"That's enough," roared the officer who had finally moved from his relaxed position of observance. He grabbed hold of Callen and forcefully twisted his arms behind his back, pushing him to the floor. The second officer had now come to assist, quickly checking the other two teens were unhurt by the seemingly unprovoked attack. With an officer either side of him, Callen was lifted from the floor by his arms and dragged back through the hallway. He could hear the voices of the inmates cheering and jeering as he was led away. Each time one of the officers let go of him to unlock and open the secure doors, Callen struggled violently. When the first door was locked, one officer pinned Callen's arms behind his back while the other punched him in the face, splitting his lip and causing blood to trickle in to his mouth, warning him there was more to come if he didn't calm down. With Callen recovering from the first blow, the officer unlocked the next door but Callen continued to struggle, attempting to kick the guard in front of him. Once they had passed through and the door locked behind them, Callen was hit again, this time a sharp jab to stomach. Callen instinctively doubled over in pain but the guard pulled him upright and held him tightly. Eventually they reached his cell and the two officers literally threw Callen in and walked out.
Callen landed on his hands and knees. Turning his head to one side, he spat out the mouthful of blood he'd been trying not to swallow. Breathing rapidly he spoke just loudly enough for the officers to hear.
"Ugly bastards, too scared to take me on one at a time," Callen lay on the floor for a split second, his body tense as he anticipated the response that he knew would follow.
"You've got a real mouth on you Callen," one of the officers said, placing a heavy boot in the square of his back and pinning him to the concrete floor. Within seconds both officers had withdrawn their batons and began to hit Callen on both sides of his body.
"Is that all you got?" he asked the guards through gritted teeth, daring them to inflict as much pain and damage as possible.
Callen lay prone on the floor, tensing himself for every hit. He squeezed his eyes tightly shut to try and block out the pain. Minutes later, after a final kick to his legs, the officers retreated and locked his cell door.
"Five days isolation, you dirty, worthless piece of crap. You'll see no one, speak to no one and the only person you'll see is me bringing you three meals a day, if I remember. And I'll make sure they're real tasty. We'll move you to solitary when you've had time to calm down. That's on the other side of the prison so no one can hear you cry like a baby..."
Callen remained face down and this time stayed silent. He kept his eyes shut as he tried to block out the pain. He'd had worse beatings but he had no idea how he'd cope with the isolation. The meals were almost guaranteed to be spat in. He briefly wondered how long he could go without eating and vaguely recalled that you could survive on water alone for days on end. Satisfied his tormenters had finally moved away from his cell, Callen slowly rolled on to his side and brought his knees up to his chest. He wrapped his arms around his legs and remained in the foetal position until the pain began to subside and his limbs were numb.
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
Five days of isolation was a punishment worse than anything Callen could ever have imagined. He had been transferred from his cell to a smaller room that had no bars. The door was solid with a small window that was shuttered from the outside, allowing the guards to check on him without having to open the cell door or interact with him in any way. His bed was a basic built-in concrete block covered with a thin mattress, a base sheet, top sheet, small pillow and a blanket. In the corner was a metal toilet and hand basin. The detention centre was poorly heated, being an old building, and the floor of the cell was concrete and the walls whitewashed breeze blocks - there was no warmth at all. The lights were permanently on but dimmed during the night and Callen spent most of his first night huddled in the corner of the room, blanket wrapped around his body to make the most of what little warmth he could naturally generate. At one point he had moved the mattress to a corner of the room, but when the guards saw him, they entered the cell and hauled him to his feet, placing the mattress back on the bed. Callen was told that if he did that again, his isolation spell would increase by a further twenty four hours.
Boredom had kicked in as soon as Callen woke at dawn. There was nothing for him to do until the lights dimmed again at 21:00. No TV, books, cards, pens or paper. The external window at the rear of the cell was too small and high for him to look out. Instead his thoughts ran wild. He thought back to the intake interview when he was asked if he'd ever tried self harming. Callen almost smiled when he thought about how he had goaded the two officers who had thrown him in to his cell. Strictly speaking, he thought, it wasn't really self harm if you persuaded someone else to do it for you. He glanced at the plimsolls on his feet. They were slip on's in case prisoners decided to use the laces to hang themselves or to strangle each other. His thoughts quickly turned serious as he realised he was only into the first day of the five day stretch. He had already thoroughly explored his cell and there was nothing that could be used to inflict damage to either himself or anyone else. Callen had spent a good half hour by his reckoning, at the cell door, examining the lock and hinges for a way to escape. Even if he had something with which to pick the lock, there were still the many sets of secure hallway doors to negotiate, and the solitary confinement cells were located in a separate wing of the facility.
Callen refused to eat although he drank all the water he was given after carefully examining it. The bruises acquired from his beating were showing brightly on his torso, and his ribs were rather tender to the touch. His bruised left fingers were still painful to curl after the pool ball had been slammed on them. Hour after hour passed by so slowly that Callen started to think he was going mad; and he had already lost count of how many hours remained until the first twenty four expired.
