Previous Chapter

Chapter 40 – Justice Served


“Good morning, your honor,” Mr. Schmidt began, “The state intends to show, through the testimony provided by our witnesses today, that the defendants in this case, Mr. Frank and Mrs. Iris Mueller, did, indeed, obstruct two officers of the law from performing their duties and also destroyed private property that was not their own.  We are asking the court to sentence the defendants in a manner that is consistent with their offenses and to ensure their compliance with the laws of this state in the future.  Thank you, your honor.”


“Short and to the point as always, Mr. Schmidt.  Thank you.  Ms. Mutchler, anything to say in your client’s defense at this moment?”


“Thank you, your honor, but I’ll reserve my opening comments until it is time to begin our defense.”


“That is certainly within your prerogative.  Mr. Schmidt, please call your first witness.”


“Yes, your honor.  We call Sangamon County Deputy Tom Wright.”  Tom stood slowly, walked to the witness chair and sat down again.


“Before you’re sworn in, are you sure you’re up for this Deputy?” the judge asked while lightly touching his own scalp and after receiving a curt nod from the blushing Deputy in response, he continued, “Bailiff, please swear the witness.”


The bailiff stood and asked, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”


“I will.”


“Ask your questions, Mr. Schmidt.”


“Deputy Wright, thank you for joining us today after your recent injury.  We’re all happy to see you doing so well.  I’ll make this easy for you today, Deputy.  Instead of me asking a whole bunch of questions, why don’t you just tell us of the events as you witnessed them on the afternoon of Saturday, February 22 of this year?”


Tom took a deep breath and began telling his story of the day we met at the Mueller’s to retrieve Joey and Alex’s belongings.  As I listened to him, I was amazed at how closely this telling of the events of that afternoon matched his recitation of the events to Dylan when he first arrived at the Mueller’s home.  Everyone in the court gave a little chuckle when Tom described kicking in the door to the twins’ former bedroom.  Well, everyone but the Muellers and Ms. Mutchler that is.  The judge appeared to be getting angrier and angrier the more he heard.  Tom finally ended with the three of us leaving the Mueller’s on the way to my house.


When Tom ended his narration, the judge asked, “Any more questions, Mr. Schmidt?”


“Not at this time, your honor, I think he has covered everything in his account that I planned to ask.”


“Very well.”  Tom started to rise, but the judge held out a hand and said, “Hang on there, young man, I didn’t say you were excused, just yet.  I have a question I’d like to ask for clarification of a particular point.”


“Sorry, your honor,” Tom answered as he sat back down.


“The question I have for you is this, did you truly believe that the best option of obtaining access to the bedroom in question was to kick the door in?” the judge grinned.


“At that particular moment, I did, your honor.”


“That response, then, begs another question.  Would you please explain your reasoning in reaching that conclusion, Deputy?”


“I’d be happy to, your honor.  The situation was charged with tension from both sides.  The Muellers and Mr. Sanders were quite unhappy with each other and I felt like I was sitting on a powder keg between them, just waiting for one of them to strike a match and light the fuse.  When Mr. Sanders discovered the door to the bedroom was locked, the key supposedly ‘lost’, and requested my assistance, I needed to make a decision.  Should I call a locksmith to open the door and prolong a volatile situation with the potential risk of violence erupting, or, should I open the door as quickly as possible myself in an effort to resolve the situation in the shortest time possible?  With the complete lack of cooperation provided by the defendants that afternoon, and with time being of the essence, I chose the latter course of action to reduce the time the parties were involved with each other.  I may have fudged the facts a bit, claiming I heard a cry for help from inside the room, but given the same situation today, I would do the exact same thing, defuse the conflict as quickly as possible to prevent a difficult situation from becoming a violent situation.”


“Thank you, Deputy.  That was a well-reasoned response to my inquiry.  Now, I have one last question for you.  Did you say, wait one second, I want to read this directly from the defendant’s complaint to make sure I get it right.”  The judge picked up a file from his desk and shuffled through a few pages before continuing.  “Ah, yes, here it is, did you actually say, ‘I absolutely love this part of the job’, just before you kicked in the door, as the defendant’s claim?”


Tom looked to the floor for just a moment before answering, then lifted his head and answered proudly, “Yes, your honor, I did.”


“Thank you for telling the truth today, Deputy, not that I expected any less from you.  Regardless of the possible consequences.  Any questions for this witness, Ms. Mutchler?”


She rose and replied, “Not at this time, your honor, but I reserve the right to recall him.”


“So noted.  Thank you, Deputy.  Now you are excused and may retake your seat.  Mr. Schmidt, next witness, please.”


“Yes, your honor, we would like to call Sergeant Dylan Brock.”  Dylan stood and started to walk to the hot seat, but before he’d moved two feet, the judge held up a hand and Dylan froze.


“Stay right there, sir.”  He turned to the bailiff and said, “Swear him in, please.”  Once Dylan swore to tell the truth, the judge continued, “I’m going to make this easy for you, Sergeant, just to move us along a little bit.  Are you about to offer any testimony that will substantially differ from or add to what we’ve already heard from Deputy Wright?”


“I don’t believe so, your honor.  Deputy Wright was quite thorough and accurate, as usual.”


“Fine, take your seat, Sergeant.  There, see how easy that was?”  he asked with a slight grin.  The judge looked to Mr. Schmidt and asked, “Is Mr. Marks next on your list?”


“Yes, your honor.”


“Mr. Marks, please stand, but stay where you are.”  Brian stood and waited for the judge to continue.  “Bailiff, swear him in.”  The bailiff did as requested and the judge continued.  “Mr. Marks, I assume you have nothing much different to add, but I do have one question for you.”


“Y-y-ye-e-s, your honor?” Brian stammered.


“Can you please tell me why you were present for these events?”


“Yes, sir.  My supervisor, Carol Ward, called me that afternoon and requested I be at the Mueller’s to assist Mr. Sanders in retrieving the boys’ belongings.”


“And why did she make that request, Mr. Marks?”


“From what I’ve been told, it was due to something that happened the night before when Mr. Sanders picked up the boys.  She felt the Muellers could be difficult when Mr. Sanders arrived at their home.  Due to my size, she thought my presence would be helpful.  As it turns out, she was right, as usual,” Brian smiled as finished his response.


