My mouth dropped as I thought, “Did I leave someone in the parking lot? I am certain, actually… almost 100 percent positive, that no one else was around Lincoln… Oh my God, I hope I did not leave his brothers outside in the cold. They wouldn’t survive these frigid temperatures.”
All these thoughts were racing through my head, but I knew I did not leave anyone, or at least I hope I didn’t. I couldn’t have, it wasn’t even possible. I noted that I was being selfish because I was only thinking about my actions, I needed to refocus my attention on Lincoln, and take care of him.
“Lincoln, what brothers? Tell me what is happening, I can help you. I promise, but I need to know what is happening or else I can’t help.” I stated.
“My brothers, they a-are,” as he cried out uncontrollably.
“It’s okay, everything is going to be fine,” I said as I tried to comfort him. However nothing was working, the tears continued to flow, and it was starting to frustrate me because I could not stand to see him like this. Although I knew I had to stay calm, if I started to panic or show my frustration, then he would shut down. So I picked him up in my arms and gave him the tightest hug I could give without breaking his small frame. I set him on the kitchen counter and ran to grab a towel. When I returned, I wiped the stream of tears off from his face, and with my hand, I raised his head to look him in the eyes and stated, “Lincoln, I am here for you, and whatever we need to do, we can do it together, I promise I will not leave you. But bud, I need you to breathe, take a deep breath, okay? Because if I don’t know why you are crying, then I feel helpless. Please, I need to know so I can attempt to fix the problem.”
He tried to take a breath in through his nose and out through the mouth, but it didn’t work as he bellowed out with a sob, “I LEFT THEM.”
“Who’d you leave?” I responded quickly.
“My brothers, I had to hide them.”
“You had to hide them?”
“Yeah,” Lincoln cried.
“Where did you hide them,” I asked somewhat panicked.
“In my house.” Lincoln wept, which reassured my initial thoughts that I did not leave his brothers in the parking lot. But then my heart became filled with fear. If I didn’t leave them in the parking lot, and they were not with Lincoln, then what happened?
“Oh Lincoln, it’s okay I promise. But why did you have to hide them?” I asked as I pulled him to me for a hug, knowing that I may not be ready for his reply.
“Because…” as he buried his head into my chest, “to save them. W-we were watching TV b-b-before leaving for the store, when Daddy’s boss knocked down our door a-and,” as he wept uncontrollably. “Mommy told me to run and take my brothers, but-but, some guys broke down the back door, so I was forced to take my brothers to the basement.”
I was in shock, I could hardly move, but I knew I had to stand strong for him. I picked Lincoln up, and we went to sit on the couch together.. He sat on my lap as I cradled him. I was rubbing his back, trying to reassure and comfort Lincoln, as he continued on with his story, “We went to go hide in the storage closet behind the water thing.”
I quickly managed the words to say, “You are so brave Lincoln.”
To which Lincoln resumed, “We heard... a lot of loud noises and crashing sounds, and-and one of the guys screamed ‘where is my money’. I knew I wasn’t supposed to go upstairs, but I turned to my brother Ryker and told him, ‘Stay here and don’t move until I get back. You are in charge until I come to get you all. And do not let anyone in the closet, unless it is me’.”
Lincoln paused for a quick second, trying to maintain his composure, “I walked upstairs to see if Mommy and Daddy were okay, and, and, as soon as I opened the basement door I was grabbed by one of the big men and they shouted to my parents, ‘I will kill your son if you do not tell me where the money is. His brains will be smashed out of his small head, and his face stomped to a pulp, do you understand me?’
“My dad responded, ‘go ahead, he is a fucking faggot anyway, will save me the embarrassment of having a fucking queer son, he is a worthless piece of shit’.”
After I had heard Lincoln tell me what his father said to him, my heart melted. I had tried to put such a secure and comforting face for him, but I lost it. Tears now filled my eyes.
Lincoln carried on with his story, “The next thing I hear is my mommy scream and, everything went black, and I don’t remember anything but waking up.”
Lincoln really started to bawl now, so I hugged him tighter, and softly spoke to him “I am here for you bud, but I need to know what happened.”
“I, I ummm I, don’t know if I can'” he stuttered.
