Brandon’s Boys

Chapter 9
Introducing Oliver

            During the summer of 2010, Brandon Dowling, Chris Todd, and Brandon’s boys all spent a great deal of time on Todd Farm.  Several of the boys were strongly affected by this opportunity and their relationship with the horses, including Bobby, Mike, and Clarence.  They found in the horses some kind of healing from the abuse and neglect they had previously experienced.  As a result, Chris took a special interest in them, and spent many hours instructing them in equitation.  When Daniel Marlow joined the group, he likewise fell into this category.  Even for those boys who were not strongly drawn to the horses, the time spent on the Farm was enjoyable and relaxing.

            The older boys, those sixteen or older, had summer jobs.  This was part of the effort to give them marketable skills, and to let them experience a variety of things to help them determine what they wanted to do in life, and, of course, it gave them spending money beyond the allowances provided by Brandon.  These were Daniel Eidem, Colby, Leon, Gene, and Spencer.  This limited their time on the Farm, but they were frequent weekend visitors.  They worked for Harvey Brothers Construction, which was difficult work, but also gave them some familiarity with carpentry, electronic work, and masonry, as well as general construction.  No one was asked to make any kind of permanent decision this summer, but they were gaining experience.


Daniel Marlow

            It was during the summer, and on the Farm, that a new member of Brandon’s Boys was discovered.  Chris Todd found Daniel Marlow asleep in the stall with Beauty one morning.  The boy was a member of the Marlow family of Graves Hollow, and had been mistreated to the extent that he ran away.  Chris promised he would not be sent back there, but instead arranged for him to remain on the Farm while he became accustomed to the other boys.  It was agreed that he be assigned to Brandon’s Boys and transferred to the responsibility of the Madison County Welfare Office, which suited the Jouett County people just fine, as any dealing with the Marlows of Graves Hollow was always unpleasant.

            During the summer, Daniel worked on the Farm, but he also got all the tests and check-ups of the other boys.  This included a thorough medical check-up, along with dental and optometry checks, with the expected results.  Any problems were treated.  But Daniel was also given a battery of tests for school purposes.  He had officially completed second grade at Henry Clay Elementary, but was predictably behind, largely as a result of his environment and being frequently kept home from school by Landon to work the marijuana crop.  During the summer, in addition to his time spent working, Daniel did a lot of school catch-up.  In this, he was assisted by a variety of people, including some of the other boys, but his favorite was his Aunt Penny.  Aunt Penny was a Marlow, and the first respectable Marlow Daniel came to know, which was very encouraging.  She was also a teacher at Westbrook High, and so was quite competent to help him catch up academically.  By the end of the summer, Daniel had proved that the record from school, and the initial results of the tests, were consequences of environment, not ability.  He had pretty much caught up to where he should be to enter third grade.

            Daniel also made a number of visits to Clifton.  He knew he would be living with the other boys once the school year began, and so he was introduced to the house at 1322 Chestnut Street, and to Aunt Barbara and Aunt Anne.  He was closest in age to Frederick Foster, who would also be in the third grade when school started, and so the two youngest boys spent a good deal of time together, and would be roommates.  Fortunately, they got along quite well.  Daniel was also taken out to St. Rose and shown the school and the grounds, and talked extensively with the other boys who attended there about what to expect.

            One issue which the boys settled among themselves was what to call the new boy.  There was already a Daniel.  Even though it was not his official name, Thomas Aquinas Eidem Jr. had been called Daniel from the beginning, and was one of the two original boys.  After some experimentation, they decided to be Daniel I and Daniel II.  In anticipation of his move to Clifton, Daniel II was also instructed by the other boys in soccer.

            When the new school year began in August of 2010, there were ten boys resident in the house at 1322 Chestnut.  Those of high school age were sent to Baltimore, and the younger boys to St. Rose.  From the beginning, there was no pressure to become Catholic, or to re-establish a connection with the Church for those baptized Catholic, but a desire to please Brandon and Chris, and a desire to fit in with the other boys, had the effect of all of them eventually making the decision to become regular members of the parish.

            While none of the boys were the legendary genius in the rough, neither were any of them mentally slow.  Each exhibited a resilience which had allowed them to survive the unfortunate events of their early lives which resulted in their ending up at Brandon’s Boys.


A Sad Case

            When Brandon completed his class on Tuesday afternoon, October 12, he found Ken van Meter, a social worker, waiting for him.

            “Stephanie sent me to you.  I’ve got a really sad and difficult case that I hope you can help me with,” Ken said.  Stephanie Williams was the head of the Child Welfare Bureau for the City of Clifton.

            “Tell me about it as we walk.  Chris and Aunt Luisa will kill me if I show up late again.  It seems I have a tendency to stop and talk to people after class,” Brandon explained.

