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Copyright 2014 – 2018 Ted Louis This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author”s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

This story is copyright by Ted Louis, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author”s written consent.

A copy of the story has been assigned to the Nifty Archives under the terms of its submission agreement. Comments on the story are appreciated and may be addressed to uis

All the chapters of Joel may also be found on my website at www.tedlouis

Joel VIII

Chapter 11

“It”s a good idea for Luke to go to the hearing with us,” Antonio said, as he was getting ready to leave.

“I”ll let the school know he”ll be absent,” I said.

After Antonio left, Mel said, “I think I”ll take a ride over to New Braunfels and see if I can locate one of my old buddies. Craig and I were inseparable when we were growing up. We have kind of lost track of each other over the years. The last I heard, from a mutual friend, he”d been in a car accident and lost both of his legs. I should be back by the time the kids get home from school.”

“Okay,” I said. “Give us a call if you”re going to be late.”

“Will do,” he said and left.

I poured another cup of coffee and went to my office to take care of some paperwork. As I sat down, the fax machine started spitting out several pages. I took the paper from the tray and began reading it. It was the accounting of the apartment complexes from Chuck Solaris and Phillip Brown. I was pleased to see the occupancy rates for all the places to be 94% or higher. That meant a healthy cash flow. I filed the report and went back to my paperwork.

Twenty minutes later the phone rang. It was Darcie.

“How are things at ASEC?” I asked, after we had exchanged pleasantries.

“Busy, as usual,” she said. “I wanted to talk to you about this new activity we”ve just gotten involved with.”

“The prostheses?”

“Yes,” she answered. “Paul and I have discussed it at length.”

“And?”

“I”ve come to the conclusion that a separate charity should be set up to handle that business,” Darcie said. “It just doesn”t fit with what our original charter was. We would still keep sourcing prostheses for our kids who need them.”

“I had about come to the same conclusion,” I said. “I”ll talk to Donald to see if the trust can divert some of the funds to a new charity. This may reduce the amount of money that you have been able to give to other charities, but should not, and will not, keep you from having the money to do your jobs.”

“Thanks, Crane,” she said. “I was hoping you wouldn”t be upset. Drop in once in a while.”

“I wish I could say I could, but I”m going to be filling in for Donald”s Vice-President of IT for a while. That will keep me busy for the next two or three months.”

“So, you”re going to be one of the working stiffs again?”

“You might say that,” I said. “It”ll be different going into an office every day.”

“You”ll adjust. Got to run, I”ve got a meeting in ten minutes. Goodbye.”

I went back to my paperwork which took up the rest of the day until it was time to go pick up the kids from school.

The kids were starting to be released from school when I arrived. Thankfully Lenore was waiting with some other girls in the designated spot until she saw me getting out of the van and then she ran to me all excited and had to show me a paper that had a big smiley-face sticker on it.

“Teacher said I did really good,” she said, thrusting the paper in front of me.

“That”s great, honey,” I said. “You”ll have to show that to your daddy. I know he will be really proud of you. I”m proud of you, too.” I gave her a hug while we waited for the rest of the kids to be released.

“Dad,” the twins and Chris said, as they ran up to me, “can we ask Chin and Cho if they can come to our house on Saturday and play tennis?”

“Did you ask them already?” I asked.

“No,” Chris said. “We”ve talked about doing it sometime, but that”s all.”

“I don”t care if you want to invite them, but it has to be okay with their parents,” I said. “Mrs. Kim is standing over there, if you want to go ask her.”

That”s all it took and they were off to charm Chin and Cho”s mother into agreeing. I watched as they made their pitch to her. She listened and then appeared to ask them some questions. They nodded their heads several times and pointed to where I was standing with the rest of the kids. She started my way with the five boys in tow.

“Mrs. Kim, it”s good to see you again,” I said, extending my hand which she took.

“Are you aware of your sons” request,” she said.

“Yes, they asked me first if your sons could come on Saturday,” I said.

“My sons have talked about you having a tennis court at your house and have expressed a desire to see it,” she said. “As we have nothing planned for them on Saturday, I think it would be acceptable for them to come. At what time should they arrive?”

