© 2011 D&B. All rights reserved.
As Andy and Ray chilled out in the living room after breakfast, Billy looked in nervously. "C'mon in here, Billy," Andy said with a smile and a tone almost like an order. Billy gulped and came into the living room, sitting on the edge of a chair like he was worried about what was coming.
"Hey, dude, relax," Andy said. "I just wanted to thank you."
"Thank me? What for?" Billy looked puzzled, if relieved.
"You apparently said and did just the right things with Jack," Andy said. "He's opened up more since you got here than he ever had before, since I got here, and from the way Chay and Donny talked, ever since they've known him."
"Well, um, I just told the truth." Billy was just a little embarrassed.
"You know, that might be it," Ray mused. "Either of you ever have somebody tell you what you ought to be doing, you know, 'for your own good'?" Hesitant nods from both Andy and Billy were his replies. "Well, I'd never badmouth Donny, but I kind of get the impression that his style is something like that – good advice, from a friend, but sort of 'I know what you need to do' in tone. And you know my guilt trip?" he asked Andy rhetorically. Andy grinned and nodded, catching sight of where Ray was going with this idea. "If you're somebody who's been given the idea you're no good, not good enough, never can be good enough, that sort of advice, well-meant as it is, doesn't work. Andy figured out how to get through to me, instead."
He paused and smiled. "You like him, don't you?"
Billy looked panic-sricken. "But – uh – um...."
Andy giggled. "Calm down, Billy. It wasn't an accusation, Ray just saw something in how you act around him – something I noticed too. It's cool."
"Yup," Ray agreed. "And the way things seem to work around here, that means it's your job to help Jack cope – um, with the rest of us backing you up, of course, just like Pauly did for you with me, remember?" this last being addressed to Andy.
"But, um..." Billy stammered, "well … you know what I was doing, before...."
Andy stood up and dropped his pants and underpants. "How much would you figure a john would pay to suck this? I was getting $25 a pop before Donny found me and invited me here. And Chay did a lot better than that to spread his bottom. So'd Mikey, I think."
Billy was thunderstruck. "You mean they...?"
"I told you you belong here," Andy said with a smile. "For most of us, it's 'been there, done that, got the cum-stained T-shirt'."
"The good thing is," Ray put in, "now none of us has to. You can use it for love, not sell it for money."
He was interrupted by what was either a buffalo stampede or two eleven-year-olds running full tilt down the hall. "Whoa!" he said. "What are you two up to?"
Lucas gave him a big grin. "We're gonna take a bath!" Peewee blushed and nodded enthusiastic agreement, with a toothy smile.
"Okay," Andy said. "Have fun!"
"We will!" Lucas agreed. Peewee turned bright red. Ray and Andy's eyes met, with laughter in them.
"You want my help shampooing?" Andy asked.
"No, we'll do each other," Peewee answered.
"I just bet you will 'do' each other," Billy said with a laugh. Peewee blushed even harder; Lucas turned and whispered to him. They both turned around and counted together to three, mooning the three teens simultaneously on 'three.' Then they ran off giggling.
All three older boys were laughing so hard they had to sit down by that point.
"You asked to see me, Dr. Carruthers?"
"Oh, come in, Miss Carson, Rachel, is it?"
The woman in her 20s, clad in medical whites, entered with a professional demeanor, and sat gingerly on one of the leather chairs facing Carruthers' desk.
"I sent for you, Rachel, because I've been asked for a favor. One of my old med. school classmates is running a storefront inner-city clinic. He has a patient who suffered a rather severe assault that included bruised kidneys. The patient seems to be well on the mend, but he's known to have been a regular user of MDMA – 'Ecstasy', the kids are calling it – and that might complicate things. So Van asked for a consult – a freebie one. After we discussed NA's fee schedule, we agreed that it would be good field experience for a postgrad planning to specialize in our field, to actually be the specialist called in." Carruthers pursed his lips. "So I'm sending you up there."
"Yessir." Rachel's outward expression did not change.
"Write it up, just like you would as if you were accompanying Brew or me on rounds," Carruthers instructed. "The difference is that you'll be the specialist on call. Since you don't have your M.D. yet, Van will need to be the one giving the official orders, but he'll follow your recommendations." He paused, his eyes boring into hers. "I know I don't have to tell you this, but I'll remind you of what I always tell a postgrad going out on a consult: conduct yourself in a professional manner; remember that you're representing N.A."
"Of course," Rachel said.
"Here's the directions," Carruthers said, handing her a slip of paper. "It's the Marie Kirkland Memorial Westside Clinic – the signs just say 'Westside Clinic'. You're to contact the Associate Director, Bill VanBauern. He's an old friend, something of an idealist, and he runs the medical staff there. Don't let the title fool you; the Director is simply a glorified Office Manager charged with keeping the place solvent and running smoothly, with the title so she can fend off the sort of people who'd eat up Van's time, keep him free for medical work." Rachel let out a thin smile at this.
