The phone line was silent for at least a full minute after I explained to Cindy the quagmire Karl/Pieter had tossed into our project. "I don't think I understood you correctly. You are telling me a thirteen year-old, no, a twelve year-old at the time, escaped from the US Customs Service, evaded arrest in the nation's capital, and then escaped to Brazil and established a new identity for himself? He was in the custody of Brazilian police several times and even fooled them?"
"That is what I understand, and believe, but I'm sure with some help." I scanned the home's record before adding, "According to foundation documents, he was born in a small village here, an unrecorded birth. This translation of their worker's notes really suck, but it seems he claimed to be kidnapped from that village, which whoever researched this accepted as believable. I get the impression that sort of thing is not uncommon here."
"Gee, thanks so much for such a great beginning to Carl's and my kid free weekend!" she quipped. "We are shipping Jennie off to friends, and were going to spend the weekend soiling your hot tub! Let me see what I can find out."
We were about to ring off when she stopped me. "What about that DEA guy you worked with in Virginia, about Johnny's dad. Do you think he could, or would tell you warrant status and such?"
"Shit, I don't even remember their names. I dealt mainly with the FBI anyway, and I don't think I want to get back into that again," I answered.
"We could have Zoe, or Zeus call them! I'm sure several of their agents remember those two!" she teased. "I'll be in touch."
I spent a few minutes catching up on my patient notes, and waiting for Miguel and the boys to return, before my stomach reminded me it was still on San Antonio time, and that it was indeed time to refuel. I started to call and ask where everyone was, but decided to let them have their fun, and suffer through a McBarf lunch. I told the home's staff I was going to walk down to McDonald's, that I had my cell phone with me. I ignored the staff's pleas that someone drive me and left, I wanted to be alone and think for a few minutes as much as I wanted to eat.
I walked two or three blocks, enjoying the local flavor, something I had only seen on TV until now. I stopped into a couple of small shops as I walked, each of them clearly Mom and Pop operations, but the uniqueness of their offerings, or better put culture, amazed me. I spent almost a half an hour at one that sold different hand engraved trinkets and charms before we finally managed to overcome our language barrier, and ordered a hand engraved (monogrammed) necklace made from a Shark's tooth, a beautiful piece of jewelry, for Mary and each of the boys.
I visited a couple more of these little shops when the smell of chicken being grilled caught my attention. 'Yes, oh yes, fuck Mickey Dee'! I decided as I looked over at sidewalk café and its relaxing outdoor tables.
After I took a quiet table at the edge of the eatery and the first waiter gave up, another one appeared that spoke enough English that I could order a plate of whatever I had smelled. I resisted for a couple of seconds and ordered a beer also. 'Yes, this is a wonderful town, a wonderful country, I decided as I watched the street in front of me, and the happy, unstressed people going about their business. 'They even know me! I thought when my waiter set an unexpected plate of corn chips and dip on my table. 'I like at least part of Brazilian life!
I enjoyed several chips, and sips of whatever local beer I had been served as I tried to digest the morning's events, Can Johnny speak Spanish, and hid it from us, even from Mary? I asked my glass. 'Is Karl for real, or a flashback, what I heard earlier cannot be possible. Why are all of these boys so untrusting, so frightened despite Miguel's staff preparing them for my visit?' I glared at the empty when it refused to answer.
I was looking around for a waiter when I felt, or more smelled, another presence behind me. When I looked around a young, dark haired boy wearing very threadbare cutoff jean shorts and what was left of an ill fitting tee-shirt was gazing at me, or I was sure my plate of chips, from behind. Just as we made eye contact he disappeared into the shadows off the edge of the tables.
"May I bring you another drink? Or more salsa sir?" my waiter asked, making me look away.
I was about to order another beer when a sharp slapping sound, then a painful whimper interrupted me. When I looked behind my table I almost could not believe what I was seeing. The first waiter had the young street by pinned against the wall of the building next to his. He shouted down at the boy's face, which was about chest level to the adult, in an angry voice then slammed a open handed punch into the boy's slender chest, crushing him between the man's hand and the rock wall behind.
The youngster bellowed a subhuman screeching sound that made my blood curdle then began gasping for breath. Even from my table I could hear him whine with pain as he tried to inhale each time. I had taken a couple of steps toward them when the waiter yelled something in their native language and delivered a cruelly powerful slap across the kid's face.
"Hey, stop, you're going to kill him!" I yelled. The man glanced back at me briefly and growled something, then cocked his big hand for another strike. I caught his wrist just a he began his swing, spinning him around and pushing him into the wall next to the boy. "Don't even think about it," I told him as he brought his other arm up tightening it into a fist.
