Sunday started out much like Saturday had. I awoke to find Joel in bed with me and to my surprise so was TJ. At least this time I had pajama bottoms on.
"This cannot go on indefinitely," I thought. "I'm sure that CPS would have some serious reservations."
I slipped out of bed and into the bathroom for a quick shower. The boys were still sleeping as I returned dressed for the day.
Hildy was already up working in the kitchen preparing for the onslaught that was to come as the boys woke up. It was a good thing too. The scrambled eggs, bacon and pancakes were ready barely in time when four ravenous boys hit the breakfast bar.
The rest of the day went pretty much the same. Hildy seemed to spend all day preparing food for the hungry hoard. Swimming occupied the boys when they weren't eating or chasing the deer that were again attacking my landscape plants.
From time to time during the day each of the boys would wander over to where I was and give me a hug or squeeze my hand usually without saying anything. I still couldn't tell the twins apart. My mind was in turmoil. I was beginning to love all of them and at the same time the logical part of my brain was telling me not to let myself get too attached. I wanted them to stay with me but I was afraid. Not that I couldn't provide for them, but I had doubts as to my capability as a parent to raise them. "Is love enough to be a father for four growing boys?" I asked myself. "What if the state won't let me? Do I really want to take on the responsibility?" All the questions I asked myself last night in bed came rushing back through my mind.
After lunch on the patio and the same questions going over and over in my mind, I couldn't take any more. I went into my study to look up my lawyer's home phone number. I needed some of his advice and counsel. Calling him at home and on Sunday is a little unusual but that's why I pay him a retainer. Carlos Martinez is one heck of a contract attorney. Our consulting firm uses him for all of the legal/contract work.
I found his home number and dialed hoping that he would be home. He answered on the fourth ring.
"Hello, Carlos. This is Crane Johnson. I really hate to bother you on Sunday but I need some advice."
"Hi, Crane. No problem, I was just sitting here watching a football game on TV. My Oilers are getting whipped as usual. What can I do for you?"
"I need the name of the best Family Practice attorney in the state preferably one that is Board Certified. Do you know of any in the area?"
"Off the top of my head I can think of two that I would recommend. Let's see, the first would be Lewis Angel. He practices out of Houston. The second would be Benjamin Cross. He has his practice in Austin. Both of them are first class and you will pay them accordingly. Do you mind me asking why you are in need of this specialty? The last time I checked you were still a foot-loose bachelor."
"Thanks for the names, Carlos. You wouldn't believe the predicament I am in the process of getting into. If I told you, you would probably recommend a psychiatrist. Believe me I have considered it myself. Once I get things firmed up I'll need to consult you on other matters and I'll fill you in at that time. Thanks again for your help! I appreciate it. I'll see you soon."
As I hung up I thought to myself, "You know a good shrink might not be a bad idea."
I was brought out of my musing by the gate buzzer. I flipped on the security camera and saw it was Theresa. I released the gate for her to enter. She was bringing the temporary foster parent forms. She had left a message yesterday saying that it would be today before she would have them ready. That was okay with me. I just needed the paper work before I took Joel to see Dr. Sam tomorrow morning. I wanted everything from now on to be nice and legal. I didn't want anyone to be able to say I didn't play by the rules.
I met Theresa at her car and took the papers from her. She couldn't stay so I went back into the house to check on the boys. They were entertaining themselves in the pool playing a spirited game of tag.
After a while they got tired of their game and hopped out of the pool. Thank goodness they dried off before they rushed into the house to see if Hildy had a snack for them. It had been at least an hour since their last meal. Joel emerged from the house carrying a plate with probably a dozen or more cupcakes on it in one hand and a large glass of milk in the other. The three other boys followed behind carrying their own glasses of milk looking longingly at the plate their brother was carrying. They sure seemed to have made themselves at home.
When they finished the cupcakes I asked for Joel to come to me. He was a little hesitant at first but then came over to my chair and sat down on the edge.
"Joel, I think that you know I would never do anything to hurt you, but I need to gather some information from you in order to hopefully help you regain your voice. Do you understand?" Getting a nod I continued, "Do you know what happened at your house on Friday."
Again a nod but his lips began to quiver at the same time.
"I know this is very difficult but please believe me I am only trying to help, okay?" I said. Another nod but this time I could see the tears beginning to well up in his eyes.
"Did you see your dad hurt your mother?"
Now the tears really started to flow and he was wracked with sobs. I put my arms around him and clutched him to my chest all the while stroking his back and just let him cry it out.
After about five minutes which seem to me to be a half an hour his sobbing let up.
"Did your father see you?"