With so much time on his hands, his mind wandered from subject to subject; the usual thoughts about who he was and why he'd been cast aside by his parents came tumbling through. It was their fault; he thought bitterly, that he'd had to grow up without anyone. As a young child, he frequently imagined what his parents were like. He used to daydream that his mother was a Disney Princess and his father a handsome Prince who had their only son stolen from him, just like the fairy stories that had been read to him when he was little. One day his father, heir to the throne, would come charging in and claim his long lost son. But by the time he had reached the age of seven, the fairytales faded and his thoughts on his parents started to vary from day to day, dependent on his mood and his growing understanding of the world. For a few weeks, he had envisioned his mom and dad as secret agents who had to give him up for his own safety. The story had taken form after he had received a toy spy ring from a Christmas present donation to his children's home. It had been a toy that had piqued his imagination until it had been deliberately broken beyond repair. Callen had very few possessions and the destruction of that particular toy had caused him to see red. He had repaid the boy in kind and wrecked his precious train set; actions that had led to a fight and both boys getting the cane. Just before he reached his teen years, Callen developed a much more realistic theory about who his parents were and why they hated him, a theory which stayed with him today. His mom was a druggie and a whore, his father a wife beater who was probably serving time somewhere or dead. They had just thrown him away, abandoned and left him for dead when he was five. No note, no nothing. As far as Callen was concerned his parents were to blame for the state of his entire life. If he ever met them he would rip them apart. That was something for which he wouldn't mind serving time, he thought angrily.
Callen's thoughts then turned full circle and he wondered if it was actually his fault. Maybe he was such a terrible child that he'd driven his parents to abandon him? He could not remember anything before the age of five, and even then they were fuzzy memories of an orphanage in Maine. Over the years he'd seen how very young children behaved and he thought that if he'd been even half as bad as them, that was the reason why his parents didn't want him. It had never crossed his mind that all the young children he had encountered were in orphanages, children's homes or foster care and were most likely so traumatised they knew no other way of behaving or expressing themselves.
For as long as he could remember, other children at school and in homes, foster parents, social workers and even the odd teacher had repeatedly told him that he wasn't wanted. Foster families couldn't even put up with him for more than a few weeks at a time and no one had ever come close to adopting him. The older he became, the hope of adoption had faded away and lived only in his dreams as a fantasy. Now he was lucky if anyone even wanted to foster him. The last good placement he had was two years ago. He'd been labelled as a challenging child. He played truant, got into fights and was frequently in trouble for being mouthy, awkward and generally breaking any rule he could.
Callen thought back to the Russian family who had surprisingly accepted him for who he was. He smiled as he recalled the fun few months and the sense of belonging the Rostoff's had shown him. The smile faded as he remembered the day Social Services had removed him from their home for some unknown reason. Callen furrowed his eyebrows, remembering how the family had argued and argued with his welfare officer that they wanted to foster Callen long term. He had been practically dragged in tears to the car, leaving the Rostoff's angry, confused and very disillusioned with their adopted country.
The surge of conflicting emotions rushed through him as thoughts of his past lives collided with each other. Standing up and pacing the cell, Callen started to recite some of the Russian words Alina, the four year old daughter of the Rostoff's, had taught him. He repeated the words over and over again, getting louder with every repetition and walking faster and faster around his cell. As he paced he counted the steps to cross his cell, backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards over and over again. He then practised saying numbers in Russian until a guard came and threatened him to shut up and sit down. Unable to help himself, Callen shouted one final word in Russian, the highest number he could remember – which the guard took as a swear word – and Callen managed to earn himself a sixth day in isolation.
By the end of day three, hunger finally won out over the risk of eating spat in food. He'd eaten worse, but not by much. The food presented to him was cold, tasteless and had the texture of paper. Callen's clothes were grimy and his hair matted, and despite having a hand basin next to the toilet, he felt dirty and was pretty sure he stank badly. He may well have lived in the same clothes for weeks at a time on many occasions, but that had mostly been at his choice and usually when he ran away. Eventually, the lights dimmed a little to signify bed time and Callen curled up under the blanket. He realised now why none of the inmates were allowed laced up sneakers, especially when they were in isolation. He couldn't recall ever having felt so low and he had already experienced more low points in his fifteen years than most people experienced in a life time. Callen reluctantly admitted to himself that he may finally have learnt that giving smart-ass comments to those in positions of authority was not the wisest move, especially in a juvenile detention centre.
Bad memories permeated his dreams that night and continued through to his daytime thoughts. There was no escape from himself; nothing to take his mind off dwelling on the past. He thought about the foster families he had been placed with. Some were fine, many were indifferent but others were full of abuse, the type of abuse that was carefully hidden behind closed doors. Callen had either witnessed or had fallen victim to most types. Physical abuse inflicted to the body meant the bruises were rarely seen whereas punches to the face were clearly visible. If social services came calling, the latter was always blamed on the child fighting at school or with foster brothers. The older Callen became, the more he fought back which sometimes resulted in even more physical damage to himself. He thought about his last foster family; the Stoneman's. They had three foster children – four including Callen – and all were teenagers from thirteen to seventeen, a mixture of boys and girls. It was a brave and heady mix of teens and hormones and Callen had been there for a week before it all started to go wrong.