I blocked his swing, and planted my knee into his crotch with all the force I could muster. As he doubled over in pain I smashed his forehead against my lower thigh before realizing I had done it. As he melted onto the ground I look around for the boy, but all I saw was a thin, hairless lower leg and bare foot disappear around the corner of the building.
That boy is hurt, badly, I told myself. I started to run after him, but diverted back to my table and grabbed my laptop case and ran into the street. I ran twenty yards or so in the direction he had taken looking for him, amazed he could have gotten that far. God, after the blow he took, I'd be surprised if he doesn't have a flail chest! No one saw him, is helping him? I asked myself as I looked around at the fifty or so people on the block.
Just a few seconds later I found out the incident had caught someone's attention. When I turned back to see if I might have missed him two policeman were rushing toward me, guns drawn. 'Oh shit!' I muttered as I slowly spread my hands away from my sides.
One of the officers aimed his gun clearly at the middle of my chest as the other cautiously approached me. He tried several phrases I didn't understand before I caught the word 'passport'. I was trying to decide how to retrieve the document, stored in my pants pocket less than two inches from Miguel's gun, when a jeep type vehicle skidded around the corner and raced up the block toward us. Several more policeman bailed out of the vehicle, a couple of them carrying what I was I was sure were machine guns.
"Do you speak English?" one of them asked. I nodded I did when my voice failed my second attempt at a response. "Your passport, , , please," he ordered, the 'please' was clearly a jest toward me.
"I, my passport is in my back pocket, but I am carrying a handgun that is in my waistline just above the pocket," I groaned more than said. Thanks, Miguel, thanks for getting me into this, I silently added.
He barked something that earned the attention of the machine guns carriers, and earned me the privilege of looking down their barrels. I remained so motionless my breathing seemed to stop while still another officer removed my passport and weapon from my pants.
The English speaking officer scanned my passport for a split second before he discovered the card Miguel had given me tucked between the pages. He did a double-take at the card, then handed it to one of his associates, barking an order. The man accepted the card and rushed to the jeep, and talked into the vehicle's radio for maybe a minute before running back toward his supervisor, telling him something in Portuguese.
"Welcome to Brazil, Doctor Owens, please forgive out, , , cautionness," he began, offering my passport to me. "Please put your arms down, please relax sir." I was trying to decide of I was hearing things or had completely lost it when another man handed my weapon back to me. When I glanced around all the guns that had been aimed at me were gone, their owners standing next to the jeep. "I believe you are from the orphanage, may I provide you a ride back there Doctor?" he continued.
As I explained what had happened, and how urgently I thought it was to find the injured boy I was seeking he listened politely, but something told me his assurances his men would search diligently for the child was a snow job. I recovered enough to say I would prefer to walk, hoping they would leave and I could go try to find the little guy, but the officer 'offered' to walk with me.
Miguel was waiting on the steps of the home, pacing back and forth. "Are you well my friend? Holy Mother I am glad you are safe."
"Where are my boys?" I more demanded than asked.
"They are playing in the garden, they are fine," he assured me.
I managed to relax a little as we talked for the next minute or so, and I filled him in on my failed luncheon adventure. I realized I was not in the best of moods and decided not to unload on him about my lack of progress with my new patients, but had to take a deep breath to try and control my emotions as he informed me the incident with the boy earlier was unfortunate but, as the boy was a street kid, nothing could be done, the waiter would not be arrested as I demanded.
"We, someone has to find that boy, I know he is injured, possibly critically," I snapped.
"I understand you concern, but there is no way to, , ,"
"Shit him up, Miguel, and quick!" I cut him off. "You find him, quickly, or I assure you I will have the UN, and any bleeding heart organization that watches CNN, or any of the networks I am about to blow this open to, rip your precious Brazil a new one while they look for him!" I started to walk away, but turned back to him. "And, who told those boys I was here to buy them, buy them for resale? You stated your staff had prepared them for my interviews."
"That is not, , , may I asked why you would make such a suggestion?" he asked, his face stoic. He stiffened as I reviewed my attempted interview with Edwardo and Ruben, then Karl's distrust and comments. I left out what Karl had revealed to me after I won his trust.
"This is unbelievable, excuse me shocking. The brothers we took with us seemed so enthusiastic, so enthralled," he replied. "All I have heard for the past two hours or so is how much they were looking forward to visiting America, and hopes of moving there. Ronnie and Jay are arriving tonight." He seemed to recover slightly, and asked, "Will you meet with them again? It is very possible the young ambassadors you brought with you may have saved our day.
"I will correct any problems with this staff, immediately, and if it is possible to find the young man you are concerned about it will happen. You have my word. Please, will you give me, us another chance?" I resisted the urge to tell him I would, but only when I was back in Texas and laying in front of my favorite swimming pool water jet, and agreed.
