I Love Corey, Chapter Ninety-seven


     Cheer up; there are fewer of these disclaimers left to read than there were at the beginning. I know it doesn't seem that way, but the story is progressing and eventually will be completed. Then, surprise-surprise, you will no longer have to read them. Should you experience withdrawal pains over the lack of these thrilling disclaimers when the story is ended, you can always sneak back and read some of the old ones. There are still a number of them to write so immediate despair is not necessary or called for.

     Once again I am forced to tell all you young whippersnappers to leave. You don't know what a whippersnapper is? Look it up. Then I will have accomplished my goal of spreading a little knowledge around. Now I could tell you what a whippersnapper is, but you will remember much better if you do the necessary research to find out for yourself.

     Next comes the usual warning to people who become upset over the descriptions of gay sex. You've read it before, but you need to read it again. If you find such descriptions offensive, stop reading. It is as simple as that. Should you decide to ignore this warning, I have no sympathy for you.

     I do have some sympathy for those unfortunate readers who happen to live in an area where the reading of this and similar stories are prohibited. Still, you could move or get the laws changed, so I won't lose any sleep worrying about you. You must stand up to protect your rights and I can't do that for you.

     Anyone who thinks this story is based on real people and actual events has a problem. That problem is a severe lack of ability to separate fiction from fact. I have no cure for such a condition and can only suggest you heal yourself. Start by realizing that not everything you read is true. Repeat that several hundred times a day until you believe it.

     I suppose it is again time to tell you to treat this story as my property and properly attribute any quotes and share any wealth derived from the use of it, but because I find such things unlikely I don't know why I bother.

     Again my thanks to Don for all his help. His editing greatly improves the quality of the story, that is if you think it has any quality. Even if you don't, think of how bad it would be without his efforts.

     Sorry, but we are once again about to the end of this important warning. All there is left to say is send any questions, comments, suggestions, or complaints to "fritz@nehalemtel.net" Be sure to put "I Love Corey" in the subject line so I don't delete you. For those who have a great need to know when the next warning is posted, drop me an email requesting to be placed on the notification list. With all that said, I hope you enjoy the following chapter. Fritz


                    I Love Corey, Chapter Ninety-seven

     Something smelled good. As my sleep dulled mind tried to identify it I became aware of several things. The smell was Corey's hair and my nose was buried in it. Then there was the fact that Junior was nestled in a nice warm place, namely the crack between those two globes known as Corey's ass. Third, my arm was draped across Corey and Little Corey was in my hand. I would have really liked to spend some time fondling Little Corey, but it was apparent that I should not have consumed that last cup of coffee because my bladder was about to burst. No matter how great the smell, or how nice Little Corey felt, I needed to take care of other problems or we would be changing the bed again.

     The person who designed toilets must hate men. There was simply no way I could point Junior at it and relax enough to start peeing. I had my body bent to where my head was almost touching the wall and it still wasn't working. Then I tried sitting on the toilet and by sliding clear back to where my ass was against the tank I finally managed to bend Junior down enough to get him pointed at the bowl, but doing that required that I bend over to where my upper body was about parallel with the floor. I was sitting there whimpering and cursing toilet designers and eventually my sphincter relaxed enough to allow the flow to start. Blessed relief soon followed. Either the Lord should have designed men differently, or toilets need to be improved greatly.

     As I was waiting for the shower to warm up it hit me. The problem experienced by men in the morning had been solved. All I needed to do is have a urinal installed. That way Junior could point any direction between the morning straight up to the more relaxed afternoon mostly down and then with only modest bending of Junior there was little chance of missing my target. Why I had never figured that out before was beyond me, but I decided that I needed to contact Ali, the architect, and tell him we needed urinals in the bathrooms.

     By the time I had showered, shaved, and brushed my teeth it was time for the morning chores, such as start breakfast and wake boys. Corey started waking up while I finished dressing, so after a quick kiss I was off to plug the coffee in and get things going. It was really nice not to have the giggle boxes to take care of and underfoot.

     I felt great. A good night's sleep and a little personal time with Corey had recharged me and I was whistling softly to myself as I said good morning to Dog and gave him fresh water. I found some ham in the fridge and decided some ham and eggs would be an acceptable breakfast. There were even a couple of loaves of raisin bread for toast so the boys should be happy.

     I was getting everything ready to cook when Kath came dashing in, apologizing for being late. She wasn't late; rather I was a few minutes early. That got me to thinking.

     "Uhh Kath, we need to change a few things," I said.

     Kath looked panic stricken. "I'm sorry, but it took longer to get Danny and Andrea up than I thought it would."

     "No, that isn't it. It's silly for you to dash over here to fix breakfast. I didn't hire a slave and there's no reason I can't cook breakfast. You need to spend time with your kids and I'm perfectly capable of preparing breakfast. In fact, I think you can probably handle the housekeeping in the afternoons and do the weekday cooking at the same time. That would give you the mornings to take care of your house. After all, it doesn't take long to do a quick vacuum and some light dusting. For that matter, there's no reason you can't work the housework in at your convenience. We need to talk things over and see if we can't come up with more reasonable hours for you."

