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Chapter 63 – Here Come da’ Judge


“Mr. Sanders, this is Gary from the courthouse.  Please hold for Judge Corgan.” 


Oh crap, now what? 


I put the phone on speaker so Tom could be involved in the conversation and muttered, “It’s the judge.  I wonder what he wants.”


“It could be anything, Max.  Calm down.”


He finally came on the line with, “Max, you there?”


“Yes, Judge Corgan, and Tom’s here with me.”


“Remember boys, we’re not in court, so it’s David, please.”


“Yes, sir.  What did you want?”


“Well, it’s been a while since we’ve talked and, first, I want to tell you how sorry I am for what you went through, Max.  But, I’m glad I was able to help get everything done to get those people off the street and in jail where they belong.  If there’s anything I can do to help you, just let me know.”


“Thank you, David, I appreciate it.  The best thing you can do is keep them locked up.”


“I’ll do what I can, but since it’s a criminal case and not in the family court’s purview, it’s out of my hands now.  I will stick a bug in the other judge’s ear, though, you can be sure of that.  Now, to the real reason I called.  I was wondering if the ground out there had dried out enough so I can take you up on your offer to see that old family cemetery?”


“That’s what you’re calling about?  I worried maybe it had something to do with the adoptions.”


“Oh, heavens no.  Those are all ready to go.  I can’t see anything that would keep them from happening on the seventeenth as scheduled.  Sorry if I scared you.”


“That’s all right, David, I’m just a little on edge.  But, to answer your question, I think we should be able to get out to that corner of the property without sinking into the mud too deeply.  Would you like come out some afternoon this week?”


“That would be wonderful, Max.  Gary and I are working only half the day Thursday as he has to take his wife to a doctor’s appointment that afternoon.  She has threatened him with some rather severe punishments if he misses their first sonogram.  If it’s okay with you two, I’d like to come out then.”


“I don’t see a problem with that, do you Tom?”


“Nope, we’ll be glad to see you, David.  Would you like to join us for lunch?”


“That sounds like an offer I can’t refuse, Tom, thanks.  I’d enjoy that very much.”


“We’ll look forward to it, David,” Tom replied.  “Do you like spaghetti?  Max makes a mean sauce.”


“That sounds delicious.  If I get there about one, would that be good?”


“Perfect, David, we’ll see you then,” I answered.  After we ended the call, I breathed a huge sigh of relief and commented, “Jesus, he scared the shit out of me.  I couldn’t imagine why he was calling.”


“Well, see, it was nothing to worry about.”


“Not this time, anyway.  I fear the day that changes.”


“Not gonna happen babe, I promise you.  Hey, we should get moving so we’re not late for your appointment.”


“You’re driving, right?”


“If you want me to, I’m happy to do so.”


“Then, let’s hit the road.”


We grabbed our jackets and headed out to the garage.  Not knowing how much we needed to buy at the office store or the grocery, we opted to take the Flex instead of the Shelby.  We arrived at Dr. Schaid’s office twenty-five minutes later and found an empty parking spot.  As we walked into the office, the cheery receptionist greeted us and asked us to take a seat while we waited for my appointed time.  As we sat there, I just couldn’t remain still.  I kept fidgeting and shifting, trying to get comfortable, but true coziness eluded my every feeble attempt.  When the receptionist finally announced Dr. Schaid was ready to see me, I nearly jumped out of my skin.


“It’s okay, babe.  I’m right here with you,” Tom intoned calmly


“You sure as hell better be or I’m outta here.”  I grabbed my diary of hate, as I liked to call it, and we headed into the doctor’s inner sanctum.


“Good morning, Max, Tom,” Jean greeted us as Tom closed her office door.  “How are you today?”


“I’m doing pretty well,” Tom answered, “but I’m worried about Max.”


“Anything in particular?” she asked.


“How about everything?”


“Now, that’s not fair, Tom,” I retorted.  “I’m doing okay, I think.”


“Oh, yeah, then what do you have to say about what you’ve written for Dr. Schaid?  That doesn’t exactly make me feel all warm and fuzzy.”


“Well, no, me either,” I agreed.  “But what can I say, that seems to be where I am, stuck in the past, hating everything and everyone.”


“May I see what you’ve created, Max?” Jean asked.  I handed over the sheaf of papers as we sat down on the couch and she started to peruse my mad ramblings.  I watched her closely as she read, but could not detect any hint of her feelings towards what I’d written.  “That’s a good start, Max.  How long did it take you to create this?”


“I don’t know, about two hours, I think.  I kinda lost track of time while working on it.”


“Did you actually think about what you were writing?”


“No, not really.  Once I got started, it just spewed forth from my brain straight to the page.  In all honesty, I don’t even remember actually typing it, but I must have.”


“I have to assume you’ve read it.  What did you think about what you written after readin it?”


“Yeah, this morning, we both did.  And I don’t think I’ve ever read such a hateful and disgusting diatribe in my life.  I really don’t know where it all came from.  I mean, who the hell reaches the point where they hate everyone and everything like that?”


“Well, you do, for one.  What I found specifically interesting was your feeling of ‘impotence’, as you put it, at being unable to do anything to stop your abuse.  That’s an interesting choice of word, considering the circumstances.”


“It’s just a word, same as powerless, weak, helplessness.  That’s just how I felt about it, powerless?”


“Then why did you choose to use ‘impotence’?”


“How the hell should I know?  I just wrote whatever came to mind.”


We spent the rest of my appointment talking more about what I’d written and if I was feeling any better about things after having exorcised some of the hate from my soul.  I had to admit, grudgingly, that I did feel a bit lighter in my heart and brighter about the future. 


As my time was about to end, Dr. Schaid commented, “You really should consider turning your writings about your experience into a book, Max.  I think you could help a lot of people who have been through similar situations.”


“Yeah, that’s what this big lummox said this morning,” I replied as I punched Tom on the shoulder.  “I hadn’t considered that to be an option, but he planted a seed that I think might grow.”


“Oh, what’s that?”


I told her my idea about the foundation I wanted to create and Tom’s idea of funding it with proceeds from a book about my abuse and the life that has followed.  When I explained the idea came to me due to the boys we’re adopting, her demeanor took a wicked left turn.


“Wait just a second.  I knew you were getting married, but I don’t believe you brought up adopting any children during our first session.  Do you really think that’s a good idea?”


“Why wouldn’t it be?” I asked.  “They need a loving family and home and we can provide it.  I don’t see a problem.”


“Well, I’m afraid I do,” she replied frostily.  “While I don’t have a problem with two men or two women being married if that’s what they want, I do have a serious problem with those couples raising children.  The damage that can be inflicted on those children is mind-boggling.  Especially when one of those two people is dealing with issues of abuse in their past, as you are.  There’s too much risk of the abuse continuing and being perpetrated against those innocent children.”


“Excuse me, but I thought your job here was to help me deal with my past, not pass judgement on how I live my life.  Us adopting should have no bearing on that.”


“What you think is inconsequential, Mr. Sanders.  I’m the professional here.  And it’s my educated opinion that the two of you being responsible for the lives of any child, most especially boys, is fraught with red flags.”


I stood and glared at Jean before announcing, “C’mon on, Tom.  I know I need help and I promise I’ll get it, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit here and be judged by this ignorant bitch who received her diploma from the likes of Pat Robertson or Oral Roberts.”  I snagged my writings off the table as Tom joined me.  “Well, Jean, I’d like to say it’s been a pleasure, but I’d be lyin’ through my teeth.  People like you are a big part of what’s wrong in this world,” I added as I turned towards the door to her office.


“But you’re not done with your therapy!” Jean screamed at our backs as she stood up.  “You have a lot more work to do.”


I wheeled around to face her again and calmly said, “That’s true, I do, but I’m not going to get that help from the likes of you.”  I stepped towards her until she backed up and fell back into her chair.  “And, if you cause us any problems with our adoptions, I’ll file a complaint with the state licensing board claiming you’re an incompetent fool who shouldn’t be allowed to provide counseling to rocks, let alone people.”