“You’ve been so so so brave buddy, and I promise you, you’re not an embarrassment, I cannot fathom what you have been through, but I need you to explain. I am so sorry to make you relive this, but I can help, I promise,” I reiterated.
He looked at me and muttered, ” I... I woke up a-and, saw my Mommy next to me, she was staring at me but wasn’t moving… I reached out to touch her face but she felt so cold and stiff, I wanted to shake her, but I couldn’t bring myself too. I didn’t want to leave her side, but I got scared and began gaining some senses back. I felt this warm watery feeling and saw I was laying in blood with my shorts and underwear around my ankles and my shirt was torn off and thrown beside me… I began to lift myself up to my knees and pulled my shorts back up.” He cried, “There was so much blood on the floor and on mommy. I... I... I stood up and looked around the house I didn’t know where my daddy was or any of the men who broke into the house, so I just don’t know, I can’t even remember walking anywhere I promise.”
“I believe you,” I quickly responded, trying not to interrupt him.
His eyes turned to a waterfall again and screamed “I left them, I left my brothers, I… I…”
With that, I hugged him even tighter and said, “Buddy, you were in shock, you are still in shock right now. No one and I mean no one will ever blame you for leaving, but we need to rush back into town and go make sure they are alright.” I took a breath and continued, “Your brothers are going to be fine, but we need to call the police, they will get there first, but I am going to grab your clothes from the laundry, they may be damp, but we will have to make due.”
“Okay,” he sobbed.
I rushed to the laundry room and pulled out his clothes. When I returned, Lincoln already removed the oversized t-shirt and was standing in the buck. He was in such an unstable emotional state that he was not able to get dressed when I handed him his clothes. I noticed that and said, “Here let me help.”
As I bent down and reached for his underwear, Lincoln collapsed into my arms again and cried, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I left them, I was just so scared. I don’t know why.”
I picked up the naked boy and gave him a hug and reassured him, “You did nothing wrong, absolutely nothing, I know you feel terrible, but the quicker we get you dressed, the quicker we can go get your brothers, okay?” His uncontrollable state was not going away, so I sat him on the couch and put his underwear, shorts, and his jacket on him. I quickly ran upstairs to my closet to grab a sweatshirt for him to wear since his clothes were still damp and his coat was not thick enough to keep him warm on this cold January night. I picked Lincoln up off the couch, and we raced to the garage. The truck was low on fuel from the earlier trip, so I decided to take the SUV, my new Mercedes-Benz GLS550. I placed him in the backseat and threw my sweatshirt over him like a blanket to keep him warm since the car was not started yet. I ran back inside to grab my phone and wallet. I started the car and opened the garage door to the chilly night. We left my house for our trip back to Columbus at 11:38 pm, almost six hours after I found him.
Once we got on the road for a few minutes, I asked Lincoln, “What is your address, I need to enter it into the navigation system and inform the police.”
“1539 West Main Boulevard, 43228, Columbus OH,” he responded.
“Thanks, rest up buddy I will wake you when we get closer.”
“Thank you, Mr… I mean Garret,” he mumbled.
My first call was of course to the cops, I told them what I believe is happening and the location of the house. My next call was to my older sister Kelly, she works for CPS (child protective service) in the Columbus area, and lives closer to Lincoln’s house than where we are. Kelly is twelve years older than I am, making her 42 years old. She is happily married and has three kids named Ashley, seventeen years old; Kimberley, fifteen years old; and Christian, thirteen years old.
“Hello?” she asks in a sleepy tone.
“Kelly, I really need your help, I’m sorry if I woke you,” I stated.
My sister’s tone seemed to change real quick, I love my sister, and we talk daily, but I don’t go to her for help unless it is an emergency. She worriedly asked, “Are you okay? Is Mom okay? Oh no, it’s Christian isn’t it?”
“Kelly calm down and listen to me, okay?” I stated “Mom and I are both good, and I assume Christian is fine as well. I found this boy earlier today, and his name is Lincoln. He really really means a lot to me, and I need you to be here for him and I. I found him bloody, near frozen to death outside the homeless shelter in the city tonight, I...” I told the whole story to her, which took about fifteen minutes of me talking.
