The Boy in the Bin

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69) HERO

The New Year’s celebration turned out to be a blast. Johnny and Raphael reveled in the atmosphere, and Maria did also. The boys never experienced such a luxurious suite as the Hyatt Times Square. Looking out the balcony, they were treated to a fantastic view of lower Manhattan.

The food tasted wonderful, the people seemed like fun and Maria even met a cute investment banker. The next morning, on New Years Day, they enjoyed a breakfast buffet in the central dining room; all on the house.

“Do we have to go back Mom,” Johnny whined, “I like this place.”

“Oh Honey,” Maria assured, “I like being here too. I might get spoiled with this life easily. Tomorrow is a work day for me though, and a school day for you two.”

“We sure will share some stories with our friends,” Raphael interjected. “I’ll bet none of them ever participated in a fun time like this.”

They took an uneventful cab ride back home. When they arrived, Maria found a business card attached to the door from Lieutenant Sherman. On the back, he wrote the words ‘Please call me ASAP’.

“I wonder what this is all about?” Maria questioned. “I hope there is no problem with Sammy’s arrest.”

Sammy’s arrest hadn’t presented any problems. They transferred him out of the holding cell to the juvenile section at Riker’s Island. The problem stemmed from his father Arnold. During a routine delivery of the dinner meal, he attacked a guard and attempted to break out of his cell.

Security at the station house always maintained a somewhat lax regimen. Arnold made his attempted escape all the way past several other guards; right into the waiting area. An overzealous deputy fired upon the fleeing convict and Arnold dropped to the ground.

The vicious life of Arnold Lovelace ended on New Year’s Day.

The next day at school, Raphael and Johnny became the centerpiece of conversations. Students who didn’t even know them well gathered around to hear all about their trip to the city. They seemed especially interested in their stay at a fancy hotel.

“That memory will last you a lifetime,” one of the teachers remarked. “I’ve never seen the Times Square celebration except on television.”

After school, the boys took a bus back home. As they turned the final corner going to the house, Raphael’s sharp eyes caught sight of two police cars. Both vehicles parked in front of the house where they lived. His first impulse signaled him to run, but realizing he had done nothing wrong, another fear took over.

“Do you think something happened to your mother?” he asked Johnny.

They broke into a run, dashing over the sidewalk and bursting into the house. Paul Sherman and another officer sat in the kitchen, having a conversation with Maria over a cup of coffee.

“What’s going on Mom,” Johnny shouted. “Did someone break in?”

“No Honey,” she answered. “These officers are here for Raphael.”

The blood drained out of Raphael’s face for an instant. Why are they waiting for him? He kept getting good grades in school. He missed no classes and wasn’t aware of any issues with students or teachers. What did they possibly want with him?

“You are scheduled for a very important meeting today Raphael,” the Lieutenant . “We’ve been ordered to bring you to headquarters.”

“Why,” he fretted, “what did I do?”

“You are going to meet the President of the United States,” Sherman revealed. “He wants to thank you personally for breaking up the assassination plot.”

Raphael beamed from ear to ear at this news. Wow ... meeting the President! This would probably be the biggest honor he ever would receive in his life.”

“Hey bro,” Johnny cheered. “You’re going to be famous. You might even get your ugly mug on TV.”

The two detectives loaded Raphael into Sherman’s sedan and headed downtown to the precinct station. When they arrived, The President had just ended his news conference. His speech included talking about his new ‘Get Tough, Get Paid’ referral initiative.

The GTGP program paid informants for snitching on illegal activities. The President hoped to utilize the program in every police department in the country. This entire gathering attracted several film crews. They planned to release the proceedings to the local news stations.

Upon entering the room, an officer notified The Commander in Chief of Raphael’s presence. He finished up his talking points and set his gaze on the young man standing in the front row.

“Here’s the fine young man who inspired this program,” he beamed. “I would like to introduce Raphael Hernandez to the world. Raphael recently discovered a plot to remove me from office; permanently. He informed the proper authorities and that’s why I’m standing before you today.”

The crowd got a chuckle and The President motioned Raphael to join him at the podium. Without hesitation, he strolled up and shook the Presidents hand. Here stood the man also known as the leader of the free world.

“As a small token of my appreciation Son,” he declared, “I’d like to give you this honorary badge. It represents Presidential Service. You showed a lot of courage to do what you did. I thank you, and the United States thanks you.”

Raphael scrutinized his award and wondered how many how many bottle return deposits would have to pay for this. The badge was a cheap piece of crap you could buy from a vending machine. The only difference between the two, this one bore the Presidential Seal glued on the back side. He graciously accepted his ‘award’ and smiled. That was the end of Raphael’s brush with fame.

The news conference ended and everyone went back to ‘off camera’ mode. Lieutenant Sherman came over to Raphael to admire the badge. He shared the same impression as Raphael. He led the young teen out of the building to his waiting car.

“Not much of an award, Huh?” he commented.

“I thought the guy acted like a jerk,” Raphael acknowledged.

“Don’t worry Raphael,” Sherman chuckled with a smile. “At least you didn’t vote for him.”

On the way back home, Paul told Raphael the NYPD appreciated all the help given to them. He added the department would give him a proper commendation. Raphael smiled and asked if they would honor his deceased parents and his Aunt Maria also.

“I think something can be arranged,” he confirmed. “After all, you deserve the honor.”

Johnny and Maria waited for him when he got home. Johnny especially wanted details on everything about his famous cousins meeting The President. When Raphael gave him the specifics, he laughed and said “So much for doing Good Deeds.”

Maria remained quick to remind the boys of something. She said even though Raphael got no big reward or anything, he should feel good about doing any good deeds. They sat down to enjoy the evening meal and watch the local news.

After the weather forecast, an announcer came on to report the winning lottery numbers. Maria pulled the ticket out of her purse and prepared to toss another loser away.

“The winning numbers in the New Years Lottery Drawing are ...”

The three sat watching as the announcer read off the numbers.

“15 - 44 - 7 - 57 - 31 ... and the last number, 7 ... Congratulations

all you lucky winners from the New York Lottery Commission”

Maria fainted right at the table and both boys scrambled to investigate the problem. Johnny jumped up to get a cold cloth for her head. Raphael lifted up her feet and elevated them on a chair. Maria regained her composure after a minute as both youngsters stared at her in confusion.

“Mom, are you alright,” Johnny said. “Should I call a doctor?”

Maria smiled and told them both she felt fine. She put her legs down and picked up the lottery ticket that fell on the floor. She read the numbers again as her smile broadened.

“We’re all fine.”

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