“Well, we’ll see about that,” she huffed, crossing her arms over her chest.


“Don’t push me, Jean,” I growled.  “You don’t know who you’re fucking with and you don’t want to find out.”  On that final statement, I turned, snagged my lover’s arm and left her office.  On the way through the reception area, I stopped at the receptionist’s desk and canceled all my future appointments with this quack.  As we headed out into late March gloom, I commented, “Jesus, what an insufferable bitch.  Are we gonna have to deal with idiots like her our entire lives?”


“Probably,” Tom answered.  “The sad thing is, our boys will, too.  I’d hoped that by now more people would have joined the modern, civilized world and have dispensed with attitudes like that, but it looks like we still have a long way to go.”


“Apparently so,” I grumped.


“So, what’re you gonna do now?” Tom asked as we got into the car.


“About what?”


“About a counselor, babe?  Like you said, you still need some help.  I don’t want you to stop getting what you need to make you whole again.”


“I guess I’ll call Paul and see if he can make another recommendation.  Either that, or see if Malcom might be interested in helping guide me back to normal.”


“Malcom’s not a bad idea, but don’t you think he might be a bit too close to home to become involved?  I think he’d have the same conflict working with you that Paul does.”


“Yeah, you’re right.  I guess we’ll see if Paul can find someone else, then.”


We’d arrived at the office store and, with list in hand, went shopping for Tom’s office supplies.  Wending our way through the aisles, we stopped briefly in the computer department where Tom selected a good laser printer.  When he started to look at the laptops, I told him, “Don’t worry about the computer.  I know a guy who builds them, and I’ll call him when we get home to have him build yours.”


“What’s wrong with just using a laptop?” Tom asked.


“Trust me.  You’ll get a lot more bang for the buck and better upgradability with a custom-built system.  Bill has built my computers for ten years now and he’s never failed to give me what I need.  And better yet, he makes house calls.  He’ll bring it out, set it up, connect it to the network and everything.”


“But I thought it would be convenient to have a laptop, so I could take it with me.  You never know what I’ll need and where.”


“Tell you what.  If you want something portable, get the latest Surface tablet.  You can take it with you when you need it, then when you come back to the office, you just sync it with the desktop system.  Then you’ve got the best of both worlds.”


“Yeah, that makes sense.  Where do we get a Surface?”


“I’ll have Bill take care of that, too.  That way he can get everything set up so the sync is a no-brainer.”


“What, you think I can’t handle it?”


“I’m sure you can, but hopefully you’ll be busy and won’t have time to deal with setting it all up yourself.”


“If you say so.  Let’s get the rest of this shit and move on, then.”


We finished our shopping at the office store and headed to the grocery to restore our food supplies at home.  Food doesn’t seem to last very long with six young and always hungry eating machines in the house.  We also had to get the ingredients to make my spaghetti sauce for our lunch with David on Thursday.  With two carts loaded to overflowing, we headed for the checkout.  After paying half of a king’s ransom for food, we loaded up the car and turned towards home.  When we got home, Tom backed in the garage to make unloading the car easier.  We spent the next half hour unloading and putting away all the food while dropping Tom’s office supplies in his office.  We then settled into the kitchen for a quick sandwich before Bob arrived with the boys’ bedroom furniture.


I was dropping the last dish into the dishwasher when we heard the ding of the drive sensor.  Assuming it was Bob, Tom headed to the garage to open the doors and move the Shelby out of their way.  I met them in the hallway as Tom led Bob inside.


“Hey, Bob,” I greeted as we shook hands.  “How you doin’?”


“Great, Max, how ‘bout yourself?”


“Still suckin’ air and takin’ sustenance, so I’m good.  You need any help today?”


“Nope.  I brought my two biggest guys with me, today,” he answered as two boulders with legs, arms and a head came through the door, each carrying a set of drawers for under the bed.


“Where we headed, Boss,” the lead boulder asked.


“Second door to your right, Terry,” Bob answered.  The two behemoths made the turn into the room and gently placed the drawer units on the floor before they headed back outside to bring in more pieces.  As they walked down the hall, I could hear them talking about the wild paint job in the room and laughing quietly to themselves as they did so.


“Holy crap, Bob,” Tom began, “Where the hell did you find them?”


“Terry and Travis?” Bob chuckled.  “They’re my nephews.  A few years back, I offered them part-time jobs making deliveries and they discovered they like to work with wood and power tools.  They’re the best woodworkers I’ve ever had the pleasure to train and work with.  I’m afraid that someday soon they’ll get tired of working for me and take off on their own.”


“Never gonna happen, Uncle Bob,” Travis replied as he turned into the boys’ room with a set of shelves.


“Yeah, you’re stuck with us until you die,” Terry added.


“I’m good with that, guys, as long as I’m not stuck with your food bills,” Bob laughed.  “Well, I better get busy or those two are gonna fire me.”


“We’ll get out of your way,” Tom said.  “If you need help moving their mattress from room to room, let us know.”


“Will do,” Bob replied as he turned to head outside to get to work.


Tom and I headed for the living room and as we sat down I asked, “You want to call Vinnie about moving the bedroom furniture back into the house for Ron to use?”


“Sure.  Why don’t you call Paul while I’m talking to Vinnie?”


“Good idea.  I’ll use the phone in the kitchen.”


We both made our calls and when I rejoined Tom in the living room, he asked, “Any luck with Paul?”


“Yeah, he was astonished when I told him what Jean said this morning and he apologized for her attitude.  He said she was way out of line and not at all within the current guidelines for counselors.  He also said he’d make some calls to a few other therapists to see if he could find another one to work with me.  He’s gonna try and talk Jean off her ‘holier than thou’ perch, too.”


“I hope he can do it.  We don’t need trouble from her.  I assume he didn’t volunteer to take you on as a patient, did he.”


“No, he didn’t, and that’s fine.  I also asked him about who could give IQ tests to Joey and Alex, just to settle that question.  He’s going to do some checking on that and let us know.  I know the boys want to do it, and I’d kinda like to know exactly what we’re dealing with, see if there’s any connection between their other mental abilities and their obvious intelligence.”


“We might want to consider including T.J. in those tests.  Especially since he seems to have surpassed the twins in his ability to pick up on what everyone is thinking.”


“Good idea, I hadn’t thought about that.  How about you, what’d Vinnie say?”


“They’re busy the next couple of days, but he thought they could be here Friday morning to get the furniture moved back into Ron’s room.”


“That’ll be perfect.  It’ll be good to have all three bedrooms functional again.”  The phone rang and interrupted our conversation.


Tom answered it with, “Hello?”


“Is this Max Sanders?” the gentleman asked.


“No, this is Tom.  Who’s calling, please?”


“Tom, this is Hank from the Journal-Register.  I’m calling to let you know that I’ve e-mailed the article I’ve written for Max to review and make any comments on, as he requested.  We’d like the story to appear starting in tomorrow’s issue, so if he could take a look at it and let me know what he thinks, I’d appreciate it.”


“I’ll let him know and we’ll get back to you, Hank.  Thanks for calling.” 


Tom hung up the phone and told me I needed to check my e-mail.  I headed for the study and fired up the computer.  After opening my e-mail, I found several messages from the past couple of days that weren’t important and two that were, one from Hank and the other from Jack at Shelby America.  Anxious to see if Tom’s wedding present would be here on time, I checked Jack’s message first.  My lucky stars must be aligning just right as his message said that after talking to the company president, he’d shuffled their schedule around and guaranteed that Tom’s car would be delivered to the dealership the Wednesday before our wedding.  I fired off a quick reply thanking them profusely for their help and assuring any additional charges for the special service would be acceptable.  I next printed the article from Hank and returned to the living room so we could read it.


I settled in next to Tom and began reading.  In the e-mail itself, Hank let us know that the story ended up being much longer than they thought it would and the paper had decided to split it into a three-part feature that would run on the front page Wednesday through Friday.  I passed that page to Tom and started reading the story itself, handing each page over as I finished with it.  Once we’d both read the whole thing, I looked at Tom and asked, “What’d you think?”