In the end, she was definitely confused but spoke, “How can I help, Garret?”
I responded, “Please go to this location as soon as possible, you need to help the police look for Lincoln’s three other brothers. He said they should be hidden in the storage closet in the basement. If you open the closet door and they are not visible, then check behind the water heater, they could possibly be hiding behind it. Lincoln and I will be there within the hour, I called the police, and they should be on scene. If they find the boys, do not let them go, do you understand. Please go! I beg you, the boy means a lot to me, and I cannot stand to see him this hurt. The address is 1539 West Main Boulevard, 43228, Columbus OH. Thank you, Kelly, I love you, and wish I was calling under better circumstances.”
“Love you too Garret. However, I can’t make promises on keeping them at the house if the kids are hurt or need medical attention, but I will promise to try my best.” with that she hung up the phone and I was driving in silence.
I was thinking to myself about how crazy this is, what did I just associate myself with, and what happened to Lincoln when he was knocked out. I assume he was raped, because of the marks on his back and butt. Although, I must say I was relieved that he did not know or was not aware that he may possibly be raped since he was knocked out by one of the men.
All these thoughts were running through my head when I heard Lincoln say, “Do you really care for me? Like, umm like, what you said on the phone?”
I replied, “Yes bud! I really meant what I said. I think you are a fighter, a brave, and strong boy. I will do everything in my power to make sure you are okay.”
Lincoln said choking back some tears, “Thank you,” and we rode in silence for most of the way to his house.
We were one or two turns away from seeing his home. The clock now read 1:07 a.m. I had noticed that he lived relatively close to the homeless shelter, maybe a block or two away. It makes reasonable sense that he could walk to the parking area where I saw him, which somehow gave me some sense of relief. As we made our last turn, reality kicked me in the ass again. There must have been thirteen cop cars and three ambulances blocking off the road, making driving any further unrealistic. The house was located in a shady part of town. We parked on the side of the road, and we began our way to his home. Lincoln did not live in a great area, the houses in this town all looked run down, old, and low income. Some had broken windows and holes in the siding that seemed like there were made by bullets. It’s basically the place you do not want to raise children, due to drug and violence issues.
As lincoln’s house came to view, I could tell his parents did not have money. The house had a dark brownish red brick color, with graffiti on the one side. The central gutter was detached from the roof and laying beside the house. Speaking of the roof, it appeared to have a blue tarp draped over one side possibly covering a hole. The grass was dormant due to winter, but the weeds and bushes were overgrown, probably never trimmed once. I saw my sister sitting on the sidewalk in a state of shock or disbelief, and I shouted, “Kelly!”
“Garret,” her voice and look worried me but continued, “I have never, ever seen anything so horrific in my life.”
“Did you find any of the kids?” I questioned.
She looked at me and then at Lincoln, “No.”
“Are you sure?” Lincoln cried, and before I knew what was happening, he bolted for the front door.
“GARRET!” Kelly screamed, “don’t let him see inside the house.” I sprinted after Lincoln, but he made it to the door before I could reach him. He stopped dead in his tracks. With him being so worried about his brothers, he must have forgotten about his parents. He saw what no child should ever have to see. His mother’s body, being placed into a body bag. I arrived at him just as he burst into tears. He turned his body to me, and I picked him up and carried him away from the scene. Lincoln knew his mother was dead, but it hadn’t registered until now. I decided to take Lincoln back to the SUV, away from the crime scene until his mother’s body was removed. At this time, Kelly and a young police officer approached. I thought it would be best to place Lincoln in the car and shut the door.
The cop stated, “Mr. Hamel, correct? You made the phone call to the station? We understand that you have the boy.”
“Yes, that was me, and yes he is in the car.”
“We need to speak to the boy.” He commanded.
“Tough shit, he isn’t talking to anyone besides myself or Kelly. If you would like a statement from him, you’ll have to wait until he is comfortable, do you understand!”
“I understand sir, but you have no right to block our access to talking with him. If we wish to speak to him, we can.”
I looked at Kelly, and she began “He has every right to block access, as of this moment Lincoln is in Child Protective Services, and we are blocking your access to speak with him, due to emotional distress.”
“Yes mam,” he quickly replied.
