As much as it was not being able to comprehend what was
happening to me that Tuesday two years ago, it had been the angry scowls of
the church members as I was being led away that really hurt. They didn’t
believe me. In their eyes, Dalton was just an innocent victim. I was a
college kid – someone to be suspicious of – someone who couldn’t be trusted.
No one had even asked for my side of the story.
They handcuffed me like I was a criminal, and led me down
the hallway to the waiting cruiser. Those awful stares from the people I had
been getting to know. The look of disgust in their eyes as they stepped back
to let us pass; like if they got too close to me I would poison them. Old
Mrs. Schwartzentruber was the only one brave enough to touch me. She reached
out and grabbed my arm as I was led past the administrative office – stopped
the policemen in their tracks.
“We’ll be praying for you Allen,” she said.
“Yeah,” I thought, “praying that God would turn my life
around.” I hope God knows that when she prays for Allen, she really means
I kept telling the truth to Sergeant Walters as he glared
at me with eyes and ears that were growing tired of hearing it. Obviously he
wasn’t buying my story. He told me that he knew Mr. Henderson personally,
and that I wouldn’t be accused of molesting his son unless it was true – “so
why don’t you just tell me in your own words what you did,” he kept asking.
“Mr. Harper, I don’t think you understand the gravity of
your situation. Have you read the affidavit carefully?”
I had. They had accused me of stalking Dalton at church, of
trying to lure Dalton into the closet at Youth Group last Tuesday in order
to have “lewd conduct” with him – the very closet that I had seen him and
his friend David Pendergast sneak into. According to David’s sworn
testimony, he had overheard me threatening to drag Dalton into the closet by
force if he didn’t go willingly, when he came upon us on his way to the
restroom. David’s signature, along with Dalton’s, and both their dad’s, at
the bottom of the document seemed to seal my fate.
All I could think about while I was pleading my case to the
sergeant, was that, like Joseph, who we had been studying about in our
Campus bible study, I was going to spend a long time in jail for something
that I hadn’t done.
“Do I get to make a phone call?” I finally asked Sergeant
He slid the phone that was sitting next to him, across the
table and told me I had three minutes.
“Alex? Is that you? Oh my god, what a surprise. Your father
told me you were out here in L.A. at college. Why haven’t you called me
“Mom, I’m in trouble.”
“What do you mean you’re in trouble? I don’t have any extra
cash, if that’s what you mean. Cecil and I just bought a house, and we’re
having a little trouble making the mortgage as it is. Do you know how
expensive real estate is in Los Angeles?”
“MOM!” I nearly shouted, “I’m at the Southwest Community
police station, and I think I need a lawyer.”
“You’re where? What in the world did you do?”
“Mom, I’ve been accused of doing something that I
didn’t do – I was set up, but no one believes me. Do you have a lawyer out
here that could come and help me?”
“Alex, I already told you we don’t have any money. How am I
supposed to get you a lawyer for god’s sake? What did you do?” she asked
“Mom, can you just come down here to the station so we can
talk? And please, bring some phone numbers of some lawyers. Mom, it’s not
good. I mean what they’re accusing me of doing… well I could spend a long
time in jail.”
“Alex, you didn’t kill someone did you?”
“Mom, I said I’ll tell you when you get here. Can you come
“I’ll have to check with Cecil, first, Alex. We’re planning
on going to a play tonight. I don’t think he’ll be too happy about me not
coming with him. Can it wait ‘till tomorrow? I could be there by ten or
Sergeant Walters was indicating that my three minutes were
up. I couldn’t believe my own mother was going to go to a play with that fat
slob of a husband instead of coming here to help me.
“Fine,” I sassed at her, “go to your stupid play while I
entertain the gorillas here.”
I’m sure Sergeant Walters had heard it all before. The
accused, pleading with someone to get them out of the mess they were in, so
I suppose that’s why he was smiling as he got up from his chair and leaned
over the table.
“So you’re gonna entertain our gorillas tonight?” Then
pressing the intercom button he asked for someone to come and show me to my
After a strip search, I climbed into the orange jumpsuit
and buttoned it to my neck. Officer Binder put my cuffs back in place and
led me to a holding cell.
“Sorry bud, there’s no gorillas for you to entertain
tonight. Deviants don’t get tossed in with the regular crowd, so you get the
whole cell to yourself; all forty-eight square feet of it.”
I never felt so lonely in all my life as I did that night.
I wondered where God had gone. I wondered why he made me like he did,
because this never would have happened if I wasn’t so damned hung up on
gawking at Dalton Henderson. I wondered if mom would show up tomorrow, and
if she did, if I’d be able to get counsel without any money.
“Hey… Ah, Sir?” I called from my cell when Officer Binder
escorted another man to a cell near mine.
“What is it?”
“Officer? Do you like know if they set any bail amount for
me? I mean, how does someone post bail, so they can get out of here?”
“Sorry, they don’t tell me that info, bub, but they usually
don’t set bail for sex offenders until they’re sure they’re not gonna be
molesting other kids if they can post it. I’d guess for you, unless they
find out you’ve done this before, you’re probably lookin’ at a hundred G or
something, so unless you got a rich uncle somewhere, you may as well make
yourself at home.”
“Great… thanks for the good news. Have a nice
Officer Binder just clicked his tongue and walked away.
