Monday 7:02 A.M. : Brentwood High School
On Monday during the eleventh week of the fall semester I arrived at my school, Brentwood High, to witness a very strange scene. There wasn't a light on anywhere in the buildings and only one vehicle was in the parking lot. As I pulled up beside this car, I noticed 'Police Tape' draped across the front entrance doors. Visions of weekend vandalism ran through my head as I climbed from my car and approached the other. I noticed two people that I assumed were detectives. When they stepped from their auto, I identified myself as Principal Mark Adams and asked what was going on.
The one closest to me identified himself as Detective Rossi and his partner as Detective Samuels. He then informed me of a court-ordered injunction that had closed the school until their investigation into the recent rash of assaults was completed.
At this point I felt my eyebrows trying to hide in my hairline as I blurted out, "Assaults!?!"
"Yes, and in some cases, multiple assaults," stated Rossi.
"But ... but, no one has been assaulted here that I know of," I sputtered out.
"That may be true, but the only commonality that links all these cases is the fact that the suspects attended school here," Rossi affirmed. He then asked, "Do you know: Allen Marshal, Debbie Larson, Ed Bollard, Lois Cantor or Phyllis Merchant?"
That's when the other shoe dropped. All those kids had been participants in The Program and all had been missing for a week or more now. The phrase, "Oh My God!" escaped my lips as my stomach fell to my feet.
Recovering myself a bit, I stated, "Yes, I do know all of those kids. They have all been absent for at least a week, if not more, from school. Are they all right?" I asked.
"They are fine," Rossi stated, "they are also the primary suspects in the assaults and they are currently residing in protective custody at the Juvenile Detention Facility in town."
My eyebrows were, once again, trying to merge with my hairline, as I cried out, "What ... how ... this can't be true!"
"I'm afraid it is though," affirmed Rossi, "Now, can you have a seat in the back of our vehicle and take us through a normal week for one of your students selected for The Program?"
I nodded yes while reaching for the door handle. When we were seated, the detectives faced toward the center of the car and asked if they could record my statement. I again nodded yes and they clipped a mic on the front seat facing me.
Turning the recorder on, Rossi said, "This is the primary statement taken from Principle Mark Adams of Brentwood High School. The date is November 28 and the time is 7:06 A. M. In attendance are: Detective First Class Samuel Rossi, Detective First Class Allen Samuels and Principal Mark Adams. Principal Adams has not been read his Miranda rights, so nothing in this statement can be used as evidence in any proceeding. The statement is being given freely and is simply background information in regards to Cases: DCI 40198 through 40203. You can begin whenever you are ready Principal Adams."
Nodding my head again, I could feel myself falling into 'lecture' mode, as I said, "OK then. This a brief summary of the procedures used during a typical week for a student selected to participate in The Naked in School Program. During the week prior to the students Program week, the staff in charge of selection conduct several meetings. At these meetings, all possible candidates are discussed with the emphasis on whether or not the staff feel they would benefit the most from participation. These meetings are informal and follow a 'Round Robin' structure. Anyone attending is free to inject any information they feel is pertinent. At the last meeting, normally on Friday, the finalized list is drawn up and those files are sent to the staff that will intercept the participants on Monday morning. The staff assigned to Monday interception include: Vice-Principal Myers, Vice-Principal Leon and Program Councilor Rodgers as a back up. On Monday morning, only the main school entrance is unlocked. This is done to facilitate the interception of that weeks participants. Once all that weeks participants are in the main office, they are directed to the specific office that is set up as the site for their initial orientation into The Program. During orientation, we attempt to answer all the questions these students might have. After disrobing the students are then sent onto their regular classes along with a pamphlet that covers all the rules associated with The Program. I do have some in my office if you'd like to have a copy."
Gathering my thoughts, I then said, "As for what happens after they leave my office, I have to depend mostly on reports from the staff, as well as my own observations."
Rossi then asked, "What psychology degrees do your staff hold?"
