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Chapter 39 – Justice Screwed

 

I stood in the open doorway for a minute or two trying to process what had just happened when I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard Tom ask, “Who was that?”

 

“Huh, oh yeah, some dude named Ryan just handed me this, said ‘you’ve been served’ and drove off,” I answered, handing the bundle to Tom.  “What the hell is that all about?”

 

Tom took the papers and went through them really quick while I remembered, finally, to close the door.

 

“Well, Max, if I’m reading this right, it looks like you’ve been sued.”

 

“By who!?  And for what?”

 

“It looks like Valerie has included you in her lawsuit against the school district and board for wrongful termination.  Boy, you really know how to make new friends, don’t ya’?”

 

“That fuckin’ bitch!  I had nothing to do with her being fired.  She did that to herself.”

 

“She apparently disagrees.  And, surprise, surprise, she found a lawyer who does, too.”

 

“Well, they’re both idiots, then.  I have to call Steve this evening and see if he got the same thing, but first, I need to call James and get him on board with killing this bullshit.  Then, just for good measure, I’ll have him kill Valerie, too.  She fuckin’ the wrong man this time.  In more ways than one.” 

 

Tom stuck his fingers in his ears and trilled, “lalalalalalalalala, I am NOT hearing this.”

 

“Oh, chill out.  As much pleasure as it would bring to me to do it, you know I wouldn’t.”

 

“Good, ‘cause I don’t want to have to bring the kids to visit their dad in prison.”

 

I went back to the living room and dialed James’ number.  After telling his receptionist who I was, I, again, told her I needed to talk to James as soon as possible for another emergency.  Unfortunately, James was in a conference and had to call me back.  I reiterated how important it was I talk to James today and hung up.

 

“I don’t believe this, he’s with another client and wouldn’t take my call,” I fumed as I paced the living room.

 

“MAX!” Tom yelled as he grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me to get my attention.  “Calm down!  First, you’re not James’ only client.  He does not live to take care of just your legal needs.  Second, this is complete bullshit, you know, I know it, and James will too, as soon as he sees it.  Hell, even Valerie knows it’s a huge crock overflowing with the worst smelling pile of Kobe beef shit.  She’s just trying to make a few quick bucks off the school and you.”

 

“Well, she ain’t getting’ shit outta’ me.  I’ll stick my dick in a light socket and flip the switch before that happens.”

 

“That certainly puts a new twist on ‘light my fire’, babe,” he laughed.  “I’d pay good money to watch that show.”  As pissed off as I was, I had to laugh at the image that flitted through my brain.

 

“Yeah, all right, I’m calming down.  First, my dad decides to fuck with my life and now this bitch.  Who’s next, huh?”

 

“Ain’t gonna’ be me, huh-uh, no way, man.”

 

“I know that, big guy.  Thanks for breakin’ that evil spell she put on me.  I needed a wakeup call.  And now that I think about this, I’ve had an inspiration on the perfect way to screw her back.  Not literally, of course.  I wouldn’t touch that evil cu…, uh, witch, with a 20-foot pole.”

 

“How you gonna’ do that?”

 

“Well, isn’t it fairly common that the loser in a lawsuit like this usually ends up paying the attorney’s fees for both sides?”

 

“If it’s in the suit that way, sure.”

 

“And, honestly, what do you think the chances of her winning this are?”

 

“From what I know about what happened with her last week, zilch, zero, nada.  You’d stand a better chance of having a snowball fight in hell with Satan himself than she does of winning if this goes to a trial.”

 

“Exactly.  Now, think about this, Tom.  We don’t resist going to court.  James, the school’s and board member’s attorneys and her shyster, all racking up fees as they churn out enough paper to plaster Springfield.  Then, after a nice long trial with lots of witnesses and costly experts, she loses.  First, the suit, and second, her ass.”

 

“I suppose that could happen.  But you have to balance that possible outcome against the slim possibility a jury finds for her.  Then you’d have to pay her and all those attorney’s fees.”

 

“What if we ask for a trial by a judge only, no jury?  What do you think the chances of a solid win for us would be?”

 

“Pretty good, in my mind, but I’m not the judge, either.  If I were, she’d never see the inside of a courtroom, not with this flimsy piece of crap.”

 

“Give me that, I’m gonna’ fax it to James right now with a note to call me ASAP.”  I took the bundle of garbage from Tom, headed to the study and after writing a note to James to call me, stuffed the whole pile into the fax machine and sent it on its way.  When the machine started scanning the pages, I headed back to the living room, plotting a strategy to make Ms. Carr, The Wicked Bitch of the West, pay through the nose.

 

When I rejoined Tom, he asked, “Isn’t it about time for the boys to get off the bus?”

 

I looked at my watch and answered, “It sure is, you feel like picking them up this afternoon so I can be here if James calls?”

 

“Sure, no problem.  Promise me you won’t do anything absolutely nutso in the five minutes I leave you alone.”

 

“Oh, go on, get out of here, I’m fine now.  Still pissed off, but I’m working on a plan.”

 

“If you say, so.  We’ll be right back.”  Tom grabbed his coat, slipped on a pair of shoes and headed to meet the boys as they returned home.

 

I sat by the fireplace, mind whirling as I planned, plotted and devised what I thought was the perfect strategy to nail Valerie to the wall.  Come on, James, would you call back, damn it?  I want to get on with this.  A few minutes after Tom left, I heard the rumble of the garage door closing, followed by the clamor of the fantastic five storming the house.  I’d always wondered what a stampeding herd of wild buffalo sounded like, and I now have the answer to that question.  About the same as five boys happily returning home from another grinding day at school.

 

Tom found me where he’d left me, sitting by the fireplace and he was followed shortly by the aforementioned herd, having shed their clothes and running wildly towards me to give hugs, which I eagerly accepted and returned.  “Afternoon my herd of tiny naked buffalo, how was your day?” I asked.