     "Butó," she started before I interrupted her.

     "No arguments. Go take care of your kids and we'll talk about this later. You're not my slave and I don't expect you to act like one. Danny and Andrea deserve a mom and working for me comes after that," I told her. "If they're coming over for breakfast this morning you can stay, but if not, go home and be with them. You can come over and take care of what needs to be done whenever it's convenient."

     After a little more argument over it, Kath headed back home. She didn't look happy, but I thought I could convince her after she had thought it over. I went back to looking for things for breakfast.

     I needed to boil more potatoes. There were only enough for a small serving of hash browns for everyone and I knew the boys would eat far more if there were more, but they would have to eat an extra slice of toast or something. I got out the kettle and put most of a sack of potatoes in it to cook while I continued fixing breakfast. By the time I had grated the last of the cooked potatoes, Corey showed up and started squeezing oranges.

     People started showing up led by Bruno. By the time everyone was fed, the new batch of potatoes was cooked and I put them in cold water to cool them so I could peel them.

     As Kyle headed for the bus, the phone rang. Caller ID told me that Russ was calling.

     "Good morning counselor," I answered. "I thought it was too early for vampires to be up and about."

     "Ha ha, very funny," he laughed. "You'll think I'm a vampire when you get my bill. I called to tell you we need to be in Redding at nine. I'll meet you at the Sheriff's Office on Court Street. By the way, have you told Children's Services? I'm sure they'll want to be in on it."

     "Ah, no I haven't. I'll give Judy a call and let her know what's going on," I replied.

     "See that you do. I'll see you later." With that he hung up.

     My call to Judy resulted in my ass taking a real chewing. She seemed quite miffed that I hadn't called her last night to tell her, but after sufficient admonishments to me she said she would meet Russ and me at the Sheriff's Office.

     I got a lot of flack over telling the boys they were going to have to peel the potatoes because I wasn't going to have time to do them. The flack subsided slightly when I pointed out that there would have been more hash browns if I'd had more potatoes, and that if they liked them they needed to get busy and quit bitching. I could hear Sarah giggling while the boys were bitching about all the work I was saddling them with. I wasn't impressed with their complaints because they could mow the lawn and rake it in a couple of hours and that included the new property Kath's house was on. Adding a few minutes of peeling potatoes didn't make me feel like a child abuser or slave driver even though they disagreed with that view.

     When JJ commented that he didn't know why I didn't make Kath peel the potatoes and what was I paying her for, I decided we needed to talk about his attitude because the last few weeks he had been getting more difficult to get along with, and required much more nagging to get him to do his chores.

     "Hold it Jason. What do you think Kath is? Your personal slave? In this house we all chip in and work. You don't like that, you can ask Judy to find some other place for you to live."

     "I didn't mean it that way," he whined.

     "Well then how did you mean it?" I asked.

     About that time LT put his hand on JJ's shoulder. "Chill dude, we all have to help."

     "It's unfair," JJ whined.

     "It's unfair?" I countered. "What's unfair about it? Don't I allow you lots of time to go to the mall or the arcade? How many hours a day do you spend doing something for the family? Come on, tell me all about it. Tell me how bad it is and how I abuse you by making you work your fingers to the bone."

     "You only do it for the money," he said sullenly.

     That hurt and I paused while trying to decide how to answer him.

     "You know that's not true. You know I don't need the money. If I needed the money I would never have offered to adopt you because the money stops as soon as that goes through. I don't know what your problem is, but think about it. I haven't got enough time to discuss this right now, but when I get home you can explain what's wrong. Then you can decide if you wish to continue living here or if you want Judy to find you another place for you to live. If you wish to live somewhere else, I'll try to make it happen."

     "You're spending all you time with David," JJ whined.

     "Right now I have to, just as when you first started living with me I spent a lot of time with you, or when Mark and Kyle were first living here and I spent a lot of time with them. Would you rather trade places with David? I suspect he would love having both hands. Think about it and will talk about it later. I have to leave for Redding if I don't want to be late."

     When I looked around everyone except JJ was pale and looked shocked. I put my hand on David's shoulder and started him for the garage. Bruno followed me. As soon as we were in the garage he turned to me.

     "Don't you think you were a little hard on him?"

     "Maybe, but this has been building up for a while. He keeps whining and is not willing to do his share. He's got time to think about it and maybe we can straighten things out when I get home, but he's going to have to accept that the world doesn't revolve around him and that he's part of the family and needs to do his part."

     "I'll talk to him," Bruno said.

     I stopped and thought about that. "I'd leave it alone and let the boys talk amongst themselves. I think they're more likely to get results than either you or I. If they can't work it out amongst themselves, then we can try, but for now give them a chance. So far they've done pretty well at figuring things out when they really needed to."

