Josh had intentionally set the photos to run slower than he had when just a few were huddled around a laptop or watching on a screen in his living room. The impact on him seeing it blown up on a regular conference room screen was much more than he expected. He couldn't imagine the impact on the men seeing it for the first time. As the strap fell across the back of the boys, he flinched even though he knew what was coming. When the first blood could be seen on their shirt backs, the uncle of one of them grabbed a bucket and dashed out of the room. Several others followed before the sequence was over.
Sheriff Rogers motioned for Josh to pause the photos, stepped up front and said, "We'll take a five-minute break." The men filed out of the room in complete silence and every one of them looked over his shoulder at the last photo still on the screen.
"Wise move, Sheriff," June said. "It gives the men time to chew over what they have seen, to regain some control of their emotions and to talk with a man who has firsthand knowledge of New Beginnings who is not one of us."
"Frankly, I was concerned about not having the time to clean up the briefing room before the state troopers needed it, but I see your point.
The men filed back in, some talking quietly, five minutes later. "Deputies," Sheriff Newcome said, "what you saw was clearly child abuse. It would be abuse if the two boys had been grown. Joseph, you said your nephew was eleven, right?"
"Yes, sir," the deputy answered quietly.
"The child you will see next is older; two, maybe three years older. Those of us who have seen the photos before certainly believe she is under sixteen. Josh." Josh started the next sequence, that of the rape.
Josh had grown up a Mormon and knew that Mormon men rarely used strong language, so even given what they were watching, he was surprised when the girl's head appeared in the hayloft with the man there. There was plenty of strong language before the man grabbed her and tore her dress from her.
Just as the man penetrated the girl, one of the men said, "I have a thirteen-year-old daughter. That girl is her age or a bit more. You're right, she's not sixteen."
"What difference does it make?" another man asked. "She's being raped. That bastard should be hung by his balls until he starves to death." Several guys had to use the bucket again, but their anger in most cases prevented too many from emptying their stomachs.
"For your information, if he is ever hauled into court and convicted, it could make a big difference," Dick said.
"Do you need another break?" Sheriff Rogers asked.
"There's more?" someone asked.
"How many more?"
"There could be many, maybe a couple hundred, but we'll show just one."
"Then let's see it so we can get on with doing something about it." There seemed general agreement.
Josh had made a closeup of the sign on the fence and inserted it into the sequence of the tasered man as the men first appeared marching up toward the clinic. "Hold it," someone called out. "Is that sign for real?"
Bull told them about the dead deer and about seeing the coyote killed. "There is no question of how he died or the power of the fence. We could smell his burning fur where he touched the fence. There is absolutely no question in my mind that a person touching that fence would be seriously injured at best, but in most cases, killed."
"Damn," one of the deputies said. Josh decided the number of cuss words he had heard coming out of the mouth of Mormons had increased by at least twenty-five percent in a single afternoon. He started the photos again. When the young man was tasered and dropped to the ground, a groan came from several of the deputies. He learned later that they had experienced tasering as a part of their training. They knew the agony the young man experienced, even though their experience was from a lower voltage.
Sheriff Rogers stood and said, "We have about half an hour before the troopers will need this room for briefing before going on duty. We'll try to answer any questions you have about what you have seen. Save any about what comes next until the evening session. We'll have dinner while the troopers get their briefing and return for your own briefing. Questions?"
"Sheriff, where did the photos come from and why was New Beginnings targeted?"
"Bull, June, Josh, you want to handle that?"
Josh explained how he and Alex had grown up together and been involved in a summer program at UC-Boulder. "He moved to Salt Lake with his family and when his father received a promotion which required a move to New York, his mother refused to go. Finally, the marriage was dissolved and part of the divorce decree was that he be allowed to do the summer program, enabling us to graduate mid-year of what would have been our junior year. When he didn't show up, his father tried to get the legal system involved and it couldn't or wouldn't spend time dealing with a sixteen-year-old who was with his mother. For the next few years, his father hired skip tracers to no avail.
