Copyright 2004 Ted Louis

All rights reserved. A copy of the story has been assigned to the Nifty Archives under the terms of its submission agreement, but this story may not be copied or archived on any other website without the prior written permission of the author. Comments on the story are appreciated and may be addressed to

This story may contain descriptions of sexual contact between young boys and adult males. However, if you are looking for explicit and detailed exploitation of boys you will be disappointed. The story is more about an adult's love for boys.

If you are not of legal age to read stories of this nature or are offended by the subject matter do not read any further.

All the chapters of Joel may also be found on my website at The chapters are posted in TXT and HTML formats.

Joel II

Chapter 14

The flight seemed to take forever before we landed in Houston. It was only 4:30 but I knew it would take me as long to travel from Houston Intercontinental Airport to the apartment as it did to fly from San Antonio to Houston. Since I didn’t have any luggage except for my shaving kit it didn’t take me long to get to the taxi stand and hop in one. I wanted to call Collin back immediately but I also wanted some privacy when I did. I had the distinct impression that the ‘other ways’ that he mentioned to bring Benny back to the States might not be totally legitimate. If that was the case I didn’t want any witnesses to the conversation. Besides I needed to see my sons. It was going on twenty-four hours since I had seen them.

The rush hour traffic was an absolute nightmare and we were going against the traffic. The closer we got to the apartment the more excited I became. I paid the taxi driver and rushed into the apartment expecting to see the boys but there was nobody there. I looked in every room and then went outside and walked to the pool. Still no one was there. Although I hadn’t called to tell them what time I was going to be back I just assumed that they would be there waiting for me.

I walked back to the apartment and went to change my clothes in the bedroom. I was really feeling low and I guess feeling sorry for myself. The TV didn’t help. It was just noise. When I heard the door to the apartment open I leaped to my feet and literally ran to see who it was.

Hildy entered first followed by the boys and Becky Sue brought up the rear.

“Hi, dad”, TJ said as he jumped up into my arms. “I missed you.”

“Me too, kiddo”, I said as I gave him a big hug and a kiss.

“We did too”, Larry and Lenny said in unison before they got their hugs.

Chris just pushed into our group hug and said, “Uh huh”.

“Where have you guys been?” I asked after everything settled down.

“We went to the park again”, Chris said. “It’s a neat place.”

“Yeah and I got to ride the train again too”, TJ added.

“That’s great! Are you guys hungry? As if I didn’t know”, I asked.

My question was answered in the affirmative unanimously as expected.

“Hildy if you don’t have anything planned for supper, why don’t we all go over to the Wendy’s and get hamburgers for the boys. We haven’t eaten out in a while and it will give you a chance to rest. Afterwards we can go to the hospital and see Joel”, I said before turning to the boys. “You guys run to the bathroom and wash up. Dad has to make a phone call and then we’ll go.”

“Crane, you haven’t forgotten that Joel’s birthday is this Saturday have you?” Hildy asked after the boys had disappeared.

“I knew it was coming up but I hardly know what today’s date is anymore. I guess I need to take the boys shopping sometime. Maybe we could go to the Galleria after we visit Joel. I think the boys might find some interesting things to see there as well as find something for Joel’s birthday. On second thought, I think that I’m too tired to go shopping tonight. The rushing around and the flight has taken its toll on me.”

The phone call to Collin was disturbing. He outlined a number of alternatives that could be pursued to get Benny back in the US. Each one of them had an element of danger and was of dubious legality. He said that he needed more time to assess the situation in Mexico before he could recommend a plan that would have the best chance of success and the least amount of danger to Benny and the people involved in the operation. He rang off saying that he would get back to me when he had put together the best plan.

The boys had thought that Wendy’s was a great idea. With Hildy’s great home cooked meals they didn’t get to eat out all that often so they always thought it was a treat to do so. We piled into the van and took off for our fast food feast.

After a mountain of cheeseburgers, French fries and those frozen chocolate concoctions called Frosty’s, the boys seemed to be full. At least they slowed down.

“Dad, can we take Joel a Frosty?” TJ asked.