“Seems pretty straight-forward and accurate from what you told them yesterday.  They didn’t include any names but yours and the Muellers, but your name’s already out there and adding Frank and Iris seems logical since they are sitting in jail right now.”


“More importantly, they left you and the boys out of it.  But, yeah, I think he did a pretty good job.  I’m surprised they want to split it over three days, though.  They obviously had more information than he led us to believe, but that’s all right as it just backs up what I told him.”


“You should call him now and let him know you’re okay with it.” 


I made the call to Hank and after a brief discussion, I let him know it was okay to run the story.  Since I don’t have the paper delivered, I asked to him to e-mail each day’s part so I could read them as they got printed just in case there were any last minutes changes.  He assured me that wouldn’t happen, but I was still somewhat uneasy about my full story being released this way.  But, yet again, I talked myself into it simply to make sure the facts were out there.  I also hoped I could open other parents’ eyes to the possibility their children may have been abused in some way, especially if they were members of that church.


After ending the call with Hank, I called my computer guy, Bill, and let him know what Tom needed for his and Dylan’s computers.  After receiving assurances he could take care of their needs and would be here Thursday to set up the new systems, we ended our call and I passed the information on to Tom.


“Well, that’s good service.  Once I get the computers, I should be able to get started with the background checks Carol has waiting for me.”


“That’s good.  You need something to keep you occupied.  Oh, wait, I just thought of something.  Dylan said he’d allow you to access the county’s system to help you out.  Are you still going to be able to tap their resources once he leaves the department?”


“That’s a good question, babe.  I probably ought to find out, hand me the phone.”  Tom dialed Dylan’s number and after the usual greetings were dispensed with, Tom said, “Hey, the reason I called was to find out if we’ll still be able to access the county system to run checks after you leave the department.”


“Good thinkin’, bubba.  You must be some kind of detective or somethin’,” Dylan chuckled.  “I don’t think it’ll be a problem, but let me check with Derek.  It sounds like the County has accepted my recommendation to appoint Derek to finish out the rest of my term, so it’ll be up to him to make that decision.  I’ll let you know what his answer is.”


“Thanks, Dylan.  I know we can still do the job without that access, but it’ll be a lot easier with it.”


“Without a doubt.  Oh, and tell Max the Muellers’ first court appearance is scheduled for next Tuesday at one in the afternoon.  I know he wants to be there.”


“I’ll do that.  Thanks, and talk to you later.”  He hung up the phone and relayed the information to me.


“Guess we know what we’ll be doin’ next Tuesday,” I replied.


“Yeah, I guess so.  You sure you wanna’ be there?”


“Damn right I do.  I don’t think I’ll really be free from them until I see them in prison.” 


Bob stuck his head around the corner to get our attention and let us know he, Terry and Travis were done for the day.  We followed him into T.J., Mike and Andy’s room to check out the final results.


“Well, that looks a bit better with the desks and shelves covering a lot of that red,” I commented.


“And the orange doesn’t seem as bright with the bed against that wall,” Tom added.


“Yeah, I was a little surprised when I first saw the colors your boys selected, but they’re growing on me now,” Bob commented.  “And having the furniture in place definitely helps mute the brightness.”


“I still wouldn’t want to sleep in here,” Travis complained.


“Me, either,” Terry agreed with a chuckle.


“Well, all that’s left is for your boys to move their things in and they’re ready to go, guys,” Bob said.


“And when will you be bringing my desk and shelves out, Bob?” Tom asked.  “I’m anxious to get back to work.”


“We’ll come back tomorrow afternoon with the shelves and the first desk.  I’m still working on the second desk you need.  I won’t have it completed until the middle of next week.”


“No problem on that.  The other guy won’t be starting for another two weeks.”


“I’ll have it done and ready for him by then.  Well, I guess we’ll be on our way.  Terry, Travis, grab our tools and I’ll meet you in the truck.”  The two monsters collected their things and headed on outside.


“How much do we owe you, Bob?”


“We’ll take care of it all tomorrow after Tom’s stuff is delivered, okay?  And no outrageous tips, this time, please.”


“That works for me.  Be sure you bring the bill with you.”


“Excellent.  See you tomorrow then.  Hope you guys have a great afternoon and the boys enjoy their new room.”


“Thanks, Bob,” Tom said.  “You guys go have some fun now.”  On that final comment, Bob turned and joined his nephews.  Tom followed along to pull the Shelby back in the garage after Bob pulled away from the garage.  When he came back inside, he found me in the kitchen grabbing a soda from the refrigerator.  “So, what’re we gonna do to amuse ourselves until the boys get home in half an hour?” he asked with a crooked smirk cutting across his face.


“I was gonna read for a bit, you got a better idea?”


“I always have better ideas.  Follow me, babe.”  Tom led me to the bedroom, stripping off his clothes along the way.  “We’re gonna lose this quiet personal time we have together soon, and I’d like to take advantage of it while I can.”


“Take advantage of it or me?” I asked as I started removing my clothes, also.


“Both,” he whispered sweetly as he picked me up, carried me to the bed, laid me down and then fell in beside me.  In moments, we were wrapped up together and got lost in each other.  Some forty minutes later, we were both returning to planet Earth from our sexual high, Tom straddling my hips with my dick still hidden deep inside him when we heard giggling from the wide-open bedroom door.  We turned our heads and opened our eyes to find all six boys standing there, naked and erect.


“Um, sorry guys,” I mumbled while pulling the sheet around us, “we should have closed the door.”


“Too late now, dads,” Joey grinned.


“How long have you been there?” Tom asked.


“Long enough,” Andy giggled.


“Yeah, you two put on quite a show,” Logan added.


“Well the show’s over now, boys, so skedaddle.  We’ll be out in a few minutes.”  The six lads scampered away from our door and Tom flopped down on me, laughing hysterically.  “What the hell’s so funny, fuzzball.”


“All this time, we’ve been really careful and only been caught in the act once.  We just shot that to hell, don’t you think?”


“Well, it’s not the first time we’ve had an audience and I’m sure it won’t be the last.  Besides, three of them have already been up close and very personal.”


“Yeah, and the other three looked like they were primed and ready for some action just now.”


“Well, they’re not gonna get that action from us.  Not today, anyway,” I replied.


“Uh, we should probably get cleaned up and go see who has homework, then get started on supper.”


“Yeah, okay.”  I tossed the sheet off us and Tom crawled off me, leading the way to the bathroom.  After a quick rinse in the shower, we dried off and headed out to find the boys.  We were surprised to find the kitchen empty and continued our search in the theater.  Finding it also devoid of human life, we retraced our steps to the kitchen and then headed across the house towards the boys’ bedrooms.  Finding the twins’ room was also empty, we continued on down the hall.  On entering T.J., Mike and Andy’s room we finally found all six boys sprawled across the bed, each with his head buried in another’s crotch.


As we turned around and quietly left the room, Tom commented, “I guess they like their new room,” with a chuckle.


“I suppose they do, though nobody actually said it.  I can’t believe all six are doing that together.  I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen T.J., Mike and Andy hook up with the twins or Logan.”


“It doesn’t really surprise you, does it?  It was bound to happen eventually.”


“Oh, I know.  And no, I’m not surprised, I guess.  Seeing Logan in the middle of it is a bit of a stumper, though, since the twins say he’s not gay.  For a kid who’s supposed to be straight, he sure seems to be enjoying his time with us.”


“He’s just havin’ some fun, babe.  Once he moves back home with his dad, he’ll forget all about it.”


The two of us headed on into the kitchen to start preparing tonight’s supper.  About ten minutes later, the boys started to filter in with their books and things so they could take care of their homework.  Every one of them had a look of complete satisfaction plastered on his face.


As they mounted their stools at the bar, I asked, “Anybody need a snack today or you okay ‘til supper?”


“Nah, we’re good, Dad,” T.J. smiled.


“Yeah, we all had a Tootsie Roll for our snack today,” Joey added with a wicked grin.


“What’s for supper, dads?” Alex asked.


