“They’re trying to take her!”
Lisa had tears and snot running down her face and really looked terrified. Mike actually went pale. Before I could ask her who was trying to take who, Lisa yelled “She’s locked in the bathroom!” and then took off back the way she came. Very much the last thing I expected to hear while out at the movies. We didn’t run, but Mike and I walked pretty quickly to follow Lisa.
We were in the long, wide hallway, with three or four theatre doors on each side. The hallway was pretty empty, there were some people lingering a bit after their movies had let out. About halfway down the hall, Lisa was kneeling in front of the door to a washroom, crying. There were two young manager-type-guys in suits standing about twelve feet away from her, looking concerned but unsure what to do. Lisa saw me approaching and called out “He’s coming, Geoff’s coming.” Here’s what I noticed, but didn’t register until much later: One of the manager guys began to move towards me. Mike hustled over to Lisa. A guy, a large guy was leaning against the wall across from the washroom; as I approached, he gave a little wave to another large guy who was standing much farther into the hallway. Both the big guys were gone before I got to Lisa, Mike and Penny. I really had noticed them, but nothing about them was important enough to intrude into my brain at that moment. Something about them did cause me notice them though, I don’t think that I’d remember their presence there at all if it hadn’t. Manager guy asked me if I was with the kids and I told him that I was. I went to the door of the bathroom and asked Penny if she was ok. She was crying but said that she was and several times told me not to leave. I assured her that I wouldn’t go anywhere without her. Manager guy proceeded to tell me, occasionally being interrupted by Lisa, that several men had entered the theatre, while the movie was playing, and began looking for someone. Apparently one of them approached Lisa and Penny and then began to lead Penny out of the theatre. Lisa added that he’d been Penny’s friend but then other guys showed up. Manager guy said that he saw Penny talking to one man and that she got upset when she saw the other guys come towards them. He hear Penny tell Lisa to “Get Geoff!” Lisa ran towards the lobby and Penny ran to the handicapped washroom and locked herself in. That was when I remembered the two guys who’d been hanging around when I arrived.
Mike managed to calm Lisa down and Penny agreed to open the door once I explained that there was no one else there other than her friends, me and the managers. Penny was white as a sheet and clearly terrified. She cried softly and said she wanted to go home but was scared to leave. I told her that there was an exit that led to the side of the cinema and that I could pull my car up and we could leave that way, avoiding anyone who might be waiting out front. The manager guys agreed to stay with Penny and Lisa while I did this. Lisa joined Penny in the washroom and they locked the door again. Mike and I went to the parking lot and got my car (an old ’91 Cavalier).
So Mike and I hopped into my car. I have to say that Mike was being really awesome. He was clearly freaked out a bit but stayed calm the whole time. I pulled the car up to the stairs at the side door to the theatre. One of the manager guys was there, holding the door open. I waved to him and he went back in. I left Mike in the car and went to the door. Penny and Lisa were there when the door opened again. I walked them quickly to the car and made sure they got in and settled. Mike was in the front passenger seat and the girls in the back. I got in and started the car. At this point I remembered that I’d probably have to write something down about all this so I figured I’d need the names of the manager guys. I’ll admit that I was pretty relaxed at this point. The big guys weren’t around, and I had all three kids in my car. After telling the kids what I was going to do, and that they needed to make sure they kept the doors locked, I hopped out of the car and went to get the names of the manager guys.
So, what had I done up to this point?
- I’d made sure the kids in my care were accounted for and safe.
- I’d calmed and reassured those same kids.
- I spoken with the manager guys about what happened.
- I made a plan to get out of there.
Here’s what I hadn’t done:
- Called my supervisor for support or instructions.
- CALLED THE POLICE.
That last one turned out to be kind of important. As I turned from the manager guys, I noticed seven large guys walking towards my car. Were they all actually large? Yes. Fucking huge. My recollection may be coloured by terror, but seriously, fucking huge. Not one of them looked happy. They were farther from my car than I was, not by a lot though. I moved to the car, without running. Part of me thought that if I ran, that would up the ante somehow. When the kids in the home were having trouble, you always tried to not show your fear and frustration, but remained calm and basically lead by example. I figured this applied.
