Sunday was one of those really dreary days that come to San Antonio in mid November. It was a foggy, drizzly, damp and chilly day. It had a depressing effect on the boys even though I tried to keep them entertained by getting them involved in table tennis and foosball. That did help for a couple of hours but even their video games could not keep them occupied for long.
After lunch I suggest that I finish reading Tom Sawyer to them. We had stopped reading after Chapter 29 and there were not that many chapters left to read. That perked up their interest at least for the time being.
Joel retrieved the book while the twins and Chris claimed their places on the couch. The twins were on my right side while Joel and Chris sat on my left and of course TJ claimed my lap. I smiled as I was reading Chapter 34. It reminded me of Chris' good fortune and his unknown riches.
"Huck's got money. Maybe you don't believe it, but he's got lots of it. Oh, you needn't smile -- I reckon I can show you. You just wait a minute," Tom ran out of doors. The company looked at each other with a perplexed interest -- and inquiringly at Huck, who was tongue-tied.
"Sid, what ails Tom?" said Aunt Polly. "He -- well, there ain't ever any making of that boy out. I never -- "
Tom entered, struggling with the weight of his sacks, and Aunt Polly did not finish her sentence. Tom poured the mass of yellow coin upon the table and said:
"There -- what did I tell you? Half of it's Huck's and half of it's mine!"
The spectacle took the general breath away. All gazed, nobody spoke for a moment. Then there was a unanimous call for an explanation. Tom said he could furnish it, and he did. The tale was long, but brimful of interest. There was scarcely an interruption from any one to break the charm of its flow. When he had finished, Mr. Jones said:
"I thought I had fixed up a little surprise for this occasion, but it don't amount to anything now. This one makes it sing mighty small, I'm willing to allow."
The money was counted. The sum amounted to a little over twelve thousand dollars. It was more than any one present had ever seen at one time before, though several persons were there who were worth considerably more than that in property.1
"Boy, I wish I had that much money," Joel said.
"Me too," the twins echoed.
"Is that a lot of money?" TJ asked.
"Yes that is a lot of money even now. Back when this story was written it was an awful lot of money. It was a fortune," I told them.
It took only a few more minutes to finish the book. I sensed the boys were sorry that the book was finished. "We'll have to start another book next weekend. There will be lots of time to read over the Thanksgiving holiday coming up week after next. Now, how would you guys like to go to a movie this afternoon? 'The Swiss Family Robinson' is showing in New Braunfels and I think we have time to get there before it starts."
I had no more gotten that out of my mouth then they were off the couch like a shot to their bedrooms to get their shoes on. By the time I had retrieved my wallet and car keys they were waiting impatiently by the back door. As it turned out we got to the theater about 15 minutes before the show began. That gave us enough time to get a couple of tubs of deliciously and sinfully buttered popcorn and large sodas. Thankfully the theater seats were equipped with cup holders. There would have been no way for the boys to balance their drinks and those huge tubs of popcorn without spilling something.
The boys were thoroughly enjoying the movie, but about half way through TJ leaned over and whispered to me that he had to go to the bathroom. I got Joel's attention and told him I was going to take TJ to the bathroom and for him to watch the other boys. Chris said that he had to go too, so the three of us headed to the back of the theater to the restrooms.
The restroom was empty except for a man about my age standing at one of the urinals. He looked up as we entered but I ushered the boys back to one of the stalls not paying any attention to him. The boys did their thing and then I had them washed their hands. As we walked out I noticed that the man was still standing at the urinal. I didn't think too much of it at the time. I know some men have "bashful bladder" and can't go if there is anyone about.
We got back to our seats without having missed too much of the movie. I guess it was the power of suggestion but soon the twins and Joel decided that they needed to go also. I didn't want to leave TJ and Chris there by themselves so I told Joel to watch out for his brothers and sent them off to the restroom. I kept looking back to see if they were coming. They hadn't been gone two minutes. It just seemed like more before I saw them coming down the aisle. They were trying to cover their mouths to stifle their giggling but without much success.
As Joel went by me on his way to his seat I asked, "What's so funny? What happened?"
He leaned over and whispered in my ear, "The man in the bathroom unzipped his pants and started playing with himself. We just laughed and ran out."