 

“We had a great day, dad, what about you?” Alex answered.

 

“I’ve had better days, but this one’s improving, now that you guys are home.  Who has homework?”

 

“Nobody,” Joey said with a wide smile.

 

“Hey, dad, why you got clothes on?” T.J. wanted to know.

 

“Well, we’ve had several people here today to talk about the twins’ room and Tom’s office and I just haven’t had a chance to get comfortable once everybody left.”

 

“Why’d you call us a herd of buffalo?” Mike asked.  “Were we really that loud?”

 

“Boys, you were so loud, I heard you while you were still coming down the driveway,” I grinned.  “Then, when you came in the house, I thought an earthquake was happening.”

 

“Sorry, dad, we’ll try to be quieter.”

 

“Don’t you dare.  The five of you coming home is the best thing I’ve heard all day.”

 

“Gee, thanks, Max.  You really know how to boost a guy’s ego,” Tom laughed.

 

“Okay, my bad, it’s a tie.  You feelin’ better, now, Tom?”

 

“I’m getting there.” 

 

The phone rang and I was happy to see from the caller ID that James was calling back.  I grabbed the phone before it could ring a second time and said, “Hey, James, thanks for calling me back so soon.  Can you hold on a second while I go to the study so we can talk?  …  Perfect, the boys just got home from school and it’s little noisy at the moment.  Be back with you in just a moment.”  I put James on hold and as I headed to the study, I said, “Why don’t you guys figure out what’s for supper while I deal with this?”  I heard food suggestions flying all the way down the hall until I closed the study door.  With the door closed, I sat at the desk and picked up the call.

 

“Okay, James, sorry about that.  I don’t think the boys need to hear this conversation.  Did you get my fax?”

 

“I did, but before we get into that, I want to let you know why I couldn’t take your call earlier.”

 

“I hope it’s good news.”

 

“I think it is, but you’ll be the final judge of that.  I found the attorney your dad hired and invited him over for a little chat.”

 

“Great, who is it?  And were you able to talk some sense into him?”

 

“I’m not giving you his name because you don’t need to know.  And to answer your second question, I think so.  Once I explained the difficulties you’re having with your father and why he’s going after you, he seemed to understand that this situation is a personal issue between you and your dad, and based solely on your father’s religious beliefs.  While the attorney sort of agrees with your dad’s reasoning, he realizes that this type of issue would be better solved between the two of you and to kept out of the courts.”

 

“That’s a relief, James.  What’s he going to do with dad, then?”

 

“Before he left my office, I impressed upon him that he needs to tell his client that while he may agree with him on some points, the laws of the state don’t and he has no grounds for bringing this type of action against you.  He said he would also return the retainer your father has paid him so he will no longer be beholden to do as your father wants.”

 

“Excellent.  That’s a load off my mind.  Thanks for taking care of it for me.”

 

“Hold on, Max, don’t start celebrating, not yet, anyway.  Just because I was able to convince this particular attorney there were no grounds to continue his representation of your father, that doesn’t mean he won’t go out and find another attorney to make your life miserable.  I’ll protect you as best I can, but you’re not free of this entirely until you can get your father to change his point of view.  And I truly wish you luck with that.”

 

“Thanks for what you’ve accomplished so far.  Now what do you think about the papers I faxed you?”

 

“In my most humble legal opinion, I think this Valerie Carr is off her meds.  I mean, how she can possibly think you had anything to do with her termination is beyond comprehension.”

 

“Well, James, I am the one who called the board president and essentially threatened him to get him to dig into the situation, but that’s all I did.  I swear.  Wait, let me amend that.  I did enjoy a private little cheer when I heard the news she been canned, but that and the phone call constitute the sum total of my involvement.  Oh, wait, there is one more thing.  My boys, Alex and Joey, talked to Steve Furman, the board president, over the phone that night to tell him what happened in the classroom that fateful afternoon, and Steve then asked his daughter about it since she’s in the same class, and she told him the same story my boys did.  So, I made the call that got the ball rolling, my boys told the truth and I enjoyed a little ‘yippee’.  Okay, that’s it.  Pretty sure it is, anyway.”

 

“None of that matters.  Look, Max, don’t worry about this one bit.  I’ll get you removed from this nightmare in a heartbeat.”

 

“Oh, no, don’t you dare do that, James.  I want you to proceed full steam ahead.”

 

“What!?  Why the hell would you want to do that?”

 

“I’ve come up with a way to make Ms. Carr pay for having such a vindictive personality.”  I first explained the entire sequence of events that led to Valerie’s dismissal, from my initial meeting with her and the boys’ teachers, to her canning that happened two days later.  I then told James my plan and asked what he thought of the idea.

 

“By god, Max, that’s freakin’ genius.  I wish I’d thought of it.  I’ll have her shyster swimming in so much paper, he’ll need a ladder to get fresh air.  And he ain’t cheap, either.  He charges even more than I do,” James laughed.

 

“Good.  I want to soak her dry.  With what you now know, do you think she has a hope in hell of winning?”

 

“Only if the judge is a complete idiot and off his meds too, which is always possible, but I’ll do what I can to ensure we don’t have that problem.”

 

“Excellent, James.  I’m going to call Steve later and talk to him about it, too.  I’m sure he’ll be on board with this, also.  He despises Valerie almost as much as I do after what she did.”

 

“Sounds, good, Max.  This will work much better if we’re all on the same page.  Now, I have to ask you a question.  I heard through the grapevine that you may be in court tomorrow without me being there to represent you.  You haven’t hired another attorney, have you?”

 

“Are you kidding me, James, after all you’ve done for me over the years, how could you even think that?”

