Paige Bailey had observed that the boy who lived next door always spent all day outdoors. If he was not riding a bike, he was skating or talking with other boys his age.
That was all normal child behavior, but the odd thing was that when the other boys all got called home for dinner by their moms, only the boy was left on the street.
He didn’t seem to mind much and would simply shrug his shoulders and keep on riding his bike to and fro by himself, with his ever-present hat screwed on backward.
Something didn’t look right, and Paige was not about to let it go without an investigation. So one evening, she put on her coat and hat then went for a walk that took her to the local police precinct.
Once there, she walked up to the desk sergeant and offered a greeting. “Good morning officer!” she said with genuine cheer.
The man, who had gotten accustomed to people visiting the police station with bony faces, was stunned, but he smiled back uneasily.
“Good day to you, Ma’am!” he said. “How may I be of assistance?”
Paige shook her head. “Correct me if I’m wrong, officer but back in my day, the police were the people to see when things seemed awry — and right now, something doesn’t seem right — not that there’s something criminal going on or anything…”
The cop scratched his head as he thought about it, then he beckoned to one of his colleagues, Officer John Leon. John took Paige to the officer’s mess room, where he sat her down and asked her to tell him everything.
“Well, there’s not really not much to tell,” she began. “There’s this boy, Seth Martin — a good boy to be sure — and he never misses a day of school and all … But when it’s time to go in for dinner, he remains on the street all by himself.”
She paused to hear the officer’s input, but he just kept mute, encouraging her to continue.
“And I’m just wondering, maybe he stays back on the street because something terrible awaits him at home or there’s nobody at home at all. We can both agree that he’s not old enough to be on his own!”
John took a few moments to consider her words then he spoke. “I agree that something is definitely off here, Mrs. Bailey,” he said. “But not to worry, I won’t rest till I get to the bottom of this.”
The officer first visited Seth’s school, where he discovered that the boy never skipped classes and always turned in his assignments long before the deadline—above all, his teachers referred to him as quiet and unassuming.
Seth’s colleagues thought he was cool and great at playing games, but he allegedly never invited anyone to his home. Word was, none of his classmates had ever walked into his room.
According to the school principal, Seth moved to town with his mother from Alabama three months before. Seth’s mom, Linda, came off as a pleasant, hardworking woman doing a pretty good job of bringing up her 13-year-old son by herself.
Officer John’s next step was to go visit Seth’s home immediately after he knew their school would close. Seth, already growing into his height as a man, answered the door and stood there, deliberately blocking John’s view into the house.
“Good afternoon officer,” the boy said with a straight face.
“Good day boy,” John replied, smiling. “I’m Officer John Leon. Is your mother around?”
Seth eyed John suspiciously. “Mom’s not home at the moment,” he said.
“OK…” John said. “Would you mind if I step in for a moment?”
“I hope you have a search warrant,” Seth said sharply.
“No, of course not! This is not a criminal investigation,” said the stunned officer.
“Well I follow “Law & Order” with my mom, it’s our favorite show, so I know you can’t come in without a warrant if I don’t want you to.”
John shook his head. “I’m not here for trouble Seth, I just want to make sure all is well with you.”
“Everything is as it should be!” the boy cried. “Why shouldn’t it be?”
“Well, when children avoid going home for dinner, it’s sometimes because they’re afraid. Or perhaps something is awry.” John said gently. “I just want you to know that if something isn’t right, you can come to me.”
Seth blushed, then he said, “I just enjoy riding on the street when it’s quiet and less crowded, OK? That’s all!”
John nodded. “I can certainly understand that feeling. Sometimes when I’m on a late patrol and I’m the only person alive on the streets, it feels pretty cool.”
Seth smiled. “Exactly! And when mom’s gone….”
“Your mom’s away?” John asked. He had finally hit gold, and Seth knew.
The boy hung his head as he answered. “Yes. She’s had to constantly go back to Alabama these past few weeks because granny broke her leg and my gramps has Alzheimer’s…” then he straightened his shoulders. “But I’m doing just fine on my own!”
“I can see that you are Seth, you’re a good boy. Do you mind if I come in?” John asked.
Seth let him in after hesitating for some time, and John saw that the house had been barely furnished. All Seth had for sleeping was a mattress on the floor in his room.
“Mom was going to get some furniture,” Seth said when he saw the look on John’s face, “but then grandma fell sick…”
“It’s OK,” Officer John said, interrupting him. “I understand. But listen, your mom clearly has no other option and I don’t want to get her into trouble, so how about I visit you every night to fix your dinner while you sleep at Mrs. Bailey’s house?”
The boy reluctantly agreed, and for the week that followed, the officer visited him after work to make him dinner, check his assignments, and make sure he went next door to Paige’s house to sleep in her spare room.
“Mom will be arriving tomorrow,” Seth told John one evening. “And this time, she’s coming home to stay!
“That’s great,” said John with a smile. “Would you like to help me set up a surprise for her?”
“A surprise?” Seth asked. “What sort of surprise?”
In reply, John led him outside and parked in front of the boy’s house was a truck which contained all sorts of presents, including a bed for Jack, a TV, table and chairs, and all sorts of things John thought women would fancy.
By the time Seth’s mom returned from Alabama the following day, the house had been transformed into a cozy haven. It looked so different; Seth’s mother was sure she had walked into the wrong home. But as she was about to head back out, Seth, John, and Paige screamed, “Welcome home!” then materialized out of the boy’s room.
Seth introduced his mom to the officer, who explained everything to her, and from that moment on, Seth and Linda had two new friends they could count on.
Along the line, John, who thought Linda was really pretty, sort of started courting her, so one of these days, Seth will no longer be the only man in the house.
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