It was close. I sat in the car and started it. Got my belt on and put it into drive. I reached out and started to pull the door closed. Unfortunately, the door wouldn’t close. This was because a giant had stepped up and was leaning against the inside of the door. My first thought was that I had the car in drive and that a little tap on the gas would get us out of this. My second thought was, that if I hit the gas, I probably kill the two men who were standing with their knees at my front bumper. I didn’t think I was ready for vehicular killing just yet. But as I said, it was close.
The girls were screaming. Screaming and crying. Mike was silently looking around the car, no colour left in his face. I took a moment (one of those endless moments, like a slow motion pan around a scene in an action movie) to look out the other windows. There were two guys at my rear bumper. There was a guy at the rear passenger side door and another on the other side, plus the guy almost standing inside the car, next to me. The giant leaded back against my door and rested a foot just inside the car, next to my seat. He started telling Penny to get out of the car. He was very calm about it, but he wasn’t asking and seemed to firmly believe that he was going to be obeyed. The guy at the rear driver side door began to tap on the window with a ring on one of his fingers. The girls were in an absolute panic. Mike leaned back towards them and took their hands. He told them that they’d be alright and just generally made soothing shhhh noises. This kid, who could be one of the most obnoxious little fuckers I’d ever met, became my favourite person of all time (for like 3 seconds). I started telling the giant that no one was going to get out of the car. I told him that we were expected back and would be missed. I alternated with trying to help Penny and Lisa calm down (they were really, really loud). The giant, in no way, acknowledged my presence, initially. I have no idea how long this went on. It was probably no more than a minute, maybe two. Honestly, in my heart, it feels like it was an hour or two.
I’m a pretty calm person. That calm and an ability to deal with crisis were valuable in the group homes and were skills that got a lot of practice. What else got practice was a particular tone of voice. You bust it out when you need to be heard, but aren’t going to yell. The taping on the window became banging. The guy on the other side of the car also began to bang on the windows. One of the two from the front of the car moved around to the passenger side of the car and started trying the doors. The giant raised his voice and began demanding that Penny get out of the car. I wasn’t feeling calm, but I was trying. To the giant, I said “Look man, you need to calm down.”
For the first time, the giant seemed to be aware that I was there. He leaned down and brought his face down into my line of sight. He brought his hand a couple of inches from my face and pointed at me. “You don’t tell me to fucking calm down.” That one sentence was dripping with menace. I was pretty sure that I was going to die. That seemed to break his calm as well. He thumped the roof of my car and began to yell at Penny to get out of the car.
One of the guys moved to the giant and seemed to be trying to get him to calm down a bit. I heard the guy tell the giant that maybe now wasn’t the best time. The giant pushed his ‘friend’ away and then stepped towards him and began to argue. He yelled “She needs to get out of the fucking car now!” This was when I noticed a couple things. The first was that I still had the car in drive and the second was that the voice-of-reason guy was no longer in front of the car. So, I hit the gas.
I promptly got lost in the parking lot. Seriously, you know when you think you can get through part of a parking lot, but there’s no exit and you have to backup to pick a different route? That. The whole time, I was convinced that I was about to take part in a real life dukes of hazard car chase. It was while I was trying desperately to get out of the parking lot, that the adrenaline wore off and the panic kinda set in. My knees went to jello and I felt like I had pins and needles in my hands and feet. I’m pretty sure that I nearly killed us several times. So convinced was I that we would be followed, I took a really long and circuitous route back to the home.
By the time we got there, the kids were calm. The other residents were already in bed, so I had them head up as well. I went down to out little office. My coworker, Steph and the house supervisor, Bill were chilling in there. Bill asked why we had been gone so long. I had to kneel on the floor. I wanted to vomit. I wanted to pass out. I’d never felt so shaky before. Slowly I told them everything that had happened. They were pretty good. They listened without interrupting, through most of the story. When I was done, I kind of lay down on the floor. After a couple of seconds of silence, and a couple of shared looks between them, Bill and Steph started to laugh. They couldn’t stop. I’m pretty sure that Bill had tears streaming down his face. It was infectious. I started to laugh and couldn’t stop either.
All in all, it could have been worse. I got everyone home and no one got hurt or died. But, fuck no, I don’t want to go on a field trip!