A nod in the affirmative confirmed my worst fears.
"Did your dad say anything to you?"
The tears began again which indicated to me that the father had probably threatened the boy. This time the other boys noticed that Joel was crying. They had been too busy chasing the deer earlier to notice what was going on with Joel and me until then. They all rushed to us and threw their arms around Joel and asked him why he was crying before turning to me and asked the same thing. I couldn't give them an honest answer because I didn't know how much they knew so I just told them that Joel was sad about a private matter. They would understand some day. Although I got some strange looks from them, my halfhearted explanation seem to satisfy them for the moment.
"I think that I had better talk to Dr. Sam about finding a good child psychiatrist for Joel," I thought. "Maybe I will find one for myself too."
I told the kids to go play because Hildy would have supper ready for us in about an hour. So if they wanted to swim again they had better do it now. Joel was smiling again as he and the others dove into the pool and started the game of tag all over again. I decided that it looked like too much fun not to join so I dove in right after them.
We played tag and I gave them lifts up out of the water so they could cannon ball back down and splash the others. One at a time they climbed up on to my shoulders playing king of the hill until the other boys knocked both the king and me, the hill, over. I was grateful to Hildy when she announced that supper was ready.
The boys rushed to the table and were about to sit down when Hildy told them in a very firm voice that they were expected to wear a shirt at the table. They were a little startled but when Hildy gave an order there was no arguing. In a flash they made the trip to their rooms, put on a shirt and were back at the table waiting for me to do the same.
"I'm going to have to go grocery shopping tomorrow," she laughed as I returned to the table. "I know it was just last Thursday that I restocked your pantry, but it is almost bare now. I hope there is enough to make breakfast otherwise you might have to stop at a restaurant on the way to see Dr. Sam tomorrow."
"That's probably not a bad idea anyway. I want you to go select all the furniture you are going to require for your new apartment bright and early tomorrow. Right now all there is in it is just a lot of odds and ends. I don't think there is anything in there that is worth saving. You know the type of furniture I have in this part of the house. I want what you pick out to be of comparable quality. Understand?" I stated. "When the boys go to take their showers we can go up to the apartment and check it out. I haven't been up there for several years so I don't really know what condition it is in."
As it turned out the only furniture in the apartment that was worth saving was and old iron bed that Hildy just loved and a wooden table and four chairs that she wanted to keep and refinish. Her father had been a furniture maker so she knew all about taking care of stuff like that. She saw beauty in it that I couldn't. The stove and refrigerator seemed to be working as well as all of the plumbing. The place did need a thorough cleaning but that was to be expected after not being used for at least 10, maybe 15 years.
The boys were just finishing their showers when Hildy and I returned to the main house. They came running out of the bedrooms all at the same time making me wonder if they had taken a group shower. They looked so cute in their new pajamas.
"Come here guys, I need to talk to you for a minute," I said as they piled onto the couch. TJ crawled up on my lap since the other boys and I were occupying the whole couch.
"Tomorrow we have to go into San Antonio so that Joel can be checked out by Dr. Sam. I know the rest of you were examined by the CPS doctor so you don't need to see him unless he thinks it is necessary. We have to be there at 8:30 and it takes about 45 minutes to get there from here so we have to leave early to make it on time. Also, Hildy says that you guys have eaten all of the food in the house so we have to eat breakfast on the way. Is that okay with you?"
Getting affirmative verbal responses from three and a definite head nod from one, I guessed that the decision had been made.
"This means we have to get up real early if we are going to make it for Joel's appointment and get you guys fed. So, Hildy and I will get you up at about a quarter to 7 because we will have to be on the road by 7:15. Guess what? To make all of this happen you have to go to bed early. I think 8:30 is about right. You have time for one TV show and a snack before bedtime."
They reacted better to the snack than to the early bedtime, but agreed grudgingly.
It was difficult dragging four sleepy boys out of bed the next morning but we did. Teeth brushed, faces washed, hair combed, dressed in their new clothes and they were ready to go. I loaded the twins in the back seat of the BMW with TJ in the middle. Joel was in front with me holding his "sample" as we took off almost exactly at 7:15. The planning skills I had mastered managing computing projects for ACC had finally paid off in "real" life.
We gobbled down our breakfast at McDonald's on the way to Dr. Sam's office. I had never been to his office but was familiar with the area so I was able to find it without too much difficulty. Finding a parking spot was more difficult. Finally I found a place about a block and a half away.
Just at 8:30 we arrived at Dr. Sam's office. His nurse took the sample and started to usher Joel and I into the examination room. Before leaving the other three boys in the waiting room I gave them strict orders to act like gentlemen until I returned. It was not my intention to stay throughout Joel's exam but I didn't want them to act up while I was gone.