“Be that as it may, Mr. Marks, do you know what happened the night before that caused Ms. Ward to reach her conclusion there could possibly be problems?”


“I’ve been told about it your honor, but I wasn’t present, myself, to witness it.”


“Thank you, Mr. Marks.  Any questions from the lawyers in the room?  …  Good, who’s next Mr. Schmidt?”


“Mr. Sanders is our next witness, your honor.”


“Mr. Sanders, would you please join me up here?”  I stood, walked slowly to the witness’ chair and sat down, nervous as hell.  “Bailiff, swear him in, please?”


The bailiff stood and asked the famous question, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you god?”


I took a deep breath and answered, “No, sir, I do not.”  The bailiff blinked at me a couple of times in surprise and the judge coughed in disbelief.


“And just what do you mean by that, Mr. Sanders?” The judge asked.


I turned to the judge to answer his query.  “I’m sorry, your honor, but I am an atheist, and as such, I refuse to swear to something in which I have no belief.”


“Understood, Mr. Sanders.  Thank you for your explanation.  Bailiff, please use the alternate oath.”


The bailiff picked up a small card from his desk and recited, "Do you solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that the evidence you present shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."


“I do.  Thank you.”


“Mr. Schmidt, you may continue,” the judge said.


“If it pleases your honor, I would like Mr. Sanders to relate the events of the evening before as it provides important background information you will need when rendering your decision.”


“Very well, please begin, Mr. Sanders.  Oh, and please try and refrain from editorializing, just the facts.”


“Yes, your honor.  I recently began the process of adopting four and, now, possibly five boys.  I am working with the child services agency where Carol Ward and Brian Marks work to make that happen.  I had made arrangements with the agency to have four of the boys spend a weekend at my home, along with Ms. Ward, to see how we all got along and make sure the boys would be okay with growing up in my home.  Since the four boys lived with three different foster parents, Carol made advance arrangements with the foster parents to meet us at a Steak ‘n Shake for supper and pick up the boys there instead of trying to stop at each home to get them individually.  Carol and I arrived first and staked a claim to several tables to ensure we’d have enough room for anybody who might want to join us for supper.


“The first to arrive was T.J. with his foster-mom Nancy.  Though invited to join us for supper, Nancy declined and left T.J. with Carol and me.  The next to arrive were Mike and his foster-dad, Paul.  Paul accepted my invitation to join us for the meal and he and Mike took seats on the opposite side of the table.  Last to arrive were Mr. & Mrs. Mueller along with Alex and Joey.  After asking if they’d like to join us for the meal, the Muellers accepted and also took a seat at the table.  We chatted for a bit before our server came to take our orders.  After the server left to place our orders with the kitchen, we continued chatting and eventually Mr. Mueller asked me where my wife was.


“Before I could answer the question myself, one of the twins, I think it was Alex, did it for me by informing half the restaurant that I don’t have a wife because I’m gay.”  The judge raised his eyebrows a bit with that comment before I continued.  “I believe it was Paul who then asked the twins whether they ‘had a problem with that’, or something to that effect, and they both announced to the entire restaurant they shouldn’t since they are gay, also.”  The judge took a moment, looked to Joey and Alex who nodded in agreement, then returned his eyes to me so I could press on.  “Mr. Mueller took umbrage with their statement and said that they were too young to ‘know that’ about themselves. 


“They both looked at me and one, I’m not sure which, asked me when I knew I was gay.  I was embarrassed beyond belief to be having this conversation in a Steak ‘n Shake, but still answered the question, explaining I knew when I was about seven or eight.  They then turned back to Mr. Mueller and, again, I don’t know which one said it, but he told Mr. Mueller that they ‘can too know who they are’.  Mr. Mueller then accused me a being a pervert and said my adopting kids wasn’t right.  He then decided that he and Mrs. Mueller should leave and he attempted to get the twins to leave with him.  When they refused, he told Ms. Ward that the boys would not be welcome back in their home if they thought they were ‘like that’, also.  The two of them left and the rest of us enjoyed our supper.  That’s basically it, your honor.


“Thank you, Mr. Sanders.  You painted just the picture I expected to see after reading the case file.  Is there anything else you would like to add to your testimony this morning?”


“Just one more thing, your honor.  This is something Tom, um, Deputy Wright didn’t mention, but I think it’s very important as to why we are here today.  After Sergeant Brock arrived at the Muellers home and spoke to them, he came back to where Deputy Wright, Mr. Marks and myself waited on the porch.  He told us the Muellers had been very busy and were trying to remove all traces of, and I won’t forget this until the day I die, ‘those little bastard pervert faggots’ from their home.”  I could see tears starting to form in the boys’ eyes as Tom wrapped an arm around Alex and Dylan held onto Joey.


The judge turned to Dylan and asked, “Is that true, Sergeant Brock?  Did the defendants actually say that to you?”


Dylan let go of Joey, stood and replied, “Yes, your honor, word for word.” 


“Thank you, Sergeant, please be seated.”  Dylan retook his seat and wrapped an arm back around Joey.  The judge then returned his attention to me and said, “Thank you for that information, Mr. Sanders.”  The judge turned to the attorneys and asked, “Any questions from either of you for Mr. Sanders?”, paused for just a moment, and then continued, “No?  I didn’t think so.”  He looked back to me and said, “Thank you, sir.  You are excused.  Please, go back and sit with your sons, they need you right now.”  I quickly moved back to our pew, knelt in front of Alex and Joey and gave them biggest hug I’d ever give anyone.  The judge then said, “Okay, that gives me a good overview of how we got to the obstruction charges.  Who amongst you would like to explain the destruction of property charges to me?” 


Joey and Alex each wiggled an arm through my hug and raised their hands.  I leaned back, looked in their eyes and whispered, “You sure about this?”, to which I received emphatic nods from both.  I let them go and took my seat next to Tom.


“Well, boys, if you two have something you’d like to tell me, it must be important.  Why don’t you come sit up here next to me so I won’t miss a single word?”  With grim determination etched on their faces, the two slowly walked, holding hands, to the witness chair, sat in it together and turned to face the judge.  I noticed that each had placed a hand on his brother’s leg.  “Do we need another chair or will you be okay in just the one?” the judge asked kindly.


“We’ll be just fine, sir.  Thanks for asking,” they answered together.