            “A few days ago, we got a case from University Hospital about a boy who had been severely beaten.  He looks to be about 12 or 13.  Someone came into the emergency room and told them there was an injured boy bleeding and unconscious in the park across College Street.  After checking it out, some orderlies put him on a gurney and brought him into the ER.  There, it was determined that he had a broken arm, a broken leg, concussion, several knife wounds the most significant of which are on his right arm and cheek, and multiple bruises and scrapes.  In addition, he had been sexually assaulted.  His ass was torn up, and he had semen in his mouth as well.  He had also been pissed on.”  Ken sighed as he recited the list.

            “Wow, somebody, or more likely several somebodies, really worked him over,” Brandon commented.

            “Speculation is he was trying to turn a trick and some of the older hustlers objected to the competition.  Decided to teach him a lesson.  Maybe got carried away,” Ken speculated.  “Samples of DNA from semen from at least two men are on file, in the unlikely event anyone is ever arrested.”

            “And what do you want me to do?  Our place is not equipped to handle hospital cases,” Brandon said.

            “Not yet, but when he’s released from the hospital, he’ll need some place to go.  And we’re kind of hoping you can establish some kind of rapport with him.  Right now, we know almost nothing about him.  He’s awake, but won’t talk to me or anyone else,” Ken presented his request.

            When they got to the house shared by Brandon and Chris, Ken greeted everyone, but took his leave, saying his wife was waiting dinner for him.  Brandon give Chris and Aunt Luisa, George and Fee, as much as he knew over dinner.  George and Fee (Sophia) Ramirez were the renters in the Dowling carriage house at the foot of the property, but often had dinner with the family.  Everyone was appalled, but no one had any specific idea how to help the boy.  After a restless time, Brandon announced he was going to the hospital to at least meet the boy.  Chris grinned, saying he knew his partner would do something.

            At University Hospital, Brandon found a guard at the door of the boy’s room.  Evidently, it was feared that whoever beat him so severely might try again, although that seemed unlikely to Brandon.  If the assailants went off and left him before, they were unlikely to have an interest in returning, he thought.  But the guard checked him, then allowed him to enter.

            He found the boy in bed, his leg in traction, his arm in a cast, and bandages on his head and cheek.

            “Hi.  My name is Brandon.  May I come in?” he began.

            “Whatever,” the boy answered.  There was a television, but the boy was not watching anything.  He was just lying there.

            “You might remember a social worker named Ken van Meter.  He talked to you earlier.  He’s a friend of mine, and was telling me about you, so I thought I’d pay a visit.  Is that okay?” Brandon tried.

            “Whatever,” came back again.

            “Let me tell you about a place I’m connected to.  It’s called Brandon’s Boys.  We have ten boys living there now, but we sort of picked them up bit by bit.”  From this beginning, Brandon described Brandon’s Boys, giving each of the boys a biography and description. 

            The oldest boy among them was Eugene Frederick Hillebrand, who was born on 10 February 1992.  He should have graduated from Baltimore High in 2010, but because he was on the streets for a year, returned as a junior, and was now a senior at age 18.  Gene had been raised Catholic and had attended Baltimore prior to being kicked out when his father discovered he was gay.  He enjoyed returning to Baltimore and showing that he could make it, and also showing up some homophobes encountered there earlier.  He reconnected with the Church, and resumed his role as an altar boy, which he had enjoyed previously.  Gene also made contact with the more accepting members of his family, including fellow gays Frank and Carl, but also the Logan and Tremoyne connections.  While he appreciated them, and the invitations to dinner from time to time, however, he was definitely staying at Brandon’s Boys until after his high school graduation.  Gene was not entirely certain of his future goals.  He had joined several vocal music groups, including the Clifton Bach Society, but was not interested in music as a career.  He was thinking along the lines of teaching.  This would involve a University education, of course, but Brandon made it clear that this was possible for those who wanted it.

            The second eldest of the boys was Thomas Aquinas Eiden Jr., or Daniel I, who was born on 13 May 1993.  He was the individual who had first accosted Brandon, asking for a handout, which led to the establishment of Brandon’s Boys.  Daniel was now a junior at Baltimore.  Although he came from a Catholic background, he had not attended Baltimore previous to his association with Brandon’s Boys.  At school, Daniel was most interested in his science courses, and, like Gene, was considering teaching as a career.

            Third in order of seniority was Chester Everett Wallingford, called Colby.  Whether there was any connection between Colby and the Mrs. Wallingford who had lived at 1327 Walnut has not yet been established.  As far as he knows, there is no connection, and the family with whom he grew up was definitely not well-to-do.  Colby discovered a knack for design and carpentry while working for Harvey Brothers, and was thinking of work along those lines later.  He admired the work of master carpenter Adam Miller quite a bit.