As the officer walked away, I turned to Kelly, “No one knows where the other children are?”
“No Garret, the cops checked the closet, I checked the closet and nothing. The good news is that there are not among the bodies in the house.”
“Bodies? I only heard about the mother,” I questioned.
“Yeah, there is the mother, but also the father and one of the men who broke into the house. No one knows how or who the other man is that died.” She stated
“Wow, no wonder there was so much blood.”
“Does Lincoln know anywhere else they might have gone?” She asked me.
“I will go ask, but we need to talk Kelly.”
“I have a feeling of what you might ask, and I don’t want you to get your hopes up,” she responded.
Satisfied with her answer, for now, I turned towards the car and opened the door.
“How you doing buddy?” I stupidly asked, knowing he felt terrible.
“I… I… I just didn’t think she died, I mean I know she was dead when I woke up, but it just hit me when I saw her again. And now I don’t know where my brothers are… I just don’t know why I left them,” he cried.
“Come here bud,” I said. He got out of the car and ran into my arms, as I continued, “I promised you that everything will be okay, I don’t like to break my promises, you understand? Your brothers were not in the basement, do you have any idea where they could be hiding?”
He thought for a few seconds, pondering locations they might be, and then a slight glimpse of hope appeared on his face. He let go of my hug, and took my hand and yelled, “Follow me, we have a basement door that goes to the outside in the backyard.” Pausing for a quick second to catch his breath, “Outside the door, we have this storage area thing that goes under the porch, Ryker always likes to hide there during hide and seek.”
“Show me,” I requested. We took off running, with Kelly in pursuit not far behind.
As we reached the storage area, Lincoln yelled “Ryker” to which no one answered. He yelled a second time, “Ryker!” No answer, his face became pale and looked like he may puke, and he screamed, “RYKER!” One last time.
We heard a faint, “Lincoln?”
Lincoln lost it, he turned to me and gave me a hug with tears flowing down his face. One by one the boys began to come out of the storage area. First was Ryker, he appeared to be around eight years old. Ryker said to Lincoln, “I didn’t know if you were ever coming to get us.”
To which Lincoln replied, “I’m so sorry.” Lincoln gave Ryker a quick hug and then yelled “Jacob, Clayton! I didn’t mean to leave you guys,” as the two other brothers joined Ryker and Lincoln in a hug. Ryker and Jacob seemed to be close in age, with Jacob appearing to be six years old. Clayton looked to be the youngest at five years old. It was incredibly challenging to judge what the boys looked like, as they were covered with dirt and grime. After we let them hug and embrace each other, I thought it would be best to move them away from the house and towards the SUV. It was now a little past two in the morning, as the boys waited outside the SUV wrapped in blankets, just happy to have each other again.
Kelly had just finished talking with the officers, when she approached me and said, “Go home, take the boys as I am giving you temporary access to guardianship. Take them home, get them cleaned, well rested, and fed. These boys have been through a lot, we will process this more on Monday considering that it is already two in the morning on Sunday, okay?”
“Do you think I can handle them?” I asked nervously.
“Garret, I don’t know, but it is better than sending them to an emergency foster care. What I do know, is that you are Lincoln’s rock at the moment, he won’t let you out of his sight. I mean look at him, his eyes haven’t left our direction. I need to finish up here, get them home and you get some rest as well, you look like shit,” she replied.
“Thank you, sis, I owe you big time, love you,” I responded.
As I reached the car, I was first met by Lincoln questioning, “Are you leaving us?”
“No, absolutely not!”
“Okay, good,” he said and fell into my arms for a hug. I kissed him on the top of the head and whispered in his ear, “I won’t ever try to leave you, okay?”
He responded by squeezing me tighter. Before I knew it, I had three other boys partaking in the hug with us. I quickly realized that the other three boys have no idea who I am, so I broke the hug and stated, “My name is Garret Hamel, but you boys can call me Garret. This is not making much sense, but I will explain everything in due time, I promise. I also want to let you know you’ll be spending some time at my house. I promise I will never hurt you boys, as I am here to help you guys and want what is best for you all. So don’t-”
I was cut off mid-sentence by Ryker, “We know you won’t hurt us. Lincoln already told us about you and how you helped him come find us.” He was teary-eyed when he finished and came over to give me a tight squeeze. With that, I told the kids to get into the SUV, and we have a little drive until we reach home.