I could feel the day's stress drain out of my shoulders and neck as I followed Miguel into a large yard behind the home and saw Junior and my sons darting about in a heated soccer game. Tension quickly gave way to a grin as I noticed Edwardo and Ruben, then Karl in the game.
Johnny seemed to be the first one to notice me giving me a happy wave, but shortly I was surrounded by twenty or so boys and girls. Several of them happily greeted me as if they already knew me, giggling and buddying up one or the other of my boys as they did; somehow I wasn't too surprised when a couple of wrinkled pictures of Ginger, along with a few of the other horses, appeared from their pockets. As I greeted them I had to search the small group carefully before finding Edwardo and Ruben veiling themselves at the back of the group around other kids.
Shortly a staff member came to my rescue, shooing her charges away. "Edwardo, Ruben, may I speak to you, just for a minute?" I asked the crowd. The two boys froze, then glanced at each other, then Johnny. "Please?" I added.
As the rest of the kids drifted away I had three young teens staring wide eyed at me. "Ah, Dad, ah maybe can, , ," Johnny began. Junior, Mark and Ronnie's thin bodies caught my attention as they stood off to the side, carefully studying me.
"Come here, Pumpkin," I cut him, offering my arm. "You guys too," I said toward Edwardo and Ruben. He darted into my hug, burying his head into my chest, his new friends slowly shuffling behind him. "Thanks for your help, for helping your friends," I whispered to him. He flushed so red his freckles disappeared when I tilted his head up toward me and kissed his forehead.
"Did you have a good lunch?" I asked the little dark haired ghosts staring at us. Their eyes flashed between each other and the ground several times. "Did you eat at McDonald's?"
"No sir," Ruben mumbled at his shoes.
Ronnie pushed against my other side. "Ah, Dad, please don't be, , ," I cut him off pushing my finger against his facebow.
"You didn't enjoy your lunch, or you did not go to McDonald's? If you ate with these little turkeys, I know you found something good," I said as I tickled Johnny and Ronnie's flat stomachs. I kept them giggling for a second or so before telling them to go play, and let me talk to their new friends for a minute.
They started to turn away, but Ronnie pushed back against me. "Well, Dad, can we take these things off?" he asked, pointing at his headgear. "Everyone here thinks we look totally dumb, no one wears them here."
"I can tell, no one wants to be around you," I countered, pointing at the several kids glaring impatiently at us. "Is that way you are holding up the game?" "Bye," I said popping his backside as he started to respond.
I guided the Edwardo and Ruben to a small gazebo I had noticed earlier. "Well, did you not get to go to McDonald's, or not enjoy your lunch?" I began.
They exchanged frightened glances again. "Our lunch was very good, sir. We did not go to McDonald's," Ruben finally answered.
"I, I mean we are sorry sir, we, , , we," Edwardo injected.
"I am sorry too, but I would like to take you there before I leave. Do you like Big Macs or happy meals?" I cut him off. "Can we start afresh, like we just met each other?"
Despite not having my notes, and not having reviewed them for a couple of traumatic hours, our session went better than any I had conducted in awhile. We bounced between their questions about America, and of course our mystery horses and ranch, and my probes. They seemed so relaxed and open as we talked I managed to progress into areas I had not intended to broach until my second or third meeting with them, even questions regarding their sexuality and feelings about living with a same sex couple.
I considered trying individual sessions with each of them, but the hoots and howls of their friends playing started to draw their attention away from our discussion and back toward having fun, so I released them, suggesting we talk again tomorrow morning.
They gave me warm smiles before they rushed out of the gazebo. They took a couple of steps toward the playground but Ruben turned back. He made eye contact with me for just an instant before looking down. "We are very sorry for the, , , way we behaved, , , sir." He hesitated, then added, "Please, we would like to go to America."
"Yes Doctor Pop, we are ashamed sir, and we, , ," Edward started to add. His brother stopped him whispering something in Portuguese. "Doctor Owens I mean sir." He glanced at his brother again before asking, "Is your name Owens, or Pop, sir? Do you have two names?"
You guys are going to America. I don't know if with the Sanchez or not, but you are, I told myself. "I like Doctor Pop better." I fought not to laugh as I looked into their lost, innocent eyes. "Ask Johnny why I am called Pop, okay?" 'God, they are so wonderful, I love both of them', I silently added as watched them scamper away.
As I turned toward the building the sunlight glaring off of a bright almost silver reflection made me turn back. I gasp when I saw little Karl, his beautiful platinum hair acting like a mirror staring at me. He cast me a pleading look and waved at me with his thin fingers before turning and rejoining the other kids. You are coming too, I just don't know how, , , yet, I decided.