            Next in age was Leon Aloysius Luttrell, the boy rescued from juvenile detention by Lamar Todd, and grandson of Mrs. Brooke at St. Martin de Porres.  He had been headed for a life of crime and drugs before being rescued.  Having been born on 3 April 1994, he was now 16 and a sophomore at Baltimore.  Leon had abandoned the nickname Rapper, and has no more interest in drugs, but instead is focused on his relationship with Anne Nicole Duvall.  As her father was one of the football coaches at school, he wanted to put on a good face for him.  Leon was not built for football, but he did go out for the soccer team this year, so he would have the aura of the athlete.  Leon was not the brightest student, but he definitely could do the work if he tried.  While working for Harvey Brothers, he became interested in electrical work, and might pursue that as a career.  Meanwhile, he spent a lot of his spare time with Anne Nicole.

            Following Leon in age was John Spencer Franklin, born on 10 June 1994.  When he was rescued last winter, he was in very poor condition, having spent nearly three years on the streets.  In part because of this, he was home schooled while his physical condition improved, but was now a sophomore at Baltimore like Leon.  Spencer was gay, and so did not share Leon’s extra-curricular interests.  He found acceptance and friendship at Brandon’s Boys, however.  Inspired, perhaps, by his experiences, he is interested in some kind of social work.  Influenced by the other boys, he has also joined the RCIA program.

            Robert Lee Ackerman was born on 7 March 1996.  Bobby had spent nearly four years on the streets, but was a quick learner.  He was doing quite well in the eighth grade at St. Rose, where he also became an altar boy after joining the Church at Easter.  He was also one of those for whom the horses on Todd Farm were a great asset in healing.  He loved the horses, and felt really close to them.  As a result, Chris Todd spent a lot of time instructing him during the summer.  While it was too soon for him to be making career choices, he just might end up working with horses in some capacity.

            A year behind Bobby in school, but only eight months in age, was Clarence Lee Brooke, the other grandson of Mrs. Brooke of St. Martin de Porres, and a cousin of Leon.  Like Leon, Clarence has a girlfriend in the person of Bernadette Ngolo.  While they have established a sexual relationship, there is no pregnancy, and she is being careful.  Clarence is in the seventh grade at St. Rose, and, like several others, is also an altar boy, something his grandmother greatly appreciates.  Although he used the street name Bruiser, Clarence is actually slight of build.  He has abandoned that pretense, and instead relies on the strength he has gained from the gym, and his more confident outlook, to protect himself.  He is a member of the soccer team at St. Rose.  While he is also very interested in the horses, it is not on the same level of commitment as Bobby.

            Next in line is Quentin David Grice, called Mike.  Mike was born on 14 September 1998, the illegitimate son of the late Dr. Hawley Grice, and abandoned by him when his mother died when he was five.  Before joining Brandon’s Boys, Mike had never been to school, but he soon showed a native intelligence which allowed him to make up for much of his lost time.  His relationship was acknowledged by the Grice family, but he does not feel comfortable with them, and has limited contact.  Mike is active with the horses, and also with several musical groups.  He is in the fifth grade at St. Rose.

            Frederick Anthony Foster is another product of St. Martin de Porres Parish, born on 13 May 2001.  After his mother’s death, he had been assigned to his uncle by Welfare, where he had been physically and sexually abused.  As a result, he ran away, and was on his own for ten months before being rescued by Lamar Todd.  Sent back to school at St. Rose in the second grade, he made his First Holy Communion last spring, and is now studying to be an altar boy.

            Finally, there is the latest addition, Daniel Marlow, known as Daniel the Second.  He was born on 24 August 2001 to the Marlows of Graves Hollow in Jouett County, and turned up on Todd Farm after running away from abuse.  Befriended by Chris Todd and Beauty, he spent the summer on the Farm working and catching up with his school work.  With the new school year, he is in the third grade with Freddie at St. Rose.

            From time to time, the boy in the bed seemed to show an interest in this account of other boys benefitted by Brandon, but he refused to be drawn.  The talk about soccer and about horses seemed to interest him most.  Then, Brandon noted, “Some of our boys don’t like to use their real names.  We have a guy named Chester Everett Wallingford, believe it or not.  He prefers to be called Colby.  And then Quentin David Grice is called Mike.  We call guys by whatever name they prefer, as long as its not, you know, too vulgar or insulting.”

            This was met with silence.

            “From what Ken told me, you don’t want to be called by your real name, either.  What would you like to be called?” Brandon tried again.

            That got a response.  The boy got a brief smile, and said. “How about Oliver Twist?”