"You did the right thing. I want you to stay here with your brothers. I'll be right back," I said and got up to go see if I could find the manager.
The manager was in a little office off to the side of the theater. When I got there, I explained the situation to him and told him the man was probably still in the restroom. He nearly bowled me over as he bolted out of his office toward the restrooms. I was following close on his heels. He did slow down as we got to the door. He pushed the door open very slowly so as not to make any noise and quietly entered with me close behind. As we came around the corner I could see the man who had been there when I brought TJ and Chris here. He was standing there with his genitals exposed masturbating.
I thought that the manager was going to kill him. He knocked the man to the floor like an NFL tackle.
"Go have the ticket seller call the police!" he almost screamed at me.
I did as I was asked and then went to sit with the boys. I didn't want any more involvement if I could help it.
The rest of the movie went by without any further interruptions. As we were leaving the theater however, the manager spotted me and pulled us aside. After thanking me for my assistance in nabbing the pervert, he handed me six passes to the theater for any movie that we wanted to see. I thanked him and we left to go home. It was getting to be time for supper and I knew the boys would be getting hungry.
Hildy had gone to church as was her usual routine on Sunday evening so we were left to my culinary expertise to scrounge up supper. I looked in the pantry and refrigerator to see what I could whip up in a hurry.
"Hey guys, how about chili-dogs for supper?" I asked.
I got a chorus of "Yeah!"
That settled it. I took out two packages of wieners and a couple large cans of chili without beans and started to prepare our repast. I didn't know if the boys liked chopped onions on theirs but I did so I prepared one. The boys set the table while the chili and hot dogs were heating up.
They inhaled the chili-dogs like human vacuum cleaners. Of the 16 wieners I had prepared there was only one left and no chili.
"Okay, guys. It's time to get your homework done. Tomorrow is a school day," I said as I started the dishwasher so Hildy wouldn't think we were complete savages when she got home. "Chris, if you need any help I will be in the study."
Since I had given the boys their Friday afternoon lessons, they didn't have a lot of homework to do so it wasn't long before they were bringing it to me to check. I was beginning to see a noticeable improvement in Chris' work. There was no question that he had the intelligence required, it was always a question of motivation. I think him seeing the twins excel at their lessons was motivating him to succeed as well. Also just knowing that someone really cared about him and that he learned was a motivating factor. I could not have been happier.
Monday morning I got the boys off to school and I went to work. Eric Levin reported in and between Carol and me with some help from Foster we got him signed up for all his benefits and oriented to the office routines. Foster had a project all lined up for him to begin working on. He cornered him after all the paperwork was finished and began to describe what the client wanted and who he would be working with from the office. I had wanted to take Eric out to lunch at noon like we did for all new employees but Foster took him off to visit the client and the other members of the consulting team. We would have to postpone the lunch until some other day.
I was about ready to go to lunch when I got a call from the executor handling the estate of Chris' aunt. He wanted some information about me and my relationship with Chris. Judge Riley's clerk had been in touch with him as to my being named as the trustee of the trust fund for Chris. After I explained my intentions for leaving the funds untouched until he was off to college or decided to go out on his own, he was satisfied that I would be acceptable as the trustee. When I asked him how much the trust was going to be worth after all expenses, he replied that the best he could give was $2.35 million. The inheritance taxes both state and federal amounted to 58% of the gross value of the estate. He informed me that it would be about 60 days before the will made it out of probate.
The discussion with the executor sowed some seeds of an idea in my head. I need to flesh them out before I acted but I made a note to myself to follow through.
By this time I was really getting hungry and I didn't want to eat alone so on the off chance that Jack had not eaten I gave him a call.
"Jack, it's Crane. I'd like to bribe you with lunch. How about it?"
"That sounds great. I haven't had my daily bribe yet today. Where can I meet you?"
"How about that Chinese place over on Zarzamora? You know the one that has that great egg drop soup you liked so well. I'll meet you in about twenty minutes," I said.
Jack replied, "I'll be there even if I have to use the lights and siren."
Jack drove in at the same time I was parking the car.
Since it was late, we didn't have to wait for a table. Jack and I had eaten here several times. The food was excellent. The place was always impeccably clean and the atmosphere was peaceful and relaxing.
"Have you heard anything more about Chris' parents?" I asked as we sat sipping a final cup of hot tea.