 

“Well, if you haven’t hired a new lawyer, why are you going to be in court?”

 

“I’m going to be there as a witness against the two nasty individuals who used to be the twins’ foster parents.  They were a problem from the moment I met them and they are about to get served their just desserts, I hope.”

 

“Ah, that explains why you’re on the family court docket and not the criminal.  I wondered about that, especially since I know I’m representing you on the adoptions.  You sure you don’t need me there?”

 

“If you have some spare time, you may want to be there for the entertainment value, I think it’ll be worth it.”

 

“Sounds like fun, Max, I’ll see what I can do.  Okay, I think that’s all I had, you good, now?”

 

“Finer than frog’s hair, James.  Thanks for your help.”

 

“That’s why I get paid the big bucks, remember.  Good luck with your dad.”

 

“Thanks, James, talk to you later.”  I cradled the receiver back on the phone and breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Once my nerves were settled, I headed across the hall to get undressed before joining the rest of the family for supper.  As I turned the corner from the hall and headed into the living room, I was shocked to find company sitting there, chatting with the boys and Tom, who were all dressed.  When the hell had she arrived?  I sure didn’t hear the drive sensor go off.  I blushed about 6 shades of red from head to toe and promptly turned on my heel to beat a hasty retreat to get dressed again.

 

“Hi, Max, so nice to see you,” Carol called loudly, causing the boys and Tom to swivel their heads in my direction.  Once they saw my bare backside as I hustled around the corner and down the hall, they all busted out laughing.

 

“Dad, ‘other people’ rules, remember!?” T.J. yelled, while laughing hysterically.

 

“Well, y’all could have warned me we had company,” I yelled back as I continued on down the hall.  I pulled on a pair of shorts and returned to the living room where everyone was still enjoying a good laugh at my expense.  “Hello, Carol, so nice of you to come out.  To what do we owe the pleasure?”

 

“Oh, no, the pleasure was all mine.  That look on your face just now, absolutely priceless,” she giggled.  “Actually, I stopped by to see how Tom’s doing with his recovery.  I’m glad to see he’s looking and feeling better than the last time I saw him.”

 

“At least I’m not bleedin’ like a stuck pig this time, Carol.  That’s a big plus in my book.”

 

“Mine, too, Tom.”

 

“So, did you guys figure out what we’re having for supper?” I asked.

 

“The general consensus we reached was hamburgers and chips,” Tom answered.  “Sound okay to you?”

 

“That sounds good to me, too.  How ‘bout you Carol, you want to join us?”

 

“Thanks for that kind offer, but I was just on my way back to Springfield from Jacksonville and thought I’d stop by for a few minutes to see my favorite ex-cop.  I’m supposed to meet Anna for supper in a bit to discuss an upcoming adoption case.”

 

“We’ll still see you next Thursday for Alex and Joey’s birthday, right?”

 

“I have that night blocked out on my calendar so I won’t miss it.  The only thing that would be more important would be an invitation from the White House.  Not that I’d go there, now, mind you.  Not with the grabbin’ fool that’s living there.”

 

“Good, you’ll get to meet Tom’s parents and my mom, then.”

 

“What about your dad?  Isn’t he going to be here?”

 

“I highly doubt it.  We’re not on speaking terms at the moment.  He may not even be talking to mom, for all I know.”

 

“I’m sorry to hear that.  I hope you can smooth things over with him.”

 

“Yeah, me, too.”

 

“Well, let me get out of your way so you can get started on supper.  I’m sure these boys are about ready to eat a dinosaur.”

 

“We might be hungry, Ms. Ward, but not that hungry,” Joey chuckled.

 

After Tom and the boys gave her hugs, I followed Carol to the door, gave her my own hug and said good night.  As soon as the door was closed, I turned around to have a little chat with the wild bunch about giving fair warnings and found them all ripping their clothes off while heading to their rooms to put them away, tripping and stumbling as they tried to drop their shorts while walking.  Wasn’t much I could do or say at the moment except to laugh at the slapstick comedy before my eyes.  Tom headed my direction, grabbed my arm and led me to the bedroom so we could do the same.

 

“Really funny, Tom.  Why didn’t you come tell me Carol was here?”

 

“I’m sorry, babe, I just assumed you’d hear the drive sensor ding.”

 

“I tell you right now, when the study door is closed, you can’t hear that damn thing in there.  I’ll have to see if there’s any way to add another chime in there so I don’t embarrass myself again like I just did.  I felt like such a fool.”

 

“You may have felt like a fool, babe, but you’re a damn good-looking one.  Especially when you’re em-bare-assed.  That was a lovely shade of pink you were rockin’ out there.”

 

“You, Thomas Wright, are a first-class smart-ass.”

 

“Why, thank you, Max, I’ll take that as a compliment.”

 

With everyone comfortable again, we headed to the kitchen to get to work on supper.   I started grilling the hamburgers on the stove’s grill insert while Tom got the chips in baskets and the boys set the table and fixed drinks.  We were ready to eat in short order and sat to enjoy our meal.

 

“So, boys, anyone else sporting the ‘Tom Wright Special’ haircut yet?” I asked.

 

“Not yet, dad,” Mike answered.  “Mark and Billy really want to get it done, but their moms are bein’ a pain and keep telling ‘em no way.”

 

“Well, it’s a pretty drastic thing to do.  I can see why they might hesitate.”

 

“But you let us do it, dad,” T.J. countered.

 

“Well, the whole situation hit us a bit closer than it did Mark and Billy.”

 

“Uh, ya’ think?” Tom asked sarcastically.

 

“I know, big guy.  By the way, Joey and Alex, I still need a list of the friends you want to invite to your party next Saturday.  I’d like to start contacting their parents this weekend.”

 

“Okay, dad, we’ll have a list tonight,” Alex answered.

