Out of the Woods: Chapter 33| January 18, 2022
“Wait. Those three men we met — they were part of the gang? They were also looking for you? And you were there? Up in a tree? And we didn’t know??”
“It’s Matt — Motty,” Avi said, urgently. “We need to save him. It wasn’t his fault…”
Elchanan gave a start, then nodded vigorously. “I can’t believe I forgot about him. He saved our lives.”
Avi noticed the bewildered expressions on their fathers’ faces .
“One of the criminals, he isn’t really a criminal. He’s Jewish, he used to be frum, and then he got stuck with the gang, but he isn’t like them, he really isn’t. He helped us escape when they were trying to — whatever,” he ended lamely, suddenly realizing his father didn’t know that part of the story at all and unsure how to put it most gently.
“That was when we were up in the tree and the search party came,” Elchanan added. “We saw you, Mr. Shine, but we couldn’t call out or anything, because we heard the three gang members talking to you… and we knew they were armed. They were after us because we’d just escaped — at least, Ivan and Stefan were after us. Matt was helping us, but he had to pretend to be on their side… Anyway, we figured that since they didn’t know we were there they would pretend to be regular hikers…”
Mr. Shine’s eyes nearly fell out of his head at this long-winded explanation, which he’d been straining to follow. “Wait. Those three men we met — they were part of the gang? They were also looking for you? And you were there? Up in a tree? And we didn’t know??”
“Yeah, and that wasn’t the only time we nearly found you,” Avi chimed in. “In the night, also, we heard the search party calling us, but there were sounds right near our tent, and we were terrified that it was the gang, so we kept quiet… in the end, it was some sort of animal. And the gang caught us in the morning, when we were trying to find our way out of the forest.”
“Sounds like you boys have been through a real adventure,” Rabbi Stark said, after a sideways glance at Mr. Shine, who looked too overwhelmed to speak.
“I’m not sure I would call it an adventure,” muttered Mr. Shine.
The police cars began backing up, ready to drive their captives to the nearest police station.
“We need to go tell them about Matt!” Avi cried, remembering the purpose of the discussion.
He wrenched open the car door. In a split second, his father was standing there.
“Not without us, you boys aren’t going anywhere,” Mr. Shine informed them grimly.
Together with their fathers, Avi and Elchanan strode over to the police cars. The lead officer stepped out to speak to them.
“Hey, boys. Great job there. You led to the capture of some real notorious criminals and helped us find paintings worth millions of dollars. But what’s up? Didn’t one of my men tell you to go home, rest up, and come in to speak to us another day?”
“Yeah, they did,” Avi said, breathing fast. “It’s just — one of the gang. He isn’t like the others. He helped us escape, he saved our life. Can you let him go?”
The officer frowned. “Whoa, slow down there. You want us to what?”
“Let him off. One of the — the men,” Elchanan said, taking over. “Matt — he’s really called Motty. He’s not really one of them. He got involved by mistake, and he couldn’t get out, they were nasty to him themselves, he really is a good person…”
“He made a whole plan to let us escape when the gang captured us,” Avi added.
The police officer looked incredulous. “Well, now, we can’t just go setting one of the gang free like that,” he said slowly. “But you know what? Based on your statements that he was against the kidnapping and attempted harm to your lives, we may be able to let him out on bail. The others aren’t going anywhere, not with the charges against them.”
Mr. Shine spoke up. “I’ll post bail. Whatever it costs. He — he saved my son’s life.” His voice choked up.
The police officer nodded. “That’s real good of you, sir. Showing gratitude and all that.” He gave Mr. Shine some information. “If you’re fast about it, you may be able to get him out on bail as soon as this evening,” he added cheerfully.
Back in the car, Rabbi Stark shook his head. “Now that that’s done, I think it’s high time we all headed home.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” Mr. Shine said heartily.
The Highlander sped down the highway. Trees flashed by; the forest that Avi had wondered if they’d ever find their way out of. Now, it was over, and he was nearly home. Not only that, but the gang was caught, everyone was safe, and even Matt was going to be released on bail.
Avi sighed happily. “Imagine we can help him reunite with his family after all,” he said to Elchanan.
There was no answer.
Avi glanced over at his partner in adventure. Elchanan was fast asleep.
In the end, it was Mr. Shine and Rabbi Stark who went to get Matt released on bail. Despite the boys’ insistence that they were fine and full of energy, they were both asleep in their beds long before it was time to go to the police station.
Posting bail wasn’t a simple process, but, armed with a recording in which Avi and Elchanan explained what had happened, serving as a witness statement, the two men were able to get Matt released and into the charge of Mr. Shine.
To say that Matt was overwhelmed would be an understatement. He kept on looking around himself and blinking, like he couldn’t believe where he was.
“I haven’t seen the outside of the forest in so long,” he mumbled. “I can’t believe you’re doing this for me.”
“You saved our sons’ lives,” Rabbi Stark said. “How could we not help you now?”
Matt shook his head. “I forgot… forgot what it’s like. Being religious and everything. I… I missed it, you know. I made stupid mistakes, but I missed my old life…” His eyes swam with tears. “Your son… he told me it isn’t too late. That I can still do teshuvah and come back. Do you… do you think it’s true? Do you think my parents will want to hear from me, after all these years?”
Rabbi Stark glanced at the scrap of paper with the phone number of Motty’s parents, which Avi had dug out of his knapsack and given his father right before the two men had left for the police station. He thought of the emotional phone conversation he’d had with them just two hours before, the joy in their voices at the thought of being reunited with the son they never thought they’d see again.
“Why don’t we go there right now and find out?” he asked, and Mr. Shine stepped on the gas, driving toward their last destination of a very long day.
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 895)
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