     Bruno looked at me like I was nuts, but agreed, and with that David and I headed for Redding. My great morning was rapidly going to hell.

     David wasn't willing to talk no matter how hard I tried to get him to, so the trip was mostly silent. I wished I knew if he was worried about talking about his stepfather or if he was upset over JJ's and my disagreement, but I could get no read on that from him. I wished things hadn't come to a head this morning, but it had been building up for several weeks and today was when it had bubbled over. I knew JJ thought I was mad at him, but actually I was trying to get him to stop whining over everything and be more willing to do his share. Mostly I was disappointed and worried that I'd handled it poorly, but I didn't know what else to do. There comes a time when things must be confronted and a solution worked out, but I was left worrying that today wasn't the time. My many conversations about everyone doing their share had not made much of a dent in JJ's attitude so maybe direct confrontation was the only way.

     Things didn't go much better when we got there because the investigator, a young man who looked even younger than I was, didn't want either Russ or I present. Russ didn't let that upset him and pointed out that without us, there would be no interview. That produced a whole bunch of arguing about who had custody and he finally gave up on that point when Judy insisted that I did. Then he didn't want Russ and that produced more argument over was David entitled to be represented by counsel or if I was. That was settled when the investigator went and got a supervisor and after that there were no more arguments over who would be present. While he was out of the room getting the supervisor Judy told me he was brand new at the job, and the normal investigator for something like this was unable to be here today. It was apparent she wasn't happy over the way things had started.

     We wasted a half hour getting started and it went downhill from there. The strange thing was that his questioning of David had started out very businesslike and professional and I was impressed with his thoroughness. He started David out at the beginning, when his step-father first came in contact with the Oklahoma authorities, and worked his way along. He was soft spoken and David was responding well to him when it all changed. David had gotten to the part where his step-father had killed his mother and brother and was abusing him when Detective Phillips went from being soft spoken and friendly, to derisive and mocking and I didn't know why. It was getting close to lunch when that happened and a few minutes after the change in manner, I'd had enough.

     "So tell me Detective Phillips, why is it that you now don't appear to believe David?" I asked, my exasperation clearly showing in my voice.

     "You have to admit that it's a pretty unbelievable story," he answered smugly.

     "I don't suppose a couple of bodies would change your mind," I snapped in my best sarcastic voice.

     "They would if there were any bodies," he answered, again sounding smug.

     "Well then why don't you ask him to show you where they're buried? He's already told you he can find the place and if that's what it takes to make you treat this seriously, then that seems like the simple way to take care of it. I will expect you to apologize for your insolence when you see the bodies," I snapped. I was getting really pissed.

     "Forget it Sam, this interview is over," Russ told me. He then turned to Detective Phillips and said, "I'll be filing a complaint as soon as I get back to my office Detective Phillips, and you'll have plenty of opportunity to respond. Come on," he said turning to me again, "Were leaving."

     "You can't do that!" Detective Phillips shouted.

     "And just why is that?" Russ asked in a soft but very cold tone of voice.

     "Because you're material witnesses," he answered.

     "Let me see if I have this right," Russ asked. "First you tell use you don't believe David, and now you think we're material witnesses. Pray tell me what crime are we supposed to be material witnesses for?"

     "For murder," Detective Phillips replied.

     "Ah," Russ said. "I understand. You don't believe there has been a murder committed, but you think we are material witnesses to that nonexistent crime. Suburb reasoning. I congratulate you on your mental acuity."

     "You're all under arrest!" Detective Phillips shouted.

     "Thank you," Russ said coldly, "you've just made my day."

     The next thing I knew we were being processed with all the usual fingerprinting and so on. David was upset and I was furious. All my life I'd gotten along well with the various police agencies and had always been respectfully treated just as I had tried to treat all law enforcement officers with respect, but now I had been unfairly treated in two instances in less than a week. I'd never been arrested in my life and didn't think I deserved to be now. While I was furious, one look at Russ convinced me I didn't know what anger was. He looked like his jaws were ready to break from the way he had them clenched, and the way he was scowling and the way he had his head thrust forward and the way he was being excessively polite told me that I didn't want to be around him when his lid came flying off. He was an explosion waiting to happen and heaven help anyone or anything which got in his way. We very likely would have been locked up, but the Sheriff happened to walk in. When he saw Russ he looked stunned.

     "What's going on Mr. Young?" He asked.

     "I've just been taken into custody as a witness to a crime Detective Phillips doesn't believe took place," Russ snarled through his barely open teeth. "So have Mr. Lofton and Mrs. Smelling. I'm not sure what charge Mr. Taylor, a juvenile, is being held on, but undoubtedly Detective Phillips can fill you in."

     The Sheriff whirled and walked over to Detective Phillips. I couldn't hear what he asked him, but I could hear Detective Phillips' reply. "It's obvious the boy is lying. None of his story makes sense."