“Food,” I answered sarcastically.


“Well, duh!” Mike retorted.  “What kind of food?”


“Edible,” Tom replied with a grin.


“Fine, y’all just be that way,” Joey cracked.


“Nice of you guys to walk to the house today.  We would have picked up, you know.”


“Yeah, we know,” Alex replied, “but it’s pretty nice outside today, so we thought we’d walk.”


“Besides, if we’d dinged for you to pick us up, we would have interrupted you and Pops and missed the show,” Joey laughed with the others joining in the laughter.


“Hey, I wanted to ask how you guys are doing with setting up the youth support group at school.  Have you made any progress and is Mr. Thomas helping out like he said he would?”


“Yeah, he’s been great,” Alex replied.  “The group is all set up and Mr. Furman followed through on getting some pamphlet thingies printed up.”


“They’re pretty cool, too,” T.J. added.  “They have info about the group along with phone numbers and websites kids can call or visit to get help if they don’t want to talk to us.  He even put our pictures on the front of it since it was our idea.”


“We get together during study times to talk about things with other kids.  We’ve already had four or five find us and they’re all in junior high or older.”


“How do the older kids feel talking to you guys?” Tom asked.


“Kinda weirded out about it at first, since we’re so young, but after they see how open we are about being gay, they seem to chill out and are just thankful they have someone they can talk to who understands what they’re dealing with,” Alex answered.


“Especially since none of them have talked to their families about what they’re feeling,” Joey added.  “I can’t believe a sixteen-year-old doesn’t think she can talk to her parents about it.  That’s really sad.”


“Maybe her mom and dad are like mine used to be,” Tom offered.


“Or my mom and dad, too,” I added.


“Yeah, maybe,” Joey agreed.  “I gave her a copy of the DVD the school recorded of the workshop and she said she’d watch it.  Maybe show it to her parents as a way to start a discussion with them.”


“Do you have more copies of the DVD?” I asked.


“Yeah, we got about a hundred of them.” Alex answered.


“And they burned a bunch more to send out to other schools,” T.J. added.


“I’d like to get one for us to have, if you think that’d be okay.  Lee and Carl still want to see it and I’d like for Pops’ mom and dad to see it, too.”


“We can do that, Dad,” Joey answered.  “I’ll bring one home tomorrow night.”


“Thanks, son.  Well, we’ll let you get back to your schoolwork.  Supper will be ready in about an hour.”


Tom and I headed for the living room and settled in front of the fireplace after I’d lit a fire.  Andy and Mike joined us shortly thereafter and I continued to read Huckleberry Finn to them.  When the other four had finished their homework and joined us, we played a game of Mousetrap while waiting for our supper to finish cooking.  With eight players, the trap was built pretty quickly, and Logan ended up winning the game just as the timer went off to let us know supper was ready.  We returned to the kitchen and while the boys set the table, Tom and I got the meatloaf and oven browned potatoes with parmesan cheese ready to put on the table.


“Meatloaf!?” Andy cried out.  “That was the big surprise?”


“Okay, so it’s not gourmet food.  But it’ll be tasty and filling, so dig in.”


After everyone had had a few bites, Logan piped up, “It might just be meatloaf, Max, but it’s still better than my dad’s.  Think you could give him some pointers on how to make his taste better?”


“I’m sure I could, Logan, if he’ll let me.”


The rest of the meal passed in relative quiet as we all stuffed our faces.  The after-meal cleanup was taken care of quickly enough and the boys asked to go swimming before going to bed.  Tom suggested that Alex, Logan and Joey help the other three move their clothes and things into their new room before we hit the pool.  All six boys rumbled down the hallway and, in less than thirty minutes, returned to the living room, saying they were done and ready to swim.


We grabbed our towels and headed outside.  For once, the boys didn’t mug us as soon as we hit the water, so Tom, Mike and I took some time to help the other boys with their swimming lessons.  They were definitely improving a bit each day.  I could tell Mike was quite the taskmaster and took his instructor role seriously.  We were both proud of him for doing that. 


From the shy and retiring youngster that had originally moved in here with the others, he had become very outgoing and truly a force to be reckoned with.  I was very happy that he had adjusted so well to his new circumstances and seemingly didn’t require the professional services of Paul.  We could only hope his progress into a strong and confident young man would continue.  After Mike’s half hour of instruction time had passed, it was suddenly time to play.  The boys put their improved swimming skills to the test as they circled Tom and me before moving in for the kill.  The end came quickly as we were already pretty tired from our afternoon exertions and the time we’d been in the pool hadn’t helped our stamina one bit.


After our inglorious defeat, we retreated to our corner to rest for a bit as the boys continued to play.  After a while, T.J. swam over to us and wrapped an arm around Tom’s neck.


“What’s up, T.J.?” Tom asked.


“Just thought I should warn you.  I think Alex and Joey have figured it out.”


“What?” I asked, receiving a serious roll of the eyes from T.J.


“Geez, I can’t believe you could forget already.  It only happened two nights ago.”


“Oh, that,” I responded.


“Yeah, that, Dads.  It don’t bother me none they know ‘cause it was lots of fun, but I thought you guys would want to know in case they start buggin’ ya’ about it.”


“Well, they’ve got nothing to complain about,” Tom replied.


“I know that, you know that, but do you think they do?” T.J. asked.


“I guess we’ll find out, won’t we?” I repsonded.  “Thanks for the heads up young man.”


“Love you both,” he called out as he swam back to rejoin the fray.


“We saw that coming, didn’t we?” Tom chuckled.


“Yep.  And we’ll deal with it, just like we do everything else.”


We gave the boys another half hour before we called them out of the pool to shower and get ready for a quick snack before bedtime.  The promise of a snack had them all running for the house in no time and we followed them inside.  While they cleaned up, we sliced some apples and set the boys up with some caramel dipping sauce for their wedges.  Logan led the parade into the kitchen where they mounted their stools and inhaled the apple slices as if they were starving.  Nothing reignites the fires of hunger like a good swim.


“You guys ready for another fun-filled day at school tomorrow?” I asked.


“Not really,” T.J. answered.  “I still don’t know why we can’t do school at home.”


“Well, because Pops will have his new work starting soon and I’m not qualified to do it myself, that’s why.”


“Well, what about hiring someone else to come in and teach us?” Alex asked.


“Yeah, we all hate havin’ to wear clothes to school,” Andy added to the argument.


“And just think how much laundry you’d save Ron from havin’ to do when he moves in,” Joey continued.


“I bet we’d be able to learn a lot more at home, too,” Mike concluded cheerfully.


“What about you, Logan?  What do you think?” Tom asked.


“No way man, I ain’t got no dog in this hunt, so keep me out of it.  Besides, if you did hire someone to come in and teach these goofballs just so they could be naked all day, I may never wanna go live with my old man again.”


“Well, okay then,” I responded with a chuckle.  “Sorry, boys, I just don’t see it happening.  Besides, you have the support group you’re basically in charge of.  If you don’t go to school, who’s going to run that?”


“They can find someone else,” Joey answered.  “We got it up and running like we said we would, it’s their job to keep it going.”


“Look, Tom and I will talk about it, but don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.”


“Let’s go boys,” Tom interjected.  “Time for bed.   Move along and we’ll be there soon to say good night.” 


The sensational six-pack took off across the house as they headed for their rooms, leaving Tom and I to finish loading and starting the dishwasher.  Our work in the kitchen completed, we followed the boys to say our goodnights.  After our time in the pool, we were all pretty worn out and the boys were all curled up when we reached their rooms.  As we said our goodnights and love yous, they returned the same feelings back to us.  With the six all snuggled comfortably in their beds, we retreated to the living room where we sat on the loveseat and I leaned over and gave Tom a kiss on the cheek.


“What was that for?” he asked as he turned to face me.


“Just to remind you how much I love and need you in my life.”


“A little peck on the cheek?  It that all I mean to you?”


“You know it isn’t.  Here, let’s see if this says it better,” I added as I crawled into his lap, straddled his thighs and attacked his mouth, allowing my tongue to slip inside.  When we finally broke for air, I asked, “Is that better?”