"Through a totally unrelated matter, I became involved with June. June and Bull had been friends and Bull had handled a number of cases for him when June was lawyering. I guess for old times' sake, the two decided to take on the case and I had come into some money so I gave them the go-ahead. They made very little progress until Mr. Bledsoe got a notice concerning past due child support he had not paid, thinking his obligation was over. Following Ms. Crimshaw's—Alex's mother had taken back her maiden name—instructions, a check was to be sent directly to her at a Salt Lake address. Mr. Bledsoe, of course, had the address checked out at once and found it was a re-mailing service. He sent the check and when he received the canceled check, found it had been endorsed and deposited in a Kanarra bank. About that time, it occurred to me that the reason Ms. Crimshaw wouldn't leave Salt Lake was because it was the center of her religion. She had been pretty extreme when I had known her, so I suggested she might be involved with a Mormon splinter group. The two men started traveling the roads around Kanarra, showing Ms. Crimshaw's photograph. When they found New Beginnings, they approached and showed the guard the photograph. While the guard denied he had ever seen her, Bull, who has been analyzing people for over fifty years, saw him react to the photo. Bull."
Bull then told the group about finding the back fence and the clinic, returning the following day to observe and photograph.
"You are telling us the three events we saw all happened on the same day?" someone asked.
"They did. Photos all bear a time and date stamp if you need to see it. There are at least two hundred more recorded episodes of child abuse, adult abuse and other possible crimes. These are only three of many."
"So what can the people be charged with?" another person asked.
"Dick, that's yours."
Dick said, "Some are obvious provided the people can be identified: child abuse, unlawful sexual activity, aiding and abetting unlawful sexual activity, holding people against their will. I am sure there will be a host of others once we can gather the evidence."
"Deputies, we need to get out of here and leave the room for the troopers. There's a private room reserved for us in the restaurant across the street. Order what you please, within reason. We will be back here in an hour," Pete said.
When the deputies returned an hour later, the radios with scramblers, night vision devices and cameras were on tables in the briefing room. Sheriff Newcome was up front. "Deputies, I need some information from you. How many of you own Jeeps, Land Rovers, Hummers or other vehicles that can handle rough terrain?" Since the men, almost to a man, were hunters and lived in some rough country, it was not surprising that all did.
"How many of you have used night vision binoculars?" About half had. "How many have used night vision cameras?" There were four. They were all in the night vision binoculars group. "How many of you would call yourself a better-than-average photographer and have long telephoto lens experience?" There were seven, unfortunately, two of them were night vision people. "Ok, you night vision camera people check out the cameras we have and make sure you know how to use them while you listen. Same with you with experience with night vision binoculars. The equipment is on the tables in the back. Photographers, your equipment is on the table to my left. The rest of you will be carrying standard side arms and Mace. How many of those of you remaining have small point-and-shoot digital cameras?" They all did.
"It's bad planning on our part, but we need your vehicles. If we roll into New Beginnings in patrol cars, there will be a lot of questions and, to be honest, I suspect they would be prepared for us. There is no delicate way to put this and you'll have to search your hearts, but those of you who are married and feel you can trust you wife to keep her mouth shut, call her and make arrangements for her to bring the vehicle to you at a prearranged location and drive the patrol car back to your place. We'll take a break here in a few minutes for you to do that."
"If your wife is like mine," Neil said, "and I love the woman dearly, think of someone else you can trust to keep juicy gossip for seventy-two hours and have them bring the vehicle," Neil said. "Questions?"
A couple of hands went up and Neil pointed to one of them. "Sheriff, I have no wife and can think of no one within miles I could ask."
"What kind of vehicle do you have?"
"Same as Todd," he pointed to the other man who had raised his hand, "a Humvee." They both belonged to Pete. Neil looked at Pete who said, "Brad you live so far back in the woods daylight doesn't get there until noon. How far do you live from Todd?"
"Actually, we share a house."
"Then drive the patrol car to your place and pick up your vehicles. I don't think your neighbors, coyote and deer will care."
"We'll go into details later, but our plan is to do a twenty-four hour observation beginning at midnight tonight. Since we have to get vehicles here, that may not be possible. Take five minutes, make the call and let's see where we stand."
The deputies spilled outside and let the five grab a drink in the break room—coke for the three from San Francisco and fruit juice for the two sheriffs. "I am still kicking my ass for not thinking about the vehicles," Pete said.