“Okay, then.  Since you are both under age, we can’t swear you in as we did with the adults, but I have to make sure you both understand that I need to hear the truth today.”


“And nothing but the truth, your honor,” they chorused without looking at each other.


“Good.  First, you may call me sir, if you’d like.  Even though I’ve earned it, I do get tired of hearing ‘your honor’ all day.  Second, I’m going to ask you a few questions.  I want you to ignore all the other people in this room and speak only to me, understand.”


“Yes, sir,” Joey answered.  I noticed Alex had tapped Joey’s leg with his index finger before he answered.  I tapped Tom’s shoulder and mouthed, “watch their hands”.


“Good, now before we get started, would you please tell me which of you is Joseph and which is Alexander?”


Alex tapped Joey’s leg.  “I’m Joseph, sir, but I go by Joey.”


“And I’m Alexander, sir, and I prefer Alex.”


“Good, Joey and Alex it is, then.  Now, you two aren’t pulling that old twin trick and swapping things around on me, are you?” the judge asked with a grin, eliciting a return grin from the boys.


“Oh, no, sir,” they answered together.  No tap on either leg.


“One more easy question before we get to the harder ones, okay?”  Both responded with a simple nod.  “Do the two of you have that connection I’ve read about that some twins share?”


They grinned and answered in unison, “Yes, sir.”


“I thought as much from the way you’ve answered my questions so far.  Here’s what I need you to do, though.  When I ask a question, while it’s for both of you, I want only one of you to speak at a time.  Can you do that?”


Joey tapped Alex’s leg and Alex answered, “Yes, sir.  That’s why we each have a hand on the other’s leg.”  The judge looked down and saw what Alex said was true.


“Ah, I see you know how to deal with this, then.  Excellent, let’s move on.  Will you please tell me what property got destroyed?”


Joey tapped and Alex answered, “It was a picture of our parents, sir.”


“And what, exactly, happened to the picture?”


Alex tapped, so Joey answered this time, “It had been shredded, sir, it looked like a puzzle.”


“I assume that’s not the way it was when you last saw it?”


Joey tapped, Alex’s turn to answer, “No, sir.  When we left the Mueller’s Friday afternoon to spend the weekend with our new dad…,” Alex tapped Joey’s leg, who continued, “…it was in one piece and hanging on the wall in our room in a frame.”


“I see.  How did you discover the picture had been shredded?”


Alex tapped so Joey started this time, “It was in the bottom of one of the trash bags…,” Joey tapped for Alex to continue, “…the Muellers had put our stuff in.”


“So, when your dad went to pick up your things, it had all been put into trash bags?”  He looked to the Muellers and his face radiated nothing but anger and disgust.


“Yes, sir,” they answered together, then Alex tapped and Joey added, “Sorry, sir.”


“I take it this picture it very important to you.”


Joey tapped and Alex answered, “Yes, sir, it’s all we had left to remind us of who our parents were.”  I could see tears starting to well up in Alex’s eyes.


“And how long have you lived with the Muellers?”


Joey tapped for Alex to answer this one, also.  “Since our parents died, sir.”


“Can you tell me about your parents?”


Alex tapped and Joey answered, “They were killed in a car wreck when we were four, so we don’t remember them that well…,” Joey tapped Alex to take over, “…and if we didn’t have their picture, we probably wouldn’t remember them at all.”


“So, you’ve lived with the Muellers for a little over 4 years and they knew how important the picture was to you?”


“Yes, sir.”  No tap from either, so together again.


“How did you feel when you saw the picture had been damaged?”


Alex, whose lip was quivering by now, dropped his eyes to the floor and tapped for Joey to answer, “Well, Alex got really sad, but I got really mad and said some really bad words, sir.  I mean, our mom and dad had already been killed once and it was like they were killing them all over again.” 


I had to wipe the tears from my face, along with everyone else in the room, excepting, of course, the Muellers, who, sadly, were smiling with glee.  While the judge handed some tissues to the boys, I even caught Ms. Mutchler wiping her eyes.


“Thank you, boys.  You did very well.  Why don’t you go back and sit with your dads?”  Tom and I exchanged a quick, nervous glance as the boys walked back to us and climbed into our laps.  “Okay, Mr. Schmidt, do you have anything else you would like to add to what I’ve heard so far?”


“No, your honor.  I believe all the salient points have been heard.  Thank you.”


“Very well.  Ms. Mutchler, I believe that makes it your turn.”  She started to stand, but the judge waved her back into her seat.  “Ma’am, please forgive me if I’m overstepping here, but do you really expect me to be believe you have a realistic legal defense to what we’ve just heard in this courtroom?”


She stood and replied, “We do, your honor.”


“By all means, then.  Please continue and enlighten me to this brilliant defense.  I’m all ears, Ms. Mutchler.”


“The laws on which we are basing our defense were first written well over a thousand years ago in a very important book.”


“Ms. Mutchler, please tell me you aren’t going to attempt to defend these two individuals based on some fanciful book I’ve never heard of.”


“Oh, no, your honor.  You know this book quite well.  In fact, your bailiff has a copy of it sitting on his desk right now.”


“Now I know you’re yanking my chain, ma’am, because I happen to know the only book allowed on my bailiff’s desk is the bible, and that is used in this court only for the swearing in of witnesses, not legal defenses.”


“That is exactly the book I’m using, your honor, as those are the only laws my clients believe in and live by.”


“Wrong, Ms. Mutchler!” the judge yelled while angrily pointing a finger in her direction.  “And you know that.  They live by the laws of this country, state, county and city.  And those laws supersede anything written in that particular book.  If they choose to believe what is written in the bible, they are well within their rights to do so, but I will not allow a defense to proceed based on anything that is written within said book.  Do you have anything else you’d like to try such as, say, insanity or maybe diminished capacity?”


“No, your honor, this is the only defense my clients will allow me to use.”


“Very well then, take your seat and quit wasting our time.”  The judge took a few moments to straighten the files on his desk to calm down before continuing.  “I’ve made my decision and I’m ready to rule, but before I do, I have one more question for Mr. Sanders.  Would you please rise, sir?”  I handed Alex to Dylan and stood as requested.  “Mr. Sanders, have you been able to get the picture of the boys’ parents repaired?”