 

“You said 20 or 25 kids, didn’t you, dad?” Joey asked with a smirk.

 

“You know it was 10 to 12.  Don’t you try to fool me, you little booger.  I’d like to have the house still standing when the party’s over.”

 

“Hey, I had to try.  Do we have to have boys and girls, or can we ask just boys?”

 

“That’s up to you.  It’s your party, so you get to select the guests.”

 

“Boys only, then, Alex,” Joey whispered and he received a knowing smile and nod from his brother.

 

“Just what are you two planning down there?”

 

“Nothin’, dad,” Alex answered.  “Nothin’ at all.”

 

“I hope not.  We don’t want any surprises, got it?”

 

“We got it dad,” they answered in unison.

 

We finished our meal and with everyone working together on the cleanup, we were ready to relax for a bit.  I suggested the boys play some Uno while I called Steve to talk about my idea for Valerie to receive her comeuppance, so they grabbed the cards from their room while I headed to the study and Tom retrieved his book.

 

When Steve answered his phone, I got right to the business at hand.  “Evening, Steve, Max Sanders here.  I assume you got served with a suit from Valerie today.”

 

“I did, but how do you know about it?”

 

“Because I did, too.”

 

“You’re kidding me, Max.  What the heck is she thinking?  You weren’t involved in the board’s decision to terminate her.”

 

“Not directly, I wasn’t, but you have to admit, I did kinda get it started.”

 

“That’s true, but it’s still no reason to involve you in the suit.  I’ll exert some pressure on her and get her to drop you from this insanity.”

 

“Don’t you dare, Steve, I have a better idea.  I’ve already talked to my attorney and he’s on board with this.  Let me tell you what I want to do.”  I explained in detail what my thought was to retaliate against Valerie and Steve was silent throughout.  “So, what do you think.  Do you think the others involved will go along with it?”

 

“I don’t see why they wouldn’t.  You are a devious cuss, aren’t you?”

 

“When I’m pushed, Steve, I push back.  And she has pushed me well beyond my limits.”

 

“Well, I’m glad we’re on the same side on this.  I sure wouldn’t want to be the one going against you.  I’ll talk with the other board members and make sure they agree, but I don’t think anyone will balk.”

 

“Good, I want to make sure she gets the message, loud and clear.”

 

“I do, too.  By the way, I saw Gloria left me a message that you had called earlier, but I didn’t read it because I was in hurry to get home.  Is this what you called about?”

 

“Actually, no, I didn’t get served until after I’d called.  I wanted to talk to you about some testing for Alex and Joey.”

 

“What kind of testing?  Are they having problems with something and needing extra help.”

 

“Not at all.  In fact, it’s the complete opposite.  They’re bored to tears with the level of math work they’re doing and Mr. Thomas thought they would benefit from moving up a grade level in their studies for that subject.  I’ve watched them do some homework here at home and they just fly right through it, barely even looking at the book, so I know what he’s talking about.”

 

“We can certainly do that, but normally, we only do that type of testing at the beginning of the school year.  Switching grade levels this close to the end of the year isn’t something I’d recommend.  There’s just not enough time left before the end of the school year for them to complete the fourth-grade curriculum.”

 

“Okay, what if we try this, Steve?  Would you be willing to give them the fourth-grade text and just let them work with it on their own and see what they do with it?”

 

“No harm in doing that, I guess.  I’m not sure what we’ll accomplish with it, but if they’re willing, I’ll do it.”

 

“Great, have Ken give them the books tomorrow and let’s see what happens.  I have the feeling they’re going to surprise us all.”

 

“If you say so, I’ll make it happen.  Well, I need to call the other board members and see what they think about your idea.  I’ll let you know what I find out.”

 

“Thanks, Steve.  Have a great evening.”  We ended our call and I headed back out to rejoin the family only to discover Tom and the boys had decided on an after-meal swim.  I went back to the bedroom to grab a towel and headed on out to join them.  Peals of laughter and joy assaulted me when I opened the door to the pool shelter.  “So, you decided to have fun without me, again, did you?” I yelled.

 

“C’mon, dad, get in here,” Joey yelled.  I jumped in the pool and was immediately assaulted by the fantastic five who spent the next 15 minutes trying to get my head underwater.  When they finally succeeded, I begged off any more roughhousing and headed to calmer and deeper waters next to Tom while the boys continued their play.

 

“About time you got off the phone and joined us,” Tom said as I settled in.

 

“Sorry, it took a little longer to talk to Steve than I thought.”

 

“Solve any of the world’s problems?”

 

“Not the world’s, no, but he is going to work with me to humiliate Valerie.  He’s calling the other board members to let them know what we’re doing and he’s pretty sure they’ll all join in the fun.”

 

“It’s a great idea, but I hope it doesn’t backfire on you guys.”

 

“I’m pretty sure it won’t.  She really doesn’t have a leg to stand on.  She did lie her ass off to get a teacher fired.  If that’s not misconduct worthy of termination, I don’t know what is.  The other thing I asked him about was testing for the twins to see if they could be advanced to the next grade level in math?”

 

“What was his answer to that?”

 

“He said they normally only do that testing just before the start of the school year and he wouldn’t recommend changing anything this late in the school year.”

 

“Joey and Alex won’t like that much, will they?”

 

“No, they won’t, but I did talk him into giving them the fourth-grade textbook so they could work on it in their free time and see what they can accomplish on their own.  From what I’ve seen from their homework so far, they won’t have any problems with it.”

 

“Probably not.  Those two seem to read numbers like normal people read words.”

 

“I really think they’ll surprise us all with what they do.”

 

“They are full of surprises.  All kinds of ‘em.  That should keep our lives interesting for years to come.”

 

“I sure hope so.  I can’t imagine a dull minute for the next fifteen or so years, anyway.  Hope you like a challenge.”

