Callen drove down several side roads. He had no real clue where exactly Southgate was in LA or where the roads he took led. Callen's view of 'life beyond the fence', had indicated that Southgate had a rural location, but he had barely driven more than a few minutes before he entered an industrial area. If Callen had been thinking clearly, he would have ditched the car and stolen another, but he was desperate and his only thoughts were to keep driving as far away as possible from the detention centre. He wondered how long it would be before anyone noticed he was missing. He knew that Pollack would not be worried that he'd been left on the ground by the fence, especially if his next task was to give Matt an earful or even a beating. It was more likely that once Pollack had finished with Matt, that he and his gang would come looking for him. By Callen's calculations, that meant he had maybe twenty minutes until the alarm was raised.
First they would search the interior and exterior of the centre, and when the Correction Officers realised he was not doing a Jake and bleeding out over the shower room floor, they would alert the police, usher out the visitors and lock down the centre. That meant there was probably another ten minutes until they realised he'd stolen a car, which made it thirty minutes in total. Callen looked at the clock on the car dash; he had already been driving for just over five. He pressed his foot down on the gas and accelerated up the ramp on to a main road. The tail of the car swung out slightly as he struggled to control the large vehicle and manoeuvre safely in to the heavy LA traffic, which was flowing at a slow but steady pace. Callen slammed his palm on the steering wheel in frustration and swore. The longer he was caught in traffic, the more likely he was to get attract attention and get caught. The slow pace gradually became a stop-start pattern, with more stopping than starting. Ten minutes later and Callen's leg began to ache from the constant moving of his foot between the brake and accelerator pedals. As the car once again became stationary, he removed his hands from the steering wheel and stretched them out, grimacing as a sharp pain stabbed at his chest. He swore again, cursing Pollack and his hard punches.
Slowly, Callen approached a major intersection and finally the traffic seemed to ease. He glanced up at the signs. He had no idea which route to take but he knew the 101 headed up the coast to San Francisco, which meant he could stop at San Jose or any of the small towns along the way, maybe earning a few bucks from odd job work. He could graft with the best of them if he had to, he was sure of that - he had just never wanted to before. Maybe he would even head up as far as Canada. He'd never been to another country and Canada sounded safe. Decision made, Callen turned on to the 101 and the traffic continued to ease, allowing Callen to accelerate once more. The needle on the speedometer was vibrating around the 60 mph mark, and the faster Callen drove, the more he had to fight the steering. The station wagon was a heavy vehicle and despite his need and desire to drive fast, he figured he'd better slow a little in case he crashed. The needle on the fuel gauge also caught his eye. He was convinced when he started, it was hovering around half a tank but now it was floating just above the red. Callen started to feel his luck ebbing away. Running out of gas would be bad, very bad indeed. It meant dreams of Canada would have to wait, and maybe even dreams of San Jose, he thought, coming across a sign for West Hollywood. But on the other hand, maybe his luck was just about holding out.
West Hollywood was where thousands of Russians had migrated in the late 1970s when the Soviet Union had been dissolved, and it was where the Rostoff family had settled. They had lived in America for five years when they decided to give something back to their adoptive country and become foster parents. Seeing the sign for West Hollywood brought the Rostoff's again to the forefront of Callen's mind and he suddenly thought he could turn to them for help. Seconds later he scrapped that idea. He couldn't put them at risk. They might be arrested and sent back to Russia. Worse still, Alina would be taken away from her mom and dad and placed in care, an experience he would not wish to inflict on any other child. He wondered if he could just hide in the garden for one night before stealing another car, one that was faster and full of gas. He would at least feel safe in a familiar environment, but again, maybe that still wasn't the wisest plan. Maybe he would just ditch the car and head towards Venice. He knew people there who would shelter him until it was safe to venture up north.