“I think that is a good idea. Shall we get him a small one or a big one?”

“A big one! If he don’t eat it all, I can help.”

“I bet you could”, I laughed.

The hospital wasn’t that far away so the Frosty didn’t melt too much before we arrived at Joel’s room. He appeared to be sleeping when we arrived, but that didn’t last too long when TJ climbed into the bed with him and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

“Hi TJ”, Joel said sleepily. “Hi guys, hi Hildy, Becky Sue.”

“Careful TJ, Joel still has that tube going into his arm”, I said. “How are you feeling son?”

“Okay, but that stuff makes me dizzy”, he said pointing to the IV.

“Well, you just rest”, I said leaning over TJ to give Joel a kiss. “TJ thought it would be a good idea to bring you a Frosty. He said that if you couldn’t eat it all he would help you.”

“That’ll feel good. My throat is still a little sore. I’ll save some for you TJ.”

“TJ, you hold it for your brother so that he can eat it. Don’t spill it.”

All this time Larry, Lenny and Chris had been crowded around the bed trying to get as close to their brother as they could. Even Hildy and Becky Sue had approached the bed.

I left the boys to enjoy each other and went to say hello to Tony and Karen. “I want to thank you for standing by for Joel today while I was away, Karen. It looks like he is taking the treatment very well.”

“No problem, Crane. I was going to be here anyway and I thought I knew what to expect. He did fine”, she said.

“Well, I appreciate it none the less. And Tony, how are you feeling today?”

“Okay, I guess. I still have to wear this mask and my hair is almost all gone”, he said removing his baseball cap.

“I see. Joel is going to start losing his hair pretty soon also, so you won’t be alone.”

As we were talking the twins came over and began talking to Tony. “Karen, why don’t we step outside? There are some things I want to discuss with you.”

I don’t think anyone noticed us leave the room. Once outside the door I began to tell Karen everything that I knew about Benny and his current status. I didn’t tell her that we were talking about a rescue of him only that we were pursuing all avenues to see that he was returned to the States. By the time I finished telling her what I knew, her eyes were filled with tears.

“How could that woman, Mrs. Venisti, let that happen to that boy? Why wouldn’t she let us have Benny too? She’s cold and unfeeling just like that blankity-blank power-hungry husband of hers”, she sobbed.

That was as close to profanity as I had heard from Karen’s mouth. “I’m afraid that I don’t know Mr. Venisti except by what I have heard. I do understand that he is not one to be messed with. They say, in not too flattering terms, that he is a holdover from Houston’s corrupt political past of the sixties and seventies when city and county governments and their bureaucracies were for sale to the highest bidder. Where the easiest path to becoming a millionaire was to become the County Judge.”

 “How did people like that get a foster child, anyway?” Karen asked.

I didn’t have an answer. All I could do was to shake my head.

After Karen dried her eyes we went back into the room. TJ was helping Joel finish the last of his Frosty while the other boys looked on in envy. I took one look at TJ and headed for the bathroom to get a washcloth to erase the chocolate beard and moustache that he was now wearing. When Hildy saw me coming out of the bathroom with it she held out her hand and I gave it to her.

“That tickles”, TJ giggled as she washed his face and hands with the wet cloth and then started on Joel.

Dr. Barrow came in as Hildy was finishing cleaning up the two. “It looks like I’m too late”, he said looking at the empty Frosty container.

“Yeah, TJ ate it all”, Joel said laughing.

“Well, TJ, if you will just slide over a little so I can examine your brother I’ll get out of your way in a hurry”, Barrow said adjusting his stethoscope.

He took Joel’s temperature, checked his pulse, listened to his lungs and heart and felt the major lymph nodes before announcing, “Everything looks pretty good. I’m going to remove the IV for the night, but you will have another one tomorrow morning and then you will have a couple of days before we start another round of treatment.”

I walked Dr. Barrow out after he had examined Tony. When we were outside the door I told him that Joel’s birthday was Saturday and we wanted to do something for him. I wanted to know if his treatment schedule would interfere with anything we might plan.