"Well, I'd have to pull some files to be certain, but I believe Vice-Principle Myers holds a MS degree in Child Psychology, as well as a BS degree in Behavioral Modification Psychology. Councilor Rodgers holds a BS in Child Psychology as well as some others that I would have to look up. I myself, hold a Masters in Child Psychology and a Masters in Educational Development. I'm also in the process of finishing up the requirements for my PhD in Educational Development."
"Are you aware of any of the minors we have in custody belonging to acting, or drama groups?"
"Not off the top of my head. But I could easily check our records for that information."
As Samuels was about to ask something, a police cruiser pulled into the next slot over. Rossi then asked, "Would it be possible to continue this in your office?"
I replied, "Certainly. We won't be disturbing any evidence doing that, will we?"
"No, I don't believe we will. The tape was put up primarily to warn folks off from trying to enter," Rossi answered.
At this, Samuels reached down and turned off the recorder. We then exited their vehicle while Samuels ordered the uniformed officers to watch the front. When we arrived at the front entrance Rossi released one edge of the tape and using my master key I disarmed the security system, unlocked the door and ushered them in.
The quiet in the hallways was almost spooky as I mentally compared it to what should have been Monday morning bedlam. As I opened the door to my office I noticed that it was set up for a Program Orientation Session.
The two straight backed chairs were facing my desk with boxes for storing the participant's clothing along with one face down pamphlet on each. I motioned the Detectives to the chairs and mentioned the Pamphlets, saying they were welcome to those copies. When they first turned over the Pamphlets, a strange expression passed over the faces of both men. They then, almost in unison, looked at each other while some kind of silent communication passed between them. Rossi then put the mic and recorder on my desk while noting the time and that this was a continuation of my statement.
Rossi then noted, "These chairs are extremely uncomfortable. Is that intentional?"
"Yes it is, detective. We've found that if we provide the type of chair you are sitting in for the initial orientation session, it tends to cut down on superfluous questions by the participants."
"Oh, I'll just bet it does," Rossi responded, "I also noticed that these chairs seem to be about three inches shorter than your seating position. Is that intentional too?"
"Again, yes it is. We've found that it helps to curb the 'Teen Belligerence Syndrome'."
"I also note that in the 'Greeting' portion of the Pamphlet, the child's parents are the first authority figures mentioned as having 'approved' their participation. Is that true, or is it just another layer of control being used?" Samuels asked.
"Here, let me quote it; "Your Parents, the Administration of your High School, and your Community ... etc." He then stated, "That would seem to cover just about every 'fall back' authority the child could think of. Was that intentional as well, and more importantly, was it true? Do you have actual signed consent forms from the children's parents, or guardians?"
"Yes we do and I'll certainly supply you with some copies if you'd like. Also, the wording was intended as the final closing off of the "Paths of Resistance" the child could latch on to. When The Program first began there were some problems that cropped up in regards to the "Non-Consensual" nature of its application. Disruptive behavior was the normal response and I've since learned that this led to quite a few physically enforced disrobing sessions. Since we wanted the children's entrance into The Program to be as smooth as possible, we looked for psychological ways to overcome their initial reluctance."
"That's certainly an interesting application and yes, we would like to look over some of those consent forms." Rossi responded and then asked, "I'm assuming you do have security video monitors and archived recordings, don't you?"
"We certainly do, as our insurance coverage demands it. All security recordings are kept on one server for a full seven years before being deleted."
"And what areas are covered by the monitors?"
"Well, mostly the hallways and problematic trouble spots like: showers and locker rooms, restrooms, conference rooms, offices, stairwells, anywhere that an individual could be trapped and out of sight of the general population."
"Who would we get in touch with to obtain copies of some monitor footage?"
"I believe that would be Dr. John Harris over at central storage. Dr, Harris is also the head of physiological research for the school district and uses the archives as a kind of "live capture" data base to do studies from. I'm sure we have the street address around here somewhere."
"Good. Well I think that gives us enough to get a start on," Rossi stated as he reached over and turned off the recorder. "Thanks again for your candor Principal Adams. We'll be in touch if any more questions arise."