 

“I live for ‘em, Max.”

 

“Well, I think it’s about time to call it a night and get the monkeys in bed.  They have school and we have to put in a court appearance tomorrow.”

 

“Works for me.  Let’s go.”

 

We climbed out of the pool and called the boys out also.  “Showers, snacks and bed, boys.  We’ll meet you in the kitchen, okay?”

 

“We’ll be there, dad,” T.J. answered as they headed back to the house.  Tom and I headed to the kitchen and got a snack of apple slices cut and milk poured and had finished the last plate when the first monkey came loping in and climbed up on his stool.

 

“You ready for school tomorrow, T.J.?” Tom asked.

 

“I suppose.  I’ll be glad when school’s over for the summer though.”

 

“No doubt,” Tom responded.  “Then, you guys can do whatever you want for a few months.”

 

“Yeah, it’ll be great out here.  This’ll be bestest summer I’ve ever had.”

 

“I think we’re all looking forward to it,” I commented as the other four others finally arrived and took their stools.  With the snack completed, we directed the boys towards their beds while Tom and I cleaned up the snack detritus, then headed to tuck the kids in and say good night.  First stop was T.J., Mike and Andy, of course, and when we entered their room, they were curled up together as usual, T.J. holding Mike who was holding Andy.  They looked so sweet and innocent as we pulled the covers over them, planted kisses on their foreheads and said, “I love you” to each of them while receiving the same back.  I live for these moments, now, and don’t know how I survived thirty-four years without them.  We turned out the light and closed the door on the way to our next stop, Alex and Joey. 

 

“We need to have a short chat with these two before we say good night.”

 

“About what?” Tom asked.

 

“About my dad and about what can’t happen for a while.  I don’t think we can take the chance.”

 

“Much as I hate it, I have to agree.  Way too risky.”

 

We walked through the door to find the twins sitting in the middle of the bed, facing each other with their eyes closed.  Befuddled at this new development, Tom and I sat quietly on the edge of the bed and just watched them for a few minutes.  When they finally opened their eyes, and became aware of the two of us sitting there staring at them, they jumped in surprise.

 

“Oh, hi, dads, we didn’t realize you’d come in,” Alex said.

 

“We noticed that,” I responded.  “Mind if I ask what was happening here?”

 

“We were just talking to each other,” Joey answered.

 

“Excuse me?  I didn’t hear anything, did you, Tom?”

 

“I didn’t hear nothin’, either,” Tom answered with a confused look on his face.

 

“Please, tell me more about this, boys.”

 

“Well, we have this kind of link between us and we can…,” Alex started.

 

“…share things with each other we don’t want others to hear,” Joey finished.

 

“We used to do it all the time around the Muellers…,” Alex said.

 

“…so they wouldn’t know what we were talking about,” Joey added.

 

“I’ve read about twins having such a connection, but never really believed it.  I guess it’s true, isn’t it?” I asked.

 

“It is with us, hope it doesn’t freak you out,” Joey said.

 

“Maybe just a little bit, but I’ve noticed several times where one of you will start to say something and the other will finish it off, but the two thoughts are so tied together, it’s like only one of you said it.”

 

“Yeah, we used to do it a lot, but it kinda’ freaks out the other kids …,” Alex started.

 

“…in our class, so we try not to do it too much at school, anymore,” Joey finished.

 

“And there you go again,” Tom sputtered.

 

“If it’s too weird for ya’…,” Joey said.

 

“…we won’t do it no more,” finished Alex.

 

“No, you’re fine, we’ll learn to deal with it.  Do T.J., Mike and Andy know you can do this?” I asked.

 

“A little bit of it, they do,” Joey answered.

 

“How do they feel about it?”

 

“Mike and Andy don’t much like it, but T.J. thinks it cool and wishes he could do it, too,” Alex answered.

 

“Well, you two are just full of surprises, aren’t you?” I asked.

 

“Yeah, sorry, dad.”

 

“Don’t be sorry, I think this is interesting.” I replied.

 

“Well, I don’t,” Tom added.  “This is really freakin’ me out.”

 

“C’mon, big guy, how can you possibly be scared of these two cute and innocent boys?”

 

“So, what did you want to talk about, dad?” Joey asked.

 

“Yeah, it felt like it was somethin’ we ain’t gonna’ like,” Alex said.

 

“Okay, now we’ve hit seriously spooky.  Can you really know what I’m thinking, also?”

 

“Just bits and pieces, feelings, things like that, sometimes,” Alex answered.

 

“Yeah, it’s not like it is between just the two of us,” Joey added.

 

“Okay, that’s good to know.  Now, what we need to talk about is what you two want to happen between the four of us.”

 

“I knew this was comin’, Joey,” Alex frowned.

 

“Yeah, so did I,” Joey agreed.

 

“You may have divined that, but you need to know the reason why.  It’s my dad.  He’s so hung up on his beliefs that he hired a lawyer to have the five of you removed from our home.  He believes you guys need to be rescued from the perverted likes of Tom and me.”

 

“He can’t do that, can he?” Joey asked.

 

“He’s tried it once already and even though my lawyer convinced his that he was wasting his time, that doesn’t mean dad won’t try to find another one and do the same thing again.”

 

“Well, that just sucks, dad,” Alex commented.

 

“Yes, it does, Alex,” I snickered at his unintended pun.  “But there really isn’t anything I can do about it either.  Until he comes down off his high horse, we’re pretty well stuck with what we’ve got.  And that means that nothing can happen between us.  Do you understand what I’m saying, boys?”

 

“Yeah, we do,” Joey answered glumly.

 

“But, that doesn’t mean we have to like it,” Alex continued.

 

“We don’t like it much, either, but that’s the way it has to be, right Tom?”