After consulting his chart, he said that Joel had no treatment scheduled for that day. He did advise that we not plan anything too tiring and to consider foods or treats that would not be irritating to his stomach. Other than that he didn’t see any reason why we couldn’t have a small party.

I went back in and rounded up the boys telling them we had to go and to say their goodbyes. This turned into quite a production with the four boys all crowding around Joel to give him a hug and kiss followed by Hildy and Becky Sue and then me all taking our turns. Then the process was repeated with Tony and Karen receiving hugs from the boys.

On the way home, I explained to them that we would like to have a small birthday party for Joel on Saturday and would like them to think about what they would like to do, realizing that Joel had to stay in the hospital.

“Can we have a cake? He likes chocolate”, Lenny said and then with a giggle, “Me too.”

“Of course we can have a cake”, Hildy said. “I’ll bake a big one so we can all have a big piece.”

“And some ice cream and candles on the cake like you did dad?” Chris asked.

“Yeah, he’ll have thirteen candles on his cake”, I answered.

As we drove into the apartment complex, TJ asked, “Can we have a snack now?”

“TJ! You just finished helping Joel finish his Frosty. You can’t be hungry already”, I exclaimed.

“Crane, that has been almost an hour you know”, Hildy chuckled. “Alright boys, how about some fruit? I think you have had enough junk food for one night. I have bananas and some white grapes.”

That seemed to satisfy them. I guess they realized that fruit was there only option tonight. When Hildy spoke there was no use arguing for something else.

While the boys snacked I went into my bedroom and changed into a pair of shorts and a tee shirt. TJ was trying to demolish a large bunch of grapes when I returned to the kitchen.

“Dad, you want some grapes?” he asked.

“No thank you son. Dad has eaten more calories today than he should have.”

“What’s a cowory?”

“Cal-o-ree. That is something that can make me fat if I eat too much or the wrong kind of food.”

“Will it make me fat, too?”

“It could if you didn’t get a lot of exercise like your swimming. By the way, how are you doing with your swimming lessons?”

“I can swim all the way ‘cross the pool and Becky Sue taught me how to float”, TJ said proudly.

“That’s great!” I said patting him on the shoulder.

“We can swim across the long way of the pool four times. Can’t we Lenny?” Larry volunteered.

“Wow! You two are doing great too. Chris, I know you could swim well before. Have you learned anything new?”

“Yeah, she’s teaching me to do the backstroke. I like that but it’s hard to keep straight. Also the butterfly but that’s hard. It makes me really tired”, Chris answered.

“I’m impressed with all of you. If I don’t watch out you’ll be swimming better than I do in no time.

“Now I think it is time to get a shower, brush your teeth and get ready for bed. Tomorrow we are going to go shopping for birthday presents for Joel. I know you will like where we’re going.”

The boys went off to take their showers and I went into the living room to read the morning paper that I hadn’t had a chance to read. I had just settled onto the couch when the phone rang. I didn’t know who it could be calling at this time of the day.

“Hello”, I said as I picked up the phone.

“Mr. Johnson? This is Collin Cupp. Sorry to disturb you this late but I thought you would be interested in some news I just learned about Benny Clausen.”

“No problem, Mr. Cupp. What have you learned?”

“I talked to a friend in the Juvenile Division in the HPD, Lt. Casey Bowser, and told him that we had located the Bensons and Benny Clausen. He was most interested when I told him that they had taken a foster child out of the state without CPS’s knowledge or permission. It seems that is a no-no but when I told him they had taken him out of the country he was really interested. That is against the law. To make a long story short he has gotten a warrant issued for their arrest if they ever come back across the border.”

“What good does that do for us in getting Benny back into Texas?”

 “It means that the foster care placement of Benny has been automatically revoked. It also means that if we are able to rescue him we are not liable for interfering with the custody of a minor. That’s one obstacle out of the way. The next one is to get CPS to agree to allow Benny to be placed in a foster home that we approve of instead of being placed in the ‘loving’ hands of CPS.”

“How can we manage that?”

