US SOS trouble

Sharon Kemp | Bendigo Weekly | 27-Jul-2017


YOU get 15 years to life for kidnapping in the US state of Utah.

For kidnapping your own children, you get to keep them, but only after questions from police in two US states and two North American countries.

Yes, I was suspected of this felony. 

Previously, just the thought of being pulled over for a traffic offence would have made me wet myself.

My children had no such fear, clearly.

Chief of stuff and this column’s regular contributor Steve Kendall refers to them as “spirited”.

They wrote an SOS note for my husband and I to read when we brought the bags into the motel room we had just signed into in Cedar City while on a hiking holiday.

We had been travelling through canyon country and were looking forward to more hiking, then a wind down in Las Vegas.

The two of them were hiding when we entered the room, not very well I add... their feet were hanging out from under the bed.

The note said: “Help, we have been kidnapped.”

Two days later, we are excited about seeing Las Vegas Boulevard and set off early.

Have you noticed that the strip is a freak show even mid-morning?

I didn’t until later.

At that point, I was on the phone to a Cedar City police officer who was asking who I was travelling with, did I have children with me and why was my surname different from my husband’s?

Cleaners at the motel, he explained, had found a note in a child’s handwriting and had called law enforcement.

Where were we staying, he asked? Las Vegas metro police may or may not pay us a visit.

Clearly, the typical Australian excuse: “I am sorry, Sir, I didn’t know,” was not going to cut it on this occasion, but I did apologise, quite a lot, and said it was a prank... a joke for us, not for the cleaners or police.

We were on holiday, but living in Canada... Toronto, just across the US border, on temporary work visas.

It was getting complicated.

Later, in our hotel and my husband returning the hire car, the worst occurred.

A knock at the door.

“I am a police officer, open up.”

Open the door to a officer with a buzz cut and his hand on his gun, and a second man who looks very much like a social worker.

“Ma’am, do you know why we are here?” asked the police officer. These guys know what they are doing.

“Yes, sir, this is about the note,” I say.

At this point he steps around me into the room, looks in all of them with his hand still on his gun.

The social worker, whose badge I notice includes the word “diversity”, follows.

When the officer sees the kids, who are huddled on the couch watching TV, he asks them who I was, where we had been, who had left the note.

He told them off. 

“Do you know your Mom could have gone to jail?”

After they had left, I realised I could have proved custody immediately by showing him our passports.

I lifted them out of the backpack we had used for hiking.

They were covered in the mush of a forgotten banana.

The postscript to this story is Ontario police asked our neighbours in Canada if we were bona fide.

They closed the case and less than a year later I applied for, and was granted, a working with children’s permit.

– Sharon Kemp 


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