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© 2011 Ted Louis

Joel VI

Chapter 3

Mike had come down for breakfast while TJ and Peter were upstairs getting dressed. I told him that I was taking Peter to the hospital.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"Dr. Sam says it's tonsillitis. If they decide to remove them, we won't be back until later, probably this afternoon. Will you watch TJ while we're gone? I think Joel is old enough to take care of himself."

"Sure, no problem," Mike answered.

"But I want to go with you," TJ said. I hadn't noticed that he had come back downstairs.

"We may be there almost all day. It's not going to be a lot of fun just sitting around, you know."

"I don't care. Hospitals are scary. Peter needs me," he pleaded.

"Okay, but you should probably take one of your books along to help pass the time while we wait."

"Thanks, dad," TJ said, and ran back upstairs.

"I'd go with you," Joel said, "but John called and said he wanted to come over and talk."

"That's fine, son," I said. "Well, Mike, it looks like you are free to do whatever you like today."

"I think I'll go see my oldest sister," Mike said. "She looked like she needed someone to talk to when I took Jimmy home the other day."

I ushered TJ and Peter to the car and we took off for the hospital. It was about a 45 minute drive to Christus Santa Rosa. We arrived and I was lucky enough to find a parking spot reasonably close to the door of the hospital. I carried Peter into the hospital while TJ held one of his hands. I walked up to the front desk and gave them all the information. I was given a clipboard with a number of forms on it that I needed to fill out. I sat down on one of the chairs in the waiting area and completed the paperwork.

A short while later, Dr. Sam and a younger doctor arrived to where we were seated. He introduced the younger doctor as Dr. Prentiss and said that he would be the one to do the procedure. They escorted us to an examination room where Dr. Prentiss confirmed Sam's diagnosis.

"Yeah, those are really nasty looking," Dr. Prentiss said. "I think we need to take care of them right now and not wait. I'll have a nurse come and prepare him. She'll take him to the outpatient surgery area. The anesthesiologist will give him something to put him to sleep. After that, I'll have to ask you to wait in the waiting room until I'm finished. It shouldn't take all that long."

"TJ, your brother is going to be just fine," Dr. Sam said, noticing the concerned look on TJ's face. "His throat will be sore for a few days, but that will go away and he'll be back to normal. Besides, he'll get to have a lot of ice cream. You never know, you might get to eat some with him."

"I doubt if I could stop him," I laughed.

Both doctors left. About five minutes later a nurse arrived and got Peter into a hospital gown, which he wasn't too pleased about. She left and returned shortly with an orderly and after transferring Peter to a gurney, they wheeled him to the outpatient surgery area. TJ and I trailed behind them.

We waited a few more minutes before the anesthesiologist arrived carrying a tray with a syringe and a small vial of clear liquid. "I'm Dr. Klein," he said, and went about the business of filling the syringe with what I assumed to be the anesthetic. "Okay, young man, I'm going to give you a shot that will make you sleep. You'll feel a prick and then you may feel a little sting."

Peter looked at me with tears brimming in his eyes. "It's okay, son, TJ and I are here," I said, holding his hand.

He flinched as the needle went in and a tear trickled down his cheek. TJ leaned over the gurney and gave his brother a kiss on the cheek. Peter's eyes closed and Dr. Klein nodded to us. That was our signal to go to the waiting room.

It seemed like forever that we waited. TJ had his book, but I don't think he read a single page even though he had it open. Maybe an hour later, Dr. Prentiss walked into the waiting area.

"He's doing fine. There were no problems," he said.

"When can we see him?" I asked.

"Right now, he's in the outpatient recovery area. Follow me and I'll take you there," he said. "He is still feeling the effects of the anesthetic, so he may not know you're there. That should wear off in the next 30 minutes or so."

"When can we take him home?" I asked.

"If everything checks out when he's fully alert, you can more than likely take him home around one." Dr. Prentiss led us to a curtained off area and held the curtain back while TJ and I entered. "If you need anything, contact one of the nurses at the desk out there. I'll be back later to check on our patient."

"Thanks, Dr. Prentiss," I said.

TJ was immediately beside Peter's bed and reached for his hand. Peter opened his eyes, but they didn't appear to focus or recognize us. I went around to the other side of the bed from where TJ was standing. I brushed the hair off Peter's forehead and kissed it softly. TJ stood on his tiptoes, but couldn't quite reach to follow my lead and was content to press Peter's hand to his cheek.