"Thank you, Doctor. I'll try to be worthy of your trust." Rachel excused herself.
As she left his office her reserved demeanor didn't change, but inwardly she was raising a fist and shouting "Yes! I'll show them how a nephrology specialist works!"
They didn't have long to wait. Two official vehicles pulled up, and in walked three people. The man in the lead was easily as tall as Gil, and with a physique that suggested he spent much of his off-duty time at a gym. Hair a light medium brown, intense, piercing eyes under slightly heavy but not craggy brows, an expression that said he was all business, and a suit that appeared to be off the rack and just slightly too small for him. Accompanying him were Sgt. O'Brian, again in a business suit, and a young uniformed officer in a stance that gave everyone the impression he was ready to draw down on anyone who made a sudden move.
"Stand down, Marty!" were the first words from the imposing newcomer. Then, to Gil, "Counselor? I hope I don't have to work around your advocacy again!"
"Not a chance!" Gil said. "We're on the same side this time, or at least I certainly hope so. I take it they didn't brief you at all, Malc?"
"Of course not," 'Malc' said. "Just that a crime had been committed here, against a minor, and Obie and I should respond." He gestured to O'Brian as he said that; she seemed not angry but less than pleased at the 'Obie' reference.
"Okay," said Gil. "Pour yourselves coffee and have a seat, and I'll tell you what I know and what I suspect. Then you may want to take statements from these two" – he gestured at Madeleine and Strothers – "so they can get on with their business."
"I'll be the judge of that," 'Malc' replied. "But get on with it."
"All right, my involvement, chronologically," Gil replied. "The night before last, Vincent and Margaret Hollister were returning from a business dinner at the Northgate Country Club when their vehicle was struck and they were killed by a drunk driver. They left a 14-year-old son, Randy, who is sitting over here." Gil gestured. "After Margaret's death, a social worker from Child Services brought Randy back here to get his clothes and schoolbooks, before putting him in a group home. He took the opportunity to run."
"Arrest the kid?" 'Marty" asked. Donny tensed and started to rise angrily; Randy quailed.
O'Brian took one look at Gil's face and said, "Bad idea, Marty. Sit down and listen."
"Randy was able to remain on his own all day until last evening, when his pocket was picked. He gave chase to the boy who had gotten his wallet, and as a result that boy was stopped by Stan Kowalski." Gil drew a breath. "When he sent for authorities to pick up the juvenile pickpocket, he found there was also a pickup order out for Randy. Because of our encounter earlier in the day, he phoned for me." Sgt. O'Brian was nodding.
"Okay, first item of speculation. Jonah Markham has that commitment order now. Here are three relevant factors about it: Randy's name was filled in at the proper place, but not on the blank line on the form. The order was dated three weeks previous. And Jonah's signature was in black, rather than the blue he always uses on an original commitment order. Three weeks before, Randy was the happy, non-abused child of two healthy natural parents. I suspect that commitment order was forged from a copy of someone else's order – as does Jonah."
Gil took a sip. "Stan of course had sent for pickup for both boys, as he was required to do. Burton and Amelia showed up to pick up both boys. In answer to my questions, Amelia agreed that Child Services had put a lien on this house, to pay for Randy's so-called care, and that Alfred had sent them out with the paperwork. That's when we discovered the probable forgery. I had brought along two of the boys from Donny's place," he said to O'Brian, "and they offered Randy and the erstwhile pickpocket the opportunity to stay with them. In all seriousness, you don't need to know the background on that – he admitted to his actions and received an indefinite continuance from Jonah. And both boys were committed to my custody, and the possibly-fake committal of Randy to Child Services and their lien on this property were voided by him at the same time."
"I have a bit more to say, but that properly belongs after these two speak," he concluded, gesturing at the two business people.
"Malc? Introductions may be in order," Sgt. O'Brian said at that point. He nodded curt agreement; she proceeded.
"This is Detective Lt. Malcolm McNeill," she said, gesturing at the imposing plainclothes cop, "and this is Officer Martin McCord. I'm Sgt. O'Brian – I do not use my first name professionally, and have no problem being addressed by my surname; I tolerate 'Obie' too, but don't like it." She glanced around. "I think everyone knows Attorney Gil Christenson here, and that young man is Donny Kirkland, who is the on-site go-to person for the boys in Gil's custody. I gather you're Randy Hollister" – Randy nodded yes shyly – "and Gil, I don't recognize this other boy."
"Keith and his little brother Lucas are new additions," Gil said; "my boys found them being beaten up yesterday afternoon." He turned and gestured. "Over here we have Madeleine Anderson of Century First Homes and Charles Strothers of Strothers Appraisals and Abstracts. I think you may be interested, Malc, in what they have to say about why they're here."
"What about the stolen stuff?" Randy asked.
"Be patient, Randy," Gil said. "Normally Malc and I are on opposite sides in court, if I'm being a defense attorney. So he knows what I'm doing – leading him to see the sequence of events that led me to the conclusions I drew."
