoulder. Suddenly he pulled out of Tanner’s arms and stepped back.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry, Tanner. I’m sixteen fucking years old, I shouldn’t be crying.”
“Bullshit. I’m sixteen years old and if I was peeing blood I’d be crying too. And I’d be scared. Scared out of my wits, like my grandma says. Crying is normal when you’re scared about something major that happens to you that you can’t control. In my opinion that includes peeing blood. Come on, we’re going to the emergency room at John Muir, and they’re going to find out what’s causing the bleeding and fix it.”
“Thanks, Tank. You’re a great friend. Will you stay with me in emergency?”
“Fucking right I’ll stay with you. I’m gonna call a cab.”
Tanner pulled out his cell and dialed 4-1-1, got the number of the cab company and let the operator connect him. When he’d finished the call he turned to Tom.
“Okay, there’s going to be a cab here in under ten minutes. You have an insurance card?”
“Yeah. I have a Medi-Cal card. It’s the one I used when I went for my sports physicals. My so-called foster mother says she has to keep them but I sort of found mine in a drawer and I took it and kept it. Now I’m glad that I did.”
“Can you call your foster parents?” Seeing Tom’s expression turn to one of fury he decided that wasn’t a good idea. “Or do you want me to call my mom?”
“Your mom? She’d come to the hospital for me?”
Tanner grinned. “She’s there already. She works for John Muir Hospital. She’s one of the nursing managers. Lemme call her.” He speed-dialed her number.
“Hi, Tanner. Is there something wrong?”
“You remember that after I got home from Friday night’s game I told you about one of our players was stomped on by that player from Ealington High?”
“Yes, I remember you telling your dad and me about that.”
“Okay, our guy who got stomped is Tom Harris. He lives near us and has problems with his foster parents where he lives, so he came over looking for a ride to school. He got here just before I was going to leave to catch the bus. He couldn’t walk to school because he’s not feeling good and been peeing a lot of blood, and he’s really scared about it. I told him we need to go to emergency ASAP.”
“That’s exactly the right thing to do.”
“Yeah, he wants me to stay with him when we get to emergency and I said I would.”
“I can make sure that you can stay with him. Does he have an insurance card with him?”
“Can he walk?”
“No; at least not very well.”
“You need to call an ambulance. Dial 9-1-1. Be sure to tell them that he’s not able to walk under his own power. No… tell you what, I’ll call the ambulance.”
“You don’t have to do that. I called a cab and they said it would be here in under ten minutes, and that was several minutes ago.”
“Cabs are expensive, and they won’t take you unless you have enough money for the trip. How much money do you have?”
“I’m good to go, I have over thirty bucks in my wallet.”
“Okay. The cab’s probably going to be there sooner than if I phoned for an ambulance now. Be sure to tell the cab driver to take you to the emergency entrance. Going east it’s the next signal right after La Casa Via. La Casa Via is the main road to the entrance of the hospital.”
“Okay Mom, I’ll do that.”
“Call my cellphone as soon as you see the hospital. I’ll be waiting for you at the emergency entrance.”
“Okay. I’ll call your cell as soon as we’re close. See you in a few. Love you, Mom.”
“I love you too, Tanner. Bye.”
“You tell your mom you love her?” Tom asked. His tone of voice made it sound like he couldn’t believe that Tanner would do that.
“All the time. And she says it back.”
“Man, you are so lucky. I wish….” Tom didn’t complete what he started to say, but Tanner guessed that what Tom wished for would be to have a real mom.
“Okay, my mom will meet us when we get to emergency. If she has to, she’ll take care of getting me into the emergency room with you. That way they won’t give us a bunch of shit about only adults or relatives being with patients in the ER.”
They heard a car honking, and Tanner opened the front door and waved to the taxi driver. He grabbed his backpack and keyed in the code to turn on the alarm. “Let’s do it.” Tanner held the front door open for Tom, and after he stepped out onto the porch he closed and locked the door. Tanner helped Tom walk to the street and get into the cab.
Tanner said, “John Muir Hospital emergency entrance, please. My bud here was injured and we need to get him there as soon as possible.”
The cab driver nodded an okay, pressed a button on the meter. He didn’t ask to see if Tanner had enough money for the trip. Tanner watched the speedometer and saw the driver push the speed limit a bit. Well, more than a bit. And he kept changing lanes to get ahead of traffic.
During the trip Tom told Tanner what happened at the foster home over the weekend and this morning, and that he hadn’t been given his allowance that he was supposed to get each week, nor the bus ticket that he was supposed to get at the start of each month. He never got his allowance on time. This month was the first that he didn’t get his bus ticket on time even though he knew that two of the other boys got theirs.
The trip to the hospital would normally take over fifteen minutes this time of day, but it took them less than ten minutes. Tanner called his mom when the driver got to the intersection at the hospital entrance. When they got to the emergency entrance Tanner handed the driver a ten and a five for the $12.50 on the meter, and when the driver started to count change Tanner said, “Keep the change. And thanks for getting us here so fast.”
While this was happening Catherine Parsons was finishing up her meeting with Calvin Alciano. He’d given her the names of the other eight boys who were at the Wilcox house and told her all of the details about what was going on. Calvin was particularly concerned about one boy, Tom Harris. She noted that alongside Tom’s name in her file.
She had her assistant call a cab to take Calvin to Edison High School and gave him a letter saying that he was assisting in an investigation for CPS so he wouldn’t be marked as tardy.
She got online and pulled up the records for all nine boys. The names of the foster families for all of them hadn’t been changed in the online foster child database; their records, Calvin included, were showing them still assigned to their prior foster families. But the ‘responsible party’ was listed as Mable Wilcox, and the mailing addresses had been changed to the Wilcox home address. The bank account number for the automatic monthly payment for each boy was the same for all nine of them. She checked the finance department records to see where the payments were going. The bank account number was for Mable and George Wilcox.
The new caseworker for each of the nine boys was Donna Strallen. Catherine’s name was on the database records as having authorized each of the nine reassignments; she, of course, had never done so.
She pulled the paper copies and they showed all nine boys were being fostered by Mable and George Wilcox. Even though it was her name authorizing the reassignment on the paper copies, the signature was clearly not hers.
The person who did this could say that the discrepancy between the paper copies and the database was a data entry error by a clerk, and that Catherine’s signature was always sloppy — even though it wasn’t.
Fortunately, the database system showed the login information of the person who entered the changes in the database; in each case it was Donna Strallen. One or maybe two records might be a mistake. Nine records meant it was fraud.
Catherine’s next step was to call the CPS legal department in Sacramento.
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