“As a matter of fact, your honor, I have.  I got lucky and accidentally found the person who originally took the picture.  He was not only able to reprint the one that got destroyed, but he also printed copies of all the other pictures taken the same day, including one of Joey and Alex with their parents.  Both will be hung on the walls in their new bedroom once it’s been repainted.”


“I am so happy to hear at least one good thing today.  Do you, by any chance, have the receipt for the new pictures and frames with you today?”


“I do, your honor.”


“Bailiff, will you please bring me that receipt?”  I pulled my wallet from my pocket, extracted the receipt for the pictures and handed it to him, and he, then, handed it to the judge.  “Well, I can tell this photographer thinks very highly of his work.  I do hope they turned out well.”


“They are perfect, your honor.  My sons couldn’t have been happier when they saw them.”


“Thank you, Mr. Sanders, you may be seated.  Okay people, here’s what’s going to happen.  This one really is a no-brainer as there is no defense possible when people behave like hate-filled, brain-dead automatons who believe they are still living in a time long since passed.  Therefore, I’m finding the defendants, Frank and Iris Mueller, guilty on all six counts of which they’ve been charged.  I’m ordering them to pay restitution to Mr. Sanders in the amounts of $452.89 in actual damages for what Mr. Sanders paid to get the destroyed picture reprinted and framed, and double that, $905.78, in punitive damages, the total coming to $1358.67.  Furthermore, the defendants are also ordered to pay fines in the amount of $250.00 for each charge for a total of $1,500.00 to the county.  The defendants are also going to pay damages for pain and mental anguish to the victims of their offenses, two young boys they were supposed to be protecting from such evil deeds, Alexander and Joseph Allison, in the amount of $10,000.  Each!  For a total of $20,000.  Lastly, the defendants are sentenced to 250 hours community service, each, to be served at a residential facility for at-risk children in the hope that they may learn some empathy for others.  I think we’re done here.”


I stood quickly and said, “Your honor, I have a request I’d like to make please.”


“Yes, Mr. Sanders?”


“I’m well off, financially, and, by extension, so are my sons.  I don’t need, nor do I want, any money from the Mueller’s.  I’d like to request that the restitution to myself and the damages to my sons be paid, instead, to a suicide hotline that deals with gay youth.”


“What an excellent idea, Mr. Sanders, thank you for that bit of inspiration.  My final order in this case will reflect your wishes.  With that, people, court is adjourned, go forth and sin no more.”


As we started to break up and shake hands in victory, the judge rapped his gavel and said, “I’m sorry, there is one more issue that needs to be dealt with today.”  Everyone quickly sat back down and gave their full attention back to the judge.  “I have a complaint here from the Mueller’s against Deputy Wright for damage done to their home when he forcefully opened a locked bedroom door with his foot.”  Tom bowed his head, dreading what was coming.  “Deputy, please stand and look at me.”  Tom followed the judge’s request and looked directly into the judge’s eyes. 


“I understand you were in a very difficult situation that afternoon and had a tough decision to make.  While I don’t fully agree with your decision, I don’t completely disagree with it either.  You were in a tough spot, but that’s a risk you take when you accept the job.  Your decision to gain entry to the room in question was absolutely correct.  It is the method you used to gain entry that I have a problem with.  Since you admitted in this court this morning that you, how did you say it, ah, yes, ‘fudged the facts a bit’, I am ordering you, personally, to pay damages to the Muellers to help them recoup the costs of the repairs to their home.  Do you understand, Deputy?”


“Yes, your honor.”


“Very well, I knew you would.  You will immediately pay, directly to the Muellers, the amount of one dollar.  I certainly hope that does not cause you any undue financial burden, Deputy.  Anything over that, they can fight about it with their insurance company.  Now, we’re done, here.  Everybody have a lovely day.”


The judge stood and, after pausing to chat with his bailiff for a moment, walked to his chambers.  I turned to Tom and pulled the boys into a four-way celebratory hug, feeling congratulatory pats on my back.  I turned to offer my gratitude to Dylan and Brian for being here only to find they had already left the room.  I didn’t think we’d hugged that long, but I guess we did.  I saw the Muellers starting to leave, pulled my wallet out and handed a dollar bill to Tom while telling him, “Better pay your debt to society, big guy.”  The twins laughed aloud at that. 


As the Muellers walked by us on their way to the door, Tom stepped over and extended his hand holding the dollar.  Frank, red-faced with rage, yanked it from Tom’s hand and shredded it into confetti, then grabbed Iris’ hand and stormed from the courtroom. The twins, in typical youthful fashion, were sticking out their tongues and blowing raspberries at their retreating backs as the door closed slowly behind them.


Ms. Mutchler was the next to pass us and she stopped before leaving.  “I want to apologize to you for taking this case.  I didn’t know all the details until they had paid me their retainer.  Had I known everything before that happened, I would have refused to represent them.”


“You could have returned their retainer and made them hire a new lawyer,” I replied.


“I know, but if I had, they might have found another lawyer who would have handled their case differently.  I stuck with this case after finding out all the facts because I feel what they did was absolutely reprehensible in every way and I wanted to see them punished for it.  They made that easy since they would allow me to use only biblical laws as a defense.  I knew that wasn’t going to be an acceptable defense, but it’s what they insisted on, so that’s what I did.  And now they have to pay for holding onto their religious beliefs above all else and believing their god would protect them.  And I’ll probably be punished by the Bar for what I’ve done here, today, but that’s a price I’m more than willing to pay.”


“In that case, Ms. Mutchler, I thank you.”


She then knelt and spoke to Alex and Joey.  “Boys, I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through in your lives so far, including having to deal with the Muellers for as long as you did, but I do believe things have started looking up for you and you both have very bright futures ahead of you.  Do me a favor, though, and grow up to be kind people who do good things with their lives, will you?”


“You bet, Ms. Mutchler,” they said together, then gave her a hug.  When the hug finally broke up, Ms. Mutchler stood, turned and walked out of the courtroom.  “What now, dads?” Alex asked.


“I could use some lunch, how ‘bout the rest of you?” I answered.


After receiving affirmative nods from the other three, I started to lead the way out of the courtroom when the bailiff tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me, Mr. Sanders, if you have a few minutes, the judge would like to see you in chambers.”