Lincoln hopped right in the car, but the other three remained hesitant, so I questioned, “what's wrong boys?”
Clayton spoke first, “We are dirty, and this is the most nicest car I have ever saw.”
This gave me a chuckle, so I walked over to the grass, picked up two chunks of dirt and walked back over to the boys and car. I proceeded to wipe the mud all over the seats and flooring, to which the boys thought was hilarious. I quickly spoke up, “It is a vehicle boys, you mean more to me then this SUV, I do not care if it gets dirty. It can always be washed.” The boys were laughing hysterically now as each climbed into the back seat. They must have thought I was crazy.
The drive home was very anticlimactic, which felt like a blessing. The boys were all asleep as soon as we turned onto the highway, but I made it home in record timing and pulled the car into the garage at 3:32 a.m. The boys were so tired that they did not comprehend the size of the house. Three of the boys needed baths, so I decided to use my bathroom with the jacuzzi tub. But before I gave them a bath I stated, “Lincoln needs to get some rest boys, I am going to show him to his room and tuck him in, I suggest you put your clothes in this hamper, and I will have them washed for tomorrow.”
“Goodnight love you Lincoln,” the three boys echoed.
As the three little ones began to undress, I guided Lincoln to his room and said, “Don’t worry bud, I will make sure they have everything and are comfortable before bed.”
“I know you will, thank you for everything you are doing,” Lincoln replied.
“Don’t mention it, now how do you normally sleep? Just in underwear, in PJ’s, or how?”
Lincoln's face turned red and whispered, “Naked.”
Without missing a beat, I pulled down his pants and underwear, lifted his shirt above his head, and picked him up to place him on the bed. He, of course, saw this opportunity to give me a hug, and I am one to never pass up a hug.
He quickly asked, “Do you think these marks on my body will go away?”
“Of course they will, we may have to put some cream and medicine on some spots, but they will go away.” I said as I tucked him under the covers and resumed speaking, “I’m am so proud of you buddy, if you need anything tonight, you know where my room is, don’t be afraid to come get me.”
He replied with a smile, I took that as a good sign and bent down to kiss his forehead goodnight! I decided to leave a nightlight on in his room just in case of some emergency.
As I walked around the corner to reach the bathroom, I was greeted by three dirty, naked, and tired boys. I walked over to the bathtub and began to draw the water.
“Do we really need a bath, Garret? We are so tired” Clayton spoke.
“I am afraid so Clayton, but we can make it a super duper fast bath. Now, in you three go.” I insisted as I pointed to the tub.
“Finnnne, by the way, the names Clayton but I like to go by Clay.” He said with a cheeky smile. I couldn’t help but laugh, but I shook my head in acknowledgment of his request. Ryker was bathing himself, but definitely missed a few spots on his back and private areas, so I had to remind him to clean them. Jacob and Clayton tried to clean themselves but were not having much luck. I stepped in and gave them a good scrubbing. As the grime and dirt washed away into the tub, I had to drain and refill the water. I took this as an opportunity to get a good look at the boys.
Ryker was strikingly handsome for an eight-year-old. You could tell he was Lincoln’s brother. Although instead of light brown hair, Ryker possesses blond hair with the same gorgeous eyes Lincoln has. His hair is styled to be trimmed on the sides, with longer hair on top. Best way to explain it would be a European soccer player haircut. He is on the skinnier side, with fantastic skin color. During the summer, you can tell this boy will be a shade of golden bronze as he still has faint but noticeable tan lines. He stood around 4’2″ and a weight of around 55 pounds. He was circumcised and appeared to be of average size, and he might have the cutest little bubble butt on earth. You could tell that Ryker cared about how he looked and presented himself.
Jacob just turned seven. Out of all the brothers, he carried different features from the rest. He had dark brown hair almost black and green eyes. His hairstyle was a typical seven-year-olds, shorter and spiked in the front. His skin was pale, and he had a scar located on his left thigh about three inches long. I was intrigued by the mark but decided to wait until later to ask. He is a good ways away from puberty as to be expected, but was just as tall as Ryker and looked to weigh a little more at 60ish pounds. He was circumcised and had a smaller sized penis than expected, but that might be from the cold air. Jacob was the quietest out of the brothers and more standoffish from me.