Malc nodded. "And a good job so far, Gil; thank you. Ms. Anderson?"
"When I checked my messages this morning," Madeleine said, "there was a message left overnight from the Comptroller's office asking me to come inspect the premises here to list it for immediate sale."
Strothers followed on her heels. "And a rather officious young woman from there as much as ordered me here this morning to do an appraisal on the property, as they were planning to collect on the mortgage insurance and needed to determine the proper asking price."
"Does Officer McCord know crime scene evidence preservation techniques?" Gil asked.
"Of course I do," McCord said.
"He does," Malc said, then to McCord, "My way, not yours, Marty. What did you have in mind, Gil?"
"Well, I had the locks changed first thing this morning," Gil said. "Suspecting that things might be missing here, I asked Randy to come over with me. We identified quite a few missing things just from his memory of the house, without checking for an inventory. I made it a point that none of us touch places that he spotted missing things, though no doubt his fingerprints will be all over – he did live here all his life, after all. Let's start with his father's study." He led them all in there. "Notice that the bank statements and insurance papers folders are missing. I suspect we'll find the same is true with the mortgage."
Gil looked the tall lieutenant in the eye. "My second conclusion here is based on those papers being missing from the house, obviously sometime yesterday, and what Madeleine and Charles, along with Amelia, said. I believe you'll find the paperwork for this house at the Comptroller's office, with a receipt for them in Child Services' grubby little hands."
"Mother's jewelry box and her heirloom silver service are missing too," Randy said. "I think she kept the stuff about them in Dad's office, because she had insurance on them. I was home sick when the insurance guy came to see her about them." Malc looked intrigued; Gil motioned to go on. "They got into my room, too. But it's weird what they took – my stereo and game stuff makes sense, but they took my dirty underwear and socks too."
Sgt. O'Brian snorted. Gil looked questioningly at her. She said, "I laughed at realizing why, but I think I'd prefer not embarrassing the boy by explaining."
"Huh? Why?" Randy asked.
"Randy – it could be useful to them to have a sample of your DNA," she said gently. "With you being a healthy teenage boy, guess what makes a good sample, easily accessible?"
"Oh." Randy blushed scarlet.
"I'm sorry, Randy," she said.
"It's OK; I shouldn't have asked," he responded, still blushing.
"Don't worry about it, son," Malc said. "Every man here has had some sort of embarrassment about becoming a person with a sex drive, usually at about your age, and I'll bet both women can say something very similar, from their side of the issue." Sgt. O'Brien and Madeleine both nodded, with a smile at Randy.
"Besides," Malc went on, "it gives the D.A. an interesting hook in the prosecution. It's bad enough people tried to steal your family's property from you, but a skilled defense attorney can turn that with enough creativity. But now, all the D.A. needs to do is list in the indictment all the items stolen, and they will forfeit any sympathy he might otherwise have been able to wangle from the jury." He grinned; Gil was chuckling along with him.
"Huh?" said a confused Keith.
"He's on record as having stolen and having in his possession a young boy's underwear," Gil explained.
Donny broke into laughter.
Andy was neither disturbed or surprised by the non-stop giggling coming from the bathroom, but the froth oozing from under the door did upset him some. He flung the door open, to find a mass of suds built up over the bathtub and spilling from there past the urinal over to the door. "What the heck are you two doing?!" he called out, but couldn't help laughing at the two, covered head to foot in soapsuds with only eyes, fingers, and erections showing through.
Ray and Billy came to the door behind him and promptly fell over laughing. Lucas and Peewee redoubled their giggles.
"All right, you two," he said as he regained control of himself. "Out of there and clean this mess up."
"Aww mannn!" Peewee whined.
"C'mon, it's a mess, and you know the rules – you're welcome to make a mess having fun, but it's your responsibility to clean it up afterwards."
"You mean like when you squirt all over...?" Peewee asked.
"Cut it out!" said a blushing Ray, laughing.
Andy however had been thinking. "Guys?"
"Yeah?" Lucas looked up, catching the tone in his voice.
"Just mop up the mess on the floor with dirty towels; don't worry about the tub. It's still hot, right?"
"Good." He turned to Billy. "Why don't you give Jack a good bath?"
"I can do that." Billy was enthusiastic. "But how come?"
"I'm just figuring, he hasn't had a good tub bath since before he got hurt, and he can't handle washing himself – or dealing with anything that comes up in the process." Andy grinned.
"Let me go get him!" Billy said, and ran off to Donny and Chay's room where Jack was resting.
Editor’s Notes: It really bothers me to realize that there are real life situations which parallel the ones depicted here. We like to think that the people who are being paid to serve the public, and in particular, being paid to protect and care for children, are using the system to enrich their own pockets. This should definitely be stopped. I can hardly wait for the next chapter. I really do love this story. Thanks, D and B.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher