Morning came, and the kids were excited about the new members. Especially the boys, our girl contingent doubled overnight. Just before breakfast, Murray and O’Shea brought the boy from Europe. His name was Andre. I was in the middle of explaining Sanctuary to Andre when Murray received a phone call. He spoke to O’Shea, and they were gone. As the boys came into the dining hall, I noticed Andre was watching them. And then he stood up and yelled, Noah. Noah looked and was surprised. Andre ran toward him and pulled him into a hug. There were tears in the eyes of both boys. Noah looked at me with a big smile, “This is my friend Andre. We were together until he was sold. I’m so glad he’s here with us.”
“I’m glad as well. How about you taking him to Beth to get enrolled and then giving him a tour. If he’s hungry, take him to the shack to get something to eat. Then you can show him his cocoon.”
“It’s something that we’re still getting boys from that slave market.”
“Yes, but we still have a lot more to retrieve. By them fleeing the country makes it harder, but at least the police are tuned into it.”
“Brad, have you thought any more about the symbol for Sanctuary?”
“No, have you given it any thought?”
“Well, I have one idea, a very bright sky with an adult hand reaching down and a child’s hand reaching up.”
“Like in a handshake?”
“Yes, Sanctuary is pulling these kids out of a miserable existence and giving them a chance.”
“I like that, Tony. Now we need an artist to draw it so we can get it printed on our t-shirts. I’ll also need an engraver to put it on pins and medals.”
“Probably once you get the picture done, any reputable jewel should be able to engrave it on a medal.”
“Do you know any artists that could paint it? If they could do it large enough, we could hang it here in the dining hall. Maybe Abe will know someone.”
Just before lunch, Murray, O’Shea, and Diaz showed up. “It’s too early for lunch, guys, but you can get a cup of coffee.”
“Brad, you got your bus all gassed up?”
“We’re going on a trip today.”
“Where and why today?”
“The FBI and the California police have rounded up some Mexican kids and have arrested some men who are responsible for the disbursement of these kids to various men. They have the list of men, and the FBI and the National Guard are sealing off the area to prevent them from escaping. The FBI thinks you’re doing a great job and have requested the police here to assist you in having you go down and pick them up.”
“That’s a five-day drive.”
“That’s why O’Shea, Diaz, and I are going with you. Will drive straight thru, which will cut the time to two and one-half days. If we take sleeping bags, we can sleep on the floor, and if you pack enough sandwiches and water, we don’t have to stop.”
“When do you want to leave?”
“Right after lunch.”
I went to find Jeff. “Jeff, I want you to put 4 cases of water into the storage area of bus no. 1” Leaving Jeff to do that, I went to the cook shack. “Mario, I need enough sandwiches and salads to feed four men for five days. We should get some coolers to keep it cold. I need that by lunchtime. If you need more help, ask the kids.”
Going to Tony’s office, “Tony, the police and I are going to southern California to pick up some kids. Can you hold down the fort for a few days?
“Sure, do you know how many kids there are?”
“No, but the FBI and the National Guard are sealing off the area to catch the men who are doing this. I need to get some sleeping bags so we can sleep when we aren’t driving.”
“You get organized, and I’ll take care of the sleeping bags. I’ll also let Aaron know so he can be prepared. Keep in touch so we can be prepared when you arrived”
“Thanks, Tony. I know I can always rely on you. Are you sure you don’t want to be a partner in this endeavor?”
“I want to be a partner, but my definition and yours are slightly different.”
By the time lunch was ready, everything was ready for the trip. I told Mrs. Chester and Mrs. Jenkins that I was leaving and if they had any concerns to see Tony.
Lunch was hurried; the kids knew something was up. Bubba sat down next to me, “Dad, what is happening?”
“The officers and I are going to southern California to pick up some kids. I’ve asked Uncle Tony to be here in case there’s a question. I’m counting on you and Pat to help out, ok?”
I thought I saw Bubba’s chest puff out a little. I kissed him on his head, and he went to find Pat. I was proud of my kids, they were good kids, and with over 200, one would expect some trouble, but it never came.
“Brad, you all ready to go?”
“Yes, the sooner we leave, the sooner we get back.” As I was walking to the bus, I saw Jeff and Adam watching. I walked over to them, “Keep an eye on things while I’m gone. If you have any questions, see Tony.” I hugged them and boarded the bus. As we were leaving, I waved to Bubba and Pat, who were by the cook shack waving.
The ride wasn’t a problem; we stopped for gas and visited the restrooms. If the station had coffee, we would get a cup to drink while we were driving. Sleeping on the floor wasn’t the best idea, but we made a relatively soft bed by doubling up the sleeping bags. It was the bouncing that kept us awake.
At the beginning of the 3rd day, we approached the National Guard line at the city limits. “They are buttoning up the city. How are they handling the airport, bus terminal, and trains?”
“According to the FBI, bus transportation has been halted, the airport is closed, and trains are being rerouted. The city is shut down. The police are raiding known hideouts; we’ll get an update as soon as we get to their headquarters.”
As we approached the road blockade, I stopped the bus, and Murray descended to meet with the guard. After a phone call and the guard checking our papers, he let us pass. I drove as Murray told me where to go. When I arrived at their headquarters, there was a tent full of kids. “How many are there?”
Murray met with the FBI agent he had been in contact with concerning the kids coming with us. Officer Diaz went to talk to the kids, telling them that they are safe and would be riding the bus back to a safe place called Sanctuary. They would be fed and have a place to stay. He continued to talk to them, and you could see them relax a little. I think it’s normal for them to have some concern after what they went through. Hopefully, they’ll be able to recover from their ordeal.
We spent 4 hours at the camp. We boarded the kids, giving them water and sandwiches. Officer Diaz introduced us to them. I took the opportunity to mention that Carlos and Maria were with us at Sanctuary and they’d be glad to see them.
Murray came on the bus and said we could go. If there were any more kids, they’d let us know. Diaz told the kids in Spanish that we were leaving for home.
The ride back was a little slower, we had to take more rest stops, and the kids were getting hungry more often. I don’t know how many hotdogs we bought or sandwiches from the gas stations which we used. As we approached our city, I called Mario and told him where we were and our arrival’s estimated time. I then called Tony and gave him the same information.
As I pulled into the parking area, the kids were waiting for us. Bubba and Pat were in front with Carlos and Maria. When the kids on the bus saw them, they became excited. The noise level rose. As soon as I stopped the bus, Carlos and Maria boarded. They went down the aisle, hugging each of the kids.
I got Jeff to lead the kids to the dining hall. There Mario had set up his grill to feed the new kids as well as our kids. The noise level was high, and it appeared that language wasn’t a problem. Carlo and Maria pitched in and helped the new kids.
Beth was ready to start enrolling the new kids. The number of girls increased by six, and the boys increase by 13. I was now at 251 kids. I had room for 127 more before I’d have to come up with another plan.