“Any time after nine o”clock, would be fine,” I said. “Both you and your husband are welcome to stay for coffee or tea so that you will feel comfortable leaving your sons with us. We would also like to invite you to dine with us Saturday evening when you come to pick up your sons.”

“That”s very gracious of you,” Mrs. Kim said. “We would need to bring our four year-old daughter as well.”

“I”m sure Lenore and our neighbors” girls would love to have her come,” I said, pointing to the three girls. “And if your sons swim, have them bring their suits. We also have a pool and, I almost forgot, dogs.”

“Thank you, Mr. Johnson,” she said. “If you will provide me with directions, I will see that my sons arrive on Saturday morning.”

başakşehir escort “I”ll send the directions tomorrow morning with my sons and they can give them to your sons,” I said. “We look forward to having your family visit us.”

I ushered the kids into the van and we took off for home.

Hildy and Manfred were sitting at the breakfast table talking to Gilda when we arrived home. I looked around wondering where Mel was, as was Luke I imagined. I started to ask when he came out of the guest bedroom.

“I thought you was gone,” Luke said, rushing to Mel and giving him a hug.

“Not on your life,” Mel said. “I”m not leaving until Tuesday morning. I”ve got to get back. The Army can”t run without me.”

That caused Luke to giggle before he ran upstairs behind the three musketeers to change out of his school uniform.

“I think he has more school uniforms here than he does at our house,” Hildy said. “They never seem to be remembered when it”s time to go home.”

“That reminds me,” Gilda said. “There”s a stack of his uniforms in the laundry room. They were mixed in with the others” uniforms, so I just went ahead and washed and ironed them. I didn”t find any of the girls” uniforms.”

“Luke”s too busy coercing his da…, ah Manny into letting him drive the golf cart, than remembering to take his uniforms home,” Hildy said.

“I wish what you started to say was the truth,” Manfred said.

“Oh, I just remembered,” I said. “Luke needs to be at the hearing tomorrow morning. I think you both need to be there as well. I”m sorry. I should have told you as soon as Antonio left this morning, but I got distracted and just plain forgot.” I went on to fill them in on the details I”d learned from John Levy and the where and when of the hearing. “I haven”t told Luke that he”ll miss school in the morning, but he should be able to be back in school for the afternoon.”

Soon there were nine kids in the kitchen impatiently waiting for Gilda to dip up bowls of banana pudding for them. The pudding seemed to magically disappear from the bowls almost before they sat down at the table.

“We”re gonna go check on our dogs,” Chris said, as the three musketeers hurried to the kitchen with their empty bowls.

“Us, too,” TJ said, as Peter, William and he followed Chris and the twins.

“Luke, let”s go check on the dogs, too,” Mel said to a smiling Luke.

“He”s going to miss his uncle when he leaves on Tuesday,” Hildy said.

“Yeah, me, too,” Manfred said.

“That wasn”t very convincing. I think you”re just a little bit jealous,” Hildy said, giving her husband a peck on the cheek. “By the way, we”ve invited Mel to have supper with us tonight.”

“One less mouth to feed,” I said, with a chuckle. “Luke will like that.”

The rest of our evening went very much as it usually did. After the kids were tucked into bed and Gilda had gone to her rooms, I had a chance to talk to Donald about several subjects while we enjoyed a glass of wine. Mel had gone to bed early.

“Have you given any further thoughts about that property in Las Vegas?” I asked.

“It”s tempting, but I don”t think I”m really convinced that it makes sense at the moment,” he said. “Maybe in a couple of years it will. The current project was pretty much completed before the housing bubble burst in the area. It only makes sense if we were to buy it and hold it until the market revives, but then it is just sitting there not earning any cash. I suggest that we pass on it at the moment.”

“I agree,” I said. “I”ll call Fenton tomorrow afternoon and let him know. I think he was hoping we would go ahead and buy it and develop both of the offered parcels. He”s made a lot of money off the current one, but then so have we.”

“Yeah, he”s probably bought a new Rolls,” Donald laughed.