"As a matter of fact I have. We did a check of the NCIC computer and found two outstanding warrants from Louisiana for both of them. It seems that they were accused of being involved in a string of burglaries. In one of them a man died of a heart attack while being robbed. In Louisiana that makes them eligible for a charge of murder even though they did not actually inflict any physical injury that caused his death. Naturally they are fighting extradition so it may be a while before they go on trial," Jack said.
"Is there any reason to believe that Chris knows anything about this?" I asked.
"No, there is no mention of him in the information we just received from Plaquemine Parish. These events occurred almost five years ago so I doubt that Chris has any knowledge of any of this."
"Thank goodness. I know he never had a loving relationship with his parents but I don't want to foul his image of them any more than it already is. Although, this information might be important for Judge Riley to have," I mused deviously.
"I knew you were a sucker. That boy has wormed his way into your heart the same way the others have, hasn't he?" Jack laughed.
"Yeah, it looks like I have opened a home for stray boys and it is all your fault. But seriously, I think I should let Darcie know about this. This could be added ammunition for terminating the Martins' parental rights," I said.
I paid the bill and we left for the parking lot. As we did I offered an open invitation to Jack to bring the family and visit us during the upcoming Thanksgiving holidays. We would probably take the boat out if the weather was nice. Considering the time of year it might be the last time until spring.
I got back to the office and made several phone calls. The first was to Darcie to inform her of the information that Jack had related to me. The second was to Benjamin Cross' office to see if it would make sense to seek another hearing before Judge Riley concerning Chris. Benjamin was not in his office but his secretary said that she would give him the information and that he would probably call me later this evening since he was tied up in court all day.
The third call was one that I really didn't want to make but felt an obligation to make it. It was to Eric Olsen, my former partner, to see how he was coming along. The news was not what I wanted to hear. I didn't get to speak to him. I did get to talk to his wife. She told me that Eric was not well at all. In addition to the brain tumor, he had suffered a stroke and could no longer speak. He had also lost the use of his left arm and leg. She broke down and cried as she told me that he appeared to have lost the will to live. I tried to comfort her as much as I could but I knew that at this point it was impossible for her to be consoled.
Foster and Eric Levin returned from the client site around three o'clock. I had a chance to talk to Eric and find out about how his house hunting was coming along. He said that he had looked at the house down the road from me but was not too impressed with it. He thought he would have to spend a lot of money on it to bring it up to date. The location was great but the view was not as good as mine and he thought the asking price was way too high. There were a couple of others a mile or so away that offered more promise. He wanted Darcie to go with him this weekend to see what she thought of them.
"What do you think of the project that Foster has lined up for you?" I asked him.
"It's going to be a challenge to do it in the time frame that they want it, but it is not anything out of the ordinary. I think that the real challenge is going to be getting the hardware in to meet the schedule. I know a few people who might be able to pull a few strings and get some of the routers ahead of other people's orders. I can't promise anything but some of them owe me favors. We'll see," he said.
"How about school for JR? Have you decided where you are going to enroll him?"
"No not yet, I would like to put him in a private school. I have not heard that many good things about SAISD. If we do move to Comal County I may look into the school you are sending your boys to. What's the name of it again?"
"Corinthian Academy," I answered. "They don't take mid-term enrollments. If I remember correctly, the next term begins the second week of January. It's the beginning of the second semester. That would probably be a good time to get him in if you move to the area.
"If you are in the area this weekend feel free to stop by. I know that the boys would enjoy seeing JR again," I told him.
We chatted for a few more minutes before I decided that it was time for me to head home.
It always feels good to get home, but something didn't seem right when I got there. Joel, Chris and TJ came running to greet me as I entered the back door. The twins were not with them.
"Hi guys, how was school?" I asked giving each of them a hug.
"It's great," TJ said. "Joey and me got to be on the same team at recess. He hit a really long ball and almost got a home run. I only got to first base."
"I got an A on my spelling test," Joel said with pride.
"Congratulations son, that is great. I'm very proud of you," I said giving him an extra hug. "How about you, Chris? How was your day?"
"Okay, I guess. We got to see a movie about Alaska. There were polar bears and seals and walruses and whales and all kinds of animals. They said it got really cold and it stayed dark all winter. Hardly no sun. I wouldn't like that," he said shaking his head.