 

“I’m with you Alex, it sucks, but we can’t take a chance of Max’s dad doing something stupid, either.  Maybe, once he chills out, we can reconsider.”

 

“We’ll see.  I’m glad we’re all in agreement.  Just know, this little bump in the road doesn’t change how much we love you.  Okay, you two, time to get some sleep.  You have school in the morning and we have to be in court.”

 

“What for?” Alex asked.

 

“The Mueller’s finally have to answer for the problems they caused the weekend you moved in.”

 

“Oh boy, can we go with you?” Joey asked.

 

“I don’t know if you should miss school for that.”

 

“Sure, we should,” Alex responded.  “It’s ‘cause of us they’re in trouble…”

 

“…and we wanna’ see ‘em get what they got comin’ to ‘em,” Joey added.

 

“I’m not too sure about that, guys.  What do you think, Tom?”

 

“I don’t see what it would hurt for them to miss a day of school.  It would give ‘em a chance to see the inside of a courtroom before we go back to finalize the adoptions.  See what the justice system’s all about.”

 

“Ple-e-e-e-ase, dads,” they whined together. 

 

“We’ll make up our work at school,” Joey added.

 

“We promise,” Alex pleaded.

 

“I’ll think about it and let you know in the morning.”

 

“Thanks, dads,” they chorused.

 

“Now, it’s time for sleep.”  Joey and Alex finally laid down, curled up together and Tom and I covered them, gave them kisses goodnight and told them we loved them.  After we received the same back from them, we turned off the light and closed the door as we returned to the living room.

 

After sitting by the fireplace, I asked, “You really think they should go with us tomorrow?”

 

“Why not?  They’re involved with this mess, I think it would be a good learning experience for them.”

 

“Do you think the judge will let them in the court?”

 

“I don’t know why they wouldn’t.  If it turns out they won’t, one of us can sit in the hall with them while the other tells their story inside.  Then, we’ll swap places when the time comes.”

 

“I guess that would work.  I’ll call Gloria at the school in the morning and see if they have a problem with it.  If it’s okay with them, I don’t see why they can’t join us.”

 

“Well, I think I’m gonna’ read for a bit before we go to bed.  That okay with you?” Tom asked.

 

“Sounds relaxing, providing I don’t fall asleep in the chair again.”

 

“Ya’ do that, you’re on your own, bubba,” Tom laughed.

 

We grabbed our books and put our feet up to read for a while.  A little while later, after I suddenly realized I’d just read the same paragraph for the fourth time and wasn’t retaining a bit of it, I decided it was time to call it a night.  I marked my spot, set the book on the table and looked to Tom to let him know I was toast and heading for bed.  What I found was a mostly inert lump of flesh and bones, book splayed across his chest, head laid back, eyes closed, mouth wide open and snoring lightly.  There was only one part of his body that appeared to be awake and it was stretching from his unruly patch of dark pubic hair up towards his navel at about a forty-five-degree angle.  Damn, that is one fine specimen of manhood and it was all mine.  As tempting and delicious as he looked in this state, I knew I wasn’t awake enough to fully enjoy the thrill of taking him into my mouth. 

 

Putting my carnal thoughts aside, I stumbled to his chair, gently picked up the book and after marking his place, laid it on the table with mine.  I then shook his shoulder to rouse him and said, “C’mon on, big guy, let’s go find our bed.”  His eyes fluttered open and when he was coherent enough to move, I helped him up and guided him to our bedroom for a good night’s sleep of two lovers curled together, as usual.

 

I was awakened in the morning, not by the alarm for once, but by five naked boys jumping up and down on the bed.  It was quite a sight to see first thing in the morning, but a price I was more than willing to pay for the show they were putting on.  How they managed to not land on Tom or myself is a mystery for the ages.  Tom slowly opened his eyes and became aware of the trampoline party that was going on around us.  One good thing about a Tempurpedic mattress, the bounce from the boys is pretty well absorbed before it could toss the two of us out of bed and onto the floor.

 

“C’mon you two, let’s get moving or we’ll be late for the bus,” Alex yelled.

 

“I’m guessing it’s time to get up, big guy.  What do you think?” I yawned.

 

“If you say so.  Despite their antics, I not really convinced it’s morning just yet.”

 

“Will you five quit jumping around like fools and go get dressed.  We’ll be right out.  Joey, Alex, put on something nice, please, ‘cause you’re going to court with us.” 

 

“Yippee!  No school today!” Alex yelled.

 

“Scoot, y’all.”  They ran out of the bedroom to get dressed for the day while Tom and I did the same.  While I pulled on dress pants, a button-up shirt and a sport coat, Tom got into his deputy’s uniform.  Ready for the day ahead, we headed to the kitchen to get some breakfast for the crew that was waiting for us.  While Tom filled bowls with cereal and milk, I grabbed the phone to call the school.  After letting Gloria know the twins wouldn’t be in school today and why, I turned to the them and said, “T.J. will be bringing your homework with him so you can deal with it tonight.  And you two look very nice, thanks for picking out something decent to wear.”

 

“Thanks, dad, you look pretty good, too,” Joey said.

 

“Hey, what about me?” Tom asked.  “Don’t I get a compliment?”

 

“Yeah, pops, you look nice, too,” Mike snickered.

 

“Thank you, Mike,” Tom replied sarcastically.  He then pulled a dollar out of his wallet and handed it to Mike, adding, “Keep that up, young man, and I’ll make you rich before your tenth birthday.”

 

“Yippee!” Mike squealed in delight.

 

The others yelled, “Hey, where’s ours!?”

 

“Sorry, fresh out, boys.  You’ll have to react quicker next time.”

