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"So you're the one who stole my grandkid eh!"
"How did you get my phone number," I asked as I had an unlisted number.
He told me that Katharine's colleague had been a little careless with the file and he was able to see the information about the phone number when she glanced away for something. I was certainly hoping he hadn't seen my address.
I asked him why he was calling and he said, "I think we might be able to do business together."
He told me he knew I was 'loaded' and was looking for me to pay him $250,000 to get him to drop his claim to Sean. He said he had money to get a good lawyer if I fought him in court for custody and that he was giving me until tomorrow to make up my mind. He said it would be easier for him to get money this way than using Sean for what he had planned for him if he got custody of him. I shuddered at his last comment, as I thought of a few things he could have meant ..... none of them good.
I told him that was extortion and I wasn't going to stand for that.
"There ain't nobody listenin to us talk, so you can't prove nothin!" he said. "And don't get any ideas about trying to do somethin or trace my call tomorrow when I call back. I ain't stupid!" he said as he hung up.
By now it was 10:30 and I was beside myself as to what I should do. I decided I needed some heavy duty advice as I didn't want to call the police and escalate this if there were other options I hadn't thought of. I decided I would call my Lawyer friend Ray Mueller early the next morning before Sean got up, as Ray was an early riser. I certainly didn't want Sean getting wind of what was going on.
I hardly slept at all during the night and I was so glad when it got to 7 a.m. and I could call Ray.
"I didn't think you got up this early, Burgs, what can I do for you?" Ray said with a cheery voice.
I explained to him the whole story about Sean and how I was going to adopt him. I also told him how happy I was having him in my life.
"Al, are you nuts? You're 60 and he's 13. You could be his grandfather," he said with shock in his voice. He paused for a moment and said, "Come to think of it, that's just like you and your dad."
He then started to reminisce back to the good times we had had together as kids and the fond memories he had of my father and the special relationship between my father and me. We were inseparable as kids but drifted apart in high school as we developed different interests and friends. He also remembered how good my father had been to him, as his home life growing up wasn't the best.
"I've finally got rid of my kids after 25 years and here you are taking in another one at your age," he said as he chuckled.
I then went on to explain last night's events and that I needed his advice.
"You know that's extortion and you really should call the police. If he's savvy enough to try to pull something like that, then he can't have a clean record. Surely something could be found with some digging that would destroy his chances of taking Sean away," he said.
I explained that I had my private detective and Katharine's investigative branch at CAS looking into the grandfather's background, but as of last night nothing had turned up.
"Why don't you give Ken Robson a call on the QT and see if he can find anything out. As the police chief he might be able to find out from the Montréal police if there are any undercover operations that might impact on this. That is if he's speaking to you after you beat him in that match play tournament at your club last fall," he said as he laughed.
By now it was getting close to the time Sean would be getting up, so we said our goodbyes and I promised him I would keep him up-to-date on what transpired.
"You know where you can find a good lawyer if you need one," he said as he laughed and hung up.
I decided to make a quick call to Ken Robson, on the off chance that he was in the office early. I was able to get a hold of him on his cell as he was driving into work. I explained the problem to him and my fears if I made a formal complaint and tried to have him charged. I told him Joe Hoskins my private detective, was trying to find out information on the grandfather as was CAS, but that neither of them knew about the latest developments.
"He's right that we couldn't do anything at this point, as it's your word against his. Let me do some digging. I know the Montréal police chief very well and I'll give Gilles a call and see what I can come up with. If there's an undercover operation in progress involving the grandfather, the CAS inquiries wouldn't pick that up," he said.
After we hung up I had this horrible chill run up my spine, as I was terrified at the thought of losing Sean to this creep and the things I thought he could be planning for him. I was desperate and was quite prepared to pay the money, even though I knew there was no guarantee it would fix the problem.
We had breakfast and got ready for the dentist appointment. Sean could tell that I wasn't myself and asked me a few times if there was anything wrong. I just told him that I was a little off and that I hadn't slept well as I was thinking of all the things that had to be done before the trip.
