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Chapter 30 – Surprise!

 

“Um, I do believe you’re forgetting something,” I said to the lineup of seven naked boys as Tom buried his face in his hands to hide his laughter, which earned him an elbow to the ribs.  “I told you they were up to something,” I whispered.  I took a just moment to review the lineup and noticed two of the newcomers, Andy and Billy were not circumcised, so T.J. would no longer be an odd man out.  The boys looked at each other, giggling, then looked back to Tom and me, goofy grins on their faces. 

 

“Nope, we didn’t forget nothin’,” Joey said.

 

“Would you please explain to me where your swimsuits are?”

 

“Ours are still wet and they forgot to bring theirs,” Alex answered.

 

“I’m not buying that, and you know it.  Now, what gives.  I thought I was pretty plain when I laid out the rules for this afternoon.”

 

“You were, dad, but Alex screwed up while we were on our walk,” Joey answered.

 

“What’d you do, Alex?”

 

“We were just tellin’ ‘em what it’s like to live here and it kinda’ slipped out how we go naked most of the time.  Sorry, dad.”

 

“That still doesn’t fully explain why you’re all standing there without swimsuits.”

 

“Well,” Joey started, “we told ‘em they couldn’t tell nobody or they’d screw up our adoption and they told us they’d keep quiet only if they could get naked, too.  It seemed like a good idea to us.  We don’t like wearing clothes and they wanted to try it, too.”

 

“I have the distinct feeling I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

 

“We ain’t got no shoes on, dad,” Mike giggled.

 

“Well,” started Alex, “youhavtajoinus,” he mumbled to the floor.

 

“Excuse me, I didn’t quite catch that.”

 

“Fine,” he said, looking directly in my eyes, “You. Have. To. Join. Us.  Did you catch it all that time?”

 

“Loud and clear, young man.”  Tom was practically rolling on the floor with laughter by now.  “You really think this is funny, fuzzball?” I asked as I turned to him for some help.

 

“Yeah, I do.  I figured they come up with some way to get us all naked this afternoon.  Nice to know my finely-honed powers of detection are running true to form.”

 

“You could have warned me.”

 

“Qué? No hablo Inglés, señor,” he responded and cracked up again.

 

“Fine, I can see I’m outnumbered here.  I’ve created monsters, I tell ya’.”

 

“Yeah, c’mon, dad, it ain’t no big deal, right?” T.J. asked.

 

“Okay, c’mon, bubba, let’s join the crowd.”  We stood up, pulled off our shorts, dropped them on the chairs and turned to face the boys.  “Okay, you happy?  Can we please go swimming, now?”

 

“Yeah, let’s go!” yelled Mike. 

 

I led the way since I had the shelter key and I heard a voice whispering behind me, “Man, you weren’t kidding, T.J., Tom’s got a big one.”  I unlocked the shelter and the boys tossed their towels on the table as they ran past me to jump in the pool.  Tom caught up with me and as we headed to deeper waters, I said, “I’m not sure this is such a good idea, Tom.”

 

“Why not?  You see anybody picking on anybody?  They’re all playing together and having fun.  Who cares if they’re not wearing their swimsuits.  They sure as hell don’t.  They’re all equal in each other’s eyes right now.  I think this may actually help solve Mike’s problem at school.”

 

“We can hope.  But, we’re not all equal.  I heard one of them whisper to T.J. on the way out that you ‘have a big one’.  Not exactly what I expected to hear today.”

 

“He ain’t lyin’, is he?”

 

“Oh, I suppose not.  Oops, I just thought of something, be right back.”  I waded to the middle of the pool, calling Alex to come join me.  Once he arrived, I cautioned, “I’m telling you and you need to quietly pass this on to you brothers.  Keep your hands to yourself.  There is to be no grabbing of dangling body parts below the waist.  Understood?”

 

“Got it, dad.  It’s probably too late for that,” he snickered, “but I’ll pass it on, anyway.”

 

“Good, go have fun.”

 

I waded back to Tom and he asked, “What was that about?”

 

“I told him to pass on to his brothers that they were to keep their hands to themselves.”

 

“Yeah,” he snorted, “good luck with that.”

 

“I know, but I had to try.  You realize, I hope, that we’re setting a precedent here.”

 

“And…?”

 

“I imagine the twins are now going to expect to have their upcoming birthday party nude.”