"How much harder would you have kicked it had Josh not thought about them?" Neil asked.
When the men reported back, some could have their vehicles at the prearranged place and back in forty-five minutes; others said it would be over an hour. All had assumed they could use the blue light to get to the rendezvous.
"Take the dash blue light out of your patrol car and use it coming back. Cut it off four or five miles down the road and drive normally. We're trying to overcome a stupid mistake your bosses made, now go," Pete said.
When they were all back, Neil said, "From what Bull and June have seen, I think there will be little activity until sunrise, but we need to know that for sure. We also need to know about security. At sunrise, it seems everyone enters the church for two hours. Again, how many are not in church, where and how many guards are around? After everyone else is in the church, those in the clinic march down. They return to the clinic after the others leave the church. We especially need to know if anyone is left at the clinic. Any activity before sunrise, use the night vision cameras.
"You all will be issued tiny digital voice recorders. You can speak in a whisper and they will pick it up. Record any observations you make." He paired night vision and photographers and said, "If you will take your equipment and a radio and go to room one-twenty-one, Bull and June will tell you about the place and possible observation posts. As soon as they finish, hit the bed. You'll have three hours before you move out at midnight."
Josh listened in as Bull and June briefed the guys. They began by saying they knew the deputies knew the country better than they did and the only thing they could really tell them was the front was guarded and had a chain link fence with razor wire. "That's as far as we got there. You'll need to walk in to the compound area. Three of you need to park about a mile before the compound. There's a small grove with a rough trail leading from the road. There's enough cover to hide your vehicle. I suggest one of you move around the fence clockwise and one counter-clockwise staying well back until you are several yards from the road. The third deputy needs to locate an observation post so they can watch the front gate. All of you, don't go near the fence and stay hidden.
"The approach from the back will be rough, especially at night. You will have hand-held GPS to guide you to the fence behind the clinic, but it won't indicate washes, rock slides or other natural hazards. When you arrive, one of you will need to be sure they can keep an eye on the clinic and the other two, I'd suggest, move in opposite directions around the fence until you find good observation posts. I understand some of you served in Iraq and the rest of you are serious deer hunters, so you know as much about observation as I do. You do know to keep an eye out for the unusual and unexpected. Don't get caught, don't touch that fence. Now, it'll be a long time before noon, so get some rest."
Josh, Bull and June were told to get some sleep as well. "You have done your part to this point," Neil said, "now let the deputies do theirs. We'll see what they can find out and move as soon as we think we have enough intelligence to make an effective move."
Josh expected to lie awake, tossing and turning when he was so close to seeing Alex again. After they had been in bed for half an hour, his expectations were proving correct. He and Bull were sharing a room, "So the lawyers can talk," Bull said. He was in the bed nearest the window, so Josh saw him silhouetted against it when he raised up and rested on an elbow. "Josh, having trouble getting to sleep?"
"Yeah, I'm excited thinking about finally finding Alex and also worried."
"Want to talk about it?"
Josh sat up, piled pillows behind his back and said, "I don't know what to talk about."
"Well, I guess there's nothing to talk about having finally found Alex. He should be free again in thirty-six hours at the most. That's just a fact and it is understandable you'd be excited about that since it has never left your mind for six or seven years."
"But why the fears? What am I afraid of?"
"Somehow a part of you is hiding another fact from you, but the fear's seeping through. See, Josh, you are in love with the Alex of seven, eight years ago, the Alex you made love with, rode horses with, had fun in Boulder with. That's not the Alex in the photo any more than you are the Josh he loved. You don't know anything about the Alex in that photo any more than he knows the Josh excommunicated from the LDS, the Josh who did graduate in what would have been grade eleven, the Josh who became a business leader before twenty-five. Your mind knows that, but your heart doesn't want to hear it. Until Alex is out of the clutches of New Beginnings, you don't know him or he you. Will the now Josh and the now Alex love each other, better yet, rediscover their love in the two new people? Who knows?"
"That terrifies me, Bull."
"I'm sure it does, You also know he will have a long period of adjustment once he's free. I doubt he has been allowed much contact with the world and that could prove a real shock. Certainly from what June and I witnessed, he will need counseling, perhaps for a very, very long time."