We arrived a little early at the Dentist. I could see Sean was a little anxious and I tried to reassure him everything would be fine. Dr. Jim Hill was a close friend of Ray Mueller's as their winter chalets were near each other in the ski hills outside of Collingwood. They were both members of the same private ski club. We had a good relationship, as I had skied with him when Ray invited me up to ski at the club, which was a few times a year. As a family, we had been going to him for 20 years, as he was an excellent Dentist.
"So have you been talking to Mules (Ray's nickname) lately?" he asked.
"Ah no, not lately," I said not wanting to give anything away to Sean.
"So who is this young fellow with you?" he said as he looked at Sean.
"This is my foster son Sean, Dr. Hill," I said as Sean came forward to shake his hand.
He looked at me and then Sean and said "Forgive me; I'm just a little surprised. I'm pleased to meet you, young man," he said as he smiled and shook Sean's hand.
"I hope he's been feeding you lots of sugar," Jim said to Sean as he laughed.
He took him to one of the dental chairs in the back and introduced Sean to the hygienist Peggy who would work on cleaning his teeth before Jim saw him.
I went back into the waiting room and had just sat down when my Blackberry rang. The call display flashed Ken Robson's number and I was hoping it was good news.
"Burgs, have you any idea where the grandfather is staying in town?" he asked.
I told him I had no idea and told him that the call display last night on my phone just came up with Private Number. I asked him why and he was a little evasive.
"I can't really say at this point, but try not to worry. I'm on it, Burgs," he said with a reassuring tone to his voice.
He asked me how he could get in touch with Joe Hoskins and I gave him both of his phone numbers. I knew something big was up for Ken to get involved in a day-to-day matter. I had expected after the initial call to his friend in Montréal that he would have passed the ball to one of his detectives.
After I hung up a call from Katharine came in.
"Uncle Al, I just heard from our investigative branch that your friend the police chief was making inquiries about Sean's grandfather. What's up?"
I told her what had transpired with the phone call and the threat and that I had called Ray and Ken for advice. She was horrified at the news. She also apologized for the information leak of my phone number, as the grandfather was very abusive and had got her colleague flustered.
"This is awful. That slime ball's right though, if we can't get anything concrete against him it is possible for him to walk out of court with Sean," she said with a lot of distress in her voice.
She tried to reassure me that it was unlikely to happen, but I wasn't convinced that if proper process was followed things would work out. I was becoming more convinced that I would have to give in to his demands and figure out how I could prevent future extortion from him later.
When Peggy was finished with Sean's cleaning she called Jim in to look at his teeth. After about 10 minutes Jim called me into the back.
"Well according to Peggy it's been a while since Sean's been to a dentist. Whoever worked on his teeth before should have his licence taken away," he said with a serious look on his face.
He said there were a few very large fillings in his back molars that were very poorly done and were likely unnecessary. Despite that, his teeth at present didn't have any cavities, but he would need braces of some kind, as there was crowding in the lower front teeth and he was developing a crossover in his top teeth.
"I think he may be a candidate for the plastic moulds that your girls had when they were Sean's age. I'll send you to the same Orthodontist, Dr. Randa and he can give you a better idea of what he needs," Jim said as Sean got out of the chair.
When we were on our way to the Lexus Sean said, "My teeth and gums hurt. Peggy really did a lot of digging in my mouth."
He said he was Ok though and that his teeth felt really clean. He also wanted to know what Jim was talking about by the plastic moulds.
"Basically you wear these moulds that are like the mouth guards you wear for sports. There are a bunch of different moulds that you wear at night over some months and they straighten out your teeth," I said trying to reassure him.
After I explained how they worked and that he could talk to Carol and Katie next week about what they went through, I could see he was much less anxious.
"We need to go to the bank, Sean, as there is some important business we need to attend to," I said as we drove out of Dr. Hill's parking lot.
I had made an appointment with David Stratton my Financial Services representative in the Wealth Management division of the bank I dealt with, to set up the account for Sean. David was in his early 50s and was a very talented advisor. He and I designed my portfolio, which at one point had grown to $60 million. Because of the difficult global financial conditions we were presently going through, the portfolio had slipped to $47 million, in spite of the defensive position we had taken the year before. That didn't faze me, as I really didn’t have an overly extravagant life style and knew I never had to worry about money again. David had to keep calling me to encourage me to use more of the income that was generated from my portfolio. He always scolded me that I was wasting opportunities by leaving large cash balances in my chequing account.