"Is he gonna be okay, dad?"

"Yes, son, he will be. He's still sleepy from the medicine they gave him. He'll be okay in a little while." I walked back around the bed and pulled the one chair in the area up to the side of the bed. I tried to pull TJ onto my lap, but he refused to be moved from his spot. He did, a short time later, agree to sit on the arm of the chair since he could still see Peter and hold onto his hand.

About 20 minutes later Peter began to stir and attempted to clear his throat. TJ was immediately on his feet and asked Peter, "Are you okay?"

"My throat hurts," Peter whispered. "I'm thirsty."

"Let me get a nurse and see if you can have something to drink," I said, and left to summon a nurse. The nurse at the desk looked at Peter's chart and said she would have some ice water brought to him. I thanked her and returned to the boys.

Dr. Prentiss showed up around 12:30 and looked Peter over. "He's doing fine. I'll go get the discharge papers in order while you get your son dressed. Stop by the desk on your way out and pick up a couple of prescriptions. One will be an antibiotic and the other will be for a throat spray. It will help with the pain. You can use it every four hours. And, what I'm sure he is interested in, he can have ice cream or sherbet to help the pain also," he said with a grin, and left us to get Peter ready to leave.

It was nearly two when we arrived home and we hadn't eaten. When Hildy heard that, she went into high gear and in no time she had sandwiches fixed for TJ and me. For Peter she fixed one of those liquid breakfast drinks and dished up a bowl of chocolate pudding. She gave TJ and me some of the pudding after we finished our sandwiches.

After lunch, Peter curled up on the couch in the family room and went to sleep. TJ took the chair beside the couch and watched his brother sleep. I went upstairs to talk to Joel. I wanted to find out about John's visit.

"Hi, dad," Joel said, looking up from the book he was reading when I knocked on his door.

"How did things go with John this morning?" I asked.

"Okay, I guess. It's not like it used to be, but at least we can talk to each other without a lot of stuff getting in the way. He's a friend... That's all now... Just a friend."

"Sometimes that's all you need is a friend."

"Is Peter all right?"

"He's doing fine. It's going to be a few days before he's back to his old self. I'm sure it can't be soon enough for him. He's taking a nap right now."

"Maybe Duke can help him feel better," Joel said.

"Maybe you're right," I said. "Go back to your reading. I just wanted to know about your conversation with John." I hadn't let the dogs come inside the house now that there were six of them, but one might be okay.

I was on my way back downstairs when I heard the phone ringing. I knew that Hildy would answer it so I didn't hurry. When I reached the bottom of the stairs, Hildy was coming to look for me.

"There's a man on the phone who wants to talk to you," she said. "He said his name was Beekman, Agent Beekman."

"Thanks, I'll take it in the library. Did he say what he wanted?"

"No, just that he needed to speak with you."

I went into the library and picked up the phone. "Agent Beekman, this is Crane Johnson. What may I do for you?"

"Mr. Johnson, I have an urgent matter that I need to talk to you about. Be in my office at ten in the morning."

"I beg your pardon. First of all, I don't have the foggiest idea who you are. Second, you have given me no reason why I should be in your office, wherever that is, at ten in the morning. Third, I have a sick son that I have no intention of leaving for you or anyone else for that matter."

"Mr. Johnson, if you are not in my office by ten in the morning, I will have a warrant issued for your arrest."

This guy was beginning to get my dander up. "That's Doctor Johnson to you. Just who the hell do you think you are ordering me to appear before you?" I had never been uptight about being addressed by Doctor, even though having a PhD, I was entitled to that honorific.

"I'm the FBI Agent in Charge of an ongoing investigation into corruption."

"I have no idea what or who you are investigating or why you think I might have any information that could be of value to your investigation. Whatever your reasons are, you will need to speak to my attorneys. Try your warrant trick on me and I'll have you tied up in court so long your grandchildren will be eligible to retire before it's resolved. Believe me, Mister Beekman, I don't make idle threats."

I slammed the phone receiver down and counted to ten. When I regained my composure, I dialed Jack Hogan's cell phone number.

"Jack Hogan."

"Jack, it's Crane. I need some information from you."