     I still couldn't hear what the Sheriff was saying, but again I heard Detective Phillips' answer. "Why should I waste my time checking out such an obvious falsehood?"

     I didn't get to hear even one side of their conversation after that because the Sheriff quickly led Detective Phillips away after telling the other deputy, the one helping process us, to wait until he came back before proceeding.

     For the next forty-five minutes we all waited. There was absolutely no conversation, probably because neither Judy nor I were willing to take a chance on saying anything which might set Russ off. Then the Sheriff returned and he looked almost as angry as Russ.

     "I'm sorry," he started. "Phillips should have never been assigned an interview without supervision. He's new and still in training. Believe me, such a thing won't happen again."

     Judging by the way he said that I was fairly confident that it wouldn't. In fact I didn't want to be in the shoes of the person who had scheduled our interview.

     By the time the Sheriff finished all his apologies, Russ's jaw muscles had relaxed and his head was no longer jutting forward, and Judy seemed completely calm. I was still pretty ticked off, but the others were calming down. When the Sheriff suggested that we have lunch, his treat, Judy thought that was a good idea. I was still thinking of finding a different law enforcement body to have David tell his story to, but Judy talked us into agreeing to return after lunch and give the Sheriff's Department another chance. Judy and the Sheriff arranged a place for lunch and we left. I had to follow Judy because I was not familiar with the restaurant, and so did Russ, but shortly we drove up in front of a rather dingy looking eating establishment.

     One should never judge restaurants solely by appearance. I had tried many which looked nice and where the food was questionable, but I didn't expect what I received in the rather rundown one where I now found myself. The menu was limited, but the food suburb. Their cook can cook for me anytime. Judy had suggested that I try the hot roast beef sandwich, and with a certain amount of trepidation I did. The beef would melt in your mouth and the gravy tasted like roast beef gravy instead of that brown stuff you normally find in restaurants. Even the salad was better than most, containing such things as several cherry tomatoes, some diced celery, and even some cucumber slices. I would have been happy to serve it with any of my meals. About the only thing not extraordinary was the coffee, and it was merely good. Russ and Judy talked David into trying the pie and I wished I'd saved room for it because the crust flaked like it should and it was loaded with apples and it was apparent those apples had not come from the usual can which so many bakeries use. I was feeling halfway human by the time we got back to the Sheriff's office.

     You can talk about the difference between night and day, but there was simply no way to compare the difference in the way we were now treated. The new detective went out of his way to be pleasant and before long I could see him getting excited. The next thing that happened was we were asked if David could show him where the bodies were buried. So away we went and soon arrived at the end of a gravel road with only one house in sight.

     When David was asked to lead the way he got panicked.

     "The grass has been cut. I don't know where to go," he almost whispered.

     That didn't upset Detective Greerson in the least and he patiently asked a few questions. After talking with the property owners for a couple of minutes he returned to David and asked a few more questions and soon led us to the back edge of the property. A couple of minutes later David pointed to a barely visible trail and we started down it. We'd picked our way for several hundred yards when David abruptly refused to go any further. After a few gentle questions of him, Detective Greerson went ahead and shortly returned.

     "I need to get more help out here," he said. "I don't think any of you should go any further. Why don't we go back to the vehicles and wait?"

     As we walked back I could hear him on his portable radio requesting help along with shovels and body bags, along with the forensics team. He didn't say what he had seen, but it didn't take rocket science to figure out he had found the grave.

     Judy decided she was no longer needed so she got in her car and left. The rest of us got in my pickup. David was shivering and leaned up against me, while Russ sat in the back. We didn't talk much and mostly I tried to calm David down by wrapping my arm around his shoulders and hugging him to me while Russ seemed lost in thought.

     In less time than I would have believed possible, cars started showing up and soon the area was overrun with uniforms. Deputy Greerson led those uniforms towards the trail and after a bit he returned.

     "Mr. Lofton, it's going to take us some time here. If you would be more comfortable, I would suggest you go home and we can call and set up another interview with Mr. Taylor to fill in any missing details."

     "What about information on his stepfather?" Russ asked. "Don't you wish to question him about that?"

     "Not right now. We have sufficient information to start based on the tapes from Detective Phillips interview and the documents supplied by Children's Services, and until we have completed some of the forensics we don't need anymore." When he mentioned Detective Phillips there was evident disdain in his voice. "For now I think it would be best if Mr. Taylor had some time to relax, but if he would rather, we can continue the interview as soon as a few things are confirmed by our team. That might take some time and I don't want to make you sit around with nothing to do."

     "Well Sam, it's up to you," Russ said. "Let me know when and I can be there. There's nothing on my schedule for the next few days."

     I wasn't happy with the way it was working out. School was supposed to start back up and I hated to miss any more days. Still, David needed some time to get himself back together. How he had managed to keep from breaking down during the latter part of Detective Phillips questioning was something that amazed me, but now he acted like he was about ready to collapse.