“I have received some preliminary information on how and why the Bensons were able to get Benny placed with them. Now I must stress that this information is only preliminary and needs to be verified, but it seems that there was some money that changed hands. It looks like a $5000 contribution was made to Richard Venisti’s campaign fund and the Benson’s were granted and unrestricted foster parent license two days later. We cannot show a direct quid pro quo but it looks mighty suspicious when the caseworker who made it all possible was his wife.

“I think that gives us some ‘political’ leverage with CPS in case you ever wanted to go public with the information.”

“Yeah, I think it does. There is only one small problem, a nine year old boy in Mexico. How are we going to get him out?”

“We are working on that. It will happen soon. That’s all I can say right now. Oh, by the way that Lt. Bowser I talked to said that a friend of his in the San Antonio Police Department had also asked about Benny.”

“That’s my friend, Jack Hogan”, I said and then explained how that had come about. Before I had finished talking, I had a fresh smelling six year old snuggled up on my lap. “Thanks Collin, I have to run. I need to tuck my sons into bed. Call me if you get any more information.”

I got the boys all settled in bed before I went back to the living room to finish reading the paper. It wasn’t long before I started getting drowsy and decided to go to bed as well.

I don’t know how long I had been asleep but I knew it wasn’t time to get up when I heard a little voice say, “Dad! Dad, wake up!”

I sat bolt upright in bed hoping that it was a dream. It wasn’t. I could see in the moonlight streaming through the bedroom window that it was one of the twins standing beside my bed.

“What’s the matter son? Are you sick?” I asked as the cobwebs started clearing from my brain.

“No, Lenny had a bad dream and is crying. Can you come?” Larry said as he grabbed my hand and started pulling on it.

“Sure”, I said throwing off the covers and following Larry to their bedroom.

Lenny was on the bed curled up in a ball sobbing like his heart was broken.

I sat down on the bed and drew him to me, pulling him gently until he was on my lap. I began stroking his back and kissed the top of his head. “It’s alright now. Dad’s here. Nothing is going to hurt you now. It’s okay.”

We sat that way for maybe ten minutes before he stopped sobbing and only sniffled once in a while. Larry had been sitting there the whole while watching his brother with obvious concern on his face.

“Lenny, can you tell dad what frightened you. Your brother said you had a bad dream. Is that right?”

I felt his head nod against my bare chest. He turned more toward me and then wrapped his arms around my chest. Then in a voice that was barely audible he started to describe his dream.

“I went in this room and Joel was sleeping in a box like momma was in... I tried to wake him up. I shook him and shook him but he wouldn’t wake up...” he started sobbing again. A minute or so later he started again, “Then a man came and shut the box and pushed it out the door and he wouldn’t let me go with them. He told me that Joel couldn’t play with me no more.”

“It was just a bad dream. Joel will be out of the hospital in a few weeks and he will be able to play with you again. Why don’t you guys come sleep in my bed the rest of the night? Okay?”

Getting agreement from both of them, I picked up Lenny and carried him into my room and placed him on the bed. Larry followed us and climbed in beside his brother and put his arms around him. I went around to the other side of the bed, got in and pulled up the covers after giving them both another kiss on the head.

With all these boys have been through it’s a wonder that they haven’t had more nightmares. The only other one that I can remember is the one that TJ had after he fell in the lake. That still is not much consolation when one of your kids is hurting.

It didn’t take long for the twins to fall asleep but it eluded me for about an hour or so. When I woke up I felt Lenny’s warm body snuggled up against me sleeping peacefully as if nothing had happened. I hated leaving the comfort of the bed but I knew we had a lot to do today.

I was sitting at the kitchen table reading the paper and drinking my last cup of coffee when Larry and Lenny walked sleepily into the kitchen. I didn’t know whether to bring up last night’s incident or to let it pass. I gave each of them a hug. When it was Lenny’s turn I ventured, “How are you feeling this morning?”

He gave me a quizzical look and just said, “Okay”.