“Much,” he smiled.  “I love you, too, you know.”


“Yeah, I do,” I murmured as I laid my head on his shoulder.  “Um, is that a bazooka in your pocket or you just happy to see me?” I giggled.


“I’m always happy to see you, babe.  Besides, I don’t have any pockets right now.”


“Oh, right,” I muttered as I reached behind me and fondled his mushroom head and kissed him even more deeply than before.  “I think we should continue this in the bedroom.”


“Maybe we should close the door this time, too,” he chuckled as he slipped his hands under my ass and stood while holding on to me.  “We really should be following our own rules, you know.”  I nodded my agreement as I wrapped my arms around his neck and legs around his waist while he carried me back to our bedroom.  Our lips never separated during the entire trip.  Once behind the closed door of our room, we proceeded to entertain ourselves for the next hour in some rather inventive ways.  After a shower to refresh ourselves and eliminate the stink of our exertions, we curled up in bed together for a good night’s sleep.


In the morning, Tom was moving before I was, and he took off across the house to wake the boys.  By the time he made it back to our bedroom, I was awake and moving, though not quite functional.  He led me to the kitchen and plied me with coffee to help get my engine going.  After a quick breakfast with the boys, I got dressed and drove them out to meet the bus.  As they climbed out of the car, I got my hug from each of them as I reminded them to learn something new today.


When I got back to the house, I could hear Tom was on the phone.  As I came down the hallway from the garage, I heard him say, “Hang on a second, Paul, he just walked back in.”


I sat next to Tom and said, “Hey, Paul, thanks for calling back.  Did you find someone else I can talk to?”


“Sure did, Max.  His name is Jason Biggs.  Let me give you his number and address so you can call him and set up an appointment.”  I wrote down the information as Paul recited it.  “I’ve already asked him how he feels about Jean’s opinion of your situation and he’s in our camp, no issues at all.  He thinks anybody who’s qualified and willing to provide a home for a kid in need should be allowed to do so.”


“That’s good news, Paul.  I was afraid Jean’s ugly thoughts might skew her work with me in the wrong direction.”


“That was a possibility, for sure, but you don’t have to worry about it now.  I also talked to Jean yesterday afternoon and told her she was way off base.  She sounds like she’s backed off for now, but who knows what she may do in the future.”


“Thanks, Paul, we appreciate your efforts.  I’ll get in touch with Jason sometime today to set up an appointment.”


“Hey, before we hang up, I wanted to ask how’s everybody doing out there?”


“We’re good.  You’ll be happy to know Mike’s been working with the boys on their swimming skills and they’ve made a lot of improvement since that started.  Mike’s really changed since the night you met us at Steak ‘n Shake.  He’s more confident in himself, more outgoing and he loves having brothers.  He fits right in, like we were all meant to be together.”


“You were, you know.  I’m glad to hear everyone’s doing well, especially Mike.  Considering the abuse he received before coming to live with us, I’m amazed at how well he’s doing now.”


“I never asked, Paul, but can you tell me what kind of abuse he suffered?”


“Well, since your adoption is all but final, I guess I can tell you.  He was beaten with a belt uncountable times, poorly fed, locked in a closet for weeks at a time to keep him away from mother’s closet and humiliated constantly for wanting to wear his mom’s things.  That’s what I learned from Carol when he came to live with Joy and me.  There may be more that I don’t know about.”


“Do you think it’s a possibility he’s transgender?” Tom asked.


“Hell, Tom, anything’s possible these days, but I wouldn’t want to saddle him with a classification of any kind since I couldn’t get him to talk to me about it.  Besides, the fact he liked to play with his mother’s clothes doesn’t necessarily mean anything.  If he should decide in the future he wants to talk to someone, I’m still more than willing to do it.”


“Thanks, Paul, we’ll see what happens.  Say hi to Joy for us and we’ll talk to you later.”


“Will do, guys.  Have a good day.”


After disconnecting the call, I looked to Tom and asked, “Do you think we should try talking to Mike?”


“I don’t know, babe.  He’s been doing so well, I’d hate to ruin the progress he’s made.”


“There is that, I guess, but I’d hate to see him struggle with something he may not understand.”


“Fair point, I guess.  I guess a chat wouldn’t hurt, but I’d wait until after our trip this weekend.  I’d hate to see his spirits dampened before we go.”


“Okay, that’s settled, then.  We’ll talk with him one night next week, try to figure some things out.  Well, I guess I should call Dr. Biggs and find out when he can see me.”  I dialed his number and, after a brief conversation with his receptionist, had an appointment scheduled for tomorrow at ten in the morning.  After hanging up the phone, I passed the information on to Tom.


“Looks like we’re busy in the morning, then.  That should work out fine, though, since we’ll have plenty of time to get back home before David shows up for lunch.  Are you going to take what you wrote for Jean and show it to him?”


“He might as well read it, too, see what he thinks about it.  I guess I’ll do some more work on it this afternoon, too.  The more I think about it, turning this nightmare into a book makes a certain kind of sense, in some sort of sick, perverted way.”


“That’s good thinking, Max.  Give you a little project to keep you occupied,” Tom commented while thinking ‘and keep your crazy mind off the whole bigger house/more kids thing.’


“I hate to break it to you, bubba, but writing a book is not a ‘little project’.  It’s a massive undertaking that requires a considerable amount of thought, serious planning, and more than a fair amount of creativity.  There’s an enormous amount of effort expended in creating characters the readers will connect with and care about, developing the proper flow of the story, conceiving realistic events, conflicts and plotlines, and then wrapping it all up in a satisfying manner.”


“Okay, I get all that, but the book you’d be writing this time won’t be fiction, will it?  It’ll basically be an autobiography, so you don’t need to create characters, plotlines or any of that other junk.  You’ve got all of that, already.  You just need to organize or outline where you want to start and end the story, the details you want to include and how you feel about everything at the different times in your life.  Call it ‘The Dummies Guide to Surviving Sexual Abuse’.”


“Really, Tom!?”


“I’m so sorry, Max.  Shitty joke.  I don’t know what I was thinkin’.”


“I don’t either, damn it, but this shit ain’t funny.”


“I know that.  I’m just a fuckin’ dumbass.”  He tipped his head forward and added, “Go ahead, smack me, I deserve it.”


I leaned over and ruffled his hair and said, “Not this time, bucko.  But let’s see if we can get you back to bein’ a smartass, okay?”


“Deal, babe,” he agreed as he lifted his head back up and gave me a kiss. 


The phone rang again, and after checking the caller ID, I punched the speaker button and answered, “Morning, James.  I hope you’re calling with some good news.”


“Only the best news for you today, Max.  I thought you’d like to know that Valerie Carr has dropped her wrongful termination lawsuit.”


“What!?  How the hell did that happen?”


“I was finally able to talk some sense into her lawyer.  I informed him that our side was ready for a full-fledged battle with six lawyers ready to spend untold hours filing every possible motion and action we could think of.  And all of us would be billing anywhere from three to five hundred dollars an hour as we churned out tons of paper he was gonna have to deal with.  The final nail in her coffin was when I told him that since he took the case on a contingency, he’d end up with squat after she lost.  I don’t think he liked that idea very much, especially after I tossed in the idea he may liable for some of those fees since it was a frivolous lawsuit to begin with.”


“I’d hope not.  Well, you’ve worked your magic again.  I don’t know if I can ever say thank you enough for all your efforts.”


“Sure, you can, just pay my outrageous bill when you get it,” he laughed.  “That’s all the thanks I need.”


“You know I will, especially as long as you can keep doing the right thing.”


“That’s all I know how to do, Max.  Well, I have other fish to fry today, so I’ll talk to you later.  You guys have a good afternoon.”


“Thanks, James, we will.” 


I ended the call and laid my head back, letting go a huge sigh of relief.  “God, that’s a load off my mind.” 


“Bet it feels good to be out from under that insanity,” Tom commented.


“You have no idea.  I wasn’t overly concerned with the suit, but it was just another point of stress I can do without right now.”