 

“Oh, crap, I didn’t think about that.”

 

“Bet you are now,” I laughed.  “By the way, I thought of something I wanted to ask you about.”

 

“Go ahead.”

 

“Last Saturday when Carol called you to come help me out at the Mueller’s, she said you owed her a favor.  What’d she do that you owed her for?”

 

“Oh, that,” he said as he blushed.

 

“Yeah, that.  Fess up, big boy.”

 

“Well, shortly after she got to town, I was sent to her apartment complex on a call.  There was a B & E in an apartment down the hall from hers and I was assigned to get witness statements from all the residents on the floor.  When it was her turn, she invited me into her place to have a cup of coffee while we talked.  Since she was the last person I needed to interview, we ended up talking quite a while and during the conversation, I swung my arm or something, hit my coffee cup and dumped it all over my lap.”

 

“Ouch, I bet that stung.”

 

“More than you know.  I was burning and, without thinking, I just stood up and dropped my pants and boxers to my ankles.  God, it was embarrassing, standing there in her kitchen with my burning junk on display.”

 

“I’d imagine.  So, what happened next?”

 

“Well, she turned her head, but she’d already gotten the full Monty and I was still in some serious pain.  She really felt bad about it because she’d just refilled our cups, so she gave me a towel to cover myself and had me sit back down on a dry chair.  Then she got me an ice bag to help with the burning issue and tossed my clothes in her washer.  So, there I sat, in a strange woman’s apartment, bare-assed, ice bag and towel covering my crotch for the next hour and a half while she washed and dried my clothes.  We talked about a lot during that hour and a half.”

 

I couldn’t help but snicker at the image that had formed in my brain while he told the story.  “When my clothes were finally dry and the burning in my crotch had finally receded, I excused myself to the bathroom to get dressed.  When I came back, she was sitting there just giggling her ass off.  When I thanked her for everything and started to leave, she stopped me, gave me a kiss and asked me for a date.”

 

“Oh, my god, Tom.  That’s freakin’ hilarious.”

 

“Eh, not so much, man.  I had to break her heart and tell it could never work out for us since I’m gay.  She freaked, initially, but slowly regained her composure and apologized for kissing me and just assuming I was straight.  I told her it was no big deal.  I mean, I’d just sat there for what seemed forever, almost naked, in a strange woman’s apartment, and me being gay just didn’t come up.  What can I say?  She swore she’d take the secret of that night to her grave.”

 

“That story makes something she said last Friday make a whole more sense.”

 

“What was that?”

 

“I’d just gotten out of the pool and was drying off when she asked ‘Why are all the hot guys gay?’.  I couldn’t understand, then, where it came from, but now it makes sense.”

 

“Nice to know the ladies think I’m hot, not that it does them any good.”

 

“Don’t worry, Tom, I think you’re hot, too.”

 

“Thanks, Max, I think the same of you.”

 

“So, you owed Carol a favor for keeping her mouth shut, huh?  Are you paid up yet?”

 

“Not by a longshot.  I’ll owe her for that the rest of my life,” he laughed.

 

We continued lounging and the boys played for another half-hour when I asked, “Well, shall we get out of here and get a movie going?”

 

“Sounds like a plan to me, lead the way.”

 

We climbed out of the pool and headed to grab our towels.

 

“Boys, time to get out and start your movie.”  All seven climbed out and grabbed their towels to dry off before heading back into the house.  “T.J., why don’t you shower with the twins today and Andy, Mark and Billy can jump in with Mike.”

 

“Why do we have to take a shower, Mr. Sanders?  Isn’t the pool clean?” Billy asked.

 

“Oh, it’s clean, but you don’t want to spend the rest of the day coated with chlorine, do you?”

 

“Didn’t think ‘bout that, I guess.”

 

“That’s why we take showers after every swim, Billy.”  They all took off to get cleaned up while Tom and I got popcorn and drinks ready for the movie.  I’d half hoped the boys would come back from their showers dressed, but was pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen.  I was not disappointed when seven naked lads came down the hallway and crossed the living room, chattering away, on their way to the theater.  “Mike, why don’t you pick out the movie you want and Tom and I will bring refreshments in a minute.  Make sure all the chairs have towels down before you sit.”

 

“Okay, dad.”