"Sure, Crane, whatever I can do, just name it."

"Do you still have any contacts in the local FBI office?"

"Yeah, I still know a few guys that work there. Why?"

"Have you ever heard of an Agent Beekman?"

"That jerk? I thought they sent him someplace to investigate why cows create methane. Is he back in town?"

"I just got off the phone with him. He demanded that I be in his office tomorrow morning. He never told me why or asked if it would be convenient, just told me to be there. He finally said he was the Agent in Charge of an investigation into some sort of corruption."

"Crane, that guy and I have had several run-ins while I was working for SAPD. He's an overbearing son-of-a-bitch, to put it bluntly. Do you want me to make a few calls? I know the guy in charge of the San Antonio office. He and I worked together on a couple of cases when I was still a cop and he was just a lowly agent."

"I'd appreciate it, Jack. I've got a sick kid and have no intentions of leaving him until he's feeling better."

"I'm sorry to hear that. Which one of the boys is it?"

"The youngest one, Peter. He had his tonsils taken out this morning, so it's nothing serious. I just don't want to leave him, that's all."

"I don't blame you. Let me make a few calls and I'll get back to you."

"Thanks, Jack, I owe you."

"I'll send you the bill," he laughed. "Take care, my friend."

We ended the call and I started dialing the number for Carlos Martinez. When his receptionist answered, I told her who I was and asked to speak with Carlos. She put me right through to him.

"How's the ambulance chasing business doing these days?" I asked, as a greeting.

"They are either getting faster or I'm getting slower. I haven't caught one in months," he responded. "Did you call because you needed something or did you call to just insult my occupation?"

"A little of both," I said. I went on to discuss my conversation with Agent Beekman. Carlos listened intently, asking questions when he wanted clarification.

"Crane, you do get yourself into some interesting situations," Carlos said, when I finished. "I don't think there will be any problems. While this is not an area of my expertise, I have a colleague who loves to get involved with anything to do with the FBI. Let me call him to see if he would be interested in working with you on this. I'll get back to you as soon as I've had a chance to talk to him."

"Thanks, Carlos," I said, and ended the call.

I went to check on Peter and found TJ still sitting in the chair beside him. Peter was awake, but was still lying on the couch. I decided to take Joel's suggestion and after checking Peter's head for any sign of fever, I went outside to get Duke. He brought a smile to Peter's face when I sat him down beside his master and he began licking Peter's face.

"That tickles," Peter whispered, giving his pet a hug.

With Duke by his side, Peter almost forgot his sore throat - at least for a while. When he laughed at one of Duke's antics a couple of minutes later, it brought back the memory very quickly and caused a yelp of pain. He grabbed his throat and a couple of tears ran down his cheeks.

"You know, I think some ice cream would help that throat," I said. "Why don't we go see if Hildy has any?"

"Okay," he whispered, wiping the tears with his sleeve. He picked up Duke and followed TJ and me into the kitchen.

"I heard you might like some ice cream," Hildy said. "I might just have some. What kind would you like? I have vanilla, chocolate and strawberry."

"I like all of them," he said.

"Me, too," TJ said.

"You all sit up there at the counter and I'll dish up some of each," Hildy said, reaching into the freezer and taking out three cartons of ice cream. "TJ, will you get out the spoons?"

The spoons were in front of Peter and him almost before Hildy had made the request. She asked if I wanted some, but I declined.

"This makes my throat feel good," Peter said, after taking a few bites.

"You just tell Hildy when your throat starts hurting and I'll get you some more," she said.

"Where are Manfred and the girls today? I haven't seen them," I inquired.

"He took them to a movie this afternoon," she answered. "They should be back anytime, now. I wouldn't be too surprised if they went shopping after the movie."

"He's certainly gotten attached to them," I said. "You both have."

"That's for sure," she said, turning away.

At that moment, the phone rang and I went to answer it. It was Jack.

"Crane, I've just had a conversation with Kevin Baldwin. He's the SAC1 of the San Antonio office. I explained the situation to him. I won't repeat his comments, but they were not flattering to Agent Beekman. Anyway, the bottom line is that he will be giving you a call in the morning after he has a chance to speak with Beekman, who is out of the office until tomorrow."

"I'll look forward to his call," I said. "Thanks for your help. I'll let you know if Beekman doesn't change his tune and become civil."