     "When would you think you would like to continue the interview and do you have any idea how much more time it will take?" I asked Detective Greerson.

     "Probably tomorrow afternoon and it shouldn't take very long. Then we'll probably find a number of things we need help on, so there will likely be several more sessions," he replied. "Those follow up sessions should also be short. Perhaps we can even handle some of them by phone."

     I didn't see any way to improve things so I agreed. Detective Greerson thanked us for our help and the only awkward moment was when he reached out to shake David's hand as he was thanking him. When he realized he'd forgotten that David's right hand was missing, he blushed and stammered out an apology while quickly extending his left hand.

     Detective Greerson headed back towards the grave and Russ proceeded to tell David how well he had acted under unfair questioning. He then said he needed to get back to his office and left. David and I headed home. He was in no shape to buy bikes or anything else and it was getting too late to shop much anyway. He just slouched against the pickup door looking thoroughly miserable.

     I had no more than started home when my cell phone went off. Since I was going to be going through an area of poor reception I pulled over and answered it. It was Jerry and he was beside himself. While the electrical system was being tested, the fire alarm and sprinkler control had burned up because the firm doing the wiring repairs had gotten some wires crossed. To top it off, the closest replacement control was in St. Louis, according to the supplier, and it was too late to get it shipped today. Since the fire alarm wasn't working, the building was considered unsafe for classes.

     "When's that supposed to be fixed?" I asked.

     "They say it'll take half a day to hook it up and test it after it gets here. Since they can't say just when it will be here, it looks like it will be Wednesday before we can hold classes at the earliest, more likely Thursday."

     "How in the world did they manage to get the wires crossed?" I asked.

     "I don't know. There are hundreds of wires going to it, but they didn't say why they made a mistake. They said it shouldn't have happened and they're going to have a crew working all night to make sure they have everything right for the new controller when it gets here," he replied.

     "Sorry," Jerry continued, "but I need to call more people and let them know. I'll fill you in as soon as I learn more." With that he hung up, not even waiting for me to say goodbye.

     That news seemed to solve one problem even if it did create others. I would be able to be with David for any interview tomorrow, and perhaps we could get back to looking for his bike. As I pulled back on the road and continued home, David never said anything and continued to slouch against the door.

     Home wasn't a happy place when I got there. The other boys were ignoring JJ and he was sulking. I thought about trying to talk to JJ, but Kath and Sarah had been cooking and dinner would soon be ready. I decided to wait until after we had eaten before attempting to find out where things stood. At least the lawn looked nice and I saw several bags of clippings waiting to be hauled off. Vern had a compost pile where I normally got rid of my grass clippings, but I'd been thinking of starting my own compost bins. That was another thing that needed to be discussed with Uncle Matt and Bruno, but for now it could wait.

     David had headed for his room as soon as we entered the house. I managed to get Bruno aside and ask, "How'd it go? Did the boys say anything?"

     "Not really. I heard them shouting at each other while they were mowing. Jason came in the house and sat down and none of them have said anything to him since."

     "Shit," I answered. "I was hoping they would talk amongst themselves and straighten him out. I guess you were right and I should have let you talk to him."

     That was all that was said about Jason and we moved on with me explaining how things had gone with regards to David. Bruno shook his head when I described Detective Phillips actions, but neither of us could figure out his reasoning. I also told Bruno about the alarm problem at school and that I would be around for at least tomorrow and likely Wednesday.

     Bruno filled me in on his day, explaining about the pictures and his lack of enthusiasm for the automobile restorers he had contacted. One of them hadn't believed him, saying that Duesenbergs were so rare he couldn't know what he was talking about, much less have one, and another had laughed and said if he wanted some idea of what it might cost he couldn't afford to have it done. Four others had told him they had so much work already lined up that it would be at least a couple of years before they could get to any new projects.

     "Don't worry," I told him. "There are lots more restorers around. Perhaps we need to go to a car show and see who some of the exhibitors recommend. I picked those names because they showed up in the search and looked like they might be worth checking."

     "I'm not worried, but I am pissed off at a couple of them because of their attitudes," Bruno replied. "It wouldn't have cost them anything to be courteous. The one wasn't even willing to talk about potential costs, but those that were led me to believe it could get expensive depending on what has to be done."

     "How expensive?" I asked.

     "I don't know. One gentleman said he had done a restoration which cost over a quarter of a million dollars, but he said most weren't that much. He also said that cost depended on what you wanted. I didn't know there were that many different classifications for restored automobiles."

     I was about to ask Bruno what he was talking about when Corey came up to me.

     "Can I talk to you?" he asked.

     Corey wasn't the only one who wanted to talk with me. He led me to my office where all the boys except for JJ were waiting.

     "What's up?" I asked.

     "What's going to happen to JJ?" LT asked.

     "I don't know. That's up to him," I replied.

     "Are you going to kick him out?" LT followed up.