 

“What’re the towels for?” Mark asked.

 

“They keep the chairs clean when we sit on them.  All nudists do that,” I answered.

 

“Are we nudists, now?” Andy asked.

 

“I don’t know about when you’re at home, but it looks like you are when you’re visiting here.  Are you enjoying it?”

 

“Yeah, it’s cool,” Andy answered.  “I spend so much time in my room because of Russ, maybe I can do it at home, too.”

 

“That may not be a good idea, Andy.  Russ probably wouldn’t like it if he found you nude, would he?”

 

“Yeah, you’re right,” he answered dejectedly.  “He’d probably beat my ass with his belt just like he does when I do anything else he doesn’t like.”

 

“Does that happen a lot,” Tom asked in his cop voice.

 

“Oh, crap, I shoulda’ kept my mouth shut.  ‘Specially ‘round a cop.  I don’t want to make no trouble and give him another reason to beat me.”

 

“Andy, come here, please,” I said.  “The rest of you get settled in the theater and we’ll be there shortly.”  The other six headed to the theater while Andy came into the kitchen with Tom and me. 

 

“Andy, I’m going to ask you some questions and I want you to tell me the truth, okay.”

 

“Yeah, okay,” he mumbled in response while looking at the floor.

 

“Does Russ really hit you with a belt?”

 

“Sometimes, but only when I’m bad.”

 

“What does he consider ‘bad’?”

 

“You know, not taking out the trash, not keeping my room clean, staying up too late, whatever.”

 

“Come closer, Andy.”  He hesitated and I added, “Come on, Andy, we’re not going to hurt you, we just want to check you for bruises and other marks.  I promise, that’s it.”  I guess he finally decided we were okay and came over.  We looked over his front side and saw nothing of concern.  I asked him to turn around so we could check his back side.  Tom and I were appalled at what we saw.  Faded bruises were very apparent on his lower back, buttocks and upper thighs.  They were barely visible now, which explains why we hadn’t noticed them earlier in the pool, but with him this close and dry, there was no doubt that Andy had been severely beaten.  Multiple times.

 

“Thanks, Andy.  Does Russ hit your mom, also?”

 

“Yeah, but not with a belt.  He uses his fists on her.”

 

“You don’t like it when he hits you or your mom, do you?”

 

“I hate it, but he’s too big for me to fight and I can’t do nothin’ to make him stop.  I been afraid to say anything to anybody ‘cause who knows what he’d do to me if he found out.”

 

“Maybe you can’t, Andy, but we can.  And we will.  You’ve done the right in trusting us.  Now, why don’t you go join the others in the theater and we’ll be right behind you?”  Andy scampered off while Tom and I grabbed bowls of popcorn and drinks in cups with lids and followed his lead.  Mike had selected the movie ‘Cars’, and once I had the movie started, Tom and I retreated to the kitchen.

 

“I knew that man was trouble the instant he opened the door.”

 

“Am I making a call?” Tom asked.

 

“Damn right you are, this shit stops right now.”

 

“You know Dylan’s gonna’ come here first and he’ll want to know how we know, don’t you?  Are you ready for that explanation?”

 

“I’m not worried about Dylan.  He, of all people, knows how we live out here and he also knows that there’s nothing wrong with it.”

 

“As long as you’re sure.”  Tom picked up the phone and dialed Dylan’s cell phone. 

 

“Sarge?  Deputy Wright here.”

 

“I have to assume, since were using titles, this is an official and not a social call.”

 

“Absolutely.  We have a situation out here that needs your attention.”

 

“Where’s here, Tom?”

 

“Max’s home.”

 

“What’s going on?”

 

“Mike has some kids over from school to try and make friends with them this afternoon.  Max picked the boys up and had a bad feeling about one the kids.”

 

“What kind of bad feeling?”

 

“The man who answered the door was verbally abusive towards Andy and after our swim, he said that Russ beat him with a belt at times.  He also told us this guy also beats his mom with his fists.  Max and I checked Alex over and found fading bruises on his back, behind and thighs.”

 

“Dare I ask how you found bruising on his behind?”

 

“Well, you know how the boys are.”

 

“What the hell, Tom.  Can’t you keep clothes on anybody out there?”

 

“It’s a long story, Sarge, but we need to deal with this before the boys go home.  We won’t leave Andy at that house with this guy.”