We were leaving the home about an hour later when my cell phone rang. Please, babe! I thought as I read Cindy's name on the Caller ID. "You damn sure are good at stirring up hornet nests! I wish I was back in practice, so I could select my clients, as in normal ones!" she began.
"Your little friend is not wanted, well has no outstanding warrants, that is the good news. He is on several countries watch lists, under several different names, and passports! Does he prefer his Martinis shaken or stirred?" she quipped.
I had some trouble believing what she was telling as she continued. The US and several other countries on both sides of the Atlantic ocean knew the youngster as Karl, Pieter and a couple of other names as an accomplished drug mule. In the countries where he was old enough to be arrested none of them had enough evidence to do so, in the others he was just banned from entry. "My contact knew him as soon as I sent his picture, they would love to know what happened to him," Cindy told me.
"What happens next, can we go forward?" I risked.
"I am not sure. It would require a lot of legal work, and the boy's cooperation, but at least the US seems willing to forgive all if they feel assured he is out of business and off their books. But, we would have to hire an attorney, or attorneys that can deal with this sort of international situation, it is way over my head. I don't really think he is a good candidate for Miguel's program."
"Hire him, or them," I responded. "I would like someone, I'm sorry you and whoever you choose to help here Sunday night, or early Monday morning. Local time." I covered my phone's microphone and asked, "Miguel, please turn the car around," my host. "Please return to the home, immediately."
"Adam, international practitioners, the one's that could help us, are horribly expensive, you could be talking four figures per hour," Cindy argued.
I glanced at my employer, more occupied with entertaining my sons than listening to my end of Cindy and my conversation. "Unless Miguel calls you back and countermands, please try for Sunday night." I ignored her complaints and asked her to tell my office I would not be in Monday. Oh boy, now to tell Miguel how much of his money I'm spending, I thought as we rang off. Fuck it, he gave me an unlimited budget, he can stand by that or I'm going home. I decided.
I had a little trouble believing my benefactors's reaction as I quickly filled him in. He shrugged his shoulders and responded, "Cindy may retain who she wishes, but I have some attorneys on retainer that can help us. I probably can have them begin work today. I will call Cindy, you go talk to your patient," he told me, pointing out the car's window at the children's home. "If you want Karl to come to the US, I promise it will happen. Go, my friend, talk to him."
Karl was much more reserved than I expected, almost distant. He gave me a meek grin when I reminded him I had made good my promise to update him, to meet with him again today, but seemingly refused to make eye contact with me as I tried to explain the progress we had made in his situation. "Do you understanding what I am saying? Can you tell me what you do not understand" I finally tried.
He stared at the door for a second or so. "What is your real name? Why did you lie to me?" his glare told me I was not taking to the preteen body confronting me.
"I am Doctor Adam Owens, just like I said I was this morning. What has frightened you so much?"
"Those other boys said your name is Doctor Pop. Did you buy them with that name? Goodbye Doctor!" he proclaimed.
He was almost to the door before I could react. "What else did my sons call me? Did they call me Dad, or just Pop?" he grabbed the doorknob, but didn't turn it. "In the United States, and more in Texas, kids call their father Pop often, perhaps like Pappa, or like kids call their grandfather Grande here?" I risked.
He studied the doorknob for several seconds. "Are they really your, children?" he asked the brass knob. Ouch, I thought, Thirteen my ass.
"Yes, they are. They are now, they became my sons when I adopted them. But they are my sons now, and forever." I could almost see his little head vibrate from the vibration of his brain. "They are all my sons except Junior I should say, he is a friend of my sons," I corrected myself. 'I damn sure don't want to get caught again', I thought.
"Each of my sons were as frightened when I met them as you are now. Do they look frightened now?" He glanced back into the room, but not toward me.
"I'd like to help you be happy like they are. I'd like to find you a family to live with, and have a normal family. A mom and dad, or a dad, like I am to my sons now. But you have to trust me, or at least try to, will you give me a chance?" He remained motionless as his only answer.
God, there has to be a way to reach him. He's so tiny, so, delicate nothing even remotely related to a human being could do the things that have screwed such a beautiful little creature up like this, I thought.
"Will you let me explain what have in mind, how I can help you?" I tried. "Please come sit down, please give me five minutes."
When he finally turned around his baby face was all business, but I could see some moisture in his eyes. I felt like I was talking to a thirty year-old transplanted into a ten year-old's body as I outlined our program.
"I still cannot go to America, I will be arrested," he replied. "If I leave Brazil I will be."
"I don't think so, but we will be sure you won't before we do anything," I countered. His face told me I was about lose his confidence. "You are too young to be arrested in Belgium or Ireland. France, England and the US do not have enough evidence against you," I risked, hoping I was not talking over his head.
"What about Germany, and Mexico?" he asked.