Well I guess that just goes to show the resiliency of youth. It wasn’t long before Chris and TJ showed up and received their morning hugs as well. TJ crawled up on my lap and with is back against my chest, raised his arms above his head and wrapped them around the back of my neck. I reached around him and started tickling his stomach which sent him into a fit of giggles.

“Don’t dad. That tickles”, he said between giggles.

“I love you little one”, I responded kissing him on the top of the head.

Seeing my half empty coffee cup on the table he picked it up and took a sip. “Yuck! That tastes bad.”

“Good, you’re too young to drink coffee”, I said giving him another squeeze.

Shortly I headed off for the hospital to check on Joel. On the way I decided to stop off at a convenience store to pick up some nutrition bars for Joel to snack on. Although he never really complained, he did frequently mention that the meal portions were ‘kinda small’. I picked up a dozen and continued on to the hospital.

Dr. Kerner and his nurse were leaving Joel’s room as I approached. “Good morning doctor”, I said.

“Ah, Mr. Johnson, we have just now started your son’s IV. As the one did yesterday, this one will probably cause him to be a little dizzy. I wouldn’t recommend that he get out of bed without help and only then if it is absolutely necessary. He will probably sleep most of the day. He’s doing fine. I have every reason to believe that he will go into full remission, but only time will tell.”

“Thanks, doctor”, I said and went in the room.

“Hi, dad”, Joel said as I walked in.

I walked over to him and gave him a tight squeeze and a kiss. “I brought you something to snack on if you get hungry. I got some for Tony too. If you like them, I’ll get some more. There are chocolate and coconut and granola and fruit.”

“Can I have one now? They had grits again...”

“Sure, take your pick. Tony would you like one also?”

“Yes, thank you Mr. Johnson”, Tony said grinning. “I don’t like grits either.”

“That’s very kind of you Crane”, Karen said

I sat down beside Joel’s bed and we talked for a while until I noticed he was about to fall asleep. When I was certain he was asleep I decided to slip out and make a couple of phone calls. Digging out my address book I found Cindi’s number and called her hoping that she would be in the office. Luck was with me when she answered the phone.

“Cindi Sessions, how may I help you?”

“Cindi, my name is Crane Johnson. I think that you know a friend of mine, Darcie Levin.”

“Yes, Mr. Johnson, Darcie told me about you when we talked last weekend. It’s about that boy Benny Clausen isn’t it?”

“You’re right... I’m going to ask you if something is possible and I don’t know just how to go about it. I guess just straight out. Can you get Benny Clausen’s case transferred to your care?”

“I might be able to, I really don’t know. Why?”

“If necessary, I can give you any ammunition that you need to make it happen but I would rather do it nicely.”

“Isn’t this all a little moot? We don’t even know where Benny is at the moment.”

“That’s not entirely true. That’s all I want to say about it right now. The less you know the less likely you are to get burned if anything goes wrong. Let me just say that I have information that Benny has been abused by his current foster family.”

“Look, I’ll do what I can. I know that the director is in his office. I’ll try to get in and see him. He is the only one who can authorize switching a case to a different caseworker. Let me call you back after I’ve seen him.”

“Thanks Cindi, I appreciate what you are doing.”

I then called the office to see how things were going and to see it there was anything that needed my attention. Carol and Foster both said that everything was under control and that they would call me if there was anything that I needed to take care of.

Joel was still asleep when I reentered the room. I chatted with Karen and Tony until Dr. Kerner returned with another round of chemotherapy for Tony. It wasn’t long before Rodney came in carrying the boys’ lunch trays. I shook Joel gently to wake him up. The last thing he needed was to miss a meal.

Even though he was sleepy the smell of food soon got his attention. The meal looked surprisingly good. This time the tray contained slices of roast beef, mashed potatoes with gravy, corn and a bread roll with butter. There was a carton of milk that Joel asked me to open for him since one arm was out of commission due to the IV. For desert he had sliced peaches and a small cup of ice cream. Although he only had the use of one hand the meal disappeared rather quickly.

After he finished he asked, “Can you take me to the bathroom? I don’t like using that bedpan.”

“Sure. Can you walk or do you want me to put you in the wheelchair?”