 

“Did you get anything for a name besides Russ?”

 

“Andy said it was Weedman, or something like that,” I answered.

 

“Okay, let me do a search and see what I can find.  I’ll be out there in a little bit.”

 

“Thanks, Sarge, we appreciate it.”

 

I turned to Tom and said, “We need to let the boys know that Dylan’s coming out and we all need to get some clothes on.  Normally, I wouldn’t worry about it, but with this being an official call, I think that’d be best.”

 

“They ain’t gonna’ like it.  Especially since Dylan’s been here before.”

 

“I know, but that was social, this is business.  They need to start learning the difference as to when being nude is acceptable and not.”

 

“You’re right, let’s go tell ‘em.”

 

We headed to the theater and paused the movie to get their attention.  “Boys, Tom’s boss will be here shortly.”

 

“Mr. Brock’s comin’ out, too.  Can we go swimmin’ again?” T.J. asked.

 

“He’s not coming for that kind of visit.  He’s coming out to help fix Andy’s problem.”

 

“Really, Mr. Sanders?” Andy asked.

 

“Really, Andy.  And we all need to have clothes on when he gets here.”

 

“Why, dad, he knows we go naked all the time.  He even joined us the other night,” Alex said.

 

“That was what we call a social visit, boys.  This is a business visit.  You need to learn that we sometimes need to wear clothes at home.  This is one of those times.  Why don’t you all go pull on a pair of shorts and a shirt, then you can come back and continue your movie until he gets here?  Go!”  Seven bare, white behinds flew by Tom and I as they took off to get dressed.  “I guess we need to follow suit and pull something on, too.”

 

“If this dude, Russ, is as big as you say he is, I should probably put my uniform on and go with Dylan so he’s got some backup.  I don’t want him going there alone.”

 

“That’s probably a good idea.  We know he beats women and little kids, but there’s no telling how he’ll react to the cops showin’ up on his doorstep.”

 

After we got dressed, we met the boys in the theater and got the movie going again, then Tom and I retreated to the kitchen to wait for Dylan.

 

“Do you think I should call Carol and get her out here, too?  We are dealing with child abuse and that’s part of what she does.”

 

“That’d be a good idea.  With the situation, she could provide more grounds for whatever Dylan and I end up having to do with Russ.”

 

I dialed Carol’s number and waited for her answer.

 

“Hello, Max, ready to return the boys?” she laughed.

 

“Not on your life, lady.  Listen, Carol, we have a situation here and I think you need to be involved.”

 

“What’s going on, Max?”

 

“Mike has some boys over from school this afternoon and one of them shows signs of abuse.”

 

“What signs?”

 

“He has bruising on his back, behind, and thighs, and he was the leader of the three who were picking on Mike at school.”

 

“And just how did you see this bruising?”

 

“We all went for a swim this afternoon and…”

 

“’Nuff said, Max.  Give me 25 to 30 minutes and I’ll be there.  Do I need to call law enforcement?”

 

“Already done and Dylan’s on the way.  He should be here already by the time you get here.”

 

“Good, I’m on the way.  Don’t do anything until I get there.”

 

“Thanks, Carol.  See you soon.”  I turned to Tom, “Okay, she’s on the way and said not to do anything until she gets here.”

 

“Good, it’ll be nice to have her input.”

 

20 minutes later, the drive sensor announced an arrival.  I went to the door and saw a Sangamon County Sherriff’s car pull in and Dylan get out of the car.  I opened the door as he was coming up the walk and said, “Afternoon, Dylan, how ya’ doin’?”

 

“I’ve had better days.  How ‘bout yourself, Max?”

 

“Hectic, but you have to expect that with three extra boys in the house.”

 

“How’s Tom?” he asked as he stepped through the door.

 

“Ask him, yourself.  He’s waiting in the kitchen.”

 

“He’s here already?”

 

“He should be since he living here now.”

 

“Guess he forgot to file a change of address form with the department,” he grinned.

 

“Give him a break, will ya’, we’ve been busy.”

 

“I guess so.”  We’d reached the kitchen and Dylan said, “Afternoon, Tom.  How’s the new living quarters workin’ out?”

 

“Great, Sarge.  Thanks for asking.”

 

“Why’re you in uniform, you’re not on duty today.”