In his confusion, Callen took the first turn signed for West Hollywood and within minutes was driving along Santa Monica Boulevard. He might have lived in the area for three months, but now all the modest single and double storey houses lining the streets looked the same. Hauling on the steering wheel, Callen swerved the car again as he took another left turn. A siren wailed suddenly and Callen glanced up at his rear view mirror. It was a standard patrol car and he could see the officer talking on his radio. His heart sank as he thought that even if the officer didn't yet realise he was an escaped convict, he would soon find out the car had been reported stolen, and then the identity of the suspected thief. Both luck and time were running out, Callen could just feel it. He had no idea how long the police vehicle had been behind him - glancing in the rear view mirror was not something he did regularly. He pressed his foot on the gas but the station wagon was slow to respond. With both hands gripping the wheel, Callen willed the car to go faster, to sprout wings and fly, anything to avoid getting caught and sent back to Southgate. His eyes flitted between the street ahead and the rear view mirror, and as he squinted ahead of him into the sunlight, he saw two patrol cars position themselves across the street to form a road block.
His heart started beating faster and Callen glanced around him desperately. There was nowhere for him to turn; no side roads and not enough room or time for him to turn the large car around. He took a deep breath and continued driving. Maybe if he drove faster the police would see he wasn't going to stop and move the cars. It was a long shot but the only chance he now had at freedom. If the cars were not moved at the last minute he would just have to ram through them. But the cops remained in the way. Callen's breathing became faster as adrenaline pumped through his veins. Do or die, he thought. Do or die. Move or die. Fighting and surviving were the only options and his knuckles turned white as he gripped the steering wheel even tighter and drove towards the cars and the officers without slowing.
The two police officers standing in front of their vehicles waved their arms wildly at Callen to bring the car to a halt. An APB had alerted them to the escaped juvenile prisoner and the stolen car. The car had been spotted turning on to the 101 and the LAPD control centre had alerted all patrols in the areas of Hollywood, with specific focus on West Hollywood, and Venice, as they were areas frequented by the suspect, G Callen and where he had been arrested several times previously. They had been advised he was of no danger and so believed tactically that a road block would slow down and stop the youth. However with less hundred metres to go, the two officers started shouting at each other, realising the fifteen year old was not going to stop.
Callen held the steering wheel tight, his foot steady on the gas, pressing down ever so slightly as he drove at the cops and their LAPD cruisers. He prayed they would all disappear and his wishes were somewhat answered as the officers swiftly moved aside from the fast approaching car. The police vehicles remained in situ and a crash was now unavoidable. Callen clipped the bonnet of the left police car and struggled to remain in control of the station wagon. The already heavy steering became impossible to control and Callen wrenched the steering wheel in vain, coming to an abrupt halt as he crashed in to a lamp post, denting the front fender and lifting the bonnet slightly. Without hesitation, Callen pulled the handle and pushed the door open. The moment his feet hit the pavement he glanced back at the officers and started running, desperate to escape. He knew they were already on top of him from the moment he exited the car and he could hear their footsteps pounding as they closed in. Callen forced himself to run faster. He could not get caught; he would not allow himself to be caught, he had done too much this time. There was no turning back. If he was caught, then it would be the end of everything. In less than half a dozen paces, a hand grasped the back of his sweater, forcing Callen to fall face down to the ground. The same hand moved up towards his neck, holding him in place whilst his arms were twisted behind his back and cuffed. Callen tried to struggle but he was held firm. This was it, this is the end of everything, he thought. And a part of him wished the crash had caused him more damage.
"G. Callen, you're under arrest," the officer said gruffly. "For escaping from Southgate Detention Centre, stealing a car, driving without a licence, resisting arrest and attempting to assault two police officers with a deadly weapon."
"And anything else I can Goddamn think of," the second officer said, and the two roughly lifted Callen off the pavement by his arms until he was standing and pushed him back towards the squad car. Callen stumbled slightly and slowed his footsteps, head towards the floor, causing the officers to push him to walk faster.
"You have the right to remain silent, you have the right to an attorney but hey I'm sure social services have a free one you can use…"
"Maybe we should charge him with attempted murder, not assault?" The second officer suggested.
"Yeah, the judge might want to go down that route. You're gonna be spending a long time behind bars, and not at some soft detention centre for kids."
Callen twisted his shoulders, attempting to shake off the firm grip of the officers. "You can't," he argued, raising his voice in frustration. "I didn't do anything, not murder, no way."