It was my turn to look away in disbelief. 'Future President of the Harvard Law Review?' I wondered. "I will have to find out, but you are not going to go to those counties. I am flying an attorney down here to talk to you, that is what I want to happen next. You do understand what an attorney is, don't you?" 'I don't believe it!' I thought when he shook his head he did not. "A lawyer, a solicitor?" Fuck, this is a weird session, I thought as his face brightened in understanding.
I wasn't sure which felt better when we arrived at Miguel's estate, finally getting some food into my stomach or climbing into his swimming pool. I was sure the cold beer I quickly downed was the perfect complement to either.
Less than a minute after I relaxed in the water, a covey of Speedo clad kids invaded the pool, completing my few minutes of Utopia. I spent an hour or so playing with the boys in the water, their happy giggles and squeals as I tossed them into the air and horsed around with them was wonderfully therapeutic for my overtaxed brain.
Miguel swam with us a little then relaxed by the pool, but was called away several times for phone calls. The kids were starting to wear me down, and I was somewhat grateful when he came out of the house and gestured me to join him on the patio. "I have very good news," he began. "We have found the boy you encountered this morning. He was seriously injured, but is stable."
"I would like to go see him," I said.
"I'm afraid that is not possible, at present." He held his hand up to silence me when I tried to object. "As I said, he was seriously injured. I have ordered him airlifted to Rio de Janeiro, to facilities that can better care for him. He has been stabilized, and I assure you is receiving the best care possible. No expense will be spared in providing for his recovery."
"I didn't want to disturb you, but we are making progress regarding the other young man," he continued. "Two of our attorneys are certain they can help regarding the child's immigration problems, and are coordinating with Cindy as we speak. Cindy and her husband are arriving this evening for meetings tomorrow morning." He paused and grinned. "I was curious, she asked me if I had a hot tub. She said to let you know she had asked."
I hesitated, but chuckled and filled him in on the weekend plans we were interrupting, including Cindy's tease about soiling my hot tub. I wondered if I had screwed up sharing with him as his eyes developed a slightly evil gleam and he excused himself, saying he had to prepare his tub.
Well, I guess my nut-ranch is mobile, I thought when Mary passed Miguel in the patio door, dressed like the Latino version of a Hawaiian tourist. "The boys seem occupied, would you mind if I went shopping for a few minutes? I won't be long," she asked.
"Be home by midnight, and don't make me wait up for you, young lady!" I teased. Give her a bonus tomorrow, I'm sure she has already spent it, I added to my to-do list.
I grabbed a fresh beer and relaxed into a comfortable patio chair, enjoying watching the kids play as I halfheartedly digested my day, and wondered where to go tomorrow with my new patients. 'Are you sure these boys are as good candidates as you thought?' I found myself wondering. 'My little guys histories were horror stories before I met them, but none of them were so distrusting, desperately frightened as Karl/Pieter, whatever his name is!' My arm twitched, and I unthinkingly ran my fingers over the scars Ronnie's teeth had given me when he thought I was threatening his little brother.
'None of them were as deceitful, so false as Edwardo and Ruben, acting dumb to a language they were aware I knew they could understand', I thought. 'That's why you just found out a few hours ago Johnny speaks a foreign language', my little finger twitched. 'Other than horse!' I couldn't help but silently respond. 'Time to get back on track, and quit talking to your body parts!' I thought.
I looked around for my beer, but Mark standing next to me caught my attention as soon as my eyes focused. "Can you come talk to Johnny maybe?" he asked. "Has arm is sorta sore,"
Johnny already had his shoulder immobilizer on when I walked into their bedroom. "What's wrong, Pumpkin?" I asked. I sat on their bed and pulled his still damp little body next to me.
"It's just a little mad, I can still do stuff and everything!" he whined.
"Where does it hurt, where is it mad?" I asked. I pulled him up onto my lap and released this arm from the sling. "Let me have a look, just relax." He whimpered a couple of times as I palpated a couple of muscle groups, but I was sure his discomfort was only from soreness related to his overactive schedule today. "Your arm is just getting well, getting better," I assured him. "I want you to take some medicine, just so I will feel better, okay," I told him as I slipped him off my lap and stood up.
"Are you gonna shoot me?" he whimpered, pushing tightly against my chest. "It don't hurt that much!"
"You decide. You know my shots don't hurt, I can give you a, , , I can shoot you, BANG!" I barked, poking his ribs with my finger. His squirming giggle told me he didn't need an injection. "If you prefer I'll give you a couple of pills, but they don't work as quickly."
"Oh, wait!" I announced as I guided him into my bedroom. "These pills cannot be taken with water! Mark, please RUSH to the kitchen and bring your brother a glass of milk. No, strawberry flavored milk if they have it, if not chocolate." "Bring two glasses, just in case!" I ordered at the Speedo clad little bubble butt, darting out of the room at the speed of light.