"David, this is Sean, my foster son, who will soon be my son."
Sean had a big smile on his face at that comment and I was silently hoping that my statement would not be derailed by the recent events.
"I've had some time to do some research as to the best way to set up the account in trust for Sean, with you, Katie and Carol as the trustees," David said as he laid out the papers with his plan onto the desk for us to see.
Sean's eyes almost popped out of his head when he saw the value of the account being set up, which was $500 000. There was a current and investment portion to the account. The current account portion had $5000 in it which he could access without permission, by debit card or cheque. The other portion would be a mix of investments which were being transferred over from my portfolio. This part of the account Sean would need permission of the trustees to spend or transfer. David had organized things so the transfer from my portfolio wouldn't trigger a deemed disposition and all sorts of tax. He also had set up a VISA card for him with a $3000 limit.
"Sign your VISA card on the back and then let's go set up your secret PIN number for your debit card," David said as he handed Sean a pen.
Sean was like a deer in the headlights, as he couldn't fathom how much money was now his. If I hadn't made him write down the PIN number I'm sure he would have forgotten it before we left the bank.
"Are you back from outer space, young man?" I asked as we got into the Lexus in the parking lot.
"Is ... is .... all that money really mine, Pop?" he asked with a stunned look on his face.
I assured him it was and told him we would sit down sometime in the near future and talk about good money management. I told him the main reason I was doing this now was to ensure his financial security in case something happened to me. I also told him that when he was adopted and I had his birth certificate we would be setting up a proper trust fund with a lot more in it. I knew my girls wouldn't object to any of the things I was doing, as they were financially independent from the lottery win and certainly didn't need my money.
Before we drove off I made a call on my Blackberry to my lawyer that I used for my personal affairs, Norm Danson. I told him I wanted my townhouse put in Joint Tenancy with Sean, so that he would not have to be uprooted in the event of my death. I told him I wanted it done today and he said I could come by in an hour with Sean to sign the paper. We needed to get Sean luggage for the trip, as well as some food, as I knew his hollow leg was probably empty by now, so the timing would work out perfectly.
When we sat down at the Tim Horton's Sean had somewhat recovered. The egg salad sandwich, soup, 3 cookies and drink helped, as he had finished his entire meal before I had half my sandwich eaten.
"There's a few things you need to understand about your wealth, Sean. You must not be wasteful about spending your money, but that doesn't mean you can't buy expensive things that you want. Also, be discreet. That means be careful about telling people your financial details."
I could tell he was still humbled by the thought of his financial security and he looked at me and said, "I'm the luckiest kid in the world Pop. I'm going to try real......really hard to never disappoint you."
I put my hand on his arm and said, "And I'm the luckiest Pop in the world."
After we had signed the paper at Norm's office to add Sean as a joint owner of the townhouse, it was time to go to see Sean's mother.
We arrived at the City Jail, as that was where the Detox Centre was located where Sean’s mother was being held. We were ushered into an interview room that had a few chairs to sit on, but no table. There was also a female guard in the corner that was going to monitor the visit.
Sean's mother was sitting on one of the chairs and looked up when we came in. She was dressed in prison garb and looked very haggard. Her eyes were sunken and had black bags below them and her hair was disheveled. She got up and came toward Sean with her arms out.
"Sean, sweety, honey, where's my big boy," she said as she hugged him.
He stiffened and turned his head away when she tried to kiss him.
"What's the matter baby, it's mom," she said with an anxious tone to her voice.
By now she noticed me and said to the guard, "Who's this bozo?"
I said I was Sean's advocate, as I didn't want to reveal my true identity to her.
She turned her attention to Sean and was effusive. She went on about how she missed him and that she had been trying to get in touch with him. None of this seemed to be making an impact on Sean, as he stood there just staring at her and not saying a word.
"Baby, I need you to tell them that you love me and you need me. They're trying to take you away from me, because they said I didn't take care of you. Tell them that's a lie honey."
I was closely watching Sean's reaction and was prepared to whisk him out of the room at the first sign of tears.