“I can walk if you hold me.”

I lowered the rails on the side of the bed where the IV stand was and helped him to stand up. I wrapped my left arm around his waist and pushed the IV stand ahead of us with the other. Joel wrapped his right arm around my waist and off we went. It wasn’t but a few steps to the bathroom but it was a major undertaking. After getting him situated, I left to give him some privacy.

Shortly I heard him call out for me and we started the process over again except in reverse. It wasn’t long after I got him back in bed that he was asleep. I kissed him lightly on the forehead before leaving for the apartment.

Our trip to the Galleria was an experience. The boys were in awe. The place is huge with multiple levels and almost everything imaginable for sale. One of the first stops that we made was to the sports memorabilia shop.

“Hey guys, I said I would buy you an Astro baseball hat but I forgot that you already have one. So, what would you like instead? A Spurs cap? Or maybe a Rockets cap or an Oilers? Look around, they have all kinds to choose from.”

After much discussion and trying on of hats the decision was finally made. They wanted the San Antonio Spurs hat. I also bought one for JR and a Houston Rockets cap for Tony and Bran.

With all the stores it was difficult to decide which ones to go to in order to find birthday presents for Joel. But after about an hour each of the boys had selected the present they wanted to give him. I hadn’t found one but I still had a couple of days to decide what to give.

“Let’s go get a snack and then I want to show you something”, I told them. I don’t think they heard anything except snack. We quickly made our way to the food court. Again there was a dizzying array of things to choose from making their decision difficult.

I decided that they had made enough decisions for the day so I had them sit with Hildy while Becky Sue and I went to different counters to make our purchases. She bought seven of these really large chocolate chip cookies and I got the same number of cups of frozen yogurt. Our choices of snacks seemed to satisfy the troops. At least we didn’t hear any complaints as the snacks disappeared.

When they were finished and Hildy had made sure that all their faces were clean I led them to the lower level of the mall. In front of us was an ice skating rink with only a few skaters using it.  

“Does that look fun?” I asked them.

“Yeah”, came the responses and several head nods as they stared at the skaters.

“Do you want to try it?”

Again I saw all heads nod in unison.

“Okay, follow me and we’ll rent some skates. Hildy, Becky Sue do you want to try it too?”

“Crane, I haven’t been on ice skates for twenty years. My husband and I used to go to the old rink out on Broadway in San Antonio. The place burned down shortly after my husband died”, she answered. “I could probably still stand up on them.”

“I think I’ll just watch. I was never very good on roller skates even”, Becky Sue said suppressing a giggle.

“Alright, you can watch our packages while we make fools of ourselves”, I said handing her the packages that I had been carrying.

I had learned to ice skate while attending prep school in the Northeast, but like Hildy I hadn’t been on them in close to ten years. We strapped on our rented skates and then I had the boys try to stand up on them before we tried it on the ice. TJ was doing pretty good. His ankles were a little wobbly but not bad. The twins were doing okay but I could foresee them polishing the ice a lot. Chris was having the most problems. While I was working with the boys Hildy went out and circled the ice.

“Look dad, look at Hildy. She’s really skating”, Chris said in amazement.

We all stood there with our mouths open not believing the sight we were witnessing. Hildy was skating like a pro. She skated forward and backward, made circles and figure eights before skating over to us and spraying ice crystals on us as she stopped.

“Yeah, you can stand up on them alright”, I said in admiration.

For the next hour Hildy and I worked with the boys showing them some of the basics of skating. One of the most important lessons was how to get up when you fell down. TJ was able to skate by himself a little bit. He didn’t break any speed records but he also didn’t break any bones. Larry and Lenny did alright as long as they were hanging on to the side of the rink and sometimes when they held on to each other. Most of the time they sat on the ice giggling and trying to get up.

Chris was another matter. The only way he could stand up on the ice was if Hildy or I were holding him. He still had fun. At least he was giggling most of the time.

At the end of the hour they were all pretty much worn out and didn’t complain when I told them it was time to go back to the apartment.

