By KIM SMITH DEDAM
---- — LEWIS — In mid-afternoon, a clear scent of spring caught in the wind.
But the Cech family had a mission and no time for a Sunday snooze.
There were lollipop bandits on the loose, dodging the Essex County sheriff and hiding a stash of suckers on dusty back roads.
Essex County Sheriff Richard Cutting and his deputies knew there was just one thing to do: They called in Mighty Matthew.
TAKING THE OATH
Eight-year-old Matthew Cech donned the deputy’s uniform he’d been given a few weeks before and drove with his parents and two brothers to the jail.
He stepped bravely up onto a chair.
“You gotta take an oath,” the sheriff said.
“I don’t know what that means,” he replied.
But, wearing the size 3T deputy’s uniform and a wide-brimmed Stetson hat that dipped daringly over his eyes, the Cumberland Head Elementary School third-grader raised his right hand.
“I do,” he said, promising to protect and defend.
And they were off.
Cutting, Undersheriff Michael Badger and Major Thomas Murphy set up a patrol watch next to the ambulance garage off Route 9.
They waited, keeping a sharp eye for any signs of a tan pickup truck allegedly used in the lollipop heist.
The details were sketchy, though the sheriff said the bandits had a good haul of candy.
Mighty Matthew kept his finger at the switch, ready to blast on the spinning blue lights to warn the suspects to stop.
And then — there it was, turning fast onto Ray Woods Road.
Matthew and the sheriff gave chase and pulled the suspect vehicle over.
The bandits, somewhat resembling Essex County deputies Bob Rice and Lloyd Lamont, stepped out and hung their heads.
They knew they’d been caught.
Matthew carried a plastic bat and a can of (training) pepper spray to use if the two culprits got unruly.
Turning the bandits against the truck, Mighty Matthew reached up and put on the handcuffs.
“Now I have to search for evidence,” he told Sheriff Cutting.
And there, in the front seat, was a bank bag full of Dum Dum pops.
“We got them,” the super kid said, climbing into the sheriff’s patrol car.
Sitting shotgun, Matthew interviewed the suspects.
“I caught people stealing lollipops,” he said as a matter of fact.
All smiles, his eyes were wide and sparkling.
Mighty Matthew and his team of sheriff’s deputies delivered the bandits to the County Jail and put them in a holding cell.
One of them, the one that looked a lot like Rice, fought against the restraints and pressed his scowling mug against the cell window.
Matthew warned him with the spray can, and the suspect backed down.
Back in the sheriff’s quarters, Cutting presented Matthew with a deputy’s badge for a mission accomplished and an official Sheriff’s Challenge Coin.
The reward for the swift “arrest” was 1,000 lollipops.
“The streets are safer now,” Cutting told the young deputy.
“You can keep the spray can, too.”
Matthew’s smile about matched the width of the Stetson’s brim when he turned and raised an eyebrow at his older brother, pointing the mock pepper spray.
“I’m looking at you, Steven,” he said.
Steven, who is 14, took a step back, laughing.
And the room of support personnel, including Matthew’s parents, Terry and Lisa, Steven and his other brother, Bradley,16, clapped.
The caper was accomplished.
It was, everyone knew, a long-held dream of Mighty Matthew’s to be a sheriff or police officer, someday.
The test run this spring was a roaring success by all accounts, except maybe for those of the two bandits.
Still, somehow, the thieves made it up to the sheriff’s office, wearing the black-and-white striped jail jerseys, to tell Matthew what a fine job he’d done.
The boy lives with a life-challenging illness called mitochondrial disease complex, or mito complex I and III and chronic intestinal pseudo obstruction.
The rare disorder limits his growth and requires a 24-hour feeding tubes and ostomy collection.
Members of the Essex County Sheriff’s office were alerted to the fact that Mighty Matthew is a huge fan of police action and has his own superhero persona determined to make life better for people everywhere.
So Cutting and his team of deputies set aside some time one Sunday afternoon to catch alleged lollipop thieves running rampant through Lewis.
Matthew’s uniform was a special order from the sheriff’s uniform company and donated to the honorary pint-sized deputy.
Badger had called United Uniform and asked them for a size 3T.
“The guy on the phone said, ‘You want a what?’” he chuckled.
The regulation Essex County Sheriff’s patch takes up most of Matthew’s sleeve.
“He’s been in the uniform most of the day,” Matthew’s mom, Lisa, said when they arrived at the sheriff’s office that afternoon.
Bradley and Steven also earned sheriff’s caps for their supporting roles.
“This was very creative. He had fun catching them,” Steven said of the caper.
“He goes through a lot and always goes through it with a smile.”
“I think he did great,” Cutting said.
“He seemed to enjoy the entire experience. And remember,” the sheriff added, turning to Mighty Matthew, “you are part of a special small group to receive a challenge coin.”
The littlest deputy said simply, “Thank you.”
Matthew travels routinely to Boston Children’s Hospital for ongoing diagnostic procedures and treatment.
The family returned from a trip in early May.
Before coming home, his mom wrote in an update on their blog: “We stopped by the Boston Marathon Memorial site where Matthew placed a small lollipop bouquet on one of the trees. He also left a small message of hope on one of the signs.”
Email Kim Smith Dedam: email@example.com
READ THE BLOG
To learn more about Mighty Matthew and his condition, visit: http://www.mightymatthew.blogspot.com.