"Good morning, Sam," I said extending my hand to him.
"Morning, Crane and to you too young man," Sam responded shaking my hand and then Joel's. "I believe that Crane has told you what we are going to do today. Is that right, Joel?"
Getting a brief nod from Joel he continued, "I am not going to hurt you, but some of the test I have to run on you are a little embarrassing and may even be a little uncomfortable. When you are done here I'm going to send you to another place where they will take some x-rays of you so that I can see if you have any injuries that I can't see from the outside. Is that okay?"
Another nod from Joel before Sam continued directing his remarks to me, "Crane you're welcome to stay if you like but Joel might feel a little uncomfortable with you here."
"Thanks, but I think the other three need my supervision more." Walking over to Joel, I put my arm around him and whispered in his ear, "I love you Joel. Let Dr. Sam run his test on you. I'll be right outside with your brothers." I gave him a light kiss on the forehead before heading out the door.
When I entered the waiting room, I expected to see three very impatient boys. Instead they were all engrossed in the games and books that Sam kept around for his young patients. They were surprisingly good all the while Joel was being examined. I was the one who was impatient or would have been if TJ had not crawled up on my lap and asked me to read a book to him. I never enjoyed Dr. Seuss more. His warm little body leaning into me just seemed to melt all my troubled thoughts away. The twins occupied themselves by playing with every game in the room at one time or another.
The examination door opened right at 9:00 and Joel rushed out, piled into my lap with TJ throwing his arms around my neck and burying his head on my shoulder. "Are you okay?" I asked somewhat surprised. "Dr. Sam didn't hurt you did he?" A shake of his head was reassuring to me.
Dr. Sam appeared and handed me a paper with the name of a radiology clinic on it and told me to take Joel up there and they would perform the MRI and CAT scans that he had ordered. "From the exam I just performed I can find no additional injuries than those I found at your house on Friday night. We will have to wait for the result of the blood and urine tests. Those results should be available probably by Wednesday noon. One test I'm having done the results won't be ready for almost a week. I'll talk to you about that later, Crane.
"I think the most upsetting thing I had to do to Joel were the photographs. They were necessary to document the abuse and to file with the required forms."
"Is the radiology clinic expecting us this morning?" I asked. Getting a nod from Sam I called to the twins, "Come on, guys. Let's get Joel's tests taken and then I'll take you all to a place that serves the best sticky buns and hot chocolate in San Antonio."
With that all of their ears picked up and they all but ran out of the office. Thankfully the clinic we had to go to was on the sixth floor of Dr. Sam's building. The MRI and CAT scans took about 45 minutes from start to finish. By this time it had been just over two hours since the boys had eaten so we headed to Liza's Bakery for the sticky buns.
The boys' eyes bugged out as they got a look at the five inch square buns covered in gooey caramel and layered with whole pecans. A true dieter's nightmare. I opted to have only the hot chocolate which was served topped with whipped cream and a sprinkling of cocoa.
I had just started to enjoy my drink when my cell phone rang.
"Hi, Crane. It's Jack Hogan. I have some news for you."
"Jack, it's good to hear from you. I hope that your news is good."
"Well, it could be. We have arrested the boys' dad. He was picked up in San Marcos trying to rob a convenience store. What could be bad news is that when he goes to trial for the murder of his wife the boys might have to testify. Have you been able to determine if any of them saw anything?"
"Yes, I believe that one of them has some relevant information," I said trying to shield the boys from the substance of the conversation.
"I think I understand. Is that person Joel?"
"That could complicate things if he doesn't recover his voice. Well we will have to deal with that when the time comes. I'll keep you informed if there are any new developments. You do the same, okay?"
"Yeah, I'll do that. Take care, Jack. I'll see you Friday for the ballgame. Goodbye!"
The boys were finishing up their snacks when I finished the call. Their faces were smeared with caramel from ear to ear which matched their smiles. I was able to clean their faces of the caramel with a dozen or so napkins dipped in a glass of water.
"Why don't we go down by the River Walk? We are only a couple of blocks from it. Have you ever been there?" All of them shook their heads no. "Well this is going to be a treat. There are a lot of great things to see and there are some really good Mexican restaurants. Maybe we will eat lunch here too. Stay together, I don't want you to get lost or fall in the river."
The boys had a ball and they were well behaved for their age. I think we looked at every shop, restaurant, hotel and they even tried to go into a bar. The highlight of the morning was a trip in one of the guided tour boats that ply the river from end to end. The guide gave the history of the River Walk and pointed out the historic sites along the way. The boys were fascinated.