"You're more than welcome gentlemen. I just hope we can bring this terrible episode to a conclusion speedily. Allow me to get you some copies of the signed consent forms on your way out."
As the detectives were pulling out of the school parking lot, Samuels decided to look over the forms they had been given. After about fifty seconds he blurted out, "Holy shit! Pull over, you have got to see this."
Rossi, after parking the car, took the offered document and began reading. About thirty seconds later he was staring at his partner in complete amazement, as he said, "They can't be serious with this piece of garbage. This thing reads like a Polly-anna questionnaire." Reading to the end he finally found the actual consent agreement in micro-print just above the signature line. "Those sneaky mother fuckers! This deceptive piece of shit is what they're basing the parent's approval on? I can't believe anyone would have that kind of balls. I think we need to do some video review partner."
"No shit," Samuels confirmed, "What a miserable can of worms this is turning into."
On arriving at the central storage facility, Rossi and Samuels contacted Dr, Harris and requested the footage they were interested in. After viewing several 'orientation' scenes they asked for copies of those also along with some random footage of the students in their first Program day.
During the drive back to the station both men were silently lost in their own thoughts.
After settling in at their desks with the videos in hand both men looked at each other and Rossi said, "I don't know if I can take watching too much more of this crap. Did you see the look on the Merchant girls face? Christ, I thought she was doing to puke all over the floor and then crawl into her navel."
"Yeah, tell me about it," Samuels answered, "I was thinking the Bollard kid was going to jump the Councilors' desk and strangle her. Is it just me, or do these 'Professional Educators' seem a bit cavalier in their treatment of these kids?"
"Cavalier? Hell, I've seen slaughterhouse executioners show more empathy toward their subjects, than these bastards do," Rossi agreed, "I've also seen more tells at the 'World Poker Tournament'. It's just inhuman the way they treated those kids like slabs of beef. These folks could put professional 'Sadists' to shame."
"No shit. Tell you one thing, we're going to have to play this one close to the vest until we're ready to nail all of them," Samuels replied.
"Christ-on-a-rubber-crutch, yes!" Rossi affirmed, "Can you imagine the CYA bullshit we'd run into if they had a clue they were suspects?"
"I think the first thing we need to do, is scoot on over to the detention hall and let those kids know that we are on their side," Samuels said.
When the arrived at the facility, Rossi said, "Now we're going to have to play this low key. Some of those kids have been in here three weeks and you can bet they've been put through the meat grinder already."
Samuels nodded his head in understanding.
They entered and arranged to have the children assembled in a conference room. As the kids were brought in, a variety of attitudes were on display. Most carried a wary look about them and the ones that had been there the longest were tending toward a hopeless countenance.
Rossi opened with, "Hello. I'm Detective Rossi and this is my partner Detective Samuels. We're here today to inform you that our investigation has led us to believe the assaults you are accused of ... were justified. We're not saying you weren't at fault, but the circumstances that led to these incidents made your responses justifiable and when we get done any court in the country will see it that way too"
At this, every eye in the room zeroed in on Rossi. Some radiated hope, some fear and some just interest at this new chapter in their tale of woe.
Looking around the room, Rossi spotted the Bollard boy and Merchant girl. "Ed," he said, "We've seen the tapes of your 'orientation' session. I don't know how you restrained yourself son, but I would have been jamming the Councilor's head in a trash can if she'd pulled that kind of bullshit on me."
Shifting his eyes to the Merchant girl, he said, "Phyllis, we've seen your's also. I don't know yet what it will take, but you can rest assured that we will make those bastards pay in full for what they did to you. OK?"
Tears began cascading down the girl's cheeks and the next thing Rossi was aware of, he had two arms wrapped around his waist while the phrase "Thank You," was repeatedly sobbed into his chest.
Disengaging her, he held her at arms length and said, "You're welcome, dear and whatever it takes to get your head back together right, they'll get to pay for that too."