“Um, okay.  Any idea why?” I asked, confusion flooding my mind.


“No, sir.  Come with me please.”


“Okay?  You guys wait here, I guess?” I asked as I shrugged my shoulders.  “I’ll be back soon, I hope.”


“Actually,” the bailiff added, “he’d like to see all of you.”  He then turned and led four very confused individuals to the door leading to the judge’s inner sanctum.  After guiding us in, the bailiff turned and closed the door behind him, leaving us alone with the judge, who was finishing a phone call.  He waved for us to have a seat, mouthed, “be right with you”, and returned to his call.  Tom and I sat in the only two empty chairs in the office and we lifted Alex and Joey into our laps to wait.  When the call was finally completed, the judge hung up the phone and turned his attention to us.  After a moment, he stood, walked around his desk and leaned against it, all while maintaining a rather severe frown. 


I was afraid we were about to receive a tongue-lashing for some unknown offense until he swapped the frown for a beaming smile and said, “Tom, how the hell are ya’?  You gave us all a helluva’ scare by goin’ out and gettin’ yourself shot.”  I was shocked by this drastic change in attitude from what I’d just witnessed in the courtroom, but Tom seemed to take it in stride.  The judge then stepped over to Tom, leaned over to give him a brief one-arm hug, including Joey in the show of affection.  “I’m pleased as punch that you’re doing so well.  I really was afraid I wouldn’t be seeing you this morning after hearing about last Saturday.”


“I’m doing well, David, thanks for asking.  It’s nice to know people care.  How’s your wife?”


“She’s just fine.  I’ll let her know you asked about her.  Now, tell me again who’s here with you today.”


“This fine gentleman is my fiancé, Max Sanders, the lad on my lap is one of our sons, Joey, I think, and Max is holding onto another son, Alex.  I’m pretty sure I got the boys sorted properly, but it’s kinda’ hard to tell sometimes.”  The twins nodded to show Tom identified them correctly.


“It certainly is,” David agreed.  “These two are about as identical as you could get, I believe.”  David then extended his hand towards me and added, “Max, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”


Slowly recovering from my shock, I shook his hand and replied, “Same, here, your honor.”


“Bah, my name’s David.  When we’re not in the courtroom, please use it.  I was serious about getting tired of hearing ‘your honor’ all day long.”


“Thank you, David, I will.”


David then knelt and called the boys over to him.  When they were close enough, he pulled them into a hug and when the hug broke up and they stepped back, he said, “Alex, Joey, you did an excellent job answering my questions today.  I hope I didn’t scare you.”


“Oh, no, sir,” they chimed.


“Good.  Sometimes, kids in my court aren’t quite sure how to react to everything that’s going on around them, but you two were absolutely perfect.”


“Thank you, sir,” they responded.


“I must say, you really do have this twin link going on, don’t you?”


“Yes, sir, we do,” they grinned.


“Well, try not to drive your dads crazy with it, okay,” David said while ruffling their hair.


“We’ll try,” they grinned evilly.


“Now, would you two do me a favor, please?”


“Be happy to, sir,” they chorused.


“My bailiff is sitting out in the courtroom, all by himself, eating his lunch.  If I let you sit in my chair out there, would you be willing to keep him company for a few minutes while I talk to your dads?”


“You bet!” they answered, then turned and ran towards the door back to the courtroom. 


David followed them and after they’d left the office, he stuck his head out and said, “Gary, I told these boys they could sit in the big chair and keep you company for a bit while I talk to their dads.  You don’t mind keeping an eye on them, do you?”


“Not at all, your honor, take your time.”


“Thanks, Gary.  We shouldn’t be too long.”  David closed the door and returned to his chair behind the desk.  “I’m glad I ended up with this case.  What those two supposed adults did disgusts me.  How anyone, in this day and age, can continue to think like they do is just incomprehensible.”


“I agree, David, but that’s the world we live in, isn’t it?” I asked.


“Unfortunately, yes, it is.  Now, the reason I asked to talk to you two alone is to let you know that I have distinct honor and pleasure of handling your adoptions of the boys.”


“That’s excellent, David,” Tom responded, “I was hoping you’d be the one.”


“Well, I’ve talked to Carol at the agency several times and she is really pushing things right along.  Normally, it takes anywhere from eight to twelve months to be able to do everything to satisfy the state before an adoption can be finalized.  At this moment, it looks like she’s on track to have these wrapped up and ready to go sometime in June.”


“That’s great news, David,” I responded.  “How is she accomplishing it this quickly?” I wanted to know.


“It’s due to the circumstances the boys are coming from.  With the twins’ parent’s gone, and the other two sets of parents having their rights already stripped, that’s a lot of the hassle already done.  The only sticky issue is the one boy’s father being unknown.  Since the mother has been either unwilling or unable to name a father, we can’t really just cut him out of the picture.”


“That would be T.J.,” I replied.  “What impact will not knowing who his biological father is have on his adoption?”


“Well, I’m sure you can imagine how difficult it is to strip a parent of their rights when we don’t know who they are.  What will happen in T.J.’s case will be this, I’ll allow the adoption to proceed with this caveat, if the biological father should, someday, suddenly crawl out from whatever hole in which he’s currently hiding, we’ll have to take a look at some type of possible visitation with him if he requests it.  If that doesn’t work out to the child’s benefit, then we’ll look at severing the father’s rights, also.”


“That leaves us in a bit of a limbo with him, doesn’t it,” Tom asked.


“Unfortunately, Tom, it does, but there’s no way around it, either.  I’ll be sure the adoption decree is worded in such a way that it will preclude any chance of the biological father attempting to regain custody, but I can’t really stop him from asking for visitation.  If I could, I would most certainly do so, especially since he hasn’t been involved in the boy’s life so far.”


“That’s all we can ask for, David,” I responded.  “While I understand he may eventually decide he wants to play a part in T.J.’s life, at this point, I think T.J.’s already been through enough.  I’d hate to lose my son just because biodad suddenly realizes it’s time to grow up.”


“Well, I’m working under the assumption that the boy’s mother doesn’t know who the father is.  If that is truly the case, then, whoever he may be, he probably doesn’t even know he has a son.  And personally, I think that’s best for all involved.”


“We do, too,” I replied.


“One more question for you two before I send you on your way.  Have you set a date for your wedding?”