Peter was still not feeling all that great by the time for him to go to bed. He crawled onto my lap and wrapped my arms around him. After a few minutes, I carried him up to his bedroom and told him that he needed to brush his teeth and get into his pajamas. "When you're done, it will be time to take your pill and I'll spray your throat with that medicine Dr. Prentiss gave us."

"Can I sleep in your bed?" he asked.

"Sure, if you promise to go right to sleep." I knew that TJ would be there with his brother as well. When TJ looked at me, I just nodded my head. He smiled and took Peter into their bathroom to get their teeth brushed.

I went back downstairs and a few minutes later the two of them appeared ready for bed. I took Peter into the kitchen, took a pill from the prescription bottle, poured a cup of water and handed them both to him. He washed the pill down and handed the cup back to me.

"How does your throat feel?" I asked.

"It still hurts some," he answered.

"Well, let's spray it with this before you go to bed and maybe it won't hurt as much. Open your mouth and stick out your tongue." I sprayed his throat and then led the two of them to my bedroom. They both climbed onto the bed and slid between the sheets. Peter would end up being in the middle when I got in later.

I went back into the living room and picked up a book I had started a couple of weeks ago, but put down when it failed to hold my interest. I decided to finish it as a personal goal. It had gotten rave reviews when it was published a few years ago and I was determined to find out what the critics found to rave about. I had just gotten to the middle of a chapter when Mike returned.

"Crane, I hope it was okay that I spent the whole day with my sister."

"There wasn't much that you could have done around here today. I hope you had a good visit with your sister."

"Yes, I had a long talk with Alicia. She's having boyfriend problems. Her boyfriend is ... How should I put it? I guess a real nutcase, in my opinion. He has some weird ideas that civilization is going to collapse. He wants Alicia to run off with him to Wyoming and live in some survivalist camp. She thinks she loves him, but she's torn about leaving her family and all her friends. I must say this about Leon, he is movie star handsome."

"Were you able to talk some sense into her?" I asked.

"I don't know. Alicia is a bright girl. She's started college and works part time. I tried to get her to look at Leon in a logical manner and weigh the things he's telling her and asking her to compare it against her upbringing and education. She said she would think about it. I did get her to promise me she wouldn't do anything until she talked to me again. I hope she does."

"What's this Leon's last name?"

"Browning."

"Is Joseph his father's name?"

"Yeah, I think so. I've heard Alicia call him Joe. I haven't met him. Do you know him?"

"I met him several years ago at the Wurstfest2 in New Braunfels. We literally bumped into each other. I came out the worst of it with beer spilled all down my front. He apologized profusely and got me a bunch of napkins to sop up as much beer as I could. It was an accident and we got to talking. He appeared to be a simple man and not well educated. He mentioned a son, but I don't remember if he gave me a name. I gathered that he was not all that pleased with the boy. Our conversation wasn't that long as I wanted to get home and out of the beer soaked clothes. I haven't seen him since, but that incident is very vivid in my memory."

Mike and I talked for a few more minutes before he decided to go up to his rooms. I wanted to finish the chapter I was on, even though I could still not see what the critics found in the book.

Peter woke up once during the night and I sprayed his throat again. He slept through the rest of the night. His throat did not appear to be as sore as it was yesterday, but it was still causing him some pain.

Since Carlos had not called me back yesterday, I assumed that he had not gotten in contact with the attorney he mentioned when we talked.

It was nearly ten o'clock when I received a call from Kevin Baldwin, the SAC of the San Antonio FBI office. After the formalities of the greetings were over, he said, "Mr. Johnson, I want to apologize for the rudeness by Agent Beekman to you yesterday. I have spoken to him and have been assured that it will not happen again. He will be calling you later today to apologize in person and to arrange for a convenient time to meet with you. The investigation that he is conducting is an important one and I hope you will be able to assist us with it."

"Agent Baldwin, thank you for calling. I accept your apology. I'm not sure that I have any information that could possibly bear on a corruption investigation, but I will assist the FBI in any way I can."

We'll see how apologetic Beekman is if he calls later, I thought to myself. I went into the library after checking on Peter. He was on the patio holding Duke on his lap. TJ and Mike were there also. Once in the library, I decided to call Donald. I hadn't talked to him yesterday. That was unusual. We usually spoke on the phone every day. I dialed his cell phone number, not knowing whether he would be in his office. My call went directly to his voice mail. I left a message asking him to call when he had time.