I said a silent prayer that no one would slip, or we had not ruined any of Miguel's carpeting as I looked at the milk running down the outside of the glasses Mark returned with less than a minute later. "Oh, well, we didn't need the second glass," I said after Johnny happily took the pills. "I'd hate to waste it," I added, offering it toward Mark. Needless to say, it didn't go to waste.
I earned a pair of dirty looks when I sent Mark to get his and his brother's headgear, but Johnny cuddled against me as I guided him back to the patio. I closed my eyes and enjoyed his soft little body cuddling into mine as I perched him on my lap. "Somebody had a busy day didn't he?" I whispered into the back of his head. "I am very proud of you son, thank you for your help."
He melted into our hug so completely I was fairly sure he had fallen asleep, and I began gently stroking his left, injured shoulder and arm. "Thanks Pop, ah Dad, I love you," he whispered.
"I love you too Son, so very much," I answered, stroking his back and shoulder and cuddling his little head.
Mark pushed against the side of my chair holding out Johnny's appliance. He started to squirm to free his good hand from under my chest but I stopped him, not wanting to interrupt our cuddle.
"Open wide," I instructed. I felt a little clumsy but managed to plug his facebow into his braces, then wrap the straps behind the top of his head and around his neck, hooking them up. "Does that feel okay, did I do it right?" I got a soft giggle and a peck on the cheek as a reply.
Mark giggled and squirmed into my chair, somehow squeezing his little body next to me and leaned against my side. "Are you going to help Eddie and Ruben?" he asked after a minute.
"And Karl?" Johnny whispered. When I looked down he had his eyes closed, and such a contented expression I wondered when he would start purring.
"Yes, I think I can help all three of them. And thank you guys for helping me help them!" Neither boy seemed to react. "If you hadn't broken the ice, hadn't started talking to Edwardo and Ruben, I don't think they would have trusted me," I added, gently squeezing Johnny's tight waist. He stiffened slightly and I felt his facebow slide across my chest as he looked over at his brother.
'What the hell, a good time to try', I thought. "I didn't know you spoke Spanish, I was very impressed! Why didn't you tell anyone you could?" The metal bow pushed lightly into my chest seemed to take on another function besides correcting the boy's bite as it seemed to radiate the excess heat I was sure came from his brain, on the edge of overload.
"Hum, maybe no one asked him!" Mark announced more then offered.
I thought for an instant, trying to decide how far to push. "Mary was even surprised!" I tried. Oops! I thought as I felt a tear drip onto my skin.
"I'm sorry sir, I, , ,"
"You are not in any trouble, you have nothing to apologize for," I cut him off. "I am impressed that you can speak a second language, I'm proud of you!"
"I won't do it again, I promise," Johnny sobbed. "My old dad said I better never except to him, or, , , well I'm sorry!" 'God, will that SOB ever get out of his life', I silently cursed.
"No, no, son. I want you to speak Spanish, it is great you can. I want you to often, because I expect you to teach your brothers how to speak it." Both boys stiffened as my statement soaked in. "Please? And, if Edwardo or Ruben have trouble understanding me, I'm going to need your help, okay? " I added. He mumbled something I couldn't hear clearly enough to understand and melted against my chest and stomach, his beautiful little body relaxing so much I thought I was holding a rag doll in my lap. "I love you guys, so much," I whispered as I tucked both boys into a tighter hug and closed my eyes.
Something twisting in my lap, then a tuft of hair pushing into my mouth and chin snapped me back from my slumber. I didn't have time to opened my eyes before it bounced out of my lap and the warm little body so wonderfully crushed against my side jerked up and leapt out of our embrace.
"Doctor Jay! Doctor Jay's here!" Johnny squealed as he smashed into the patio door.
Mark spattered against his brother's back as both of them bounced off the unforgiving glass and wood. "The other way stupid!" he snarled as he pushed Johnny out of the way.
'I think some guests have arrived', I chuckled as I watched them ricochet off each other as they learned the door swung opposite the one at our ranch. Johnny's arm isn't too sore, I thought when he body-blocked his brother out of the way and jetted inside.
I grinned, but wasn't surprised when I followed them inside and saw Stevie hugging and horsing around with Junior and my Ronnie. All five boys seemed to swarm together and quickly disappeared down the hall, more cackling then talking.
I teased Ronnie and Jay a little about their nephew 'finding' a way join them on their trip as we greeted each other. "He was driving his parents so close to the point of distraction until they agreed, I just hope they will take him back!" Jay answered. From his face, I hoped he was kidding.
"Dad informed us you have made remarkable progress. From his description of the boys I could understand why you asked us to rush down on such notice," he continued. "Please tell us about them, when can we meet them?"