Josh was silent, thinking, and finally said, "You know, Bull, I know all that, but I still love him even if it's just a dream boy of the past."
"Yeah," he said, lay down and was asleep in minutes.
During the night, Neil and Pete decided they would switch their plan and move in a new crew for the day. The night crew would be back on duty without a decent rest otherwise. Besides, the regular photographers were the important ones for the day.
Unbeknownst to Neil, Pete had phoned his house and asked to speak to Nelson. "He's in bed, Pete. It's eleven o'clock. I was in bed myself."
"Caroline, it's important."
"If you're sure."
"Very sure, Caroline."
A few minutes later, a very sleepy Nelson was on the phone. "Nelson, Pete, Pete Newcome. Can you talk?"
"I think so, but I'll go back to bed and use my cell phone. What's the number?"
"You have it in your phone. I'm on my cell."
"Sure. In a few."
When he called back, Pete asked if he could sneak out of the house and take his Jeep.
"Give me twenty so I can be sure Mom's gone back to sleep. As soon as she's snoring, I could take the house and she'd never know it."
"Good. Leave her a note telling her you and your dad had done… what?"
"Arranged a scholarship interview and I had to be in Provo at eight."
"That would work. Bring all the photo equipment you can—and pack for a couple, three days— and anything else you might think could help gather evidence on some illegal activity. Tell no one. Write your mom that you will be gone a couple of days because the scholarship committee wants you to see college life. Drive your Jeep and come to the troopers' station on I-15. You know it?"
The boy was known as a fantastic photographer and Pete saw an opportunity to let him shine in front of his dad. When the young man arrived, Pete deputized him and handed him a motel key and told him to get some rest. "You'll need it."
Next morning, he saw that Nelson had breakfast in his room and while the deputies were at breakfast, he called Frank, one of his deputies out. Frank was not a photographer, but a keen observer and Pete told him to go to room one-sixteen fifteen minutes before the observers were leaving. "You and the guy there are to leave at once. You'll go in from the back of the compound and move around the fence counter-clockwise. Be darn sure Sheriff Rogers doesn't see you."
The new observer crews were to leave two and a half hours before sunrise and join the observers who had been on post all night and tell them they were to go back to the station an hour after sunrise. Nelson and Frank left ahead of the others in Nelson's Jeep. On the way, they got to know each other a bit and hit it off right away.
It was pretty clear the day's routine was as June and Bull had described it. After what they had assumed was a common breakfast, the men who worked outside left, and the boys were back in the fields. The girls went into an outbuilding with the women. A couple of hours later, those who were close enough could smell bread baking. Fortunately, the very hungry night crew had left.
The team observing the clinic saw a man sitting in the atrium when the others marched to church. They also noticed a board above the two doors leading into the wings of the building with lights on them. One of the lights lit, the man got up and walked to a door to the hall, took out a key, unlocked the door and closed it. A few minutes later, he returned, locked the door and sat down again. As the group from church approached there were, again, six guarding the group, so it seemed there were seven people attached to the clinic.
During the day, there were other examples of child abuse, some as extreme as the one Bull and June had witnessed. Nelson, Neil's son, and Frank, the deputy he was with, observed, several times, men going into a small cottage and then a young girl would come, or be brought, go inside and half an hour later, the man would leave, then the girl. All the girls were definitely younger than the men. As evening approached, an older man and a boy of eighteen or so came to the cottage. The young man went inside and the older man waited outside. A few minutes later, an older woman and a girl of thirteen or a bit older arrived. The girl was in tears. The man opened the door and when the girl seemed reluctant, more or less pushed her inside, fastened the door with a pin through a hasp, tied a huge bow on the door and left.
Nelson had set up a funny looking device which he kept pointing at various things and muttering under his breath. Frank had no idea what it was or was supposed to do, but was very sure Nelson was very disappointed with it. He kept adjusting and tinkering with it, and had pointed it at the various buildings in the village earlier. He did some adjusting and tinkering with it, pointed it at the cottage the couple was in, put on earphones and said, "I've got it!" He handed the deputy a pair of headphones and the two heard a young girl crying and asking the young man to please stop. "You know we are never to appear naked before another person," she cried, "and you are ripping my clothes off."