“On another matter, can the trust fund that you set up to provide income to ASEC also provide funds to other charities?”

“Yes,” Donald answered. “The way it”s set up, its charter is to provide monies to nominated charities at the direction of the trust manager. To this point, I”ve directed that ASEC is the primary charity. I have the final say as to which charities receive funds.”

“I”m asking to have funds available to support a new charity that I plan to establish,” I said. “It”s to help provide prostheses to former service men and women who have lost limbs in combat. If the VA were not so hidebound and top-heavy with bureaucrats, the charity would not be needed.”

“I think that”s a great idea,” Donald said. “There”s a young man who works in the finance area, you”ll meet him, who lost a leg in Viet Nam. I”ve heard him complain about the poor fit of his prosthesis. The VA did provide it after he waited for several months. How much money will be needed to start it up?”

“I don”t see it as a huge operation,” I said. “I need to speak with the man we have in mind to run it. I”ll have the paperwork started. That should take a couple of weeks to a month to get it filed and accepted by the IRS.”

The next morning, Manfred brought Jeannie and Ginny over for their ride to school. Mel was going to ride back to their house and go to the courthouse with Luke and them.

When we arrived at the school, I reminded the boys to give the map and directions to their friends and then went in and informed the principal”s secretary that Luke would be absent for his morning classes due to the court hearing.

By the time I returned to the house I only had a few minutes before I had to get into the Towncar and take off for New Braunfels. Luckily, I found a parking space just around the corner from the Annex. As I exited the elevator and turned left, I saw Hildy, Manfred, Luke and Mel standing outside the courtroom door. Antonio hadn”t arrived, yet. We found places to sit on the hard, wooden benches that reminded me of pews in a church. Antonio arrived shortly. He explained, briefly, what was going to happen. A few minutes later, a bailiff unlocked and opened the doors to the courtroom. That was our signal to file in. halkalı escort At exactly 10:00, a side door opened and the judge entered.

“All rise,” the bailiff said. “The 207th District Court of the Great State of Texas is now in session. The Honorable Judge Warren T. Parsons presiding.”

The clerk handed the judge a folder which he opened. After glancing at it for a moment he said, “Will the parties involved in the Luke Fredrick matter please approach the bench?”

The six members of our group stood up and approached. Gary Everett, the CPS attorney, also approached the bench.

“Please announce,” Judge Parsons said. As each one of us introduced ourselves, the judge ticked off names on a list in front of him. We were asked to raise our right hand and swear to tell the truth before he continued. “Mr. Johnson, you are not on my list. What interest do you have in this case?”

“My family and I found Luke alongside the road and took him to our home and informed CPS. I also retained Mr. Recci to represent Luke before he was placed in Mr. and Mrs. Strasser”s care.”

“Thank you,” the judge said. “Mr. Everett, I noticed that Ms. Garver is not here. I have her as still being assigned to this case. Has she been delayed?”

“No, Your Honor, she had other case visits scheduled for this morning.”

“Was she unaware of this hearing?”

“No, Your Honor.”

“Is it normal practice of the Department for the caseworker to be present at hearings for one of their cases?” the judge said through gritted teeth.

“Yes, Your Honor.”

“Then wouldn”t you think it reasonable for her to be here?”

“Yes, Your Honor.”

“Are you able to contact her?”

“Yes, Your Honor, I can contact her on her cellphone.”

“Do so now. If she is not here within 30 minutes, I will consider holding her in contempt. This is not the first time she has missed a hearing on one of her cases,” the judge said. “Am I correct?”

“Yes, Your Honor,” Everett said. “May I step away to make the call?”

The judge answered with a wave of his hand. “Now, as Mr. Recci has indicated in his filing with this court, he wants to have Melvin Wilson recognized as the closest living, blood relative of Luke Fredrick, in fact his uncle.”

“That is correct, Your Honor,” Antonio said. “This has become even more important now that it has been learned that there is another minor child involved in this case. Luke Fredric has a younger sister, Penelope Lorraine, who has been placed in the care of Hugh and Janice Cole. The Coles are fostering with the intention of adopting her.”