I glanced around the room hoping to find Miguel and ring his bell, but he was nowhere to be found. "Your father might have been a bit premature in his evaluation." I paused, trying to decide the best way to answer. "I have a session with them tomorrow morning, I can better answer your question after I speak with them again." I tried to ignore their lost looks, and finally added, "I'm sure you will meet them while you are here, let's see what tomorrow brings."
I ended up playing a cat and mouse game of sorts over the next hour or so, trying to hold my ground regarding what was best for my patients without telling them their dad had met the boys and jumped the starter gun by asking them to come.
It turned out Miguel wasn't hiding from me as I had started to suspect when he returned to the estate with Cindy and Carl. Damn, not only does he have two jets, but he's pretty good at keeping them airborne! I thought as Carl filled me in on their flight. This organization don't screw around, either! I told myself when Cindy told me she had arranged an early evening meeting with her Brazilian counterpart, and I was 'invited'. 'I might bill by the hour, can I get time and a half for overtime?' I wondered.
It didn't occur to me that in the day's turmoil, no one had told Junior has parents were coming, until all the adults stepped onto the patio a few minutes later. All the boys were surprised to see them, but Junior was priceless. His face lit up like a kid at Christmas when he first saw his parents. He bounced in the water toward the bank, but when he was about to climb out of the pool he paled slightly as happy his face melted into one of confusion, then concern.
When he stood and turned back toward us he was displaying a cagy, almost guilty grin. "Hi Mom, Dad," he said, his voice about an octave higher than usual. "Wow, I, ah, it's neat you came!" He glanced back toward the other boys who were climbing out of the water now than added, "How come you came, I mean, ah, hi!"
"Because Doctor Owens called us this morning and asked we fly down immediately." his dad answered, his voice fairly stern. "What have you been up to today, would you care to enlighten us?"
"Ah, well, ah, I didn't do anything, ah, I didn't know I, , , well I," Junior stuttered as he turned ghost white.
I was afraid my colleague had gone to far and was about to step in when the boy's dad started chuckling. "Your mom had to fly down on lawyer business, and I decided to come along to pick on you," he said, cupping his son's neck.
"Give us a hug and get back in the water, before we start wondering why you looked so guilty," Cindy added. "I wonder what he thought he had been caught doing?" she snickered as the boys dove back into the pool a minute or so later.
"Are you sure you want to know?" I quipped, trying to ignore the several glares being shot at me from the water.
I didn't understand why at first when Miguel asked me to walk with them to show Cindy and Carl their bedroom, but followed along. I turned so red I thought I was going to explode when our host showed them his hot tub, right outside their room, and the case of new water filters stacked next to it. 'I'm going to get you back, Miguel!' I groaned as he and Cindy picked on me. 'Big time', I thought as Cindy dismissed us saying she wanted to get into something 'more comfortable'.
I was impressed, but not really surprised when Cindy and I sat down with the local attorney Miguel had retained. The man introduced to me as Gilbert Castillo was a retired judge in the Brazilian federal court system. He also had extensive experience with his and my country's immigration systems, and seemed to know some of the staff at the local US Consulate and our Embassy on a first name basis.
I was a little shocked at his progress when he bought us up to date on his efforts. "The boy was actually born Pieter Bentor according to the Belgian authorities." he began, handing each of us a stack of copied documents. "His date of birth is one day off of his birth certificate as you can see. He was not kidnapped as he said, or as I am sure he thinks he was, but was sold by his step father to a nomadic group; please review the Interpol reports in your packet for more information.
"His biological parents are both dead, and there are no known living relatives excepting the step father, who's first chance at release from prison in Belgium won't occur for about another eighty years. Belgium has no interest in having him return to their country, it is my impression that they candidly would prefer he remain missing in their eyes. If we manage to accomplish what you suggest, immigration to America, they would be happy to close the file on him."
"How can we, or they do that?" I asked.
"We have credible documentation to support he is from Brazil, let's not question it. I am sure our friends from across the sea will not object, I have some private assurances they will not, provided they know he is going to be well cared for."
"How does Brazil, and your contacts with the US feel about all this?" Cindy asked. From her face I could tell we were thinking, or wondering the same questions.
I didn't like his expression as he considered our questions. "The boy is on watch, or stop lists for entry into the United States." I felt my neck muscles tightening when he failed to continue for several seconds. "With a valid Visa, which I am sure we can obtain, they can not prevent him from entering your country provided he is not carrying any, I should say everything is in order, that the boarder agents cannot find legal cause block his entry." "It might be wise for him to have legal representation with him, but it can be done," he said toward Cindy.