Agent Beekman did call a bit later. His apology was terse and brief. It was easy to tell that he was giving it under duress and that he really didn't mean it. I did agree to meet with him on Monday at ten o'clock in the FBI's office. I didn't tell him that I would have an attorney with me. Now, if only Carlos can come through with the one he promised. He did later in the day.

Manfred and the girls had joined the group on the back patio. The girls were playing with the other five dogs that had joined Duke. "We were going swimming," Manfred said, "but the girls got sidetracked by the dogs. Since Peter is supposed to take it easy, we probably won't get in the water."

"Don't let that bother you, he probably doesn't feel like doing much yet, anyway. If the girls want to get in the water, go ahead." At the words water and swimming, Bandit's ears perked up and his head swiveled back and forth between Manfred and me. I swear that dog can understand English sometimes. When no one made a move for the pool, he decided he would be the first and took off running. At the edge of the pool he made like a long jumper and dove into the pool. I think that dog is part fish the way he loves the water.

"Well, I guess that settles it," Manfred laughed. He took each girl by the hand and led them to the shallow end of the pool. The dogs they had been playing with followed them to the edge of the pool, but did not follow them into it.

TJ had disappeared and reappeared shortly in his swimwear. Mike wasn't far behind. Of course, Jeanie and Ginny immediately latched onto Mike. Manfred looked at me and shook his head. I sat down next to Peter. "Would you like to go sit on the side of the pool and dangle your feet in the water?"

"Huh uh, I like it here in the shade with Duke," he said.

Joel must have heard the commotion in the pool, because he soon joined in the fun. They played in the pool for about an hour before Hildy emerged on the patio and announced that lunch would be ready in 15 minutes. That flushed everybody out of the pool and each one grabbed a towel from the stack that Hildy had placed on the picnic table.

Peter looked on in envy as the other boys ate their sandwiches, chips and vegetable sticks. He had to be satisfied with warm tomato soup and crackers that he soaked in the soup. He was happier when Hildy placed a large bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate syrup in front of him. After lunch I gave him another of the antibiotic pills. I held off on the throat spray. He said his throat wasn't hurting too much.

Donald called not long after we had finished lunch. He apologized for not calling sooner, but had made a quick trip to Louisiana to straighten out the mess his now fired general manager had placed the automobile dealership in. He had just arrived back in town. Donald had his suspicions about the manager. That was the reason he had set up the meeting with him over the weekend. While the manager was in San Antonio, Donald's auditors descended on the manager's office and did a quick review of the books and found that he had been skimming off some of the profits.

"The matter has been turned over to the local police in Shreveport along with the evidence collected so far by the auditors. They are still going over the books to see exactly how much money he has stolen," Donald said. "By the time I left over there, they had confirmed that he had misappropriated about a quarter million dollars, over the last eight or nine months. The auditors are still looking and they expect they will find more."

"Will you be able to recover any of it?" I asked.

"My lawyers are already on it. However, they say I'd be lucky to recover ten cents on the dollar. Except for Saturday at the farm riding the horses, my week, so far, has been a real bummer. How's yours been?"

"Peter had his tonsils removed on Monday and the FBI wants to talk to me about some sort of corruption investigation they have going on. I've had to retain a lawyer to go with me on Monday when I talk to Agent Beekman. Now there is a real, arrogant SOB. Jack Hogan, you know the PI, says he's a real piece of work."

"Sounds like we both have had better days. Do you think we can get together sometime this week?"

"Peter should be pretty much healed up by Friday. Maybe we could do something then. I have to pick up my three musketeers on Saturday and they will probably want to go riding on Sunday. You could bring the kids and come out here on Saturday afternoon and we could grill some steaks and then we could all go riding on Sunday. I'm sure that Jeanie and Ginny would love to have Lenore sleep over. The same goes for William and Peter."

"Saturday sounds like a good idea. After the way this week has started out, all I want to do is to kick back and relax. It's a date. I'll bring the steaks."

______________

1SAC - Special Agent in Charge

2Wurstfest: A ten day Salute to Sausage celebration in New Braunfels, Texas. The event is held in early November of each year. http://www.wurstfest.com/


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