“Not yet, David,” Tom answered.  “We’ve had too much going on to think about it much.”


“Well, if I’m not being too presumptuous, I would be honored if you’d allow me officiate the ceremony, whenever it happens.”


“Really, David?” Tom asked.  “I assumed you’d want to steer clear of that.”


“Why should I?  Gay marriage is legal now, isn’t it?  Why shouldn’t I be allowed to help two people who love each other tie the knot?”


“No real reason, I guess.  I just figured the politics of the situation might scare you off.”


“Bullshit, Tom.  I may be an elected judge, but it’s still my job to uphold the law, even the ones people don’t agree with.”


“Then we’d be honored to have you perform our ceremony, David,” I responded.  “As soon as we set a date, we’ll let you know.  We plan to have the ceremony at our house, hopefully in May.  I want it warm enough we can enjoy an outdoor event, but I also want us legal before the adoption so both our names can be included in the paperwork.”


“It’s a date then.  I’ll let Margie know so she can start planning what we’ll wear and ensure we have the date open.  Make sure you let me know what date you pick, and the sooner, the better.  Well, I think that’s I all I had today.  I just wanted to give you a heads up as to what your future holds.  Why don’t you two get on out of here and take your sons to lunch?”


“That’s exactly what we were talking about when your bailiff stopped us.  But, since we’re here, David, I have a question I’d like to ask you.”


“Go right ahead, Max.  You don’t mind if I call you Max, do you?”


“Please do.  When your bailiff announced the start of court this morning, he said your last name is Corgan.  Are you and your family from the area?”


“Sure are.  I grew up in Virden and lived there the first twenty years of my life, then moved to Springfield after graduating college to open my own law firm.  Why do you ask?”


“Well, some years ago, after I bought my property, I was clearing some walking trails through the trees that surround the house I’d had built.  In the northeast corner of the eighteen acres, I found an old, rundown, overgrown family cemetery.  This may be just coincidence, but after hearing you grew up in the area, I don’t think so anymore.”


“What the devil are you talking about, Max?”


“Yeah, come on, babe, get to the point already,” Tom interjected.


“The family name on the graves in that cemetery is Corgan, also.  I believe you may be related.”


“Oh, my god, you found it!?  I’ve been searching for it for years and never come close.  When can I come out and see it?”


“You might want to wait a couple weeks for that, David.  I don’t go out there in the winter and I’m sure it’s still covered with snow.  Give us a couple weeks of warmer weather, and you’ll be able to actually see something besides a big pile of this nasty white stuff.”


“Please, let me know when you think it will be melted off.  My dad told me stories about that old cemetery when I was you your sons age and I promised him years ago I’d find it for him.  And I’ve failed at that task for well over thirty years, now.  It’ll be nice to finally be able to follow through on that promise.”


“We’ll look forward to it, David.  As soon I’m sure we can get out there without slogging through snow and mud, I’ll let you know.”


“Thank, you, Max.  After I see it and make sure it’s the cemetery my father told me about, I’d like to bring him out with me some time.”


“You’re welcome at our home anytime, David.”


“Excellent.  Now, get out of here and go feed those boys.  It’s almost one and I’m sure they’re starving.”


“No doubt they are, I don’t think I’ve seen a minute pass when they aren’t hungry for something.” 


We all stood, shook hands and as Tom and I turned to collect our boys, the Judge added, “Tom, don’t forget, our monthly poker night is coming up.  I hope you can make it.”


Tom turned back and answered, “We’ll see what happens, David.  It might be tough for us to find someone willing to corral five wild boys.”


“Well, you better start looking now.  I want both of you there, it’s my turn to win back some of my money,” David laughed as we entered the courtroom.  When Alex and Joey saw us, they hopped out of the judge’s chair and ran to meet us.  “Boys,” David began, “it was a pleasure to meet you and I look forward to seeing you again and meeting your brothers, also.”


“Thanks for helping us today, sir,” Alex replied.


“Yeah, it was nice to see the Mueller’s get what they deserved,” Joey added.


With that, we headed for the exit, the boys turning to wave to the judge as we passed through the doors.  In the hall, I asked, “Okay, guys, where do you want to go for lunch?”


“How about, Longhorn,” Tom asked.


“I was thinking of something a bit lighter, Tom.  Then maybe we can back to town later with the others and have a celebration dinner together.  How does that sound?”


“Good idea, Max, I can live with that.  How ‘bout you two?” Tom asked the twins.


“Sounds great,” Alex answered.


“Can we go to Uncle Ronnie’s?” Joey asked.


“Where the heck is Uncle Ronnie’s,” I asked.  “Don’t think I’ve ever heard of that place.”


“Sure ya’ have, dad.  Uncle Ronnie’s is what we call McDonald’s.”


“Well, you learn something new every day,” I commented.  “Uncle Ronnie’s, it is then.”  We stopped at one on the way home and after eating a quick bite, headed on home so we could be there when the others got off the bus.  As soon as I made the turn into our driveway, Alex and Joey began to remove their clothes and by the time I’d pulled into the garage and closed the door behind us, they were nude.  “Um, don’t you two think you’re rushing things just a bit.”


“NO!  We hate having to wear clothes,” Joey answered.


“Yeah, I wish we never had to leave home,” Alex added as we climbed out of the car.


“Well, I don’t really disagree with either of you, but can you please not get undressed until we’re in the house?  What if somebody had been here, waiting for us, when we pulled in?”


“Well, I guess they’d get to see two naked boys, dad,” Joey answered.


“Yeah, big thrill, right, o-o-o-h, look at our tiny little dicks.” Alex laughed as he wiggled his hips to make his penis bounce wildly.


“Be that as it may, boys, you have to remember my dad is looking for any possible reason he can find to get you removed from here, so please, don’t push things.  If you can’t behave, then maybe I’ll have to change the house rules and we’ll all start wearing clothes all the time.  Do you want that?”


“No, you can’t do that!” Joey yelled.


“Keep it up and watch me.  Now, get your skinny little asses in the house.”


“Yes, sir!” Alex responded with a little salute.