 

“Max told me this Russ dude’s pretty big and mean.  I’m not letting you go there alone.”

 

“Good, ‘cause with what I found out on the search, this is one sick mothe…, uh, individual.”

 

“What’d you find?” I asked.

 

“First, I need a description of the guy you saw to make sure I got the right info ‘cause the last name is different from what you said on the phone.”

 

“I’d guess about 6’-1”, 225 to 250 pounds, brownish hair, tattoos on both arms that I could see, ugly.”

 

“Sounds like a match to me.  Let me show you the picture the system spit out.”  Dylan pulled a picture out of a folder and slid it across the counter to me.

 

“That’s him, no doubt in my mind.”

 

“Good.  This guy’s bad news.  Multiple arrests for drunk and disorderly, assault, burglary, etc., etc.  He has multiple warrants out on him right now, including drugs, armed robbery, another assault.  We’ve been looking for him for a while, but he’s been flying below the radar.  Nice to finally know where the scumbag’s been hiding.  It’ll be good to get his nasty ass off the streets.”

 

“Glad I could find him for you.  Pure luck.”

 

“I’ll take what I can get.  Now, I need to speak with the abuse victim.”

 

“You’ll have to wait a few more minutes, Sarge.”

 

“Why?  I want to get this guy while we know where he is.”

 

“That’s my fault, Dylan.  After Tom talked to you, I called Carol since we thought we were dealing with abuse only.  She’s on her way out and told us not to do anything until she gets here.  She wants to be here when we talk to Andy.”

 

“Didn’t think about that, sorry for jumping the gun.  She’s absolutely correct that she should be here.  I can’t question a minor without someone there to protect their interests, no matter what.”

 

“So, boss, while we wait for Carol, there’s something I need to tell you.”

 

“Spit it out, boy.”

 

“I’ve moved in with Max and we’re going to get married.”

 

“I knew the first since Max told me at the door, but the second is certainly news.  When did you two make that decision?”

 

“This morning, boss.”

 

“When’s this gonna’ happen?”

 

“We haven’t gotten that far yet, Dylan,” I said.  “We’re hoping we can make it official before the adoption is finalized so both our names can be included on the court papers.”

 

“Whenever it happens, I better be invited.  Congrats to both of you.  I wish you nothing but the best, for all of you.”

 

“You got it, boss.”  Dylan gave each of us a hug just as the drive sensor dinged to announce Carol’s arrival.  I met her at the door and led her into the kitchen to meet with Dylan and Tom.

 

“Well, afternoon, boys.  How’s everybody doing?”

 

“Great, Carol.  I’m glad you’re here,” Dylan answered.  “This guy is bad news and we need to get him out of that house.”

 

“Do you have grounds to do that, besides his abuse of the young man visiting here this afternoon?”

 

“Plenty, but if we can throw another charge at him, it’ll keep him jail and away from his victims even longer.”

 

“Victims??  I was only told about the one boy, who else?”

 

“Andy told Tom and me that he beats his mom, also.”

 

“Okay, let’s talk to him and get this show on the road.  Can we use your study, Max?”

 

“Of course, why don’t you and Dylan head in there and I’ll bring Andy along in a minute?”

 

“We’ll be waiting.  Thanks, Max.  Come on Dylan.”  Carol and Dylan headed for the study while I turned to the theater to get Andy.

 

“Andy, I hate to interrupt the movie, but would you please come with me for a little bit?”

 

“What’s up Mr. Sanders?”

 

“I have a couple of people who need to talk to you.”

 

“Do I have to?”

 

“If you want Russ out of your home, I think you should.”

 

“Okay, let’s go,” he said dejectedly.  I rested my hand on his shoulder and guided him to the study.  After entering, I closed the door behind us.

 

“Andy, I want you to meet Carol Ward and Sergeant Dylan Brock of the Sangamon County Sherriff’s department.  Carol is working with me on the boys’ adoption and she’s here to help protect you.  Sergeant Brock is here to help get Russ out of your house.  They need to ask you some questions and they need truthful answers.”

 

“Okay,” he mumbled.

 

“Thanks, Max,” Dylan said.  “We’ll take it from here.  Can you wait outside with Deputy Wright, please?”

 

I’d turned to leave when I felt Andy grab my hand and he pulled me back by his side.  “If he ain’t stayin’, I ain’t sayin’ nothin’.”