“Mr. Recci, I have no mention of a sister in the file CPS has provided me on Luke Fredrick. In fact it indicates that Luke was an only child. Mr. Everett,” the judge said to him as he walked back up to the bench. “Is the information that Mr. Recci has stated about Luke having a sister, also in care, correct?”

“I believe that is correct, Your Honor.”

Judge Parsons turned to his clerk and said something to her. She nodded her head and left the courtroom.

“We will deal with that in a moment. But first, Captain Wilson, what proof do you have that you are the closest blood relative of Luke Fredrick?”

“I have a copy of my birth certificate, a family tree that I have been working on for the past few years showing that Karen Kay Fredrick and I have parents in common,” Mel said. “The last piece of documentation is my Army records showing that my next of kin to be Karen Kay Fredrick. I was unaware of my sister”s death until I was contacted by Mr. Johnson.”

“It seems strange that you were not contacted when your sister died,” Judge Parsons said.

“My sister and I had a falling out several years ago and hadn”t spoken since the last time I was home on leave over two years ago. I was not even aware that she had given birth to a daughter until I was informed by Mr. Johnson. The death of her husband was also a surprise to me.”

“Luke,” the judge said, “do you know that man standing beside you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Who is he?”

“My Uncle Mel.”

“Who told you he was your uncle?”

“My mom.”

“How long have you known him?”

“A long time. He used to come to our house,” Luke said. “He always wore his army uniform when he came. He brought me presents, too.”

“Thank you, Luke,” the judge said. “I”m satisfied, unless someone can show me differently, that Melvin Wilson is Luke Fredrick”s uncle and will be allowed input into any and all custody placements affecting Luke Fredrick. The same shall hold true for Penelope Lorraine Fredrick.”

The clerk returned and handed a folder to the judge. He took it and briefly glanced through it before closing it and looking up.

“Your Honor?” Mel asked.

“Yes, Captain.”

“Over the past several days, I have observed the interaction between my nephew and the Strassers. It is my opinion and hope that the arrangement that currently exists for Luke”s placement be made permanent. I have discussed this with them and they are agreeable to this. I cannot speak for them, but I got a very strong impression that they would like to adopt him. That would be my recommendation and I wanted it on the record in the event that I”m not able to attend any future hearings that would consider different placements. I am at the mercy of the Army as to where I am stationed.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Strasser, is what the Captain just said reflect your intentions?” the judge asked.

“Yes, Your Honor,” Manfred said, draping his arm over Luke”s shoulders. “We would very much like to adopt Luke. Our daughters feel the same way. They already consider him to be their brother.”

“Your Honor,” Hildy started, “if it were possible we would be happy to adopt Luke”s sister as well. Whatever the decision is, it would be nice if Luke were able to see his sister. He hasn”t seen her since she was a new born.”

“I”ll let you know,” the judge said.

Antonio spoke up, “Your Honor, something disturbing has come up regarding Luke”s sister. Rumors have surfaced, but so far unsubstantiated, şirinevler escort to the effect the Coles are paying someone a lot of money to adopt Penelope. The private investigator Mr. Johnson hired has reports from at least two neighbors who have stated that.”

“Mr. Everett, what do you know about this?” the judge asked.

“Impossible,” Gary indignantly said. “CPS does not charge fees to adopt.”

“Ah, Ms. Garver,” the judge said, as the caseworker entered the courtroom. “It”s nice of you to join us.” He swore her in before continuing, “There seems to be some omissions in the file you provided to the court concerning Luke Fredrick”s sibling. Can you explain the reason for that?”

“Your Honor, I”m quite sure that what I submitted was complete and accurate as I knew it at the time it was submitted,” she said with a self-satisfied smirk as if she had successfully deflected the judge”s question.

“Are you the caseworker for Penelope Lorraine Fredrick?”

“Yes, sir, that is one of my cases.” This time she did not look as confident.