I stood there and shook my head as the two marched into the house and turned into their room to drop their clothes while Tom and I walked by on the way to our room to change.  “I picked ‘em up yesterday so it’s your turn today, babe,” Tom said as we crossed the threshold to our bedroom.  I nodded my assent and instead of just getting undressed, I pulled on sweats and a shirt since it was almost time to meet the bus.  We headed back to the living room to relax for a few before time to pick up the others.


“I think I’m going to call mom and see how things are going in there.  I haven’t heard anything since I dropped her off the other night.”  Before I could dial the number, the twins came in asked what was for supper.  “Hey, we just finished lunch 30 minutes ago,” I responded.  “Let’s give that a while to settle in before we start worrying about the next meal, okay?”


“Okay,” Joey groaned.


“By the way, I didn’t see a guest list last night for your birthday party next week like you said I would.  Why don’t you take care of that right now while I call mama Rose and before your brothers get here?  Pen and paper are in the junk drawer in the kitchen.”


“Oh, yeah, c’mon Joey, let’s go.”  They took off for the kitchen and then settled in at the dining room table to make their list.


I dialed mom and dad’s number and after three rings, mom answered the phone.  “Hi, mom, how’re you doing?”


“Not too well, son, your dad’s in a downright nasty mood, today.”


“Why, what’s happened?” I asked innocently.


“I’m not 100% certain, but I think that lawyer he hired has backed out.  All he’s done since the guy called this morning is bitch, bitch again and then bitch some more.”


“Well, while I’m sorry for him, I have to say, I’m happy for us,” I replied, still acting like I didn’t have a clue what was going on.


“I am, too, son, the whole thing was just ridiculous.  I can’t believe he even tried it and I’m glad the lawyer quit.  Maybe, now, you and your father can work this out together.”


“I’d love to do that mom, if only he’d talk to me.  You saw how he was the other day, he hardly said two words to me the whole time he was here and what he did say was just mean-spirited.”


“Just be glad you don’t have to live with him anymore.  I swear, if I didn’t still love him, I’d be looking for somewhere else to live right now.  I don’t know how much more of his attitude I can take.”


“Mom, don’t talk like that.  We’ll work this out.”


“I don’t know son, he’s gotten to be almost impossible to live with.  I’ve started sleeping in your sister’s old room just to get away from him for a few hours a day.”


“Oh, mom, I’m so sorry.  I didn’t realize it was that bad.  I’d offer to let you come stay with us for a while, but with rooms being redone, I don’t have an extra bed right now.”


“I had a thought earlier today, but I wasn’t sure how I could make it work.”


“What’s that, mom?” I asked, curiosity piqued.


“Well, I really took a liking to Bill and Estelle when we met the other day.  They both seem like such nice, down-to earth folks.  I thought maybe I could go down to Pere Marquette, stay in the lodge, spend some time with them and get to know them better since they’re going to be joining the family soon.  Do you think they’d like a visitor?”


“Hang on, mom, Tom’s sitting right next to me, let me ask him.”  I covered the phone and asked Tom if he thought his parents would like a visitor.  After receiving a positive response from him, I went back to mom.  “Mom, he’s sure they’d love for you to come down.  They stayed quite a bit later after I took you home the other night and they said they really liked you, too.”


“Well, as much I hate to leave your father alone when he’s like this, I just can’t put up with anymore of his bullshit right now and I just need to get away from him for a while.  I know staying in the lodge won’t be that cheap, but it’s the best idea I could think of.”


“I think it’s a great idea, mom.  Tell you what, I have to go pick up the boys from the bus in just a minute.  When we get back, I’ll have Tom call his parents and see what they say.  Once we have their answer, we’ll call you back, okay?”


“That’d be great, Max.  I appreciate anything you can do to get me out of here for a while.  Maybe, once he cools down and comes to his senses, I can come back.”


“We’ll make the call in a bit and let you know what we find out.”


“Thank you, son, I love you.”


“I love you too, mom.”  I hung up the phone and let Tom know we were calling his parents when I got back with T.J., Mike and Andy.  Just as I stood to grab a coat and shoes, Joey and Alex appeared, waving a piece of paper.  “Is this the guest list for your birthday party?”


“Yep, time for you to get busy, dad,” Alex smiled.


“Let me go pick up your brothers from the bus, first.  Then when we’re back, Tom and I need to make a call.  Once we’re done with that, we’ll figure out supper, okay?”


“Cool, dad,” Joey answered.


“This is gonna’ be great,” Alex added as they took off to their room.


“Don’t forget, you two will probably have some homework to deal with,” I called to their rapidly retreating backsides.  I looked to Tom and said, “Be back in a few with the other monkeys.”


“I’ll be right here, babe.  This book is getting good.”


Since there were only three boys to retrieve today, I hopped in the Shelby and headed to the end of the drive.  After about a two-minute wait, I saw the bus finally coming up the road, so I got out of the car to wait for our boys.  When the bus stopped and Carl opened the door, the three boys that live here flew off the bus and ran madly towards me.  I managed to get off a quick wave to Carl just before I was mugged by all three wild things.  “C’mon, boys, hop in.”  After all were settled, I turned the car around and headed back to the house.  “Good day, guys?” I asked.


“Not too bad, dad,” Mike answered.


“Yeah, Mark’s mom finally gave in and he’s got our haircut now,” Andy said.  “He said she said she was tired of listenin’ to him beg.”


“Billy’s still working on his mom.  He thinks she’s close to givin’ in, too,” Mike added


“Cool.  How ‘bout you T.J.?  Did you get Joey and Alex’s homework for them?”


“Yep, but I think they screwed up.”


“Why’s that?”


“Well, they gave me a fourth-grade math book along with their regular book.”


“Oh, good, I wasn’t sure they’d still do it since they weren’t at school today.”


“What’s that all about, dad,” T.J. asked.


“Well, they’re bored with their work in math right now, they say it’s too easy for them.  So, I talked to Mr. Furman and he agreed to give them the next level book to see what they do with it.”


“Man, I wish I was that smart,” T.J. moaned.


“You’re plenty smart, young man, just in different ways,” I said as I ruffled his hair.  “Hey, don’t you have new spelling words this week, T.J.?  I haven’t seen you working on them.”


“Yeah, I do, but they’re all pretty easy this week.”


“Well, while the twins are working on their homework, why don’t you bring me the list and I’ll quiz you on them.”


“Okay, dad, sounds good.”


After pulling in the garage and closing the door, we got out of the car to head back inside.  Unbeknownst to me, Mike and Andy had stripped off their clothes on the way back to the house.


“Hey!  Why you guys naked, already?” T.J. asked.


“We couldn’t wait ‘til we got in the house,” Andy giggled.


“I didn’t know we could get undressed in the car,” Mike whined.  He dropped his backpack on the floor and stripped off right there in the garage.  While carrying their clothes in one hand and backpacks in the other, we headed into the house.  I could do nothing but shake my head in disbelief at the monsters I’d created.  I finally decided, what the hell, and started pulling my shirt over my head as I closed the door to the house.  I moved carefully down the hall, kicking off my shoes, dropping my sweats and picking up my discarded clothing as I got closer to the living room.  By the time I got to the end of the hallway, I was comfortable in my own skin, again, and Tom did a double-take as I rounded the corner, dropped my clothes by the fireplace and took my chair next to him.


“Taking lessons from the boys, I see,” he commented sarcastically.


“When in Rome, Tom,” I laughed.  “Boys!” I hollered, “bring any homework and let’s get it done.”  The fantastic five came charging down the hall and headed to the kitchen to set up for homework and snacks.  “C’mon, big guy, let’s get the snacks going, see if we can stave off starvation for a few minutes.”


“Lead the way, boss.”  We set up a snack of cookies and small glasses of milk for the boys while they started their work.


“T.J., hand me your word list and we’ll get that out of the way.”  I took the list from him and proceeded to give him the words in random order.  Despite mumbling around mouthfuls of cookie at times, it sounded to me like he got them all correct on the first try, tonight.  “Good job, son.  I’d say you’re ready to ace another one tomorrow.”


“Told ya’ they were all easy this week.  But thanks for telling me to write ‘em down when I start workin’ on ‘em, that helps a lot, dad.”


“I have to be honest with you, T.J., that wasn’t my idea.  When I was your age and struggling with my spelling words, that’s what my mom told me to do.  It helped me then, and I’m glad I could pass it on to you now.”


“I’ll have to thank her then, too.”


“She’d like that, young man.  Andy, are Mike and T.J. being good?  They aren’t bugging you about doing things you don’t want to do, are they.”


“No, sir,” he blushed.


“Andy, there’s no reason to be embarrassed.  We talk about anything and everything in this family.  A well-informed mind makes good decisions.”


“I know, but it’s so different from mom and Russ.  They’d never talked about that stuff.  Not to me, anyway.”


“Anytime you have a question about anything, ask it.  One of the rules I’ve lived by my whole life is ‘there’s no such thing as dumb question, except for one that’s not asked’.  Got it?”


“Yeah, dad.”


“Good.  Also, you have an appointment with a doctor next Friday afternoon to check out that problem you’re having.”


“Da-a-a-ad, please,” Andy whined.


“What’s he goin’ to the doctor for,” Mike asked.


I looked to Andy and asked, “Is it okay if I tell him?  Or do you want to?”


“Oh, go ahead,” Andy answered, turning bright pink, again, and burying his face in hands.


I looked back to Mike to answer his question, “Andy has a slight problem with his foreskin.  It’s not pulling back all the way.”


“Oh, that’s no big deal,” T.J. responded.  “I had the same problem for a while, but it’s fine now.”


“And just how did the problem get resolved?”




“How did it get fixed, T.J.?”


“Oh, I just kept playin’ with it and after about six months of that, it slipped right back.  It was a lot of fun,” he giggled.  We all enjoyed a good chuckle with that.  “Hey, Andy, I could help fix yours, if you want.  I know how to do it.”


“Um, thanks for that kind offer T.J., but let’s have the doctor check him out and see what he says first,” I interrupted before the conversation went off the deep end.  “I want to make sure what’s going on before anybody does anything, got it.”


“Yeah, dad, hands off,” he replied glumly.


Tom tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to Alex and Joey at the far end of the bar counter, who, uncharacteristically for them, had been rather quiet so far.  I looked in their direction to find their heads buried in the fourth-grade math text, furiously scribbling numbers on the paper next to them.  I walked over to take a closer look and was amazed to see they were working on problems in the middle of the book with no difficulties at all.  I looked back at Tom and just shook my head while saying, “Told you they’d surprise us, didn’t I?”


“Didn’t doubt it for a second.  That just blows my mind.  I suck at math.  Maybe they could help me out”


“You’ll have to ask what they charge for tutoring, see if you can afford their rates,” I laughed.  “I’ll check their answers when they’re done and see how they did.  Now, where did I leave their guest list for the party?”


“I think it’s on the table by the fireplace, Max,” Tom answered.


“Right, thanks.  Who’s done with their snack?”  Mike raised his hand in response.  “Do me a favor please and go grab that list of names off the table in the living room.”


“Sure thing, dad.”  He climbed off the bar stool, zipped to the living room and was back in a flash, waving the sheet of paper in his hand.  “Here ya’ go, dad.”


“Thank you, son.”  I took the list from him and gave it a quick glance.  It appeared at first glance there were more than twelve names written, and, after counting, I discovered there were actually sixteen.  “Um, ‘scuse me, Joey, Alex.  I thought we agreed to no more than twelve guests.”


“We did, but once we had the twelve listed, we realized we had all the boys in our class but four,” Joey answered.


“Yeah,” Alex added, “we don’t want to leave any out if we don’t have to.  We hoped you’d be okay with it.”


“That’s a good reason to stretch the limit, boys, and I agree with you.  Fortunately, it’s only four more kids and not fourteen.  I’ll start working on parent’s names and numbers tomorrow.  Thanks.”  I turned to Tom and asked, “Hey, why don’t we call your mom and dad while we wait for the boys to finish their snacks and homework?”


“I’m game, living room or study?”


“Living room’s fine.”  I lead the way and after we took our chairs by the fireplace, Tom dialed the number and switched to the phone speaker.


“Speak now or forever hold your peace,” Bill answered.


“Hey, dad, it’s Tom.  How ya’ doin’?”


“We’re just peachy, Tom, what’s up?  You guys haven’t changed your mind about selling us a tiny corner of paradise, have you?”


“Not a chance, old man.  But, we have a little bit of a problem brewing up here and wanted to see if you and mom would be interested in helping out.”


Home Page
Story index
Next chapter