Usually it was the foster parents or even friends that had caused problems for Callen but this time it was mainly two of his foster siblings – Freya Chambers and Simon Fielder. Both were seventeen and had been living with the Stoneman's for years. Unknown to Callen, the two had formed a casual relationship, which basically meant they used each other for sex. So when Freya had started to flirt with the home's newest foster child, Simon had become jealous and started to threaten Callen with violence. Several fights had ensued which Mr Stoneman had broken up - one had even resulted in the garden hose being turned on the two boys, leaving each drenched but thoroughly cooled off. Freya had continued to enjoy her position of power and delighted in the play-off she witnessed between her two suitors. But despite the overtly sexual overtones she made towards Callen, she had still favoured Simon.
As the second week of his placement progressed, the tension rose further between the three youths which was mirrored in the attitude and behaviour of Mr Stoneman towards Callen. Either the foster father had no idea about the relationship between the eldest foster siblings or he was deliberately turning a blind eye. Whichever way, he constantly sided with Simon and treated Callen harshly for disrupting the status quo. He imposed a seven pm curfew on Callen, when even Layla, the thirteen year old girl in his care was allowed out until eight. Mrs Stoneman had prohibited Callen from isolating himself in his room, forcing him to sit with the rest of the foster family until bedtime at ten. They had enrolled him in the local high school but were already receiving reports that he was failing to show up to class. And when he did, he was sullen, rude and rarely put pen to paper. The result was Mrs Stoneman had driven him to school and watched him to the door, and collected him after. His homework was scrutinised each night but when there was not an immediate improvement in his school work, general behaviour or even attendance, the Stoneman's began to show an even greater lack of understanding and impatience.
Simon told him in no uncertain words that they were better off before he came to live with them and Callen had actually complained to his social worker Miss Williams, that he didn't like it there. The response was to give the placement a chance. The third week had continued in much the same way. Callen craved the freedom to stay out late and away from the confines of the home. The Stoneman's were stifling him; the rules and constant micromanagement of his schooling caused his behaviour to deteriorate and even more arguments to erupt between him and his foster parents.
Freya and Simon continued to stir up trouble for him, and started to plant cigarettes and money stolen from Mrs Stoneman's purse in Callen's room, before leaving subtle clues that led the Stoneman's to search his belongings, resulting in further punishments. Callen could see in Mr Stoneman's eyes that he wanted to raise his fist to him, as no punishment seemed to have any effect. It was lucky for Callen that he managed to find the planted marijuana before the Stoneman's did, and he took full advantage by deliberately staying out that night, sharing several joints with another teen in a park, before casually strolling in for breakfast the next day. The Stoneman's threatened to put a lock on his door so there would be no repeat, but were loathe to admit defeat and send Callen back to Social Services. Their other foster children had been with them for years and they had wanted to continue their good work and extend their family with another teen. However the Stoneman's had acquired an out of control teenager and had expected to see immediate results and gratitude from Callen, but in reality, they had no idea how to actually help the boy.
Callen soon realised if he didn't like the Stoneman's and if no one was listening to him, he would just have to leave. He'd run away on plenty of occasions, but it was always risky. There was a chance the police could pick him up and throw him in a cell, legally detaining him before releasing him back to either social services or his foster family. Callen had even known some kids that had been sent to juvie for persistently running away. In the past, he had sometimes contacted his social worker to make arrangements to return but only if it were to a different family. On other occasions Callen had been picked up by the police, and he was convinced he was now on their run-aways watch list. The Stoneman's were by no means the worst foster family he had ever stayed with, but he'd had enough and and so had run. He knew a couple of kids in Venice who lived in an empty house off one of the back alleys - the type that tourists avoided at all costs - and he had holed up there for a while. One of their older 'acquaintances' had hatched an audacious plan to break in and rob a series of storage warehouses, a plan that Callen had embraced, but it hindsight, hadn't actually worked out too well for him.
Callen started thinking about his present situation. It wasn't the first time he'd been arrested and charged with a crime, but this time he had been convicted and sentenced. His treatment at Southgate so far had only confirmed the rumours that circulated the children's homes and the streets. His only choice was to suck it up and serve his time without any further incident. Callen realised that was unlikely to happen; he had already picked a fight with two other teens and been thrown in to isolation. Even if the other boys ignored him when he was placed back in to normal prison life, he was certain his every movement would be scrutinised by the officers. Each time he even looked like breaking the rules, they would be on him. It was true, he thought bitterly, he was trouble. He had no one to visit him and no one to appeal his sentence or fight on his behalf. He just had to survive the next six months and hope the sentence would not be extended for bad behaviour.
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