     "I never said I was going to kick him out. I told him that if he didn't like it here I would try to help him find somewhere else to live. What makes you think I'd kick him out?" I asked.

     "He says you don't like him," LT replied.

     I tried to figure out how to answer that. Certainly it wasn't true, but I was puzzled as to why either JJ or any of the others would think such a thing.
     "Why does he think I don't like him?" I asked, trying to get some idea of what to say.

     "He says you're always picking on him," LT answered.

     "Do you think I'm picking on him? I mean you've seen how I treat him and it was never my intention to pick on any of you. If I've been unfair I need to know in what way so I can stop doing it. In what way have I been picking on him?" I finished up.

     "He says you're always after him to do his chores," LT answered.

     "Ah, I see," I replied. "Just like I'm always after you to do your chores, right? Have you noticed that when you do your chores I don't keep after you to do them?"

     It was like a light bulb went off in LT's mind. He went from being accusatory to understanding in the length of a couple of heartbeats.

     "You mean if he does his chores you won't pick on him," he answered.

     "I don't think pick on him is the right way to phrase that," I answered. "I look on it as having to nag him because he fails to do his chores. I would rather not have to nag him, but he's the one who continually doesn't do what he's supposed to do. I nag all of you when you don't do what you're supposed to do, and I try not to pick on any individual, but I nag all of you occasionally, don't I?"

     "I tried to tell you that," Corey interjected, "but you wouldn't listen."

     "Take it easy Corey," I said. "LT's just trying to protect his boyfriend. You'd do the same."

     "Well what's going to happen to him?" LT asked.

     "That's up to Jason like I said. If he wants to live somewhere else, I'll try to help him find a place. If he wants to stay here, I'll try to convince him he needs to do his chores and quit complaining about them. We all have to do things we don't want to do, but he's the only one who spends more time complaining about them than it would take to do them."

     LT paused and was looking at me as if he was trying to figure out what to say next when Kath announced dinner was ready.

     "We can talk about this after dinner if you wish," I said. "Right now I think you need to wash your hands and eat.

     That must have been the right thing to say because boys took off like they were rocket propelled. While JJ might be important to them, he didn't come close to being as important as food. In fact, it seemed that nothing was as important as food to them, but perhaps I'm overstating it. Anyhow, when I walked out of my office and glanced in the family room, JJ was still sitting there. All he did was glare at me when I told him it was dinnertime, so I decided to ignore him. Perhaps LT could talk a little sense into him after dinner.

     When it became apparent that JJ was not going to join us for dinner, LT went to talk to him. A couple of minutes later he came back looking angry, but didn't offer any comments on what either he or JJ had said.

     Dinner wasn't the most cheerful meal in the world. David was still depressed, and the boys were rather quiet for them. That left Bruno and Sarah and Kath as the only sources of conversation, and they seemed uncomfortable talking about anything. I did fill them in on mine and David's day, but it was a much abbreviated version. The boys perked up and paid attention when I told them of Jerry's phone call about school not starting tomorrow, and they made a few desultory comments to Kyle about how lucky he was to be going to school, but their hearts weren't in it. There was one big change, and that was when dinner was over the boys quickly cleared the table of dirty dishes, but I stopped them from removing JJ's place setting. As soon as the dirty dishes were picked up, they headed for the family room where JJ was. I decided it was time for me to inspect the yard and see how well they had done on the lawn. Dog was happy to accompany me and seemed to take pleasure in showing me how industriously he checked out his territory. He would run over and sniff a place, and then look back at me as if to say it was safe.

     After checking the lawn over and seeing that the boys had done a fairly good job, it was time to go back to the house and see what JJ had to say. I didn't have any ideas on what the boys might have said to him after dinner, but I was going to have to talk with him and I couldn't think of any reason to stall any further. I was not looking forward to our conversation.

     JJ still had a sullen look on his face when I invited him to join me in my office. At first I thought he was going to refuse, but after a pause he stood up and followed me. Once we were seated it was time to talk.

     "Well," I started, "have you thought about what was said this morning?

     To that I received no answer. JJ continued to glare at me as I tried to decide what to say or ask next.

     "If we don't talk, how can we solve any problems?" I inquired.

     "What difference will that make?" he answered. "You've already made up your mind."

     "You're wrong. I haven't made up my mind about anything because I don't know what you want. If you wish to live elsewhere, then we need to contact Judy and see what she can come up with. If you wish to live here, then we need to come to a better understanding about chores," I replied. "We also need to discuss your adoption and if you still wish to be adopted. I can't decide anything until I know how you feel about it."

     "You like Corey better than you like me," JJ replied.

     I thought about that a few seconds before answering. "Yes, that's true in some ways, but I don't think it's because of the reasons you think. You think I'm showing him favoritism, but when it comes to chores I don't. He has to help with all the things you do. I'll admit to loving him, but you love LT and no one else thinks you're treating them unfairly because of it. When have I excused Corey from doing any chores? Have I ever required you to do things he isn't asked to do? Yes I love him, but in a different way than I love you or the others. If you're asking to take his place, that isn't going to happen. My love for him is like your love for LT. If anything I require more of him because of it."