"Lehi gave you to me. You belong to me and Lehi says we may display the glory of our bodies when someone is given to us."
"Please don't," the girl begged. "Please don't put that in me. It will hurt."
"But then you will like it." The girl let out a cry, then the two could barely hear her sobbing. "Don't that give you pleasure? Don't you like my cock inside your pussy? Don't you want to make a baby for Lehi?" The girl continued to cry, then the young man shouted, "Yes, yes, take my baby seed," and then there was silence except for the girl's sobbing. Five minutes later, they heard a knock on the door, the older man appeared from nearby, pulled the pin from the hasp and the young man stepped out, took the bow from the door and kept tossing it into the air.
"Was it as good as you thought it would be?" the older man asked the young man.
"Better, even her fingernails clawing my back was good." They walked away, big grins on their faces.
"That son of a bitch," Nelson exclaimed. "There's not a man in the world who likes fucking more than I do, but any man, real man, knows that 'no' means 'no' and foreplay is necessary for a woman and damn good for a man. He raped that girl. Men who do that should have their balls cut off and stuffed up their ass!"
"You're what, eighteen and not a virgin? Don't you know sex outside of marriage is a terrible sin?" Frank asked
"So's jerking off," Nelson answered, "and while reading a chapter of the Book of Mormon didn't stop me from jerking off, a hot girl can, but don't you dare tell Dad. He and Mom are very strict, but I fear I stray from time to time, as often as I can, in fact."
"If you're found out, you'll never be allowed a mission."
"So I guess I better not be found out."
The day drew on and the observation teams had a pretty clear idea of the routine at New Beginnings and reason enough to do the raid. When they got back, they were all in the briefing room and the teams made their reports. Those who had photos showed them and when it came time for Nelson and Frank to report, Frank—who was up front, Nelson was trying to hide in the back—put their photos up. When the photo of the woman and young girl flashed on the screen he said, "We had something called a parabolic mike. I know nothing about it except it picks up sound from a long distance. It had not been working very well until now." He started the photos— there hadn't been time to prepare a PowerPoint presentation—and he manually more or less synchronized the slide and sound. As the sequence ended, Nelson suddenly realized the recording was still going. Frank was a bit slow and couldn't find the stop button and Nelson's voice exclaimed for all to hear, "That son of a bitch! There's not a man in the world who likes fucking more than I do, but any man…" before Frank hit 'Stop'."
"Deputy, is that who I think it is?" Neil thundered.
"I don't know sir. I don't know who you think it is." Pete's deputies knew Nelson as well as did Neil's deputies, of course. Most were trying to hold back sniggers and laughs.
"You know damn well who I think it is, know who it is. How did Nelson Rogers get on an observer team in the first place?" Nelson had slid down in his chair, hoping his dad wouldn't see him.
"I got him here and assigned him, Neil," Pete said.
"Damn, Pete, you probably will be the cause of those pictures and recording being thrown out of court!
"Doubt it. I couldn't hire him, but he is eighteen and was properly deputized."
"Where's Nelson now?" Neil was still hot under the collar and it showed.
"Back here, Dad; guess you can stop worrying about me being gay and start worrying about being a grandfather."
The room burst into a roar of laughter, Neil turned even redder and said, "Young man, we will talk later. Meanwhile you are grounded until you're forty."
After that bit of distraction, the men who had been on duty had a late dinner and everyone gathered again for a briefing at nine. Pete and Neil had drawn up plans for the raid and Dick had faxed the evidence as it came in, making sure there was more than enough to get additional warrants. Two deputies were dispatched to the judge's house to collect them and they came back with several. There were general ones and specific ones for the clinic's records, any records of marriages, and so on.
After the briefing, assignments were made, equipment passed out and everyone told to get some rest as they would be pulling out two hours before sunrise. As they were dispersing, Neil called Nelson to himself and told him to go home. Before he could object, Pete said, "Sorry, Neil, right now Nelson is my deputy and I have assigned him to a team. He will be with the team raiding the clinic. I wanted a good photographer with that team and he's the best we have."
"Pete, you know I don't like any of this involving Nelson and we will have words later."
"I expected as much, Neil, but the man goes with his team." He turned and said, "Get with your team, Nelson."
Editors: Jesse and Scott.
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