I relaxed a little, my shoulders loosening as I remembered I had what was probably a very warm beer next to me. I was about to pick it up when he added, "If, excuse me when, he enters the United States it would be very unwise for him to exit. Your INS catches onto game plans very quickly."
"I'm not sure I understand you sir," I challenged. I ignored Cindy grabbing my arm and added, "I hope I can presume everything you are suggesting is legal, both in my country and yours. If that is so, what is the concern?"
"The concern is that your border patrol agents do not like, or trust this child. I can legally arrange for him to enter the United States and once he is there I am sure he can be both immigrated and adopted. Your country has a unique, very clumsy system, visas are issued by one agency, and your borders are protected by another.
"If he appears unannounced at your border with the proper documentation, and an attorney, they will be unprepared and let him in. However, knowing your government, the next time they will be. Visiting prospective placements is not an option, or at best a very risky one."
'Ouch', I thought.
My day began as chaotically as I expected. When I crawled into the kitchen for coffee, the kids were already in the pool, and everyone but Carl was already up. Jay and big Ronnie were less than pleased but understanding when I declined their offer to ride to the home with me. When they suggested we have lunch together I wasn't at all surprised when they insisted on picking me up.
After a quick breakfast we finished our coffee and Cindy and went to change and get ready to leave. I had to shake my head when I made my way back down the hall and discovered a flock of freshly dressed youngsters waiting by the door. Everyone but Stevie wearing the headgears when they didn't have to sent chills and warnings down my spine.
"I think it might be better if you guys stay here, I think you might be a little bored, going with me," I suggested. From their faces I could tell that wasn't going to work. "You should go sight seeing, and hang around with Doctor Jay and Ronnie, we are going to go to lunch together."
"But what if Eddie, or Ruben can't talk to you?" Johnny countered. "Well, and we sorta wanted to see if they're chilled and stuff!"
"Sí Papá!" Mark injected ('Yes Dad'). Oh shit, what have I created now? I asked myself.
"And I kind of wanted to meet my new cousins Pop, please?" Steve chimed in.
'Why, oh why, did I screw up like this?' I wondered. 'Can I still retrain, certify rich old ladies for their divorce settlements?' I asked myself. "Go get in the car," I surrendered.
The plot seemed to thicken as our driver stopped in front of the home and I saw two chestnut heads staring out the door. My boys darted out of the car and rushed inside. When Cindy and I joined them Edwardo, Ruben and several other kids from the home were laughing and talking like old college chums that hadn't seen each other in years, I wondered if they were congratulating each other for accomplishing their reunion. Well, I don't think I need to worry about them for a few minutes! I decided.
We started toward the meeting room I had used yesterday when I saw Karl at the edge of the group, tucked into a corner and watching the other kids. "Good morning!" I offered as I walked toward him. "I want you to meet someone, will you come with me?"
His only response was a frightened glance, but he crawled toward me. He didn't resist when I draped my arm over his tiny shoulder and turned him toward Cindy. "This is Junior's mom, Mrs Roberts. She is also one of your attorneys, solicitors."
"Hi Karl! It is really great to meet you!" Cindy bubbled. "You are a beautiful young man! Are you ready to move to America?" she asked, pulling the youngster away from me and into a casual hug. "You are even shyer than my son, Junior said you were!" she told him as she led him away.
I couldn't believe the change in the youngster's expression and demeanor when he and Cindy joined Castillo and I a couple of minutes later. His face was bright and cheerful like I had never seen it, but his eyes were captivating beyond my belief. I gasped when he gleefully greeted me, settled into a couch and tucked his tiny frame against Cindy.
Cindy had clearly captured his trust, and confidence. As we interviewed him for the next few minutes he was brutally honest about his past, even with others present I managed to fill in many of the blanks I had wished to from my past meetings with him. He wasn't very happy when we sent him out to play with the other kids an hour or so later, but followed along as Cindy escorted him out.
"I have an easy solution," Cindy announced when she rejoined us. "You are sure you can get him into the US? What placement would that require?" she asked Castillo. She didn't wait for an answer before asking, "If am a little concerned. How can we assure immigration he would be in a stable, lasting setting?"
'Oh great, thanks lady, just what I didn't need', I groaned.
"If he were to be sponsored by an attorney, and joined her family when he entered the US, I think we would have a much stronger argument."
"Cindy, , ," I tried to inject.
"Adam, he is not just a case. He is going to move in with us, at least until we find him a, cut the shit Adam and certify Carl and I as a placement for him. If Carl does not like it he will. You dragged me here, are you going to back me? "
"Cindy, I think you are, , ,"
"Adam?" she growled.
To Be Continued…
Notes from the Author:
I have not abandoned Shawn and Joey, thanks for your kind comments on both stories (and England Swings) My little rats are hard to predict sometimes.