 

I knelt in front of him and said, “Andy, it’s okay.  Just answer their questions and they’ll take care of everything else.”

 

“I’ll tell ‘em whatever they wanna’ know, but not without you here, Mr. Sanders.”  I looked to the others and received nods of acceptance from both.  I sat in my chair behind the desk while Carol and Dylan took seats on the other side.  Once I was seated, Andy crawled up in my lap and made himself comfortable.

 

Carol started her questions with, “Andy, can you tell me your last name, please, and your mom’s name?”

 

“My mom’s name is Arlene and our last name is Cox.”

 

“Okay, good.  How long has Russ been living with you?”

 

“Since before Christmas.”

 

“Do you know where your mom met him?”

 

“Not a clue.”

 

“That’s all right Andy.  Now you told Mr. Sanders that Russ has beaten you and your mom.  Is that true?”

 

“It sure is.  He uses a belt on me and his fists on my mom.”

 

“How many times has he done this?”

 

“He’s hurt me five or six times since he showed up, but he’s hurt mom lots more.”

 

“Okay, now I need to ask you a question that you won’t like, but I need a truthful answer.”

 

“What?”

 

“Has Russ ever touched you in a place he shouldn’t?”

 

“What, you mean, like, my di…?”

 

“Unfortunately, yes.  I know this is uncomfortable, Andy, but I need to know if anything like that has happened.”

 

“NO! Never!”

 

“I’m sorry to upset you, but I need to know these things.  Now, I need one last thing.”

 

“Now what?”

 

“Max told me when he called this afternoon that you had some bruising on your lower back, behind and legs.  You’re not going to like this, but I need to see the bruises and take pictures of them for evidence.”

 

“No way!  I ain’t showin’ you my butt and you ain’t takin’ no pictures of it!”

 

“Andy, I know you don’t want to do it, but if we’re going to punish Russ for hurting you, we need to have proof that it happened.  Without proof, we can’t put him jail.”

 

“Well, get your proof some other way ‘cause I ain’t showin’ you my butt.”

 

I held up my hand to interrupt Carol and said, “Andy, remember, you already let Tom and me check you out all over.”

 

“Well, yeah, you’re guys, that’s different.”

 

“Can we do it this way?  We can ask Carol to step out of the room, then you can show Dylan the bruises.  That way, we can get the proof we need and Carol won’t see your behind.”

 

“I guess that’d be okay.  I mean, you already seen it, and he’s a guy.  Yeah, that’ll work.”

 

“Will you let Dylan take the pictures they need?”

 

“I don’t want to, but I guess so.  If it’ll help get that jerk outta my house, I’ll do it.”

 

“Good deal, Andy.  Carol, would you excuse us for a few minutes, please?”

 

“Sure.  I’ll be waiting outside the door.”

 

“Thanks, Carol.”  She left the study and closed the door behind her.  “Okay, Andy, Carol’s gone, can we do this now?”

 

“Okay,” he grumped.

 

He jumped off my lap, turned around, lifted his shirt and dropped his shorts to the floor.

 

“Can you see the bruises, Dylan?”

 

“Barely, it’s hard to tell if their bruises or shadows from this angle.  Any chance of getting better light on the area?”

 

I knelt in front of Andy and gently asked, “Andy, I know this is embarrassing, but we need to get more light on your backside.  Will you let me lift you up on the desk so we can turn on the desk lamp and make the bruises easier to see?”

 

“Oh, why not?  Hurry up and get this over with.”

 

I put my hands under his arms and lifted him up so he was standing on the desk, his shorts dropping off his feet and remaining on the floor.  I then turned on the light and directed it to illuminate the proper area. 

 

“There ya’ go, Max.  That’s perfect.  Okay, Andy, I’m going to take the pictures now.”

 

“Just do it,” he mumbled.

 

Dylan took the pictures he needed of Andy’s back side, then had him turn around so he could verify there was no bruising on his front side.  When we were done, I set Andy back on the floor and he pulled his shorts back on.

 

“Andy,” I said, “I know you didn’t want to go through that and it’s embarrassing as all get out, but I’m proud of you for doing it.”

 

“Me, too, Andy,” Dylan added.  “It takes a big man to let other people see you like that.  You did great.”