By lunch time the boys and I were exhausted. We were lucky to find a Tex-Mex restaurant that had a balcony overlooking the water. All the walking and sightseeing had given everyone a ravenous appetite. Basket after basket of tortilla chips and salsa disappeared down the throats of four hungry boys. I must say I got my share of chips as well as dirty looks. It was during this carnage that I heard the first sound from Joel other than sobbing or the high pitched squeals. It sounded like he said "Yum." I don't think that the other boys noticed and I was not really sure that I heard it. I hoped that it was a good sign. Maybe I'll have a continuation of the talk I had with him yesterday.
Our lunch completed, I said to the boys "I need to stop by my office to let them know I will not be in the rest of the week. Do you want to see where I work?"
A chorus of "Yeah" was all that was necessary and we headed back to the car.
Our office was on the northwest side of town near the USAA complex. It took a while to get out of downtown. The noon time traffic is always bad.
The boys were fascinated with all of the personal computers that we had in the offices. I guess the only ones they had seen were those in the schools. We had computers for each of the 31 associates in the office.
I checked with Carol our secretary to see if I had any mail or messages and then went in to see Foster our office manager to tell him I wouldn't be in this week.
"Foster, if you need to get in touch with me the best way is to use my pager. You know my cell phone doesn't work at the house, but the pager will get me any place in the US."
After briefly filling him in on the situation I gathered up the boys and headed home. This had been a long day already and it was only two o'clock.
Not surprisingly Hildy had baked some peanut butter cookies when we got home. Just as the boys were reaching for the cookies, Hildy held up her hand like a traffic cop. "Ahem! Isn't there something you boys forgot? Like washing your hands?"
All four scrambled for the bathrooms and in a flash they were back displaying their now clean hands to Hildy. After receiving her OK they began stuffing warm cookies into their mouths. While they were washing their hands Hildy had set out four large glasses of milk which also quickly disappeared along with a half a dozen or so cookies each.
After the feeding frenzy calmed down I said, "Joel, I'd like to speak to you if I might? Larry, Lenny, TJ you guys go get your swim suits on and go out to the pool. Stay in the shallow end until Joel and I get there. Understand?"
Three heads nodded and took off for their rooms to change.
I took Joel under my arm and led him to the couch. "I am very proud of you the way you handled yourself through all of those test. I hope you never have to do that again.
"We started to talk yesterday about your dad, remember?" I barely detected a nod of his head against my chest so I continued, "Your dad has been arrested for trying to rob a store."
With this disclosure Joel started to weep softly. He didn't notice the other boys racing out the patio doors to the pool. Neither did the boys pay any attention to us.
"Joel, I want you to believe me when I say you are safe with me. I will never let anyone hurt you ever again. Did your dad ever hurt you?"
With his head buried in my chest I was just able to detect a nod.
"I know this is difficult, but it is necessary to find out as much information about what your dad did to you as we can. Did your dad threaten to hurt you if you told anyone about what you saw at the house Friday?"
Another nod from Joel served as an answer. I thought I also detected a very low sound coming from him that sounded something like "uh huh" but I wasn't really sure.
"You know that your dad can no longer hurt you now don't you? He is in jail and is going to be there for a long, long time.
"Did your dad whip you and make the marks that are on your back and thighs? Did he also do other things to you that you didn't like?" I didn't know how to phrase that any more delicately.
Joel sobbed harder but nodded his head.
"You are safe with me. I love you and will protect you with every resource I have. I want you and your brothers to stay with me for a very long time."
Joel threw his arms around my neck and kissed my cheek while the tears streamed down his cheeks. My eyes were also filled with tears. We stayed that way for a few minutes before I suggested, "Let's go get our swim suits on and join your brothers in the pool. I think they are tired of playing in the shallow end. We have about an hour before Hildy will have dinner ready."
We played in the pool until Hildy called us to dinner. She insisted that we all shower and dress before we were allowed at the table. She is going to be a great influence on the boys and on me also.
Bedtime came too quickly for the boys but with Hildy's firm hand they all went to bed. I tucked the twins in and kissed them on the forehead. I still could not tell them apart.
Joel and TJ were curled up together as they had been the previous nights. I arranged their covers before I kissed them as I had the twins.
I watched the news and caught the story about Harry Andersen being arrested in San Marcos. The police were also charging him with the murder of his wife in San Antonio. A gun similar to the one used to kill her was recovered at the scene of the robbery.
I hit the bed shortly after the news was over. The same questions that had postponed my sleep last night and the night before visited me again tonight but with a vengeance. Only questions, no answers. Sleep finally came although fitfully.