"Stay still," the first officer ordered, gently pushing Callen face first against the squad car. "You're a danger to society and to yourself. What you just did is not the act of a child. I'm gonna recommend they try you as an adult. Get you sent to an adult prison where you belong."
Callen turned again. "You can't do that," he protested. He stared at them coldly. "Stupid bastards, d'ya have to pass some test to prove you're dumb enough to be a cop?"
"Shut your mouth," the officer said, this time forcefully shoving him against the car. "You're the dumb-ass one for pulling this stunt. You need to learn some respect for authority and the law."
"And you're gonna be the one to teach me that, with everyone watching? Well go on then." Callen spat his words out defiantly. He was hurting and dared the officers to inflict as much pain on him as he thought he deserved.
"What?" the officer replied, shaking his head. "You need to be behind bars where you belong, before you kill someone. Learn the difference between right and wrong. Get therapy too. Now keep quiet!"
Callen decided to obey, and stood facing the roof of the police car. He knew his life was over. He had no hope of evading any of the charges being laid against him. If the police were right and the judge agreed to try him as an adult for attempted murder, he knew he would be spending the rest of his life behind bars. Best case he would be shipped off to a high security juvenile centre, the type which housed the most violent and disturbed teenagers who committed murder and other heinous crimes. But worst case, he, a fifteen year old, would be sent to an adult prison.
The officer's police radio started to chatter and Callen was left standing by the police car for the entire neighbourhood to see. His partner stood guard whilst the arresting officer moved elsewhere for a little more privacy. Callen heard a raised voice but tried to ignore it. He could not make out any words and he figured they were just arguing about where he should be held before trial. He just hoped he wouldn't be sent back to Southgate.
"We've gotta wait here, some official is showing up to see you. Looks like you're in more shit than you thought, kid."
Callen shifted his weight from foot to foot, and wondered how that was possible, and who the hell wanted to see him. He assumed it must be the Director of Social Services or even of the Director of Southgate, probably just wanting proof that he'd actually been arrested and to tell him how they had expected little else from him. The sound of a smooth car engine caught his attention and he turned his head to see who it was, only for the officer to yet again push him back.
Several minutes later, after a muted conversation between his visitor and the leading police officer, which took place out of ear shot, Callen's handcuffs were unlocked. He instinctively rubbed his wrists and stood still, narrowing his eyes and cocking his head slightly, trying to fathom what was going on. The officer moved to the pavement. Callen realised he was expected to follow, but he hesitated. The officer beckoned him and Callen reluctantly followed, uncertain as to what was happening. He'd been in trouble on many occasions but this was not right. However much he would argue against it, he deliberately drove a car at two police officers - a stolen car, driven with no licence. And he was an escaped felon, albeit a juvenile, so why the hell had they removed the cuffs?
"That lady over there has authorised that all charges against you be dropped. Do you know what that means?"
Callen shook his head.
"It means you've been given a final chance, Callen. God only knows why. Do you have any idea how serious your offences are?
Callen looked at the ground and stayed silent. He understood exactly how serious his crimes were.
"Look at me when I'm speaking to you,"
Callen lifted his head and stared at the officer.
"You have a criminal record Callen, and you were sent to Southgate as punishment for your crimes. You're fifteen and juvie should have shown you how you do not want to spend the rest of your life. But you escaped, stole a car and deliberately used that car as a deadly weapon. And you did that with me and my partner standing in front of the cruisers. You had intent Callen, premeditated intent to deliberately cause serious damage to us and the cruisers. You should be going back to prison - an adult prison - for attempted murder."
Callen lowered his gaze again. "Sorry," he muttered, knowing the word meant little and wouldn't be worth anything as an apology.
"This lady is taking full responsibility for you, so I'd better not hear that you've been involved in any other crimes or see that there's a warrant out for your arrest again. I don't even want to see your name on the runaways report. If I do, I'll make sure the full force of the law is brought down on you, and all these charges that have been waived today will be valid again. Do you understand?"
"Yes," Callen muttered, but the words barely registered. Who the hell had the power to undermine the police and cancel his arrest warrant? The officer took Callen by the arm and escorted him to his visitor; a very, very short lady, dressed in black trousers and a black leather jacket.