“So, what’s for lunch today?” Tom asked.


“How the hell can you be thinking about food already?  It’s only ten.”


“Well, I was really thinkin’ about sex, but I’m still worn out from yesterday, so I thought a refueling might be called for.  You know, get the juices flowing, again,” he snickered.


“I haven’t noticed that ever being a problem.”


“And we don’t want to take a chance that it does, do we?”


“No, I guess not,” I laughed in agreement.  “Grilled ham and cheese sound okay to you?”


“Perfect.  Tomato soup, too?”


“If you want, why not?  I think we can afford a can of soup for ya’.”


“I sure as hell hope so.  It’d be pretty damn hard to build a new house when you can’t spring some coin for a bowl of soup.”


We finally picked up our books and spent the next couple of hours reading and relaxing together.  When we both started to feel hunger creeping into our bodies, we headed for the kitchen and whipped up our simple lunch.  By the time we were done eating and loading our things into the dishwasher, the drive sensor had gone off to announce Bob arriving with Tom’s office furniture.  While Tom headed down the hall to the garage to let Bob and his nephews in, I turned towards my study to begin organizing my thoughts for the book I was preparing to create.


I started by creating a basic outline consisting of the three major sections I wanted in the book; my life before, during and after my abuse at the hands of the Muellers.  I then started filling in the space I’d left between the main headings with basic topics to cover under each, rearranging them as I saw fit.  After about an hour working on my outline, I had everything pretty well covered, except for the answer to the one question that was still nagging at me; out of all the kids in our church class, why did the Muellers pick me?  I was aware of two people who knew that answer for sure, but I didn’t think I wanted go back to the jail for a visit with them.  And I was pretty confident neither Mom, Dad or Lee would have said anything to them, especially since they didn’t know I was gay when my nightmare started.  There was only one other person I could think of that might know the answer and I decided to call him.


After looking him up in the phone book, I dialed the number and waited for him to answer.  After six rings, my old friend David finally answered the phone.  He’d been my best friend growing up and lived across the street from us.  I had wanted him as much as I’d wanted my dad and he was the only person I could think of who might have figured out I was gay.


“Hello?” he asked cautiously.


“David?  It’s your old buddy, Max.  How ya’ doin’?” I greeted cheerfully.


“Oh, hey Max.  I’m not too bad, I guess.  It’s been a long time, man.”


“Yeah, I know, and I’m sorry for that.”


“That’s all right, real life and everything, I understand.  I’ve missed you though.”


“Yeah, I’ve missed you, too.”


“Hey, I read the story last week and again in this morning’s paper.  Sorry to hear you went through that.  I had no idea those people were doin’ that crap or I woulda said somethin’.”


“I appreciate the thought, David, and that’s exactly why I wanted to talk to you.  But I have a hard time believing you didn’t know what was going on.”


“What the hell are you talkin’ about?” he asked indignantly.


“I think you knew exactly what they were doin’ to kids in the church and you’re the one who told them I might be gay.”


“You don’t know what you’re sayin, Max.  I didn’t have nothin’ to do with that.  I didn’t go to your church and didn’t even know who those people were until I read their names in the paper last week.”


“Please, David, don’t make this worse by lyin’ to me.  I’ve been wracking my brain for some time now and it just hit me, not ten minutes ago.  You knew I was gay, or at least thought I might be.”


“Yeah, I knew.  You were my best friend, Max, but you were always different from the other guys we hung out with.  Hell, we were in each other’s houses so much, we were like brothers.  And then, just before you turned thirteen, you spent a night at my house and shit just got too weird for me.”


“What are you talkin’ about, David?  I don’t remember anything off the wall happening.”


“Well, I was always bugged ‘bout you sleepin’ naked whenever we spent the night together.  I always felt weird wearin’ shorts when you didn’t have nothin’ on.”


“Now, wait a minute.  We talked about me sleepin’ nude the first time you stayed at my house and you said you were okay with it, especially since we usually took our bath or shower together.  And you could have slept nude, too, or you could have asked me to pull on some shorts and I would have.  I mean, what was the big deal?”


“Yeah, I know what I said.  And I was lyin’ to ya’ ‘cause you were my friend, but I hated sleepin’ in the same bed with you when you were naked.  Then came that one night at my house.  I finally decided to try sleepin’ naked, too.  And it was okay to start out with.  You were right about it bein’ comfortable.  But then, I woke up about two in the morning ‘cause I had to piss, and you had curled up right behind me.  I felt your stiff dick crawlin’ up my ass and you had a hand wrapped around my dick.  I thought you were tryin’ to screw me and I was like, ‘Oh, fuck no, this ain’t happenin’.’  I got the hell outta bed as quick as I could and, after goin’ to the bathroom, I spent the rest of the night in the recliner in my room.”


That’s why you were in the chair the next morning?  Jesus, David, I’m so sorry.  I had no idea.  Why the hell didn’t you say something?”


“Guys our age didn’t talk about shit like that back then, Max.  Not with nobody.”


“Oh, c’mon, we talked about all kinds of things.  But, now that I think about it, I guess you’re right, we didn’t talk about who we wanted to go to bed with, did we?”


“No, and I was really freaked out, thinkin’ you wanted me that way.”


“Well, to be honest with ya’, I did.  I never realized I’d actually acted on my feelings, though, and I’m sorry it happened.  Is that why you said somethin’ to the Muellers?  To see if they could fix me and make me a nice little straight boy?”


“Max, like I said, I didn’t know them and I swear, I never said shit about that night to nobody.  You gotta believe me.”


“Well someone did because every time they took me into that chamber of horrors, they were always screaming about drivin’ the devil outta me and how I wasn’t a faggot.  They got it from someone.  If it wasn’t my family or you, who the hell was it?”


“I can only think of one possibility, Max.”


“Who?” I asked with desperation at getting the answer I needed.


“You remember George, the kid who lived at the other end of the block behind me?”


“You mean George Lair?  Yeah, I remember him, but he and I were never really friends, except to say hi to as we passed by each other.  Why do you think it might’ve been him?”


“Well, he was like my second-best friend and I told him, after that night, that he might want to get to know you better.  I thought you two would hit it off, in more ways than one.”


“Why the fuck would you think that?”


“’Cause he was gay, too, and he’d told me he liked you.  I thought maybe if you two hooked up, then you and me could still be friends without you wantin’ to fuck me, since you’d be gettin’ what you wanted from him.”


“What makes you think he said something about me to the Muellers?”


“Well, first off, he did go to the same church y’all did.  And he was kinda blatant about bein’ gay, really out there, you know?  He’d also told me that he thought Frank was kinda eyein’ him, like he knew it, too.  I think George might’ve told Frank about you to try and keep Frank away from himself.”


“Oh, shit.  I guess I need to talk to George, then.”


“Yeah, good luck with that,” David scoffed.  “Hope you got a phone that can make a really long-distance call.”


“What’re you sayin’, David?”


“Oh, right, you don’t keep up with the people in our class, do ya’?  George killed himself about six, maybe seven years ago, but since you didn’t come to our tenth class reunion, you wouldn’t know that.”


“Well, shit.  I guess that ends that.”


“Yeah, I guess it does.  You might be able to talk to his brother or parents.  If you can find ‘em?”


“No, I won’t do that.  I don’t want to bring up bad memories for them just to satisfy my curiosity.  But I gotta tell ya’, I’m glad it wasn’t you who told the Muellers.  I still care about you and have wondered how you’ve been since we last saw each other at our graduation.”


“I’ve been okay, I guess.  Got married, had kids, got divorced, you know, the same old shit.  The bitch got the house and everything in it, including my kids.  Now I get to see them once a month for two whole days at a time.  And I’m stuck in a shitty apartment, working my ass off to make child support payments while she sits on her fat ass and sucks my bank account dry every month.  Life really sucks sometimes, ya’ know?”


“You don’t have to tell me that,” I responded sarcastically.


“No, I guess not.  I wish I could have helped you, Max, I really do.  How’s your life been otherwise?”