     "Then why are you always picking on me?" he demanded.

     "What do I pick on you about?" I countered.

     "You know," he replied.

     "No, I don't really know, but even if I did, don't you think it would be better to tell me so I was sure?"

     "You're always after me to do my chores,"

     "Tell me Jason, do I pick on you about other things?"

     "Well, no, but you're always after me about them," he replied.

     "Do I pick on you when you've done them?" I asked.

     "Uhmm, not really."

     "Do I make you do more than I make the other boys do?"

     "Uhh, not really."

     "When LT, Kyle, Mark, or even Corey doesn't do his chores, do I pick on him until he does?" I asked.

     "Uhmm, well yes, but..." he answered.

     "But what?" I prodded. "It sounds to me like I pick on everyone for not doing his chores. As soon as the chores are done, I stop. If you boys would simply do your chores I wouldn't be forced to nag you until you do finally do them."

     After that there was a pause. We sat there a couple of minutes and I kept waiting, but JJ said no more and merely looked at his feet, his sullen expression still on his face. I wondered what to try next, but was coming up with no answers.

     "Jason, I know you're angry, but I don't have a solution unless we can talk it out. If you'd be more comfortable telling someone else what the problem is, tell me who and I'll try to arrange it so you can talk with that person."

     Again I received no answer and he still was looking down, unwilling to meet my gaze. After a pause I tried again. "Would you like me to call Judy so you could talk with her?"

     No answer. I was completely beat. I had no idea on how to find out what the real problem was. I tried to think of any time I might have required something of him that I hadn't required of the others, but kept coming up blank. He was right to the extent that I had nagged him somewhat more, but it took more nagging to get him to do his chores. When he did them, I praised him as much as I praised the others, so I was at a loss. The thing that worried me the most was that I might not be seeing myself correctly, and perhaps I had been unfair to him, but if so I was incapable of judging it fairly no matter how hard I tried. Mark was the best and almost never required more than having me mention he needed to do something. JJ was the worst and required more nagging to get him started. The rest of the boys fell between those two and all required about the same amount of reminders.

     "Jason, I don't know what to do. You claim I'm picking on you, but admit that when you do your chores I don't. You won't tell me if you want the adoption to continue, so I don't know how to proceed there. I'm going to call Judy and let you talk with her. I don't know when she can get free, but hopefully soon. In the meantime why don't you have some dinner and relax. Your plate is still on the table and I put everything in the oven to keep it warm. Maybe we'll both see things differently in the morning, but for now it seems rather pointless to continue."

     "You'll just blame everything on me," he said sullenly.

     "Stay and listen then. That way you can see if I try to blame everything on you."

     With that I reached out and picked up the phone, put it on speakerphone and dialed Judy. On the third ring she answered.

     "Hi Sam, how's David holding up?"

     "He's still pretty depressed, but that isn't what I called you about. Jason needs someone to discuss some things with and I was wondering if you could find some time to listen to him."

     "What's he upset about?" Judy asked.

     "Just some things he needs to talk about, but I thought that maybe a fresh perspective on the matter could help solve it."

     There was a brief pause before she said anything. "I'm busy in the morning, but if he thinks he can afford to miss a class I can talk to him in the afternoon. I'll be in court all morning and should be done by noon."

     "Getting out of class isn't a problem because the wiring isn't finished. Stop in whenever you're free. We should be around all afternoon unless the police want more information. Even if they do, Jason will be home, but David and I might not be.

     "The wiring isn't done? I thought it was supposed to be finished today. What happened this time?" Judy asked.

     So I filled her in on the alarm and what had happened to it. After that we said goodbye and I hung up.

     "I hope that didn't sound like I was trying to blame you," I told JJ. I didn't get an answer, but he stood up and left, heading for the kitchen. I was left feeling helpless. I couldn't think of a way to get JJ to talk with me and it was tearing me up. He was angry and hurting and I didn't know how to handle the situation. Maybe I wasn't ready to be a parent. Wanting to be a good parent, and being one were two different things and I was failing the test. I couldn't show him special favors because that would be unfair to the other boys, but that was what he seemed to want.

     As I sat there brooding about my failures, the phone rang. Russ wanted to know what I wanted to do about the unpleasant way Detective Phillips had acted.

     "Jeez, I don't know. While he pissed me off, suing the Sheriff's office will create bad feelings," I told him. "We might all be better off to drop it. After all, we live here and might need their help sometime. I don't want him to get away with his behavior, but I'm not sure he's worth it." I was rambling, but my mind was on other things, namely JJ. "Isn't there some way to get an apology to David and have Phillips reprimanded?"

     "I think Sheriff Thayer would go for that, but he may have a hard time getting a sincere apology out of Phillips," Russ replied.