"I don't know who you are or what strings you pulled but this kid just crashed through two LAPD cruisers. That is an assault on an officer with a deadly weapon. He should be tried as an adult." Callen bowed his head, knowing full well the gravity of the words the officer spoke were a last chance for the lady to change her mind and send him to prison.
"You're objections are noted," the lady answered in an equally serious voice.
The officer looked at the woman and then glared at Callen, who glanced up. He shook his head slightly and walked off.
Callen stared at the woman, unsure what was supposed to happen next. She stared back.
"What?" he asked rudely.
"Very impressive Mr Callen," she said with a look of amusement.
Callen continued to stare at her, unsure what exactly was amusing about this situation, or indeed, what was impressive.
"Very impressive indeed,"
It almost sounded like she approved of his actions. Callen looked down at his feet. Something was not right. Why was she here? What power did she have to apparently make his latest criminal activities disappear? What was he supposed to say to her?
"You're really short," he looked up, his blue eyes boring in to her face.
The woman laughed, shaking her head at Callen's words. The boy clearly had no idea what to say but at least was not afraid to speak plainly.
"Are you taking me back to social services?" He asked, knowing disappointment was just a stone's throw away. It always was.
The woman's demeanour turned serious. "No," she shook her head to lend her words more weight. "You're never going there again."
Callen didn't understand. It sounded as if she knew how bad his time in social services had been. If he wasn't going to prison and he wasn't going back to social services, then where was he being sent?
"You can stay with me, for as long as you like," she gave an open hand gesture as though it would really be his choice as to how long he stayed.
Callen remained silent. A plethora of questions were running through his mind. Why would she want him to stay with her but not bind him to actually staying? Could he really leave whenever he wanted? What if he left that evening? What was the catch? If she was some freak, Callen thought, he hoped he really could leave whenever he wanted. He still didn't understand what was going on and he still had no idea who she was.
"I've been watching you, for quite a while." She took a several steps towards Callen. "You have great potential. And I have a plan for you, Mr Callen."
Callen resisted the natural urge to step back and regain his own personal space. This woman intrigued him, in fact she was quite mesmerising and her presence was almost calming. She said that he had potential and she had a plan for him. No one had ever said that about him before. The only future anyone had ever predicted, had been one of crime and prison. The only question had been whether the crimes would be petty or major.
"Come, I have new clothes and a hot dinner waiting for you at home,"
Henrietta Lange gestured towards her car. Callen stayed rooted to the spot. The police vehicles had now left the scene and if he wanted, he could run. She would never be able to catch him. But if he ran she might change her mind and let the police re-arrest him. His eyes darted between the car and her. There was something…magnetic...about her and Callen felt compelled to accept her invitation. He gave a slight nod and walked to the car.
Hetty smiled at the nervousness and clear hesitation displayed by her latest recruit. After three months of searching, she had finally found Callen again, albeit in a juvenile detention centre which, all things considered, did not surprise her. She had hastily intervened after being alerted of his escape and subsequent arrest, and Hetty realised that if she did not seize this opportunity now, then Callen would be lost to her, too far emerged in his life of crime and punishment to be a suitable candidate for rehabilitation and training.
She knew the first step for Callen though, was to believe that her offer was better than either prison or social services. Not a difficult choice for the child, Hetty thought, observing him clamber in to the car. The challenges though would be many, starting with persuading him to stay long term. She knew many other challenges would follow; initially trust in her, respect - first for himself and then others, channelling his anger and persuading him that an education was crucial for life's journey, particularly the journey she had already mapped out for Callen. And if Callen responded well and embraced her methods of mentoring, she would eventually mould him in to a first rate spy. Hetty smiled to herself and followed Callen to the car, joining him in the back.
"Take us home," she instructed the driver. "San Fernando Valley." Hetty hoped the choice of property would be a suitable distance from Callen's previous haunts and not prove too affluent as to influence his decision of whether to stay. Henrietta Lange was under no illusions; the next few weeks and months, would be very challenging for the both of them.
Well, Callen has finally escaped his three weeks of hell! Thank you very much for sticking with this story, it' been quite a ride. Every single review, follow, favourite and comment is so much appreciated. Just after that final review now - of this chapter and the story as a whole. Thank you all again :)