 

“Thanks, Mr. Sanders, Mr. Brock.  If it’ll get that jerk gone and keep him from hurting anybody else, it was worth it.”

 

“Consider it done, young man,” Dylan responded.

 

“Can he go back to his friends, now?” I asked.

 

“I don’t see why not.”  He knelt in front of Andy and said, “You did a great thing, young man and I thank you for helping out the department today.  I promise that nobody will ever see these pictures unless they can prove to me it’s absolutely necessary.  And once Russ is in jail where he belongs, I’ll personally destroy them.  Now, why don’t you go back to your movie and let us take it from here?”  Dylan held out his hand, Andy gave him a quick shake and ran out of the study.

 

Carol came back in and asked, “Well?”

 

“There is definitely bruising.  It’s pretty faded, but still visible, so there’s another charge against this scum we can use.”

 

“Do you need anything else from me, Dylan?” Carol asked.

 

“Well, Max said the boy’s mother wasn’t home when he picked Andy up so I don’t if she’ll be there when we go get Russ.  Since you’re already out here, you may want to go along and check out the home after we get him out of the way.”

 

“That’s a good idea.  Thanks.  Shall I take my own car or should I ride with you?”

 

“You’ll probably want your own car there since mine will be occupied with the scum of the earth.”

 

“Good point.  If I had to be in the same car with him, I’d kill the son-of-a-bitch.”

 

“Whoa, Carol, take a deep breath and relax.  I don’t want to have to arrest you, too.  Okay, I’m going to call for another car to meet us at the truck stop and then we’ll continue on from there.  Once we have Russ under control and in the car, we’ll search the house and make sure whether the mother is or isn’t home.”

 

“Sounds like a plan to me, Dylan,” I said.  “Anything I can do?”

 

“You’ve already done it by calling us, Max.  It’s our job now.  You stay here and take care of the boys until Tom gets back.”

 

“I can do that.  Thanks, you two.”

 

“No, thank you, Max.  Like I said, we’ve been looking for this guy, just didn’t know where he was hiding.  Now, we can get his sorry ass off the streets and in a jail where it belongs now.  Let me go out to my unit and make a call and we’ll be ready to go.”

 

We left the study and as Dylan headed outside, Carol and I returned into the kitchen where Tom was waiting.

 

“Hi Carol.  Where’s Sarge?”

 

“He went out to call another car to help you two corral Russ.”

 

“Good.  The more, the merrier.”

 

“So,” Carol began, “How’re you two doing?  And how’s our boys?”

 

“We’re great, Carol, and so are the boys.  We do have a little bit of news to give you since you’re here, though.”

 

“Will I like it?”

 

“I hope so.  And I hope it won’t hurt the adoption.”

 

“Oh lord, what have you two done now?”

 

“This morning, before I went to pick up Mike’s friends, I asked Tom if he’d marry me.”

 

“And I said yes.”

 

“Oh, my god!  Congratulations to both of you.  I’m so happy for you.”

 

“You’re not freaked?” I asked.  “You were pretty shook up earlier this week when I told you about us getting together, but this you’re okay with?”

 

“I’m over that, Max.  You’re both grown men and can make your own decisions.  I realized after you left my office that I was overreacting.  And it should have no effect whatsoever on your adoption.”

 

“That’s good to hear.”  I looked to Tom and, with a sly wink, asked, “So, what do you think?  Should we invite her to our wedding?”

 

“Gee, I don’t know, Max.  She seems like quite the troublemaker to me,” he grinned in response.

 

“Look, you two, if I’m not invited, that will most definitely hurt the adoption,” Carol responded sarcastically.

 

“Don’t worry, milady, you will most certainly be invited.  It was, after all, you who brought us together.  It’s all your fault.”

 

At that moment, Dylan came back in.  “Okay, another unit’s on the way, we better get to the truck stop and be ready to roll.  Ms. Ward, I’m going ask you to stay in your car until we have the situation under control.”

 

“No problem, Dylan.”

 

I followed Dylan, Carol and Tom to the door and after Dylan and Carol had stepped outside, I grabbed Tom and spun him back around.  I wrapped my arms around him and whispered in his ear, “You be careful and come home in one piece, you hear me?”

 

“I hear ya’.  I’ll be back soon.”  Then, he turned to join Dylan in the car and I slowly closed the door, then headed to the theater to wait it out with the boys.

 

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