“It’s sucked, obviously, but it’s getting better, day by day.  I’m getting married in May and my partner and I are in the process of adopting five boys.”


“Good for you, man.  I wish you all the best.”


“We’ll have to get together sometime, David, and catch up.  I hate us being strangers.”


“Yeah, I’d like that.  Maybe I could bring the kids out my one weekend some month.”


“That sounds like fun.  I bet your kids and ours would have fun together.”


“I don’t know about that.  The bitch has really fucked them up, but it’s worth a try.”


“Well, look, I gotta go.  It was good talkin’ to ya’.  Let’s stay in touch, okay?”


“I’ll do that.  I’ll let you know the next time I have the kids and we can get together.”


“We’ll look forward to it, David.  Take care.”


“Yeah, you, too.”


After hanging up the phone, I cogitated on what David had told me about George and the more I thought about it, the more I believed he probably was the one who got the Muellers interested in me.  I remembered him being pretty demonstrative about his inclinations and could see him trying to deflect the Muellers away from himself.  What I really wondered about, though, was why he had committed suicide.  Was it a lack of acceptance of his sexuality by himself or his family, or was there a much darker reason for it?  I thought it was a good possibility that despite his efforts, he may have still fallen prey to abuse by the Muellers or someone else.  But how could I find out without disturbing his family?


I finally gave up twisting my mind around the infinite number of possibilities.  I decided to take a break from driving myself crazy and left the study to see how Bob and his guys were doing.  When I walked into Tom’s office, I was surprised to find his furniture in place and Tom was organizing his desk, getting ready to work.  “Where’s Bob?” I asked.


“They finished up about twenty minutes ago and took off.”


“But what about paying him?  He was supposed to bring his bill for the boys’ and your furniture today.”


“He said to not worry about it, we could settle up when he brings Dylan’s desk out next week.  Besides, you were busy, and we didn’t want to interrupt.”


“I wish you would have,” I said glumly as I settled myself onto the corner of the desk. 


“Oh, why’s that.  I thought you authors didn’t like to be interrupted when you’re in the creative process.”


“Well, normally, I don’t, but I wasn’t working all this time, either.  I realized I had a phone call to make.”  I told Tom about my call and what I’d found out.  He was shaking his head in disbelief during my story.  “I really want to know why the Muellers picked me, but I don’t know where to go from here.  I don’t want to bug George’s family and dredge all this shit back up with them.”


“Let’s wait until next week when I’ve got my computer and everything set up.  I’ll do some checking into it then and see what I can find out.  You said the guy’s name was George Lair?”  After a quick nod of agreement, he wrote the name on a notepad and continued.  “I’ll see if I can access his autopsy report, first, then scan the newspaper for the time around his death to see if there were any stories about it.  Once I’ve found all that can be found that way, I’ll start pursuing other routes.  I know this is important to you and I’ll pull out all the stops to get you an answer, babe.”


“Thanks, bubba, I appreciate it.  If I have to talk to his family, I will, but I’ll save that as a last resort.”


“Why don’t you let me talk to them if we need to?  I’ve had a little more practice at questioning people than you have.  I’m also a bit more separated from the issues involved so I can keep it from becoming personal.”


“Yeah, okay.  If these people are responsible for George’s suicide, I want them charged with his death.  I didn’t know him that well, but he still didn’t deserve to die that way.”


“Nobody does, but we can’t save ‘em all.”


“I know that, but knowing it doesn’t make me want to stop trying.”  The phone rang to interrupt our conversation and Tom answered it.


“Hello,” he greeted the caller after punching the speaker button.


“Tom, Dylan here.  Got a few things to pass on to you.  First, I’ve talked to Derek and he’s cool with us accessing the county system to do background checks for Carol and her group.  He doesn’t think we should use it for any other work we might get, but he’s all for helping out on the background checks.”


“That’s great, Dylan.  Being able to tap that information will really help us out.  What else do you have?”


“Charlie Campbell was released from jail this morning and should be home by now.  His first appointment with the counselor is set for Friday morning, but he might call you guys before then to try and see Logan.”


“Thanks for letting us know.  Should we allow him to visit before he sees the counselor?”


“I don’t see what it would hurt to do so.  In my talks with him, he knows he screwed up and he accepted the judge’s orders this morning with no arguments, so it should be okay.  Even though you’ve quit the department, you’re still deputized.  I expect you to make sure there aren’t any issues during his visits.”


“I can do that,” Tom replied.  “Are there any limits on his visits, special conditions we should know about?”


“The visits can happen anywhere, but preferably at your home where you have some control and that they’re supervised while they’re together.  That doesn’t mean you need be between them or anything, just close by to keep an eye on things.”


“No problems, Dylan.  We’ll take care of it.  Anything else?”


“Not really.  Except Malcom’s coming down again this weekend.  Didn’t know if you guys would want to get together Saturday night.”


“Ooh, wish we could, but we’re going to Chicago Friday night and won’t be back until late Sunday.”


“Well, aren’t you special?” Dylan chuckled.  “Hope you guys have fun and please don’t tear the place down.  I’d like to go see the Windy City myself, someday.”


“We’ll try to leave it the way we find it,” Tom laughed.  “Wouldn’t want to deprive you and Malcom of a future trip,” Tom retorted.


“And if you’re good boys, we’ll even let you use our condo while you’re up there,” I laughed.


“Mighty white of you, Max.  You sure the neighbors won’t be frightened by two black dudes invading the ‘hood?”


“If they are, it’ll be their problem, not yours, Dylan.  Just let me know when you want to go, and I’ll make sure you have keys and alarm codes.”


“You got it, man, thanks.  Well, gotta go, here comes Kelly with the next disaster.  Talk to you later.”


As we ended the call and heard the front door slamming closed.  I looked at Tom and asked, “You expecting company?”


“Not me, I was hoping it was you.”  As we got up to greet our visitors, the mini-herd of six rambunctious boys rounded the corner of the hallway and rumbled into Tom’s office.


“Wow, Pops, this looks great,” Alex commented.


“Yeah, now you can get back to work and start bringing home the bacon,” Joey added with a laugh.


“Gee, thanks, Joey.  Nice to know I’m good for something,” Tom cracked.


“Oh, you’re good for plenty of other things, too,” T.J. joked while wiggling his eyebrows.


“So, who has homework?” I asked in a bid to derail the conversation.  The four oldest raised their hands, so I continued, “Well, let’s get comfortable and we’ll meet in the kitchen for snacks.”  The boys headed to their rooms to undress while Tom and I went to our room to do the same.  When we rejoined the boys in the kitchen, we set up a snack of milk and cookies for each and helped the ones who need it.  When Joey and Alex finished with their regular work, they dove back into the fifth-grade math text.  We could see they were still making good progress on the book, but they’d slowed down a bit, so we assumed they’d finally hit on something new that was a challenge, even for their number crunching minds.


T.J. completed his little bit of homework, closed his book and said, “Hey, Pops, I need to talk to you ‘bout somethin’.  Can we go to your office?”


“Sure thing, buddy,” Tom answered.  “Lead the way.”


Those two disappeared across the house, leaving me alone with the others.



I followed T.J. down the hall and he turned into his room first to drop his books and then joined me in my office, closing the door behind him.  After I sat in my chair at the desk, he hopped up on the desk and sat where Max had been a little while ago.


“What’s up T.J.?” I asked.


“I got a problem at school and I think you should know about it.  I was talking to a junior this afternoon and I think he’s in real trouble.”


“What kind of trouble?”


“Well, part of this he told me, the rest of it I just picked up, ya’ know.”  After a quick nod of acknowledgment from me, T.J. continued.  “He was telling me about how he thought he was gay but he’s afraid of what his mom and dad will do if they find out.  So, he fakes it around them, always talkin’ ‘bout girls and ‘bout goin’ out on dates with ‘em.  He’s really been going to some dive of a gay bar in Springfield and tryin’ to find a dude to do shit with.  He thinks if he does it with a guy and likes it, then he really is gay, and he needs to tell his parents.  But he’s scared to death of them and how they’ll react.”