 

With breakfast completed, the boys rinsed and stacked their bowls in the sink and three headed to their room to grab their backpacks and coats while Joey and Alex retrieved their coats only.  We met in the garage to go wait for the bus.  The wait at the end of the drive was short this morning and once T.J., Mike and Andy had climbed on board and the bus moved on, Tom, Alex, Joey and I headed to the courthouse for what I hoped would be interesting experience.

 

“What’s it like in court, pops?” Alex asked.

 

“Usually, pretty boring, actually.  It’s not like anything you’ve ever seen on TV.  The most important thing for you two will be to stay quiet and respectful, no laughing or other outbursts.  That’s a very quick way to get shown to the door.”

 

“We’ll be good, pops, we promise,” Joey responded.

 

“I know you will, I just want you to be prepared.”

 

The rest of trip to town was fairly quiet, each of us lost in our own thoughts as to what sort of punishment the Mueller’s might receive for their actions.  I was hoping for the electric chair or firing squad, but was pretty sure the judge wouldn’t go quite that far.  When we arrived at the courthouse, I found a parking spot in the lot and, after locking the car, we headed across the street to enter the four-story red brick building.  I hadn’t thought about the security that we had to pass through, but after Tom and I emptied our pockets into the provided baskets, we passed through the metal detectors with no problem.  The boys, of course, had no issues since their pockets were empty.

 

“Morning, Deputy Wright,” a guard greeted Tom.  “How’re you today?”

 

“Great Jack, how ‘bout yourself?”

 

“Couldn’t be better.  How’s your head feelin’ these days.  We heard about you gettin’ hurt and we were all pulling for you, man,” Jack replied as the two shook hands.

 

“Thanks for that, appreciate it.  I’m doing pretty well, actually, considering all the possibilities.  Spread the word, will ya’?”

 

“You bet.  When you comin’ back to work so we can start seeing your bright and smiling face every day, again?”

 

“Never.  I’m done as a deputy.  Guess that news hasn’t made the rounds through the courthouse grapevine, yet, has it.”

 

“Sure hasn’t.  We’re gonna’ miss you, though.  What are you gonna’ do now?”

 

“I’m starting a private investigation service.”

 

“Well, good luck with that.  You here for a court appearance, I assume?”

 

“Yep, State vs. Frank and Iris Mueller, supposed to start at 10:00 o’clock.  What courtroom, Jack?”

 

“Hang on, let me look.”  Jack picked up a clipboard with the schedule on it and after a brief moment, said, “You’re in Family up on three, Courtroom C.”

 

“Thanks, Jack, c’mon guys, follow me.”

 

“Wait, they’re with you?  Who’d you bring with you today?”

 

“Oh, yeah, sorry, Jack.  First, this is my fiancé, Max Sanders, and the two munchkins are two of our four, maybe five, soon-to-be sons, Joey and Alex.  Guys, say hi to Jack, the best guard in the building.”

 

Joey stepped up, extended a hand and said, “Nice to meet you, Jack.”

 

Alex was next with, “Hi there.  Thanks for letting us know where we need to go,” also shaking Jack’s hand.

 

“Morning, Jack, pleasure to meet you,” I offered as I also shook his hand.

 

“Nice to meet you three you, also.”  Jack then turned back to Tom and, instead of shaking his hand, gave him a hug, then stood back and said, “Good for you, man.  I wish you all the best.”  He then turned back to me and added, “You bagged a winner here, Max.  Take good care of him.”

 

I was stunned by Jack’s reaction, but managed to sputter, “Th-th-anks, I think so, too, and I will.”

 

“Let’s move it guys, or we’ll be late,” Tom said.  “See you later, Jack.”

 

“Feel free to stop by any time, Deputy.”  Tom waved over his shoulder as he led the way down the halls to the elevator. 

 

We boarded the elevator and Tom punched the button for the third floor.  “Well, that was awkward.”

 

“What?” I asked.

 

“Five years, I’ve managed to keep the fact I’m gay from this building and I just shot that down in five seconds.  Tellin’ Jack you’re my fiancé, it just came out before my brain engaged.  Now, it’ll be known in all corners of the building in five minutes.”

 

“Well, if his reaction to the news was indicative of any of the other people in the building, maybe it wasn’t as well hidden as you thought.”

 

“No, I guess not.  Oh well, life rolls on.”  The elevator finally stopped at the third floor and the doors slid open to reveal a hallway bustling with activity.  Joey and Alex darted out and Tom directed them to the right.  When we found courtroom C, Tom said, “Wait here just a second while I check it out.”  Tom quietly opened the door and poked his head inside.  After pulling his head back out and closing the door, he commented, “Yep, we’re in the right place, looks like their finishing up the previous case, but Sarge, Brian and the Mueller’s are already in there and it looks like we’ll be next.  We’ll wait out here until Dylan comes to get us.”  We moved away from the door and took a seat on a bench just a bit down the hall.

 

A few minutes later, the door slammed open as a man swearing revenge on his ex-wife, her lawyer and his own lawyer stormed into the hall and turned for the elevator, followed by a woman with a peaceful smile gracing her face.  Sure didn’t take a rocket scientist to determine the winner in that battle.  Dylan emerged a few moments later, swiveled his head our direction, then waved for us to follow him in.

 

“I expected to see you and Max today, Tom, but I didn’t know you were bringing Alex and Joey with you.  Hi boys, how ya’ doin’?” he greeted as he knelt down to the boys’ level.

 

“Great Mr. Brock, how’re you?” they responded together as they gave him a hug.

 

“About as well as can be expected,” Dylan replied patting both boys on the back. 

 

“Having them with us isn’t a problem, is it Sarge?”

 

“Not at all.  Only fitting they get to see the wheels of justice in action.  How’s your head doin’ Tom?”

 

“Great, Sarge.  I’m well on the way to a complete recovery.  Kinda nice to kick back and take it easy for a while after the last five years of 24/7 stress.”