“Shoulda thought about that before ya tried to rape a thirteen year old.”
Those words sent dread though my entire body. I was
suddenly very tired and fell onto the cot, burying my face in the small
pillow. I began to quietly weep. Irrationally, I began to worry about finals
as I wept. What would it matter if I missed studying for finals when I
wouldn’t even need a degree for what I’d be doing for the next twenty years?
Other than doze off a few times, I hadn’t slept a wink, and
was standing, holding on to the bars like a caged monkey when they brought
some breakfast bars and a cup of coffee to me the next morning. I hoped mom
would be early. I hated having to rely on her. In fact, I still hated her,
period! But the truth of the matter was, I had no one else out here. I
wondered again why I had thought it was so important for me to come here to
By the clock in the hallway, it was ten minutes to ten when
an officer came to open my cell. Officer Rodriguez had a cheery smile on her
face, and tried to get me to chat as she led me to the visitation room at
I was expecting to see mom when I entered the room, so I
sort of gasped when I saw David Pendergast and his parents, sitting at the
“Have a seat Mr. Harper,” Officer Rodriguez curtly directed
me. “It seems there’s been some new information that’s come forth about what
you did or didn’t do. We don’t have all the details finalized as of yet, but
the Pendergast’s have asked if they could see you for a few minutes.
I was terrified to think of what new story was being
fabricated by the young man sitting directly across from me. He couldn’t
even look me in the eyes, the bastard. I wanted to scream at him, tell him
what his lies where doing to me, and then choke the living shit out of him.
“David has something he wants to tell you, Alex,” prodded
When David just sat there staring at the table, Mr.
Pendergast laid his hand on David’s shoulder. “David,” he commanded
in a no-nonsense tone of voice.
“I’m sorry,” he managed to squeak out in a barely audible
“Go on son. Tell him everything.”
“Alex, I guess I sort of lied about what happened. We were
so scared of what people would say if they found out about what me and
Dalton did last Tuesday. That was the most awful night of my life. Dalton
found a picture on the Internet after school that showed two guys doin’ that
to each other, and he sent it to my phone. We just wanted to see what it was
like. When you were standing outside the door, we knew we were gonna be dead
meat if anyone found out about it.
“After Dalton started screaming and stuff at church, he
called me and told me that we had to stick together or no girls would ever
want to go out with us on account of them thinking we were gay. He told me
what he told his parents, and then told me that I had to tell mine the same
“I knew I shouldn’t sign that paper at the police station,
but had to. I didn’t think they would arrest you. I couldn’t sleep at all
last night knowing my lie helped put you in jail, so as soon as mom and dad
woke up this morning, I told them what we did.”
Mrs. Pendergast pushed her chair back from the table,
looking like she would rather be anywhere else in the world than where she
was. She never said a word, the whole time we were in there. Mr. Pendergast
could hardly look me in the eye either, even when he told me that he was
sorry, and that David’s behavior would be dealt with when they got home. I
saw his fingers dig into his son’s shoulder causing David to wince.
My friend, Phil Johnson’s dad, used to say that a person
can endure anything as long as they can see the light at the end of the
tunnel. I was suddenly seeing some light, and began to think that I might
get out of this mess after all.
“David’s story will have to be verified with the other
party involved before any charges can be dropped,” Officer Rodriguez
informed me as she tugged my arm to get me to stand up.
“M’am? May I say a word before you take me back.”
“So long as you don’t get nasty with the boy.”
“David?” I waited until he looked at me before continuing.
“I forgive you, David. You and Dalton really hurt me, but I’m not going to
hold it against you.” Somehow, the words coming from my mouth seemed surreal
– like they weren’t really coming from me. They seemed like words that my
friend Phil’s dad would have told someone; and now they were coming out of
my mouth. I realized at that moment how important mentors were to someone,
and began to see how important it was for a youth group leader at church to
be a mentor for kids like David, and Dalton, who were just beginning to
learn about things that I had already learned. Too bad I would no longer
have the chance to be that kind of influence on kids.
David’s dad looked up at me, anger etched on his face.
“Mr. Pendergast? I’ve like forgiven David for what
happened. Are you like gonna forgive him too? I mean, well… what him and
Dalton did in that closet… almost every boy does that. …and well… I can
understand why they were scared. So I guess I’m just askin’ you and Mrs.
Pendergast to forgive him instead of holding it over his head like he did
something really bad. It just kind of got out of hand.”
David was staring at me like he couldn’t believe his ears.
An hour later, after Dalton’s dad had grilled him about
what had happened, he broke down and told the truth to his parents. They
too, immediately came to the station to sign a revised affidavit. I didn’t
get to talk with Dalton, or Mr. Henderson at the station, but almost twenty
hours after I had been picked up and charged with stalking, corruption of a
minor, and attempted involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, my slate was
wiped clean. I was free to leave.
I rolled my eyes and shook my head as I left the building
through the front doors. That’s because I saw my mom arguing with a police
officer who was citing her for parking in a disabled person’s parking spot
in front of the station.
“Mom, give it up,” I told her as I walked up behind her.
“Alex! Oh my god, I thought you said you were in jail. You
made me drive all the way over here on a Saturday? I should make you pay for
the parking ticket since the only reason I was here, was to try to help
Some things never change,
I thought to myself as I walked back to school.