He backed away from her, looked her in the eye and finally said, "I can't tell them that, Mom."
His eyes narrowed and he shook his head as he said, "You never took care of me. I know what real parents are like now."
He lowered his gaze and said, "I hope you get better."
He turned to me and said, "I want to go now, Pop." He then turned and left the room.
His mother now realized who I was and lunged at me with both fists in the air and said, "You bastard. You're the one who stole him and said all those lies about me."
I grabbed both her arms before she could hit me. By now the guard rushed in, but I motioned to her that I was Ok. Sean had left the room before her outburst and was waiting outside in the hallway.
"Ms. McDonagh, I have nothing but contempt for you. I hope you get everything you deserve, as you were never a parent to that young man. You were given a gift and you abused it. As far as I'm concerned the only good thing you've done in your life is give birth to Sean and for that I thank you."
With that she spit in my face. The guard stepped in and took her arms and handcuffed her.
"There's some Kleenex over there. I think you should leave now," the guard said as she led her away through the doors to the holding cells.
When I came through the door to the hallway outside the interview room, Sean was waiting for me. He asked me why I was cleaning my face with Kleenex.
"It's not important, Sean. Let's go," I said.
"She spit at you, didn't she," he said with a disgusted look on his face.
By now I was getting pretty good at reading his body language and I instantly knew that he was going to do something about it. He started to move towards the interview room door and I reached out and grabbed his arm and stopped him.
"Leave it. It's not worth it, Sean. The guard's taken her back to her cell. Let's go home."
He finally stopped struggling to get away from me and let me put my arm around him to lead him away.
"Are you Ok?" I asked as we got into the Lexus in the parking lot.
"I'm fine. Let's go," was all he said with a very stoic look on his face.
I knew he wasn't fine and I tried to engage him in some sort of conversation as we drove home. He really didn't say too much other than responding with short answers to my questions. I didn't want to push him so I kept the conversation light.
When we got home, I made us some hot chocolate and we sat down in the living room. When he had finished most of it I put my arm around him and drew him into a cuddle by my side.
"You need to get this off your chest, whatever is bothering you. It's no use bottling this up inside," I said as I looked at him.
All he said looking straight ahead was, "Why?"
"Why do you have to get it off your chest?" I asked.
"I always tried to be good. Why?"
I really didn't know what he was talking about, so I just squeezed him a little harder. I could now see his eyes were getting a little misty.
"Why didn't she look after me? What did I ever do to her?"
With that he buried his head in my chest, but really wasn't sobbing. He was very still.
"Let it out, you'll feel better."
After about a minute he broke the hug and wiped his face with his sleeve. I pulled some of the unused Kleenex from the Jail from my pocket and gave it to him.
"This wasn't your fault. Your mother was very self-centered and never grew up. But I did thank her before I left," I said.
He looked at me with a puzzled look and I said, "Because of her I have you."
He smiled and hugged me. We stayed like that for a couple of minutes without saying a word.
After supper, Scott and Rick came over to watch the hockey game. The Leafs were playing the Pittsburgh Penquins and it promised to be another frustrating game for Leaf fans. Naturally Scott made his way over to the fridge to get a Stella before he said hello. Rick was already downstairs waiting for the game to start with Sean.
I asked Scott if there was anything that could be done with the scars on Sean's back. He said that there was and if it really bothered Sean he could send us to an excellent skin specialist in town.
"The process is called Dermabrasion and Dr. Lee has had great success treating scars like this," Scott said.
He told me that it was not a painless procedure and the recovery might be a little difficult.
"Why don't I talk it over with Sean next week and if he really wants to do it you can set up an appointment for us," I told him.
The game as usual didn't turn out well for the Leafs, as they lost 5-1. Sean and I got razzed again, which was becoming an all too common occurrence, as the Leafs were now in last place.
My mind really wasn't on the game as I knew that I would be getting a call soon that I was dreading. I had pretty much made up my mind that I was going to pay the money, but I wanted to hear what the creep had to say. I also didn't want Sean getting wind of what was happening.
It was now almost 11 o'clock. Scott and Rick had left and I had just put Sean to bed when the phone rang.