Looking up from the Merchant girl, Rossi's gaze was met by the first signs of vibrancy in the four other faces. Seeing that, Rossi said, "OK, here's what we're going to do. We are going to crucify these people because they conspired to violate a Post of Public Trust, but we are going to do it legally. Now that will take some time to build a case and we can't spring you guys just yet." Seeing the faces beginning to droop, he added, "Knock that attitude off, right now! We're on your side in this thing."
Gathering his thoughts, he continued with, "Here's how this will work. First, we'll get your status here changed to 'Segregated, Protective, Custody'. That should take about one half to maybe an hour. After that we'll see about you all being kept separate - as-a-unit - from the general population. Do any of you have a problem rooming together?"
Feeling a tug on his sleeve, Rossi looked into the Merchant girl's eyes as she whispered, "Allen and Ed have both made us feel safer here. We know they wouldn't hurt us."
Looking at the other girls, Rossi asked, "Debbie, Lois, is that how you feel too?" Seeing the nods, he continued with, "Excellent, we'll see about getting you guys set up in a separate co-ed section. After all, you've all been through The Program, so just treat these ladies like they are your partners. Support them, help them in any way you can. OK?"
"Yes sir!" came the solid reply.
"Good. Now before we start working on getting your end set up, are there any questions we can answer?"
After some slightly embarrassed glances around, Ed cleared his throat and asked, "Um ... what about involuntary reactions, Sir?"
Rossi felt Phyllis's hands release his as she glided over to Ed. Taking his hands, she said with a grin forming, "Ed, Allen, we won't laugh. We might be interested, but we won't laugh." Then her smile lit up the room as Lois and Debbie burst out in giggles while Ed blushed like a ripe tomato.
While this was going on, Rossi thought, 'Hum, hope we haven't turned a poly-monster loose here. Then again, this could be just what they all need. Maybe the healing begins here.'
Clearing his throat to get everyone's attention, Rossi said, "OK, two things before we go. One: don't talk to anyone about what we discussed here. Two: Since we don't know how long it will take to line everything up; we'll see about getting your course work sent to you here. Just so you have something to do and don't fall behind in your classes."
Rossi and Saunders both got swarmed with hugs and handshakes before hitting the door.
As Samuels and Rossi were making their way back to the admin office, Samuels asked, "Do you think Principal Adams is a dupe in this mess?"
"I don't know and it's just too early to tell yet, but if he is, he's got to be one of the most overeducated dip-shits I've even encountered walking around under their own power ... bar none. How anyone could sit there and week by week watch that crap go down and not do some digging, is completely beyond me. Maybe he's just a talented actor, or a total sociopath. Who knows yet?"
Shaking his head, Samuels said, "Well, I've been at this for way too many years and my gut tells me he's for real. Then again, the guy just might be the best actor that ever walked the face of the Earth."
"Well, we're going to find out, one way or another partner," Replied Rossi.
As Sheila Abramson was escorting her five charges back to their sectors, she noticed the relaxed body language and occasional fingers hooking together.
At this, a smile began to caress her face. 'Thank God, ' ran through her mind, 'That's the first human reaction I've seen out of any of these kids, well, except for terror and despair.'
When the group reached the girls section, the Merchant girl, with her finger still entwined in the Bollard boy's, glanced back at Sheila and mouthed, 'Please.'
At the almost imperceptible 'yes' nod, a 'Christmas Morning' smile lit up her face and she drew Ed down to plant a soft kiss on his cheek while whispering, "Thank you Ed, see you soon." She then followed this with an identical gift to the Marshal boy.
After securing the door she turned to her two remaining charges to find 'the look' on both boy's faces. It was a look she was intimately familiar with. It was the look of guardians.
"Soon gentlemen; let's go now though," she promised.
The responding, "Yes, mam!" did her heart a world of good. The grin creeping across her face and edging up into her eyes was evident proof of that.
As the three made their way to the 'boys' section, a thought ran fleetingly through her head, 'God help anyone that harms those girls; these guys will take them apart piece by piece.'