 

“Glad to hear it.  Nice to know that graze didn’t scramble anything inside that thick skull of yours.  ‘Course, there’d have to be somethin’ in there to scramble first, wouldn’t there?”  The boys giggled at Dylan’s joke and then covered their mouths to stifle the sound.  “You’re okay, for now, boys, but once the judge starts the case, you’ll have to be quiet.”

 

“We know, Mr. Brock…,” Alex started.

 

“…we’ll be good, we promise,” Joey finished.

 

“I have no doubt of that, you two.  I know you’re good kids.”

 

“Any idea how this is going to go, Dylan,” I asked.  “I’ve never been in a court before.”

 

“Well, we’re in the family court and the rules here are a little different than what you might expect.  It’s a bit more informal and relaxed than your regular criminal court.  Usually, the judge will ask most of the questions and renders a decision immediately after he’s heard from everybody, as long as the issues aren’t too big.  Of course, you still have to tell the truth.”

 

“That’s a given,” I responded.

 

“Looks like were ready to start.  Why don’t we have a seat in the first pew on the right up here.  You’ll be called when you’re needed.”

 

“Thanks, Dylan.”  Dylan led the way to the front of the courtroom and we were soon seated next to Brian, to whom I gave a small wave of the hand and he responded with a thumb’s up.

 

The bailiff stood and announced, “All rise, court is now in session, the honorable Judge David Corgan presiding in the case of the State of Illinois versus Frank and Iris Mueller, two charges each of obstruction of a police officer and one charge each of destruction of property.” 

 

I elbowed Tom as the judge entered the courtroom and whispered, “I wonder if he’s related to our tenants in the cemetery.”

 

After the judge took his seat, the bailiff waved his hands to indicate we could sit, again.  Just before the judge spoke, my lawyer, James, snuck in a took a seat in the pew behind us.

 

“Good day, Mr. Cantrell,” the judge began, “I wasn’t aware of your being needed this morning, please explain your presence in this closed proceeding.”

 

James stood and offered, “Yes, your honor.  One of the witnesses in this case is a client of mine and, while I’m not here in an official capacity today, I request I be allowed to stay to protect my client’s interests if the need arises.”

 

“Thank you, Mr. Cantrell.  Your request is granted.  Please be seated.”

 

“Thank you, your honor,” James replied as he retook his seat.

 

“Good morning to you, Mr. Schmidt, representing the interests of the state as usual, and who do we have representing the defendants this morning?  I don’t believe I’ve seen you in my court before today.”

 

After standing, the Mueller’s lawyer said, “Good morning, your honor.  My name is Terry Mutchler, representing the defendants, Frank and Iris Mueller.  It’s a pleasure to be here.”

 

“You may want to reserve that judgment until after we hear the case, Ms. Mutchler.  But, good morning to you, also, and welcome to family court.  Are you familiar with the rules concerning decorum in this court?”

 

“Yes, your honor.”

 

“Good, take your seat please and let’s get this show on the road.  Some quick rules for those of you not familiar with how this particular court operates.  You will remain seated at all times unless you are called to the witness stand to provide testimony.  You will not speak unless you have been asked a direct question by myself or one of the two attorneys in the court.  Attorneys may only speak when questioning a witness or when raising an objection.  Is this clear to everyone?”  Everyone nodded their assent. 

 

“Good, now, I see we also have Sergeant Brock and Deputy Wright here from the Sangamon County Sherriff’s Department with us this morning.  Good morning, gentlemen, welcome back to my court.  Glad you could make it this morning.  How’s your head Deputy Wright?  You doing okay?”

 

Tom blushed at being asked, but stood and responded, “I’m doing just fine, your honor.  Thank you for asking.”

 

“Glad to hear it Deputy.  I understand you were the officer who was on the scene of this incident, is that correct?”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“Excellent.  We’ll hear from you in a moment.  Please be seated.  Sergeant Brock, you were called to the scene and will provide additional testimony, is that correct?”

 

“Yes, your honor,” Dylan replied after standing.

 

“Thank you, sir, you may also be seated.  Mr. Marks, I understand you’re here because you were involved in this little kerfuffle, also.”

 

Brian stood and offered a quiet, “Yes, your honor.”

 

“Speak up, son, I’m getting old and these ears don’t work as well as they used to.”

 

Brian coughed a bit and replied in a slightly louder voice, “Yes, your honor.”

 

“That’s much better, young man.  You may be seated.  Now, who’s next, ah yes, Mr. Sanders, welcome to my court.  It’s my understanding from reading the defendants statements, that this is all your fault.  I assume you are here to provide testimony to the contrary.”

 

I stood and answered, “That correct, your honor.”

 

“Very well.  Now, who are these two fine-looking young gentlemen you’ve brought with you today?”

 

“These are two of the boys I’m in the process of adopting, your honor.”  I prodded the boys into standing and when they were, I continued.  “Their names are Alexander and Joseph Allison.”

 

“Nice to meet you, boys.  Do you understand the rules of this court?”

 

“Yes, your honor,” they chorused.

 

“Thank you, you three may be seated.  Will the defendants please rise and state your names for the record?”  Frank and Iris both stood and said their names.  “Now, you both have been charged with two counts of obstruction and one count of destruction of property, each.  How do you plead to these charges?”

 

“Not guilty, your honor.”

 

“I expected as much.  You just couldn’t make things easy today, could you?  Sit back down, you two,” the judge said with obvious disgust in his voice.  I looked to Tom and raised my eyebrows in question and he could only shrug his shoulders in reply.  “Guess we’re going to do this the hard way.  Mr. Schmidt, I believe you have the privilege of starting the proceedings.  Please, let’s get this ball rolling.”

 

“Thank you, your honor, happy to do so.”

 

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