The judge held up the file his clerk had given him before he spoke. “This is the file you submitted to the court concerning Penelope Lorraine Fredrick. I have just has a quick glance through it and I have found no mention of her having a brother. In addition, neither file has any mention of a blood relative. I have been assured that the files in the CPS office do indicate the relationship of Luke and Penelope. Neither of them, however, show any relative or of a search for a relative. I find the latter to be somewhat shocking. Governing statutes mandate that the first priority of placing any child in care be with the closest relative, if at all possible.

“Let”s deal with the incomplete files you provided to the court first. I could accept that through some clerical error the sibling connection could have been omitted from one of the files. I cannot accept that it could happen to both of them. I am very tempted to assume that it was done intentionally for some reason. I will not speculate what that reason was.

“These two children have been in foster care for over two years. There has been ample time for you to have corrected any errors or omissions to their files. The remedy for my incomplete files is for you to personally prepare and deliver to me a new and complete, and I do mean complete, set of files. The files are to be delivered to me by nine, Monday morning in my office. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, Your Honor,” she said.

“Mr. Everett, since it is more in your area, I want you to determine if a search for relatives was conducted and if not, why not. I will expect the information to accompany the files on Monday.”

“Yes, Your Honor.”

“Ms. Garver, there are rumors that the foster parents for Penelope Fredrick, the Coles, are paying someone a lot of money for the opportunity to adopt her. Do you know anything about those rumors?”

“No, Your Honor,” she said, with a bit less conviction.

“Ms. Garver, I will accept your sworn word that you have no knowledge of any payments being made by the Coles to anyone to allow them to adopt,” the judge said. “Should it turn out that what you have told this court is untrue, I would be happy to refer perjury charges to the District Attorney”s office for prosecution.

“Let me add one more thing and then you may depart. You are without a doubt, the worst and most unprepared caseworker who has ever appeared before me in the ten years I”ve been on the bench. I cannot understand why you are still allowed to be a caseworker. Make sure those complete files are on my desk Monday morning by nine. Now, go.”

Garver turned on her heels and hurried out of the courtroom, muttering to herself.

“Mr. Everett, I know you do not have control over the personnel who are assigned as caseworkers, but I”m sure you do have some influence in that regard,” the judge said.

“Your Honor, in the case of Ms. Garver, I”m afraid that is not the case.”

“If I might shed some light on that situation, Your Honor,” I said. I retrieved several pages from the file folder I was holding and handed them to the judge. “This is the information that the private investigator turned up concerning the family relationships at the CPS office. I think you can draw your own conclusions as to why Ms. Garver is able to remain a caseworker despite numerous complaints of her performance or lack thereof.”

“Interesting,” the judge said after skimming the pages for a few moments. “Thank you, Mr. Johnson.”

“May I see that?” Gary asked.

“Not at the moment,” the judge said. “I need time to read it and determine what actions I can take regarding it. Let”s get back to Luke”s status. Luke, do you like living with Mr. and Mrs. Strasser?”

“Yes, sir,” Luke answered. They”re always nice to me and don”t yell or hit me like my old foster mom did. The food is way better, too.”

“She hit you?”

“Yes, sir, lots of times.”

“Did she hit the other kids as well?”

“Yeah, and she pulled our hair and slapped our ears. That really hurt,” Luke said.

“Mr. Everett, if that foster home still has foster children in it, I want them removed immediately and placed elsewhere before the day is out and I want confirmation of that.”

“Yes, Your Honor.”

“Now, back to Luke,” the judge said. “It is the order of this court that Luke Fredrick”s placement with the Strassers is to be made permanent. Any attempt to remove him or change his placement must be approved by me in writing.”

“What about Luke”s sister, Your Honor?” Manfred asked. “Will he be allowed to see her?”

“I think that can be arranged,” he said. “Mr. Everett, will you see to a visitation for Luke and the Strassers?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Are there any other matters to address before we adjourn?” Judge Parsons asked. Seeing none, he dismissed us after reminding Everett of the Monday deadline.

“Okay, young man, let”s get you to school so you won”t miss any more classes than necessary,” Manfred said.

To be continued.

Your comments and criticisms are welcomed and encouraged. I try to answer all emails including flames. Send them to uis, please put Joel in the subject.

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