"Where are Larry and Lenny?" I asked them.
They looked at each other for several second before Joel said, "They're in your study waiting for you. Hildy told them to stay there until you got home to talk to them."
"Okay, let me talk to Hildy. You go play and I'll find out what is going on," I told them.
Hildy was waiting for me when I entered the kitchen.
"What's going on with the twins?" I asked putting down my briefcase.
"The school called and said that they were sending a note home with them about an incident that happened today," she said handing me the note.
I read the note which said that the boys had been involved in a fight with another student during afternoon recess and that I needed to come to school with the boys to meet with the headmaster at 8:30 tomorrow morning.
"Well I guess I had better go talk to the twins," I said. "Did they say anything to you about this?"
"No, they didn't. I can't imagine them doing that. They have never shown any violent tendencies before," she said.
I walked into the study and saw the twins. They looked like they had lost their best friend. I had never seen them look so sad.
"Come here guys," I said reaching out to them. "Give me a hug and then tell me what happened. You know that I love you and always will, but I want you to tell me the truth about what happened today at school that got you in trouble."
"We didn't do anything," they said with their faces buried in my chest in that uncanny stereophonic way they had of talking.
"Well then, tell me why Mr. Pierce sent a note home with you. You know I'm not going to spank or beat you. I would never do that. But I do expect you to tell me the truth," I told them.
"Well..," Larry started.
"Go on," I said.
"Billy Sutton was picking on Jerry Lane and making him cry. He was shoving him and calling him names," Lenny said.
"And?" I asked.
"Well... Jerry is our friend and we didn't like Billy doing that," Larry said.
"So?" I queried.
"Ah... we sort of sat on Billy and told him not to pick on Jerry," Lenny said. "We didn't hurt him. We just made him stop picking on Jerry. We promise that's all that happened."
"What you did, stopping Billy from picking on Jerry was a good thing. The way you chose to do it was probably not the best way to do it however. Can you think of another way you might have stopped Billy without sitting on him?" I asked.
I waited but neither one of them seemed to have an answer so I asked another question, "Okay, why do you think that Billy picks on Jerry?"
"Jerry is the littlest boy in the class," Larry said.
"Does Billy pick on anyone else?" I asked.
"Yeah, he tries to pick on everyone," Lenny answered.
"Does he have any friends?" I asked.
"Nobody likes him," they answered in unison.
I asked them, "Do you think he might pick on people because he doesn't have any friends?"
"I guess, maybe," Larry whispered.
"Do you think if he had a friend he would pick on everybody?" I asked.
"Maybe... he might not," Lenny said with not too much conviction.
"Tomorrow I have to go with you to school and we have to meet with Mr. Pierce and Billy's parents to see how we can resolve this matter. I know it is not going to be easy, but I want you guys to shake Billy's hand and apologize to him for sitting on him. Okay?"
"Do we have to?" they asked.
"I would really like for you to. I would also like for you to invite Billy to come to the house on Saturday for a visit. My mother used to tell me when I was a little boy that the best way to turn an enemy into a friend was with kindness. I think she knew what she was talking about.
"Most bullies are just looking for attention. They don't know how to be friends, so we have to show them how," I said.
"Okay," they said barely above a whisper.
"Now I want you to remember, I don't want you to fight at school. Always try to think of a better way than fighting. That is always the last resort. You can always protect yourself, but fighting is never a good way to solve problems. It usually causes more problems than it solves," I lectured them.
"Okay, give me a hug and go play. You have about an hour before Hildy will have supper ready."
"I love you dad," they said.
"I love you too," I said with a lump in my throat giving each one a peck on the top of their heads and a swat on the behind as they ran out of the room to join the other boys.
"You didn't get a spanking or nothing?" Chris inquired.
I chuckled as I heard them say, "No, it's worse. We have to invite Billy over here on Saturday."
The rest of the evening was uneventful and very routine.
In the morning after everyone had eaten breakfast and brushed their teeth we took off for the school in the Land Rover shortly after eight o'clock. We arrived at the school about five minutes early. I told Joel, Chris and TJ to go play while I took the twins into the building to meet with Mr. Pierce.
1 Ibid. 318-319.