            Brandon chuckled.  “Okay, Oliver.  That’s what it’ll be. Now, from what I was told, you’ll be in here for quite a while.  Somebody really worked you over.  I’m sure you know that.  But what about when you get out?  You’ll still be pretty weak, and, let’s face it, what you were doing before is not all that pleasant.  So, I want you to think about coming to stay with us for a while.  I’ll bring some of the boys along next time, so you can meet them, and get an idea about us.”

            About that time, a nurse came in, saying visiting hours were almost over.

            “Thank you, Nurse,” Brandon replied.  He then turned to the boy.  “How about if I take a picture of you?  Something to show my boys, you know.”

            “Whatever,” the boy said.

            Brandon took that as permission, and took several pictures with his phone.

            “Can I see?” the boy asked.

            Brandon held out the phone.  He noted that one of the boy’s fingers was in a splint, something Ken had failed to mention.  The boy looked intently at each of the shots.  He sighed, and a tear began its journey down his cheek.  He handed the phone back to Brandon and turned his head away.

            “So long, Oliver.  I’ll be back before too very long,” Brandon said, taking his leave.

            Back on Chestnut Street, Brandon went next door to see his boys.  He told them about Oliver.  They were all interested and sympathetic.  They knew something like what happened to him could have happened to each of them.  None of the boys recognized him from the photos, or knew anything about a boy calling himself Oliver.  They agreed that tomorrow after school Brandon would take Mike and Clarence to the hospital to meet Oliver.

            And so, on Wednesday afternoon, the three visitors turned up at Oliver’s room.

            “Hello, Oliver,” Brandon greeted him.  “I told you I’d be back.  I’ve brought Clarence and Mike with me this time.”

            Oliver got that grin again.  “Mike whose name is really Quentin,” he said, indicating he had been listening the previous evening.

            “That’s me,” Mike announced.  Brandon let the boys do most of the talking.  Clarence told about being beat up, but not as badly as Oliver.  Mike marched right into sensitive territory when he said he had turned a trick or two before being rescued.  “Nasty stuff,” he said.  “I’m glad I don’t have to do things like that now.”

            Oliver actually responded to that.  “Hated it, but, you know, you get desperate.”

            “Yeah.  Most of our guys had to do something like that,’ Mike said.  “We have these inconvenient habits, like eating.”

            Oliver actually gave a broad smile at that.

            “How many guys worked you over?” Clarence asked.  “It was three when I got it, not as bad as you, but they did break my arm.”

            “Three,” Oliver said.  “Three for me, too.”

            “They got me for trying to sell drugs,” Clarence elaborated.

            “Those guys said I was horning in on their territory,” Oliver added.  “Don’t know who they are.  Big beefy guy and a little scrawny one, and one kind of normal.”  Then, catching a glimpse of Brandon, and realizing he was giving away information. Oliver shut down.

            Mike talked about running into Brandon while being chased, but that got no response from Oliver, so after a while, the three took their leave.  Brandon called Ken, and related what they had learned, which was little enough.

            Over time, all the boys came to visit.  Oliver became comfortable talking about the assault which landed him in the hospital, and even about his life on the streets, but he still refused to give his real name or anything about his life before the streets.  It was obvious that he came from a pretty affluent background.  He spoke like an educated person.  He mentioned having his hair styled.  He had ridden before, and was definitely interested in hearing about horses.  But he did not seem to fit the profile of any known missing person from the Clifton area.  He remained a mystery.

            It was the evening of Saturday, October 9 when Oliver had been assaulted.  He was in a coma, or at least unconscious from his concussion, until Ken attempted to interview him on

Tuesday, the 12th.  Over a month later, as Thanksgiving approached, Oliver was improving enough that he could be discharged, provided he had someplace to go.  Dr. Josh Castleman, as a member of the Board of Brandon’s Boys, had made it his business to stop by and see Oliver, with the permission of his attending physician, the man who happened to be on call in the ER when he was brought in.  Josh mentioned to Oliver that he could be discharged if he had someplace to go.  Brandon had mentioned that several times.

            When Brandon came to call on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, he mentioned it would be sad if Oliver had to spend the holiday in the hospital.

            “If I went with you, would I have to tell you my real name and everything?” Oliver asked.

            Brandon considered.  “I told my boys they could stay with me until they got out of high school.  I can’t say that to you, because finishing high school would mean a real name.  Besides, we encourage honesty at our place.  But, I guess you could come and visit for a while.  Maybe even until after Christmas.  But if you still won’t tell me what I need to know, then you’ll have to go with the Welfare people.”

            “Sort of a trial run?” Oliver asked.

            “I guess you could call it that,” Brandon agreed.

            “I’d like to give it a try.  I’m sick and tired of this place,” Oliver said.

            And so it was, on that Tuesday evening, Oliver came to Brandon’s Boys.