     "I wonder what Thayer will do about him? The strange thing is I haven't got a clue why he went from pleasant to nasty. David was being respectful and answering all his questions and it doesn't make sense."

     "You mean you missed it?" Russ replied and he sounded incredulous.

     "Missed what?" I asked.

     "Sam, sometimes you appear as dense as a rock. David had let slip several clues and the change came when Phillips figured out David's gay. That information must not be in his files," Russ explained.

     Once my attention was directed to it, it slapped me in the face. Russ was right and David had said several things that when taken together would leave no doubt about his orientation. Those little bits of information hadn't registered with me because I already knew and so I had been concentrating on what he was telling the Detective about the crimes and not on David himself.

     `That son of a bitch," I spit out before I could even begin to think of what to say. I was furious and if I could have gotten my hands on Phillips, I'd have strangled him. "Go after him. I don't care if it does create problems in the future, Phillips should be in jail."

     "Calm down," Russ said. "I think you're right that suing might create problems, especially if we don't have to. Thayer's a pretty good guy from all I've heard, and my dealings with him have always been cordial. Let's wait and see what he decides to do. He said Phillips was still in training and he may get rid of him over this on his own. While that wouldn't get David an apology, I don't think he would get one even if we sued. I'm going to make sure Thayer knows what appeared to trigger it and that might take care of it. We can file a complaint later, if necessary."

     "No by God. Phillips needs to have his bigotry on his record so no one will hire him. I want him taught a lesson he'll never forget," I told Russ. I was excited and angry and while I wasn't shouting, I was close to it.

     "Easy Sam," Russ replied. "I'm going to make sure of that. It's only that it might be better if we can accomplish it without going to court. You suggested that yourself, and I think you're right."

     I took a couple of deep breaths, trying to calm down. "All right, if you can get it on Phillips record without going through the courts, go ahead. Just make sure it follows him wherever he goes. There's no place in law enforcement for people who think gays don't deserve every protection and courtesy that everyone else is entitled to."

     Russ quickly figured out a way to end the call and after saying goodbye I sat there. I felt like throwing the phone at the wall because I was so angry, but breaking a perfectly good phone wouldn't do any good. I was mad at Phillips and mad at myself for missing what had triggered the change in him. I couldn't do anything about either and it frustrated me. I'd been in a foul mood to start with and this had only intensified it. Maybe if I hadn't been upset over JJ, I would have put things together, but I had so many things on my mind that I didn't have time to get anything straightened out.

     I knew I wasn't fit company for anyone, but I needed to do something and the house was full of people. No matter what I did, someone was sure to come along and want to talk or join me in whatever I was doing. I needed to be alone and have a little time to calm down, but I knew I had to get out of the house to be alone. I was surprised no one had walked into my office as it was, and if I stuck around they would.

     A thought went through my mind and something I hadn't done for several months seemed like the answer. I quickly found my running shoes and soon was outside doing some stretches.

     I started out way too fast because I was still angry and soon had a stitch in my side. That did nothing to improve my mood, but by stopping for a couple of minutes I was able to go on. Even with the more reasonable pace I adopted, it wasn't long before I realized I wasn't in very good shape. Since the advent of boys I'd stopped jogging and now about the only real exercise I got was at practice when I led the team in its workouts. I kept plodding on, but it wasn't working like it should. Normally when I ran I entered a zone where I was calm and the only thing that mattered was my form, but I couldn't achieve that. I tried to concentrate on my body and how I was moving it, but thoughts of Phillips and JJ kept sneaking back in. Instead of the smooth even stride I was trying to achieve, I was slightly off. It was taking a lot more energy than it should, and no matter how hard I tried I could not focus on my running and block the rest of the world out. I knew if I could achieve that, if only for a couple of minutes, I would calm down and be able to think more clearly.

     Last summer it had been nothing to run six or eight miles, but I stumbled back to the house after about four and a half, aching in places I'd forgotten existed. I was panting and wheezing and sounded like a leaky air compressor. The worst thing was that I was still as angry as I'd been when I started my run.

     When I got my breathing back under control I entered the house. I went to the cabinet where I stored the liquor and poured myself a stiff one, like a half a water glass of Crown Royal. Crown Royal in hand, the hot tub was my next stop. By the time the lid had retracted I was stripped, and soon the hot water was taking some of the pain away. I was going to be stiff and sore tomorrow, but that wasn't important. What was important was getting myself under control so I could do a better job of handling things. So far I was a total failure with JJ and he needed help. I wasn't supplying that help and it wasn't because I didn't want to supply it, only that I didn't know how. I needed a parent manual or something, but JJ hadn't come with one. I sat there in the tub, the glass still containing most of the drink I'd poured, and wept in sheer frustration. Maybe I wasn't smart enough to raise kids. Maybe I'd never be smart enough. How could I screw things up so badly when all I wanted to do was help Jason grow up? What was wrong with me?

               To be continued...