Last but not least Clayton is five years old. He likes to be called Clay, and he is very outgoing, high energy, and hilarious. Clay has light brown hair with the same incredible blue eyes. He has similar skin coloring to Ryker. Clay has some of his baby fat for sure, I can still see his little round tummy compared to the other boys who are skinnier. He stood around 3’9″ and weighed 42 pounds. Similar to the rest of his brothers, he is circumcised and seemed to be average.
As the tub refilled, I told the boys to rinse off the remaining soap, while I run to the closet to grab three towels. I decided to make a game out of being dried off so I held the towels as wide as I could for each boy. The objective was to get to the towel as fast as you could and be wrapped in a towel cocoon. Ryker was first, as he sprinted and jumped into the towel laughing hysterically. It actually made it difficult to cover the towel around him because he was cracking up and moving around so much, but I eventually got him in the cocoon. Next was Jacob, and he ran to the towel, but for the first time, I saw him smile. He was easier to wrap in a cocoon. Last was Clay, who apparently didn’t care about the purpose as he flew past me laughing his little butt off screaming,
“I lose, I lose.” His brothers found it hilarious and quite frankly so did I, but I had to make sure he didn’t wake Lincoln.
“Clay!” I hushed him “Lincoln is sleeping, we don’t want to wake him up.”
“Oh I forgot,” responded Clay with a dejected and scared tone.
“It is okay little buddy. I’m not mad, just tell me next time you plan to go streaking,” I spoke as I poked him in the sides causing him to giggle. I asked the boys if they wanted to sleep together or in different rooms. They all said they would like their own room and we let Clay pick his room first. He decided with the room across from Lincoln and next to the master bedroom. I covered the naked boy with one of my shirts and pulled back the covers of his bed. I tucked him in and said, “Goodnight Clay, see you in the morning,” and kissed his forehead goodnight. Jacob and Ryker followed suit and said goodnight to Clay.
Jacob was next to pick his room. As we were awaiting his decision, I threw the two boys a shirt of mine each. They put them on, and Jacob seemed to make up his mind. He pointed to the room next to Lincoln, and I went into the bedroom to turn down his bed covers. For being the most standoffish, he came over to me first and gave me a massive hug and said, “Thank you.”
“No problem Jacob, get some sleep,” I said, as I kissed the top of his head and motioned for him to lay down.
Ryker had the final decision but seemed to be having a difficult time, so I asked, “What’s the matter kiddo?”
He looked at me and spoke, “I want to be close to your room if something happens, but there aren’t any more rooms next to you.”
“Well first, I can tell you I am only a shout away from your room if something happens. How about this buddy, I will lay down with you in your bed until you fall asleep, sound good?”
“Really?” Ryker asked.
“I promise bud,” I stated. With that, Ryker went with the room next to Clay’s. As I uncovered his bed, I crawled on the left side. Ryker quickly took residents on the right side which was situated to my left. He cuddled against my body. He put his hand on my chest and his head on my shoulder.
“Comfortable?” I asked.
“Very, are you?” He quickly responded.
“Most comfortable I’ve ever been!” I replied, lightly poking him in the sides which caused him to chuckle.
I was rubbing his head trying to make him fall asleep when he caught me off guard and asked, “Are my parents gone?”
Trying not to stir emotions this late I quietly whispered, “We will talk about it tomorrow buddy, try to get some rest, you’ve been through so much today.”
He didn’t seem to mind my answer, and he quickly fell into slumber. I ever so carefully moved him off my arm and got out of bed. I kissed his forehead goodnight and headed to the door. The clock now read a little before four thirty in the morningand my night was almost finished. I need to put the boy’s dirty clothes into the washer. I figure I could dry them tomorrow morning, as the boys would just have go commando for the first few hours. I made one last round to each of the boy’s room, and everything seemed to be okay. I wanted to grab a quick shower but made the mistake of laying down, and I knew my lazy butt wasn’t getting up. I checked the clock one last time and dozed off at 4:35.