“Can we go see Joel tonight?” TJ asked as we entered the apartment.

“Right after supper”, I said. “Go wash your hands and faces and get ready for supper.”

I sat down in the lounge chair to rest my weary backside which had kissed the ice more times than I wanted to think about or admit. I had just gotten comfortable when the phone rang. I struggle out of the chair and answered it.

It was Cindi Sessions. “Cindi it’s good of you to call back. I hope you have good news for me or rather for Benny.”

“Yes, I do. I think the director was looking for a way to relieve Betty Venisti of the case and when I volunteered he jumped at the chance. I still don’t see what good it is for me to be Benny’s caseworker.”

“Cindi, can you make a placement of Benny to another family even though you don’t know where he is?”

“I don’t know. I guess I can. I never had anyone ask me that before. The family would have to be licensed or I couldn’t do it though.”

“Thanks, I know this all sounds a little strange to you but believe me it is all on the up and up. I will call you as soon as I have Benny’s new foster family lined up. I appreciate you going out on a limb like this for a stranger you have never met.”

“Well, Darcie warned me you were a crazy bachelor who had a heart of gold and five adopted sons. That’s good enough for me. I’ll be waiting for your call.”

Before she hung up the phone, she gave me her cell phone and home numbers just in case.

I made a quick call to the Levins to see if they would be willing to take another placement of a foster child. When I explained Benny’s circumstances they immediately agreed to take him if it was possible to get him back into the country.

After a marvelous meal of broiled red snapper we went to visit Joel and take him and Tony their caps. The other boys strutted into the room wearing their own caps and made a big deal out of presenting the caps to Joel and Tony. Tony thanked us for getting him the Rockets cap instead of the Spurs one. It seemed that Akeem Olajuwon, the Rockets’ center, was his favorite basketball player.

It didn’t take long for Joel to show signs of being tired. Even though he had slept most of the day the chemotherapy was really sapping his strength. It took a while for all the goodbyes to be said. The boys were a little reluctant to cut there visit so short even though they could see that their brother could hardly keep his eyes open.

TJ crawled up on my lap when we got home. He didn’t say anything. He just sat there with his head on my chest. Every once in a while he would let out a big sigh.

“Is there something wrong, son?”

“Um”, was the only response that I got from him.

After a few minutes, I asked him again.

In a voice barely above a whisper he said, “I wish Joel wasn’t sick. I miss him a bunch”.

“I know you do. I do too, so do your brothers. Hildy misses him too. Everybody misses him. But it’s still going to be a few weeks before we can all go home together again. Now why don’t you go get your shower taken and get ready for bed. I’ll be in to tuck you in after while”, I said and kissed the top of his head.

I called Cindi at her home number and told her that the Levins were willing to take in Benny. She said that she had talked to Chad Dinkens when he placed Bran LeBeau with them so she was not entirely unfamiliar with them. She said that she would fill out all the necessary paperwork in the morning that would make the Levins the legal foster parents for Benny.

When I heard the showers shut off I gave the boys a few minutes and then went in to tuck them in. This was a ritual that I thoroughly enjoyed each evening. No matter what the day’s events were, spending a few minutes with my sons and assuring myself of their safety made all my troubles disappear in the glow of the love I felt for them and the love I receive in return.

After seeing to the boys I decided to read a couple of chapters in a book I had been trying to read over the past week and a half. I settled down in the lounge chair and was just getting completely immersed in the story when the phone rang.

“Who the devil could that be at this time of night?” I muttered to myself.

“Hello”, I said.

“He’s out. We got him.”

“Collin, is that you?”

“Yes”, he answered.

“You mean that you have Benny and he is in Texas?”

“That’s right. One of my operatives called me less than five minutes ago. They were in Eagle Pass and heading for Houston. Benny is fine. A little scared but he is doing fine. They should be in Houston by morning. Where do you want us to take him?”

I gave him the Levins’ address and said that I would contact them to let them know to expect their new foster son in the morning.

After I called the Levins I decided that I had enough excitement for one day and headed off to bed with a smile on my face.

To be continued.

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