“Well, if he’s goin’ to the dump I’m thinking about, he’s definitely in the wrong place.  But I can’t be involved if all he’s afraid of is his parents.”


“That ain’t all of it, Pops.  This is the part I picked up ‘cause he wouldn’t talk about it, even though I flat-out asked him ‘cause I’d already seen it.  He’s thinking about killin’ himself.  He thinks he’s better off dying than talkin’ to his parents.  I’m really scared he’ll do it ‘cause I also picked up pieces of his plan.”


“Oh, crap, that’s not good, T.J.”


“Yeah, I know, that’s why I wanted to talk to you.  I figured with you bein’ a cop, you might be able to do something to help.”


“But, I’m not a cop anymore.  And as much I’d like to help him out, there’s nothing the law can do about it until he makes an attempt.  If he does that, then he can be hospitalized and get the help he needs, like what happened with Papa Jim.”


“What about talkin’ to him or his parents?  Can you do that before he does something stupid he may not survive?”


“Sure, I could do that, I guess, but I’d want to talk to him before we try his parents.  And if he wants me with him to talk to his parents, I’d be willing to do that, too.”


“That’s great, Pops.  Are you and Dad gonna be home tomorrow afternoon?  The dude’s supposed to come talk to me again and I’d like you to be there, if you can.”


“Yeah, we’ll be here.  Your dad has an appointment in the morning and Judge Corgan is coming out for lunch, but I could be at the school about two-thirty.  Will that work okay for you?”


“Great!  I really appreciate your help.”


“Have you thought about how you’re going to explain me being there without giving away how you know what you do?”


“Not yet, but I will, don’t worry.”


“I’ll be at the school on time.  Is there somewhere we can talk to your friend privately?”


“Yeah, and I’ll make sure it’s empty when you get there.”


“Okay, sounds like we have a plan, young man.  Now, let’s get out of here and see what’s for supper.”


“Thanks, Pops.  I knew you’d help me.” 


T.J. jumped off the desk and led the way back to the kitchen.  I’d have to let Max know what was going on, but I figured to do that later in the evening.



“There you are,” I called out as T.J. and Tom came back to the kitchen.  “You guys ready for supper?”


“Always, Dad,” T.J. giggled.  “What’re we havin’ tonight?”


“How does lasagna, garlic bread and a salad sound to everyone?”  With agreement from everyone, I pulled a lasagna from the freezer and got it in the oven.  Since Tom was hovering nearby I whispered, “What was that all about?”


“As you always like to say,” he whispered back conspiratorially, “later.”  I had to chuckle at his response and nodded my head.


“Okay, two hours till that’s ready.  What’re we gonna do while we wait?”


“I wanna keep readin’ Ender’s Game,” Logan replied.


“Can you read some more Huckleberry Finn to me and Mike?” Andy asked.


“Why not, that sounds like fun?  Alex, Joey, T.J. what about you guys?”


“I don’t know, Dad,” Alex answered.  “Did you ever get those Spiderwick books ordered?”


“As a matter of fact, I did.  They showed up the other day and then I forgot all about them.  They’re in a box in the corner of my study.  Why don’t you grab it?”  Alex was off like a shot from a cannon and quickly returned with the box.  After handing it to me, I popped it open and pulled out five books.  I handed all five to Alex and added, “There you go guys, split ‘em up and enjoy.”  The remaining three each selected a book and curled up on the couch to read.  Tom was in his chair and Logan took mine since I decided to sit on the loveseat with Mike and Andy after starting a fire and flipping on the circulation fan.


After an hour and a half of reading, it was time to put the garlic bread in the oven and get the salad put together.  While Tom and I were taking care of those tasks, the boys set the table so it would be ready when the food was done.  Soon enough, we were taking our seats and digging into our very filling meal.   I was nicely surprised to see all six of the boys eat at least some of the salad we had given them.  I remembered refusing to eat salad at their ages and was afraid they would, too, but none of them complained.  Alex and T.J. even seemed to enjoy it a bit with the cheese and croutons added.


Once everyone had had their fill, we got busy with our cleanup and were ready to relax for a while before bedtime.  During the meal, we had decided to watch a couple more Star Trek episodes, so we adjourned to the theater and settled in our chairs.  The phone rang about halfway through the first show and I went to the kitchen to answer the call.




“Is this Mr. Sanders?”


“It is, who’s calling, please?”


“Mr. Sanders, this is Logan’s dad, Charlie.”


“Oh, good evening, Charlie.  How are you doing today?”


“A damn sight better that I’ve been the last week, I can tell you.  I can’t tell you how happy I am to be able to sleep in my own bed tonight.  The only thing missing is my son.”


“Well, I wish he could be with you tonight, but I’m afraid that’s not possible.”


“Yeah, I know.  How’s Logan doing?  I’m worried about him.  Is he behaving himself?”


“He’s doing just great, Charlie.  Logan fits in great with our boys and he’s been a good helper to have around.  We’re going to miss him when he’s able to move home.”


“Not any more than I miss him.  He’s all I got left in this world and I can’t stand not having him here with me.”


“Well, as soon as the judge says so, he’ll get to move back home with you.  Until that time, though, he’ll be fine here with us.”


“Look, Mr. Sanders, I know I screwed up big time and Sergeant Brock is helping me out with a counselor and all, but I wondered if I could come see Logan tomorrow afternoon?  I need to let him know how sorry I am for the way I’ve treated him the last couple years.  I’ve been nothing but mean to my son and he deserves way better than that.”


“Yes, he does, Charlie.  Logan is a very smart and sensitive young man.  He loves you and would do just about anything he could for you.  He’s told me several times how much he wants to go back home.  But he’ll still be glad to see you and hear what you have to say.  What time would you like to come over?”


“Well, when do the boys get home from school?”


“They’re usually here by a quarter to four.  Why don’t you come over about four thirty?  That gives the boys time to do any homework they may have before moving on to other things.  Would that work out okay for you?”


“That’s just fine, but I can’t believe you’d let me in your house after the way I acted.”


“Mr. Campbell, everybody has good days and bad days and they sometimes make bad decisions.  But, I also believe everyone deserves a second chance to do the right thing.  This is your second chance.  Don’t blow it because I don’t believe in third chances.”


“I understand, and I thank you for being straight with me.”


“We’ll see you tomorrow then, Charlie.”


“I’ll be there.”


We ended the call and I got back to the theater just in time to catch the end of the first show.  We watched a second episode and decided it was time to get the boys headed for bed.  On the way, we stopped in the kitchen for a quick snack of some fruit rollups and milk before shooing the sensational six-pack on down the hall.  Tom and I followed a few minutes later to take care of our nightly rituals and once the boys were all tucked in bed, we retreated to the living room to relax for a bit.


I told Tom about my call with Charlie, so he’d be prepared when the man arrived.  Tom then told me about his conversation with T.J.


“Good for T.J.  I’m glad to hear he didn’t hesitate to get some help with a sticky situation.  I can see all three boys being a major asset to the group with their abilities.”


“Yeah, me too.  I just hope the kid will be willing to really talk with me.  I know I told T.J. I’d talk to the boy’s parents if he wants me to go with him, but I’m worried I’ll say the wrong thing and screw things up.”


“All you can do is tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may.  Hopefully, his parents won’t be assholes.”


“You really think that’s likely?”


“I can dream, can’t I?”


“And I’m hoping your dreams come true.”


“Speaking of dreams, I’m ready to go start tonight’s.  Tomorrow’s going to be a busy day and I need some sleep.”


“Go ahead, babe.  I’m not ready to turn in just yet and was gonna read for a while.”


“Okay, don’t stay up too late.”


“Yes, Dad,” he groaned while rolling his eyes.


Before heading on to bed, I crawled in Tom’s lap to give him a hug and a kiss.  As we broke the kiss, I reminded him of how much I loved him and received the same token of affection back from him.  I then headed for bed and a good night’s sleep.  When Tom finally joined me, I woke up just enough to curl up in his arms and fall fast asleep as he lovingly held onto me.


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